my project was moved to another team, employer wants everyone back in the office, and more

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

1. I feel like a failure because a project was moved to another team

I received an unexpected meeting invite today and was surprised our manager would take time away for a meeting when we were in a dire time crunch on a major project for probably the third week in a row. Stupidly, I had some vague thought that I might be praised for stepping up while our department head was out of office and that I might use the opportunity to set boundaries about time off after working like a crazy person through company holidays and the weekend.

Well, I was wrong. They gave the project I was managing to another team. No warning, no pause to say thank you for my efforts or that it wasn’t my fault. Just barreled through like they were listing out standard assignments. I didn’t know what to do so I just held myself still, thinking no reaction was better than embarrassing myself. They eventually stopped and asked the question I absolutely dread — any questions or things I can explain to you? I figured a basic “no, I don’t have any questions” was about all I could get out without showing emotion. Apparently that clued them in to my distress because then I got a spiel about how it’s not about me or my work and they know I worked so hard. But how else would anyone interpret it? It’s not like they are going to advertise a disagreement between members of leadership to save my reputation. I pushed myself to share a plan for transitioning, hoping that it might make up for my stone-faced silence, and they seemed relieved that I was talking.

I still have to lead our group to finish a time-sensitive piece of work before handing it over, and none of my coworkers are saying anything about the change, which makes it feel worse. Like they are politely pretending not to see a stain on my shirt. I don’t know how to be. Do I pretend it’s not worth mentioning? Do I try to find some way of laughing it off? I feel like my brain is broken, I’ve got Macbeth quotes running repeatedly in my head, I’m sobbing on and off (WFH thank god), and I’m so embarrassed even though I’m not sure I had any chance at a different outcome. How do professional, no-drama, team players handle pretty public failure? I’m not feeling like that kind of person right now, but maybe I can fake it tomorrow.

You’re defining this as a public failure … but is it? Projects get moved around for reasons other than “the person currently doing it is failing.” One very obvious reason they might move it is that your department head is out and you’ve been having to cover for them, including “working like a crazy person through holidays and the weekend.” They might have thought it was obvious that this wasn’t a good permanent arrangement — since you presumably have your own regular workload to attend to, as well as covering for your missing manager — and that you’d be relieved to have someone else take it on.

Now, maybe that’s very clearly not the case. And maybe they did move it because they thought the other team would do a better job with it. But that’s still not public failure, and the reaction you’re having is so disproportionately strong (the sobbing, the certainty that others see you as a failure, the Macbeth quotes) without sharing any indication that this was actually tied to your work that I suspect there’s a good chance you’re not assessing it correctly. If there’s some key detail missing from your letter that confirms the move really was because you were failing … well, I would figure that you’ve been working yourself to exhaustion for weeks while a key member of your team is gone, and those circumstances don’t generally set people up for success. So it’s still not really public failure. It’s public overwork, perhaps, and people don’t normally find that an embarrassing stain on your record.

2. People leave personal items at desks even though we hot-desk

My company went hybrid (50/50 in-office vs. WFH) last year and downsized to a smaller office where we don’t have assigned desks. There are about 1.5 desks for every 2 employees. Lots of people have a favorite desk that they try to reserve regularly, and they tend to leave their stuff on it rather than carry it from their locker (everyone has one) to their desk daily. Some stuff is mostly harmless, just taking up space (water bottle, personal hand sanitizer) but some is downright gross (food, empty used coffee mugs, crumbs, etc.). We technically have a policy that you need to leave your desk empty and clean at the end of the day but about half the team ignores it, driving the other half batty. We have also had new hires start and end up sitting at what very much feels like someone else’s personal desk on their first day, which isn’t particularly welcoming.

How do we enforce cultural norms like this without just becoming nags? Is this just the new office sink full of dirty dishes — always a problem, no real solution?

The only way you’re going to change it is to actually enforce the policy … and the only practical way to enforce the policy is probably to charge someone with cleaning off anything left on desks at the end of the day, at least for a month or so until people’s habits change. You could put all the abandoned items on a designated table for people to collect if they want them back the next time they’re in the office, or you could start tossing them if that doesn’t solve the problem after a while. (Either way, make sure you give people advance notice that this is going to start happening.) In doing this, point out to people that by staking out a desk as their own, they’re claiming more than their fair share of limited resources; there aren’t enough desks for everyone to do it, and they’re forcing other people to deal with their stuff.

A big caveat: Do any of your staff choose to come in most days, despite the company as a whole being hybrid? If someone comes in 95% of the time, this will be a particularly annoying policy for them, and you might consider whether there’s a way to have two categories of desks (unreserved desks for people who are truly hybrid and reserved ones for people who aren’t). That can get messy to track but can be worth the payoff in morale.

3. Employer wants everyone back in the office — no exceptions

My wife has been working at a nonprofit for close to three years. She started during the pandemic and when she was hired, she was told that eventually she would have to go to the office part-time, but because she is at higher risk for bad outcomes from Covid, our doctor agreed that she should only go to the office one day a week. Until now, that has been the case for the most part, with her going in twice a week only rarely.

But last week her department head and HR team told her that she needed to start coming in twice a week. Apparently there will be no exceptions made to the two-day-a-week policy, even though she is still at higher risk for bad outcomes from Covid. Even though the doctor gave her a new note. Even though there is a new variant. And even though the pandemic is in fact still not over. (She masks any time she goes to the office, and we are in general masking as much as possible.)

She is pissed. She feels that they are reneging on an arrangement they made when she started to go to the office two years ago, and that they are being unfair and a bit irresponsible. If she quits, she won’t get unemployment, which means she won’t quit. But she will be miserable if she doesn’t. She is filing a grievance through her union, but once you file a grievance, they don’t want you, do they?

Do you have any suggestions for how to handle this? She sees nothing about her job that requires she be there two days a week, and we both feel like the world is playing pretendy games by not taking our worries about Covid seriously. Surely an employer could offer reasonable accommodations. Doesn’t this violate the ADA?

It violates the ADA if she has a covered disability under the law (defined as “physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities,​ such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking or breathing”) and if she could stay at one day a week without causing “undue hardship” to the employer.

That said … more employers are taking hard-line “no exceptions” stances on bringing people back to the office and putting up serious opposition to anyone who tries to get an exception, especially if the exception is being sought based on Covid risk. (For what it’s worth, the fact that she’s been going once a week may undercut her argument that it’s unsafe for her to be there. It also sounds like she agreed when she was hired that she’d eventually go to the office part-time; if that wasn’t explicitly defined as only one day a week, her employer might rightly feel like they’re not reneging on that at all. Even if it was defined as one day a week, though, employers are allowed to change those policies as their business needs, or what they define as their business needs, change.) You could certainly work with a lawyer and see what happens, but it may be an uphill battle. I’m not saying that should be the case — just that we’re seeing more employers really commit to these policies.

if you have a disability, do employers have to let you keep working from home after they re-open?

4. Friends who subscribe to my Substack

I have a Substack blog (side hustle, trying to make it a main hustle) with paid subscribers. Sometimes my friends sign up for paid subscriptions, and in this situation I feel extremely awkward. Should I end these friendships because I now technically work for these folks, or is it different with subscription services? And, does it come across as “asking for money” when I share public blog posts with friends, without an expectation that they’ll pay for subscriptions?

You don’t work for your subscribers. You’re creating something that people pay to access, but they’re not your employers (just like I don’t work for you because you read this site, nor do I work for the companies that advertise here). Your friends are presumably subscribing because they enjoy your content, or because they want to support you as a friend. I imagine they’d be pretty taken aback if you ended the friendship because they were supporting your work!

And no, it doesn’t come across as asking for money when you share public blog posts. It might come off as self-promotional at some point, depending on how often you’re sharing and what you’re saying when you do — but it doesn’t come across as a request for money unless you actually ask for money.

5. My boss thinks comp time is illegal

I’m one of five directors in a 30-person group. All but three of the team are exempt employees. I was talking with my boss, our executive director, today about a program we might have to run on the weekend during a very busy time of year. I mentioned that I know she doesn’t generally like considering this as an option, but it might make sense to offer up some comp time in exchange for doing some work on the weekend.

She informed me that we can’t even consider that as an option because “it’s illegal,” declaring, “You get paid to do a job, and you work the hours you need to work to get that job done!” I responded that I know (which I do! and I agree!), but that if someone put in a certain number of hours on a weekend, I thought it made sense, if their workload allowed, to invite them to take some similar amount of time off later in the week (while acknowledging, of course, that the three non-exempt employees would be paid for whatever hours they worked on a weekend, and earn overtime as appropriate).

She got pretty worked up, so I let it go for now, but have you ever heard of this assessment that offering comp time to exempt employees is somehow illegal? (We’re in California, if it’s relevant.) The way I figure it, if you’re going to put in somewhere around 40 hours, it doesn’t matter if some of those hours are on a Saturday or on a Tuesday. It was very odd to me.

Comp time is not illegal for exempt employees. It is generally illegal for non-exempt employees, as you know; they must be paid in money for any hours over 40 worked in a week, not in extra time off. (Although interestingly, California is one of the few states that has some provisions for even non-exempt employees to receive comp time in certain limited circumstances.)

The U.S. Department of Labor has explicitly affirmed that comp time is permissible for exempt employees as long as they receive a guaranteed salary with no reductions on the basis of quality or quantity of time worked.

Your boss is stuck on “exempt employees are paid for a job, not for the number of hours they work” — but she’s wrong on the legalities around comp time. If you really wanted to get into it with her, you could point out that if an exempt employee were getting all their work done in 10 hours a week, she’d probably expect them to put in more hours — the whole exempt “paid for a job” thing tends to be applied more in one direction than the other.

{ 450 comments… read them below }

  1. Nodramalama*

    I am also somewhat bemused by the reaction LW1 had. Unless there’s a serious missing reason not included letter, it seems like the horses explanation is that they knew you and your team had too much work, so moved the project to someone else.

    1. Archi-detect*

      In either case, I think it is a massive failure not to talk about why though, good or bad. letting people stew in that does no good

      1. Nodramalama*

        But they probably had no idea the decision would cause anyone to stew in the first place. You have to assume it’s bad news to frame the discussion that way. From the way it was handled in the room it doesn’t seem that anyone apart from LW thought it was a bad thing at all

        1. Archi-detect*

          I tend to get invested in work projects and have gradually learned not to get as invested as clients can cancel the job or we can fail to get the permits or whatever but I would take a situation like this poorly, without communication. We have projects shifted around to balance workload and for leave/training all the time, but that is always communicated as otherwise it can come off as a failure. I think the awkward silence also doesn’t help as it is clear LW was taking it poorly, and no one interject with an explanation.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Poor OP makes me think of that company hiring memo that said the most successful people are “insecure overachievers.” A lot of companies have that kind of ethic, stated or unstated, I think. OP is working holidays and weekends for who knows how long, yet also believes this is a permanent stain on their very identity as a good worker and presumably they’re about to be dismissed. I have a Shakespeare quote for OP too: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts …”

            1. LW 1*

              I was stuck on “Things without all remedy; Should be without regard”. Thank you for helping me diversify! And yeah, you called it. I was from a “where are all the pluses?” household where straight A’s were a default, not an achievement. I was really strict with my parents once grandchildren started popping up about not creating expectations of being smart or college being a default. I don’t want them to feel this kind of pressure to “succeed” and be so focused on how they stack up to others.

              1. Annie*

                I’m unsure why you didn’t ask the reason for the change, maybe not during the meeting, but afterwards. If I were in your position I certainly would have wondered why they took the project away from your team.

                1. Skippy*

                  I was coming here to say that. (I know exactly why not–but I’m still haunted by the time more than 20 years ago when I should have gone back and asked for clarification.

              2. FricketyFrack*

                If you’re still putting the pressure on yourself, your kids will pick up on it. My mom was a lot like you and while she deliberately tried not to put it on me, I saw how she viewed her own work and I definitely absorbed it. My therapist when I was 7 outright told her that she was unintentionally contributing to my anxiety because her words and her actions were saying two different things.

                I don’t say this to make you even more stressed out. I’m saying that you should be kinder to yourself, if not for your own sake (because I know that can be really hard), then for your kids. Like other people are saying, odds are that the project was moved for practical reasons and none of it is a reflection on you. Your coworkers likely aren’t even thinking twice about it beyond how to get everything wrapped up for the transfer. I’m sure NONE of them think you failed, because you didn’t. Your manager told you you didn’t. Let yourself trust that.

              3. Rainy*

                I “manage” a program that is just me and a little bit of assistance from an intern or two part of the time. People who are only familiar with the output of my program typically think that there are at least two of us, because that’s how much I manage to get done. In spite of this, I get random other projects piled on me on a regular basis, to the point that I’ve had to reduce what I do for my actual job.

                When someone takes something away from me, I am *elated*. Which I think is a much healthier (and happier!) state of mind about these things. :)

        2. Vg*

          You’re assuming that shifting project work mid-stream is normal at this company. It isn’t at mine.

          Either way, it’s still poor management. A manager needs to think through “how might persons A B C react to changes, and how can I mitigate those concerns?”

          A simple “Mary you’ve been working so hard which we greatly appreciate but you need a break, so we are going to lighten your load by switching X to Phyllis.”

          Problem averted.

          1. Bast*

            Company culture has a lot to do with it. At Old Old Job (quite a toxic place) having assignments moved from you usually meant you were about to get fired. You’d notice that your caseload was slowly dwindling and being reassigned to others, and instead of coming straight out and saying anything, you were forced to read the signs and stew in it. It sounds like this may not be the case at this person’s job, but I get what you’re saying about how in some environments it is unusual (and sometimes ominous) to have things moved to someone else.

            I’d love to think this is altruistic and they saw LW was swamped and were trying to alleviate that, because good companies do exist, and there is a chance this is one of them.

            1. Anonym*

              It doesn’t even have to be altruistic. It’s simply pragmatic to ensure work is distributed in a way that it can succeed. One person or team being wildly overworked creates a business risk. It’s foolish to let that continue if you have other resources available.

              But definitely agree that management should explain their reasoning clearly to avert the kind of worries OP is having. I think many people would worry at least a little without an explanation.

              1. WantonSeedStitch*

                And even if you’re communicating something like this and know for a fact that it’s not likely to upset someone, context is still important! I’ve had my manager and grandboss take stuff off my plate before, but they always explained it: “this is going to get messy and political and I don’t want to put you in the middle of it, so I’m going to handle this and let you know what comes out of it.” “Team X is going to need to take this over because the VP thinks this kind of task should fall under their purview and they shouldn’t be pushing the work off on us.” The explanations help me understand better, and knowing about the WHY of these decisions helps me grow in my own decision-making skills at work.

              2. Me -- on AAM at lunch*

                I’m in A/E/C and this happens all the time. Scope changes in the middle of a project, or outside factors, means team members will change sometimes. It’s normal. I just got a bunch of stuff reassigned to me because of an outside change that had nothing to do with the performance of the person who was handling it.

                That said, my work peeps are pretty transparent about that kind of thing. It would have been nice if OP’s had said why. But if they said it wasn’t your work, OP, then it probably wasn’t.

          2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            Yeah, if you’re at all invested in your work, it can hurt to have a project taken away partway through, even if you know it’s a good business decision.

            I had a project shifted to another team earlier this year. I didn’t need anyone to explain the logic to me — I’d been saying for months that we didn’t have enough resources to handle it, and I knew that we were doing a bad job/making very slow progress because we’d had this new massive project dumped on us when we are already barely treading water with our day-to-day work. And it still hurt, and I had to talk myself through, “You didn’t WANT this project; your team didn’t have the capacity and it was stressing you out that you weren’t getting it done on time. You should be glad that it was taken away.” And… TBH I’m still not entirely there, even as I appreciate not having that stress. (Do I still kind of resent the badly-organized coworker who’s the new project lead? Maybe. Although part of that is that he has NO people skills.)

            1. TootsNYC*

              I can remember a time when I was in that same position, and what turned out to help me was to redefine what my success looked like. I redefined it from “completing the project” to “enabling the smooth transfer and contributing to the success of the project in other hands.”

              there were still things for me to achieve—that transfer of files and info; the serving as a resource for the new team; even serving as a cheerleader, morale booster for the people who took it over.

        3. oranges*

          It’s unfortunate that management didn’t know LW well enough to anticipate their reaction and provide some reassurance that they weren’t a public failure. (Because if someone took a massive project off my plate that was sucking up my weekends and holidays, I’d probably hug them in thanks!)

          Hopefully LW takes the response and comments to heart that they’re overreacting to a standard corporate decision that was likely just poorly delivered.

          1. Yadah*

            Yea, there’s an entirely reasonable chance they thought OP would be relieved and intentionally downplayed the change so it *wouldn’t* feel like they were highlighting a ‘failure’ and giving gratitude to placate OP (it wasn’t that long ago we had a LW complaining about how fake public praise and encouragement felt)

            Obviously not the right approach in this particular situation, but you can’t entirely blame them for not expecting the reaction OP has had.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        They’ve handled this really badly. They talked for quite a while (OP says “They eventually stopped and asked the question”…) and yet, somehow, never actually got to the fairly core thing of why this is being done – or what it means for OP. OPs workload has been high because of the project. So now, if OP won’t be on that project any more, an obvious thing for them to cover should be what this means for OPs responsibilities.

        In OPs position I would go back to whoever makes the decision and say something like: now that I’ve had a chance to reflect on it, I realised we never really got to the bottom of why this decision was made so can you give some background to that? And I would (but not everyone would) ask them to acknowledge/communicate publicly that this isn’t a reflection on OP. People are being awkward because they don’t know what to say – a difficult position (but clearly not as difficult as OPs) to be in. It makes it harder that OP doesn’t really know why it was, because if I knew the reason, I’d just talk directly to those people.

        I had a smaller version of this happen to me actually, where a piece of work I’d been doing was re-assigned to another team so that they could do it “properly” in terms of process etc (my initial work was a proof of concept). They ended up implementing pretty much what I’d done, but had no idea really what they were doing. You’d be surprised (or perhaps not) how much of the detail I’d “forgotten” only a couple of weeks later when they asked me about it, especially since I normally have an excellent memory.

        1. Nodramalama*

          I think like LW there are a lot of assumptions here that we don’t know to be true. We don’t know people are being awkward about it. LW feels awkward which is not the same thing. Also this perspective operates on the assumption that this project was the only thing LW was doing. But considering they mention handing out regular assignments, there might be a ton of other stuff LW is meant to do with their time that didn’t require an explanation.

          People might not be mentioning it because they don’t think it’s a big deal, or if they’re in LWs team they might be glad they don’t need to devote all their time to this project.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            I think objectively it is “awkward” not to say anything about a transition that’s happening in a fairly short time frame and which they will be involved in. There’s a few potential reasons for that, I wonder which it is:

            They don’t know what to say (my interpretation)

            They’ve been told not to say anything

            Unlike OP they know why it’s being done and possibly it doesn’t reflect well on OP

            They are hoping they won’t be the next to be mysteriously disappeared off a project so are keeping their head down

            In any case, what hasn’t happened here is an open discussion of what’s going on, and of course that is going to make things awkward.

            1. Allonge*

              True. Could also be:

              They saw OP was badly upset about this and they don’t want to make it worse

              The are very tired after working long hours, and maybe both relieved that this was taken off their desks and upset about how it was done / that it was done, so they have mixed feelings

              They just want to have it done with, talking about it would extend the process with no benefit

            2. Nodramalama*

              I just disagree with you that this is necessarily awkward or a big deal. It’s a big deal to LW, it doesn’t mean it is a big deal to others.

              You clearly have a perspective based on your own experiences and I have one from mine. And from mine unless there is serious information missing from this letter, nobody would be scared a project was being taken away from them. They would be thinking, oh this team didn’t have capacity and it’s been given to a team who did. The end.

              1. Annie*

                I’m not sure I agree. I could easily see that if a big project was taken away that there would be some question on whether it seemed the LW was being looked at as not doing a good job, or not being able to handle it.

                While it may not have been the LW’s fault that they were not able to handle it, there should at least have been some platitudes on how they appreciated what the LW had done, but needed the additional resources so they had to move the project.

        2. Anne Elliot*

          “In OPs position I would go back to whoever makes the decision and say something like: now that I’ve had a chance to reflect on it, I realised we never really got to the bottom of why this decision was made so can you give some background to that?”

          Yeah, I think the opportunity the OP missed — which is completely understandable under the circumstances! — was to say in the meeting: “This has really blindsided me. I had no idea this was coming and I’m not clear why this step is being taken.” Then: “Can you offer some insight on that?” or even “I’m sure I’ll have questions and I’d like to revisit this after I’ve had some time to digest. Can we talk more tomorrow?”

          There’s nothing wrong with showing you’ve been surprised or shocked by something surprising and shocking, and IMO nothing wrong to basically (but politely) say, “You’re asking me if I have questions about something you just sprang on me. I’m gonna have a LOT of questions but you need to give me a minute.”

          Beyond that, I agree that it does not sound like you have enough information to conclude this was done due to your perceived performance, much less that everyone around you thinks so. But it COULD have been for that reason, which is why I think it’s important you follow up for clarification as to why the change was made.

          1. Anne Elliot*

            And also: This very thing just happened to a relation of mine. The reason was my relation’s inarguable overwork, not their performance. But it still was a problem because the company addressed the overwork by taking away the project my relation most enjoyed and felt they were best at, leaving them less interesting work. So there was a still a conversation to be had, related to why the company did not consult with them before deciding how to change the work allocation. So it’s definitely worth following up on, because even if the OP thought it was okay in this case (which they clearly don’t), there still may be reason to discuss how the situation was handled.

        3. NotJoblessYet*

          I think my boss wants to get rid of me so she can replace me with her favorite from her previous department. There’s a lot of information that is only in my head, and I’m thinking really hard about what I want to leave in my files. It might be a lot of junk and not much that’s useful.

        4. Purpleshark*

          I am just going to say this is like breaking up with someone in a public place because you don’t want them to have a big reaction. Notwithstanding all the reasons this makes sense to move a project, they should have respected OP enough to have this conversation before the meeting. If you value your employees you will have the good management skills to give them a heads up. This would have also helped OP mitigate the feelings of the folks on their team. This was to me is inexcusable to expect OP to somehow get or intuit the “why we did this” is crazy.

          1. Annie*

            I agree, if you value your employee and value the optics, it seems like a heads up before the big meeting would make sense. There’s no reason to spring it on someone, whether they reassigned the project because the LW as overwhelmed and didn’t have the resources, or even if the LW was not fulfilling his duties, and they needed someone higher up or better suited to lead the project.

        5. TootsNYC*

          I think it’s important for a manager to tell the department at large why a project is being moved away from one person.

          My boss did a big reshuffle of people from one project to another. And nobody knew why, not even the people she reassigned to a different client than the one they’d served for a long, long time.
          it was sort of unsettling for everybody

      3. Sloanicota*

        I do think in OP’s case, managementshould have understood who they were dealing with – a highly conscientious employee, one who’s … perhaps a wee bit high strung – and walked OP through it more kindly, emphasizing that it’s a workload issue from the start. But, it’s done. OP, I think you really need a vacation. You can’t care about this stuff this much and stay levelheaded in the workplace, which I sympathize with. Please go somewhere tropical and drink fruity cocktails for at least a week (which, hey – you can do now! Your workload has been lightened!). Hopefully when you come back the whole thing won’t seem so important.

        1. WellRed*

          I agree. I have to wonder is the sobbing and MacBeth quotes (?!) are partly due to exhaustion! OP, take a break. Everyone else: don’t work holidays and weekends and neglect yourself.

          1. Anonym*

            Yes! I’ve been there – so overworked and stressed that I can’t see clearly. Recuperation is needed. It will also almost certainly make you better at your work by restoring perspective and internal balance. Hopefully if you can do that, this situation will seem more reasonable and less cause for anxiety.

            Also seconding the good recommendations here to go back and ask about the rationale for the decision. Totally reasonable to do.

          2. Festively Dressed Earl*

            +1. A hot shower, a batch of cookies, and the Thompson/Branagh version of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

            1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              That is the BEST. Incidentally we chose it for family movie night with our son – an 11-year-old boy with dyslexia – and he LOVED it. (He asked at the end if there were more!) Can confirm that the humor aimed at the groundlings does very well with tween boys.

              1. Plate of Wings*

                This is the ultimate endorsement! I am going to watch it, been on a bit of a Branagh kick in 2024.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I think it’s pretty reasonable, though, that they might not have anticipated sobbing and Shakespeare, because those are pretty beyond the pale for workplace-appropriate behavior.

      4. Chris*

        I empathize with OP 1 because I also work in an office with communication gaps. It would have been nice to have had some advance notice and explanation before the big group meeting! But I agree with Allison that this is not a reflection on OP 1’s work.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      At risk of sounding like I’m minimizing, it would certainly be a Big Deal in some workplaces. Where I work, for example, each project’s “owning” department is credited with all its monthly revenue on our P&L report, and if a project shifts to a new “owning” department, all the previous revenue will also get transferred on the next month’s P&L. That can often leave departments that “own” fewer projects looking short on revenue to our CEO, even if they are helping to support other departments’ projects and those other departments look like they’re running a serious profit despite needing to call in backup to help with the projects they “own.” It’s a dumb setup that leads to different managers fighting for internal “ownership” over projects, but it is what it is, and it certainly puts a lot of onus on not “failing” and having a project snatched away. I’m sure other, similar setups exist.

      1. Nodramalama*

        Maybe but judging by the way it was handled in a routine fashion and not treated as a big deal by anyone BUT LW, I’m not sure there’s any evidence of that

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Re-assigning people on a project, especially key people like a project manager / Head Of, during crunch time, is madness and is a fairly sure way to get a project to fail or at least get further behind. This tells me that they are either terrible strategically, have no political awareness (they already had a plan for re-assigning project and this Must Go Ahead despite the new circumstances) or that the project really is in trouble and potential to fail, although I don’t get the sense OP thinks that is the reason. I would love to know if OP immediately stopped work on the project or if the re-assignment was for later – OP, are you in the comments?

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            (I was actually asking, not really stopped work like marched off obviously, but whether the others have already been told that this is what’s happening. Also I wonder what they have been told as to why? That might be why they are being strange.)

          2. Nodramalama*

            Or again, they don’t want a team pushed to the brink working weekends and staying late nights working on it. It sounds like a bit project with a lot of tasks. I think it is much more likely that they know it is not sustainable to keep working like this and once the time sensitive piece is over they want to give the rest of it to a team with more capacity.

            1. Happily Retired*

              Then they should say so!!

              I don’t understand why this is such a difficult concept. Of course OP is concerned. It’s hard enough for most of us to accurately gauge how we are viewed by our managers, even in the absence of big changes in assigned work.

              1. Nodramalama*

                I understand perfectly well. I just don’t agree with the perspective that it would be normal to expect something nefarious going on based on everything presented in the letter apart from LWs reaction.

              2. Brain the Brian*

                100%. In a case where management is moving a project to another team because its current staff are overworked, then management needs to *start* with a discussion of workload and outline how they’ve been looking for ways to balance it. That needs to come *before* the potentially upsetting news that a project over which a team may feel significant ownership is being shifted away from them. It can’t be buried after, when people may be reeling and not listening properly.

              3. Mongrel*

                They may well have, between tiredness and the investment OP had in the project it’s possible they went a little blank between “We’re giving the project to someone else” and “Do you have any questions?”

          3. LW 1*

            I’m finishing up the piece that had a deadline attached while making myself available for any questions they have. Then I’m done. I did get some inside info from a friend – there was a conflict over strategy between the decision maker and my dotted line leadership. So I was working to the specs they told me were needed but it wasn’t actually what the final decision maker wanted. Explained a lot of the confusion and shifts we were experiencing along the way. I guess they hit some sort of impasse and the next step was moving the work to another team.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              This comment and your other comment below suggest a serious failure on the part of senior management. If they didn’t tell you about strategy shifts, how on earth were you supposed to adjust and meet them? I hope things improve for you.

              1. Annie*

                Exactly on all of this Brain the Brian. How can management not let those who are actually working on the project know strategy so they can complete the project correctly. Even if manager was stuck between what he thought should be done and senior mgmt/decision maker, he could communicate that subtly to indicate that there were discussions that were being had to adjust strategy and that may mean that the project is moved, through no fault of the LW’s efforts.

            2. ChattyDelle*

              oh I’m so glad you got some kind of answer! I’m like you & would have been devastated to have a project I’ve worked so hard on to be suddenly reassigned. Because I am paranoid (lol), my go-to assumption would have been I did something terribly wrong. Seems like this may be good news? I wouldn’t think you would want to be caught between conflicting managers. Are you feeling better?

            3. Emmy Noether*

              There you go, it’s politics, not a question of competence. Sounds like a project that is set up for trouble/failure anyway, so maybe there’s an upside to being rid of it?

            4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              Office politics was my second guess, after overwork. It stinks that the actual needs weren’t communicated with you – I’ve had that happen in Office Telephone too with too many layers between the stakeholders and the people doing the work. I hope you’re able to adjust to the lighter workload in the knowledge that nobody thinks you were failing!

            5. glouby*

              Oh gosh – so they clearly set the project up for failure (in the sense of failing to achieve the vision, because there was no single unifying vision or foundational sense of trust) from day 1. That’s messed up and has nothing to do with you or your team, and it’s great news that you are no longer lashed to a sinking ship.

            6. MigraineMonth*

              So it’s definitely not your fault, just politics and unclear specs. Been there, done that, have a closet full of t-shirts.

              It’s time for a damn vacation, LW 1. Before dipping into your PTO, see if you can get some comp time for all the weekends and holidays you’ve been working. Take care of yourself first, then maybe sometime down the line think about why you assumed this was a public failure rather than business as usual.

      2. Rose*

        It could…but it’s just as possible that it’s not like that at all. We don’t have enough information to assess that. In fact, the only real bit of info we have is that LW is having a reaction that might be appropriate to having the sense that they’re likely going to be let go. Which I think is what Alison was trying to say in her response. Either LW left out a very key piece of information or they are wildly overreacting.

      3. LW 1*

        LW 1: That’s exactly it. This was the BIG project where revenue was going to come from and was big enough that it was a “named” initiative with our team as the owners. Up until now, I was doling out supporting work to other teams to complete for our benefit. Now they are the owners and I flat out have nothing to work on now. Empty calendar. All my tasks were on this one project.

        I agree with folks that my reaction afterwards was really strong- though to be clear in the meeting I wasn’t crying, just kept a blank face, but I’m normally a super smiley person so I probably looked like I got hit by a bus. I slept 12 hours straight when I normally do 6 so I think exhaustion did have a big part in how hard it hit me afterwards. One of my team members did eventually call me in tears asking if I knew what we’d done wrong or if it was something out of our hands, and then some sympathy messages from former coworkers who heard. Someone on the new team asked for a meeting to go over materials and then gloated about it but they’ve always been competitive about work so I’m trying to just block them out of my mind.

        1. Allonge*

          “All my tasks were on this one project.”

          Ok, that is a serious failure – from management! I am sorry they handled it like this, it must have been difficult. It still does not make you or your team a failure though.

        2. Nodramalama*

          Ahhh well there are the missing reasons! That sucks! I hope it gets better for you. And as someone who recently went from horrendously busy to very quiet and am really struggling to adjust, take the opportunity (forced on you as it may) to gain some time back and recover.

        3. Brain the Brian*

          Everything you describe is sickenly familiar to my workplace, where departments fight over vanishingly small projects to “break even” internally. I’m actually a bit spooked…

          Anyway, I recommend you name the problem to your manager (even if your current manager is only managing you temporarily): since this project was shifted to another team, you have very little on your list, and you are worried about the perceived value of your team without the revenue that would have been credited to you from this major project. Then, ask what they would like you to focus on moving forward. Tell them it’s okay to take some time to come up with an answer, but ask to revisit the question in a week. Be prepared to brainstorm ideas with them in good faith.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Managing entirely through competition you mean? That sounds like the ideal set up for exhaustion, misunderstandings and a culture of mistrust.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              You would be correct, unfortunately. A culture of internal competition for project ownership that leads to distrust and silos (e.g. departments are unwilling to share their “secrets to success” with one another… even though they sit across the cubefarm aisle!), lack of focus on outcomes (because people are instead focused on hoarding projects so their departments look like they’re performing financially), refusal to set up clear lines of authority (so nearly everything across two dozen separate locations around the world has to flow through one of two people at our HQ with approval authority), and a general workforce sentiment that everyone else is incompetent or stupid (which, in fairness… is sometimes true — but not always). I have commented before about feeling bitter and useless, and this is a big part of why.

          1. Nodramalama*

            Side note – your name clearly pinges some faulty wire in my brain because I have to read it like five times every time for it to make sense

            1. Brain the Brian*

              It’s a semi-punny reference to the most common misspelling of my real-life first name, which somehow made it into my driver’s license one time. I figured I might as well commemorate the occurrence with a good chuckle! :D

              1. Jay (no, the other one)*

                My husband’s thesis adviser was named Brian. I proofread his thesis. He proofread his thesis. Neither of us noticed that he had spelled his adviser’s name as Brain. Ooops.

                1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

                  Ha, I have an ex named Brian and once typed in a text that I was concerned I had a Brian tumor. My friend was like “you got rid of that one!” (I didn’t have a brain tumor, just a minor health issue treated with pills, not brain surgery. I really did almost just write Brian surgery.)

                2. Brain the Brian*

                  @Georgia Carolyn Mason: I would be sincerely disappointed if my exes were *not* taking advantage of this great opportunity for a pun! Hah!

        4. ferrina*

          This is brutal. I’m sorry, LW.

          Have there been other signs of your leadership undervaluing you/your team, or of your manager being unable/unwilling to advocate for you? Sometimes this kind of thing is a symptom of either weak management or a leadership that is trying to force you out (though sometimes management genuinely didn’t realize what they were doing).

          Trust your gut on this one. There’s a lot of nuances that the commentariat won’t know about, and even thing that you may not know on a conscious level but are picking up unconsciously (subtle things about how your manager treats you, etc). I’m sorry this is happening- good luck!

        5. dawn*

          Given this context, I don’t think your reaction was strong. Given it and the mismanagement above you that culminated in this as well as the very poor communication about the transition, in your position, I would be considering looking for a new job.

        6. Leenie*

          Hi LW1 – That sounds terrible. Your letter did sound like you were overwrought, maybe even disproportionately dramatic. But having this context helps me to understand where you’re coming from. I do have a few questions, if you’re willing and able to answer. And if you don’t want to answer them here, they might still help you clarify what’s happening. 1) Do your primary duties that you had before this project still exist? Has anyone else been doing them? Are you expected to go back to them? 2) Is your department head still out? Has anything changed with her plans? 3) When you think about whatever they barreled through in that meeting, is there any useful information for you there?

          I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

        7. Festively Dressed Earl*

          I have to ask: is this the norm for your workplace? By the sound of things, you’re a hard working competent human with chaos gremlins for grandmanagers. Are they working on a book called Pandemonium Managers: No One Can Fault You If They Can’t Figure Out What You’re Doing!? If this is a one-off, you still need to have a serious conversation about communicating and managing workloads, for your team’s sake as well as your own. If it isn’t, consider whether you might be too good for this beehive. I’ll bet there’s plenty of less dysfunctional workplaces that would snap you up in a heartbeat.

          Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by hearing to attempt.

        8. Alice Quinn*

          I really sympathize with you here! A few years ago, I was leading a body of work for my team that was by far the most visible to my leadership. It was an absolute mess when I took it on, and I spent months getting it in a good spot, building out a detailed project plan, and operationalizing it.

          In my case, I found out at a broader team meeting it was going to someone else when my grandboss said, “Alice Quinn has done a great job with this body of work. Now Quentin Coldwater is going to take it on and make it next level!” My direct reports immediately started to IM me to ask what was happening and I was totally caught off guard. It sucked.

          In hindsight, even though it wasn’t handled well, and I was really upset at the time, in the long run, I had too much on my plate and this allowed me to take on some more interesting projects and make my workload better. I hope in hindsight, this will end up being a good change for you too!

      4. Sloanicota*

        It would be interesting for OP to walk through the worst case scenario (sometimes this is very helpful to me if I’m getting wound up / quoting MacBeth) – with the caveat that occasionally it can make you feel *more* dire, so if it’s not working for you feel free to stop. Worst case scenario, perhaps you really do have a less-shining rep for a minute after this project. While that doesn’t feel great, it’s not the end of the world. You probably get a second chance before anything bad comes of it, and anyone who knows you will understand. But okay, maybe the employer really does start to look harder at you if (if!) there’s a layoff coming. However … you sound like a super conscientious worker – I bet you could easily find more career opportunities and be extremely successful anywhere you go. So is this really the end of the world? Again, my advice above: tropical vacation. Fruity drinks. It’s nothing you can’t get through with fruity drinks.

    3. Your Mate in Oz*

      A lot of managers are really bad at explaining WHY things are being done, and this is an example of that.

      This could have been a great relief to LW if presented as “we realise your workload is unreasonable and you are struggling, so we are thinking of making someone else do some of it”. They would likely have been grateful and relieved.

      But no warning, no explanation, no opportunity to affect the decision that was made? That’s a blunt statement that LW should never mentally “take ownership” of a project or anything else at work, because they don’t own it and don’t get a say.

      LW should choose to interpret it the former way if they can, but it would be entirely reasonable to think about whether this is a pattern, and whether it’s a pattern they want to continue enjoying at work.

      1. Nodramalama*

        Mmm maybe. However, noting how emotional a response LW has had I suspect the fact that they felt blind sighted doesn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t actually any context given.

        In my opinion like most situations where people write in the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. The managers could have explained better and LW could have not taken it as an issue that would require an opportunity to response.

        1. Allonge*

          It also sounds like OP got some explanation, if not in the right order? I am thinking of the part ‘I got a spiel about how it’s not about me or my work and they know I worked so hard.‘.

          At this point OP was already very upset and assuming it’s because they did it badly, so it’s probably difficult to judge even for them what this message was supposed to sound like.

          Just to be clear, this does not sound like good management communication at all. But if the message is ‘it’s not about you or your work’, why is the conlusion ‘they must think I badly messed this up’?

          1. Nodramalama*

            I agree. Because also they say later they’re still leading a time sensitive piece so it’s not as if they got unceremoniously removed at a drop of a hat

          2. Brain the Brian*

            Because in some contexts, the only reason you’d need to assure someone that it “wasn’t about their work” is because it really *was* about their work and you’re just trying to be nice about it. Or at least, that’s how a lot of people perceive this kind of feedback — accurately or not.

            1. Nodramalama*

              But in this context they needed to reassure LW because LW was clearly very upset

            2. Allonge*

              I certainly see that LW takes it like that, but, like, what can then management or any of us do?

              Or does OP expect the answer to their question (how to handle public failure) to be ‘be the obvious failure you are, move to a cave, wear a hair shirt and never ever talk to anyone in your field again’?

              Because my actual answer would be along the lines of:

              1. don’t assume or act like this was a public failure because that is what you are told and if you cannot believe management on this, then this job will not work out
              2. hand over the project professionally
              3. take a break if at all possible to get some rest after long hours you have been doing – thsi should also help with getting some perspective
              4. decide that whatever this was, your next project is not going to go like this, and have a plan for that: talk to your manager on what, if anything, went wrong, what they would want you to do differently in the future, and assess the same things for yourself. See if you can what, if anything, was changed in the project by the other team that took it over. Mistakes are learning experiences.

              1. Brain the Brian*

                Side note: your “wear a hair shirt” line reminds me of a line my dad used to use for people who repeatedly acted crazy in Facebook comment sections: “Still smoking that peyote, I see?” Always made me chuckle.

                Anyway, it seems like there’s a serious lack of trust between this employee and management. Whether that’s because of delusions that the employee is having or because management has destroyed their credibility over time is impossible to assess from afar. Jumping to either conclusion isn’t going to do anyone any favors, and I wish that Alison’s advice had addressed what the employee could do it they *were* right that failing on this project would have catastrophic consequences for their career.

              2. Allonge*

                In retrospect I was snarkier above than I meant to be or than is appropriate – my apologies.

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  Eh, it happens. No hard feelings from me. We all get heated behind a keyboard sometimes — me, most of all.

              3. BestBet*

                I think it’s generally more helpful to follow up a comment like “it’s not about performance” with what it IS about. Otherwise people fill in the blanks themselves, and the most readily available explanation for a lot of people will be the only one brought up, even if it’s to deny that reason. That said, in this case it sounds like (based on OPs comment above) it was a result of shitty internal managerial politics, which I’m not surprised management wasn’t willing to divulge.

      2. Smithy*

        Absolutely yes to this – but I’d also add that sometimes the explanation of the upside to work being moved away can highlight a different kind of anxiety around what it means.

        I had a job where about 30-40% of my workload was around a certain activity. I worked really hard to make sure it was done well and it was fairly complicated. It was then moved away from me and my team to “free up time” to work on something else that was both more important to my employer and more prestige work.

        And I was still pissed, upset and anxious. Years later (the benefit of hindsight!), I know the reason for that was because that I was scared, I wouldn’t be assigned those more important/prestige tasks by my boss to fill up that time. That there would be nothing for me to truly own, and I’d be left with very to be noticed by at all for any future promotions, raises, etc.

        Those fears were valid, but it’s only reflecting why those fears were sensible that it highlights my reaction to losing that work as disproportionate and ill placed. All this to say, the OP’s very emotional reaction may indicate fears or anxieties that are truly anchored in their workplace reality. Had I gotten past those emotions at the time, I hope I would have found professional ways to at least try to address those concerns. And that would have been a much harder conversation than grumbling as to why it would have made more sense to leave that work with me.

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      I know this is a typo and also entirely off-topic, but The Horses Explanation sounds like an intriguing spy/Dick Francis thriller mash-up.

      1. Nodramalama*

        It wasn’t a typo! It was just a joke only funny to me. I meant horses explanation as opposed to a Zebra explanation.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Ha, I have heard the horses/zebra explanation thing before, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me when I read your comment. Would still make a great thriller title, though!

          1. Nodramalama*

            Ha probably because I expressed it in the most obscure way possible. It would be an excellent Agatha Christie novel

        2. bamcheeks*

          Whereas I am imagining four very serious horses sat around explaining that it’s not a reflection on LW‘s hard work.

          1. Nodramalama*

            I think if four horses told me my work was being reassigned I would be more concerned by the impending end of the world

              1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

                Actually if Binky is involved I like my chances. Pratchett’s DEATH is far more compassionate than most.

            1. BikeWalkBarb*

              I’m now thinking about Animal Farm and it would have been the pigs doing the reassigning. If the horses were in charge it would have gone much, much better for all involved.

          2. Sloanicota*

            Horses are known for being hard workers, so I’d certainly trust their assessment.

        3. lbd*

          “Think horses, not zebras.” I completely got that reference and thought it was very witty!

          1. borealis*

            Same here!

            But I also started picturing Bad Horse (from Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog) sending LW a message that their project had been reallocated, and _that_ would have been concerning.

            1. borealis*

              I’m not trying to minimise LW’s fear, btw – I would certainly have had the same reaction. LW 1, I hope the extra context you got from your friend helped you see that it really wasn’t anything you had done wrong.

    5. Arthenonyma*

      Yeah I was like… isn’t this a good thing? By your own description you’re working at an unsustainable level? I’d assume management saw it as a positive and that OP would breathe a sigh of relief.

      1. Antilles*

        That was my immediate thought too, if you’re working weekends (!) and holidays (!!) to get it done, management should be doing exactly this to rearrange workloads. Management should have acknowledged OP as they were doing it (“and big thanks to Jenny for temporarily stepping up while Bobby’s been out for surgery”), but forgetting that is a fairly minor mis-step.

    6. Trout 'Waver*

      Yeah, I agree. Additionally, there are lots of what-ifs that could benignly explain the project move as well.

      Also, the success or failure of project, in my experience, is rarely determined by the people working on it. In other words, most successful projects would have been successful regardless of who worked on them, and likewise for failed projects. Projects fail primarily because of poor target selection and systemic cultural issues. Taking a project failure as a personal failure is not the best course of action.

    7. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I agree with this and with many of the comments here. LW, there are many possible reasons why they reassigned the project, and most of them are no slight on you whatsoever. By your own admission you are overworked and under tight time crunches, so maybe someone on the other team has more time freed up to work on the project. Or perhaps they want you to focus on your other projects. Or even (and admittedly this is AAM fanfiction but I’m putting it in here anyway) your manager’s cousin joined the other team and manager wants cousin to do the project because nepotism.

      In any case, since you don’t know the reason, you are making assumptions that it’s due to you not measuring up to whatever standards you think they have for you, which I get, because I have definitely had imposter syndrome in a lot of areas of my life. I also was raised in the 80s and 90s, when so many of us were taught to ignore problems and go with the flow, and as such I only learned later in life that it’s actually ok and even good to address issues and ask questions about things you want further explanations for. (One could say that the environment I was brought up in taught me to be passive aggressive; only in my adulthood have I realized this and worked to overcome it.) I can’t say what your upbringing was like, of course, but your reaction here reminds me of how I used to deal with problems when I was younger.

      And now to my advice, LW: go back to your manager and ask why the project was reassigned. Just ask, don’t say anything about how you are feeling about it (at least at first). If it seems appropriate based on your manager’s response, you can also ask if the reassignment was in fact because you weren’t performing to the level they need for the project. You should also use this opportunity to address the issues you thought were going to be addressed in the meeting, the ones where you wanted to “set boundaries about time off.”

      Good luck, LW! It’s really hard not to take work issues personally but if you can train yourself to realize that the business needs of the company often outweigh employees’ needs, I think that’ll help you in the long run.

    8. Mockingjay*

      I work for a very volatile project lead. He is FAMOUS for announcing huge work reassignments and project team reorganizations in meetings without any discussion with the affected team members. He’s done it to me twice – pulled my work and given it to someone else. The first time I was shocked and nearly in tears – I was completely blindsided. The second time, I said “okay” and sought other tasks to work on. (I’m too close to retirement to be seeking a new job.) He came back a year later and said, new team is screwing things up, I need you to fix it. “Doesn’t it make more sense to have them fix X? It’s their error.”

      Little does he know that I’m leaving the project in July for a new program. (I don’t need to be replaced because on paper, New Team still does my work. I am assigned to projects from a support pool, so if he really needs someone, they can be assigned.)

      I understand LW1’s reaction – when you put in a ton of effort to do good work and cover for someone, it’s natural to expect “hey thanks, we appreciate what you are doing.” Unfortunately, most managers don’t explain their decisions to employees – to be fair, in most circumstances they don’t need to. But work reallocations and task reassignments do warrant a heads-up to the affected staff.

      1. Badger*

        Yeah I agree. When I was a team lead I made sure to discuss new or changed assignments with the team members. Simply because people deserve a heads-up about changes and for more contentious topics (like this one in my opinion) I made sure people could follow the rationale and public communication was constructive (and happened AFTER talking to the person privately).

      2. Owler*

        Are you working on fixing the error until you leave or did you convince him to take it back to the team that messed it up? Happy for you to have a new path in July!

  2. Bambue*

    LW3, if it comes to parting ways with the company, it seems plausible that you might be able to get them to agree to not contest unemployment. They might prefer that than creating more ill will.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yes, there’s a chance once the lawyers are involved and you’re talking ADA that they’ll strike a deal with you. You could also get a severance in return for signing something exculpatory.

      1. Sam*

        But no where in the letter did OP say she has ADA accommodation; only that her doctor doesn’t think she should go in more than once a week. You need to actually get the ADA accommodation approved for it to be legally upheld.

        1. Stella*

          Yes. And Covid is here to stay. Up to six vaccines are available. She already goes in once a week to the same environment. She can wear a mask at work if she feels at risk. At some point employers who are office based want their employees to return. Everything is not an accommodation.

          1. Yadah*

            Yea, honestly LWs approach to the topic really confused me. Asking for 2 days a week is part time in-office, even 3 days a week would still be technically part time imo.
            I have a lot of empathy for their health situation, but the employer was upfront about their plans and it’s weird to be all angry and ‘shocked Pikachu face’ about it now that they’re following through.

            1. allathian*

              Indeed. I’d feel differently if she’d been allowed to be completely remote before and then had to go into the office again.

              I really don’t see that the risk of getting Covid is all that much smaller whether it’s one or two days at the office.

              That said, for some people who have extreme exhaustion, one day at the week might be barely doable and two impossible.

              1. long hauler*

                it is smaller one day versus 2. at least twice the amount of exposure not taking into account more people will likely be in the office. I’m a long hauler and did get formal ada accommodations. people are back to precovid I’m hacking up a lung but still coming into work and for those at higher risk that can be an er visit or worsening health/disability. she should discuss with her employer possible ada accommodations. I have several including an office, air purifier, zoom meetings, etc.

              2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

                From the LW:
                She started during the pandemic and when she was hired, she was told that eventually she would have to go to the office part-time

                So, it really does sound like she was fully remote when she was hired.

          2. mbs001*

            Agreed. At this point, Covid is another illness like the flu. If she can go in 1 day a week, she can go in 2 days a week. Sounds like grousing to me. Go find another job if you don’t like it — good luck. But those employers can change their terms too — unless you have an employment contract with WFH specified. There are definite benefits for many companies having their folks together in person and the pandemic is over. It’s their call to set those requirements and it’s an employee’s call as to whether or not they want to work there. No one’s forcing them to do so — they’re free to explore other options.

  3. Daria grace*

    #4, you could offer close personal friends free subscriptions if you wanted but this is really nothing to worry about. Unless you put a huge amount of pressure on them to sign up which it sounds like you didn’t come at all close to, they’re happy with this arrangement. If you were publishing in print you wouldn’t feel the need to break the friendship with people who brought copies of your books. There’s so many scenarios where you’d pay for stuff friends do even outside the context of a traditional business. I’ve paid to go to concerts friends are performing at and make donations towards the non-profits of two friends who have to personally fundraise funds towards their salaries/projects

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes, I thought of this right away – I have a friend who’s an author and I have bought every book she’s published! I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t actually enjoy her writing, but also if I didn’t know her I probably would have checked the books out of the library or bought them used instead of pre-ordering them all as they’ve come out. But my friend certainly doesn’t work for me! If I started dictating to her how I wanted her to write future books, she might stop being friends with me… but not because I’d then be her boss, but rather because I’d be being a jerk.

      1. SarahKay*

        I also have a friend who is an author, and I know he is hesitant about promoting his books, or book launch events, to his close friends as he doesn’t want to us to feel he’s pressuring us to buy them.
        Meantime we’re trying to encourage him to tell us about events because, you know, he’s our friend and we want to support him. Also, the books are good.
        If he stopped being friends with us because we bought his books that would be a very bad outcome indeed!

      2. ferrina*


        I have a friend that writes books that are in a genre that I don’t read. I buy them anyways, because they are my friend. Or if a friends’ band puts out a CD, I’m going to buy it. If they held me at arms’ length because I bought their books/music, that would just feel weird.

        Now if I were directly overseeing and evaluating their work (i.e., bespoke projects or managing them), that would be different. But I’m definitely not managing their writing!

      3. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yes, this! I also have an author friend and read all their books. I don’t feel like they work for me, nor do I get cranky about them posting about upcoming books or otherwise promoting their work. (Quite the opposite: I joined their Facebook fan page so I could geek out about their books with others!)

    2. londonedit*

      I follow a few people who offer a limited number of gift subscriptions every now and then, because they’re worried that there are people who want to read but can’t afford to subscribe, and they want to make it open to everyone while still earning money. I’m not entirely au fait with the details of how it works, but they’ll announce that they have a few gift subscriptions to give away, and ask people to email them – no questions asked. Seems like quite a nice way to do it – maybe if the OP did a similar thing, it’d offset the guilt about having friends subscribing!

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I subscribe to the general rule that you buy your friends’ books, CDs, etc., if you can, because it’s a nice thing to do. Plus, I get a book or CD!

      1. Annie*

        Right. I might do that even if I’m not particularly interested in that type of music or that type of book, just to support them.

    4. theletter*

      Agreed – It took me a long time to realize, as a performing artist, that my friends and family want to come to me shows NOT because they want to see a good show, but because they like me and want to support me. I think of performances now as a chance to share what I love and build those connections.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I mean, when I go to friends’ concerts or buy their books, I usually get to support a friend *and* enjoy a good show/book. Win/win/win.

        OP, I’d assume that if your friends are subscribing, it’s because they want to, and they would probably be very dismayed if it led to you backing off on the friendship. (But if they start telling you what to write – other than if you’ve asked! – then they’re being rude and I might back off on the friendship because of *that*. But then again, that would apply whether or not they were paying.)

        1. Annie*

          Yes, in a subscription system, I wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to a friends blog just to support them. A one-time purchase like a book or CD, sure, even if I wasn’t interested in the subject. But a subscription blog, ongoing charge, I would subscribe if I was interested in it and have no problem paying for that subscription.

  4. Archi-detect*

    On #5, I am also not sure why one day in person is acceptable and two is too dangerous.

    Any increase in in person days is enough to get me to start checking job postings, so I get the lack of wanting to do more days, but mine is work/life balance not medical plus I had covid last year and it was relatively minor for me at least, so super different situations

    1. Annie*

      My speculation is that the one day a week was previously agreed upon as a compromise to balance employer/employee goodwill with perceived or actual business need and the employee’s medical need to avoid infection at almost any cost.

      Now, the employer is saying that more face time in the office is needed for some reason, and that throws the balance off from the employee’s perspective.

    2. WS*

      If they’re mandating a lot more people come in, the increase from one day to two might be part of also having a more crowded office with fewer Covid precautions. It was a volunteer position so not exactly the same, but my mother is a high-risk person and doing her volunteer work in a venue where the paid staff come in 1-2 days a week was very, very different in terms of risk to when they made everyone come in 3-4 days per week. The higher-ups made it clear this would not be changing so she had to quit the role.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      Risk is always a tradeoff, since there is really no way to have zero risk. Going from one to two days almost doubles the risk (not quite, because you’re likely to see the same people, but it’s still a significant increase). So it may tip the balance from acceptable risk to too much.

      I remember in lockdown my family reduced our supermarket runs to once every two weeks instead of once a week, to halve our risk (and going alone, to further reduce). That’s the idea. Incurring the least amount of risk possible while doing what is unavoidable.

      1. MassMatt*

        But if someone is at increased risk of Covid why is it OK for them to take the risk one day but they somehow claim a medical need against two days per week? This is not like a back injury.

        LW says they feel as though the employer is reneging on an agreement but says in the letter they were told they would eventually have to come in more days.

        I don’t see how ADA is going to apply, and I doubt LW will have any luck finding a lawyer.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Because they may deem a risk of, say, 0.5% of contracting covid an acceptable tradeoff for being employed, but unnecessarily increasing it to 1% too much (numbers completely made up).

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            That’s fine for a personal risk assessment but it’s not likely to go anywhere in an attempt to claim this is an ADA issue.

        2. Happy*

          Because one day per week is below their personal threshold for acceptable risk, but two days per week is above their threshold.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            But their personal threshold doesn’t necessarily matter to the employer there is a specific accommodation.

            1. Happy*

              If OP’s doctor says one day is okay but two are not, and there is a straightforward accommodation available, then I think a decent employer would try to grant the accommodation.

              1. Banana Pyjamas*

                Thank you! The DOCTOR made the determination that they should not be in office more than one day per week.

                1. Happy*

                  Right…What I’m saying is that a decent employer would make an official accommodation based on the doctor’s note.

    4. Anon for this one*

      Yeah, this threw me as well. When I was having chemo I had an exemption from coming into the office under the ADA (cancer/cancer treatment is covered) but it’s hard for me to imagine a situation where the doctor would be okay with one day and not with two, unless it’s a “compromise in advance” situation where less is better than more and LW thought a request for a full exemption would be turned down.

    5. long hauler*

      I have long covid. two days is doubling exposure which does increase risk. you need a certain level of the virus to get sick. it’s easier to hit that level of you are there two days (ie if someone is sick it’s possible being around them one day may not create enough of a viral load to get sick but two days could). I don’t know her job. mine we have offices but I got accommodations to bring in an air purifier and being in a larger room if an in person meeting is needed. there is risk now that most people aren’t staying home or taking precautions of they are sick and could have a mild enough case that they can work but still get others sick. I got covid from someone who had extremely mild symptoms and have severe long covid (14 different meds to control symptoms). I get her concerns. I would look at what accommodations are possible.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        It’s double the risk but without knowing what the risk from one day is that doesn’t mean a lot. Is one day “totally fine” or “the maximum you should be exposing yourself to”?

    6. Ashley*

      In addition, you can deal with a lot for 1 day such as walking outside to get water or skipping lunch so you don’t have to unmask at your desk to eat. Doing this two days a week becomes more and more challenging.

      1. mcm*

        this is also what I was thinking. Going into the office while being really diligent about masking is difficult and tiring, but possibly more sustainable one day a week than two.

      1. M2*

        Does LW2 go into the office and then brings it home? Do you go out for dinner? Go to a gym? Do you travel? These are all risks. To be ok going out but not going into the office might raise eyebrows. Do you have kids and they go to school?

        Wear a N95 mask or start looking for a WFH role. I have someone on my team who is WFH FT currently because of a medical treatment but they also get their work done. We had someone else given that WfH time but was found out they were traveling, going out for meals, etc so why is it ok to do that but not go into the office? They also didn’t get the same quality work done so HR dealt with it and they were required back into the office.

        2 can they give your partner a private office on the days they are in? Might be good to start applying for remote roles but I will say more and more are going into the office at least part time.
        I was right next to someone who had covid for 2 days (and didn’t realize bc they refused to test) but I had an n95 mask and air filter on (my office paid for one for anyone who wanted one) and did not get it! The time I got covid was from my partner who brought it home. We slept in the same bed so by the time they realized and went in another room I already was exposed. Kids also spread germs so if you’re around any kids you’ll catch stuff.

        5- I always give comp time of people work late or weekends! Not always 1 for 1 but if you’re working a Saturday I’ll say take a day off but let me know on certain weeks or I say come on late or leave early. Up to them and only on days that aren’t crazy, but people appreciate it. As long as people get their work don’t I don’t care. We are adults. Sorry your ED isn’t reasonable.

        1. sometimeswhy*

          The reflex to interrogate someone else’s personal risk calculus and just decide for them that if they go to one parent teacher night they should also be willing to pretend risk isn’t cumulative and go to a Taylor Swift concert is something that I find frustrating and I really wish the people who control our access to the means of survival would stop.

          1. Casey*

            Mostly here to second @sometimeswhy. We can’t minimize our risk to 0, but we can do our best to limit it. If someone’s risk increases for things that are largely out of their control (like if their kids go to school and maybe have to be unmasked around other kids to eat lunch, or if their office is requiring them to come in once a week), that’s actually a reason to be MORE cautious in other areas of life, not less. This is not an all or nothing situation, and I will admit that I get very frustrated when people treat it as one.
            @M2, your questions strike me as dismissive, and they also ignore LW’s comment that they are both masking in general as much as possible. We are generally supposed to take LWs at their word, and I think, in this case, that means trusting that they are doing what they can to minimize their risk of covid wherever they can. There is absolutely nothing in the letter that suggests they are taking risks in other areas of their lives.

          2. FL*

            Yeah. “oh your kids go to school so there’s no point in trying to take COVID precautions” Alright well there’s fecal contaminants on all the produce at the grocery store, so I guess there’s no point in washing your hands after going to the bathroom. And we should all start smoking because air pollution means everyone has a risk of lung cancer anyway.

            COVID seems to occupy this exceptional place in everyone’s mind where it’s somehow worth it to do other (often non-guaranteed) things for your health, but completely delusional behavior to take any precautions whatsoever against COVID. I’m as sloppy and complacent as it gets because I WFH and have an unusually strong immune system, but the fact of the matter is COVID causes brain damage and other organ damage that cannot easily be reversed, so you can’t be surprised when people actually care about avoiding it.

        2. I Have RBF*

          My spouse has cancer. We get our groceries delivered. Our entire household is high risk, and have a pretty strict masking requirement when we go out. I buy a box of N95s every month.

          I deliberately sought a remote job. I stopped the interview process with one company when they said “Oh, you’re local? You would need to come in to our office.” It wasn’t the commute, it was the exposure risk that made that a non-starter.

          Yes, if I have to, I can work for a few days in an N95. But it’s damned inconvenient and not a perfect risk reduction. I also have IBS-D, which means I can have an urgent need for a bathroom to stink up very suddenly.

          Sure, in the US the high and mighty corporate overlords can change your employment agreement and conditions at will, without even asking your consent, and you either must obey or be fired. (No, “obey or be fired” is not consent, it’s blackmail, but it’s the legal standard in the US.) They can even unilaterally change the terms spelled out in your offer letter, to your detriment, and you have to suck it up, or quit. You, however, must beg for any change to your benefit. The only option you have is to vote with your feet, and then the corporate overlords will whine that “no one wants to work any more”.

          This type of thing is what unions and union contracts are for dealing with. The only way to have any way to push back on the unilateral change of employment conditions is to be in a collective bargaining unit – a union – with a bilateral contract.

      2. linger*

        Actually it considerably more than doubles the risk, because the policy enforcement means that more people in total are coming in each day to share the workplace, and so, quite apart from the doubling of potential exposure time while commuting and working (which would be enough in itself to double the risk), there is also contact with a wider range of individuals each day, increasing the risk of meeting someone who is a vector, and moreover (extrapolating from the usual effect of bums-in-seats policies) increased pressure on employees to come in when sick, further increasing the risk of infection.
        (And the cumulative effect of multiple companies enforcing RTO policies increases crowding and risk during the commute too.)

    7. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, I strongly dislike companies pushing people back to work if there was no issue with them working remotely–but I just don’t think you can really win with this argument. From the employee’s side I certainly understand that their goal is just to minimize risk and going in less often is of course less risky. But I don’t think you can really argue that one day a week is safe and two days a week is dangerous with a company that is taking a hardline stance like this.

      I think they would have been better off fighting for doctor-mandated fill time WFH. Trying to define how much in-office time is acceptable is just too nebulous. I’d start looking for fully remote jobs while you continue trying to fight this.

    8. Orv*

      I’m mostly just surprised by the assertion that filing a union grievance makes you undesirable. In any union shop I’ve worked in, grievances were common and expected. They’re just part of doing business with a union.

  5. Your Mate in Oz*

    Generally employers interpret you doing your work more quickly than expected as them misunderestimating the difficulty and add more work accordingly. Sadly, especially in the USA, they generally don’t make the corresponding adjustment when it takes longer than expected.

    I’ve only once managed a job where “get it done then go home” was the way it worked. And even that changed once it became apparent that I was working about 25 hours a week and spending the rest of the time doing my own thing. Sadly because of the “we own everything even vaguely work related you do in your spare time” contract they also owned the software I wrote to automate much of my job. The flip side is that as a computer programmer I just found another job.

    One of the many reasons I stay in my current job despite some irritations is that I WFH 100% and just have to get stuff done and/or keep my team leader happy. If there’s nothing to do I quite explicitly get to do nothing. But if SHTF I quite explicitly get to work at 3am on Sunday morning if that’s when the problem needs to be fixed… I consider that an important part of my job is making sure I don’t have to work at 3am on Sunday :)

    1. Archi-detect*

      I imagine it would be really hard to claim ownership of software like that even without the contract as it was written to solve such as specific problem and would be hard to argue it isn’t work product even if written off the clock. I know for me at least I assume it is gone if it hits the company network

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        I’ve had problems in the past when I’ve been hired partly because I’m a contributor to a project that the company relies on. So I’ve had to negotiate the boundary between contributions to the project done on company time and code that remains the property of the company. Sometimes it’s easy, I fix a bug and that fix has (at best) zero value unless it’s part of the open source project. Other times it’s more complex, say I write an extension to the project because that’s immediately useful to the company but also has multiple requests for it from other users of the project.

        But yes, automating the job was very much their code, and it would have been hard to even ask for more payment for it than the hours I’d spent being paid but not working. It was just done in a way that made me not want to work for them any more.

    2. I Have RBF*

      One of the many reasons I stay in my current job despite some irritations is that I WFH 100% and just have to get stuff done and/or keep my team leader happy. If there’s nothing to do I quite explicitly get to do nothing. But if SHTF I quite explicitly get to work at 3am on Sunday morning if that’s when the problem needs to be fixed… I consider that an important part of my job is making sure I don’t have to work at 3am on Sunday :)

      My job is like this. I am mostly paid to be available to solve problems. This includes calling me on a Sunday afternoon and asking for my help to fix something. This means once a month spending Friday evening patching systems. I do it all from home, there isn’t even an office in my area.

      But I used to do this type of thing from an office, which meant that I used to have to drive to the office to fix problems in the middle of the night, until I got them to give me a laptop and a VPN to log in from.

  6. Lena*

    I subscribe to a friend’s Substack and would never expect her to consider it as a business relationship. I enjoy her content and just want to support her.

    1. Achtung, Baby*

      Yeah I think that LW is seriously overthinking it – it was their friend’s choice to subscribe and pay, it’s in no way a employer-employee relationship. As long as you’re not basing friendships on whether they subscribe or not, there’s nothing to see here.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if a portion of OP#4’s friends are subscribed at least in part because of the friendship. Probably they like the content too, but maybe not enough to pay for it if they didn’t like OP. Or maybe they like the content a lot, but it would be tainted by a dropped friendship enough that they would stop subscribing. Basically, ending the friendships would be fairly likely to end some of the subscriptions as well, so definitely don’t sacrifice the friendships to try to legitimize the subscriptions.

        Which you don’t need to do anyways.

  7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (comp time) My interpretation: she knows full well that comp time isn’t “illegal” (how can it be illegal to give someone some hours they don’t have to work when they would otherwise, and be paid for it?) but is hiding behind the law (or “the law” in scare quotes this time) as she doesn’t like the idea of people taking the time back. They are salaried! Senior people! They work on the basis of doing what needs to be done, they aren’t hourly! So why would I give them extra time back? – will be her line of thinking.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Eh – It could easily be a misunderstanding of what the law is, esp. if the manager is used to managing non-exempt workers. Autopilot is a thing.

      I’d remind her that the workers are salaried and that it’s only illegal for hourly workers, and would point out that expecting salaried workers to work on the weekend as well as the entire week is NOT going to go over well, unless the company does something to make it up to them.

      1. OP 5*

        Yes, perhaps I should have included this in the original letter – but one reason I was looking for Alison’s thoughts is that the ED is generally quite reasonable about this sort of thing (good about ensuring people don’t get burnt out, never demands an accounting of hours from me or my team, has specifically said she doesn’t need to hear about it if a person needs an hour or two during the day for an appointment or to take their kid somewhere). That’s why I thought I might just have been missing something! I think it is, in fact, just a misunderstanding of the law w/r/t exempt v. non-exempt.

    2. Goldie*

      If they are exempt the company might not want people racking up comp time and owing that time later. People then start using their comp time instead of vacation and vacation balances grow, etc.

      I wonder how you can have a team of 27 out of 30 people all meeting the definition of exempt.

      1. Adam*

        Having almost entirely exempt workers is pretty common in professional firms (finance, law, engineering, etc).

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yup, and thus with the 3 others being support staff who would be non-exempt. In the US I’d be the only hourly non-exempt person on my team of ~16, mostly because I’m admin for a team of managers (5 senior, 5 junior, one boss, one manager who oversees another area across the region, two other people who are supervisors and one pro SME with an advisory and compliance function that may well rise to a professional type role were he in the US, so, yeah, 15 people plus me). But I’m not hourly/non-exempt because pay works differently here and it suits me fine — more stability, less need to clockwatch if I’m still deep in the weeds of something at 5pm or spend time travelling to and from work sites during the day and want to finish stuff up after hours as a result as a courtesy because each trip can take a while due to my disability and as an admin things need to get done as soon as possible.

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

          I work in University counseling center we have around 17 counselors and 3 support staff. Counselors are all salaried exempt but myself and the other 2 support staff are hourly non-exempt.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Yup. In the UK it’s a routine thing to get comp time rather than overtime. (There’s still a choice, and I did claim overtime once or twice when I was working alone and had to cover for both my colleagues and be in half an hour early to open the back door and other things that were time sensitive. But mostly it is ‘time off in lieu’ (TOIL – great acronym that…) that we choose because most of us prefer the later start or earlier finish to messing around with expense forms on the very rare occasion that we earn it.

        Generally speaking we don’t get paid right down to the minute or the quarter hour. Most people in permanent roles are on salary and thus can be flexible at either end of the day on a normal basis — I don’t have to stop work immediately at 5 even if I could get something finished and sent off by 5.10 — while overtime would be claimed on the basis of a significant overage requested by your manager etc etc etc. When I worked reception, I still got a salary payment based on 25 hours a week, so when I had to stay an hour late because the lift service guy turned up ten minutes before I would have left and after my colleague had gone, and spent a while attending to an actual problem he found on that spot check, I could just spend a more leisurely morning the following day and come in an hour later.

        But I’m not sure whether you’d actually bank it formally. Maybe if you had jobs that were worse about it? IDK, it never came up. I do know that we can’t just invoke TOIL to work through lunch then go a commensurate period early, because the lunch break is mandatory. Maybe honestly I just haven’t worked in a place where it was routine, so that’s just my experience.

        1. londonedit*

          Where I work you only get TOIL if you do something out of the ordinary like working on a weekend day. And it’s pretty informal and you’re expected to use it fairly swiftly – say you go and help the Sales team sell books at a festival on a Saturday, you’d get a TOIL day to use within the next couple of weeks. A lot of people would just take the immediate following Monday as TOIL, or the Friday of the following week. The idea (where I work, at least) is that it’s an immediate replacement day off to make up for the day you had to work.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yup. TOIL only is much more common. The maintenance guys rack up quite a bit, because unfortunately a lot of planned maintenance jobs come due at this time of year and being able to space them out a bit better would run up against rolling compliance time periods. But certainly I think you’d expect it much more often from that kind of work than from my admin stuff.

      3. KateM*

        No company should *want* people racking up comp time – aka work without rest! Of course they should insist on taking a free day or two if the employee has worked through a weekend, that’s only human.

        1. OP 5*

          I should clarify, we wouldn’t be talking about working through a weekend – just coming in for, say, a 4-hour stretch to help with a specific project. To be clear, as exempt employees, I wouldn’t bat an eye at some weeks putting in 44 hours instead of 40 (knowing that there are weeks when people will put in 36) – but I think asking folks to come in on a day that they normally would not merits different consideration.

      4. AcademiaNut*

        They could solve that easily by putting a time limit on it. You work one weekend, you get a bonus day off to use during the next two weeks, either as shorter days, or a complete day off. Really, that’s how exempt time *should* work, if not that formally – you recognize that there will be some times you need to work evenings or weekends, but it’s balanced by flexibility the rest of the time – you take it easy the week after a big deadline, you don’t need to make up time if you take a long lunch or need to leave early for a doctor’s appointment.

        If an employer insists on strict attendance during a 9-6 five day work week unless you take PTO, *and* demands that you work weekends and evenings on command, they’re abusing exempt status.

      5. IT Manager*

        You can make rules about when comp has to be taken – my work allows us to flex within a pay period, which is mostly ok except if you have a big unexpected issue at the end of the period and work a bunch of hours with no remaining days left in the period to take off. And to be honest, there’s too much work to do to actually recoup more than 5-10% of the overtime I work this way, but it’s still better than what OP is describing.

        But you could certainly say comp time must be taken within the month, quarter or year to avoid the issue of accrued time on the company books.

        1. TootsNYC*

          my union’s new contract has a two-month time limit on comp time.
          AND managers may adjust people’s work (especially hourly) on other days to
          keep people within overtime limits.

          When I was a manager, two months was about my unofficial limit on unofficial comp time (company policy was explicitly “we do not grant comp time,” which I ignored). My argument was that comp time was intended to give people their life back, to make it possible to get their laundry done, see their friends, run errands, get some sleep—whatever they’d given up to work those extra hours. It wasn’t intended to pad vacation. So I wanted them to take it while they could still minimize the impact of the extra drain.

      6. doreen*

        Depend to an extent on exactly what “team” means. My husband’s team consists entirely of exempt employees – they are outside sales reps and managers. There are non-exempt positions in the company, but those people are on entirely different teams.

      7. Rosemary*

        A lot of times the deal is the comp time has to be taken the in the following week.

      8. LaurCha*

        I believe you have to use comp time within a week if you’re an exempt worker. So workers won’t be able to rack up weeks of comp time and expect to be paid for it upon separation.

          1. mimi*

            It’s in my state law (Indiana) that it has to be used by the end of the next quarter. And it’s legal for non-exempt employees too.

        1. Happy*

          That’s not true. Companies can set their own policies.

          I’ve worked places where you had to use it within a year, or could keep it forever but couldn’t accrue more than 40 hours, etc.

        2. I Have RBF*

          California law calls that “make up time” – time shifting within the week. Comp time can only be accumulated up to 240 hours and should be used within a quarter. There’s an explainer here. (Also, Google on “{your state} comp time” to find your state’s comp time rules.)

      9. Belles Chaussettes*

        This can be dealt with easily. At my US Fed agency, even though I am exempt any time worked over my 40 can be counted toward earning comp time.

        The caveat here is that my supervisor must approve it first. I email her, she approves, and then I can put it into the pay system. It’s all tracked very closely. This prevents people from “racking up” comp time. There needs to be a clear work reason why its being earned.

      10. fhqwhgads*

        It’s pretty common for comp time in this type of situation to be required to be taken in the same pay period.

    3. Maz*

      I work very hard during my work hours. I’m not inclined to donate my time for free. The Director could do with watching some of the YouTube videos by LoeWhaley about setting boundaries.

      1. OP 5*

        As I stated above, she’s actually generally very good about understanding boundaries, protecting time, looking out for burnout, etc., which is one of the reasons I was so surprised by this response. I’ve worked for her for several years, and she is not one to ask staff to “donate time for free.”

    4. boof*

      I don’t know whether she “knows” it or just doesn’t want to know otherwise. You’d think if you were the boss you’d really make sure you understood the laws before declaring something is illegal that someone was requesting.
      It’s just standard good business practice and “common sense” if you ask for something more, give something back to maintain morale/good will/good employees/etc and it’d be really weird to make a “law” against it! So I agree they shoulda known better but quite possibly just happy rolled with the BS justification they had in their head without questioning it.

      1. ferrina*

        This. I’ve had plenty of bosses that thought this way. If a ‘fact’ agreed with what they want to happen, the fact is clearly right. If a ‘fact’ disputed their preconceived notion or what they thought should happen, then the ‘fact’ was clearly wrong and I just didn’t know enough to see that (at least, that’s what the bosses liked to say- they didn’t actually use evidence to refute the data, they just told me that I was wrong and if I couldn’t see that, then that was an issue with me).

        The confirmation bias is very, very real.

      2. TootsNYC*

        it’s also defining “no matter how many hours” only one direction.

        “no matter how many or how few” is what it should say.

  8. violinosaur*

    LW1 my heart goes out to you… the whirring thoughts, the crying (if it’s me, add in feeling sick to the stomach). But this is not a great emotional response even if the project has been reassigned due to a fault of some kind. It sounds like this could be a combo of needing to get to the bottom of why you’ve reacted like this (does this kind of response happen often to perceived failure?), and exhaustion. Sleep, talk to someone you trust (or therapy?), give yourself room to be human. And, as Alison said, this likely isn’t about failure at all.

    1. Martin Blackwood*

      If Im reading this correctly, the letter was written the same day as the meeting. I find, depending on the task, switching tasks unexpectly can throw me off. this is a huge task being taken off their plate, of course theyre going to be out of sorts if theyre the planning type! And theres a loss of control. Not ideal to take it personally, but I can definitely feel for OP.
      I hope that after a good meal and 8 hours of sleep, maybe a couple days, theyre not considering this a public failure. I dont blame them for being upset, but I hope this was written heat of the moment and everythings a lot calmer for them now

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


      I was LW1, early in my career, and I was pretty much knocked for a loop. When I got back to my apartment after work, I just stared at the walls for a week or two. It may take some time to put the whole thing in perspective but you’ll get through it.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I think OP was going in expecting praise for her hard work. When the project was re-assigned instead of the praise, her brain flipped from they think I am wonderful to they think I am a failure. Instead of seeing it as moving things off her plate to balance her workload. Or as she noted, it wasn’t her, it was office politics.

      I think pure exhaustion along with singular focus on this project caused the over reaction.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I agree, violinosaur!* Even if it’s LW1’s failing that led to the project being reassigned, that’s not a healthy way to respond. To be fair, if that was the reason, the manager really didn’t handle the situation well, because what they should have done was spoken to LW about what LW should be doing differently and given LW a chance to change and hopefully work the way the manager needs them to work. Instead, manager just up and took away the project with no warning, which really isn’t a good way to handle the situation at all. Even if it wasn’t due to LW’s failing, the manager should have told LW first and then had a meeting with the team about how to reassign tasks. Informing LW of this rather major change in front of everyone else was not great management, IMHO. So while I still think LW’s reaction was a bit outsized for the situation, it’s completely understandable to have a strong reaction to being blindsided like they were.

      I feel for LW because I too have had strong reactions like this to minor issues. LW, even if you don’t love the idea of therapy, it could be really useful to have a few appts with someone who can help you figure out why you’ve reacted this way and help you develop skills for dealing with these kinds of strong reactions. Or if it really is simply exhaustion (which has been a reason I’ve reacted strongly to minor issues myself), try to take some time to take care of yourself. Take a vacation, stop working late nights and weekends, talk to your boss about figuring out a more manageable workload. LW, I hope you can give us an update soon to let us know how you’re doing!

      *Side note: I’m a violasaur!

      1. violinosaur*

        hello violasaur!!!! totally agree with finding a way to talk about adjusting how we deal with sudden change, and with exhaustion. therapy was that for me (but it could be a friend or partner to hold you accountable even to a bedtime!) and especially helped not feeling guilty for going to sleep when i still had work to do.

  9. No touchy!*

    LW1, I think it’s worth examining why your reaction was so strong. Maybe there’s context you didn’t include in the letter, but this seems very disproportionate based on the info we’re given. Could they have handled it better and at least explained the why? Sure, and frankly in my opinion they should have begun with the reason, but your reaction is still out of proportion.

    For the record, such a strong reaction isn’t a failure either! People react the way they react, but for your own peace of mind it’s worth getting to the bottom of that.

    Maybe it was just the added stress from all the work you’ve been doing (and especially that stress suddenly falling away), in which case this may not occur again but is good for you to know you react that way. Maybe you have impostor syndrome, or are afraid of losing your job, or any combination of these three in which case it may be worth figuring out coping mechanisms (with or without professional help).

    Not trying to armchair diagnose with the above, just trying to offer some possibilities to LW so they know where to start.

    1. Awkwardness*

      For me it is not so much about perceived failure. There is so much in OPs letter that makes me pause how they handle conflict in the workplace in general.

      They eventually stopped and asked the question I absolutely dread — any questions or things I can explain to you?
      I figured a basic “no, I don’t have any questions” was about all I could get out without showing emotion. Apparently that clued them in to my distress

      There is no shame in asking questions. Not at all!
      And there is no shame in showing emotion. In my opinion, it is much more problematic if colleagues have to dance around problems because the other person will not share their thoughts on it or is other have to play guessing games about the reaction.
      It is completely fine to name emotions!
      “I am confused why this project gets transferred. Could you please explain it?”
      “I am disappointed this gets taken away from me, I really liked the topic and a substantial amount of time went into it.”

      But how else would anyone interpret it?

      You ask for it. There are a lot of colleagues and managers who will give you an honest opinion why things were done done way or another. But you have to trust those explanations and you need to ask those questions. If you dread the question for questions, you limit yourself also to not getting proper feedback.
      I really wish for you to see that this idea is harming you in more ways than you can benefit from it.

      1. bamcheeks*

        There’s no shame on showing emotion, BUT some emotions are much stronger and more dramatic than you want to show in the workplace. When you’re feeling ambushed by something like this and having all the emotions at once, it’s easy for that to come out as tears or anger or something that isn’t necessarily how you want to present yourself at work, and which some managers may not be ready to cope with. Taking some time to go and process your reaction and then come back when you’re feeling calmer to ask why the decision was made is good practice!

        1. Awkwardness*

          You are absolutely right and I realise I messed up a little bit in my answer. The original draft had in it “no shame in naming emotions”, and then I forgot to change it back when I redid a few sentences. That’s why those two examples are there.

          OP seems to have the understanding that professionalism is absence of emotion when the main point is to have controllable emotion.

        2. Awkwardness*

          It seems as if my reply did not get through. The shortened version: you are right and I did word this aspect a bit differently in the initial draft, that there is no shame in naming emotion. One has indeed to be a bit careful about which emotions to actually show.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I find that having to suppress the emotion creates the tears and makes it worse.
          I once went to our mutual boss to complain (justly) about a colleague, and I started to cry. She said to me, ” don’t cry. It weakens your argument. You’re mad—be mad. Show that instead.”
          And I focused on controlling HOW I showed my anger, instead of trying to completely hide it. And I didn’t cry anymore.

      2. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

        I’d agree, OP’s narration not only conveys their emotional state at the time (which is good writing) but does also indicate a very dramatic/insecure thought process about it.

    2. Helvetica*

      Yes, I had a similar thought.
      I’ve had this reaction when I was really overwhelmingly stressed and basically burnt out, so everything seemed catastrophic. Yes, they could have given you more explanation but I see this as a good thing because your workload is becoming hopefully more manageable.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. OP1’s role was like a spare tire – it’s a temporary fix to keep from being stranded, but it has to be replaced and soon. You got the project to a place where the other team could take over. *That* is success.

      2. allathian*

        The only time I’ve ever rage-cried at work was when my then-manager realized that I was getting overwhelmed by a particular project that had an unreasonably tight deadline that she couldn’t push back on, and she decided to temporarily reassign every other project to my coworker or extend their deadlines as much as she could so that I could focus on the biggie.

        I ranted and raved and basically told her straight up that I didn’t respect her managerial authority… It was bad. I’m glad that I work for the goverment in Finland where it takes a lot more than that to fire someone without warnings. But I was told to do our early intervention program as a condition of continued employment. Both my then-manager and I did sessions, separately and together, with our occupational health counselor and physician. I was diagnosed with incipient burnout and sent on sick leave for two weeks, after which I took most of my annual vacation, so I was out for six weeks straight.

        My manager also took leave for a while but our relationship never really recovered. I was relieved when she went on job rotation to a sister organization for about 10 months as an individual contributor and after that she returned to do one special project before she retired. I definitely had trouble respecting my manager’s authority because she treated me as a friend, and although I was over 40 at the time, I was apparently too naive to realize why this was a bad thing. But I’ve had three great managers who’ve been friendly but professional since then. Lesson learned… I’ve also learned to recognize the signs of stress before it gets too bad, and to take what steps I can to mitigate it.

    3. Brain the Brian*

      LW1 has commented upthread clarifying that this project was basically their department’s only source of revenue and that revenue is now being credited entirely to the department that took it over (whose staff are apparently openly gloating about snatching up this project in transition meetings). Other staff have also been in tears. Given that info, I think the LW’s reaction is more appropriate. The failure is on upper management regardless.

      1. No touchy!*

        I posted this before the clarification, but yeah, that changes things.

        LW1…with the clarification it sounds like it’s time to look for another job – hopefully one with more effective management and departments that aren’t filled with jerks.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          I hate having to agree, and I would suggest that the LW continue to advocate internally for new work to replace the lost project, but it may indeed come to a new job.

      2. Awkwardness*

        Aah, thanks for pointing this out. The info provided does change the context. As TootsNYC wrote above, it would be warranted even more to show emotion and to ask questions. This IS reason to be upset about.

        OP, so back to your leadership and ask those questions!

  10. Msd*

    LW1 – I think it is a big deal. There was no discussion prior to the decision which is odd unless their managers felt they were not doing a good job. For such a huge project to be reassigned with no replacement work/project assigned/announced would be a public sting. I’m not sure why people don’t think it is.

    1. Nodramalama*

      Because LW started by saying they basically did not have the capacity to do the project, the manager confirmed the reassignment wasn’t due to the fault of LW, LW is still running a time sensitive part of the project so it’s not like the project was immediately taken away from them, and nobody else appears to have registered it as a concern.

      1. Msd*

        I disagree. The managers only said it wasn’t due to their performance after realizing the LW was upset. If it was a capacity problem then the managers could have discussed it and possibly seen what else could be shifted off the LW’s plate. Thus seems like a manger avoiding a tough conversation. In a large corporation pulling someone off a big project as described by the LW is usually interpreted as “they were failing”. It’s also strange, if it wasn’t performance related, that the mangers haven’t had a subsequent conversation with the LW.

        1. Grith*

          It’s entirely reasonable for the managers to not think it was necessary to caveat that in advance. LW says they’ve been essentially working overtime on this and covering the responsibilities of their manager as part of that – to the people assigning work, it may have been obvious that when the opportunity comes to move it to a better-resourced team who isn’t currently missing a manager, of course they would do that. As you rightly point out, if it was performance-related then they probably wouldn’t have been trusted with the handover and there would have been a follow-up discussion – there hasn’t been, so it seems reasonable to assume that’s not the cause.

          The LW describes it as “like they were listing out standard assignments” – it reads to me like that’s exactly what they thought they were doing. And yes, it may have been missed that this project was 95% of what LW and their team were working on and they’re now likely to be stuck in limbo once the time-sensitive handover is finished, but mentioning that and determining what needs to be worked on next is part of what needs to be done as effectively an interim department head.

          Either way, this needs follow-up from the LW. If they’re right and it actually was seen as a failure, they need to have a discussion with their bosses as to what went wrong and how that can be improved on in future. And if it wasn’t seen that way by anyone other than LW, they need to be told what they’re working on next once the handover is complete. Trying to guess what your bosses and colleagues are thinking is rarely as productive as just asking them.

        2. IT manager*

          Yeah this is how I read it and how I would have experienced it also. This is not a “helping you manage workload” situation.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      That only makes sense if it was the manager’s decision rather than coming from higher up.

  11. Scrimp*

    LW1 (feels like a failure for having your project transferred): what you describe feeling sounds similar to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD). Basically, it is a psychological issue surrounding a disproportionate response to percieved rejection, and (often self-directed) dreadful feelings of inadequacy.

    I think it might be helpful to you to look up resources about RSD. I have RSD, and even simply identifying the problem was helpful because I at least knew it was just a brain chemistry thing and I could distance myself from the emotions.

  12. niknik*

    > “non-exempt employees [..] must be paid in money for any hours over 40 worked in a week, not in extra time off.”

    So would giving off Monday and let them come in Sunday in the same week be ok then ? Or working only 4h on two week days ?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes — you can change their schedule for that pay week to ensure that they don’t go over 40 hours. (But it has to be within the pay week. You can’t have them work fewer hours two weeks later to avoid paying them overtime for this week.)

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Note that this has to be within the standard pay week for your company. So if your pay week runs Monday through Sunday, you can’t balance weekend work with time off on the following Monday and Tuesday; you have to balance it with time off during the previous workweek. The converse is true if your pay week is Saturday through Friday; in that case, only the workweek following each weekend is in the same pay week. If your pay week runs Sunday through Saturday, it’s even more complicated yet.

        Fun always ensures in my company’s payroll department around the time every year that a major conference falls over a holiday weekend. How to account for unmovable work time on a holiday, extra hours on weekends, etc., seems to mystify our HR folks.

      2. Bumblebee*

        In the public sector, at least in my state, non-exempt staff can accrue comp time – overtime only kicks in after 240 hours I believe. So it depends on sector, which is weird! And even weirder, first responders can accrue up to 480 hours before they get overtime pay.

    2. Distracted Procrastinator*

      I do this all the time. I’m non-exempt and my company allows me a lot of flexibility in my schedule. If I have to take the kid to the doctor, I make up that 2 hours of my time by adding 30 minutes to every day the rest of the week. For awhile I was regularly working 8.5 hour days so I could have a 6 hour day on Fridays. No one had an issue with it. I set my own schedule. I just have to get minimum 40 hours for the week.

      1. OP 5*

        Of our non-exempt employees, one of them does report to me, and I manage his time very much the same way – I have no expectation that he must be working from 8-5 if that doesn’t align with his needs, as long as we remain within our workplace policies and the law (w/r/t breaks, lunch, etc.), I let him have the flexibility he needs. And to be clear, this is with the ED’s blessing.

    1. Nodramalama*

      A lot of companies (rightly or wrongly) think their workplaces are more productive and better with people in the office. Covid was a special circumstance, not a new norm

      1. Adam*

        And I think it’s both right and wrong! Some people are more productive in the office, some are more productive at home, and just about everyone thinks most people have the same preferences they do and people who don’t are a little weird.

        1. Nodramalama*

          Yep! At my work we are very pro flexible working though I personally prefer being in the office.

          We did have to pull back on allowing juniors to work remotely full time/a lot because it’s a fairly steep learning curve and we found it quite difficult to properly teach them and give them enough support, at least at the beginning.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            And of note there, someone more experienced needs to be in the office to teach the juniors. And it may not be their primary job so the experienced person is less productive on their primary tasks in the office teaching juniors, but the company does gain a necessary benefit.

            And I think it’s very true for junior/inexperienced/new people. When you are new and don’t know what you don’t know and don’t know who is ask, it can be harder to find help when you have to reach out electronically. It can be harder to shadow, watch someone work and learn from them virtually.

            1. Yadah*

              Yea, this is my biggest hesitation about championing completely remote work.
              Learning a role and a new company is generally better/easier/more successful when there’s face to face interactions.
              And so many intangible things about professional life that people who are new to the workforce can only really pick up on in an in-person environment.

              Shortly before covid I started a new job that was entirely remote and it was SO difficult to get truly integrated and build a shorthand with people, I wasn’t given the opportunities I was supposed to be getting because it’s so easy to be out-of-sight-out-of-mind when everyone is remote.

              Functionally, hybrid makes sense to me, people get some remote work, but you don’t entirely miss those situations where face-to-face communication just works better.

        2. Allonge*

          I agree, and the company has another level of thinking about it, on top of individual productivity: the overall productivity of the teams and the entire org.

          If e.g. some of your knowledgable individual contributors are more productive because they are less available for questions, the overall effect may be that even if they deliver more llama reports, the team taking care of llamas is left without guidance, leading to poorer llama care.

          Which of course is no consolation for LW or their wife as the individual safety considerations are just as valid. The two may just not be compatible.

        3. IT Manager*

          I agree and will add that some *processes* or *capabilities* just haven’t been functioning well remotely, as well as people.

          I just cancelled an open remote role and replaced it with hybrid for my team because I need someone to come in and learn better/faster with their technical counterpart than I’ve been seeing with the remote folks in that role. Some processes are really hampered by not having easy collaboration at a whiteboard for example.

        4. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          I’ve also found that some have a preference to work from home…but aren’t necessarily more productive working from home. There are some people who are excellent at working from home (I actually happen to be equally productive from home, I just don’t like it as much)…but I do think the amount of people who think they’re great at it is disproportionate to the people who actually are. At least that’s been my very anecdotal experience since the discourse has started lol. This could all be solved with decent management, of course, but some jobs are more measurable than others.

        5. smirkette*

          Absolutely this. Also, I think there are a lot of mangers who are more relationship-based than outcomes-based, and apparently a lot of people struggle building relationships remotely (I am not one of them, but I have worked with many).

      2. EB128*

        You’re referring to Covid in the past tense (“Covid was”), but as OP3 indicates, it’s not over, and it still presents significant long-term health risks.

        1. ceiswyn*

          As do many other diseases that circulate in the population.

          The Covid pandemic is over; Covid is now an endemic part of our disease environment, like flu and chickenpox. Measures that were taken temporarily while there was a risk of overwhelming hospital care are now being removed.

          Clearly LW3’s wife’s employer thought that 1-day-in-office was an emergency pandemic mitigation, and are expecting a return to a more ‘normal’ patten of part-time office work. This may not work for LW3’s wife, but it sounds like the employer’s expectations haven’t actually changed; they were giving Lw3’s wife additional leeway due to the pandemic, and are now withdrawing it, whereas LW3’s wife was unaware that she was making use of pandemic-related flexibility and thought her working pattern was fine for business as usual.

          Neither party is at fault, but this may just not be a good fit.

          1. NervousYolk*

            Actually, according to the WHO, the Public Health Emergency of International Concern that was declared is over, but the pandemic itself isn’t over. It’s not endemic at all and disabled people and immunocompromised people have actually been facing greater risk of getting COVID-19 while seeking medical care because of misinformation.

            1. what even*

              Immunocompromised people are always facing a greater risk of contracting a disease while seeking medical care.

              1. ChaoticDucksInARow*

                absolutely. and our healthcare systems and communities should do what they can to protect those that are most vulnerable. acknowledging the constant risk they face is the first step to community care.

            2. ceiswyn*

              Back in 2023, the WHO’s strategic plan noted that Covid-19 ‘appears
              to be in transition to a more endemic situation globally’. They say, in fact, that ‘The underlying goal of the April 2023-April 2025 SPRP is to end the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in all countries and shift from emergency response to sustainable comprehensive management of COVID-19 within broader disease prevention and control programmes.’

              Yes, it absolutely sucks for immunocompromised people to get Covid-19. It sucks for immunocompromised people to get *anything*. It’s still reasonable for companies to, at this point, phase out their ’emergency’ measures and establish (or reestablish) their preferred way of working.

          2. CovidIsNotOver*

            Do flu & chickenpox kill between 500-1000 people every single week? Because that’s still what’s happening with Covid. And it’s permanently disabling thousands more every month. You don’t hear about any other pathogen or contagion doing that right now. Covid is not over.

            1. ceiswyn*

              A quick look at some CDC statistics tells me that actually, yes, if you average flu deaths across the year it *does* kill 500-1000 people per week.

              Don’t confuse media interest with actual risk levels.

      3. Jamjari*

        And some managers do know how to assess people and their productivity based on outcomes so they use things like time in seat instead.

    2. L-squared*

      I know people hate to acknowledge this, especially on this site, but there are definite benefits to being in the office.

      My previous job I was in the office 2-3 times a week. My current job is 100% remote. I preferred the other set up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the freedom that comes from it. But the fact that there is so much basic stuff I don’t pick up on working alone, I barely know anyone outside of my team, the lack of real face time (not zoom face time) with my boss.

      I 100% understand why companies with a localized employee base would push being in the office. Sometimes its not just about employee preferences.

    3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Two reasons I can see:

      The decision makers want to SEE people working. Even if half of their employees are more productive WFH it’s out of sight, out of mind.

      The decision makers THEMSELVES are more productive in person. Their jobs involve schmoozing, building relationships, and making big deals, and these are better done in person – so they assume all jobs involve these and/or all jobs are better done in person.

      In large companies, the fact that large fractions of people in some areas (like software development) will leave over RTO policy may just not reach their awareness.

      1. BellaStella*

        And to me seems to be used to justify middle managers and their need to see people working.

        1. Ama*

          Eh, at my work place the middle managers (including myself) are all quitting because we are frustrated by the rigidity of our hybrid policy and the fact that the senior management won’t let us decide for ourselves which of our staff can handle more flexibility and which can’t.

      2. Rachael*

        I agree with you – I do have to say though, as someone whose job revolves in large part around building relationships, that I’ve been able to do that just as effectively remotely as in person, you just have to adjust your tactics. But I think the people who insist it’s impossible are often just being lazy about that adjustment

        1. I Have RBF*


          Even when I was full time in the office I often had to build relationships with teams half way around the planet.

          People who think that you have to be face to face to build relationships are either lazy or ignorant. I’ve been building online friendships and working relationships since 1994.

      3. Panicked*

        I think your second point is really a key factor for a lot of places. In my experience, people in those decision-making roles tend to be very extroverted and feed off the energy of others.
        My boss is one of those people. He thinks that people are lying when they say they get more work done without the distractions of the office, even with verified proof to the contrary. He just cannot fathom that people can be more productive when they are at home versus in office, because he *needs* to be around others at all times.

    4. K12 Ed Dread*

      As a teacher who had to be in person fall of 2020, I have zero sympathy for anyone who wants to cry they need to work from home in 2024. People forget that we were forced back to work in person in the height of the pandemic and told “just tell the kids to wear masks.”

      Many of the people wanting to WFH now are the ones who said we needed to get back in the classrooms with their disease ridden children. Zero. Sympathy. If I had to do it then, you can do it now.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I agree with you that what happened with teachers in fall of 2020 was unconscionable. (Though there are just as many who would argue that the toll of remote schooling and ongoing quarantines for school-aged children caused them irreparable damage, too – there were no good solutions here.)

        But, my guess is that Lw3 + spouse would have been on your side in that regard. I don’t think that’s entirely a fair take.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Did that many places go to in-person in fall 2020? Our local public schools stayed remote for the full 2020-2021 school year, and after seeing how our child reacted to that announcement and how he had dealt with remote school in the spring we moved heaven and earth to find a private school that could safely re-open. (It had a large campus so each room had an exterior door -no hallways – and no movement between rooms by kids or teachers. Mandatory masking except for lunch which was outdoors, daily symptom and temperature checks, and weekly rapid COVID tests for all students. No outbreaks.) I wish the public elementary schools had tried harder to find a safe way to reopen at least partially.

          1. High School Teacher, Texas*

            Our entire state was back in Fall of 2020. Some kids had the “remote” option. I had to teach online and in person at the same time in the same class period. I was doing two separate jobs. It nearly killed me.

            And, we’d get the daily emails of “A case was confirmed in your class” but we could not know who it was (some kids were decent enough to email their teachers)

            No teachers in my district were allowed to ONLY teach remotely – even if they were cancer patients or pregnant. Everyone had to be in their classrooms with kids there and some connecting online.

          2. PlainJane*

            I never got time at all. Our workplace was closed, but two people needed to come in every day for the full eight hours to take care of tasks. We reopened by summer of 2020 with some limits–patrons were encouraged to only stay for 15 minutes or so, and chairs were stacked up in storage to nudge this along–but by that fall, pretty much everything was up.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Mmm this is very shades of “I had to suffer, so you do too!”

        I mean, I get your antipathy toward whiners, I do. But there’s room for compassion here for everyone.

        1. LaurCha*

          Right? And lots of teachers actually died of Covid because they were forced to work in the school. K12 Ed Dread has a serious case of survivor bias.

      3. Oxford Comma*

        I am sympathetic to what you experienced, but not everyone has jobs that need to be done in person. The LW has a spouse with a medical accommodation. It’s not the same thing.

      4. Paint N Drip*

        … dude.
        I was forced back to work after three weeks. It sucked. The situation teachers were in also sucked. This person’s situation also sucks.
        Empathy, give it a try!

        1. EM*

          My thoughts exactly. The lack of any compassion whatsoever for the clinically vulnerable is stunning. The people who are at high risk from COVID, and who understand their high risk status, are definitely not the people who were advocating for in person school early on in the pandemic. That doesn’t even make sense – in person school at the height of the pandemic placed everyone, but especially the vulnerable, at higher risk. The clinically vulnerable have advocated all along for more remote options for their kids and others’ kids.

      5. Laura LL*

        You need to get over that. A lot of people who would rather work remotely in fact weren’t saying that teachers need to be back in person in the fall of 2020 and in many states and cities, school was still remote then!

      6. I Have RBF*

        There are two kinds of people in this world:
        1) Those who say “I have to do a thing, so everyone else must also do said thing to make it ‘fair'”
        2) Those who say “I have to do a thing, but no one else should have to do the thing unless they want to.”

        You are obviously in the first camp, and I’m in the second.

    5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Either leases they can’t get out of, since they are paying for the space they might as well use it. Although its been 4 years people, plan accordingly.

      Or they own the building, can’t get anyone to rent the space or buy it because the office real estate market has cratered.

      Or they are butts in the seat people who have to see people physically at their desks in order to believe they are productive. Negative stories of people going to the park on a nice day to WFH are not helping.

    6. Gnome*

      I don’t think having to come in 2 days a week is anti-WFH. A hybrid schedule is a good compromise for companies and employees. However, in this case, the wife has a medical issue, and the company should not make her come in more than needed.

    7. Stuart Foote*

      I would like to see Alison dig into this. I recently jumped to a remote job just in time, as my old company is now increasing the mandatory days in office from 2 days to 3-4, and severely limiting the number of fully remote employees they hire. The idea is to increase collaboration, but all the director level people I have talked to there do not want to force their employees back to the office and think it’s a marginal benefit at best.

      In my experience, while collaboration is often better in person, about 90% of my time in office is spent on the exact same Teams calls I would be on at home. There are times when I can build slightly better interpersonal relationships in person (although I’ve formed great relationships with colleagues I’ve only met a handful of times) and occasionally we do get that legendary collaboration that apparently office culture is built on. But mostly it’s just Teams calls.

      1. Rincewind*

        I’m required to be in office 3 days a week.
        I come in, speak to nobody, attend meetings via video call and chat, do my work that i could have done at home, and leave.
        It feels incredibly pointless.

        1. What a headache*

          Yeah, same for me after we had to come back to the office part of the time. Only difference, now I get more and more severe migraines again. But hey, at least my boss can see me sitting in front of the computer in person in addition so seeing my online status in Teams. /sarcasm

    8. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Offering a different take here – LW3 says spouse works at a not-for-profit. Sounds like her role potentially is one that can be done remotely without issue, but it sounds like the nonprofit itself isn’t necessarily set up for that. Maybe it’s customer facing, or volunteer-based, or what have you. In those instances, jobs that could be fully remote in one company or setting don’t make sense. (I am thinking, for example, a clinic that has back office admin staff – CAN they work from home? Sure, probably, even on a FT/hybrid basis. But there’s probably an operational need to have them present at least some of the time since the operation itself is on site.)

      I am not saying that this is specifically the case here, just explaining how there could be a demonstrated need for an on-site presence.

    9. Person from the Resume*

      Because the leadership doesn’t trust their employees to work from home.

      But it’s actually true that certain activities are easier in person. Meetings for example. I’d say almost all meetings run smoother in person if they could take place in person. You get better engagement (someone is not “multitasking” ie doing something else and not paying attention to the meeting) and a much easier time not speaking over each other with the visual cues. OTOH if is a meeting is a waste of my time then it’s less of a waste of my time if I can do other work while half-listening, but that has to do more with the question of should I be in that meeting and not how the meeting is taking place.

      And I work from home. There are pros and cons. And good reasons and bad reasons to want employees back in the office. You shouldn’t dismiss that certain jobs or certain job tasks are not better done in person or in the office. WFH will never be feasible for everyone.

    10. Oxford Comma*

      Because bad managers have decided that their employees cannot be trusted unless there are butts in seats. Mind you, the same people who goofed off before the pandemic who came in every day are still goofing off, but somehow it’s okay because they are in the office.

      There are also managers who are very social and/or who have setups at home that aren’t great for working so they’ve decided that everyone is in the same boat.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Basically this. I’m very baffled by the people who misremember somehow everyone in the office was actually being productive and collaborative.

    11. lilsheba*

      I will never understand it. Covid is not going anywhere, it IS the new norm and companies do not care about employee’s health and they don’t care about those that are disabled, or become disabled due to long covid. It is absolutely ridiculous to require people back in office when work from home works out just fine. And the one on hot desking, who in their right mind thinks THAT is a good idea in this day and age?

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I am incredibly pro-WFH, but work from home doesn’t always work out just fine. There are times when in-office (either fully or in a hybrid fashion) is better.

      2. BestBet*

        Even for those for whom COVID is a major risk factor, it’s not spread by physical contact so I’m not sure hot desking would have much of an effect either way?

        1. lilsheba*

          It’s still a really bad idea to have so many people in all the desks like that. It’s just not a wise way to go.

      3. SnackAttack*

        I’m pro-WFH, but what I find annoying is that many of the same people who say that Covid isn’t going anywhere and cite it as a reason why they shouldn’t work in-office also go out to eat, attend concerts and parties, and basically live their pre-Covid lives. I’m not saying you or OP are guilty of this, but many people are, and I tend to have less sympathy for their arguments when that’s the case.

        And this is probably a controversial opinion (especially on this site), but I do feel like there are benefits to going into the office. I’m not even talking about productivity necessarily, but on a personal level, I definitely benefit from walking more, changing up my surroundings, and chatting with people. I agree that every day in the office can be tiring, but I personally don’t see an issue with hybrid schedules.

        1. Rosemary*

          I am with you 100%. I am very pro-WFH – fortunately my company is 100% WFH, and at this point in my life/career I would not take any job that was not at least mostly WFH. But I wouldn’t say it is because Covid – it is because I like WFH and am just as productive if not more so. I feel like some (not all! but some) use the “but Covid” as an argument for WFH, but it definitely loses credibility when they are otherwise living their life.

        2. 2e*

          Are these real people? I’m sincerely asking, because I don’t know anyone who fits this description. Most people I know have dropped basically all precautions. The very few people I know who are still COVID cautious are *extremely* consistent about risk reduction. Myself included: I don’t go anywhere without an N95, and take it off very, very rarely. (“Rarely” meaning that most of my coworkers have never seen my mouth.)

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            So, I’ll say, for me, my husband and I have dialed back our precautions significantly. I’ll note that we are not high risk nor is anyone in our lives whom we are extremely close. What we do, do:
            – Get every vaccine available to us (both for flu AND COVID; we aren’t eligible for RSV as we do not have risk factors for it)
            – Stay home/away from others when we are sick
            – Frequent hand-washing and sanitizing
            – Mask when in an extremely crowded area, particularly crowded public transit (this isn’t terribly frequent as we live in a small city where public transit is not the norm; however we do have regular travel to nearby Large City where this is far more prevalent); and sanitize post-ride on public transit

            Aside from these behaviors, which admittedly we all should have been doing pre-COVID, especially in the winter months, we have mostly gone back to normal. But I recognize that we don’t have health risks that prevent this. I also realize this is the minimum those of us who are relatively healthy should be doing to keep our fellow citizens who are at higher risk, safe(r) from infection, and a lot of people aren’t even doing that. It’s unfortunate.

            I read something earlier in pandemic (I believe it was pre-vaccine, when some things were opening up because hospitals were less overwhelmed) that talked about risk budgets – essentially your exposure risk is a budget just like anything else. I had a job that was hybrid but required me to be in the office more frequently than most office-based roles at the time, so I used that information to inform other decisions. Because I had to be in the office 2-3 days/week I took into account that I needed to dial back exposure in other areas of my life – such as, for example, electing to only dine out if sitting outdoors was an option. Kind of similar to a household budget – it would be really nice to take 3 expensive vacations a year, for example, but your budget may only allow you to take one, or even one every other year. It definitely put things into perspective for me when making choices before it was safe(r) to do so.

    12. ferrina*

      I don’t know, but it definitely gives a competitive advantage to a company that allows WFH.

      My company has a pick-your-own-adventure model, and almost everything we do can be done remotely. It gives us a HUGE advantage in attracting and retaining talented people. When we go through a bad time, people get upset, but we have very, very low attrition because we have such great policies for work-life balance. People are willing to put up with more crap at work when they know that it allows them to have more autonomy and work-life balance.

      1. Rosemary*

        Agreed that it gives a competitive advantage. Unfortunately (for workers) in some industries, the job market has shifted to a “buyer’s market” and employers are still able to attract talent even with in-office requirements because workers don’t have as much of a choice. One of my good friends is super stressed because she moved to a more remote area during Covid and has since been laid off from her 100% WFH role…and now she is struggling to find something else that is fully WFH. Every job she has been considered for requires being in office 2-3 days per week, and she now lives several hours away. She could swing being in office a few times a month, or even once a week, but just isn’t feasible more than that. At some point she is going to have to consider moving.

    13. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I’m a strong advocate of work from home. However, even though there are a lot of advantages to working from home for employees, there are a lot of logistics that are more easily solved by requiring staff to come into an office.

      1. Junior staff do not start out with professional norms ingrained in them and benefit by having it modeled by senior staff.
      2. Newly hired staff benefit from meeting their colleagues and being trained in person/having tech support on site while they’re learning how to get established.
      3. While most paperwork is electronic, not everything is yet. Legal documents/PII/Confidential documents need to be handled, stored, and discarded appropriately. Requiring it be handled in the office ensures certain safeguards are followed.
      4. Some employees know they don’t work well from home. And some don’t work as well from home as they think/claim they do.
      5. Client requirements sometimes require work to be done onsite for security or other reasons.

    14. M2*

      Many workplaces have data that might show people work better from the office or be able to show people aren’t working much when at home. I was in a meeting last year where the data was pulled up and shown and I could not believe it! I was annoyed too until I was shown the data on how many people were really slacking. I heard this from other friends in senior leadership at completely other organizations too. For mine it wasn’t the majority, but a large percentage of people
      Doing it so that % caused most people to RTO.

      People on my team didn’t do that so I have the discretion to let them WFH 2-3 days a week, but most of the organization can only WFH 1 day.

      Have any of you been at Target in the middle of the day? Or Costco? Or a gym? I took a few random days off recently and I went out and there were soooooo many people out (and I don’t live in a city) at all hours of a working day! These were not instacart either. These people all can’t be off or retired or parents. It actually was very disconcerting. You get paid to do a job so do it. What are you producing?

      People had the experience of 2-4 years of working from home, not doing much but getting “the best results ever” in many ways because the government flooded the economy with money so everyone was doing great.

      People thought they could put in 50%-70% and no one would notice. People notice. Once in awhile, fine, but doing it consistently gets noticed.

      It can be frustrating because no matter what people say good mangers want to let you work from home some days but not if you can’t get your work done. People also need to remember IT has access to your computer etc so they can use that and see what you are doing or your productive levels. Usually the first step is talking to the person and seeing what’s up but I have seen people continue to slack off even when told they aren’t getting done what needs to get done.

      It’s a business decision. If they decide to have you RTo because everyday Suzie was not on her work laptop or computer from 2-4 then that is their prerogative!

      1. lilsheba*

        Personally I am way more productive at home and can get things done at home as well. My work is always caught up. I’m disabled so commuting is NOT an option for me anymore. I can work when I feel under the weather, if I was in office that would be a day of pto instead. Working from home is the best.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Totally agree. The other issue from my perspective as an in-person worker was the number of WFH people who pushed us about to do things for them while they had the luxury of shelter because we were in the office. I had a couple of apologies from managers about it and it really was a big blow after the previous years when people had been generally good at showing up and being respectful of us.

        1. Orv*

          When we were fully WFH during COVID I had other WFH people pushing me to go into the office and do things for them, because I happened to live nearby. I didn’t love it.

      3. Donn*

        Yes. My then-employer would have had a lot fewer problems on RTO, if my department colleagues had kept to their assigned hybrid schedules and come into the office whenever a task called for it.

        IOW, if my colleagues had acted like responsible adults. Which unfortunately, half of them weren’t.

      4. Laura LL*

        They’re called “breaks.” Before the pandemic I had a job that was hybrid, I was only in the office 2-3 days a week. I often went grocery shopping during my lunch break or ran a quick errand mid-afternoon, the same way I might run to the drug store if I were in the office or take an afternoon coffee break. No one can just work 8 hours straight.

        1. I Have RBF*


          My work is not strictly time locked. I can take a long lunch and run an errand. This does not make me some sort of slacker because I’m not glued to my desk. I did the same thing when I was in office, FFS.

          People in offices take long lunches to go to Costco or the gym. That is not an exclusive perk of WFH, nor is it a sign of slacking. If Suzie takes a daily lunch from 2 to 4, then she should have general hours of 8 am to 6 pm, with a two hour lunch.

      5. I Have RBF*

        Citation needed.

        The data I’ve seen says the opposite.

        Also, punishing everyone because “Suzie was not on her work laptop or computer from 2-4” is a shitty way to manage, and points to management incompetence in being unable to manage remote workers, not the non-viability of WFH.

    15. Head sheep counter*

      Well… the fact of the matter is that businesses are businesses. They have various priorities and needs. Some are straightforward – such as needing to generally make a profit. Some are less straightforward like compensation policies, vacation policies and office policies. Part of our contract in choosing to work for a company is to adhere to whatever general (non-harmful) policies they decide to enact. We can ask, we can advocate but at the end of the day… its a contract. I’ve agreed to do x for y compensation and company has a agreed to provide y compensation for z output and adherence to the company policies.

      The pandemic changed the equation for some. For some very privileged positions that equation as remained flexible or changed. But does that actually mean that companies are getting the same value out of these changed equations? I would guess that in some cases yes but that in some cases… its actually more complicated. Recall that during the pandemic standards were lowered in a lot of cases. Rightly so as we all went through massive upheaval and trauma. Basing ones “success” on this time would… perhaps… not lead to a full vision of success… as you are measuring against different standards.

      Also there are proven equity issues with WFH (see the very many “front line workers”, the vast number of jobs that can’t be done from home, the impacts on communities (positive and negative) from remote workers buying housing, see the uptick in abuse, see the delta between communities that have internet access and the ones that do not) and companies are now rebalancing. With luck we all get some more flexibility. But I think there will continue to be a shift from WFH for a number of companies for many many reasons.

      1. Kit Kendrick*

        I’d be 100% less salty about my company’s inflexible RTO policy if it were not extremely clear that it’s not about where we work most productively but about making sure we know who is in charge and also that the source of that inflexibility thinks we’re too stupid to figure that out.

        First, in April of 2020, our management got a call from corporate asking how we got our numbers back up to their previous levels (a) at all and (b) so quickly. (Its largely because we live in an area that has *weather* and moat of us still had their snow day workarounds in place.) So I know that the bean counters are aware we can hit our targets while 100% remote.

        Second, our company decided to do a mass layoff and replace large chunks of our team with “nearshore” workers in a neighboring nation with cheaper labor. If the reason for mandatory days in the office was really “we work better when we are all together” then why am I commuting to an office only to spend my day using remote tools to work with team members located more than two thousand miles away?

      2. I Have RBF*

        Requiring everyone to come in to the office just because front line and manufacturing jobs need to be in person is not “equity”. It’s more like “X has to suffer so everyone has to suffer”, and that’s not equity, that’s a race to the bottom.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Also makes the commute worse for everyone if the people who can work from home have to come into the office, too.

    16. Laura LL*

      Because all the lunch places in the areas with all the office buildings are complaining to the mayor about how business is down too much and the mayor is like ‘yeah, ok, let’s just force the entire federal government to go back to the office more’ despite the fact that she really sholdn’t have any control over whether the federal government (or any other business for that matter) allows working from home.

  13. Despachito*

    LW1, is there a possibility they simply thought that you would be relieved they were taking something off your plate?

    You said you were seriously overworked and at the brink of your strength, so this explanation would make sense to me.

    You also said the manager asked whether you have some questions and you didn’t (because you were too emotional at the moment. I can see why it was a better option for you at the moment but at the same time the manager had no chance to know what is happening).

    I think it is very unlikely any of the people involved (unless they are very unreasonable) consider you a failure. I see your reaction as disproportionately strong and worth investigating why this is. Is your workplace indeed a toxic dump? Or were you responding to your own fears?
    In either case, it is absolutely worth addressing. Keeping fingers crossed for you.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, the fact that the manager asked if you had any questions means they are open to you having questions. It’s perfectly valid to go back and say, “I didn’t have any questions then but now having thought about it, I have a few.” I myself usually respond in the moment with, “I can’t think of anything right now but I’m sure I’ll have a few tomorrow or next week if you have time to meet with me.” But if you don’t have that phrase ready and waiting, and especially as you were quite understandably blindsided by this turn of events, it can be hard to say anything in the moment other than, “No, no questions.”

  14. Anax*

    LW1, while I agree that your response seems disproportionate in this case, I think the question is also a good one to talk about. How do you deal with public failure?

    Sometimes, we all really do make mistakes, fail, or do something really embarrassing. Big or small.

    When that happens, a few things help me.

    One is to realize that these feelings can not last forever. You can’t stay at a 10/10 in distress or anxiety forever; your body simply can’t support that level of emotion. It can feel like there’s a yawning abyss of shame and fear that you have to avoid, or else – but that’s not true.

    This idea is called habituation, and it’s often used in exposure therapy for things like anxiety and OCD, but I also find it useful for those really embarrassing moments you remember at 3am, and other times when I feel guilty and ashamed, whether I really did something wrong or not.

    It’s pretty well-studied that if you sit with your negative feelings, just experiencing them, the level of negative emotion will start to go down. You will still feel bad, but you’ll start to feel a little better. There’s a ceiling to how bad you can feel; you won’t die or implode or go crazy. You’ll just feel really awful, and slowly feel a little better.

    It’s probably a good idea to talk to a mental health professional about this if it really resonates, but I found just the idea of habituation really freeing. There are some pretty good resources online, as well, if you want to read more.

    Two, and this is dorky, but I really like Dune’s “Litany Against Fear”.

    “I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

    I remind myself that these feelings aren’t ME. They’re something my brain is doing, but that doesn’t mean I agree with them – just like my brain can be totally convinced that my mouth is on fire, when *I* know that I just ate a jalapeno. I might be feeling fear and distress, but that doesn’t mean the situation warrants it.

    It helps to reframe from “I’ve done something awful” to “my brain is reacting to a fear of failure, and it’s going to bombard me with guilt for a couple of hours until it calms down, just like it usually does.”

    Three, I take a deep breath and walk into the uncomfortable situation head-on. Directly address the bad performance review, apologize for hitting my friend’s car in the parking lot. Whatever the most direct solution is, that’s where I go.

    It gets the worst over with quickly, people tend to respect a direct approach, and walking into discomfort is actually a REALLY useful skill to build, especially in the workplace. Being willing to ask executives for what I need, tell my manager the disability accommodations I need, and accurately discuss my weaknesses as an employee – those sorts of things have opened so many doors for me.

    From experience, it gets easier over time, as you build faith in your ability to face these situations. It feels to me a little like downhill skiing – there’s a moment at the top of a slope when you can either panic, lean away, and lose control, or you can lean so far forward that it feels like you’ll fall, and use all your strength and concentration to make it through the situation.

    Maybe a more common situation – riding a bike really slowly isn’t always safer; at a certain point, you’ll wobble and fall. You need to push forward and trust in your ability to stay upright, even though biking faster might feel less safe. It’s the only way to keep going.

    If it were me in your shoes, I would give myself a day or two to just feel upset, weep, not get anything done. Then, I’d tell my team, “I know this is disappointing when we’ve worked so hard, but the higher-ups have asked us to hand over [project] to [team] on [date], once we finish the llama deliverables. Do you have any questions or concerns about the handover process?” And I’d tell my manager, “I know you said that the [project] handover wasn’t my fault, but it’s disappointing to pass it on to another team when we’ve worked so hard. What can I do better in the future? I hope this extreme workload won’t happen again, but I’m sure there are other ways I can improve.”

    Totally forthright, walk into the fire, darn the consequences.

    I’m not sure if that helps, but I hope it does. Whether it’s rational or not, those feelings suck, and it took me a long time to find coping mechanisms that help me through them.

      1. Anax*

        I’m so glad, and I hope things get better for you. I’ve been in a similar place.

    1. I Have RBF*

      I survived layoffs and horrible jobs in my 20s using the “Litany Against Fear” from Dune. I am once again using it to help cope with my wife’s cancer.

  15. I take tea*

    #2: This so much: “two categories of desks [—] can be worth the payoff in morale.”

    I work in a hybrid place and our policy is, that 80% on site means that you have your own desk. I get extremely stressed by hotdesking, and really appreciate having my own desk with my own stuff on it. If I’m not there, someone can sit there, but they probably won’t, because there are other spaces. I know some people like the variety, but I prefer knowing where I’m heading when I get to work. I also prefer working at work, even if I do like having the flexibility to WFH now and then, if needed, so 80% on site is no problem.

    1. SarahKay*

      Strongly agree. If I was forced to hotdesk when I’m working on site every day then I’d look for a new job.
      I accept that if I took a hybrid position then I might be expected to hotdesk, and that’s not unreasonable, but making someone get a new desk five days out of five just sucks.

      Actually, I dislike hotdesking enough that I wouldn’t take a hybrid position if that was the trade-off, but different people are different :-)

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Hotdesking sounds like hell. I would never take a job at a place that did hotdesking unless I could WFH 4 out of 5 days of the week. It sounds too stressful. I can’t really blame the people who hate it and are trying to keep their desks. Companies really have to take into account that doing something like this is going to decrease moral and make people fight for limited resources. It will create hostility in the workplace and there will always be some amount of petty tensions caused by it, even if you crack down on calling dips people will be upset at other people who take the desk they want.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Hot desking is totally reasonable if you’re only in twice a week! In my company teams are assigned areas, so you’ll be near the people you work with, and we have lockers for our personal items. I also know that at a lot of federal agencies (I’m in the DC area) if people want to keep a private office instead of moving to a shared office they need to be in 3 or more days a week which seems totally reasonable.

          1. lilsheba*

            Hot desking when we still have a pandemic going is just insanity. It’s not reasonable at all.

            1. KittySitty*

              Covid is no longer pandemic, it’s endemic. And it’s always been transmitted through airborne particles, not touching surfaces another person touched sixteen hours ago.

              1. UKDancer*

                Also my company has cleaners who clean the desks each evening and wipe down the computers.

                We have a desk booking system so you book your desk if you want a particular one or you take pot luck otherwise. I like a particular desk so I tend to book it for the days I’m in. I think it works quite well.

          2. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I was going to say, we have hotdesking for people who don’t come in full time, and lockers help a lot.

    2. mreasy*

      We are having a major issue with this at my workplace right now, and the “solution” is that NOBODY gets a reserved desk, even if you come in 4 or 5 days a week. (Our minimum is 2.) Unfortunately, the reason is that some folks were “reserving” desks who came in 2 or even fewer days, and getting angry at anyone who tried to “take their space” (which is of course the prime location). It’s such a cluster. I really hate constantly moving, and as one of the most senior people at the company, it kinda makes me feel disrespected. They won’t even agree to using an app – it’s “first come, first served” every single day. Ugh.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Ugh indeed, that sounds terrible. Your higher ups are managing that really badly. I worked summers in college at a place that had hotdesking before it was even a thing (and not even just hotdesking, but also hotcomputering where they didn’t actually have computers for every employee!), wherein the folks who were in the office all or most of the time would have their own computers on their desks and the folks who mostly conducted training sessions offsite would have a desk in a cubicle and use one of the shared computers when they were in the office. The three execs of the company had their own offices, even though one of them was a trainer and offsite most of the time and another one, the president and owner of the company, worked from home about half the time. But of course they had their own offices, they needed to. Senior level people should have their own spaces, not just because of seniority but also because they probably have high level information that they need to keep secure.

    3. Susannah*

      That seems like a good policy.
      But I would also be annoyed if people staked out territory they liked – even if we were both coming in about the same number of days per week.

    4. Lizzay*

      Yeah, my last job moved to open-plan/hoteling. I’m that person that prefers to go into the office every day, but fully support other people’s rights to wfh if there’s no need to be in the office! I ended up sitting at the same desk all the time & I can tell you, if I came in & some part-timer or new person was sitting in my space I would have been furious. It really would have been better to allow people like me have an assigned desk. And if part-timers didn’t like it, they could plan to be in the office more often, too. If you’re preferred work desk is at home, then great, you can get your preferred desk every day! My new job has assigned desks (for now… our lease is up next year, I’m afraid they’ll move to the same model…)

      All that to say open-plan/hoteling is the WORST and pushes a lot of potential conflicts onto the employees. It’s like the airlines squeezing the seats ever tighter & still allowing reclining, or the melee produced in re overhead bin space.

  16. Sparrow*

    LW #4, a useful way to look at this may be:

    Imagine that you were friends with a professional actor who managed to get a role in a Netflix show, and you decided to get a Netflix subscription so you could watch the show and support your friend. You’d probably be pretty bewildered if that friend then told you “Sorry, I have to end our friendship because I work for you now,” right?

    This is a similar situation to that (or to a situation where you got a season pass to a dancer friend’s ballet company, or bought every book in a series an author friend was publishing, or subscribed to an artist friend’s Patreon, etc etc). You don’t work for your friends, they’re just trying to support you.

  17. They knew and they let it happen*

    While #1 might have had a strong reaction, it’s understandable to me. If it were me and I was in charge of a very visible, mentioned by C-level project, and then removed from that project for whatever the reason, I’d be upset as well.

    The C-levels may or may not know the details, so I can see where OP is thinking that it appears to others that she couldn’t handle it.

    1. NforKnowledge*

      Agreed, I feel like people are dismissing the scope and impact of what happened to LW1 and acting like they just had some tasks taken off their plate: no, they had the big important project they were in charge of entirely taken away! It’s entirely possible that it was easier/better/whatever to move the project rather than give LW1 the support they needed, but of course it’s going to feel awful to be blindsided by the announcement, especially if they didn’t start with the context of WHY it’s happening.

      LW1 is probably still having a disproportionate reaction, and would probably be happier and healthier if they interrogate that response and try to figure out how to avoid it in the future, but I really don’t like how dismissive many people are being.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Agreed! I’m totally side-eyeing that manager and also whoever else was involved and didn’t think to tell LW privately first. A colleague of mine recently had the ED of their org give two weeks notice by emailing everyone on staff and the board all at the same time. No discussion with the board ahead of time, no private conversations with other senior people at the org, nothing. Not the right way to handle that either. It’s pretty disrespectful to not inform the people directly affected by a major change before you tell everyone about the change. Like, you wouldn’t post about your pregnancy on FB before you told your spouse about it, would you? Same goes for this.

    2. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Agreed, the comments are dismissing LW as overreactive but LW was just taken off a major project with little explanation from leadership. LW is reasonably feeling insecure about their performance and their leadership’s trust in them.

    3. Distracted Procrastinator*

      Yup. I was given several with a higher profile team. Four months later they took those projects from me and gave them to another person on that team. It was really tough and I begin questioning if they trusted me to do my job. I didn’t feel better about it until my boss explained the business purpose. It didn’t have anything to do with me or my work, but I needed to hear the why to understand. Any boss can just say “It’s not you! You’re great!” and not mean it. Hearing why the decision was made makes a big difference.

    4. Brain the Brian*

      And the LW has commented upthread clarifying that this project accounted for the overwhelming majority of their department’s revenue — revenue which is now being credited to the other department, who are openly gloating about snatching up this project. LW1’s department has been left without a major revenue source based on managerial politics. That’s the headline here. All kinds of messed up how management handled this.

  18. Voice of Reason*

    Not a lawyer, but the Covid accommodation seems highly unlikely to hold up.

    One day a week (and sometimes two) is not enough to seriously risk your health but now two days every week will tip the scales?

    That’s going to be a really tough argument to make, and I’d love to hear the science.

    1. Rosemary*

      I agree. It would be one thing if LW was not going in at all and is now required to go it. I don’t see how much difference two days versus one day is.

    2. Dan256*

      Mitigation of risk is important in a legal sense, and that mitigation often means a reduction of risk rather a complete removal of that risk.

      Two days a week in the office is more exposure than one day a week. That makes it a higher risk. I suspect it could be successfully argued, at least in some jurisdictions, that LW2’s wife had to come in one day a week to maintain an income, due to the employer’s preference, and that it was a mitigation of risk, but that 2 days a week (again, the employer’s preference rather than a true need) was a bridge too far.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Also, she is masking on those days and taking precautions. How onerous are those precautions (going outside to eat or drink maybe – or is it just the masking)? How much cost does each N95 have? (Because now it’s double the inconvenience and cost, to maintain as-safe-as-possible in person status.)

        1. I Have RBF*

          N95 masks cost anywhere from $1 (low end, flimsy) to $10 or more. The ones I buy are around $1.60 each in a 20 pack.

          The risk increase in two days versus one is double. If the person is minimizing the risk in the rest of their life, that can often go over their risk budget.

  19. Hmm*

    I mean this in genuine inquisitiveness, but for those who say the pandemic is not over – what are the criteria for being over? Like most other viruses of its type, it’s never going to be eradicated. I suppose technically one could argue that we’re in an ongoing pandemic of influenza, but I do think it’s important that the term “pandemic” be reserved for global emergencies requiring extreme emergency measures, not endemic diseases. Otherwise you get people saying things like, “well flu kills people every year ergo we should just continue with business as usual despite this very NEW very deadly disease in circulation that we do not yet know how to combat.” (I’m side-eyeing you, bird flu…)

    I do agree that COVID should have taught us important lessons about public health that would be nice to keep up (masking in public when sick for example, or unlimited sick days to encourage people to actually stay at home while contagious). (How many retain these lessons is… discouraging.) And I’m not saying that LW3’s wife doesn’t have a compelling reason to stick to WFH, it her health is too vulnerable to risk mixing in public for COVID or flu or strep A or other potentially deadly diseases in circulation. But I think it’s helpful to recognize that COVID is probably about as “over” as it’s ever going to get, so it’s probably going to be more productive to deal with accommodations as forever ones and not tie them to COVID.

    1. Kate*

      I definitely had this same question/puzzlement. There will always be a subset of the population who is more susceptible to things like COVID, but that doesn’t mean that the pandemic is ongoing. The weekly mortality rate from COVID in the US (according to the CDC) is down to something like 500 people a week. Obviously I’m not discounting the personal toll on these 500 peoples’ families, but….that’s not a lot of people considering that around 66,500 people die every week in the US. Now this is just the US and just using death as an indicator of severity, but I have to agree with you that I don’t see how this constitutes a continuance of the pandemic.

      It sounds like this person’s wife has some special heath concerns and if she is that concerned about in-person work, perhaps she should be investigating fully remote positions.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      A pandemic is defined by a lack of treatments or prevention for the illness, as well as being widespread (Ebola has outbreaks, not pandemics, because it’s so virulent it burns itself out and won’t spread across villages, much less the world). Covid has become endemic (Yeah yeah WHO says it’s a pandemic still but they tend on the side of being VERY conservative because they cover the world). Covid has treatments and preventions now, which is what makes it endemic. It’ll always be with us, but it is now a problem on par with the flu or the common cold (in ability to spread). This is not to minimize that there are people who will always be at higher risk from covid. But that’s the same with any disease! Flu is the same–there will always always be categories of people at higher risk who should take more precautions, esp in winter (when colds/flu tend to spread more).
      All this to say, you’re right, and you shouldn’t be trying to make accommodations on a “covid” basis (because if you’re at high risk for bad covid outcomes, you’re likely to be the same with strep/flu/RSV/insert contagious illness here), but a health status in general.

      1. I Have RBF*

        The treatments for flu are more advanced than the treatments for Covid, and Covid is more virulent that the flu:

        While the virus that causes COVID-19 and flu viruses are thought to spread in similar ways, the virus that causes COVID-19 is generally more contagious than flu viruses. Also, COVID-19 has been observed to have more superspreading events than flu.
        — Mar 20, 2024

        I really, really wish people would stop with the lie that “Covid is the same as the flu.” It’s not, and trying to tell people otherwise is gaslighting.

    3. H.Regalis*

      Same. It’s endemic at this point. That doesn’t mean it’s not around or not dangerous, but we have treatments for it now. I agree that trying to tie the accommodation to covid is not going get as much traction. I think it’d be more effective to to say that LW3’s wife is at a higher risk for bad health outcomes from contagious illnesses, period, because she is, and request the accommodation based on that. It’ll at least help to sidestep the “why are you still worried about covid??” gambit.

      1. HonorBox*

        Agreed. If someone is immunocompromised, I think a medical accommodation would be more related to all contagious stuff and not just COVID.

        It seems like going from one day in the office to two does open up additional risks, but since she’s already in the office one day each week, it isn’t as though someone who is fully remote is being asked to come in. It doesn’t change the fact that it sucks to have to mask up a second day each week, if she chooses to do so, but the additional risk isn’t so great that pushing back too hard would land well, I don’t think.

        1. mcm*

          COVID does have particular outcomes not shared by all infectious diseases such as the flu, etc. Long COVID, for one, which afaik is not a feature of the flu or the common cold, but COVID also has a greater impact on heart and reproductive hormone health than the flu or a cold, just due to the nature of the virus. So I can definitely imagine that there are medical conditions that make her more susceptible to negative outcomes from COVID than from all infectious diseases.

          1. Nancy*

            You absolutely can have lingering complications after the flu, common cold, and other respiratory illnesses.

          2. GythaOgden*

            There are lots of other illnesses you can get that cause long term issues or injuries. My husband got cancer and died, and during the pandemic I broke my ankle falling down the stairs due to the stress of having to be in-person during a ‘non-essential retail closed’ lockdown and getting no support from anyone — least of all the people who were able to work from home and whom we essential workers were supporting. We faced all the same dangers and hardships and forgive me for saying this, but people who complain about this sort of thing just really annoy me.

            So yeah, that sort of argument is wearing a bit thin now. I am able to WFH and it’s great, but I had the experience during COVID that makes me treat it as the privilege and luxury it is.

          3. Hyaline*

            There actually is a condition called “post viral syndrome” that can occur with flu, cold, etc. People suffered from this well before COVID ever existed.

          4. Laura LL*

            This isn’t true. All viruses can lead to what we call “long covid.” A lot of people with chronic fatigue syndrome started getting symptoms after being infected with other viruses. We just didn’t pay attention to it because it was easy to dismiss people’s symptoms.

          5. biobotb*

            The flu absolutely can cause long-term health consequences, including cardiac problems, which share features with long COVID. It’s also not unique among viruses. Many of the researchers and clinicians who have been trying to learn more about long COVID and help patients have years of experience treating and studying the long-term health consequences of viruses like influenza and HIV.

    4. IFMHH*

      For me the pushback is that people saying ‘the pandemic is over’ is often a cover to hide a massive health event that is still going on and justifying the dismissal of legitimate and reasonable assessment of the risks and good precautions to take.

      The research that is coming our increasingly supports the idea that COVID is more like HIV than the flu, with an often ‘mild’/non-deadly initial infection followed on by vascular disease that cause serious health effects like brain damage and immune system damage that appear right away or years later. Your odds of having serious lasting health effects is somewhere in the 20% range after 1 infection and increase with each infection.

      People should be able to tie accommodations to COVID because its still a serious health condition.

      We are increasingly losing the tools we have to reduce the tools to fight covid. The ability to get a reliable negative test result from antigen test has plummeted due to new variants (and antigen tests not adapting).

      Paxlovid is increasing inaccessible. The free home test to treat program is ending, and the guidelines on who is ‘allowed’ to get paxlovid have been restricted, so less people can get it even though it would be helpful to them.

      As of May 1, hospitals are no longer required to report covid cases.

      Biobot is sunsetting its data visualization of wastewater data, making it less accessible and harder to understand.

      North Carolina is in the process of banning masks, removing the health exemption that allowed people to wear masks for health reasons.

      The CDC’s own data shows that vaccines wear off after about 6 months, but most people are only allowed to get vaccines every year. The vaccine uptake rate is miserably low. And vaccines don’t prevent transmission as much as keep you out of the hospital, so there are still millions of cases impacting people.

      We have masks, and they are the cheapest and easiest way to prevent infection in the first place, but very few people are wearing them.

      In the end though, I agree that people aren’t taking covid seriously, and OP will probably have better luck justifying their precaution on some other basis, just because that what the decision makers in this case will listen to.

      1. Katara's side braids*

        Thank you for this. Paxlovid isn’t even accessible to anyone – I’m under the age minimum and don’t have any official diagnoses that make me vulnerable, but as you mention, having COVID multiple times has been statistically proven to increase the risk of dangerous outcomes. I’ve unfortunately had it 3 times, with full recovery taking longer each time. I really hope we’re overestimating the long-term negative effects this virus can have on previously healthy people, but I’d rather not take the risk either way.

    5. I just really can’t think of a name*

      I think some people quibble about pandemic vs endemic because they think endemic means “not serious.” But malaria is endemic to Africa and kills half a million people each year!

      Most definitions of pandemic include a focus on novelty/unexpected levels of the disease, a (related) lack of effective treatments and preventatives, and on whether the disease is overwhelming existing healthcare resources.

      We now have effective vaccines and treatments like Paxlovid, and our healthcare system is no longer overwhelmed by Covid. The only measure that remains uncertain is the expected level of disease (& mortality) each year. And some of what’s expected is related to how hard you try to eradicate the disease. Typical US flu deaths are 20,000-70,000; in 2023, the US death rate from Covid was about 70,000. So we may have reached a level that most people will tolerate (or, put another way, a level at which most people won’t be willing to make significant sacrifices in the name of further reduction, as we see with flu).

    6. Laura LL*

      Calling something a pandemic is more a political thing than a scientific thing. Personally, I think the fact that the vast majority of people have had exposure to the virus either through vaccines, infection, or both, AND the fact that it’s generally becoming more mild and less deadly is a sign that we aren’t in a pandemic anymore or are in some sort of transitional stage between pandemic and epidemic.

      But, additionally, the WHO has ended the global health emergency, which means that we don’t need to keep taking all the emergency measures we took initially to try to cut down on hospitalizations and death.

    7. Laura LL*

      I wanted to add though, that the WHO still considers it a pandemic, but I’m not sure what their criteria are. They DID say we are out of the emergency phase, so whether something is an emergency or not clearly isn’t a defining feature of a pandemic.

      (I haven’t been calling it a pandemic anymore either, but I also don’t think it’s quite endemic, based on my understanding of that word).

  20. They knew and they let it happen*

    Whether Covid or the pandemic aspect of it is over or not, it seems like a lot to file a union grievance over, especially when it’s just going from one to two days in the office. I think you’ve got. to probably bite the bullet on this one

    1. H.Regalis*

      There was that one is the ask-the-readers post a week or so back about the people who filed union grievances over not getting doughnuts from a meeting they weren’t attending, but that’s probably not a model for reasonable behavior.

      1. Orv*

        My experience is that filing grievances is a recreational activity for union members and just something you have to put up with.

  21. Naomi*

    LW4, you seem to be thinking “they pay me for work = they are my employers,” but I think you’re applying the wrong framework here. If anything, it’s more apt to think of subscribers as your customers. Customers pay for your work, but only for the finished product; they don’t get the kind of control over your work life that an employer does, and the stakes of losing one customer are far lower than losing a job. Being friends with a customer doesn’t involve the same power imbalance as being friends with an employer.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Great point.

      Even when I see Patreons with high-level “board of director” tiers, it’s always very clearly a “the creator lets this tier of subscribers vote between options the creator has decided to offer” — they’re still just customers, so the people who pay $5 a month for a bonus post are definitely just customers!

  22. I should really pick a name*

    How is this reneging? Your letter said that eventually she would have to go to the office part-time. Did they specify how many days part-time is? Did they promise her only one day a week?

    Your wife should approach this as a medical accommodation, but claims that two days a week is reneging on some kind of existing arrangement are going to hurt her case.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, this was my reaction. I’m incredibly sympathetic to the LW and their wife (and incredibly pro WFH when it’s feasible), but it doesn’t sound like the employer did anything wrong here. They were upfront that the wife would eventually have to be in the office part-time. If two days a week isn’t doable for her, and she’s unable to get a medical accommodation, then it may just be that the job isn’t a good fit.

  23. They knew and they let it happen*

    On #4, just to add something – even if this was a traditional working environment you don’t have to end friendships with co-workers or bosses. Of course there are potential pitfalls, but considering how much time we spend at work it’s extremely common to have friends you work with and for!

  24. Synaptically Unique*

    Oof, relate hard to LW1. I took on some duties that were in need of a home a couple of years ago. They were related to a former career trajectory, so I had the background to do a better job than anyone else who was available at the time. The problem was that the official time commitment wasn’t even close to what was actually needed to do the job correctly. I prioritized the new tasks because 1) it was critical, 2) I personally enjoy being involved in that area, and 3) I was planning to use it as justification for a promotion.

    But – I lost track of some other critical duties and dropped the ball somewhere else on a central responsibility. My boss has since been adamant that this new role needs to live somewhere else.

    It’s still (in my mind, at least) a public failure, even though it was just too much work given the available resources. I couldn’t do everything, but I still feel bad that I don’t get to keep the project I poured so much time and effort into.

  25. IFMHH*

    Note: while what Alison says is true for private employees, in public employment non-exempt workers can get comp time.

    The government made a carve out in that law allowing itself to give hourly workers 1.5 overtime in the from of cash or time. – signed a non-exempt govt employee who used to take a lot of OT in the form of time

    1. mimi*

      Thanks, this makes sense– we use comp time in lieu of OT pay all the time where I work and I was shocked to learn it was illegal. I guess because it isn’t in my sector!

  26. Lumbergh*

    LW4: I just subscribed and unfortunately I’m going to need you to come in on Saturday, mmmkay? Also don’t forget that Friday is Hawaiian shirt day.

  27. Susannah*

    LW3, I’m not unsympathetic to concerns about getting COVID, but…your employer is not being outrageous here.
    Yes, COVID is still out there. But it’s not remotely like it was in the early days – massive infections, many deaths, bodies piled in refrigerated trucks outside hospitals and no vaccine. It’s with us; it’s always going to be with us, and we’ll have to navigate it best we can. That means staying up to date on vaccinations and being as cautious as is reasonably possible.
    I also am at greater risk (with asthma) if I get COVID. So are lots of people, including older people. That’s not the same as, say, having a deadly allergy to something that is on-site at the office every day.
    I do think the pandemic woke us up to how stuck we got in certain workplace norms – is it really necessary for everyone to wake at about the same time, get into dry-clean-only clothes and drive to work at the same time, leaving work at the same time – just so middle managers can see butts in seats? No.
    But does the fact that companies managed to get through the worst of the pandemic with everyone working remotely mean that no one ever needs to go into the office, or interact in person? No to that, too.
    I don’t think everyone is more productive at the office (I’m not – in fact, I have an awful tendency to never really stop working when I’m home with the laptop). But I think it is true what I have read – that people are more productive at home, but more creative when interacting in person with co-workers.
    So hybrid (when it works – not the case, obviously, for people in health care, etc.) is a great way to give workers more flexibility and help the environment. But it’s a very big ask to say, I’ll get sicker than other people if I get this virus everyone is exposed to; I’m willing to put myself at a one-day-a-week risk but not two days. I mean, a pilot is always at risk, flying. Yes, it makes sense to have time limits on how long a pilot can work. But to say, I’ll only fly planes one day a week because it’s safer than flying two days or more a week? If the one day to two days is that dramatic a change, your employer rightly wonders why you are able to come in at all.
    I know it’s not a direct analogy, but if you’re willing to go in one day a week, it’s awfully hard to say two days is so much more dangerous for you that you can’t manage it – especially if you are going to the same environment, and with the same co-workers.

    1. Dan256*

      Going into the office one day a week is statistically far less of an exposure risk than going in two days a week.

        1. Dorothea Vincy*

          +1 LW’s wife needs to concentrate on the arguments that will give her the protection she needs, which in this case is likely asking for a medical accommodation backed by her doctor. Claiming that the company is reneging when they did say she would eventually have go in more days, claiming that this is illegal, using inflammatory language about COVID or heartlessness or whatever, has a high chance of not working and just causing the company to think she’s exaggerating. It has to be about what will keep her safe, not about scoring moral points.

        2. Dan256*

          Mitigation and reduction of risk forms a foundational basis of many laws and regulations. Contract law is a good example of this.

          One day a week of potential exposure while LW3’s wife also masks up and takes other precautions is less of a risk than 2 days a week. She could also be going into the office on the least busy day of the week to further reduce her risk.

          A preference is not the same thing as a need. Most employers forcing people back to the office are doing so due to a preference; but LW3’s wife has a medical need to reduce her exposure as much as possible.

      1. Bob*

        COVID is never going away. Never ever ever. It’s time to adjust to life and move on with it.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Adjusting to life with Covid does not mean denying its existence and/or declining to take precautions.

  28. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    LW 5 (comp time) – Would your boss be agreeable to you working a shifted schedule when you have to work weekends? For instance, your normal work week is Monday through Friday, but when the weekend program is running you work Saturday through Wednesday, or work shortened weekdays so you still have approximately the same number of working hours in any given week. (In this case, “week” refers to the seven day period used by your payroll, so this might be Monday – Sunday or Saturday – Friday rather than matching a calendar week.)

    It’s not comp time in the sense that you can’t bank it to use at some undefined point in the future. But it does give you back some of the time you spent working those extra hours.

  29. ecnaseener*

    LW1, I think you are very tired and very stressed from all this overwork, and while you were focused on the project you didn’t necessarily notice what a fragile state you were in, until suddenly the project was taken away leaving you with just the stress and no outlet for it. I think you just need rest and a little distance, which hopefully by now you have gotten and are feeling better <3

  30. Dandylions*

    #2 This is a common issue with RTO policies IME. So many offices decided to switch to hot desking at the same time as implementing a new RTO policy. Upper management made an on paper plan, didn’t think through or evaluate the details, and so far haven’t bothered to evaluate if its working or not post implementation. Your complaint is a common RTO/Hot desk complaint and the solution to it depends on your specific conflicts.

    I actually stopped complying with RTO over a year ago because I would go in, spend 30-45 minutes cleaning a desk that hadn’t been touched in a couple of years, only to have it snapped up the next time I was in the office and have to clean all over again.

    Other common conflicts include/issues include:

    What days and times are employees actually in the office and what’s the desk to employee ratio on those days? Average desk availability is worthless. You need to make sure there are more then enough desks to accommodate the busiest days.

    Next let’s talk about the condition and location of desks. Are those 1.5 desks all equally clean (it seems not) and in similarly in demand locations?

    Do all the desks have dual monitors, docking stations, working mouse, and the same high quality chair? How are people who need special desk equipment, (foot rests, back support, plus size and high weight capacity chairs, etc) supposed to be accommodated?

    IME management forgets or hand waves these issues then are shocked when there are conflicts.

  31. Fluffy Fish*

    LW take a step back and look at it from the outside – a company had a project that team A was working on. Team A is under-resourced and under-staffed. Team B has the resources and staff to take on the project.

    Wouldn’t the company be terribly irresponsible to make an under-resourced team continue working on the project when another team has the bandwidth for it?

    Would you want to work for a company that disregarded a teams mental well-being to get a project done, especially when someone else can do it?

    How many people write in here to complain about being spread too thin and the company not caring?

    This was a GOOD thing. And it’s a business decision, not a personal indictment.

    You’re probably stuck on the no warning piece but be honest – if they sat you down and asked would you have really volunteered you were running yourself ragged?

  32. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I tend to agree that you’re taking this more personally than you need to, or should. That said, I understand. If you want to go back and figure out “reasons” I think you sure can. You might phrase it something like, “I wanted to get some clarity on the project that was reassigned. Could you help me understand the reason behind the reassignment and the timing of it?”

    It is likely about the additional time you’re investing, and if/when you hear that, you’ll have to let yourself believe that’s the case and not continue to make it about something you did or didn’t do.

  33. Grapes are my Jam*

    LW1, I’m reminded of a (paraphrased) joke from Annie Hall: two grandmothers are at their regular restaurant. One of them says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”

  34. Nancy*

    LW3: Your wife’s employer did not renege on anything, since they stated in the beginning that everyone would need to go back part-time. If she is at a high risk complications from respiratory illnesses to the extant that one day is ok but two is not, then she needs to discuss the process for medical accommodation.

    LW4: your friends are not your employer just because they choose to buy your product.

  35. boof*

    LW 5 – your executive director sounds terrible here. And it doesn’t make any sense. I doubt your salary staff are being paid “per project”, they’re probably being paid per time block, +/- some productivity measures maybe. So “the job” they are being paid to do is whatever you tell them to do and if you expand said job, it only makes sense (business wise, morally, for employee retention, every way you slice it) to offer something back, be it comp time, more money, more vacation (essentially comp time?). Your ED apparently having no idea how employment law works or even how to treat employees isn’t a great look.

    1. ferrina*

      LW1- right?! I had a boss that loved to tell me “you’re salaried (exempt), you don’t get overtime”, yet would get horribly upset if I wanted to leave half an hour early one day (when I had already worked 40+ hours and my work was done).
      The rules work both ways, but they only want the rules to work for them.

  36. woops*

    people are objecting to returning from wfh everywhere right now. companies are in a difficult position where if they’ve determined that hybrid or full time in the office is the correct thing for the business, they have to weigh everyone’s needs and reasons (and we all have them) against what they think the best thing for the business is. in this case, since she’s already working in the office a full 8 hours a week – it’s kinda hard to make a medical case that it would be dangerous to make it 16 (nooo, i’m gonna get super sick and maybe die …. unless it’s tuesdays…tuesdays i can handle…but tuesdays and wednesdays and my doc said i’m done for!). the reality is that some people are very productive and successful when wfh – and a lot aren’t. and companies aren’t willing to manage that and invest in the effort of actually managing people and their performance. so they punish the people doing great work from home, unfortunately. and ironically the people who aren’t productive at home usually (in my experience) just return to the office and aren’t really productive there either.

    1. Dan256*

      Mitigation and reduction of risk forms a foundational basis of many laws and regulations. Contract law is a good example of this.

      One day a week of potential exposure while LW3’s wife also masks up and takes other precautions is less of a risk to her health than 2 days a week. She is taking other precautions and could also be going into the office on the least busy day of the week to further reduce her risk.

      A preference is not the same thing as a need. Most employers forcing people back to the office are doing so due to a preference; but LW3’s wife has a medical need to reduce her exposure as much as possible.

  37. This is Today's Name*

    LW1 was specifically told “we know how hard you worked, it isn’t about you,” etc… and is STILL overthinking and overdramatizing this. She needs to let it go and accept that she’ll not understand why leadership makes every decision they make.

    LW2: We also “hot desk” although we call it “hoteling” but, anyone who comes in to the office 3 or more days a week has a permanent desk. Only those of us who come in sporadically have to hotel. Perhaps you can bring this up with leadership for those who seem to be staking claim to a desk that they like if they’re there 3-5 days a week. Carting your stuff daily to a new location like a hobo must be annoying AF.

    LW3: I get that your wife has a higher risk of complications from COVID, but she’s already going in 1 day a week, right? So, will one more day honestly make much of a difference in her level of potential exposure? And I’m not saying this to be a jerk–I and my husband both have potentially dangerous comorbidities WRT COVID, as well. I’m legit asking. Perhaps she can determine the days the fewest other employees come in and work those days (e.g. Mon and Fri, virtually NOBODY goes into our offices), thus lowering the risk of encountering anyone sick? If she otherwise loves her job, is this the sword to fall on? If she doesn’t love it, maybe it’s time to start looking for a job more willing to accommodate her?

  38. Megan*

    “(Either way, make sure you give people advance notice that this is going to start happening.)” I know this is the prudent thing to do, but it drives me absolutely batty. Why do you need to give people advance notice that you will be enforcing a rule that has been a rule forever? It is understood that if you leave stuff on a desk that isn’t actually yours, it may not be there the next time you come in.

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

      Alison meant advance notice that their items will be moved and/or thrown out. Wouldn’t you be angry if you left your sanitizer or your water bottle on the desk, like you have always done, and then it gets thrown out.

    2. ferrina*

      There’s a difference between the written law and the practiced law. It’s why common-law marriages are a thing- after a while, just doing the practice for so long means that people will expect that the practice continues, and in this case, the practice is that the written law isn’t followed.

      Yes, this can feel unfair to people that have been following the written law the whole time. But for people who have simply been following the social norms (i.e., practiced law), it can be a shock. Worst of all is the people that never knew that there was a written law and were told “just do[practiced law]”. I cannot tell you how many times this happens to new hires, who are told the de facto policy rather than the actual policy, then get screwed over when the actual policy starts being enforced. Or people who heard from an authority figure that “practiced law is the policy now”, when the authority figure is either confused or stating practiced social conventions and doesn’t realize the listener hears it as an Official Policy (again, a dynamic that hurts the people with less power/institutional connections).
      Better just to give loud and clear warnings so all people are on the same page.

    3. Katie A*

      Partially because the goal is to get people to change their behavior, not just punish those who don’t.

      If you warn people that an unenforced rule will be enforced, especially if it will be enforced by throwing away their stuff, that changes the incentives. Some people will stop leaving stuff behind without anyone having to throw their belongings away. That’s a win-win for everyone. It’s less work for whoever is doing the throwing away, it results in changed behavior, and no one loses anything they care about.

      It won’t work for everyone, but it will work for some people, and will result in less negativity all around.

      1. SarahKay*

        the goal is to get people to change their behavior

        As a teenager I was very puzzled by signs warning that speed cameras were operating on a give stretch of road. ‘How’, I asked my parents, ‘are the police going to catch people speeding if they’re being warned?’
        And of course the explanation was that the police didn’t necessarily want to catch people, they wanted people to not speed so that the roads were safer.

        Warning people about enforcing a previously not-enforced policy is the sensible thing to do because management shouldn’t be trying to punish people, they should just be trying to stop the undesirable behaviour.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Like the plastic bag tax in Ireland. It came in way back when I worked there just after leaving uni, and one day you simply had to pay 5 cents for a plastic bag and that was that. People complained about the idea costing more to administrate than it brought in in revenue. But…overnight, shops started using paper bags. (The British weren’t as good at it; they started selling plastic bags but made them ‘reusable’ — for a very few times — so they could keep the money rather than donate it to charity. As such, the idea backfired a bit, and to be honest the ‘forfeit’ of 30p a bag at the checkout really isn’t enough to make me bring my own.)

          Or the UK sugar tax. Sure, you can still buy soft drinks with sugar in them, but they cost more. So now most manufacturers have a lot of sugar-free drinks or at least reformulated below the sugar amount that incurs the tax, presumably because of the extra friction of a consumption tax on sales. It’s been great for me — I don’t drink sugary soft drinks and in fact if I even try to drink the odd mis-sent bottle of Coke I get a headache. But a lot of the artisanal makers of soft drinks now make their stuff sugar free, and the best result of it all was that a company whose drinks used to be virtually syrup in a can now get a lot more business from me because they switched to selling sugar free cream soda, ‘bubblegum’-ade (really mixed fruit a bit like Dr Pepper) and cherryade. The intention was to bring in more revenue and to combat obesity resulting from soft drinks; the reality is that most makers now have a lot of sugar free options available for those of us who love soft drinks (and mocktails — I don’t drink alcohol but I do still like the taste of G&T without the G) but don’t love sugar.

          My mum got a bit grumpy with the latter example and complained that instead of paying the tax, the companies had just cut the sugar in their drinks. I pointed out that that was a GOOD thing rather than a bad one and in all probability working as intended, certainly for me now I can enjoy a lot more fizzy drinks than I formerly could.

          1. SarahKay*

            Speaking as someone who doesn’t get on with aspartame (12-hour-long aftertaste, despite coffee, mints, curry, and tooth-brushing) I can’t really agree with you on the sugar tax since my choice of non-alcoholic fizzy drinks has shrunk hugely, but I agree with the overall point.

  39. Phony Genius*

    On #5, if a non-exempt employee’s regular schedule is less than 40 hours per week, can they earn comp time for working extra hours up to the 40 hour total? That is, if they are scheduled for 35 hour per week, and they work 40 hours one week, can they be given 5 hours comp time or does it have to be paid as straight time?

  40. Medium Sized Manager*

    LW1, I have shared this story before but feels helpful to share again: a few years back, I massively failed at a project. I was over-worked, just like you, and deeply committed to proving that I could handle a project that, frankly, I couldn’t. The project was not taken from me, but it was clear in the retrospective that senior leaders held me accountable for the lackluster project.

    At the time, I was devastated and emotional, just like you described. However, in hindsight, that failure was not just a reflection of my efforts. Yes, there are things I could have done differently, but my senior leaders did not provide the time, effort, or resources that I needed. Project failures almost never fall on one individual.

    When you are a little more removed, I encourage you to think about the project and how you could have been supported better or how you would handle it now. For me, the biggest thing is that I should have been more vocal about needing help and not making assumptions. I learned a lot from that, and it didn’t impact my ability to grow with the company (I have received two promotions and multiple raises, even when the company is not giving strong raises to most people). I am confident this will be less painful when you are able to get a little distance! All the best!

  41. el l*

    I know this is going to take some time to be able to see this – no judgment, I’ve been there. But, it seems more likely to me that there are plenty of other possible explanations for why the project was moved.

    The biggest of them: What if they have another project they want you/your team to take, but which they aren’t quite ready to spring on you yet? Perhaps one that is better suited to your team and their availability. They very likely looked at the workload you and your team were undergoing and thought, “This other team is better suited for this project, which will free them up to do new project.”

    Because honestly project fit matters. Sometimes people/teams are better suited for particular projects than others, and it has nothing to do with who’s a winner or not. Perhaps one team just has availability while the other does not. Perhaps a particular experience, perhaps software, whatever, lots of reasons.

    Tell yourself to reserve judgment for a while, and see what you get put on next. This may be a blessing.

  42. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Hotdesking reminds me of my slightly nutty 8th grade science teacher. He numbered the chairs in his classroom and every day you had to sit in your numbered chair. I was Red 6. He would move the chairs around at the end of the day before the next day. Then he would tell us “the girls in the office” moved the chairs or changed the homework (and I’d love to know if anyone else went to this same school and had this same teacher). It was always slightly unsettling to have to sit in a different place, but the fact we didn’t have to choose a seat, and nor was there a seating chart, was sort of nice. Perhaps some sort of random lottery to assign daily seats would be one way to solve the problem.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Sounds like a good way to break up classroom cliques and get people mixing. My Year 5 (9-10 yo) teacher did something similar — he formed us into groups based on where we were in class rankings. The idea was to get people who had the same educational needs to sit together so he could assign work based on aptitude and spend time with those who needed it without holding us self-starting swots back (I hated it when we moved and I found myself back in an environment where the whole class had to work on the same thing together) but it did have the effect of forcing us to work alongside people we may not have got to know because of a divide along gender lines etc. It did put me with a guy with whom I had a bit of friction, but it worked out ok — since we were now on the same team, it took the animosity out of the air even if we never really became friends (although sadly the class heart-throb was on another team). And he suggested the Best. Name. Ever. — as a guy with access to his older brothers’ film collection, he he named us the Amityville Horrors.

      I’ve done similar things at conventions where my husband and I ended up on opposite teams (one year it was Babylon 5 themed as the purple/green split of the Drazi, which is also why my towels are all either purple or green; the next year, 2015, it was Red and Black after card suits in honour of the Alice in Wonderland anniversary that year). It’s designed to get people meeting up and working with people they’d otherwise probably never step over the barriers to meet and get to know.

      I think sometimes doing something to get outside your comfort zone has good results. A corporate shake-up shook my career up by virtue of transfering from a dead end on the edge of a local clinical healthcare trust to a national facilities organisation that had real opportunities for people with maintenance and facilities backgrounds to move up into more management/administration roles. You never know what might happen even if forced out of your comfort zone and I’d embrace the above idea if there was potential calcification of kids into separate and isolating groups.

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

    I’m a little confused about the comp time and non-exempt employees. How is it illegal to give comp time? lets say the work week is Sunday through Saturday, but you work Monday through Friday 8-5. But you have something on Saturday to do. Your boss has you work Saturday instead of working Monday. As long as it falls in the same pay period week I don’t understand how that could be illegal. You are just adjusting your schedule.

    Or am I not understanding comp time and that it is something taken off at a later date?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Comp time is illegal for hourly workers because it would be an alternative to the overtime pay they’re entitled to.

      Comp time is legal for salaried workers because their time has no value… or rather it’s not costing them income.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      It’s that you can’t give them comp time in another week to avoid paying overtime.

      You can work Saturday instead of Monday.
      If you work 45 hours one week and 35 the next, you still get 5 hours of overtime from the first week.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      That’s what I’d call a shifted schedule. So long as you work no more than 40 hours between Sunday and Saturday (to use your example), it doesn’t matter which days those are worked on – there is no requirement to pay overtime. So working Monday – Friday and working Tuesday – Saturday are functionally the same thing, but working Monday – Saturday one week and Tuesday – Friday the next week gives you 40 hours of regular pay and 8 hours of overtime the first week, and 32 hours of regular pay the second week.

      However, if your pay week is Saturday – Friday (like it was at a previous job of mine), then working Monday – Saturday followed by Tuesday – Friday gave you 40 hours of regular pay each week. That Saturday now is part of the same week as the following Tuesday – Friday. Both of these are different but legal ways of getting work done on the same days of the week. If your employer knows in advance which Saturday you’re going to work, they will generally have you set your schedule so you stay at 40 hours/week.

      Comp time would be a situation where you work Saturday as requested, and then those 8 hours go into a bank of time (similar to vacation, but part of a separate bank) that you can use at any point in the future. So you could work Saturday this week, get paid for 40 hours this week for your work Monday – Friday, and use those 8 hours of comp time from Saturday to take a day off at some point in the future and still get paid for 40 hours of work even though you were only working for 32. It’s legal for employees of the US Federal Government, but illegal for everyone else (although Alison’s link suggests that California may be an exception to this, like they are for so much else).

    4. Colette*

      As I understand it, it depends which Monday you don’t work. If it’s the Monday before the Saturday, it’s fine; if it’s the Monday afterwards, you’re in a different week and you need to be paid for overtime.

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      What you’ve (and OP) described is really more like flex-time – I worked Sunday so I’m going to take Monday off. It’s usually within the same pay period.

      Comp time is allowing people to accrue time off for the extra hours the worked – If I work 60 hours this week, my job lets me have 20 hours of comp time to be used at a later date.

      Both are perfectly legal for salaried employees.

  44. Iswhatitis*

    #1 “No warning, no pause to say thank you for my efforts or that it wasn’t my fault. Just barreled through like they were listing out standard assignments.” Sounds like it was business as usual to them. I’ll point out that they also didn’t say you were doing a bad job, or that you were behind schedule, or anything negative at all. It would have been nice for someone to discuss moving the project with you before that meeting, but maybe that meeting is where that kind of discussion happens and “any questions” was your opportunity for discussion. It’s also possible that this kind of change would have normally filtered down through your department head, and because they’re out no one thought to give you the head’s up or explanation ahead of time. I personally don’t like the phrasing “anything I can explain to you?” though it could be completely innocuous depending on the culture. Curious, do you ever tell people you can’t do something or do you always say yes because you’d feel like a failure if you can’t do everything?

  45. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    LW #1’s reaction sounds really familiar to me. I used to fall apart any time I experienced what felt like a rejection from anyone above me, if I felt that I had failed or disappointed them, or if I felt like I had publicly embarrassed myself. These feelings would arise around run-of-the-mill events such as the one described here, and it was very distressing. I eventually learned that I had ADHD, and that what I was experiencing was called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, a common feature of my condition that explains those intense feelings of misery from minor failure.

    This is not an attempt to diagnose the letter writer, but a suggestion that it may be worth talking to a therapist to see if there’s something larger at play here. Sometimes just knowing if your brain is making things worse for you makes things a whole lot easier.

  46. Dinwar*

    #1: I think part of the guilt is leftover from school. In school we’re taught that any assigned work must be completed 100% or it’s a failure (can you tell I’m a bit of a perfectionist?). Having an assignment taken from us is a catastrophe. And to be clear, I’m not saying you’re juvenile or lack experience; what I’m saying is, it’s hard to shake training that was drilled into us for 16 or more years during our formative period!

    The work world is different, though. As a manager my first priority is to the company, and my second is to my team (because that’s how I add value to the company). If I saw someone working through weekends and pushing like a crazy person to get stuff done, I’d be looking for someone to offload the work to–not because I don’t trust the person, but because such work methods are dangerous. They’re dangerous to the company, because they cause errors and re-work and other problems. And they’re dangerous to the team because they will necessarily cause burnout, which increases errors and rework and turnover and other problems. Are there times when this may be necessary? Sure, absolutely. But it’s always advisable to figure out ways to mitigate such situations.

    Think of the business as a ship. The workers are rooms in the ship, and the work is the cargo. The manager is in charge of stowing that cargo. If one area has too much, that area sinks below the waves and the whole boat sinks. It’s the manager’s job to do what they can to distribute the work so that the boat stays afloat.

    It sucks having projects taken away from you. I absolutely get that. But it’s almost certainly not personal. It’s not that the room (you) is bad, it’s that the boat is in danger of sinking.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      100%. It took me a LONG time to realize that in a healthy workplace, nothing’s personal and work sometimes gets juggled to get it done better or faster. Of course, experiencing only toxic workplaces in my 20s didn’t help things.

  47. Sleeping Panther*

    LW2’s office sounds like mine! We’re required to come in three days a week, and we recently moved from a floor where every desk was the exact same kind of cubicle to a newly-renovated open-plan floor, where some desks are in long rows with no dividers between desks and some are in pods of three with dividers. Only about a dozen desks on the floor (the three-pod desks near windows) are truly private, so there’s competition for those desks. One of them is permanently “claimed” by one manager, who has a decorative keychain pinned into the divider and leaves a laptop stand, her personal keyboard (all the desks are equipped with keyboards), and even an essential oil diffuser/humidifier on the desk.

    This all could have been avoided if they’d used the same style of desk across the floor, put dividers between all the desks instead of just a few, or marked certain desks as reserved for specific managers.

  48. Sunflower*

    #3 We were ordered back to the office over a month ago and I think it’s been a failure but I’m not the boss. People take at least a hour getting coffee, breakfast, smoke, gossip, vent (so much venting), etc. before actually starting work. People who don’t normally call in sick are taking multiple sick days at a time. I’m starting to hear a lot of coughing and sniffing this past few days.

    I could have an extra 2 hours a day working instead of driving and I’m at least 24 hours behind in my work. But I’m forced to go in, put in my 8 hours, and then drive home to work more so I’m not *too* behind. There are jobs where it makes sense to work in the office, but not ours. It’s just going from our desk at home to a desk in the office. Everyone is grumpy and just has their heads in their computers or going outside smoking. It’s not one long “we’re back!!!!” party our boss expected.

  49. blah*

    Has LW3’s wife tried getting a reasonable accommodation for this? It sounds like there’s currently just this agreement, but that’s not the same as a formal accommodation. If you don’t have that set up, then no, her employer isn’t violating the ADA.

    1. Orora*

      It’s not just the ADA that’s at play here. As of June 18, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will be enforceable. That’s less than a month from now. As the EEOC’s website says, “Generally, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires a covered employer to provide a “reasonable accommodation” to a qualified employee’s or applicant’s known limitations related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an “undue hardship.”” (from

      The employer would have to show that 2 days of remote work is an undue hardship (not just inconvenient or against policy) while 1 day isn’t. LW3’s wife should talk to her employer’s HR (if they have it) or to her boss about complying with this impending law.

      If the employer doesn’t budge for now, make the request again on June 14 and include a copy of the information on the EEOC’s website.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        There is nothing to indicate that the wife is pregnant so I’m not sure what this has to do with anything?

        1. Dorothea Vincy*

          Yeah, Orora seems to be indicating that the LW’s wife could force the company to do what she wants after the act becomes law because…she’s female? She might be pregnant at some future point? There’s no indication in the letter that her medical condition is related to pregnancy. And trying to use this if the LW’s wife isn’t pregnant or doesn’t have a condition related to pregnancy is not going to work- just a power fantasy, not an actual, workable, “How can I solve this problem?” stance.

  50. CommanderBanana*

    LW5, I work in events, which means I’m often working and/or traveling over weekend days. I will not work anywhere that doesn’t offer comp time and I’ve started asking about it in interviews. IMHO, an organization that has salaried employees but doesn’t offer comp time for working over weekends will be bad in other ways.

    At my current job, none of our events run over weekends, but I was asked to staff other conferences that do. I asked about comp time. I was told we didn’t have comp time. I said in that case, I couldn’t staff those events.

    We now magically have comp time.

    1. Leonard Berenstain*

      THIS. I worked for a performing arts org that routinely had concerts on evenings and weekends. And yet you were still expected to have your butt in your desk chair at 9 a.m. on Monday. They achieved 100%+ staff turnover in some years, so much so that they stopped making permanent staff name tags unless you had been there for 2 or more years. When I moved to a different org, with a policy of “take whatever time you can to keep your week as close to 40 hours as possible,” everyone was much happier and people stayed for decades. I will never again accept a job with wonky hours where they do not explicitly state a comp/ flex policy like this.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        It had honestly never occurred to me to ask before comp time before I started working for this org, because I’ve been in events management my entire career and have never worked for a place that didn’t have it!

        Now it’s definitely on my must-ask list of questions.

  51. A la Mode*

    Oh LW1, I feel for you because I’ve been there. After a month or so I was emotionally detached enough to ask my direct supervisor what she thought had happened there, and that was really helpful. She had some thoughts that gave me insight—like, I hadn’t asked the big boss the best questions to know what they prioritized in this project, so I had spent too much time on aspects they didn’t value as much as I did—and also frankly said part of it was a mystery, and that I wasn’t the only one to find communication unclear with that boss; it was a pattern of theirs, not mine. It was such a relief to get another person’s (rational!) perspective! It helped me stop thinking I was a failure and feeling embarrassed because I assumed everyone MUST have noticed and concluded I was a failure as a professional (!). It also gave me something constructive to keep in mind next time. I highly recommend finding someone you trust to be honest with you, among the people who know what happened, and asking them if they can help you reflect and lend you their perspective.

  52. Just Thinkin' Here*

    OP #1 – Your manager(ment) took a poor way to communicate the change in project assignment with you and your team. The professional way to approach this is to have a one-on-one with you as the team lead. Manager explains what is happening and why, when the announcement will be made and containing what information. This should have been done before the public, group meeting so you as the lead are not taken by surprise.

    I would use this as an opportunity to approach your manager about communication style. Make it clear you expect a heads up beforehand, better communication of expectations during the project, and no surprise announcement in a group setting. If they won’t do that, I would look for lead opportunities elsewhere.

  53. Dollface*

    I want to give LW1 a good cup of tea/coffee/cocoa, and a soft place to rest a minute. She sounds like she’s been trying to do everything all at once for so long her adrenal system has given up and everything is a crisis that needs to be managed and weighed against the other fires she’s fighting at all times.

    Yes, it would have been good for the hand over to include some framing and reasoning. Without other information, the most obvious and normal reason is something like “management noticed that LW’s team is understaffed and swamped and this is the easiest piece of work that we can move off them the fastest, so we decided to do so. Thank you Team B for being able to pick it up. Thank you Team LW for stretching so far.” That reason is so normal and so obvious that I can see skipping explaining it though.

    Deep breaths LW. when your hands stop shaking, if you really want to, you can ask the Powers That Be if they have any feedback on how you have been handling the project so you can make sure that your team gets a decent retrospective on your work, even if the project isn’t complete yet.Or ask them if they have any concerns about your work because you were surprised by the reassignment, but I think even that might be a bit too martyr-ish and assuming that there’s an issue when there probably isn’t!

  54. I Can't Believe It*

    I’m curious to know if companies that offer comp time instead of overtime will need to change these rules once the new overtime pay minimums change in July and January?

    1. fhqwhgads*

      They already can’t offer comp time instead of overtime to non-exempt employees. Not sure how new OT minimums would affect employees not entitled to OT at all? Or you mean because some currently exempt folks, if not given a raise, would then become non-exempt and thus be eligible for OT? They wouldn’t be changing their rules. They’d just be potentially changing which individuals are allowed to be offered comp time or not, but it’s based on the same rule: only eligible if exempt.

  55. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

    I just want to say, generally speaking, how appreciative I am of this site helping folks recognize when their emotional response might be out of alignment with the events. It can be really hard to notice that happening to yourself when you’re in the moment and it’s so helpful to be able to get perspective from someone who will deliver it gently and to see what other stories might be true other than the one you’re telling yourself.

  56. Bruce*

    As a grown man with 10 years career experience and a couple of years as a manager I broke down and bawled my eyes out in front of my whole team when our manager came into a group meeting and told us our project was cancelled after delays and unforeseen technical issues. Nobody lost their job, we had plenty of work, and it was the right decision… but wow, I felt bad! 30 years later it is no longer a bitter memory, just a learning experience to be more reserved about investing my heart into the job

  57. Zona the Great*

    Bosses can sure have a wacky view of things but I suppose they are just as likely to misunderstand or misremember as anyone else. I had a boss who would fight anyone over the fact that it was ILLEGAL for a potential employer to call a person’s manager and ask for a reference. There was no reasoning with her. She really thought she could get someone in legal trouble for calling for a reference. It was unhinged.

  58. Annie Nominous*

    LW1, I really feel you, especially the part where when you were getting called in and thought that maybe you were finally going to get some acknowledgment of how hard you had been working and instead they took a project away from you because you weren’t working *impossibly* hard.
    If you can rebrand it in your head as a win (“I had an unreasonable amount of work and they took some of it off my plate”) try to do that and understand that’s probably how the people around you are thinking of it, not as an embarrassment. They’re not mentioning it because to them it seems perfectly rational.
    As someone who also did their share of WFH crying at their desk, I would take a hard look at where/why this is hitting you emotionally. Since I’m projecting, I think you might find the real problem is how unappreciated you feel coupled with how overworked and exhausted you physically are. That might not improve unless you’re willing to be upfront about it, one drawback about WFH they don’t tell you about is that it hides all the stress and crying that would otherwise seep out in an office. If you don’t feel like you can be upfront without getting more things taken away from you, that might be your sign that this job is never going to show you proper appreciation and you’re going to need to adjust your plans accordingly.

  59. Just asking*

    Ok, I don’t want to get killed but I was just wondering, regarding LW 3 stating that “the pandemic is not over”…when will you (LW and general you) consider it over? Obviously, Covid is never going away. It will kill people every year just like RSV and the seasonal flu. The flu is here from a pandemic 100 years ago, but it is now endemic, and that is what we face with Covid now.

    I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t protect yourself and I am NOT saying that there is not serious danger for many at-risk people. My questions is specifically about LW 3’s statement.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      I think it’s a very real reaction to people being told in various ways that they should “get over it” – like this employer demanded 2 days in office. Think of it as an incomplete statement “The pandemic isn’t over…for me/us, it never will be, but you’re asking us to behave like it is”. Society moves on like normal but its not back to normal for everyone and it never will be.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I don’t think the employer asking for two days in the office, though, is telling someone they should get over it; it’s them stating what the needs of the job are. If the LW’s wife is able to get a medical accommodation and the employer works with her on it that’s great, but I don’t think it’s fair to paint them as unreasonable when they told her upfront that in-person would would eventually be a requirement.

        “The pandemic isn’t over…for me/us, it never will be, but you’re asking us to behave like it is”.

        I don’t think that’s fair. If people were insisting that others stop wearing masks (which I know is happening and is wrong!) or were trying to needlessly push them out of their own comfort zones by insisting they go to crowded concerts or bars that would be one thing. But that’s not what’s happening here.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          I’m explaining the why behind the statement to answer Just Askings question – why do people say the pandemic isn’t over. I’m offering no actual judgement here on the LW situation.

          The job may or may not be making a reasonable request. OP’s wife may or may not have a reasonable concern or accommodation need. Not my point and not replying to the LW.

          This is about feelings – how for people who still have to take COVID precautions it feels when presented with circumstances that conflict with those precautions.

          “The pandemic isn’t over…for me/us, it never will be, but you’re asking us to behave like it is”.” Literally trying to say everything after the … is the unstated part of when people say “The pandemic isn’t over”.

          Again, not specific to OP’s letter.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            You specifically referenced the employer in the OP’s letter, which is the main thing I was calling out, so your response was at least at least partially about them.

            I understand that pandemic will never be over for some people, but as noted in other areas of this post those people most likely already had to take precautions for other illnesses that have now become part of our annual life. That’s not to say care shouldn’t be taken for them, but at some point the rest of the world is going to move on. The pandemic is over, even if the disease still effects others.

    2. Hyaline*

      IMO the pandemic is over, and COVID is now endemic. Like plenty of other endemic illnesses like influenza. We were conditioned by the pressing crisis of the pandemic to think about Covid as different, but in reality most infectious diseases carry some pretty substantial levels of risk (varying off course depending on the individual). Basically I think we’re having a very hard time recalibrating our understanding of risk not only in terms of “downgrading” COVID to endemic but also the uncomfortable realization that if endemic means there still is risk, we were at risk from disease all along and remain there.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      It depends on whether someone is using their own personal ambiguous definition of “pandemic” or if they’re going based on the WHO’s official stance (which is currently “yes still a pandemic, no not still an emergency”), or other official bodies’ definitions of it, or what.
      I know some folks use interchangibly “covid isn’t over” and “the pandemic isn’t over” which are actually two totally different statements. So, basically, there are probably about a million different answers to your question, because there are a million different meanings people may have had behind their statement of it not being over.

  60. Me -- on AAM at lunch*

    #2 — That’s what we do; if you come in a certain amount of days, you get an assigned desk. If not, you hotdesk. It works well. They don’t plan to do what #3’s company is doing — we have too many remote employees.

    Since I’m in office 3 days a week, I have my own assigned space. I like it that way because I can keep stuff in my drawers.

  61. Career Admin*

    LW#2 – I instated this policy in the two offices I oversee to put some boundaries on desk ownership: employees that are in the office 4-5 days regularly get a permanent desk, employees in the office 3 days or less regularly can make a reservation for a hot desk.

    If people are leaving stuff on desks, I’d let them know items left on hot desks will be placed in a box at the end of each day, and items not collected/claimed by EOD on Friday will get the toss. I’d also post a photo of the items and give folks 24-48 hours to claim it to be put aside if they won’t be in the office soon.

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