I don’t want to bake for my coworker, needlessly cruel layoffs, and more

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

1. Is this method for layoffs needlessly cruel?

I am writing this email while sitting at my work computer even though I am off contract and not being paid for my time. My college announced a month ago that they will lay off half our workforce today. Rather than just let us know who is being laid off, they are asking that we all sit unpaid at our computers during the day and wait to see if we get a Teams invite with “at least 20 minutes notice” to come to virtual small group meetings to be laid off. We are assured that after 6.5 hours of this process, at 2:30 pm, they will send an email to everyone who is not laid off.

Everyone just wants to know their status, and it doesn’t seem like the purpose of the meetings is to discuss anything that might change, nor is it to provide information on the separation, which has already been sent out (COBRA, lack of severance, etc.) People are in extreme anxiety. Some folks are on long-planned trips or have other commitments that they are now trying to balance with complying with this request. Those who have asked if they could just get an email if they are fired have been ignored.

Is there a reason that this approach is useful? Or is it needlessly cruel, which is how it seems to me? Is there a reason they can’t let us all know right now and offer meetings for those who want or need them?

Needlessly cruel. They could do it all at once and at a specific time so you’re not sitting around waiting (and no need for small groups, which is what’s stretching it out; most people being laid off really don’t care if they’re in a group of 10 or a group of hundreds, especially if this is the alternative). What a way to drive home that they’re not considering you in the process at all.

For what it’s worth, it’s illegal not to pay you for the waiting time. This is what’s called “engaged to wait” and under federal law it must be paid.

my company says it’s “best practice” to do layoffs over email

2. My coworker wants to pay me to bake for her shower, but I don’t want to

I have a relatively new (six months on the job) coworker who is pregnant with her first baby.

I recently made cupcakes from a very time-intensive recipe for someone else’s baby shower, a coworker who I am very close friends with. Today, my newer coworker asked me to bake the same cupcakes and another type of cake for her own baby shower that she is planning with 60 guests. This is not an office baby shower like the first one, and I have no idea who is invited. Although she offered to pay me and told me how much she loved the cupcakes, I am incredibly uncomfortable with the idea. How do I tell her no?

“I’m so glad you liked them but they’re really time-intensive so they’re a once-in-a-blue moon thing for me.” If she repeats her offer to pay: “Oh, I bake for fun when the mood strikes, not for pay.” Or just, “You’re kind to offer, but I can’t.” If you want to soften it a little, recommend a good bakery (“the bakery two blocks away has an amazing blueberry custard cake everyone loves”).

But really — the fact that she is asking for a favor in no way obligates you to say yes to that favor. Don’t feel awkward about declining. If she takes issue with that, she’d be wildly out of line and it would just underscore that you were right to say no in the first place. But hopefully a clear no will take care of it.

I make delicious baked goods and my office knows it

3. I threw up on the floor at work

I work for a large fast fashion chain, and recently came in after experiencing a bout of nausea the night before. As it was only a three-hour shift with a late start, I thought I could hack it, but ended up throwing up in my mouth, hastily handing a woman her change, then puking on the floor behind the till. My manager told me to basically sit in the stockroom with a plastic bag and refused my offer of clean-up help. She seemed sympathetic, but I still feel guilty.

I’m just worried that if this gets passed to HR or the more senior managers, I could be in serious trouble. It was too sudden to run to the toilets, but it’s still unprofessional, right? I’m also mortified at the thought of what my coworkers think, and am dreading my return to work. Any insight into whether I should start looking for a new job, or any tips on facing the shame greatly appreciated.

It’s not unprofessional to have a human body that sometimes get sick. It’s not unprofessional not to be able to predict and halt an uncontrollable bodily process like throwing up! If you ever work somewhere that treats you as if it is, that’s a big flashing red flag to get out. No one should think you intentionally threw up on the floor! At worst, someone might be less than thrilled about having to clean it up, but that’s completely different than being unhappy with you. (And no decent person who just witnessed someone vomit the floor is going to expect them to do the work of cleaning it up too.)

You got sick. It happens. Assume people just want to make sure you’re okay now. Unless your job is on the far extreme end of dysfunction, this is not a big deal.

4. I don’t like the way my boss wants me to estimate project time

I just started a new position about six weeks ago. I’m in a very high level professional position in a discipline that usually gets a lot of leeway in how we manage our own time — as long as the task gets done, that’s all that matters. The problem is that my new manager would like us to estimate what projects we’ll be working on in the upcoming weeks and how much time each project will take. Quite frankly, I hate this exercise. For one, I’m very bad at it. I’m good at managing my workload and always get projects in under deadline. But I’m very bad at estimating how much time it will take to get each task done, and part of what makes me so efficient is my ability to switch up my priorities quickly based on new information or openings in my schedule. This exercise of trying to estimate my time for my manager is taking up much more time than it reasonably should.

They say they want to use this information to help with adding new projects to my list as they come up. But I’d rather just handle that with a conversation about what I can and can’t take on. I even thought about just making up some numbers to make them happy, but then they come back and want an explanation for how I came up with that number. “I made it up” seems like a poor explanation.

Obviously I am new and I am going to try to make this work at least for a little while longer. But if after a couple months I still find it as onerous as I do today, how do I broach that conversation? They are generally flexible and accommodating, but I also feel like they’re pretty tied to this form of project tracking.

Yeah, try to make it work for at least a few months so that you’ve given it a good faith try. And during that time, talk to your coworkers about how they approach it. You might realize they can be simpler than the way you’ve been approaching it.

But if it’s still a problem for you — and taking you at your word that this isn’t how people in your field normally operate — then it’s reasonable to say something like, “I’m finding that providing these estimates becomes a time-intensive project itself, and often my estimates change once I’m deeper into the project. I of course want to communicate with you about my workload and what I can and can’t take on. In the past I’ve done that through more informal conversation when new projects come up, which has worked well. Would you be open to trying that for the next month and seeing how it goes? We can always course-correct if it’s not working.”

If that doesn’t solve it, there’s probably a second conversation to have where you’re more specific about how this is affecting your workflow, as well as why it’s difficult to come up with accurate estimates. It might be that this is just how your team is going to work, but it’s reasonable to try to talk about it.

5. Was it fair to cancel this interview?

My 16-year-old is currently searching for her first job. Over the weekend, she scheduled an interview at a local ice cream parlor for 6pm on the following Tuesday. On the day of the interview, she got her resume and list of references printed and double-checked the messages from the interviewer around noon before relaxing with a book. Then, about a half hour before the interview was scheduled, she picked up her phone and found a series of missed messages from the interviewer. At 1:30pm the interviewer asked if she could reschedule for earlier in the day. Then at 4:30pm when she still hadn’t responded, the interviewer sent this message: “I did not get a reply from you, does that mean you can not come in early? Also, since I did not get a reply that makes me question if you are coming at 6pm today. Please confirm.”

As soon as my kid saw the message at 5:30pm, she responded apologizing for not seeing the messages sooner and stating that she was coming for the 6pm interview. The interviewer told her that since she hadn’t responded that they had already left for the day.

What should my kid have done differently? She’s not glued to her phone all day (which I would think is a huge positive) — should I encourage her to check it more often? Or is this a red flag?

It’s really just a red flag that she’s applying for a job in food service, which she already knows. This kind of thing isn’t uncommon in retail and food service.

To be clear, the interviewer was in the wrong. It was fine to ask if she could come in earlier, but not hearing back shouldn’t have made them assume she’d no-show for the scheduled time. That said, it’s also true that people no-show for food service interviews a lot and a manager who was otherwise ready to leave might have figured they didn’t want to wait around another hour for someone who might not show up and wasn’t responding. That’s not a considerate assumption; they were in the wrong. But I suspect it’s what happened.

Your daughter didn’t do anything wrong, but it’s also not a bad idea to glance at her phone once or twice the day of an interview, since sometimes things do change at the last minute.

{ 388 comments… read them below }

  1. Nodramalama*

    LW4 you could try a limited version of time recording for whatever project you’re currently doing. It’s administratively burdensome at first but it will give you an estimate on how much time in a day youre working on something and would let you extrapolate out to future projects

    1. Creative in corporate clothing*

      I am probably the most structure-averse person you’ll ever meet, but I totally agree with this. It’ll help to give you a basic sense for how long various tasks take, and help you to find inefficiencies (I spend HOW long managing emails every day???) and address them. Whenever I feel like I’m being less productive than I could be, I’ll time track (there are apps that do this, but I find that just listing task, start time, end time on an excel sheet is good enough) to see if it’s me or the work. This also helps if you need to justify the purchase of a tool or hiring a new person – you can show up with data (“I’m spending 10 hours per week on this task alone and if we purchase this software for $1000/year, we can cut that time by 60%” is much more compelling a reason to give you something than “I do this way too much”).

      Plus, you’ll look ultra organized. Win-win!!

      1. Gamer Girl*

        Yes–this feels pointless at first, but after even just a couple weeks, you have solid data about how productive you are.

        I was ultra-skeptical when I started a job with this approach, but now I’d never go back. Consider that your manager will also use the info to help you: I would give a range of times on new tasks, and he’d then push back strongly when people wanted to add things onto my plate if it wasn’t in scope for that week. We gathered enough evidence about efficiency that we got a license for a needed program and hired three more people over the years I was there!

        It really doesn’t need to be anything more complex than start/end times on Excel or Clockify for a start!

        1. EngineeringFun*

          Yeah this is a form of time blocking. I block off time on my calendar to do specific tasks in between my meetings for the week. This way if I have an extra 15 min in know what task is next and can get started. Also if a task is taking way longer than I estimated I reevaluate my approach: what level of answer is really needed here….it takes time to get used to but is useful. Just wait until you move to agile PM and your whole world will blow up! :)

      2. Hannah Lee*

        I did this just for a couple of weeks a while back when I was feeling disorganized and unproductive at work.

        I was amazed at how much of my workday was interrupt-driven, where I’d be deep into some important complex task, project and something would come up that had to be dealt with right then.

        It was great to reset my own sense of competence, and regain control. Part of it was reframing how I viewed my job, and my expectations for what I could reasonably accomplish every day, that I should allow 20% for “stuff that comes up” * as the norm, and use a visual tracker for the in-process complex stuff so I don’t lose sight of it due to interruptions.

        * at least 70% of which comes from the company owners who pop up with something that needs me to drop what I’m doing for something with a same-day deadline, and after working with them for years I know that, why no, Rick will never give me a list of all the random demo products he’ll be completing and shipping internationally this week so I can research applicable export requirements, harmonization codes, get clear address and contact information, EORI and other #s, complete required electronic filings and documentation. So I just pencil in a hour every afternoon for “rick’s last minute stuff”

    2. Brain the Brian*

      Agreeing with this. We have to bill our work in quarter-hour increments to different jobs / clients where I work, and this was the only way I could get the hang of it when I started.

    3. Thegreatprevaricator*

      Agree. I’m really bad at it but because I use a calendar/ to do app (Sunsama) and pomodoro for tough tasks, I have a much better idea for how long things take. It doesn’t need to be as comprehensive either, I used to use toggl which is (was?) very simple time tracking, set it going when you start the task and stop it when you finish.

    4. Cat Tree*

      Yeah. It’s definitely a bit of a pain but sometimes it’s part of the job. Thankfully we don’t do regular time tracking at my current job, but as a manager and senior individual contributor I have helped estimate how much time certain tasks take to determine staffing levels. Our main work is wildly swingy with a project ranging from 4 hours at the lowest to 40 at the highest. But when we really thought through it, those extremes aren’t common. We split the work into 2 buckets, and between those two buckets 80 to 90% of the work falls into the average plus or minus a couple hours. We use 6.5 hours as a standard amount of work to get done each day, to account for checking emails, breaks, etc. So based on that we could estimate a reasonable range for each person’s WIP. It’s extremely useful for me as a manager to tell at a glance how busy we are. Of course I still take into account individual discussions when assigning other types of work. But if someone has only a few projects already I’ll offer them more things in the first place. And we get a surge of work, it’s easy to make the case to senior management that we need help, either hiring another person (or 3 people in one case) or getting another department to help out temporarily.

      Yes, the request is a pain. But it’s so useful that it’s worth doing anyway.

    5. Green CTO*

      LW4, if you were assigned more work than you can complete well before the deadlines, would you know?

      If so, the good news is you’re already doing this estimation in a way that works for you, and you just need to figure out how to communicate what you’re already thinking through.

      If not, your approach is a ticking time bomb. If you’re doing the work well, you’ll get assigned more of it, and the day will come that you need to choose between being late or cutting corners.

      At some point, every good worker gets assigned more work than is feasible for the time frame. It’s important to recognize this ahead of time rather than afterward. A good employee lets their manager know when things don’t fit so they can adjust the plan together.

      It took me 10 years into my career to figure this out, and I wish I’d understood sooner.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I totally understand LW4’s trepidation. When I was doing accessibility remediation, I used to tell clients that to give them a really firm estimate, I’d need to spend about 1/2 to 3/4 of the time it takes to remediate just investigating the structure of the document, to give them an idea of why it was impractical to have a guaranteed level of effort. Even that specificity took me 3-4 years of experience. At first glance you can really only give a huge range, say 20 to 80 hours of effort. But after a couple of years of this estimation method, I knew some of the biggest complications to look for that could add the most hours, and I did quick checks for a few of those, and assumed the rest of the document was fairly consistent with the parts I checked, and I could say 65 hours because I saw some issues, but other things did not need fixing. It was often done in 30-40, but if I ran into issues I hadn’t expected, I learned to tell the client what I found, and that it would add X hours to what I had predicted.

      tl;dr version, consider whether you can ballpark what you think it will take, on the high side to assume you’ll run into a lot of unknown issues. Then if you do it in less you’ll look good, and if it takes longer you can point to specific issue(s) you found. After 10 years or so of that work my estimates were usually under by only about 10-15%.

    7. TooTiredToThink*

      LW4 – This may have already been commented but I want to reiterate it if so – your boss is not (likely) looking for absolutes. Say you sit down and start the TPS report at 9am and finish it at 12. And you had no stops or anything. Many would say it takes 3 hours to run the TPS report. I wouldn’t. He’s looking for a LOE (Level of Effort). If that report takes you 3 hours to run from the moment you start it to the moment you finish it; I still expect an LOE of at least 4 hours, if not 5 – because you probably spent time prepping to run the report and you still have to review. That also builds in time if the person receiving the report asks for questions and clarifications.

      On my team, when we are planning out our next week – if I know something will only take about 10-15 minutes for one of my team members to do, that still has an LOE of about 2 hours because the type of work includes a bunch of verification checks. We usually plan out for about 32 hours of LOE per person/per week with the understanding that there’s a few hours in there for work emergencies, meetings, or even personal emergencies where someone might need to call out.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah I would add that since it sounds like regular check-ins with the boss are a thing, it’s okay if you have to modify the time estimate as you go. I got the sense maybe OP is thinking “what if I tell them it takes 2 weeks and it ends up taking 4?!” but I think that if they realize after a week (or a couple of days or whatever) that it will take longer, they can just give that modified estimate to the boss, “hey I ran into a snag, Bob didn’t get me his data on time, there was a weather delay, etc so the Watkins report will actually probably be later than I originally thought.” It seems like the boss mostly just wants an idea of what’s on OP’s plate.

      2. My Useless 2 Cents*

        I’m kind of doing this at the moment with my own “new” job. I’ve done the job previously and know when I get up and running I’m really fast and can whip thru the work, however, I don’t want to get caught doing all the extra work (which is what happened before). So, I’m trying really hard to think “if I were my manager, this task should take how long?”, not how long it would take *me* to do. A new task would take me 20-30 min, I estimate an hour. Something comes in Tues, I think I can get it out by the end of the week, but I assign a due date of a week from Thursday. I will admit that I would have a difficult time explaining if my manager came to me to nitpick my thought process in assigning due dates, but they are not unreasonable due dates/turnaround times and account for interruptions, higher priority tasks coming in, etc. (which is an excuse that covers a lot of sins)

        1. Lisa*

          “I will admit that I would have a difficult time explaining if my manager came to me to nitpick my thought process in assigning due dates, but they are not unreasonable due dates/turnaround times and account for interruptions, higher priority tasks coming in, etc. (which is an excuse that covers a lot of sins)”

          The phrase we use is “risk buffer”, you’re allotting time to handle unexpected things that come up either with the work itself or with other disruptions. It increases or decreases situationally (more if the task is complex or something else is likely to pop up, less for a simple task). Also when planning assume in a given 8 hour workday 6 hours of actual productive work time.

    8. Lalitah*

      I was just about to suggest that same. Just keep a spreadsheet of 15 minute intervals and jot down what you’re working on every 15 minutes like lawyers do and you will have data on which to give estimates on. This is also a useful habit for when you go into consulting firms where billable hours are the norm, so it does have some potential future utility.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        A tool like Toggl can also ease the burden time tracking. Either way, I strongly agree that keeping data about current tasks is a great starting point. (And even with tools I’m AWFUL at it, and have ADHD time-blindness so I can relate to the LW.)

    9. Well wisher*

      I came here to say the same. I work in a timesheet based career and I have to estimate my time. It’s definitely hard, and can be burdensome, but I try to use a cheap cube timer from Amazon (each side has a different length of time) or, on the newest Windows platform, there is a timer setting that I’ve been using. I also sometimes do the old fashioned glance at the clock. All depends on the day. Good luck!

    10. Other*

      Agreed with everything above. I also read a study once that people are too optimistic about time estimates. If I’m remembering correctly, estimates for how long people thought a task would take normally and how long they thought a task would take in a best case scenario were virtually indistinguishable. When people were asked to estimate how long a task would take with the worst case scenario (think frequent interruptions, the printer isn’t working, new projects got added, you have to wait for others to get back to you before you continue and they’re out of the office, not like, there’s a natural disaster kind of thing), they got much closer to reality. So, if you can’t look at past projects (and the data others are suggesting gathering here) to provide an estimate, I suggest estimating the worst case scenario and then being pleasantly surprised when you occasionally get things done early.

    11. not applicable*

      This whole thread is incredibly validating! Being a new team lead in scaled Agile with a team very much against estimation, it’s nice to see concrete examples from people who tried it against their better judgement and found it to still be helpful. It also gives me another perspective, which is there is no real “right” way, and that maybe general estimates are fine. Thanks for the commentary!

      1. Grey Coder*

        I mentioned this below, but I highly recommend Steve McConnell’s Software Estimation book. It covers different types of estimates for different purposes, how to talk about estimates with people outside the team, how estimates should not be targets or commitments, as well as concrete techniques for improving your estimates for software projects. You can read some of his essays online. Look for “Cone of Uncertainty” for an example.

    12. llamasandteapots*

      If this is a route you’re interested in taking, I highly recommend the program Toggl Tracking. The free version is all you need, and it’s great for managing multiple projects because you can set up tags to indicate what you’re spending your time, and you can track the time using a virtual stop watch. You can also edit the times in case you left it running during lunch. It then has a report function where you can see how much time you spent on that tag over whatever amount of time you want to look at. If you have projects that are similar in intensity/length/etc, you can track for a few weeks/months and get averages without all the math.

    13. Selina Luna*

      The only thing is that you need to re-record your time spent every once in a while, especially if you’ve gone through some major changes in your private life.

    14. LW 4 (aka OP 4)*

      Thank you all for the comments and suggestions! They are all very helpful.

      I put this down below, but I wanted to add it here in hopes that more eyes might see it.

      As silly as it may sound, I’ve been trying to figure out why I don’t like tracking my time this way. I am very good at estimating how much work I can take on, but very bad at translating that into hours. Maybe it’s because I find that hours of work is not the only measure I use for myself in figuring out how much I can take on. It’s also about cognitive complexity and other intangible factors. Sorting files for 1 hour is a much different task than complicated analysis for 1 hour.

      Does anyone build in “mental recovery time” in their estimates?

    15. Jess*

      Yes, this!

      Either a “break down my time half-hourly for a few weeks to see where it’s going” or a “keep a bullet-point list of what I get up to each day” could be useful.

      (I’ve done the former a few times as an interesting project – can be revealing. And I’m now in the habit of the latter and wished I’d done it YEARS ago: particularly if you’re in a role which doesn’t always have obvious metrics for measuring your work output, it’s invaluable when it’s things like performance review season and you want to refresh yourself on what you’ve been doing.)

      I was also going to recommend maybe coming up with a more generic way of classifying projects – instead of “how many hours is this and what do I have on?” could you figure out a metric for “if it is likely to involve THESE deliverables or probably take X< hours, it's a large project; Y<X hours is a medium project and <Y is small", then say okay, at any one time I'm comfortable with my capacity to have one large, two-three medium and four-five small on the go"?

    16. Tiger Snake*

      I am just like LW4, am required to do time recoding as part of the job, and still can’t estimate or extrapolate to anything useful. I Get It so much.

      And yet I’m still on their manager’s side.

      Because if a manager just goes “well LW4 did deliver on time so they have it under control”, they’re not actually being a good manager. They have to know how long each thing is taking you. Not just for them to work out what they can assign to you, what your load is and so that promises can made to the client. But even just to be a good manager to you in the first place.

      I’ve seen people who were actually super bad and massively underperforming at crucial parts of the job. But they were so good and so fast at tasks 2-3, that time they should have been on those tasks could be redirected to task 1. So the fact that they *desperately* needed more training for task 1 just didn’t get noticed. And of course, because they were meeting deadlines by juggling, they themselves thought that EVERYONE had to struggle and be utterly miserable trying to do task 1. No one was winning.

  2. Ladida*

    L1: I wouldn’t have logged on. I’m either on the list to be laid off or I’m not. If not, I’ll see the email when they send the not-layed off confirmation. If so, what are they going to do if I don’t log on for this cruel exercise? Fire me? Oh right.

    Wishing you the best of luck LW!

    1. Lab Boss*

      With a system this cruel I’d be afraid if I no-showed their power game they’d try to claim I was fired for insubordination or something, just to punish me by screwing up my future references/job history, honestly.

      1. Esme_Weatherwax*

        Hi, OP here. Yes, that’s exactly the fear. It’s already a game of musical chairs–people were chosen for elimination regardless of performance, skills, or essential roles. (Right now it appears that they just fired people by age, though we will have to see whether that pattern holds when the dust clears and we have a full list of people who were let go.)

        Because they were only letting us get a peek at who was next by seeing who got meeting invites for the next slot–and of course they wanted all the people eliminated not to tell anyone the news, and of course we did anyway–it seemed like any pushback would just raise you higher on the list of potential victims. Allison nailed it with “What a way to drive home that they’re not considering you in the process at all.”

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I bet pointing out that you need to be paid for waiting will move you higher on the list too.

        2. New laptop who dis*

          Firing by age is illegal… if that turns out to be what happened I’d suggest lawyering up before signing any severance agreements

        3. MotherofaPickle*

          I would love to tell you to fully embrace your name and just stare them down until they give you an answer either way, but sadly that doesn’t work unless you have a Really Good relationship with your boss.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      This was entirely horrible. But getting “fired” means being ineligible for unemployment. That probably wouldn’t hold up to an appeal, but that would be some annoying paperwork to clear it up.

      1. Resentful Oreos*

        It depends. I live in a very employee-friendly state where it’s the employer who has to prove that a firing was “for cause.” OP could just say “welp I got laid off/let go” and it would be up to the company to say “nope, akshully *fired,* here’s the cause.” It’s definitely YMMV as there are states who are employer-friendly, in which case it’s on the employee to prove they were “let go” or laid off.

        1. I Need Coffee*

          The states I have worked with pay unemployment for almost all reasons short of gross misconduct. You could have tons of documentation proving poor performance and even some policy violations and they will still approve unemployment.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          I can totally see this employer sending in documentation of “for cause”. Whether it’s actually acceptable is up for debate. Again, will likely end up on the employee side in most states, but might require some annoying paperwork.

    3. Tio*

      If they emailed about the waiting period, and I didn’t care if I’d be laid off, I would reply-all back and point out the federal law saying everyone had to be paid for the waiting time.

  3. WS*

    LW 3 – my coworker (who I don’t particularly like for other reasons) threw up suddenly at work. I’m the person who cleaned it up, it was a bit gross but I absolutely don’t blame her (and she is normally at BEC status with me). I hope that helps a little.

    1. linger*

      First step in successfully cleaning up a mess in an area is to remove potential sources of further mess from the area. Also when you’re nauseous, the smell of vomit tends to produce further vomit; thus making a nauseous person clean up vomit just risks (i) making them feel worse and also (ii) extending the task. Colleagues did exactly the right thing for all concerned.

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      The only thing that would make me mad would be if someone came in sick and I caught it. I’m pretty susceptible to “stomach flu” for some reason.

      1. Harper*

        I used to catch colds non-stop, and my doctor told me to wash or sanitize my hands before I put anything into my mouth – even a breath mint, gum, etc. – or touched my face. I started doing that religiously, and caught drastically fewer colds. I’m sure the same goes for stomach bugs, except traditional alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t kill them, so it has to be handwashing with soap and water, or a select few sanitizing products that will actually kill those types of bugs.

        This PSA brought to you by a lifetime emetephobe who will do just about anything to avoid catching a stomach bug.

        1. Panicked*

          Emetophobes unite! Do you also have emotional support zofran? It’s like the old American Express tagline- I never leave home without it.

          That being said, I wouldn’t hesitate to clean up after someone who got sick. They can’t help it! It’s a natural thing that just happens (except to me and all my other emetophobic friends). I will wash my hands a hundred timesand lysol every surface that person touched after I do it, but honestly, it wouldn’t stop me from doing it.

      2. WS*

        The coworker in question had a migraine (she got them sometimes but the vomiting was unexpected, especially as the pain was receding after taking her meds) so nothing infectious!

    3. yeep*

      LW 3, also hoping to help: when I was 16 I worked at a fast food chain, wasn’t feeling 100% but the manager wanted me to try and stay on for my shift. I got suddenly sick, tried to make it to the staff bathroom but ended up throwing up in the mop sink instead. My career survived!

      1. Two-Faced Big-Haired Food Critic*

        I was in my late 20s, first week on a job, I abruptly left my station to throw up in the women’s room. Not embarrassing, because I thought it meant I was pregnant! That’s what my co-worker who checked on me thought too, and I spent the rest of the day in a glow. Spoiler: It must have genuinely been something I ate. Not pregnant, then or ever. Don’t be sad, though: DH and I have come to terms with it. Plus, the co-worker and I became good friends, very possibly because of that ice breaker!

        1. Tradd*

          Letter 5 – fast food is fast food, but I do agree with Alison that the 16 yo absolutely needs to get in the habit of checking her phone more often if she’s in the process of interviewing.

    4. lilsheba*

      There is absolutely no reason to worry about being “professional” with an involuntary bodily reaction.

    5. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yeah, I threw up at my office job going to the bathroom once. My manager just got it cleaned up and said I could go home for the day if I wasn’t feeling well. You’re absolutely fine, LW3.

    6. JustaTech*

      LW3, I’ve thrown up at work more than once – one time was when I was pretty new and caught some kind of stomach bug. I managed to make it to a receptical, but I still left a bunch of people in the lurch on a big experiment. They never made a fuss.
      At another job I threw up in the biohazard bin (because of something we were doing) and the only response was concern from all my coworkers.

      It’s embarrassing, but it will be OK.

    7. Katherine*

      LW 3. — I threw up * in my boss’s office* once and it was terrible but she was mostly just concerned to make sure I was ok (and asked if I was pregnant so she could start planning for coverage).

  4. Msd*

    Any place I’ve worked estimates needed to be given during project initiation or for most activities. People weren’t allowed to say they couldn’t do it. It was for planning resource needs, budgets, support, etc. . However I will say that the estimates were often just pulled out of the air (or other places) but they still had to be made. I hated doing it but a manager just couldn’t say “I need x people to complete y” or “I need to hire additional people” without showing workload/resource requirements.

    1. linger*

      Yes. This doesn’t sound so bad a plan as long as the estimates are (i) for total task time, rather than an accounting of all work to be performed hour-by-hour, and (ii) able to be revised. OP should confirm both of these with their manager, but really, no reasonable manager should expect absolute accuracy in time estimates from someone new to the task.

    2. Bruce*

      My company has been working on this for a while, we have been fine tuning how we forecast our loading and our sequencing of projects. Perhaps LW4 can make a example list of projects with different scopes and the estimated effort for each one, then for new projects reference those examples. As time goes by they can see how well they’ve been predicting the effort and make adjustments. To actually run a business you need to have some way to plan loading. The downside to LW4 is that they may be held more accountable to these predictions…

    3. Raia*

      I am pretty inaccurate at judging how long my projects will take as well. If someone is really pressing me for these predictions I quadruple the time I think it’s going to take, just so I don’t have folks breathing down my neck. I think it’ll take 2 mins? Minimum of an hour blocked. 4 hr project? Half the week at least. Meetings always eat up some of this time too, and with extra time built in I don’t feel as pressured to work nights to make my silly little prediction come true.

    4. Kes*

      I will also say, as someone whose job involves doing a bunch of estimates, I used to hate estimating things but it really is a skill that you can learn and will likely get better at with experience.
      And in this kind of scenario, your boss probably doesn’t need anything too specific, just a general sense of what you’re working on and how busy that’s keeping you. what is your top project? is it taking half your time, three quarters? just ballpark it and then if you find your estimates are off, factor that in when you do the next one so you adjust it over time (often this means building in more buffer than you first think)

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        It’s a skill, you can learn it, and you can get better at it with practice. But it’s also situational, can you say “2-3 weeks, probably” or are you being asked for “2-3 hours for step 1, 4-8 hours for step 2…” type estimates.

        I work in software which is notorious for changing requirements every time a customer has contact with the software team. So a key part of making usable estimates is revising them with updated requirements on a regular basis. Depending on the situation that can be as brutal as every time something changes you say to the person requiring the change “ok, let’s sit down and write up what needs to change so I can revise me time/cost estimate for you”.

        We also have the industry expectation “take whatever the programmer says and double it to get the minimum time required”, which is IME as much a consequence of the changing requirements as programmer inability to estimate accurately.

    5. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      The way my team currently does project plans (we’re all on large projects that last for a long time) is to figure out quarterly deliverables, and then break those up into what we need to do each week to hit our target. That way we have concrete, achievable tasks and can figure out early on if the targets are at risk – if there were upstream delays, or you got pulled into some last-minute one-off stuff, or someone was out sick for a few days, you can flag that. It may be easier if you think in terms of “How much can I get done in this time frame” rather than “How long will it take me to do this task”.

      1. LW 4 (aka OP 4)*

        I am sooooo much better at estimating how much I can get done in a set time frame vs. how long it will take me to get a task done.

        As silly as it may sound, I’ve been trying to figure out why I don’t like tracking my time this way. Maybe it’s because I find that amount of time is not the only measure I use for myself in figuring out how much I can take on. It’s also about cognitive complexity and other intangible factors. Sorting files for 1 hour is a much different task than complicated analysis for 1 hour.

        Does anyone build in “mental recovery time” in their estimates?

  5. Garblesnark*

    LW4, I feel sure that there is someone at your workplace who is reasonably good a figuring out how long a project like this will take for these estimates whom you can ask.

    I will tell you that my FIL, who does electrical estimating, always says to list our everything that you know will happen and how long that will take, then everything that might go wrong and how fixing it will take, then double the whole thing. With this quick trick, he’s usually right on the money.

    1. Mangled Metaphor*

      Sounds like your FIL employs Scotty timing instead of Geordi timing, something I had to learn the hard way.

      (I had to explain this to the senior Financial Controller regarding the prep work for this years audit. And then had to put my nerd away when they looked at me weird – the senior Accountant sat next to him was giggling her little socks off)

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        For those not in the know, this comment was inspired by the “double the whole thing” step. Scotty is a chief engineer on Star Trek known for inflating his time estimates. His stated reason is that it makes him look like a miracle worker when he gets the impossible done in a fraction of the time, but a viewer can conclude that Captain Kirk’s habit of demanding he pull a miracle out of his warp core in a fraction of his stated time estimate encourages the strategy.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          True story – my nickname at one job was Scotty. Because I would always say yeah I can get that to you in X amount of time but because I was now thinking about it got it to the person much sooner. Not great for my organization.

          For OP4 — your boss is not asking for exact day and times you will be working on everything that week, but just Project X, I will be doing the document organization for 4 hours, Project Y, I will be reviewing the edits and making the revisions for 6 hours, Project Z I will be screaming into the void for about 3 hours.

      2. Distracted Procrastinator*

        I’m a project manager and I joke about using the Montgomery Scott rule of estimating all the time. No one gets the joke. It makes me sad. I have also made Asimov robot jokes and Pratchett Death jokes at work which also fly right over coworkers’ heads. I need better coworkers.

        1. jane's nemesis*

          You really do, because all those references are perfect and people should get them LOL

        2. Broken Lawn Chair*

          Law school classmate and I had the same problem with classmates. We lived in second floor apartments where you had space under the stairs for storage or whatever. She called it her “Harry Potter closet” and I knew exactly what she meant, but our classmates didn’t get it. And this was in 2007, when I was a second career student well outside the HP target age range, but our classmates should have been exactly the right age at the right time. It was inexplicable.

        3. House On The Rock*

          We need more talented project managers in my group and I would 100% get those jokes – may our paths cross someday (and may we communicate small caps when appropriate).

        4. Texan In Exile*

          A coworker was carrying a huge potted plant to the other side of the office. I asked him if he was bringing me a shrubbery. He just gave me a blank stare.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Ha, this is how I estimate my hours as a freelancer. I put what I think is a safe bet for every step of the process – and then I double the total. I’m always right.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Early in my freelance career I discovered my estimates were so far off I had to triple it! With more experience, doubling works for me today. Estimating is unpleasant and difficult for many of us, but it can be an important skill.

    3. JustaTech*

      Any experiment I have that involves humans who are not my coworkers, I add on at least 1 run failure (so, 1-2 weeks depending on the study).
      I super, super appreciate all of my blood donors, but I also know that they are people and stuff happens and sometimes I just don’t get my samples and it’s up to me to build that time into my study plan.
      (Mostly this is for immediate local planning of sharing resources, but sometimes it is for upper management who don’t understand that I don’t have a time machine to make time pass faster so I can be done sooner.)

  6. Double A*

    For the time estimates, it doesn’t sound like they’re looking for super precise numbers, does it? Could you kind of ballpark it by percentage then multiple that by your hours? So like, Project A seems to be taking about 40-50% of your time, Project B is 10%, and Project C is 30-40%, so you have anywhere from 0-30% extra capacity depending on the week’s demand.

    You could even rank the projects first, from likely most to least time consuming, and then estimate a breakdown that way.

    It seems like you like a more flexible approach to your time but the ask for accounting for your time seems like it’s pretty flexible as well.

    1. Guerrilla Agile*

      I do something similar, relative estimates. Starting with the simplest historical project as a reference, how long did it take? I set this as a “1”. Then double time buckets from that baseline, x2, x4, x8 etc. A project that feels 2x as hard gets that estimate. I do not worry about fractions of a bucket, if it’s not a 1, then it’s a 2, if not a 2 then a 4 etc. I find that, as an experienced professional, my gut instinct about how “hard” something is, is well tuned. And if the boss doesn’t like the time it will take, we can have a discussion about what slows me down: missing resources, interruptions and figure out how to fix that rather than cutting the estimate. As things change, i can reset my baseline and the rest adjusts naturally. *This is adapted from a technique called Story Point Estimation as described in the book Joy Inc.

  7. CraigT*

    OP:4 I once had a similar situation where upper management was making similar requests for time consuming reports that accomplished nothing. I replied to each and every person whose email address I had access to, that it would take X days to complete my project, or X+7 days to do my actual job and compile the nonsensical reports. I also asked if I should continue to make money for the company or waste time and money doing needless paperwork. The requests for time wasting paperwork stopped, but I made enemies who never forgot.

    1. Your Former Password Resetter*

      Yeah, I would reccommend a more diplomatic phrasing for OP4. Giving the time cost is a good idea if it turns out to be cumbersome and not very useful though.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Since OP is brand new at their job, and its their direct boss asking, I agree. It would be getting things off on the wrong foot to not give this a try, since the request isn’t that unreasonable on the face. OP might ask how long the boss would expect providing the estimates to take so they can calibrate their level of effort. It sounds like it’s taking them a lot right now, maybe more than what’s required.

    2. loggerhead*

      This is such a conflictual way to handle things. We do time tracking at work and just switched to a new system that doesn’t feel like a great fit. Our strategy is to follow instructions and let the data demonstrate the places where the system doesn’t work, and to ask questions every time we encounter a question about how to log something. We can still learn something about how we use our time this way; one way is by logging the time spent doing administrative tasks. It will also show management we made a good-faith effort and here are the incontrovertible problems. The data said so.

    3. Cat Tree*

      This seems weirdly adversarial. If I was one of those people getting people a random email from you, I wouldn’t be sympathetic, just confused and slightly annoyed to get caught up in your drama. I hope you at least used bcc to avoid a ridiculous reply-all situation.

      If I was a client getting this random email from you, I would really question your judgment, as time estimates are pretty standard and I would expect the company to already use them to know hour much to charge me.

    4. Beth*

      Man, I wish I could have taken that approach when my former bosses pulled the time tracking crap on us some years ago. In our situation, it was easy to understand why they did it: they didn’t have enough work to do themselves, they were terrible at management, they had no idea what we did and suspected us of slacking, and they had read some crappy Advice for Bosses that recommended Make Your Lackies Track Their Work as a great management tool.

      I didn’t burn down the bridge I was still using; I made up something and submitted it, and they got bored and wandered off to another stupid plan. I left not long afterwards and never looked back.

    5. Garblesnark*

      I do understand this for time consuming reports that accomplish nothing, but LW said they’re being asked for time consuming reports that accomplish the business knowing how much work they can reasonably take on and how to distribute it so it all gets done. I think that this is something different from nothing, and, perhaps depending somewhat on the type of job the LW does, might really benefit them to learn how to do.

    6. AnonInCanada*

      Sounds like a pretty blunt way to make a point. I get it you believe the paperwork is tedious and time consuming, but emailing everyone remotely associated with the project:

      I also asked if I should continue to make money for the company or waste time and money doing needless paperwork

      seems like a sure-fire way to burn bridges and lose respect of your bosses. It may seem pointless to you, but they’re obviously asking for these reports for a reason. Trust me, I have to fill out a bunch of reports I find tedious and pointless as well, but they wouldn’t be asking me to make them for shiggles.

      You should’ve just left it at “it’ll take me x days to do the project without the reports, and x+y days to do this project with them.” Period. Then let them decide whether those reports are worth your time and their money. It’s not like you’re not getting paid to do them. Or are you?

  8. Thepuppiesareok*

    OP5 it sounds like either her phone wasn’t by her or was muted so she didn’t hear any notifications. When she’s expecting something important she should keep the phone close so she can easily check it. She should also make sure do not disturb/airplane mode is off. She should also ensure her notifications sounds are loud enough for her to hear.

    If she gets this job or something similar I’m betting most communication will be through text. So for things like schedule changes, especially if she’s being asked to cover or swap with someone, she needs to make sure she’s checking her phone often enough for any messages. While normally going 5 1/2 hours without using your phone is good unplugging it’s not when your primary communication with work/potential employer is through text.

    1. TeapotNinja*

      But she wasn’t expecting anything important. She had an interview scheduled at a fixed time with no indication in advance that the interviewer needed to contact her about it beforehand.

        1. katydid*

          it was but she wasn’t *expecting* it, is the point. The meeting was scheduled for 6, presumably no one told her “or we might ask you to come in earlier if we have time that day” or anything like that.

          1. Cabbagepants*

            based on Alison’s response, for interviews in food service, she should expect it. I get that she didn’t know it at the time, so this is not to blame her, but now she knows and should adjust her future behavior accordingly.

            1. Happy*

              No, it is not the norm in food service to ask people at the last minute to come in early for an interview.

          2. Blue*

            The point is that unexpected things happen, and that’s why you should check your phone every so often, especially when something important is coming up. She didn’t do anything wrong, just didn’t have the life experience to anticipate this, which is understandable. Nobody’s blaming her or saying they can’t believe she would do such a dumb thing, just saying that this is a good lesson to learn and explaining why it’s important.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          In general when you already have an appointment, it’s almost always unnecessary to hang by your phone on the off-chance they reschedule it. Same day. For earlier. That’s just…not a normal thing to have happen.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        But something last minute could have come up, the interviewer had an emergency and needed to reschedule, the store lost water and needed to close, something. Like Alison said last minute things come up for interviews all the time. Not just in fast food either. They could change the location of the interview which would change your timing to get there, it could be cancelled after you already left, anything.

        1. Dahlia*

          If the store needed to close early, it wouldn’t matter if she found out at 3:30 or 6 o’clock. Or if the interviewer needed to reschedule, etc.

          She wasn’t available earlier. If she was in school or another job, she might not even be able to have her phone on her. Sometimes people just aren’t able to check their phones.

      2. Artemesia*

        when you are in the job search process ANY call or text can be important; you have to answer your phone and you have to have notification alerts ‘on’. Lesson learned.

        1. JustaTech*

          Ugh, I’m super not excited about this during election season -90% of the calls I get now are some kind of spam, and the volume just goes up around elections.
          I also learned that if you answer one of those true spam calls then they’ll call you again like 20 times in a day.

      3. Gumby*

        Agreed. If I make an appointment or even plans with a friend to do [activity] at [time] and [place] then I will show up at the designated place and time. I have one former roommate in particular who, when I showed up at her new apartment at the designated time was *surprised* since I hadn’t texted before I left my place. It’s like no plan is set in stone until it’s verified half an hour beforehand. AAAAggggghhhhh. I said I’d be here at 10 a.m. It’s 10 a.m. I am here. That is how these things work!

    2. LadyAmalthea*

      But she wasn’t expecting it – she had been given a scheduled time and it would be entirely reasonable for her to have been engaged in another activity that prevented her from checking her phone several hours before she was scheduled.

    3. Anima*

      Nah, I’m with the daughter and the advice here. Shift schedules should be made public beforehand, and if something chances and daughter is not reachable – tough luck for the employer. Except if daughter wants to pick up more shifts, then it’s reasonable to keep the phone nearby.
      We as a society should get away from this “always available” mindset. Employers have power over my time when I work, when I don’t work they don’t.

      1. Jo-Maroon*

        I agree 100 percent! In NO way is it the job of this (unpaid) teenager to compensate for a manager’s disorganized behavior. Could she have stopped the hiring manager from backing out of their commitment? Maybe, maybe not, but let’s not make it the job of unpaid high schoolers to “manage up” the indecisive scheduling of a paid supervisor. The Ask A Manager columns have always made one thing clear, which is that even the greatest employee can’t control the behavior of her coworkers. Also, we’ve heard from so many highly experienced employees who don’t receive their desired job, merely because of issues at the company beyond their control. Job searches are weird and mercurial, and even the greatest employees have only slight control over the outcome.

      2. Seashell*

        The daughter was interviewing for a job, not actually working there already. She might not have been available for the requested new interview time, but it’s not crazy for the interviewer to think a 16 year old is likely to check their texts once every few hours during normal waking hours.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          True, but I’m assuming that this was sent in during the school year (this is based on the fact that the ScruffKids are currently wrapping up their school year). 1:30 would be during school hours; and their school can’t be the only one where phones are not permitted during school hours. Some teachers definitely enforce it, some don’t.

          1. Bast*

            This is our last week of school as well; I think it’s reasonable for a place that hires teenagers to expect that teenagers may be involved in typical teenager activities, such as school, sports, clubs, etc. While plenty of kids flout the rules and use phones during school anyway, I know that depending on how strict the teacher wants to be, the phone can end up in the principal’s office for a parent to pick up if there are too many warnings.

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*


              The ScruffKids each play sports where the coaches have those shoe organizers and phones go in “your” slot during practice, because your job is to be practicing, not fooling on your phone.

          2. Justme, The OG*

            My high schooler has been out of school for three weeks already. School schedules vary widely.

          3. Reader*

            The letter says she was relaxing with a book so it does not sound like she was in school that day. “On the day of the interview, she got her resume and list of references printed and double-checked the messages from the interviewer around noon before relaxing with a book.”

            1. Dahlia*

              They aren’t saying she WAS in school. They’re saying she COULD have been in school, or another activity where she couldn’t check her phone.

      3. triss merigold*

        Yeah. There’s a weird thing with cell phone culture I’ve experienced socially as well. I’ve had people assume that our scheduled engagement was canceled because I didn’t text them the day of about it even though we had confirmed place and time before that. I just don’t want to live my life like that, job wise or friend wise.

        And while things may have come up on the employer’s end, we don’t know, I think it’s good to not stress out a 16-year-old like that if you can possibly help it.

        1. Bast*

          With professional engagements, I expect people to be well, professional, and uphold their end of the bargain regarding times/dates/meeting place, etc. Things happen, and I get it. Interviewers get sick, have emergencies, someone starts a fire in the microwave and the building is shut down, whatever, but in general, I expect that they will be more reliable.

          Personal engagements are different. I don’t want to assume that someone is going to cancel if they won’t respond to my text, but if someone has a history of being flaky and they won’t respond, I may not chance it, especially if it is an event I have to spend money and/or drive a distance for. If someone generally shows up when/where they say they will, I give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason to otherwise, but it does make me nervous. I’ve had way too many instances of people “forgetting” or “something else came up” (not emergencies) and then just leave me hanging.

          1. Peach Parfaits Pls*

            Yeah if it hasn’t been mentioned for at least a few days, it’s definitely normal to send a “see you tonight!” text to confirm that nothing’s gotten confused. Not responding or at least hearting the message definitely makes people worried (or is just rude; it takes less that a second to heart a message).

      4. ZK*

        Retail and food service seem to both have the 24/7 availability mindset. Back in my retail days, I was lucky enough to have a set schedule, M-F, 9-5, which is almost unheard of, but I worked primarily with business customers. It drove one of my managers crazy that I would leave at 5, go home, drop my phone in the bedroom and forget about it until the next morning (it was still on silent from work). But I didn’t get paid enough to be answering calls constantly. “I can’t find X file or Y item, where is it?” Item is right behind you, open your freaking eyes. File is named X file, search for the name or sort alphabetically!

        The annoying thing was, that same manager would get so mad if anyone called him after work or on his days off!

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      I’m with you on the first paragraph, but not the second. I agree with the other replies that most of us are not available to our workplaces 24/7, and we shouldn’t feel the need to check our phones when we’re outside work hours.

      I also think that, on the day of an interview, it’s a good idea to check your phone for messages to see if anything has changed. For a 6:00 pm interview, that’s a whole day of stuff that can come up and knock things all cattywumpus, scheduling-wise.

      1. MassMatt*

        It was jerky for the manager to cancel because they assumed the applicant wouldn’t show up. But as someone hiring at an ice cream store, they probably have plenty of experience working with young people and have never encountered one that was NOT on their phone incessantly.

        1. Artemesia*

          true and it is not about ‘who is to blame’ — she lost an opportunity because she was. not available for notification. She isn’t ‘to blame’ but so what? She lost out. You have to be more proactive and certainly be reachable while you are searching for work.

          1. Jo-Maroon*

            You’re right that she won’t have the chance to work at this store, but this entire sequence of events took place over a few hours, and I certainly wouldn’t want to work for an employer who would disapprove of anyone who was unreachable for a few hours. I’m not sure how much this young woman needs to earn an income, but I hope she’s able to assess employers as closely as they’re assessing her. I’d be wary of working for a business who changed my interview time at short notice, and as long as she doesn’t need income right away, I don’t think she missed out on a great and irreplaceable experience.

    5. Future*

      I agree that if you are EXPECTING something then yes, pay attention to your phone. But LW’s daughter had a scheduled interview and wasn’t expecting anything. And I disagree that she should change her (healthy) phone habits once she gets a job. Sure, a few times a day, yes, but there should be no obligation to be constantly available for cover or late schedule changes, and if the food service or retail job is expecting that of her, it’s very easy to find another job. Especially if she’s a teen living at home who isn’t responsible for rent or putting food on the table.

      It’s a very, very good boundary to start her working life with and I don’t think she should be encouraged to change it.

      1. Nodramalama*

        I agree with the sentiment in general, but I do think that generally for an interview scheduled for quite late in the day, I’d probably be checking my phone every now and then. I feel like it’s not super uncommon for things to take over during the day and theres a possibility it would change. But really that’s only from experience working I know that. I wouldn’t expect a 16 year old to be obsessing checking if their interview time got changed.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think this is the point on the scales–6 pm is late enough that a whole bunch of stuff could arise and knock it askew, so you should check whatever comms you’re using that afternoon. But that can be something that you learned by experience working and having to reschedule when gremlins arose.

      2. kalli*

        The thing is, it’s not about being constantly available, it’s about being contactable. They could have received the message at 1:30pm, said ‘no, I can only make it at 6pm’ and gone back to their book for four hours and the interviewer likely would not have cared a whit.

        I cannot count the number of times I’ve had a phone call from my dad’s work at 6pm asking if he can start night shift at 8pm because someone on afternoon shift didn’t come in or had to go home sick. Nobody cared if he said no because he still needed a nap before he went in or he was in the middle of dinner or had taken my brother to sports and wouldn’t be home in time to change and go to work, and they didn’t need to know any of that, just that he could come in at 10pm or he couldn’t come in early tonight or would 7:30pm be better so the day shift guy could get home before dark – basically, whether to keep going down the list or call a floater.

      3. Nancy*

        If I have something scheduled, whether it is work interview or dinner with friends, I always expect there is a chance something may happen that day so have my phone nearby in case there is a cancellation or time change.

    6. Nodramalama*

      Ehhhh I agree that with more experience, a lot of job applicants would generally know to look at their phone or email throughout the day in case there’s a change to their interview time. But I think saying its expected both of applicants, and especially current employees is a bit much

      1. so anonymous*

        Is there some consultant out there who’s giving colleges terrible advice on “restructuring”? Last month the university I work at announced they’re laying off a (specific) large number of employees on a “rolling basis” between then and the end of June. It’s been confirmed that they’ve known from the start who the laid-off people will be, they’re just doing it in batches for….reasons. Possibly because we already don’t have enough people in HR to process the layoffs.

      2. Bast*

        I thought this too, and then re-thought it. If you are interviewing someone who is currently employed, particularly if you are emailing/texting them on a day that they work, it may take awhile to get a response, particularly depending on the day. On a slow day, I can check my personal emails/texts more times than on a busy day, but I currently work an office job. There have been days I can reply in 15 minutes, and others where I am so swamped that outside of my lunch, I do not have time to respond. As it is, there are still certain times I am unavailable for large chunks of time, like hearings and depositions. On the other hand, I worked retail phones were not allowed on the floor, so the ONLY time I had to check my phone was during my break. If you happened to reach out to me after my break was over, the phone was stuffed in a locker and you wouldn’t hear back until I had left for the day.

    7. KateM*

      Eh, I don’t know, what do you call “using my phone”? Because most of the day, my phone is right next to me and switched on, so I would hear if any call or text would come in. I spend very minimal time actively using it, though.

    8. Yellow rainbow*

      This attitude is why some European countries are enshrining the right to disconnect in legislation.

      It’s actually perfectly fine to do something other than wait for work when you aren’t on call (and being paid to be) or actually working.

      Now, if you are casual and last minute shifts come through by text/phone and you aren’t waiting for them – then you miss out on those shifts. But this kid didn’t even have the job, there’s no reason to expect calls from work when you are not employed.

      I often miss things that come through in the evening. I’m happy to limit my career by having a life outside of work. I’ll reconnect during work hours, or ten minutes before a scheduled out of hours meeting.

      The company could simply advise that they’ll confirm the interview time the day of and please monitor your phone for text.

      1. MountainAir*

        Totally agree with this. And also, honestly: I have a hard time not reading this through a parenting lens, where having a 16 year old who 1) disconnects from their phone for hours 2) to read a book is a huge win. I think Alison’s advice is great, I’d probably also just lay in a layer of reinforcing that what they’re doing/how they’re spending their time is great and the expectation to look at their phone constantly isn’t reasonable and shouldn’t be the norm. In the scheme of things, this is a data point and one experience, and something the daughter could consider for future interviews (e.g. as Alison suggested, maybe glance at your phone a couple of hours before a scheduled interview time to make sure nothing has changed). But it’s also one of those experiences that isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things but could *feel* like a big deal since this is LW’s daughter’s first job search, so being extra careful that she’s taking away the right messages seems important.

        Another constructive angle could be incorporating a question about availability expectations into future interviews.

    9. BlueberryPieElf*

      The daughter is 16, however. There’s a good chance she’s not allowed to check her phone during school hours (at least not where I teach). Any place hiring high schoolers should be aware that they’re often unable to respond immediately.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          But the interviewer didn’t know that’s what she was doing. She could have been at school (high school in my area dismisses at 4), at practice, at her current job…

    10. bamcheeks*

      She is 16! She is presumably in school and cannot sit next to her phone with the DND turned off. This is a completely unreasonable expectation.

      1. Jasmine*

        It’s a PHONE! If she didn’t see and answer the text messages why didn’t the interviewer, phone her!?

      2. Namename*

        The letter said she was relaxing with a book. Not in school. She should have checked the phone every couple hours. But i assume the daughter has now learned this lesson.

        1. Boof*

          I disagree; I think it’s totally reasonable to check at noon for a 6pm interview, then check again at half an hour before. If the employer is so flaky that they need someone glued to their phone then maybe this isn’t the right job for her, if it’s not a job she absolutely needs no matter what anyway.

          1. Prof*

            she DID check a half hour before, and the interviewer had flaked because they didn’t hear back fast enough. Not reasonable.

            1. Boof*

              yep; not sure if you’re disagreeing or agreeing but that is what I said :) she checked 6 hrs before then half an hour before! Expecting to be on call more than that is wild, but it depends on how the interviewer handled it ie if they apologized because they had so many people flaked and something came up for them last minute then they can try again I suppose, vs if the interviewer acted so put out that they weren’t a slave to their phone, run if that’s going to be your manager!

            2. Silver Robin*

              Yeah, I am with you on this. Confirm day of, check closer to with enough time to adjust in case there is a venue change or something (zoom vs in person, different part of the building, whatever) or to see if it needs rescheduling for later. It is not usual for a interview to be moved *earlier* in time, and it is absurd that the manager decided that LW’s kid was not going to show up to the time she actually confirmed just because she did not respond to moving the interview slot up.

              Daughter not only did nothing wrong, she did everything right and the manager made unnecessary assumptions.

        2. Helewise*

          We’ve been working really, really hard at keeping our kids OFF their phones for periods of time – things have really changed since COVID and kids are struggling to disconnect much more than they were before. This idea that she “should have” checked her phone every few hours is just nonsense.

          1. Future*

            I agree. As someone who is on her phone far too much, I’m delighted to hear that a teenager was not on her phone for a block of a good few hours.

        3. Tippy*

          Exactly. Sure the LW didn’t say “she’s not in school” but it’s not that big of a leap if she’s already relaxing with a book at noon. And FWIW a lot of the schools where I’m at have been out at least a week or more.

        4. Productivity Pigeon*

          But the employer had no way of knowing that.

          It makes much more sense to assume a 16-year old WOULDN’T have access to their phone in the daytime.

          1. KateM*

            If the school was out then employer could have known it. Also it could have come up in phone screen – is she available during what would normally be school hours or not?

        5. Prof*

          The only lesson is that this workplace has unreasonable expectations.

          Also, when I’m off work, I’m muting notifications from work unless I’m being paid to be on call. no pay = no work, including availability by phone

          1. I Have RBF*


            I use my phone for 2FA, but other than that I don’t monitor it for work stuff when I’m not working, and when I am working I use the applications (email, chat) on my work computer.

            Even for on-call stuff, they have to call me after hours – because I have my text on DND mode. I sleep with the phone near me, but I don’t take calls from people who aren’t in my contacts during sleep hours. I’ve had too many spammers wake me up at 06:00 to allow it any more.

    11. L-squared*

      I agree with that. Even in “professional” jobs, I feel like its not uncommon for a few hours before to get a message asking for the meeting to be pushed up or back. It happened to me this week.

      Now I don’t think they should’ve cancelled because they didn’t hear back. But I also don’t think its the most uncommon thing, and is a good learning experience.

      1. Parakeet*

        Do you normally get those notifications by text message in the professional jobs you’ve had? I get them by email (to my work email address) or Slack (the work Slack). Most of my colleagues don’t have my cell number (because why would they?).

        In the kid’s situation, I might well have done what she did. And I’m more than twice her age. The only person who has ever texted me about a job interview, for any job, was a guy for whom the “interview” was a setup to sexually harass me.

    12. Boof*

      Honestly I’d say it depends how bad they want a job; I’m given to understand service industry can be notorious for last minute changes but if they’re already trying to last minute change her interview ( after she checked 6 hrs before if there were any changes, no less) then canceled when she didn’t reply one way or another, well, I almost think bullet dodged. Unless she wants a job that’s going to change her shift at the last minute, and probably to whenever she said she had a test or some other conflict to boot. (at least that’s what I gather can happen with a lot of the posts I read about retail)

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        well, I almost think bullet dodged.

        I did start with “Bullet dodged.”

        1. Boof*

          So confused, I thought I was replying to Thepuppiesareok* who seemed to be advising that LW’s daughter should be sure they’re watching their phone?

    13. LaurCha*

      The interviewer could have done the radical thing and actually made a phone call, though? If someone isn’t catching texts, they may still have their ringer on. It’s worth at least trying instead of acting like the only way to reach someone is by text.

      1. Peach Parfaits Pls*

        I don’t think most people under 30 (40?) keep their phone off silent at all. The vibration from a call wouldn’t be that much more noticeable than from a text, and the notification would show either way. She probably just had her phone in a different room.

    14. NotYourMom*

      Nah, this is the wrong take.

      The interview was scheduled, she had no reason to expect it to change. Out of hours requests from work are just that, requests that you are not obligated to respond to. Missing a call to pick up a shift isn’t somehow failing at her job. Managers, whether they like it or not, can’t just change your schedule last minute and expect it to be okay.

      This manager was throwing red flags, and quite frankly this is a blessing in disguise. But suggesting that the kid did something wrong but not being tied to her phone is bananapants.

      1. theletter*

        THIS – We should always honor our commitments, and that means honoring the confirmation of commitments. If someone says they’ll see you X time, proclaiming that they ghosted you b/c they didn’t re-re-re-re-reconfirm before X time is a personal insecurity issue, not flakey-ness on their part. The owner should have called if they couldn’t make the appointment, and owned that they were making a change after confirming the schedule.

    15. Peter the Bubblehead*

      Whose to say the teen isn’t involved in a family or extracurricular event during which they cannot constantly be checking their phone? Or something I have experienced personally; I receive text messages literally hours after they were sent (in a few cases the next day!) because the cell service near where I live can be spotty.
      For the manager to assume just because he did not get a response that the teen wasn’t going to show up for the scheduled interview is pretty outrageous. Not everyone’s lives – even a teen – revolves around checking their phone every thirty seconds!
      I hope this manager apologized profusely. I know I wouldn’t want to work for such a person!

  9. Myrin*

    #1, what on earth is their rationale for this approach? If they already knew month ago who they’ll be laying off today, why this whole circus?

    1. Prudence and Wakeen Snooter Theatre for the Performing Oats*

      It’s their compassionate way of making those who are laid off feel relieved that they no longer work for such a bananapants company?

    2. vito*

      we had that meeting at the end of April, the hotel I work for was closing 6/30 (changed to 7/8).

      The meeting was at the hotel on a tuesday (my day off) at 2pm.

      I didn’t go because I work 3rd shift and would be asleep at that time of day. I also figured if there was something interesting someone would tell me.

      I received a letter from the company telling me about the closing that evening.

      From what I heard, almost everyone in the meeting had already received the letter and management had absolutely no answers to any questions.

      the meeting would have been a waste of time for me.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Sometimes the cruelty is the point.

      What I’d suggest the LW do is send an anonymous email to legal/payroll about the lack of pay. Anonymous so their only way to pay the LW is to pay everyone what they owed.

      1. Fikly*

        Employer (or former employer) has done nothing to deserve this level of courtesy. Also, warning people that you are aware they have broken the law is a great way to give them the opportunity to try and cover their tracks. Skip right to reporting them to the appropriate state authority.

        Unlike most illegal actions taken against employees, this kind is extremely easy to prove, and easy to enforce. And you need to report it to the state as quickly as possible so that they money is there to pay the employees, plus fines, because layoffs are generally indicative of financial issues, and you want to get the money out before the golden parachutes for the execs that are of course still employed.

    4. Perihelion*

      This is the corporate equivalent of firing a gun at someone’s feet to force them to dance.

    5. Yellow rainbow*

      Where I am it’s often a requirement to make the pretence of hearing feedback.

      It’s both cruel and kind. Sometimes the heads up lets people start job hunting – but the uncertainty is a killer.

      Problem can be that your best people jump because they don’t know if they’ll have a job still, while your weakest might not be able to move on.

      1. Cabbagepants*


        Of course, you rarely get satisfying answers, just platitudes. But this way the bosses get to feel better.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yes, with a month of warning a lot of people will start job hunting and a certain percentage of the best performers (the people management was planning on keeping) will find better jobs and peace out, which can seriously mess with the plans for after the layoffs.

        (My mom’s last job did that, but they told everyone 6 months in advance that they were going to re-org, then provided no additional information, and were shocked! shocked! when the very best (and hardest to replace) people scarpered and they were left with no one to run their very niche departments.)

        1. Your Mate in Oz*

          The best part is that the ones who do find jobs will generally try to keep that very quiet until after the layoffs come through. The best case is you get the redundancy payment *and* start your new job the day after the layoffs.

    6. ecnaseener*

      I would think the rationale for not announcing earlier is so they don’t have a bunch of disgruntled soon-to-be-ex-employees around for a month, that’s pretty typical no?

      And then my guess is that the rationale for the small groups is along the lines of “you owe people a real conversation when you lay them off, not an email or an impersonal group announcement.” Which isn’t incorrect, but obviously needs to be weighed against other factors like not making people sit around in agony all day unpaid!

      1. Esme_Weatherwax*

        Possibly, except we’re a college and we don’t do work for pay for them in June and July except by special contract, so it could have been done earlier. (We get paid for 10 months and are expected to work for 10 months. No one is around.) And we’ve known for some time that lots of folks would get laid off this week, so they didn’t succeed in avoiding disgruntlement.

        As it turned out, the meetings weren’t conversations. They were just “your position has been eliminated as of today. The college has declared exigency. You’ll get a letter with all this information but you have to sign up for a time to turn in your keys.” It was a script and entirely one-way. But I do think you have a point that they might have *thought* that somehow this was respectful. They could, of course, have asked faculty representatives and found out what we actually thought about it. But they don’t like to do that.

        1. Bumblebee*

          As a fellow higher ed person, I’d say your college is on the verge of closing and layoff or not it’s time to job search! As I am sure you are already doing. Good luck!

      2. Sloanicota*

        You could still send everyone an email at the same time and include instructions for the ones who are laid off to join a small group meeting at a later time, I think. My only guess is that they laid off the kind of admin who would be able to do this correctly.

        1. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

          “My only guess is that they laid off the kind of admin who would be able to do this correctly”


    7. Colette*

      IME, they know that they will be laying people off, but the number of people and who specifically is affected changes multiple times until the day they actually tell people.

      I agree the way this employer did it was bad. There is no good way (if you give people notice, they are stressed about it, if you don’t, they make big financial decisions they wouldn’t make if they knew), but this was particularly bad.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Wow, that’s awful. How can they still be figuring it out throughout the day? They need to have their own meetings first and then tell everyone at the same time.

        1. Campbell Murphy*

          I know at my old organization it was literally a crapshoot. The decisions were made by people who had limited knowledge of people’s day to day because they didn’t invite supervisors to participate in the conversation. The supervisors of people who were laid off found out just like everyone else.

          It was gratifying to find out years later that the layoffs resulted in so much staff disillusionment that they basically had to restructure the whole organization.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          Same at my old organization

          They’d have a target list, but up to the day of, even that same morning, there was juggling, people putting this employee on the list, taking another employee off the list, financing rerunning the budget projections to see if the new roster hits whatever target they’re aiming for, repeat.

          Meanwhile someone in HR/payroll is madly pulling together severance packages, calculating accrued time, summarizing benefit information, prepping benefit termination action items, etc etc. And IT is updating their lists for access updates.

          And meanwhile the entire company knew layoffs were coming, everyone was on edge and very little actual work got done that entire week.

          1. Justin D*

            I work for a huge company that had to decide what cities and states we were going to keep a presence in. some were decided early on (big markets where we had recently made big investments plus the main headquarters city) but some of the smaller and/or older locations came down to the wire based on who we needed to keep. and then once that decision was made the layoffs started.

      2. Anon Again... Naturally*

        I suspect this is the case. The university I work for is also doing layoffs this summer- over 500 so that triggers WARN notification in my state. They had to file the notice two weeks ago, and the first 142 people were laid off on Monday, with the rest being laid off over the summer as they figure it out. To say people are on edge is an understatement. We’ve been perpetually short staffed in my department (IT) so I’m hoping we are safe, but my team manager just left for health reasons and won’t be replaced.

        1. JustaTech*

          I had a coworker who’d been laid off from his previous job because the company had two sites and was going to close one, only to realize that they’d hit the WARN act with that site, so at the last minute they closed the other site instead.

    8. Esme_Weatherwax*

      They haven’t provided any rationale other than consultant speak about “difficult financial circumstances.” I do think some of it is to get past the WARN act so they don’t have to pay severance. They have eliminated positions that people have been in for 30-40 years with nothing more than “you have a month to clean out your office.”

      If I had to guess, they are mostly thinking about their own wishes in the matter and have not considered how much this feels like the Hunger Games to those affected. The last communication we got, the one that told us about the plan for staring at our computers for six hours wondering whether an axe would fall, emphasized that the person in charge of this plan had a “heavy heart” about it. That person has often confused controlling messaging with leadership.

    9. Cat Tree*

      They probably do it to make the “survivors” feel grateful to have a job after stewing about it for a month.

      I once had a job that announced the whole plant was closing, and each person got an envelope with their expected end date, which ranged from 3 to 15 months. I had no envelope and panicked. The corporate HR person said that instead I would have a personal meeting…the next day. All night I thought I would get laid off immediately because I had been there less than two years, a relatively short time for that company. Instead they offered me a job at their new plant in a different state that would require relocation. I accepted it at first but eventually backed out before actually making the move. They got me to stick around at the dying plant a few months longer than I otherwise would have, though.

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

      I survived a layoff that was very similar to OP#1’s, but worse in most ways.

      The one way it was better was that we were paid for the day.

      We knew a layoff was coming but just a few days beforehand, our department head assured us our department wasn’t going to be impacted. Either that changed last minute or he was lying to our faces.

      This was long ago, before Teams was invented. Instead, one director came and found you individually to take you away, like an executioner. The meetings with HR and legal were solo and from what I heard, they presented you with a contract immediately to sign in order to get your whopping week of severance.

      Meanwhile, the rest of us just sat around all day waiting for our turn and speculating about who would be next. There was one pattern – it was a pay day and most of the people who got laid off didn’t get their direct deposits that morning. But it wasn’t 100% reliable in either direction.

      They didn’t give us any specified end time. Eventually they did finish (probably about 2:30) and called the rest of us into a meeting to tell us they were done and give us the rest of the day off. Instead of going home, we all met at a bar afterwards. I, for one, am not allowed at that bar any more.

      A big handful of people quit one month later. Apparently that was how long it took to find a new tech job at that time. I ended up staying two more years for no good reason.

      1. JustaTech*

        I’ve had a layoff like that, except that they didn’t make sure that HR and legal were done with one person before getting the next, so they ended up with a long line of crying people standing in front of the (incredibly nice) EA’s office for most of the day.

        When we realized they were done picking people the next question was “what bar is open at 1:30pm on a Friday?” (A Mexican restaurant up the street that no one ever visited again because it got unintentional bad vibes.)

    11. ThatGirl*

      I got laid off from a company in 2020; in 2021 they did another round of layoffs that was truly bizarre and torturous to me – on a Friday, everyone was told to work from home on Monday, and that layoffs were coming, and that everyone would get a call by the end of the day about whether their job was safe or not. Maybe 200 people. It took all day. Some people were still waiting at 8 p.m.

      1. Project Maniac-ger*

        Wow they saw the advice to not fire people on Fridays or Mondays and said “hold my beer – we can do BOTH”

  10. Raida*

    –Then at 4:30pm when she still hadn’t responded, the interviewer sent this message: “I did not get a reply from you, does that mean you can not come in early? —

    Geez mate, ring the phone. This is like me finding messages from a mate while I’m on shift that start with “hey how you doing?” and then degenerating into “well I guess you’re angry at me, I get it, fine.”
    No dude, you did NOT get a reply. You DON’T have any information on my status. I was BUSY and NOT on my PHONE.

    Your kid couldn’t do anything different. They know now that they need to be clear on how to communicate with them to their boss (if they end up working there) that they are not glued to their phone, it’s often on vibrate, and if they need a response a phone call is the best method.
    Something to learn with any boss, really.
    Welcome to minimum wage?

    1. TinySoprano*

      Yes! I also think it’s weird that they didn’t try calling her! I’ve worked hospo, and if something was urgent my boss would just call me.

      I think what’s colouring many of the replies is the knowledge that she was chilling with a book. Sure. She could’ve checked. But consider that a 16 year old could have all sorts of valid extra-curricular activities in an afternoon that wouldn’t let her check her phone. If she’d been playing sports, say, or at band practice, it would be unreasonable to expect her to see a message, and even more unreasonable to assume she was unreliable or lazy based on a non-reply.

      1. Nodramalama*

        I assume it’s because they couldn’t be bothered to call her? A boss of a current employee is probably going to try harder to get in touch with them rather than someone looking to hire a high school student.

        1. Andromeda*

          You can’t expect a 16 year old to be phone-watching to the point where you *cancel an interview* over not hearing back from them hours before a scheduled time, but not expecting the workplace (who hasn’t even hired this person) to bother trying a 5-minute phone call which could have saved all the time they spent texting.

          1. nodramalama*

            I don’t. The question was why did the owner not call her because that seems weird, and my answer is that its likely because he couldn’t be bothered.

    2. amoeba*

      I mean, to be fair, at least for me – and I assume for most people younger than me – that wouldn’t actually help. My phone is virtually always in silent mode, and if I don’t pick it up to check for messages, I won’t see a call, either.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Different data point: I frequently miss messages, even though my phone is right next to me and NOT on silent. I usually (but not always*) hear when I’m being called. I just need more than a short *ping* to get my attention, especially when I’m reading (hell, if I’m reading, people in the same room as me may have to say my name several times to get my attention).

        *sometimes I think I am slowly turning into my mother. She never hears her phone unless it is already in her hand.

    3. karriegrace*

      A 16 yr old being interviewed for an ice cream parlor job is likely to have a boss who is 19. Or 22. These kids literally NEVER use their phones to CALL anyone.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          ^My 18yo and 21yo same; phone calls are pretty frequent (as well as voice memos, the “I’ve texted you a short recording” option lol that Kid 2 has converted her entire friend group to!). For that matter my Extra Kid (20yo) also calls pretty often from what I have witnessed.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Let’s not make assumptions about facts that aren’t in the original letter. All we know is that the kid in question was 16.

        Also, let’s not stereotype people based on age.

        FWIW, the managers at my local ice cream/bagel/coffee shop all have grey hair.

    4. Distracted Procrastinator*

      This was a feature, not a bug. Maybe the manager didn’t change things at the last minute as a sneaky plan to test the daughter, but one of the things managers for minimum wage jobs are looking for is how “flexible” you are. They want people who will jump the second the manager needs something and will answer the text and be available if a schedule change is happening. The fact that she wasn’t available for six hours was the interview. The manager couldn’t count on her to jump when he said jump. Bam. Interview done. She didn’t get the job. You can fairly argue that it’s messed up, because it totally is. that’s how most of these jobs work, though. It sucks, but yes, immediate availability and responsiveness is what these managers want.

      1. Boof*

        Yeah, though I’m just going to say “bullet dodged” if the daughter doesn’t NEED the job. I don’t see how a job that expects you to jump anytime for min wage is likely to be much more valuable than, say, focusing on school, volunteering, etc. It’s just as likely to teach toxic norms than anything good IMHO.

  11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (asked for estimates) – this is a fairly normal request in most companies, even for a “high level” professional – so that the company / management can plan for incoming work, put timelines together, have a reasonable degree of confidence in projected timescales (yes, I know how estimates go, so “reasonable” isn’t anything close to exact), etc. When top management want to start the Exciting New Project they’ll need to know from all the involved teams when that might be possible, and maybe make a priority call (OP is working on Project A and has another couple of months to complete it, but we need to take advantage of this opportunity now for commercial reasons so we can bump Project A out). The purpose is for both ‘operational’ and longer range planning.

    I wonder if OP is struggling with this because they’re seeing it only from the perspective of their own workload, rather than holistically. As a manager myself I can see instantly (and often make these requests of people, or get asked by my own management for “rolled up” estimates) why the manager is asking for this.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Well and it sounds like OP is bristling because they want to have control of their own time. But I don’t see that the boss is micromanaging/trying to control their time through this activity, TBH.

    2. Poison I.V. drip*

      What got me was the phrase “in a very high level professional position.” How does one get to that point without being able to give basic estimates of their level of effort?

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I’ve no idea, as in my field it’s the seniors and leads who produce most of the estimates (as the more junior people don’t have the experience yet with how similar projects have gone, uncertainty factor, etc). Being able to estimate work accurately is a core skill of a senior.

    3. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      Yep, LOEs are used for things like demand management and capacity planning so the planners/strategists/finance/accounting/exec leadership folks can predict what things “cost” to do over time. Estimates don’t have to be accurate, but should be a reasonable ballpark that can get refined over time as the task repeats or similar tasks come up. The predictability about how much capacity the OP has after certain tasks are estimated and assigned helps managers understand how to prioritize and assign work. Not to mention, project/task estimates feed into the financials (what is capital expense vs operating expense) helps drive decisions about meeting capitalization targets and decisions about layoffs if operating expenses “go off the rails” above and beyond the threshold.

  12. Scott*

    OP5: this is a red flag in itself. This is a manager who considers their time more important than commitments to their staff. If this is them trying to sell themselves as an employer and a workplace, imagine how much shift-swapping and last-minute changes the team would be expected to put up with once they’ve been there a few weeks.

    When I was a retail manager I would find myself texting the teenagers we had on staff to ask for them to come in early if someone phoned in sick. The reason I would text is because I understood they might have classes at school/college/uni. If I didn’t get a reply? They must be busy. Failure by Head Office to allow me the wage resource to keep staffing high enough to deal with sickness, is not a reason why a 17 yr old should be glued to their phone on the off chance someone would like them to come in and sell shoes for a little longer.

    1. Nodramalama*

      Sorry I’m a bit confused. Isn’t your example basically the same? You text them and if they don’t answer you assume they’re not available. What if they were and wanted the extra money?

      1. TechWorker*

        …no? Because they’re not being fired for not being available?

        Clearly if you are desperate for extra shifts and the way of being contacted is ‘via your phone’ then you do need to keep checking your phone, your boss is not a magician…

      2. Despachito*

        No, it isn’t.

        If Scott texted and did not get a reply they assumed that the teenagers are at school/busy elsewhere, AND DID NOT HOLD IT AGAINST THEM.

        If they were available and wanted the extra money, but did not answer the phone, then tough luck, they did not get the shift, but that was the only consequence.

        While the OP’s daughter’s boss assumed that no reply means that she is a slacker and was doing something horribly wrong.

      3. Lola*

        No, you text them asking for a change and if they don’t answer you assume business as usual. In the letter BAU meant keeping the interview scheduled, in this example it means not changing this person’s schedule last minute.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep, 1000% this.

      The reason some of these industries like this have these issues is neatly explained by your last sentence. If you want your workers to be better, you need to pay them better. You need people to cover other people’s shifts? Pay them a shift premium for those shifts they cover.

  13. Hubba Bubba*

    For letter 5, I’m not sure I understand this line from Alison’s answer: “It’s really just a red flag that she’s applying for a job in food service, which she already knows.” Is this saying people shouldn’t apply for food service jobs? I assume not, but can’t parse what this means.

    1. djx*

      The point is food service is kinda messed up in a lot of places, so don’t be surprised by nonsense especially around scheduling.

    2. Peach Parfaits Pls*

      She’s responding to the OP asking if it’s a red flag of dysfunction. So she’s saying, well yeah, but that’s because it’s food service. The dysfunction is baked in.

    3. Wakeen, Get Off the Toilet.*

      I think it means food service is full of red flags.

      I currently work in food service and can confirm. It’s absolutely awful and I don’t think people should apply for food service jobs unless they absolutely have no other options. Restaurants get away with all kinds of awful policies, low pay, no benefits, no breaks, and even outright illegal things and the customer base is majority awful entitled people. Run away if you have any other options.

  14. Despachito*

    OP2 – Oh, Lucinda, I am glad you liked my cupcakes! However, I am not a professional baker and these are pretty time consuming, they were meant as my personal gift to Tangerina. So sorry I can’t do this but I suggest either XX bakery, or (if you are willing to) I can give you the recipe.

  15. Luva*

    I love the framing “It’s not unprofessional to have a human body that sometimes get sick.” We are not robots.

          1. Myrin*

            Ah, I bet you’re right. I’m usually quick to discern that but my brain is tired and slow right at this moment. Nevermind, then.

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

      Two days, two reminders from Alison that workers are human beings.

  16. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 This college has a complete lack of respect and empathy for their employees.
    That day needs to be paid for everyone, but noone should be required to sit at their computer for hours, waiting for the EMail of Doom.
    Instead, the college should have stated that the final decision will be made and communicated at xx time, at which each employee will receive either an invitation to a layoff meeting, or confirmation that they won’t be laid off (yet)

  17. Grey Coder*

    LW4, it looks like there are two things going on. One is that you aren’t convinced of the value of these estimates to your manager. But your time is a resource for the business, and they have a legitimate interest in understanding the expected return on that resource!

    Secondly, it sounds like you are uncomfortable producing estimates because that’s a new idea to you. That’s fine! Estimation is a real art/skill, and it takes time to learn. I highly recommend Steve McConnell’s book Software Estimation, even if you aren’t in software. (You can find essays from him on the web as a taster.) This book has techniques for talking about estimates, building in uncertainty (pro tip: never give a single number estimate, always give a range to account for the level of uncertainty), and building up an estimation playbook based on past data.

    Note that estimates are not a schedule — if you say “this will take 4-6 weeks”, that should not mean it will be done in 6 weeks. (Some dysfunctional jobs do get this wrong.) The schedule will depend on whether there is competing work, interruptions, etc.

    Try to have an honest conversation with your manager, saying that you’re not used to this so you need time to learn, and also taking the opportunity to really dig in to what they need to know from your estimate and how they will use it.

    1. Myrin*

      This is an excellent analysis and very helpful for people like me, who go into “I don’t wanna :(” mode as soon as they so much as think about tracking and estimating time. Thank you!

      1. Grey Coder*

        You’re welcome! There are plenty of ways that time tracking and estimation can be misused, but there really is value in the right kind of estimates used for the right purpose.

    2. Sapientia*

      Thank you for your recommendations! I’ve never looked into the skill of estimation because I subconsciously believed it was a question of intuition or would simply get better with experience.

      1. Grey Coder*

        I used to think this too! But then I worked somewhere which had a spectacular project disaster, at least partly because of wildly optimistic estimates. Fortunately, there was enough reflection in the management to identify this as a problem and attempt to address it — I read the McConnell book as part of a working group there.

        Like a lot of things, there may be some people who have a natural ability for estimation, but it can also be learned!

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, I have been doing project estimates in my field for a long time—you get good at looking at something and saying, “Yep, that’s a 12 month project with a $400k budget and that one is 24 months, minimum $1.5m.” Alternatively, “8 weeks is reasonable for getting the work done, assuming client can turn around comments in a 2 week window.”

      But it does take time to get there!

      1. Garblesnark*

        I’ll add that you get good at looking something and coming to these conclusions BY breaking down a lot of projects into their component parts and figuring out how they work and practicing, and then seeing how those estimates mostly play out inaccurately in the real world. Most people start by doing this at least a little wrong numerous times, and that’s fine and normal.

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          Yes, definitely. I never use best case scenarios when planning for this reason–like, it COULD work out that way, but almost certainly someone will get sick and be out for several days, the client will be delayed in sending feedback, someone will have to take care of a personnel crisis, have a family emergency, etc., etc. Eventually, all of those little things build up in your experience and you just allow for them without even really thinking about it.

    4. JustaTech*

      Another observation for LW4: while a lot of people have suggested tracking your time to help you figure out how long things are taking you to do (an excellent if annoying way to collect data), it doesn’t sound like your boss actually *wants* you to track your time.

      I totally understand how tracking your time for management can be miserable (it’s extra fun when you’re explicitly told to do it because upper management doesn’t see the value of anyone), so by giving your boss estimates in advance (and having them be reasonably accurate) you’ll (hopefully) avoid the need for time tracking.

      Unless this job is moving to billable hours, then you’re stuck.

  18. Jane*

    I think on important days when there is an interview or the like, it’s good to keep your phone with you and check it often.

    1. Rebecca*

      It is, but it’s not always possible. I often have an important interview or meeting after a day of work – I can’t pick up the phone while I’m working. Or at a doctor’s appointment. Or driving. Or sleeping. Or any number of things that don’t have to be professional or the caller’s business.

      It’s one thing to miss a new opportunity because you didn’t or couldn’t pick up the phone, but pre-emptively cancelling a previously agreed upon meeting just in case there was a no-show? That’s unreasonable.

      1. djx*

        Right. it’s not always possible. Which is why Jane wrote “it’s good” as opposed to essential. And the OP’s kid had time to do that. And Jane didn’t excuse the hiring manager in any way.

      2. Peach Parfaits Pls*

        You can’t pick up the phone but you can hear that it buzzed, and look at it when you have the opportunity. Which wouldn’t be five hours later.

        1. Rebecca*

          Actually, yes, sometimes it can be five hours later. There are jobs where you don’t have reliable access to your phone during the workday. The cultural expectation to be always available isn’t realistic for everyone, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to cancel an appointment on the possibility that someone might not show up.

          If I make an appointment for 6pm, I have not given you my time or guaranteed to be available for the whole day before 6pm just in case you need reassurance that the appointment stands. If that were the case, I’d spend more time calling people to confirm appointments than I would be actually in the appointments, and I’d lose a LOT of paid hours if I cancelled on everyone who couldn’t pick up the phone. I set up systems to make well-communicated appointment times, and deal with the no-shows if and when they actually don’t show up.

          (I’m a teacher, for context – when I worked in person, in a traditional school, there would absolutely be days I didn’t get my phone out of my purse from one end of the day to the other. And now that I have gone out on my own to work online with students, I have to put systems in place to make sure the appointments they have with me are well communicated and easily verified, that consequences for no-showing are well communicated, and that showing up to the appointment has value to them. Pre-emptively cancelling an apointment because a 16 year old didn’t answer their phone during the day is so wildly unreasonable.)

    2. Managing While Female*

      She’s 16 and it was a Tuesday – I’m assuming she was in school at the time.

      1. Nonanon*

        She was relaxing with a book at noon on a Tuesday; it’s more likely that school’s out for the summer in LW’s area. Not an excuse for EITHER end (check your phone to see if something needs to be rescheduled, even if you’re just checking infrequently; don’t be alarmed if an interviewee can’t reschedule or doesn’t respond to requests) but it’s just odd to see so many people jumping on “shouldn’t she be in school?” when there’s a detail that suggests otherwise.

        1. Bast*

          Yes, but the interviewer doesn’t necessarily know that, which is the point I took from it. Not all schools release on the same day, and even if it’s a matter of being one town over, going to a private school, etc, sometimes even in the same area there is a difference of when kids are released.

  19. LondonLady*

    #LW4 is this a consulting / contracting environment? If so your boss may need to have a sense of how many billable hours are stacking up for each client project.

    If you can devise a kind of typical project profile to give a rough baseline, eg X hours for research, Y for client comms, Z for event planning or whatever, including some contingency time, then that might make it less stressful for you to provide estimates, even if the real hours work out differently in practice.

  20. Oink*

    I recruit mainly for retail and food service. I feel bad for the OP5’s daughter but also understand why the interviewer would assume she wasn’t turning up. That is a reasonable assumption to make in an industry where no shows are extremely common.

    1. Jackalope*

      It doesn’t make sense to cancel someone’s interview at a scheduled time like that, though. I can understand wanting to see if she could move things earlier, but the fact that she couldn’t move things to an earlier time slot isn’t related to whether she can make it to the time she already previously committed to.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Retail and food service industry: Assumes employees are bad and treat/pay them as such.

      Retail and food service industry employees: Get treated/paid poorly and stop giving a damn.

      Retail and food service industry: Surprised Pikachu face.

  21. T.*

    #2, be unavailable, get the date and tell her you have a commitment that would not allow you to do it (can’t be done more than x in advance, need x time and that simply can’t happen).

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I’m generally not a fan of lying, because it can go so horribly wrong. What if you say you have a commitment on that day, forget that you said that, and then take on something else that day? What if your coworker says that you can bake them on the weekend and she can just pop them in the freezer until the day of the party?

      Plus, this approach really does not address the real issue which is that LW is trying to set up some boundaries. What happens when the coworker is pregnant again or has some other event she wants LW to bake cupcakes for?

      This is not about cupcakes. This is about boundaries.

    2. Not on board*

      Yeah, I’m not a fan of lying like this – because it’s telling the asker that you would be willing to do this if not for another commitment. Maybe she moves the date of the shower to accomodate your schedule, and then what?
      The fact that a coworker you barely know asked you to essentially cater the desserts for her non-work baby shower shows that this coworker is one of those brazen people who just asks for stuff from other people, reasonable or not. I’m guessing she was probably one of those bridezillas people read about.
      Best to say no outright. An excuse about how baking is a hobby and you’re not interested in catering. Then recommend a local bakery.

    3. Peach Parfaits Pls*

      Why would you advise lying for no reason? Just politely decline while thanking her for the compliment.

  22. Higher ed experienced here*

    Wow and I thought University of the Arts couldn’t bungle their closing any more than they already have :-(
    I hope that at least you and your coworkers will get some money out of the inevitable lawsuits and investigations. Because seriously, no school up and closes like that “with no notice” on leadership’s end unless it’s because they’re trying to hide something way worse than “just” incompetent leadership :-(

    1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      Yes, my first thought was that that college is circling the drain fast! Anyone who still has a job with them at 2:31 should start polishing up their resume and getting their reference list in order because very soon NOBODY will have a job with them anymore.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This! Laying off HALF THE STAFF with no servance means the other half need to leave before their paychecks bounce.

        1. Higher ed experienced here*

          RVA Cat is right (and this applies regardless of the actual employer. I know we’re not supposed to play Guess Who but like, the UArts situation was SO ridonkulous and SO in the news recently–and how they told the staff they’d be out of a job was as cruel as how they told students that they’d absolutely wasted all that money–that I was like, “the odds of this NOT being UArts are slim. Because if other orgs are out there being THIS cruel and THIS stupid to their employers, then we workers REALLY need to get the pitchforks out already FFS”).

      2. Esme_Weatherwax*

        Yep, looking at the people who survived makes it seem like this is functionally a teach-out of existing students. I can’t imagine we will be open for very long.

        I do think the lack of communication with faculty is going to lead to some unintended consequences, as many folks who were theoretically retained have either found other work or are actively searching. So leadership is counting on a core of people to all do the work of twice as many, and that core will be much smaller than they think.

  23. Marlene*

    LW3: You got sick; it happens. However, I would not be happy as a coworker that you came in having been sick the night before. I wouldn’t want to catch a stomach bug from you. I know retail makes it difficult to call off, though.

      1. Marlene*

        I understand that, but if you get your coworkers sick, they don’t get sick pay either.

        1. Fikly*

          So why should you take the hit to protect them? You are all working for the same employer. Also, check your privilege.

          Everyone is aware of the same conditions. How are you deciding that one person is more deserving of a day’s pay than another, or one person can afford to miss that pay than another?

          You’re making a lot of assumptions here, and frankly, those coworkers who might get sick who don’t have sick pay? They are going to work sick too. Just like they do when they get sick from somewhere else, and then get the OP sick, and the whole infection cycle goes around, because the problem is not the sick coworker, it’s the employer, and people like you who blame the victims.

          1. JustaTech*

            This is why my city mandated sick time for every business over a certain size (maybe 5 people), including for PT employees – to make it possible for people working in food service to take sick leave, to protect the health of the public. Because it’s not something that any business was going to do on their own.
            The side effect was that almost everyone in the city got more sick leave.

        2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          Many low wage employees can’t afford to take unpaid days. It’s natural to put the welfare of your own family before that of your coworkers’. Especially when you know those coworkers will also work when they are sick.

          It’s a natural consequence of employers choosing to have no or insufficient paid sick leave.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Not all sick bugs are contagious. Viruses are, bacteria generally are not. If LW thought she ate some food that had gone bad but her symptoms were better even if she was still a touch rocky, she wouldn’t be exposing her coworkers by going to work, unless she was actually bringing the sketchy potato salad with her.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        It’s really difficult to pin down what makes a person sick though. Like, unless the food literally says “beware: listeria,” chances are you’re just making an educated guess. And because you don’t know, it’s best to stay out of contact with others.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I can get nauseaus to the point of vomiting if I forget to take my iron that day. Don’t know why it just happens. No one is catching anything from that.

      OP, your boss seemed sympathetic, take your cue from that.

      1. Hyaline*

        I’m the opposite, I get nauseated from iron supplements! Bodies are weird and nausea can be unpredictable.

        I totally agree that if you could be contagious you should stay home because no one wants your bug (and FWIW often “food poisoning” is actually food transmitted norovirus so tread carefully even if you think it was food borne), but nausea happens for so many non communicable reasons—migraine, hormones, hangover, heat illness, medication, etc.

    3. Lily*

      People can have nausea for reasons other than being ill.
      For me, nausea is almost always related to stress and anxiety. I call it “stress quease”.

    4. amoeba*

      Yup. I have emetophobia. If a colleague tells me they were sick last night (unless they specifically give a believable reason they are sure they’re not contagious) I will absolutely ask them why on earth they aren’t home. And I’ll do anything in my power to be as far from them as humanly possible, disinfect like crazy, avoid the shared bathroom… and still be super stressed all day. (We do have unlimited sick leave, so no excuses there! But also, if I catch it from you and I don’t have paid sick leave myself, that’s even worse…)

      OTOH, if I know it’s not contagious, I have zero issues cleaning up after you. (And I’ll never be mad at you in either case! Just… scared of viruses. But definitely not hold an accident against you.)

  24. woops*

    for the cupcake baker – make like nancy reagan said, and just say no. i know it’s hard when you’re naturally a people pleaser, but you have to learn to put up boundaries – that skill will serve you well for the rest of your life. i learned the hard way – when i was younger and nicer i was approached by the exec assistant of the owner, who opened with “you’re mark, right? i heard you have a pickup…. well i’m a single mom and my husband left me……” i ended up spending the whole weekend moving her and her two daughters out of a three bedroom three story apartment across town. it almost killed me. and i swore i’d never be pressured into doing something like that again. i’m still mad at myself that i let it happen. say no nicely obviously, but definitely say no. or you’ll be baking for everyone for the rest of your career.

    1. Despachito*

      Maybe it helps if you imagine what is being asked is TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE for you (instead of maybe being possible but with a laaaarge stretch from your part.)

      A lot of us feel a strange obligation that we should say yes if asked for something we are not unable to do, but we shouldn’t.

      OP, would it be easier for you to say no if your coworker asked “please bake me a five-tiered cake with eighteen different flavours with a realistic-looking rainbow unicorn sitting on the top”? That would be obviously something you cannot do (unless I am underestimating your baking abilities, in which case I apologize), and if you said no, you would not feel guilty. Nor should you for (politely) refusing your coworker’s request.

    2. TPS Reporter*

      agree and I don’t know that the person who asked necessarily would balk at a no. maybe she thinks that OP loves baking and would say yes. a lot of people really don’t think too much before asking for something.

  25. Firefinch*

    LW4, This is actually a very reasonable ask! You can certainly ask your boss how they want the information, and for wider context on how they’ll use it, if that helps you process the need, but this is something that is done all the time, especially at the senior level.

    You don’t have to be exact. If your projects are 12-14 months long, an estimate within two months is fine. If you spend about two hours per week on something, multiply it out and then add whatever crunch time is needed for the deliverable. If you’re within 100 hours for a year-long project you’re probably good. The longer your projects the less precise you have to be. If your timesheet tracks billable hours then you could run a timesheet query and have your answers that way too.

    And this can really work in your favor! For instance “I’ve always wanted to do Project X and if we offload Project Y then we can!” Or “If you cut my staff or budget then [this super-important high priority thing] won’t get implemented.” Or “I want to send Gemnerable to training; can we wait until October when our workload is lighter?” Or “Nauticle will be out for leave and we need to give their work to Chrysanthropy, can we borrow them from Team Other?” Or “if you give me one more admin/tech/mid-level I could do Project Alpha three months faster!”

    Costing is HARD. Anyone who can do it well is worth their weight in GOLD. PLATINUM even. So if you’re providing input that can improve your workplace’s costing process, you’re really helping.

    And for work planning, this is a basic and common ask. I just had to refuse a program because it was too big a lift, and I could do it with “that’s 50% of my time for six months, I’m going to have a wait a year” because I could back up my current team’s workload with data. And I bet if you thought about, you already know the answers. If you’re senior level, you already have a good idea of how long things take and how much work they are. That’s what she’s asking for. You can do this!

  26. Lab Boss*

    I get that there’s no good way to give people bad job news, but how do companies seem to find such fantastically bad ideas? We’re headed into a round of cuts and re-structures that nobody saw coming. The official instructions were to schedule a meeting with each effected employee with their boss, grandboss, and HR rep; and to do so 1-2 days in advance of the meeting, with no meeting subject, and if they asked what was going on to say “I can’t tell you right now, you’ll find out at the meeting.” They said this was to “give advance notice and avoid stress, and reduce gossip,” but I don’t think I could come up with a better way to create stress and gossip if I was actively trying to!

    If I were a disobedient person I would have secretly warned my people what was going on just so they weren’t waiting 2 days on pins and needles. But I never would disobey, especially not in such an empathetic and constructive way, nope.

    1. Esme_Weatherwax*

      I find it interesting that leadership thinks people who have worked together for years or decades won’t talk to each other about major life-changing events, or that if they do it is “gossip.” Have any of them considered giving up trying to control that? Because, like you, I would never disobey direct orders. And of course it is hard for them to think of all the direct orders they need to give in order to get the result they think they want.

      Earlier this spring, I had to deal with the same folks who cooked up this plan who wanted to move one of my team members to another department. They set up a meeting with me with a false topic, told me that they were moving my person and firing someone else (before telling either of those folks or the head of the other team), and then told me not to tell my team member. They said they would set up a meeting with her under the same false topic. I objected, and one of them told me that false information is better than no information. So you can see the caliber of leadership making these plans. Why they wanted my team member to be shocked and distressed rather than having some time to think through her options is beyond me, but I guess that’s why I’m not a great leader.

      Hope you have a long future of empathetic and constructive disobedience.

        1. Esme_Weatherwax*

          I dialed her personal phone number from my personal phone number within 30 seconds of ending the meeting. She spent a day processing the news, and then we brainstormed alternative proposals. She was able to go into the meeting prepared to ask for what she wanted (while pretending she had no idea this was coming). She got some of what she proposed, which she wouldn’t have gotten had she been blindsided as proposed. Maybe that was the point of the sneak attack, or maybe that’s giving these folks too much credit. But her proposal was an improvement for everyone, and that’s what they give up when they want to control everything–the prospect that someone else sees a win for everyone that you don’t.

      1. I Super Believe In You, Tad Cooper*

        False information is better than no information?? I’ll take “eternally undermine all future employee goodwill” for $800, Alex.

        I don’t even work there and I’m livid on your behalf.

    2. CV*

      I am definitely in support of employees exchanging any and all information they wish to with each other, even including salary information, (which many governments say is legal even if the companies don’t. Check local laws.) Such information is not “gossip.”

      We only hear about the really bad ideas for how to lay people off, of course, but it is interesting how darn *creative* some of them get. It’s as if there were a contest!

      If they had the basic intelligence to research “best methods” for layoffs, they might have had the brain cells to not drive their organization into the ground in the first place. Creative layoffs may be the final red flag of all red flags.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Creative layoffs may be the final red flag of all red flags.
        I think you’ve hit on the correlation.

    3. Hermione Danger*

      Long ago, a former employer required all employees to take a course in ethics. The course included a scenario which made it clear that if you found out about layoffs, it was “unethical” to share that information with people who might be affected. I still get very, very angry about that, because according to my personal ethics, you should take better care of the people who are doing the actual work of your business and remember that they’re relying on you to pay their rent, eat, etc.

      Layoffs are awful, but if more employers treated their staff well in the first place, there would be far less risk of retaliation, and they could give employees more time. Imagine knowing your job was ending in a month, but that your employer had always treated you like a valuable human and was continuing in that treatment by planning to pay you for that time and also to provide support in finding something new.

      Imagine if compassion was part of the employment scenario instead of sucking people dry and then throwing them away with a kick in the pants on the way out the door.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I’m wondering if in your scenario, it was a situation where you know this knowledge because you are in a position to see sensitive information (like HR). Generally, the ethical scenarios I’ve seen about things like hirings, firings, and big business decisions is that if you are brought in on a need-to-know basis, you shouldn’t then turn around and share it with your friends/people you feel bad for.

        Of course, the corollary to this is that IMO if you’re being read in on something sensitive, you now have an ethical responsibility to be compassionate in your decision-making. So calling out that “hey, this is an incredibly cruel way to do layoffs. Here’s data from College X when they did layoffs this [much better and less stressful way] showing that it didn’t drop morale. Let’s rethink our approach” would be an important add, at least to me.

      2. JustaTech*

        The only reasons I can think of (besides being cruel) to be so weirdly secretive is to prevent 1) theft of company information (client lists, price lists, industry secrets) or 2) sabotage.

        If you’ve treated people well, then you shouldn’t have to worry about #2. With #1 I’m less certain how you prevent it (besides not having anything that would be useful to another company).

        My boss was laid off recently and initially was told he had 15 minutes to get out. Then the VP looked at his office again and said “You have too much stuff, fine, you can have an hour”. An hour, after 13 years of service!
        I ended up packing up a whole extra box of personal stuff he missed, like pictures of his kids.
        The VP then had the audacity to ask me if Boss had stolen any files, since that one cabinet drawer was empty.
        “That drawer was always empty, and there were 15 people standing around watching Boss pack, no, he didn’t steal anything.”
        He also didn’t get a chance to wrap up any projects, so the VP had better hope that he knows where all the records are, because Boss is not going to be taking any calls.

      3. I Have RBF*

        When I got laid off due to Covid budget shortfall at my university job, I found out in July, and was on gardening leave until October. It didn’t help me find work faster, because the whole market was soft and nothing moving, but I was available to ask questions and clean out my desk and computer. That was respectful, at least.

        It was a high trust position, with access to PII on the entire university. But I am not the kind of person to mess up my career and reputation over yet another layoff. This does not cause me to lose sleep at night.

    1. MagicEyes*

      I second that! And if that doesn’t happen, you can find a lot of over-the-top cupcake recipes in “Robicelli’s, a Love Story, with Cupcakes”.

      Someone posted a recipe for an easy chocolate cherry cake with caramel frosting that inspired a coworker to make very inappropriate noises. I saved that, and I’ll post it later.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I REMEMBER THAT. They had to stop making it because the noises were getting so x-rated.

  27. Falling Diphthong*

    OP2, assume that the coworker is on the more ask-y side of the ask/guess line than you–chalk it up to cultural differences. She discovers there’s a great baker in the office and maybe you take commissions; the only way she can find out is to ask. And if you say no, that’s a total normal answer and just a helpful data point for her future cupcake planning.

    Your attitude should convey “Of course she’s just asking because she thought I might have a cupcake side hustle, or want to start one; of course she will take my ‘gosh afraid not’ as the last word on the subject.” Like she might ask someone who’s been there longer if there’s a way to get between buildings A and C without needing that one set of stairs that get wet at the first hint of a cloud.

    1. Ichigo*

      This is an excellent way of framing things that can be tailored for other kinds of situations. Thanks Falling Diphthong – I’m not OP, but I found your comment very helpful for use in my own life!

    2. TPS Reporter*

      exactly, I think the first ask you can assume good intentions. If they push after the first no then you have to rethink how you’re interacting with them.

    3. Peach Parfaits Pls*

      And- she offered to pay. It’s not like she asked a huge labor of you inappropriately. Just kindly decline, don’t make up scenarios where she keeps pushing you for it before you’ve even let her know it won’t work out. You don’t have evidence yet that she’s pushy. And if she is, all you have to do is continue to graciously decline. It’s not that fraught.

  28. RVA Cat*

    #1 – I mentioned The Hunger Games in a nested post, but since it’s a college, did management take their cues from Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Honestly, if your management approach sounds like something out of a dystopian novel or story, there is a 100% chance that your management sucks.

      But I’m voting for The Hunger Games. If it were “The Lottery” the employees would be laying off each other.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          I’ve never read those books, but the more I read this blog (and the news in general), the more I think that I need to.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      RVA Cat, thank you. I was getting a vibe from OP’s letter, and you nailed it. ‘The Lottery’ is sadly appropriate in this case.

  29. Just Me*

    L3: This may be off-topic a little, but I’m just curious what the protocol is for cleaning up vomit at a food establishment. Is there anyone who works in food service who could describe the process? Since vomiting is often a symptom of contagious illnesses, I think I would go the extreme route and throw away any food within a very wide radius and bleach the hell of out everything. LOL weird question, I know, but this is how my brain works.

  30. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP1 – there is no ideal method to communicate layoffs. Some people prefer to know in advance so they can process the news and make plans on their terms. Others have told me they don’t want to know in advance because they already deal with anxiety or depression, and can only deal with a certain amount of bad news at a time.

    But holding people hostage to await the news is needlessly cruel. What an awful situation.

    1. RVA Cat*

      I just realized the real metaphor – since it’s *half* the workforce – is the Joker’s two ferries from The Dark Knight. Except those people had more agency….

    2. Aggretsuko*

      It’s like, what’s the best way to break up with someone? All options are terrible, it’s just that some are more terrible than others.

      The “suddenly you’re locked out of everything” version has become disturbingly popular this year.

  31. NothappyinNY*

    I have not read all the comments but if they laying off HALF the people, I suspect they will be closing soon. The first layoffs gets the best deals.

    If you mean half the people in a department or location, then I think that department or location will be gone soon.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yeah, honestly – it’s often better to be in the first round or to take an offered layoff package. YMMV, obviously, but it’s not like things get better for the staff that are still remaining.

  32. Campbell Murphy*

    LW1, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. My first layoff was similar; we got an email on a Wednesday that everyone should be logged into Teams or whatever platform we used and then the ED and a VP went through and initiated a video call with every person who’d be laid off. The finance person, who also controlled IT, was directed to log people out of their work tools as soon as the call was over. One of my colleagues was in the middle of responding to an important email from a colleague at another organization when she got video chatted. She wasn’t even able to finish the email and had to reach out on her personal email. I had commitments to external colleagues, as well, and had to email them from my personal email. It was awful and I still question their judgment (and I work in a very tiny field, so there’s always a possibility of crossing paths). My fingers are crossed for you that if you survive the layoff you find something much better.

  33. L-squared*

    #1. I honestly don’t think there is a “good” way to do a layoff. Just “less bad” ones

    As someone who was recently laid off, I would’ve much rather had your version.

    People had an idea layoffs “may” come at some point this year. What happened was, on a Monday morning, they just started randomly calling people into meetings and telling them they were laid off effective immediately. Basically once that call was over, you had about 5 minutes before your slack and email were cutoff, so you could MAYBE send a couple of goodbye messages to your team and coworkers. And that was it.

    You know how much I would’ve liked to have a months advance notice that “on June 1, 25% of staff will be let go”. Even if I didn’t know whether I would be in that, I could’ve planned for something. I could’ve had my resume polished and been sending it out. I could’ve had a “just in case” type conversation with my work friends. Maybe I wouldn’t have booked that European vacation for later in the year. Even if I was sitting around waiting on that one day, for me, I probably would’ve just expected the worse and hoped for the best. To me, that is much easier than going to bed on Sunday thinking everything is fine, and then within an hour of starting work on Monday being let go out of nowhere.

    That said, I did have one experience that I’ll say was probably as good as it could be. My company got bought out by a much larger company that was very well known in the space for buying other companies. So well known that it was almost public knowledge how they handled layoffs. So once the buyout was official, they came in and interviewed everyone. At that point, they told everyone exactly what day we’d find out if we had a job or not. However, in the interviews, they more or less were like “your role is probably not needed, but we will still consider it”. So in the interim, basically we all assumed that we were more or less given 2 weeks notice. So when it happened, I wasn’t suprised by anything.

    1. Esme_Weatherwax*

      I’m sorry that happened to you. It sounds brutal.

      My question wasn’t about the layoffs overall–I agree that notice that the layoffs are coming is useful, and abrupt layoffs are awful. My question was particularly about being asked to sit (unpaid) and stare at your computer for 6 hours wondering if a message will pop up to tell you to go to a meeting where you find out you’re fired. The 6 hours of small group notices, being doled out like a reality show reveal, was what I had a particular issue with. They knew that morning who was going, and the entire workforce was waiting for news. They could have ended the agony of the wait at any time but didn’t.

      1. L-squared*

        I will say, until I saw another response, I didn’t quite understand the “unpaid” part. It just seemed like a day at work where you will find out something. So I apologize for my misunderstanding.

        But I do think I’d still have rather had that notice and been told to do that on a Saturday, as opposed to how it happened to me.

        Understanding your experience did sound like a pretty bad way to spend a day though.

  34. anonymous academic*

    To answer the question upthread about a consulting firm giving colleges advice on restructuring –– yes. It’s often, though not always, the RPK Group, which was behind WVU and now is behind UNC-Asheville. However, there are other consulting groups and in a few cases, the restructuring comes from the board.

    (A reply to so anonymous, who posted it in the wrong thread inadvertently but as far as I can tell has not reposted.)

  35. Event Planner in NYC*

    That first letter really got to me – I was at a job a few years ago where we had an impromptu all team meeting first thing in the morning where they announced to the 100 or so of us that there were going to be layoffs announced that day. It was something like if you didn’t hear from HR by mid afternoon (it was 10am), then you were OK. So, naturally, I tried to work but good grief, with that hanging over my head, I could not concentrate. I’m not sure I understand the rationale behind putting everyone in a state of panic but the way it was handled was pretty par for the course for the lack of strong leadership at that business. How anyone with even a quarter of a brain thought this was a good way to handle a layoff is beyond my understanding. Geez.

    1. Event Planner in NYC*

      I should add here, that I did not get laid off and was there for another 2 years until I escaped to another business.

  36. juliebulie*

    LW1, they did this to a place I worked at. It was much simpler, they just called each of us in one by one to tell us if we were laid off. I wasn’t, but I was so disgusted that I finally got motivated to look for a new job. I wasn’t the only one. What were they thinking?

  37. JSPA*

    LW3, if this were the escalation of a pattern that was itself problematic and involved active choices on your part (examples: coming in sick repeatedly after being told not to, rather than exchanging shifts; drinking to excess habitually and then being minimally functional at work) then it could merit further discussion.

    But a one-time, “my body lied to my brain about being over yesterday’s food poisoning”? That’s something that can happen to anyone. In fact, it is probably more likely to happen to someone who wants to be dependable, and doesn’t call out just because they still feel exhausted from a night of misery.

    Give your boss one more heartfelt “thank you,” then put it out of your mind.

  38. Just a Manager*

    #4. I work in consulting, and this is common. It’s called forecasting and they are trying to project what resources they have available for other contracts.

  39. Sneaky Squirrel*

    LW3 – Not unprofessional and HR would be in the wrong if they took action against a sick employee. In the service industry it tends to be harder to take time off without back coverage. It’s unfortunately extremely difficult to walk away from a till mid-transaction to take care of your needs. However, if you had sick days, I would question your judgement about coming in while possibly contagious.

    LW4 – It’s reasonable to be stressed by this. Most people spend their days juggling between different tasks, stopping and starting based on competing priorities. Or they might spend time bundling up several similar tasks from multiple projects (e.g., I need to use this software for task A and task B so I’ll just do them both while I’m in the software). Time recording yourself doing those tasks is the easiest way to figure it out. And then add a few more minutes into your time recording because you had to spend time thinking about doing those tasks. Even if it wasn’t active thinking about a task, it’s likely that you had it noted somewhere that you had to do Task A today.

    LW5 – Extremely unprofessional of the interviewer. Her time was at 6 and how she spends the time before an interview is hers to spend. That being said, it’s likely they didn’t care if they held the interview or not. Since it’s a service job for teens, it’s possible they’re conducting a bunch of quick interviews in a short period of time and they probably have a long enough list of people to pick from that they can afford to cancel interviews at their whim.

  40. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    LW #1, I’m so sorry. Solidarity, from someone laid off the year after being awarded tenure.

    If you were in the group laid off, please consider speaking with an employment lawyer. Even if you signed an agreement, there may be a grace period where you can rescind your agreement and get something more like justice.

  41. WantonSeedStitch*

    Oh man, LW #3, I sympathize. I got a stomach bug at a professional retreat, and toughed it out until our meeting adjourned, at which point there was no more toughing it out. I managed to get outside (there was an exit door right in the conference room where we were) before losing what I’d managed to eat of my lunch, but that was it. I was so embarrassed, but the other attendees were super kind about it, and one even ran over to the drugstore to get me some medicine. No one is going to be like “ugh, you’re unprofessional” if you throw up. Normal humans will just think, “oh man, poor you!”

  42. too many dogs*

    LW#3: I have Celiac Disease, and have thrown up at work more times than I want to remember. Sometimes I make it to the restroom, or at least a wastebasket, sometimes I don’t. People understand that it just can’t be helped.

    1. DogMom*

      Can you carry something with you to vomit in? I too have issues with my stomach but I ALWAYS have a trash can or bag if I’m in any danger of vomiting at that time. I don’t ever go far from my trash can on chemo days regardless.

      People understand not being able to help vomiting sometimes but if you know it can happen any time, be prepared. That would help you and others.

      I’m sorry you do vomit a lot, it really sucks :(

  43. MicroManagered*

    OP3 I just want to say I understand why you may FEEL like it was unprofessional or may cause a work issue…

    Retail is like that.

    It’s a hassle to call off when you’re sick — they try to talk you into coming in anyways or want you to find your own coverage. They start the write-up process or demand a doctor’s note when they don’t provide insurance (often for things that don’t require a doctor’s visit).

    You didn’t do anything bad or wrong. You didn’t barf in the customer’s face, so you’re good there. But retail can be a pretty toxic, infantilizing work environment, so it makes sense that you felt this way!!

  44. CommanderBanana*

    “I did not get a reply from you, does that mean you can not come in early? Also, since I did not get a reply that makes me question if you are coming at 6pm today. Please confirm.”

    That is such an unnecessarily nasty response, especially considering that the manager was the one who wanted to reschedule. I’d recommend your daughter look elsewhere. Food service is never great, but working a service job with a shit manager is the worst.

    LW#2, say no. I used to bake and bring in baked goods to the office a lot, because it was my hobby and I couldn’t eat an entire cake or batch of cupcakes on my own. I stopped after I started getting asked to bake for literally every event ever, including ones for coworkers I didn’t even know. I was asked to make (and somehow transport) three different kinds of cupcakes for a holiday party and I was the lowest paid person in the office.

    I did have a coworker who did lovely custom cakes, but it was his side job and if you wanted one, he would send you to his website to fill out an order and pay for it, because it was a money-making business for him.

    If your coworker needs desserts for a 60 person party, she needs to go to a catering company. Which is not you.

    1. theletter*

      +1 to the catering company/bakery – for a batch of at least 60 cupcakes, you’d want to be in an industrial kitchen, with the ability to adhere to various safety and sanitation regulations.

      Getting paid makes it even worse, because with a direct exchange comes the assumption of liability for cross-contamination or other food-related dangers. Something as simple as a stray hair falling into the batter or a small burn could lead to all sorts of disasters, which a bakery is better equiped to handle.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Yeahhhh, I can guarantee you that anything I make now will have at least one dog hair in it, which is why I stick to store-bought stuff for gifting now. :D

  45. Alan*

    For LW #4, one of the most important things I learned doing such estimates is to always always always include margin. The example I give my mentees is that if a project is going to take 3 weeks and you predict 2, you’re deemed slow and possibly incompetent. If you predict 4 and deliver early, you’re a miracle worker. Which would you rather have as your rep? Pad pad pad then deliver early.

  46. Kristin*

    OP#2, I had a coworker who regularly won first prize at the state fair, and who brought in “practices” for work and made us treats, yet it never occurred to me to actually ask her for anything. I felt embarrassed when she pressed me for what dessert I wanted for my birthday! So I really am just amazed at people who make requests like this that involve so much time and labor from a coworker they barely know.

    1. Not on board*

      I agree! This coworker is essentially asking OP to be a dessert caterer for her private event and they barely know each other! I mean, I guess it never hurts to ask but this seems wildly presumptuous. Best to make an excuse like I bake for fun or I simply don’t have time for this kind of work and recommend a local bakery. Or alternatively offer a copy of the recipe. And stick to your guns OP.

  47. JennG*

    LW#5 – I agree it was pretty lousy behaviour from the interviewing team. But since you’re the one who wrote in here are some things I’ve observed in watching kids go from kids to solid workers:

    – We adults tend to emphasize that Screen Time Is Bad (’cause it is), so a lot of ‘good kids’ don’t check their phones. As a worker, it’s not a bad idea to leave your ringer on during kind of normal hours even if you’re curled up with a book – you can set a lot of phones to allow just certain notifications.

    – If your kid wants to work food/retail/service industry, and personally I think this is a good short-term experience for a lot of us including myself, those of us who’ve been in office or other professional jobs can sometimes mess up those kids’ expectations by insisting on norms that are different for small business. For example, moving shifts around at the last minute – I don’t think this is a /good/ practice, but if your kid wants to make more money and get a good reference, being the first one to answer the phone will help, because some small business owners are just really stretched for staff or very bad at planning and will manage their time on the fly like this.

    – At the same time, it is an opportunity to educate your kids and help them navigate workplaces. Please make sure they understand the health and safety laws in your area (here, for example, they can always refuse unsafe work), including laws around harassment, and if you do see a pattern of exploitative labour practices, point that out to your kid and help them navigate it including quitting. In my area, small business owners are required to train staff in these things, but the reality on the ground is that the training might come well after an incident. Support them and believe them (as you did here obviously.)

  48. Medium Sized Manager*

    The manager assuming the daughter won’t be showing up because she didn’t answer the phone feels increasingly common. I started leaving my phone in the other room during work because a) I don’t have anybody who needs to talk to me through the day and b) my screen time was off the charts, and I needed a change.

    One day, I got FIVE texts and two phone calls in a 10 minute period from somebody who wanted to know if they could drop by unexpectedly in the middle of the work day to pick up keys. They happened to be in the area, which is fine, but they also know I work from home and regularly take meetings so not answering the phone should have been an obvious sign. What’s wilder is that they aren’t the outlier – people regularly seem shocked when I don’t reply right away.

    General society & hiring managers should understand that not being tethered to a phone doesn’t mean a person is blowing you off.

    1. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

      My manager gets visibly agitated when an employee does not text him back within 3 minutes. That is not exaggerating.
      He claims everyone is tethered to their phones.
      My opinion is that that mentality from higher ups is exactly why we feel we have to be tethered to our phones, because our bosses will get mad if we’re not.

  49. bamcheeks*

    Has anyone ever experienced a “good” layoff? I mean, I appreciate that a layoff is never going to be anyone’s favourite experience, but has anyone ever been through a layoff process as layoffee or survivor which felt like it met some kind of minimum standard for respectful and well-handled?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Yep, I think it was in November when they told us there would be layoffs in January, this allowed me to factor this into my Christmas spending.
      We weren’t given a specific day, which I preferred because I think that would have been more stressful.
      One day in January, a director asked me to come to a meeting, they explained what was happening, and that was that.
      They provided severance pay (though this is a legal requirement in Canada, so this wasn’t going above and beyond).
      They paid for a session with someone to review my resume.

    2. L-squared*

      I did. It was my first layoff. And I’ll say it has colored every one since.

      Essentially, my small company was bought out by a big player in our space. It was a company known for buying out smaller companies. We were all very aware that the sale was taking place. When the sale went through, our companies management basically told us “most of you probably won’t stay on, but they do very good severance packages”. One all the ink was dry, we were told that on X day, representatives from the new parent company would be coming in and interviewing us, to see who, if any, would stay on.

      They came in, and were all very nice, all things considered. They gave everyone a fair shake, but told some people (like me) basically that, they had a strong team of people doing my job in place already, so likely I wouldn’t be kept, but its possible. I took that to mean “start looking”. A few weeks later, we were told they were coming in to let everyone know their status. They came in, probably 80% of us were let go, with a pretty nice severance package.

      What made it good was that we all knew it was coming for a few months, no one was surprised by anything, and we were told everything happening in advance. We had time to start looking if we wanted to. It still sucked to be out of a job, but it was as good as could be expected.

    3. Ann O*

      Yep. Three months notice, during which time we were encouraged to job search during work hours. Then three more months of severance. The actual announcements were made in one-on-one meetings. Also, I think it helped that the pandemic was the direct cause of the layoffs.

      1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

        Yeah, the time I was laid off we got 60 days and were allowed to search, or we could leave immediately with severance. They announced the layoffs the day before, and brought people into individual meetings. (I admit I didn’t enjoy having to walk through the cube farm with HR, which my colleague described as a “perp march.”) We were also reassured that the layoffs weren’t performance-based and were strictly financial, which was probably true because they cut whole departments. And, we were given strong references. It still wasn’t a delightful experience — and I wound up in a massively red-flag-bedecked next job because I wanted to be the first person on my team to get a new job and leave — but it could’ve been a ton worse.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      Not a layoff exactly, but our school was over its quota of teachers and while I don’t know how the principal handled letting the teachers who were on temporary contracts know, I would imagine it was done sensitively and at the end of the school year staff meeting, she told the entire staff that she was sorry to be losing them and had tried to find a way to keep them on, but it just wasn’t possible.

      The following year, we had teachers redeployed and well, there is a system for this which involves teachers being able to apply themselves for a transfer and if there are not enough who wish to do this or if they do not get the transfer they want, the principal has to nominate people to be transferred. As it turned out, three teachers got the transfers they wanted so it ended up best for everybody. Two of those three teachers were noticeably unhappy in our school (one was a stereotypical Physics genius type who just wasn’t suited to a school with a large number of students with additional needs; another teacher summed it up by saying he had “no aptitude for teaching students with no aptitude for his subject”) and the third was a young teacher who had come to us straight out of college and was glad to be transferred to a school closer to her hometown

    5. Cookie monster*

      yes, I worked for a large well known company. They had to close all operations of the subsidiary i was emotes by,, in my whole state.
      there were no rumors ahead of time. there was a conference call early in the morning (because they couldn’t be in 15 locations at once) where they explained this to us all at once, and then the lower local management came around in person and upper management called everyone individually. we had a full month working, used to close everything out. 2 more months of not working but still being on payroll with full benefits, and then after that severance of 2 weeks per year of employment. I had no issues at all with how it was handled.

    6. Shan*

      Yes – but it was after a full two years of stress. My industry was in a downturn, and my company was doing particularly bad. One day in 2015 (which I’ll mark as the start of that period), an email came out telling us they were laying off ~25% of the staff, so we had to cancel all meetings and just stay at our desks, waiting to see if we were cut. Incredibly stressful.

      By the time summer 2017 rolled around, we all knew it was just a matter of time. Our stock price was down to less than 10 cents, and we ended up being purchased by another company. Our CEO was really upfront with us and told us that there would be a small layoff in September, and then the vast majority of those remaining would be gone December 31st. A skeleton crew would be retained by the new company. I had my meeting with HR in October, got my severance details, and had time to line up a new job (which I’m still at) for January 1st.

      By that point, I was just really zen about it all. I’d been operating in a state of anxiety since that morning in 2015, and having a clearly articulated end date helped me exit that. I had time to wrap things up and get my things in order. I was able to say goodbye to people. And since almost everyone was being let go, it didn’t feel embarrassing or hurtful.

  50. Anonning for this one*

    LW1: I work at a teaching hospital that just started layoffs this week. I really hope you’re not on the university side of my institution because I’d be so angry to hear the layoffs are being conducted this way.

    1. Ann O*

      I wondered if the OP was at Oregon Health & Science University, just due to the sheer size of layoff.

      1. Esme_Weatherwax*

        I’m not at a teaching hospital. I’m not in Oregon. Unfortunately, with college closings or mass layoffs there are a plethora of suspects these days.

  51. Justin D*

    they make us track time at my job too and no one really knows how to do it. managers will estimate at the start of a project and ask if it looks right and then have us update the totals. And then at the end of the project when we wrap up documentation and close the tracker item for the work they’ll ask us again if the total is right and I never have any idea. 200 hours? ok. 250? sure whatever. I was supposed to be done a month ago but the client delayed us several times and the time input varied widely from week to week or even day to day.

    they really want us to be accurate down to the hour. some tasks are fairly rote and easy (although tedious) and easy to estimate but others take a ton of thought and discussion and I just make sure that I’m getting those done either by a strict deadline or in a timely manner if the deadline isn’t clear.

    to do the work right sometimes it’ll take all day or all week to do something and other times it’ll take less.

    and ALL of my coworkers say the same thing so it’s not just me.

    1. LW 4 (aka OP 4)*

      I likewise work in a very squishy role where it’s really hard to estimate how far down the rabbit hole is going to go. I feel you.

    2. JustaTech*

      I think you’ve got a good point there about the number of hours that you, or your team, will spend on a project, versus when the project will get done (because of outside forces).

      So you’ve got the “project due” plan on the calendar (so, days), with dates that the client will probably end up moving around (or at least messing with) and then you’ve got the “team hours” of how much time (hours) it will take to do the work once you have what you need from the client.

  52. Dawn*

    LW4: I just want to say that it might or might not be an easy thing to do, and I sympathize, but it’s really not unreasonable of your management to ask you for some idea of how long something is going to take you to complete. It doesn’t have to be exact, but there’s a lot of tools out there to help you get an idea – all (trained) project managers have to do this all of the time, so it really is something for which an abundance of methods have been developed.

    You might want to start by looking up “project management scheduling” and see what you find. PMI has some good free articles on it, and there’s a lot on LinkedIn Learning if you have access to that.

  53. nekosan*

    I am absolutely floored by “no decent person who just witnessed someone vomit [on] the floor is going to expect them to do the work of cleaning it up too”. I’ve screenshotted it and saved it so I can remind myself that I have known a number of unreasonable people.

  54. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

    LW#2: I’m also a semi accomplished baker, but it’s my hobby. I use it to destress after work, and sometimes the cookies don’t even make it into the oven before they’re eaten.
    If Jane quilted a blanket for someone’s baby as a gift, you wouldn’t ask her to quilt another for yours!
    I think the important part here is stressing on other factors, and not her. I can totally see how she could be offended “well, you did it for Alice!”
    Talk about how busy your workload is, and it’s a pretty long recipe. Say you don’t bake for money, it’s only a hobby, and this recipe was crazy long. Enthuse how flattered you are she thought of you, but you are pretty stressed out right now. Then offer either the recipe or a handpicked bakery.
    And just bake chocolate chip cookies next time, I guess.

  55. LW 4 (aka OP 4)*

    Wow! LW #4 here, and I had no idea my letter would spark so much conversation! Thank you all for the many comments and suggestions. And maybe this just appeals to my vanity here, but mentally framing it as a valuable skill and not just a bureaucratic task is very helpful.

  56. Punkin*

    LW2 – I am also a baker and occasionally get asked by people in my orbit to bake things for pay. Something that has worked for me so far with coworkers and acquaintances is to tell them “I’m sorry. I’m strictly a hobby baker and can’t legally do this.” If they press for more, they get an explanation that it’s actually illegal to make food for pay unless you are licensed to do so. It’s called a cottage food license. The process varies state by state but can entail taking food safety courses and having a home/kitchen inspection. I’m sure they think I’m uptight or weird or both but it gets me off the hook in the moment and in the future.

    1. CB212*

      That’s an excellent point. Once payment is off the table, it’s much clearer that asking for like SIX DOZEN CUPCAKES is a lot from a new coworker. There should be no pushback once LW2 says they will not be catering a baby shower for free.

  57. Cat*

    LW 1: my workplace is also in the midst of a cruel layoff process. They told us they were laying off 60 people on a rolling basis over a month so some people found out right away and everybody else has had to stew in their anxiety for weeks. I am really sorry and I hope everything works out for you!

  58. The Gnome*

    LW #1: My brain can’t help but wonder if this is Pittsburgh Technical College, since they’re closing at the end of the month and have apparently gone far downhill since I graduated from them in 2008 when they were still Pittsburgh Technical Institute.

    LW #3: I feel your embarrassment; I yarfed up a potluck dinner in my cubicle the first winter I worked at my current job (December of 2017) and I was surrounded by other employees who were on calls. Couldn’t look any of them in the eye for a week after I came back to work (ended up being the onset of the worst case of the flu I’d had in years; I’d felt absolutely fine that morning.) and it ended up not being as big a deal as my poor embarrassed brain thought it was.

  59. Project Maniac-ger*

    LW1: sometimes I wish I could open up the craniums of the leaders who made decisions like this and see what’s up there because it’s definitely not a human brain capable of thought.

    LW3: I threw up at work yesterday! It was terrible! I made it to the bathroom… barely. Nobody with any sense of sanity is doing this on purpose. It’s the woes of having a human body. Your manager might be concerned for you, but I highly doubt she is angry.

    1. Cat*

      I think Mr. Krabs from SpongeBob is in all of their heads saying I like money all day long.

  60. e271828*

    OP2’s newish coworker sailing up to ask for five dozen fancy cupcakes and a cake for a party OP isn’t invited to is… something! I hope she assumed OP does this for a side hustle.

  61. Emetophobe*

    If you are sick DO NOT GO TO WORK!!! You exposed every customer and co-worker to also being sick and you knew you were sick and went on the floor without any sort of trash can or something just in case?

    I want to by sympathetic because of course this wasn’t intentional but 1. Risking other people by going to work sick isn’t ok, ever 2. Emetophobia is VERY common and we suffer from full blown panic attacks from situations like this and especially that fear that you just got us sick.

    If you are nauseated you shouldn’t be far from a trash can or toilet and please stop going to work when you are sick!

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Employees with insufficient paid sick leave are inevitably going to work sick if they can drag themselves in. They have to prioritise paying their bills. Some could even be sacked if they don’t come in.
      The employers are at fault, not the (usually low paid) workers.

    2. Parakeet*

      What makes you think the LW had something contagious just because they were nauseated the night before?

  62. JJLib*

    #4: my last boss at my current job had me doing this for months on end. I had to create a plan for the start of the week, with all my tasks and time estimates (and fill in every segment of my online calendar that my boss had viewing rights to), then submit a mid-week status update (with any planned changes), and then an end-of-week report (with what did/didn’t get done, how much time things actually took (and amount/percentage under/over estimates). I was spending several hours each week on all this documentation instead of, you know, actually doing work. And if one little thing took longer than expected, or something new came up mid-week, my entire “plan” was effectively ruined. This system didn’t work for me at all. But my boss was also a hands-off micromanager who probably shouldn’t have been in a people-managing position. Fortunately, my new/current boss came in and immediately chucked this “project management” plan into the proverbial trashcan (hallelujah). Now, I have a nice whiteboard outline system, gaps in my calendar to pivot to new things as needed, and I’m getting projects done on-time or well ahead of time, with the support I need if/when I need it.

  63. fhqwhgads*

    LW4, estimating projects is a skill developed over time. It makes no sense for you boss to try it for a few months to see what they get. I am in a role where it’s very very normal to have to estimate, but also very very normal for people to be really inaccurate in their estimates for a couple years. Even then, there will still be some times you’re way off, over or under. It happens. Part of the nature of the beast with estimating is knowing that sometimes people will get it wrong.

  64. Tatiana*

    LW2 – people who are pregnant for the first time can be so overwhelmed by anticipation and excitement and hormones that even the gentlest refusal can upset them. Be prepared for tears and maybe even some tension for a little while, because you’re telling them ‘no’ when they perceive you being a ‘yes’ for someone else (and their baby).

    1. Ineffable Bastard*

      I guess it depends on how LW frames their response. I would go with “sorry, I cannot take catering commissions — I only bake small batches for fun in my free time and I happened to have the time before that office shower. For 60 people I suggest you go with a catering business; they are equipped for bigger amounts and people’s allergies… Which theme did you choose for your shower? Oooh, it’s so cute!” I mean, LW does not need to show interest in the theme of the shower, but it can soften the blow of the rejection and make it clear that it is a rejection of baking but not of the person or their excitement.

  65. Vio*

    I remember the time I threw up on the floor at work. It was my second day on a jobseekers placement (if you’re on jobseekers allowance for over a certain amount of time you’re forced to do a training course, part of which is a two week ‘work experience’ placement) and I’d missed the first day from calling in sick. Turned up on day 2 for my first days work, still feeling a little off but I knew how bad an impression I’d already made. After a couple of hours I was just getting worse and asked my boss if I could go home. She clearly didn’t believe me (I later learned that the job centre had pretty much only sent them completely unmotivated workers who rarely showed up or did any work when they did turn up) but said I could go home early but needed to stay at least long enough to cover the lunch breaks. Ten minutes later I had to apologise to a customer, leave the till and threw up on the shop floor without having made it to the toilet in the back. I was mortified.
    My boss immediately took me into the back and got me some water, assured me that I was a human being who’d done a completely normal human thing and that the only thing I’d done wrong was to keep apologising. Instead of being the disaster that I was sure that it must be, it helped me bond with my co-workers and at the end of my two week placement I was offered paid employment. Lasted four years before being made redundant when the company went bankrupt.

  66. TheBunny*


    My take on this, coming from someone who was a retail manager in a former life, is that your daughter didn’t do anything wrong.

    That said, there are things I do think she could have done differently.

    6pm is an entire day. In retail, and in food service, things happen. People don’t show up for work.

    Yes there was a confirmed time, but also a lot could have happened. Was the interviewer correct? No. But it’s possible the cancel was because they had hired someone else when your daughter didn’t answer. Managers with food and retail jobs are going to take the person who shows up. I get his thinking.

    In this hunt…and I’m the future…I recommend being available by phone…or at least checking it once per hour while job hunting.

Comments are closed.