I resent my coworker’s sick days, getting out of a carpool, and more


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

1. I resent how often my coworker is out sick

I am having trouble rallying appropriate sympathy for a coworker with depression and I’m hoping you can help me with this. I work in a public-serving, unionized institution with five full-time employees and three part-time. I’m pretty sure one of my full-time coworkers suffers from depression, on top of some mobility and health issues, in addition to being borderline morbidly obese. Recently she has been calling in sick, at times staying out for a week at a time, at others just two or three days before or after a previously scheduled day off. At this point, I’m pretty sure she’s used up all her PTO and will sometimes cut her lunch breaks short to try to make up time when she returns from one of these absences.

I want to regard her with sympathy for these sick days, as depression is a serious disease and life can be hard for the overweight. But I’m having difficulty because (a) she often talks about staying up late night on Twitter and downing entire boxes of cookies at 3 am and it’s hard to sit by and watch someone “happily” engage in self-destructive behavior, (b) these sick days often seem to coincide with her daughter’s return to college, and perhaps on some level are a ploy to guilt-trip her child into moving back to town, and (c) any time she’s out, the rest of us have to pick up all her work, which is especially taxing since our institution is down a number of positions. Because of this coworker, the rest of us are loathe to take time off because we know from experience how that increases the workload on our peers and because we’re afraid that if she calls in sick while one of us is off, our institution will be run by a frantic skeleton crew.

I’m not giving this coworker any attitude or throwing shade at work; I’m friendly and simply glad she’s there. But on a certain level, I’m having a hard time not feeling resentful that her frequent sick days mean more work for the rest of us, and I foresee years and years of similar absences, as she can’t afford to retire or go on disability.

If you’re short-staffed when your coworker is out, that’s an issue for your management to solve, not your coworker. If her absences are causing problems for the rest of you, talk to your manager, say that you don’t have the staffing to run at full capacity when someone is out (or can’t do X and Y when you’re covering Z for someone who’s out), and ask how they want to handle that. Similarly, stop worrying that you can’t take your own time off; take it and expect your employer to figure out a way to cope.

Because the thing is, people get to use their time off. And they get to negotiate for additional time off beyond that, if that’s what she’s done here and your employer has agreed to it. And you really, really don’t want to get into judging what they’re using it for, or if they really need it “enough,” or if some of it might be self-inflicted or they’re not taking sufficiently good care of themselves. You do not want people doing that to you, and people can find a way to do it with an awful lot of illnesses.

There’s a lot of speculation in your letter, and I’ve got to think it’s feeding your frustration. It’s far better for your own mental health to remind yourself that you don’t know your coworker’s personal medical details (nor should you), you don’t know the exact causes for her absences (even if she shares info with you, she may not give you the full story), and she’s just as entitled as anyone else is to eat a box of cookies without her coworkers thinking that correlates with an increase in their own workload (which is, frankly, an awfully big stretch).

The issue here is that your employer isn’t managing its staffing levels appropriately. Put their issue squarely on their laps to handle, and don’t make your coworker the repository of your resentment.

2. I don’t want to carpool with a coworker

I’ve carpooled with one coworker for over a year. A new coworker has come and also wants to carpool with us. The two coworkers do not have a good relationship (but can tolerate each other). The new coworker is also incredibly annoying and inconsiderate (but not a bad person). I am technically her superior at work (although not her direct manager), and on Sunday she needed to be disciplined but as I was driving her back and forth, I asked my colleague to talk with her instead.

I really would prefer to stop driving her, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings. I like carpooling with person #1, so an excuse of like “I need some time to myself” doesn’t work. I’m unsure what to do, or how to navigate this, without putting myself in an even more uncomfortable position at work.

Oooh, this is hard. It might have been easier to say no from the start, but now that you’re carpooling together, it’s harder to get out it without dropping out of the carpool with the original coworker too.

You mentioned the other two don’t have a good relationship. If things are tense between them in the car, you could use that — “I need to be able to unwind at the end of the day and the tension in the car is too much.” Or you could potentially say that picking up/dropping off two people is too much (although then there’s a chance she’ll offer to drive herself to the driver’s house). Or there’s the chain of command thing — “I realized that since I sometimes manage your work and need to give you feedback, we should have good outside-of-work boundaries and not keep carpooling.” Or, if any of her inconsideration is about the carpool itself (being late, being rude in the car, etc.), you can explain that — “We need to leave on time every day so can’t keep carpooling.”

Anyone else have better ideas on this one?

3. Company offered me a job, then offered it to someone else while I was considering it

I got a phone call on a Monday and was offered a job. I was expecting another offer in the coming days, so I told them that and asked them when they needed an answer by. They told me that I could have until Thursday to make a decision and let them know. I called back the next day but no one answered. I left a message asking if the salary was negotiable, and asking that I be sent a written offer to review since they still hadn’t told me anything regarding benefits or PTO. They didn’t call back until Wednesday afternoon, and then told me that they might have already given the job to someone else! They said they would find out if that was the case and call me back in an hour. They never called back.

I just graduated, so I’m new to the whole job searching thing, but is that how it’s supposed to work? They told me I had until Thursday to make a decision but went ahead and offered someone else the job instead. Is it unreasonable to ask for time to review two competing offers? Did they expect me to just accept the job on the spot with no written information regarding salary and benefits?

No, that’s definitely not how it’s supposed to work. If they told you that you had until Thursday, they should have given you until Thursday — or if for some reason things changed on their end, they should have proactively told you that.

It’s reasonable to ask for some time to consider an offer, and it’s certainly reasonable to ask for info about benefits. (interestingly, not everywhere does formal, written offers though.) Ideally you wouldn’t have said you were waiting on another offer, because that implies that they weren’t your first choice (which might be true but employers sometimes take it as a sign that you’re not enthusiastic about the job), but that wouldn’t warrant them pulling the offer.

4. Should I let recruiters know their advertised “great jobs” are in fact terrible?

Recruiters frequently reach out to me on LinkedIn with “great job opportunities,” as they like to put it. In actuality, most of these jobs sound terrible! I majored in finance and am about five years removed from graduating with my bachelor’s degree. Many of the direct messages I get on LinkedIn look something like this:

“I am a member of the recruiting team for (finance/accounting related) company. I came across your profile and think you would be an excellent fit for X role. X role offers a competitive salary of $30,000/year, excellent benefits, and generous vacation time, starting at two weeks. Please let me know if you are interested in connecting!”

Call me crazy, but $30,000 is NOT a competitive salary for these sort of positions. Most of these jobs tend to require at least five years of accounting experience and a lot of technical skills; no one with those qualifications would accept $30,000/year. I live in a large city with a relatively low cost of living, but even for my area, this is not a competitive salary. I work in a mainly customer service based role with some accounting work required and make about 40% more than the salaries these recruiters generally offer (of course I’ve received raises over the years, but even my starting salary was higher than $30,000!). Additionally, two weeks vacation is certainly not “generous.” Almost all of the messages I get from recruiters on LinkedIn offer similar salaries/vacation as the example mentioned above.

Would it be worthwhile to reach out to some of these recruiters to say, “hey, I don’t know if you realize this, but $X/year is more in line with this sort of position”? Or, would this just look tacky and unprofessional? For what it’s worth, I’ve always either ignored these messages, or politely told the recruiter that I’m not interested.

These are probably crappy recruiters who are messaging everyone with a remotely relevant background; they’re not paying that much attention to your profile. There are a lot of recruiters like this on LinkedIn, at least for some fields. In other words, this isn’t a targeted approach where they’ve carefully considered you and decided you’re a strong match with the job. They’re doing the recruiter equivalent of resume-bombing.

You can certainly send them the kind of response you proposed, but it’s unlikely to have an impact. You could try it and see though! (But you’re likely to get no response or ridiculous responses trying to talk you into considering the job anyway.)

5. Getting a clear answer about my job without sounding manipulative

Two months ago I was hired by a company. The position was listed as a permanent position with benefits but I was offered a one-month contract (without benefits) as a trial period to see if it was a good fit. At the one-month mark, the company lawyer said they needed some more time to get their ducks in a row and asked if they could extend until the end of the calendar month. My boss is very happy with my work and doesn’t want me to leave, and also seems convinced I was going to be hired permanently (the company lawyer and my boss aren’t always on the same page), but it turns out my contract is just extended by another three months with a slight raise and a “possibility for permanence at the end of three months.”

I love my job but I don’t want to work as a contractor (I prefer benefits and job security to a higher pay). How do I let them know that I will need to start looking for work elsewhere if permanent employment isn’t actually on the table without it sounding like I’m being manipulative or making a threat? I really just want a clear answer on whether it’s something they actually plan to do, or if I need to start looking elsewhere.

It’s not manipulative to ask for a clear answer about their plans for you, and it’s not making a threat to explain that you’ll need to go elsewhere if this can’t be resolved soon. That’s just exchanging information, as long as you do it in a calm, professional way.

Say this: “I was happy to come on for a one-month contract initially, but I hadn’t intended to be on a short-term contract for longer than that. It’s important to me to be in a long-term position with benefits, so I want to make sure this isn’t a situation where the contract will just continually be extended in short increments. I love the work here, but if it’s not permanent, I need to be looking at other positions. How confident are you that the role will convert to regular employment in three months, assuming all goes well?”

The tricky thing here is that your boss might be more optimistic than is really warranted — or might be absolutely right if she says this will get fixed in three months. There’s no way to know for sure, so it’s probably wise to be doing at least a low-key job search meanwhile, until you can see what really happens in three months. At that point, if they do it again, you’ll have a pretty clear answer.

I resent my coworker’s sick days, getting out of a carpool, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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