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Old 05-01-2019, 08:19 AM
Dinsdale is offline
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Opinions re: workplace privacy - reason for absence


Wondering what you think about this situation I currently have at work.

8 of us professionals are equally responsible for handling a specific workload. The workload is divided evenly among us as the work comes into the office, and we are each individually responsible for everything needed to complete approximately 500 matters per year. Certain aspects of matters are time sensitive such that when one employee is absent, cases can be reassigned. For example, if I had tasks that were scheduled to occur today but I called in sick, my colleagues would try to cover those tasks to the extent possible. Different, long term solutions involving reassignment pf workload are necessary with prolonged absences - such as following emergency surgery or something.

One of the 8 of us has been out of the office for going on 3 months. We have no explanation of why they are absent, and management has said only that they have no idea when they will return. Their work has been reassigned on case-by-case basis.

I realize that an employee's privacy rights restrain management from discussing specific about the employee's personal matters. However, to the extent that the rest of us are expected to pick up their caseload - often on short notice, many of us have commented to each other that it might make a difference in our eagerness to do so whether the absent employee had health problems, as opposed to possibly being subject to disciplinary proceedings, or something else.

So, I figure I'm just being nosy, and ought to simply respond to any reassignments as I feel appropriate?
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Old 05-01-2019, 08:22 AM
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I don't understand. If you found out they were on a hooker n' blow tour of Eastern Europe, you would decide not to do the things that have to get done?
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Old 05-01-2019, 08:30 AM
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I similar thing recently happened at our office. A person had to take a personal leave without notice. She was out for about a month. As one of the bosses, I was aware of the circumstances, but we did not share with her coworkers who had to pick up the slack. Out of respect for the person's privacy, (and perhaps as required by law) I believe we did the right thing. The problem with the OP's situation, as I understand it, is not that they haven't been told the reason, it's that it's been going on too long without a solution. Getting extra work for 90 days (and counting) seems like a legitimate problem that management should find a solution to.
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Old 05-01-2019, 08:32 AM
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So, I figure I'm just being nosy, and ought to simply respond to any reassignments as I feel appropriate?
Have you looked at the person's Facebook page, etc?

Seriously, when a situation similar to yours arises, if I ask a friend about it they will have the whole story, having already searched social media.
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Old 05-01-2019, 08:49 AM
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... The problem with the OP's situation, as I understand it, is not that they haven't been told the reason, it's that it's been going on too long without a solution. Getting extra work for 90 days (and counting) seems like a legitimate problem that management should find a solution to.
Yeah, that's kinda the deal.

Basically, we have more work than we can handle. So it is a constant triage - handling the oldest, most critical matters. 500 matters per year per employee is pretty much full capacity. So if there were only 7 of us, we'd only complete 7x500, rather than 8x500. Make sense? (Our office is actually set up to have 10 of us in our position.)

Our personal workloads are currently scheduled out through August. So we've each individually estimated what we can do when several months ahead - including personal leave and such. While we cover for each other in emergencies, our general practice is to not act in a way that causes our colleagues to have to pick up our assigned tasks (whenever possible).

Heck, since we schedule so far in advance, we willingly swap workload when things come up on short notice. If this is THAT sort of situation, some general idea as to why the employee is out would affect my willingness to volunteer to pick up their work. Otherwise, if the employee is expected to eventually return, then I'd just as soon let them keep their work and handle it when they return.

We are under pressure to complete our oldest tasks by the end of the fiscal year - end of Sept. So if they were simply giving me one of the absent employee's cases, and I was just tacking it on to the end of my workload - to get to it in September or later, that would be no big deal. But instead, that employee's oldest cases are being reassigned in dribs and drabs - yesterday I was reassigned one that had action that needed to be taken today.

I'd prefer that my management identified all of the cases that NEEDED to be reassigned through the end of the fiscal year, and reassign them NOW, so I could figure out how to work them into my schedule. Instead, I envision a situation where the end of August comes around, and the dump something on me saying it is an emergency and needs to be done ASAP.
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Old 05-01-2019, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale
However, to the extent that the rest of us are expected to pick up their caseload - often on short notice, many of us have commented to each other that it might make a difference in our eagerness to do so whether the absent employee had health problems, as opposed to possibly being subject to disciplinary proceedings, or something else.
It appears that your concern is primarily focused on your workload and your eagerness to deal with it, but aren't you worried that your co-worker might be dying?

It's natural to be curious about what is keeping them out of the office, so management shouldn't be surprised if questions are asked. But if I were your boss and you gave me the impression that the quality of your work depended on knowing something that you were not entitled to know, it would make me question your work ethic and dedication. Not to mention your political savvy.
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Old 05-01-2019, 08:55 AM
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I don't understand. If you found out they were on a hooker n' blow tour of Eastern Europe, you would decide not to do the things that have to get done?
"the things that have to get done"

Everything will get done eventually. Just at a later date. I do not get paid piecework, nor do I receive any other incentives to work overtime or exceed my share of work (Not that it matters, but I am generally in the top 5th nationwide in terms of production.)

Yes, if I am expected to do extra work on a short timetable, the facts matter in my motivation. If the employee were on a hookers n blow tour, I would expect some indication that the employee would be facing some repercussions.
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Old 05-01-2019, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
I'd prefer that my management identified all of the cases that NEEDED to be reassigned through the end of the fiscal year, and reassign them NOW, so I could figure out how to work them into my schedule. Instead, I envision a situation where the end of August comes around, and the dump something on me saying it is an emergency and needs to be done ASAP.
Sounds like that's the real problem; that management is doing a poor job of redistributing the work of the absent co-worker and identifying what the deadlines are. If you're up for it, have you considered volunteering to do this? Yes, it would take time away from your normal work but it's necessary and someone has to do it.
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Old 05-01-2019, 08:59 AM
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Yes, if I am expected to do extra work on a short timetable, the facts matter in my motivation. If the employee were on a hookers n blow tour, I would expect some indication that the employee would be facing some repercussions.
Well, that's what I'm asking. If you are expected to do extra work, what difference does your motivation make?

I mean, do you have a choice on whether or not to do the absent employee's work? If so, then yeah, I understand what you are saying. But if you have no choice, then the reason the employee is out seems irrelevant.
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Old 05-01-2019, 09:05 AM
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Is this work you are volunteering to do, or work they are assigning to you as your job?

It seems like the latter, and if so, the only responses to an unsatisfactory answer would be to suck it up or protest-resign. Do you have plans to protest-resign?
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Old 05-01-2019, 09:16 AM
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Sounds like that's the real problem; that management is doing a poor job of redistributing the work of the absent co-worker and identifying what the deadlines are. If you're up for it, have you considered volunteering to do this? Yes, it would take time away from your normal work but it's necessary and someone has to do it.
Right!

If you had enough people to complete everything on time if everyone was working at full capacity, then you'd just all chug through it, without really needing a lot in the way of prioritization or anything like that.

But being a person down for an extended period means that you really should have clear guidelines from management about what to work on, and in what order. In practical terms, this means that they need to either develop a standard policy ("always work on the oldest first, no exceptions"), or they need to be periodically evaluating what's in the backlog and being worked on, and readjust the order of those things.

However, it sounds to me more that the issue is that your environment changed, you don't like it, and they haven't been communicative about why or for how long. Would you be less disgruntled if they'd said "Aloysius is going to be out for the next four months, starting yesterday." without necessarily saying why? Or if they'd said "Aloysius has a kid with cancer- he'll be out and/or working in a reduced capacity for the indefinite future."?
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Old 05-01-2019, 09:23 AM
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3 months sounds like an awful long time. I certainly don’t know the FMLA rules (assuming you’re in the USA) but I think for 3 months absence I’d want to have HR find when and if there’s an anticipated return to work. At the very least, I’d see if your manager can consider bringing in a temp person.
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Old 05-01-2019, 09:34 AM
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I wouldn't be asking why the employee was gone (cause it really is a privacy concern). I would, however, be asking when, or if, they are expected back.

That is not a privacy matter. That is a matter of figuring out how to get the work on your team done without the 8th member.

That's how I would handle it, anyway. I would ask when they will be back so we can prioritize his work appropriately.
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Old 05-01-2019, 09:42 AM
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I get where the OP is coming from. In many of the schools I've taught at there's a "take care of each other" mentality when things like this come up. A few of the teachers abuse it and that causes animosity. Most teachers if they need coverage it's "Sure no problem." but if I have to cover for one of the system abusers I make sure I get paid. Perhaps that's where Dinsdale is coming from. If the absentee is taking care of his kid with leukemia then it's not a problem but if it's him "finding himself" by running naked with giraffes for six months then Dinsdale and his coworkers deserve some sort of recompense for all the extra work they're doing.

And yeah, assuming management knows this is long term they're doing a horrible job helping you out.
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Old 05-01-2019, 09:55 AM
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My brother's job is having a similar problem, minus the privacy issues.

They have two in-house lawyers; one of them is pregnant and on medical leave due to high-risk pregnancy. She was put on leave while on her second month. That means that, if everything goes well, she'll be off for a year. If things don't go well, she'll go back but keep trying, hopefully get pregnant again... and go on medical leave due to high-risk pregnancy again.

And yet, the bosses refuse to hire someone because "she might come back!" Yes, she may - but hopefully in a year!

The issue isn't secrecy or not, it's managers thinking that subordinates are infinitely-stretchable rubber bands.

Last edited by Nava; 05-01-2019 at 09:59 AM.
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Old 05-01-2019, 10:02 AM
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Dinsdale has a right to be upset, but not at the missing employee. That person may be ill, or on the lam, or secretly dead, but the problem is that Dinsdale's workload has increased for a prolonged period with no relief in sight and no increase in compensation. There is no point in asking why the cow-orker is gone, only in asking when a replacement (even if temporary) will be arriving, or when compensation will be increased to reflect the increased workload. Repercussions for the missing employee does nothing to compensate Dinsdale for their extra work. I mean, if there are meant to be 10 of you in the position, and you were operating with 8 but are now down to 7, they're taking advantage of you.
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Old 05-01-2019, 10:20 AM
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If the absentee is taking care of his kid with leukemia then it's not a problem but if it's him "finding himself" by running naked with giraffes for six months then Dinsdale and his coworkers deserve some sort of recompense for all the extra work they're doing.
But this is a lot of leave to be burning up for a frivolous issue, right? It's a safer bet that its a medical issue, a family issue, or a leave without pay type of disciplinary issue.

Regardless of what it is, though, the bottom line remains the same: there is extra work that is burdening the team because it's short one person. It is management's job to worry about staffing and personnel issues; and it is the OP's job to worry about getting his job done. If he's feeling overworked, then that's what he needs to be communicating to his boss. The personnel issues behind it are not in his sphere of control.

Last edited by you with the face; 05-01-2019 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 05-01-2019, 10:25 AM
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My office currently has an employee out for 90 days. We've been told that he is out, and expected back, but not the reason for it. He could be sick, in jail, taking care of a dying relative, in rehab, or out for any of a host of other reasons. Not our business, although the office is small, and production has been impacted.
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Old 05-01-2019, 10:33 AM
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I would only say that the OP is being overworked if he's expected to churn out an increased number of widgets in the same amount of time that was expected of him before the co-worker disappeared.

But if the turnaround time for getting products out the door has been relaxed to accommodate the increase in assignments per person (in other words, the OP is still doing a 40 hour work week same as he was before), then this doesn't indicate that management is ignoring the situation. I'm not saying this is necessarily the right course of action; just that the OP needs to look at things objectively.
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Old 05-01-2019, 10:55 AM
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I would only say that the OP is being overworked if he's expected to churn out an increased number of widgets in the same amount of time that was expected of him before the co-worker disappeared.

But if the turnaround time for getting products out the door has been relaxed to accommodate the increase in assignments per person (in other words, the OP is still doing a 40 hour work week same as he was before), then this doesn't indicate that management is ignoring the situation. I'm not saying this is necessarily the right course of action; just that the OP needs to look at things objectively.
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Old 05-01-2019, 11:01 AM
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I would only say that the OP is being overworked if he's expected to churn out an increased number of widgets in the same amount of time that was expected of him before the co-worker disappeared.

But if the turnaround time for getting products out the door has been relaxed to accommodate the increase in assignments per person (in other words, the OP is still doing a 40 hour work week same as he was before), then this doesn't indicate that management is ignoring the situation. I'm not saying this is necessarily the right course of action; just that the OP needs to look at things objectively.
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Old 05-01-2019, 11:02 AM
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Just to clarify a few things. My job is covered by a contract, in which various work conditions and expectations are set forth.

Sure, I could always do more work than I do. But given our workload, our entire staff could double our production, and we would make no noticeable dent in the amount of work coming in.

Moreover, we are expected to meet some quality standards - so there are limits as to how many corners you can cut.

500 is the "target/goal." Approximately 1/2 of the similar employees meet/exceed that. I have exceeded 500 in each of the 8 years I've had this job. As I said, my production this year is currently in the top 5th of a pretty capable bunch of 1600 or so employees.

Another factor - the employee in question has never impressed me as an overachiever, or in any way a "teamplayer." Have to admit, my impression of her was colored when she blatantly lied to me making conversation the first day I met her.

Management has not done anything (I don't know what it could be) to create an environment in which I felt the need to do even more work than I'm doing.

No, I'm not thinking of quitting (other than when I retire.) And I get well compensated for the amount of work I do. I just am having difficulty persuading myself to do more and more, with no indication of the need or management's handling it well.
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Old 05-01-2019, 11:39 AM
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No, I'm not thinking of quitting (other than when I retire.) And I get well compensated for the amount of work I do. I just am having difficulty persuading myself to do more and more, with no indication of the need or management's handling it well.
If you've been exceeding the target for years, then could always slow your pace if you're losing your motivation.
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Old 05-01-2019, 12:20 PM
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The other issue is if it is an unpaid leave then what's happening to that money that Dinsdale et al. are not getting for doing that work? Ah right, the company gets it, not the workers. Great message on May 1st
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Old 05-01-2019, 12:42 PM
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Little more info. When this employee was first absent, it occurred around the time of a horrible storm. I think we were told she could not drive to the office. At some point soon after, I heard that she had injured her leg or something. I assumed a slip on the ice. I think someone said her right leg, so she could not drive.

Some time later (maybe a month) she appeared in the office for a couple of days, wearing a boot. We are allowed to work at home 2 days a week, so depending on our schedules, we may see each other infrequently.

A weird thing is that some of her in-office tasks were reassigned ON THE DAYS THAT SHE WAS IN THE OFFICE. None of the rest of us could figure a reason for that. She was physically there - why couldn't she do her own work? It caused at least some of us to wonder if there was a disciplinary element.

Then, she's been gone for the past month and a half.

There is a lot of our work that can be done remotely, but her workload (all of our workloads are transparent to each other) has not moved. There also is the possibility for a hardship transfer; if mobility is the issue, she could work out of either of 2 offices which are closer to her home.

Finally, she has not presented herself as the type of person who would welcome any friendly expression of concern. I do not believe any of the 7 of us are on "friendly terms" with her. I don't dislike her, I just don't know her and don't care to, so long as she does her work.

I used to be a manager, so I know what can and can't be done about reassigning work.

Didn't there used to be a time when it was customary to express concern for ill colleagues? Did that only happen if the affected employee indicated such expressions were welcome?

Yeah, I really don't care what is wrong with her, or when or if she'll be back. Don't get me wrong - I don't wish her ill. But as it is, whatever is going on w/ her is causing me at least some mild inconvenience. One of my main concerns is to not conduct myself in any way that inconveniences my colleagues. Given the situation, I'd think mgmt. ought to do SOMETHING other than they have towards those of us who are present and doing the work.

Yeah, I COULD produce LESS work than I do with no significant repercussions, but I've never been that kinda employee. One of the problems is, however, that they say they expect 500, and then they keep doing things to rachet it up. Okay, you're doing 500 - why not do and extra one per month for 512. Or 550-600, or more. Meanwhile, the nature of the work is such that you can never get ahead. No matter how many widgets you crank out one day, there will be as huge a pile to be worked on tomorrow.
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Old 05-01-2019, 01:38 PM
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I'm still confused. You say you aren't going to quit. If you refuse to do any of her work, and stick to your own, what will be the consequences for you?
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Old 05-01-2019, 02:03 PM
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Okay, you're doing 500 - why not do and extra one per month for 512. Or 550-600, or more. Meanwhile, the nature of the work is such that you can never get ahead. No matter how many widgets you crank out one day, there will be as huge a pile to be worked on tomorrow.
But if 500 widgets is the official target--the same as it's always has been--the size of the "pile" shouldn't matter to you.

Let's say there are normally four cashiers on the 1st shift. These 4 cashiers ring up a total of 200 customers during a typical 8-hour day. One quits and so now there are only 3 cashiers. If these 3 cashiers are expected to ring up 200 customers per shift, objectively this is more work for them because they will have to speed up to meet their target.

But if 3 cashiers are expected to work at their normal pace, then nothing objectively changes for them. Sure, their lines will be longer (so work will be "piling up" as you're saying it does for you now), but that technically isn't the cashiers problem. It's the customers' problem and by extension, the store's problem.
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Old 05-01-2019, 03:00 PM
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I'm still confused. You say you aren't going to quit. If you refuse to do any of her work, and stick to your own, what will be the consequences for you?
There is no question about "refusing" to do work. The question is how I deal w/ the additional assignments.

Our work is generally handled in order of when the specific request was made. There is a LONG - 1 yr+ - processing time. So each of the requests in each of our boxes have been sitting around for a year or more.

I'm not so overworked that I couldn't add an extra assignment here or there. And I'm happy to do so occasionally in the spirit of helping out. But, if you are talking about more than an occasional additional case, I have to figure out how I fit them in. I can either postpone one of the cases previously assigned to me - which has already been waiting around. Or I can postpone the reassigned cases - even tho those people have been waiting a year for their answer.

So I'm still going to do my roughly 500+ cases. It is just that some of the requests will have an even longer turnaround time. Heck, they could give me 500 more cases today - that would just mean that it would take me 2 years to get through them all. I'm not about to work twice as hard, put in twice the hours, or produce work that is half the expected quality.

You are right, you with the face. The size of the overall pile really doesn't matter. But when the pile is insurmountable, and never seems to diminish, it does reduce the individual's incentive to go over and above. IF there were a reason to feel I was helping a colleague in certain circumstances, that MIGHT be one such reason. OR - if I was helping out mgmt. due to unforeseen developments. But lacking that...

You are right, the problem is primarily the customers' and management's. Doesn't mean the 3 cashiers don't experience stress as the lines get longer, the customers gripe louder, and management just keeps telling them to "do more with less."

My job pays too well for me to look for something else. I've got it good - I'm just bitching. Just thought the current situation odd. I understand that if a worker is on certain health leave, you cannot ask when/if they expect to return. Say if a parent is on maternity/paternity leave, or a guy has a heart attack.

This case just struck me as a little different, because those of us divvying up the pile don't have a clue as to why our colleague is out.
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Old 05-01-2019, 03:09 PM
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It's obvious that the OP and his coworkers have issues with how the workload of the absent employee is distributed.

But I totally fail to see how knowing why this coworker is away would change anything. So, I fail to see why they should be told about this.
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Old 05-01-2019, 03:16 PM
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I guess if I thought the employee was sick or something, I might feel like doing more work to help them out.

If I felt management was taking necessary action against a bad employee, I might feel like doing more to help management out.

But knowing nothing, I'm comfortable to just continue as I am. And the people who lose out most are the "clients."
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Old 05-01-2019, 03:31 PM
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My office currently has an employee out for 90 days. We've been told that he is out, and expected back, but not the reason for it. He could be sick, in jail, taking care of a dying relative, in rehab, or out for any of a host of other reasons. Not our business, although the office is small, and production has been impacted.
I had a coworker who was on sick leave for two entire years. Management never said why due to privacy concerns but it was obvious they were malingering extensively. They had the world's dumbest excuse for being sick too when they came back, "My birth control gives me nausea" and apparently this meant they couldn't work for all two years they were taking it.
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Old 05-01-2019, 03:32 PM
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Management has not done anything (I don't know what it could be) to create an environment in which I felt the need to do even more work than I'm doing.

No, I'm not thinking of quitting (other than when I retire.) And I get well compensated for the amount of work I do. I just am having difficulty persuading myself to do more and more, with no indication of the need or management's handling it well.
Sounds like you're doing the right thing. You have goals, which you are more than meeting. Management probably has goals also for the entire office. If they are not meeting those goals because they have understaffed the office and are not looking for a temp, that is their problem not your problem.
Have they asked you to work more? If so, you might want to negotiate some sort of benefit, whether extra money or comp time.
I'm assuming her absence is legit, otherwise they could fire her already and hire a replacement. If they choose not to hire a replacement you are even less obligated to work more to meet their goals.
Has management complained about your (collective) output? If not, chill out.

ETA: As for the original question, you are under no more obligation to work harder for no reward if the absence is justified versus being unjustified.

Last edited by Voyager; 05-01-2019 at 03:34 PM.
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Old 05-01-2019, 03:52 PM
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I guess if I thought the employee was sick or something, I might feel like doing more work to help them out.
You arenít helping your co-worker out. They are not responsible for any of the work youíre doing. You arenít doing any one any favors just for doing the job youíre paid to.

If I were you, and I wanted to stay motivated, Iíd tell myself the most sympathetic scenario was the truth.
  #34  
Old 05-01-2019, 03:53 PM
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...
Have they asked you to work more? If so, you might want to negotiate some sort of benefit, whether extra money or comp time.
I'm assuming her absence is legit, otherwise they could fire her already and hire a replacement. If they choose not to hire a replacement you are even less obligated to work more to meet their goals.
Has management complained about your (collective) output? If not, chill out.
...
Nah - it is just that insidious kind of "pressure" I'm sure most folk are familiar with. Continual requests to pick up one more assignment here or there. There are countless "targets." They keep assigning more and more work, and then if you have to shift things around to satisfy one "priority", they don't hesitate to point out that you are falling short of some other "target/goal". Which of course you are aware of.

And the ONLY target that matters is 500+ at the end of the year. But, like I said, half the people don't ht 500, and they experience no repercussions (other than possibly not getting to telework 2 days a week.)

Like I said, I'm just bitching. And probably just nosey. This situation is highly unusual (I've worked for this shop for 30+ years.) It takes A LONG TIME to discipline anyone around here. And mgmt is pretty consistently clueless. I'll just keep shifting things around, ignore management's irritating "reminders", and keep slogging away, bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon. If nothing else, the constant backlog is good job security!
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  #35  
Old 05-01-2019, 04:16 PM
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Nah - it is just that insidious kind of "pressure" I'm sure most folk are familiar with. Continual requests to pick up one more assignment here or there. There are countless "targets." They keep assigning more and more work, and then if you have to shift things around to satisfy one "priority", they don't hesitate to point out that you are falling short of some other "target/goal". Which of course you are aware of.
This is the problem. The reason for your coworker's absence doesn't enter into it. As mentioned above, you're not doing "their" work, you're doing work.
  #36  
Old 05-01-2019, 11:17 PM
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Like I said, I'm just bitching. And probably just nosey. This situation is highly unusual (I've worked for this shop for 30+ years.) It takes A LONG TIME to discipline anyone around here. And mgmt is pretty consistently clueless. I'll just keep shifting things around, ignore management's irritating "reminders", and keep slogging away, bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon. If nothing else, the constant backlog is good job security!
You've given excellent evidence for the cluelessness of your management.
If they ever get serious about ramping up the pressure, you can suggest a meeting with all of you where you would try to resolve the problem. You might at least find out what is going on, and why they can't hire anyone. As a former manager, I think it is quite possible that they are waiting for you guys to lose it, and are thankful for every day you just take it. Sometimes management isn't clueless, but it is efficient to act as if they are.
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Old 05-02-2019, 07:33 AM
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You've given excellent evidence for the cluelessness of your management.
If they ever get serious about ramping up the pressure, you can suggest a meeting with all of you where you would try to resolve the problem. You might at least find out what is going on, and why they can't hire anyone. As a former manager, I think it is quite possible that they are waiting for you guys to lose it, and are thankful for every day you just take it. Sometimes management isn't clueless, but it is efficient to act as if they are.
It's actually more the case that mgmt can make things slightly unpleasant, but in the end, they really would be hard-pressed to do anything about it. Huge organization with labor contracts. VERY slow to hire OR fire. As of late, pretty hard cap on hiring at all levels, even to replace attrition. And next to impossible to fire someone in my particular position who is doing close to their expected job and is NOT doing something blatantly wrong.

When morale is already in the dumper, there really isn't much they can do to make things more unpleasant. Funny when you have a workplace where MOST of the people are working pretty hard, and mgmt thinks what is needed is a good dose of micromanagement! When I was a manager, I always viewed my role as asking my good performers if they needed ANYTHING, and otherwise, staying out of their way! Guess I was a sucky manager!

Still think the situation in my office is curious. I understand the importance of privacy. But there also seems to be some benefit to workplace cohesiveness. If I am not supposed to even wonder why one of my colleagues has essentially vanished for 3 months, then it is hard to imagine why I ought to give a damn about any other aspect of them. Yeah, my cow-orkers aren't my friends. But if I'm not supposed to even know or care whether they are ill, dying, or about to be fired - well, the idea of a bunch of strangers working independently in close proximity seems rather cold.
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  #38  
Old 05-02-2019, 12:41 PM
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Still think the situation in my office is curious. I understand the importance of privacy. But there also seems to be some benefit to workplace cohesiveness. If I am not supposed to even wonder why one of my colleagues has essentially vanished for 3 months, then it is hard to imagine why I ought to give a damn about any other aspect of them. Yeah, my cow-orkers aren't my friends. But if I'm not supposed to even know or care whether they are ill, dying, or about to be fired - well, the idea of a bunch of strangers working independently in close proximity seems rather cold.
Has anyone asked when she is coming back? Did your management announce that she is gone - or were you supposed to figure it out. Nothing wrong with speculating. But they probably can't give details.

I had the situation of someone with an obvious performance problem. When people complained, all I could say was that I was aware of it. I was not allowed to say that we are firing his ass as fast as we can. Which in a very big company is not very fast.
  #39  
Old 05-02-2019, 02:40 PM
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Since going to work for Da Jungle (think starting with the letter "A" and smile) I don't want to know. People disappear more around us than Haiti during the Tonton Macoute; I'm talking daily. Sometimes its quit, sometimes fired, sometimes appealing, sometimes its probably aliens and they are being probed even as I type this. If they come back I may ask; and they may or may not tell the truth about it. But on a certain level its like combat --- you just get used to not knowing anything outside your own skin.
  #40  
Old 05-02-2019, 02:51 PM
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So, I figure I'm just being nosy, and ought to simply respond to any reassignments as I feel appropriate?
Whatever the missing person's situation is has nothing to do with the fact that your boss has work to get done and is asking you to do it. Your response should hinge on your willingness to pick up extra cases for your employer.

It's no different than if someone quit and the boss didn't replace them.

Your beef is with your management's ability to manage resources, not the person who isn't there.
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  #41  
Old 05-03-2019, 01:42 PM
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Just got word that they are reassigning this employee's "AGED" caseload. These are the cases that are time sensitive, as there will be pressure to close them before the end of the year. Not sure what special lengths I will feel like going to in order to get that done, but we'll see.

Message said they may also start reassigning her non-aged workload.

Kind of a minor hassle, just because since each of us is personally responsible for the final outcome, you generally like to have handled the cases from the beginning. Can be a minor hassle top be assigned a case someone else screwed up or let lie around too long. But no big deal.

All in all, tho, a highly unusual situation. On the one hand, I don't really care what happens to this cow-orker. But on the other, giving me zero info reinforces my tendency not to care about her as a person. Can't imagine any alternatives other than she is ill, taking some other unusual leave of absence, under disciplinary proceedings, or working some weird scam prior to retiring. If this were an unavoidable illness, or if management were working hard to discipline a bad apple, I might feel the urge to step up. But in silence, her cases can just wait their turn.
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  #42  
Old 05-10-2019, 08:11 AM
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Not that folk were HUGELY interested in this, but I thought I'd post an update.

They started reassigning this employee's pending cases. Still zero explanation of why they are out. Only statement from my boss is that she "has no idea when [the employee] will be back."

Some of these reassigned cases were close to ready to be closed. We were told that they had already been reviewed by an employee in our office (lower graded than I and my colleagues), who had rendered an opinion as to whether the proposed action was correct. If we reviewed the materials and agreed, we could simply sign off on the outcome.

First of all, considerable individual effort is involved to get to the point of closing a case. It can be almost as much effort for me to review a colleague's efforts, as it is to do it all myself. So I was figuring how to fit these into my schedule. Have to admit that, given these additions to an already heavy caseload, the idea of an easy "sign-off" on some of these cases had initial appeal.

Then I noticed that these cases had all been temporarily transferred to our regional office. We hadn't been told of this, but it could be detected within the individual files. Now, I tend not to be paranoid, but as a general rule, as a worker bee who just wants to do his job and stay under the radar, regional involvement is not a good thing.

Apparently regional signed off on some of the missing employee's cases, and returned the rest to our office, where they were reassigned to us. Now this is certainly not normal procedure. And I don't have time to try to figure out what is going on. So I decided just to put all cases reassigned to me back in my hopper and I would process them as though they had been originally assigned to me. I'm juggling my schedule somewhat to minimize the delay to the pending cases.

For regional to be this involved in an employee's caseload, smacks of disciplinary efforts. And if I'm not told what is going on, I don't care to risk becoming a pawn in those efforts. If the employee was handling their cases improperly, I don't want to sign off on their work, and thereby be accused of being complicit in the impropriety. Nor am I interested in helping management "make a case" against this employee.

Of course, the possibility exists that this is appropriate procedure for handling the caseload of any employee who is absent for a prolonged reason due to illness or any reason. But if mgmt. wished us not to suspect otherwise, they could have been more up front about the procedure they were following.

Damn, I hate workplace politics and intrigue. Just let me do my fucking job!
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  #43  
Old 05-10-2019, 08:40 AM
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Yeah, that doesn't strike me as disciplinary. It smacks more of 'long term absence of unknown duration has become absence of extremely long duration'. That's why corporate gets involved. Local management acknowledges that this is no longer a short-term issue and is addressing it.

Get me, companies can be very cautious about stuff like that. During my cancer a while back I told both my HR department and my assistant that they could be completely honest and upfront with my co-workers and my clients why I was out for such a long time. Nonetheless, they elected not to for privacy reasons and HR instructed my assistant to not give out the information.

It could simply be that you're not entitled to the information. They're under no obligation to give it to you, after all.
  #44  
Old 05-10-2019, 09:35 AM
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Getting extra work for 90 days (and counting) seems like a legitimate problem that management should find a solution to.
But has the OP gotten extra work? OP hasn't indicated that this person's absence has resulted in extra hours for him personally, that it has interrupted his work/life balance. It may have, but this hasn't been brought up. It sounds like the OP has a curiosity that hasn't been satisfied.
  #45  
Old 05-10-2019, 10:05 AM
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But has the OP gotten extra work? OP hasn't indicated that this person's absence has resulted in extra hours for him personally, that it has interrupted his work/life balance. It may have, but this hasn't been brought up. It sounds like the OP has a curiosity that hasn't been satisfied.
No man. I thought I made it very clear. No extra work. I got a huge mountain of shit to shovel, far larger than I could ever shovel if I worked twice as hard. All I'm obligated to give is a decent 8 hrs' effort. These assignments just get added to the pile.

In some ways, they applied some pressure to get us to turn out these widgets IN ADDITION TO our normal workload. Or to put in some extra effort to re-jigger our workloads to fold these assignments into our existing work. But they have no way to enforce that, and I'm unlikely to go the extra distance unless they give me SOME reason. Fine, they don't have to tell me. I really don't care. But, if they DON'T tell me SOMETHING, I'll just keep to my normal pace.

Yeah, you can call my thoughts 'curiosity." But I'll offer that my "curiosity" might - in part - concern trying to figure out how our work rules are being applied. Mgmt is often opaque in why they do what they do. I used to be in management for this same concern. You don't have to believe me when I say that this is quite unusual given my experience - but it is. And there is at least a non-zero possibility that some ugliness is going on behind the scenes. Lacking information, my overriding concern is to avoid getting mixed up in someone else's ugliness.

Whether or not you believe me, at this point, I couldn't care less what the situation is with this employee. I'm glad I figured out how I would fold these assignments into my existing caseload, while minimizing the potential adverse effects on me, and while providing the highest reasonable level of service to our "customers."

And Jonathan, I thought I made it clear that I agreed there was no "obligation" to share any info. But, in my experience, there can be times that it is beneficial for management to share information that they CAN share, even if they are not OBLIGATED to. All to often, our management acts as though they keep secret as much info as they can, while doling out dribs and drabs only as they are required to - even if there is no legitimate reason for secrecy. The general attitude is essentially, "I know it and YOU don't. Info is power." Which IMO sucks. I can imagine how that approach might serve some mgmt purposes. But in my opinion, any such advantages may be greatly offset by the ill-will it creates when a workforce feels it is denied info it ought to have.
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  #46  
Old 05-10-2019, 10:16 AM
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My brother's job is having a similar problem, minus the privacy issues.

They have two in-house lawyers; one of them is pregnant and on medical leave due to high-risk pregnancy. She was put on leave while on her second month. That means that, if everything goes well, she'll be off for a year. If things don't go well, she'll go back but keep trying, hopefully get pregnant again... and go on medical leave due to high-risk pregnancy again.

And yet, the bosses refuse to hire someone because "she might come back!" Yes, she may - but hopefully in a year!

The issue isn't secrecy or not, it's managers thinking that subordinates are infinitely-stretchable rubber bands.
It would be prudent to hire a temp. worker, although this might be extremely difficult if the position is that of a lawyer. I would think good lawyers tend to want steady jobs, not one-year gigs.

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  #47  
Old 05-10-2019, 10:23 AM
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The other issue is if it is an unpaid leave then what's happening to that money that Dinsdale et al. are not getting for doing that work? Ah right, the company gets it, not the workers. Great message on May 1st
Dinsdale et al. are not performing more work, they are performing different work. The total amount of work done went down because one employee is missing in action. So the company is paying less in wages for less work, which makes sense.

~Max
  #48  
Old 05-10-2019, 10:40 AM
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I agree with other posters, the reason for the employee's absence should have no bearing on whether you perform the work management assigns to you. If you have concerns about meeting production quotas or questions on how to prioritize the unusual load, it should be OK to ask for help prioritizing (although you need to gauge your own company culture about this). If management is giving you assignments "to do today" that means they already took the initiative in micromanaging parts of your workflow. If you are uncomfortable with the micromanagement, you can ask for the reason - but you already know the reason. The employee is out and they need stuff done. You can also offer constructive criticism, if you think that is appropriate.

You don't know the specific reason that your co-worker is absent because you are not friends with the co-worker. You did not ask the co-worker what happened when they showed up in the boot, presumably because it is none of your business. It is still none of your business. Only the co-worker could tell you why. Therefore you have no right to satisfy the curiosity burning a hole in your head. Management may know, but I'm sure you realize their hands are tied.

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  #49  
Old 05-10-2019, 10:50 AM
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Damn, I hate workplace politics and intrigue. Just let me do my fucking job!
If you don't want to get involved in workplace politics, don't. Hopefully you are on good terms with a direct supervisor. Tell your supervisor it will take time to review cases before you sign off, and the real reasons why - you don't want to carelessly sign off on a co-worker's case if they are on disciplinary leave. There's nothing unreasonable about that, and since management is the one micromanaging they need to know that simple "sign-offs" will take time because of the unknown nature of your co-worker's leave. Don't slow-walk a direct order.

If you aren't on good terms with your management, there's no easy way out. But ideally your supervisor absorbs all the corporate politics for you, that's their job, not yours.

~Max

Last edited by Max S.; 05-10-2019 at 10:51 AM.
  #50  
Old 05-10-2019, 11:00 AM
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And Jonathan, I thought I made it clear that I agreed there was no "obligation" to share any info. But, in my experience, there can be times that it is beneficial for management to share information that they CAN share, even if they are not OBLIGATED to.
What is it that you think they can share?
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