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husband’s boss didn’t tell me about his medical episode, asking about starting time, and more — Ask a Manager


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

1. My husband’s boss didn’t alert me when he had a medical episode

My husband works for a small, family-owned business. The owners of the business are three siblings. The oldest brother used to be in charge, but he retired a year or so ago. The next oldest sister, Tina, is now trying to run the show. Tina is a mess. She doesn’t even show up for work until around 4:30 pm when they close at 5:30 pm. She claims she is working at home, but with nothing to show for it. They are struggling financially, but that is not the real question here.

My husband has some serious health issues. It is under control and he seems high-functioning, but it’s still there and he is dealing with it. He recently has been having a bad run of luck with continuity of care and refilling needed medications. He will have “episodes” and need to sleep them off. One of his episodes hid a stroke, so they are nothing to laugh at. He hasn’t had one in a few years since he started on medication.

Today he was sent out to do a pick-up and delivery in the company’s poorly-maintained, aging semi-sized delivery truck, a round trip of around five hours. He had an episode while driving today, and he pulled over and slept for a few hours. When he woke up, he called me and told me what was going on and said he was going to call Tina and then sleep some more. I gave him an hour or so to feel better and was thinking that Tina would call and let me know what was going on and what the plan was should he need assistance. Nope! I finally called him and he was back on the road and feeling a little bit better. Tina finally called a few minutes later, but she only called because he wasn’t answering her calls, not to tell me there was an issue. Oh, and she wanted to ask him a work question.

I told her I was about to call her and tell her to send someone to go get him and take him for medical evaluation. She had the nerve to be defensive with me. She was more worried about her empty truck than whether or not my husband was having a medical emergency.

Am I overreacting? How should this have been handled? What is an employer’s responsibility when this happens? I would have left my job and driven two hours or further to try and find him. I am really just stunned at the lack of … anything. It’s not even his job to do the deliveries.

Without knowing what your husband told Tina, I don’t think this necessarily warrants outrage. Did she know he was potentially having a medical emergency and could be in need of help, or could she have had the impression it was something more minor that your husband had under control? If the latter, it makes sense that she didn’t call you.

I’m guessing you have a lot more background on your husband’s health situation than Tina does and so you’re able to see that the situation required XYZ, but an employer wouldn’t necessarily have the info to make that call themselves. Going forward, can your husband work out a more official plan for these episodes with his employer, including them calling you if that’s a step he wants them to take? Otherwise, if he hasn’t given them clear guidance on how it should be handled, and especially if he just said he needed to rest before continuing the drive, it’s understandable that they wouldn’t know to alert you.

2. When can I ask about morning start time in an interview process?

You’ve written a few times about when you can bring up salary during an interview process. But what about office hours?

It seems like a lot of places have moved to starting at 8am instead of 9am. That is a deal-breaker for me. An otherwise perfect job that requires me to get up an hour earlier is an automatic no, the same way an otherwise perfect job that’s a $20,000 pay cut would be an automatic no. So, it seems to me it should be discussed around the same time, very early on in the interview process.

However, there is a weird, persistent stigma around night owls being viewed as lazy, despite the fact that we’re doing the same amount of work as the early birds, just later in the day. And while there has been growing acceptance of discussing salary earlier on and including it in job postings, there doesn’t seem to be the same discussion about scheduling.

Yeah, it’s BS and I imagine at some point it will change, but it hasn’t changed yet. Asking to work a schedule of, say, 11am – 7pm often does trigger an “indolent layabout” bias that asking about working 7am – 3pm doesn’t. It’s irrational — it’s the same amount of work, and there’s nothing inherently more virtuous about early hours versus late hours, but that bias persists in our culture.

I do think you can ask about hours fairly early on — as in, “What hours do people generally work?” That’s not asking about starting time, but about hours overall. If you don’t get clear info on starting time, you can follow up with, “Do most people start at 9 or 8 or…?”

Where it gets trickier is that if you hear 8 am, you won’t necessarily know if you could negotiate a later start time at the end of the hiring process if they conclude you’re they one they want to hire. You could ask about it on the spot (“I’ll be up-front, starting earlier than 9 isn’t a good fit for me — are you open to later schedules or would that be a deal-breaker?”) but sometimes it’s easier to get agreement at the offer stage than while you’re early in the interview process. Still, though, if you’re going to bow out at that point anyway, you might as well give it a shot and see what happens.

Related:
should I stop using my office’s flex hours since my coworkers have earlier schedules?

3. Should I correct my boss about someone else’s pronouns?

I have an absolutely wonderful boss who is super compassionate, smart, takes care of her employees, and has a spine with the higher-ups. She’s been in this job for a few years) and we’re around the same age.

We’ve been working with someone in a related department, also our age and at about my level, who uses they/them pronouns but goes by a traditionally feminine name, let’s say “Emma.” Our company’s internal directory displays people’s preferred pronouns, but not everyone fills this section out, and not everyone knows to look. I’ve noticed my boss talking about Emma using she/her when we are discussing our common work. So far this hasn’t happened while we’ve been talking to Emma one-on-one, but I worry that my boss might inadvertently misgender Emma to their face without meaning to do so.

However, she’s still my boss, so I don’t want to issue a corrective if it’s not my place to do so. Should I say something to her? Should I enlist another colleague who is at her level to say something? Should I make it less about my boss and more about “hey, everyone should know about this pronouns thing in the directory?”

It’s reasonable to assume a decent person would appreciate a heads-up, and your boss sounds like a decent person. The next time she uses the wrong pronouns for Emma, just say matter-of-factly, “Emma uses they/them pronouns” and continue right along with the conversation. Ideally it shouldn’t be a big deal — you relay the needed info, your boss hears it, and you move on, just like if you were letting her know Emma’s title recently changed or that they have an unusual pronunciation to their name.

4. Should I try to grow in my current job or leave for more money and more PTO?

I’ve been in my position for nearly three years. After a particularly rough season, I decided I would not stick around for more than another year. I started working on my résumé and putting out feelers. I knew that one possible pivot would increase my pay and get me some benefits that would matter a ton to me right now, specifically increased PTO. But then things changed at work. There were some personnel changes, and I ended up in a role where I was needed and thriving. Things were so busy as well that I totally dropped my own career planning. I started to think as well that I perhaps wouldn’t need to move on, things could work here.

Recently things have started to feel the way they did during the very bad season, and I am full of regret that I am facing down another one here. When I felt like things had changed, I was glad to try to make it work. Now I fear I’ve trapped myself.

I believe that my rough season was caused by multiple factors. Some are on me. I should have demanded better training and guidance. I shouldn’t have been afraid to ask for what I needed. When the training was not adequate, I should have been open and forthright in order to get the training I needed to be the employee they needed.

I’m struggling with whether I’m jumping ship because I’m lacking confidence and afraid, or whether it is the right choice. The prospect of more money and better benefits sounds wonderful. I also think that this pivot will be a better fit for me. I fear I’ve never been a good fit for this position. I believe I could grow better at it, but I wonder if I’m capable of growing fast enough to make it a less difficult place to be. I worry that I’m letting my sensitive nature make me quit something that I could grow at. On the other hand, maybe my sensitive nature will help me get more money at another position where I am a more natural fit!

Do you think there’s a way to know clearly whether my motivations are adequate for leaving or whether I should stick it out and find a way to be strong enough to grow? It has been hard to grow in this position, because I just feel stupid. Things that come easily to other people do not come easily to me. I am learning and I am growing. But the fact that I’ve disappointed people has never been hidden from me.

I suppose my worry is that I only think the pivot would be a better fit for me, and that actually I’ll just be at least a bit of a disappointment everywhere I go. So I may as well try to make it work here.

Wanting more money and better benefits is enough! You don’t need to try to contort yourself into something that doesn’t feel comfortable for the sake of “toughing it out” or showing that you’re strong enough to do it. You’re not happy in your job, you see a path that would get you more money and better benefits … that’s enough. Maybe you could stick it out and grow in your current position. But there’s no special merit in doing that, and you’re not failing by choosing not to. You’re allowed to leave whenever you feel like leaving, and it sounds like you feel like leaving.

As for your worry that the next job won’t be a better fit … maybe it won’t be! There’s never any guarantee. But you’ve been at your current job for three years, and that’s a reasonable time to move on if you’re not satisfied. Try something new, do your due diligence before accepting it, and give yourself the gift of not feeling tethered to a place that you already regret not leaving earlier.



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