Hi everyone.

I'm a manager at a small firm, I'm the most senior employee, I've been with the company for 7+ years.  Over the years, my direct manager (the company owner) has always been "prickly" about staff working from home. In general, he's of the opinion that its too easy to be distracted (we're all entitled to our opinion, right?).

Then a global pandemic hits. Me and my team (4 of us total) worked from home for months; there was no interruption in service to our members, we all worked effectively. By the summer time, a few of my co-workers began to head back to the office part time for various reasons (ie, "I need to get away from my kids!")...I've stayed away for the most part. There's been a real lack of COVID awareness at the company in general. My manager has said things like "isn't this whole COVID thing over already?" one masks when they're in the office. At some point during the summer I sent a proposal to my manager about how things should be handled (ie., partitions, no one in the conference room together, everyone masking up, etc); his solution was to give everyone hand sanitizer and told me that if I wanted to work in my office with the door closed, that was fine.

I should also note that I have several co-morbidities that could make things bad for me should I get sick, and my spouse is immunocompromised. I've been very transparent with my manager about my concerns, and have stayed out of the office as much as possible, continuing to work from home. I started out coming into the office on weekends, when no one else was around...and he was unhappy with that. "You have to be in the office more," he said. I told him that I'd be comfortable coming in twice a week, for partial days, and working from home the rest of the time. When I am in the office, I am the only person there who wears a mask the entire time. 

He recently said to me, "when things are back to normal, and there's a vaccine, you'll be coming back to the office, right?" He believes (in my opinion) that I'm just trying to take advantage of the situation and continue working from home. I've been doing everything I can to prove that I'm actually working when I'm home, been as visible as possible, communicating openly...last month he told the team that anyone who works from home needs to enter their tasks on a spreadsheet and document what they're doing. My team members all agreed that it was disrespectful and showed a complete lack of trust on his part. And just about everyone said, "if that's what I need to do, I'd rather come into the office". I've done the dumb spreadsheet. Because its important to me to stay safe. 

Which brings us to last week. I'd texted him in advance of a big snowstorm, and asked him on behalf of the team if folks could work from home. He agreed, but then replied "I've been meaning to tell you; after 2/15 anyone who works from home will only be permitted to work half days".. I didn't respond, because (a) this should be an actual conversation, not a text you decide to throw over the wall and (b) I was angry lol. I know that I need to engage him and have a talk, but I'm so insulted, discouraged, and disappointed overall. Not to mention that I feel what he's doing is ethically wrong.  I don't even know where to start. I feel as though I'm being penalized because I'm trying to keep myself safe. 

Wise ones, is this salvageable? Or is it time to move on?

Many thanks.


pucciot's picture
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My recommendation.


Hold tight onto this Job as best you can for now.

and Prep your resumé and look around for other opportunities.

Please try to salvage this -  but, don't get caught flat footed.

It looks like things are not going to get better for you in the short term.

Ask yourself if you really want to keep working for this person who has had a poor track record of being concerned for employee health ?  And who is not seeing the big picture about productivity ?

Who knows what the stressor will be next year ?

You should always have your escape plan ready, just in case.

And, Yes --  start looking for another opportunity. 

Something better may already be out there.

Until then – keep up the good work.

Keep trying to make the case about overall productivity.

Good Luck




monkeyflower's picture

I would definitely start looking for something else, and start applying as soon as you can get together a resume that you are satisfied with. In the meantime, you will need to decide whether you are willing to take the risk of coming into the office. It's a very personal decision that only you can make in discussion with any other adults that you might live with. Personally, for me the answer I would not go in during COVID even if I knew I would be fired, but I respect others making a different decision. Whether you decide to work in the office or not, do whatever you can to be excellent in every other way, until you find another job.

I'm in a somewhat similar situation (but not quite as extreme). I decided to start looking for a job after my boss said that we would be forced into the office soon. I've been able to get an exception due to a high-risk spouse, but I don't know whether that will last. Today while prepping for the "Why do you want to work here?" question for an interview tomorrow, I discovered that the company I would be interviewing with started forcing office workers back into the office in September. I suppose this is now a "practice" interview.

On a positive note, while I was writing this post, I got an e-mail requesting availability for a phone screen for another company with a great reputation at which I had applied for several very similar positions. So stay positive. You will find something better at a place that values your health and safety.

Jollymom's picture

Based on what you have shared, I find your boss toxic. A friend of mine got the same problem, but he already resigned in the company. He has been in the company for a decade and due to the pandemic, they got no choice but to work from home and that made him decide to move into his province since covid rates there are not as high in the city. However, after a few months they were requested to go back to the office but he can't since there was on going lock downs and his boss can't understand his situation. Eventually, he resigned and he's now working happily to another company whose set up is permanent work from home, 

cpiecyk's picture

Thanks all, I appreciate the feedback. An update: I came back to the office a month ago. I'm now fully vaccinated so I have a greater degree of comfort.

The bigger issue remains the toxic boss. He withheld my Q1 bonus for what he stated were "issues" he experienced with my performance over the last year. (Translated: he decided to penalize me for working from home)

The good news is he offered to give me a "clean slate" ::eye roll:: and I'm starting the process of revamping my resume and making an exit. 

Breanna_Ileen's picture

Is working from home something to penalize? Is your boss living outside Earth that he does not feel the effects of the pandemic?....

Arbitta's picture

I just laughed with the "outside Earth" :D :D :D

Wfh is an acceptable norm now, so i think it shouldnt be penalize. Being too strict would even cost you a lot. 

cpiecyk's picture

As I said in my OP, this is a guy who balked at staff who worked from home prior to COVID; things like snow days always were stress-inducing for me, His point of view has always been, "if you're working from home, you're not really working".

COVID made things even more complicated because he (as the founder and leader of the org) didn't put forth any guidelines for staff. We shut down in March 2020, and by May, some employees were voluntarily popping back into the office because they "needed to get away from their kids" or they "weren't really concerned about catching COVID".  One of my colleagues contracted COVID by attending a wedding last May, and he was obsessed with "when will she be able to return to work"...

As a person with co-morbidities, with a husband who is immuno-compromised, I submitted some suggestions to him as to the way forward (based on CDC guidance at the time) -- things like: no more than 2 people in our conference room together at a time, masking should be mandatory in common areas, etc. He gave us all a bottle of hand sanitizer and considered his job done. I understood that he and I were at completely opposite ideological ends of the spectrum, but I was fully transparent with him as to my concerns, continued to work at full capacity while home (and then some), and did everything I could to show him I was a "team player". 

During our meeting when he told me he was cutting my bonus, he went on to say that "everyone" he knows who worked from home during COVID was out playing golf. That's where I stopped him cold, because toward the end, I was documenting my daily tasks in a spreadsheet for him, in order to account for my I was most certainly NOT playing GOLF. The whole thing was just so insulting, particularly because I have the most seniority at the org, he should know me better by now. My view of him is completely altered by the entire ordeal, and that's why I need to get out.  Like a bartender I once knew used to say at closing time, "you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here".

monkeyflower's picture

cpiecyk, your boss sounds like my former boss who thought work from home would make us more likely to get COVID, as we would hang out at Starbucks and the like and be exposed to more people than in the office. He didn't realize that those places would be required to close (or become take-out only) in less than a week. I am happy to say that I recently started a new job that is much more respectful of worker safety. There are people who have to go in because they are manufacturing life-saving medicines, and they realize that those people are safer if the office workers stay home. We are probably not going back until September or October. In addition to not having the stress of worrying about being forced back before I'm vaccinated, the new company's approach to worker safety makes me feel much more respected and happy.

Jollymom's picture

Your boss is really toxic. I guess you need to find a new job that would value your skills. It me realize how lucky I am in my work since during the pandemic and eventhough we are working at home, the company still released its profit sharing and we did receive three times.