new CEO keeps talking about diet and exercise, coworker asks me to cover for him when he’s not really off, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. Our new CEO keeps talking about diet and exercise

Our company recently got a new CEO who is very big on health and fitness and has made it his mission to make our employee population healthy in order to reduce the company’s healthcare costs. However, making people healthy translates to making people thin without providing real resources to do so (like subsidized healthy food, extra breaks for walking, access to weight loss medications, etc.). The delivery of his messaging often comes across as fat-shaming. For example, in our holiday employee communication, he wished everyone a happy holiday and then encouraged us to get some exercise. He patrols the lunch room and comments on peoples’ meals. He went on a leadership call and told everyone that they should eat three tangerines a day. He hired an ultramarathoner with no experience in employee health to lead the employee health initiative. This isn’t just some mom and pop company. This is a Fortune 500 healthcare company where people should know better. It is bringing down the morale of my team and making people very uncomfortable.

When I’ve addressed this with my boss, the response is that he’s the CEO and can really do what he wants. Is there a way to encourage change or at least make my team feel better?

Realistically, there’s probably not a lot you can do. You and your coworkers can certainly pass your feedback up through the chain; feedback from one person won’t make a lot of difference but if a bunch of you are all saying the same thing, it might have more on an impact. You can raise it when you’re given opportunities to provide input on the company culture (like if you have regular employee surveys). If you have an equity and inclusion team, you could try raising it with them. But otherwise, it sounds like most of this is just this guy making inane remarks (three tangerines a day?) and yeah, there’s not a lot you can do about that when it’s coming from the CEO, unless at some point he starts crossing legal lines re: discrimination.

2. We still had to work after our coworker died

This situation happened a few years ago, but it is still bothering me. One awful day, while I was at work, we received a phone call that one of my coworkers had unexpectedly died. To say we were devastated was an understatement, as several of us were very close to this coworker. (I, for example, worked right next to her, and also associated with her outside of work.)

My job is NOT the type of industry that is essential and has to remain open — for example, we close in bad weather. However, during this event, they made us stay to work the rest of our shift. It was awful — we had to serve customers while sobbing.

Would I have been justified in refusing to work for the rest of my shift? I chose not to, as I didn’t want more work falling on my other coworkers’ plates but … I wish I had.

Yeah, if the nature of the work didn’t require that you stay open, they should have either closed for the rest of the day or let the people who were most affected leave and run with reduced staffing. And really, even if they didn’t care as empathetic humans, they shouldn’t have wanted customers being served by people who were crying — that’s not good for anyone. And even if they didn’t initially understand how people were affected, they should have changed course once they did.

In a situation like that, it would have been reasonable for you to say, “Jane and I were very close, and this is devastating. I’m not in any shape to work right now and I’m going to need to go home for the rest of the day.” Don’t kick yourself for not doing that though — it can be hard to know what you can and can’t do when you’re dealing with something terrible.

I’m sorry about your friend.

3. My coworker is asking me to cover for him on days he’s not really off

I’m hoping you can advise me on how to resolve a situation where I am essentially subsidizing extra PTO for a coworker.

I and another coworker, “Sam,” both report to the same manager. We work in the same function and support the same product family. Sam supports older generations of the product and I support newer ones. We work heavily with our respective project teams for the day-to-day activities and really only work with our manager for performance reviews and occasional updates. Our manager is very hands-off and does not help us get coverage when we take time off.

Whenever Sam takes PTO, he will send me an invite in Outlook letting me know so that I can be back-up while he is out. Typically, if Sam takes a week off, I end up spending about five hours working on his projects. Sam does not back me up when I am out of office because he does not know and does not want to learn the additional functionality for our newer generation products. I have begun to suspect that Sam is reporting less PTO than he actually takes, which is leaving me feeling upset because I have essentially been working extra so that he can have more time off.

When we request PTO, our request system shows the calendar of everyone under our direct manager. When I requested my time off for the Christmas holidays, I noticed that Sam’s requested time on the team calendar was shorter than what he had included on the Outlook invite to me, but I dismissed it as a one time mistake. I recently got an Outlook invite from Sam for his upcoming PTO. That reminded me that we’re getting close to the expiration date for our annual PTO and that I should request my own time off. I opened up our request system and saw that although Sam is planning to be out for five days, he only requested two days.

I have now started to wonder how often this has happened in the past and honestly, I feel used. What should I do here? Should I just let this go or try talking to Sam or our manager?

Start by talking to Sam because that might solve it and also because, if you do need to take it to your manager, it’ll be useful to be able to say you asked Sam directly about it first. Say this: “Do I have the dates of your vacation wrong? I’d thought you needed me to cover you March 6-10, but I saw on the time off calendar that you’ll be gone March 6-7. Do you just need me covering you March 6-7 then?”

If that doesn’t solve it, then you should indeed talk to your manager because it’s directly affecting your workload.

4. If I give months of notice, I can’t take any time off from that point forward

I am a medical professional working at a community health center. I have been there for almost 10 years. Because of personal/family issues which have nothing to do with work, I have decided to relocate to another city in six months. I know that this will happen, it’s not just a “maybe” thing. I am a well-liked provider at the clinic and take on several roles in admin aside from seeing patients.

To give my clinic, coworkers, and patients the maximum amount of time to manage my leaving, I want to tell them as soon as possible. The problem? Organizational policy says that you cannot take any leave “from the time of resignation” and any previous leave that was approved is canceled. I didn’t have any major trips planned or anything, but I don’t want to commit to taking no leave (personal, vacation, medical education, or scheduled sick) for the next six months! The policy states that you must submit resignation at least two months prior to leaving.

I can’t help but feel the incentives are all messed up here. I don’t want to be seeing patients and not be able to tell them my plans. My clinic has a high transition rate, and many of patient patients have had providers “leave on them” before.

The paths forward I see are (1) say nothing and resign two months prior to leaving as per policy, (2) try to have an “off the record” discussion with my manager to navigate the situation (we get along pretty well, but I know she will not be happy I am leaving), or (3) just suck it up and resign and know that the good karma is my reward. Any advice?

Yep, this is a terrible policy because it disincentivizes people from doing the thing that would actually be the most helpful to the organization, other employees, and patients. You should not just suck it up and give up any possibility of taking leave for six months. (Two months is bad enough.)

Whether to do #1 or #2 on your list depends on what you know about your boss and exactly what you mean when you say she won’t be happy you’re leaving. Disappointed or angry/punitive? With some managers, you could have an off-the-record conversation about the situation and know it wouldn’t be held against you in any way. With others, you couldn’t. Unless you know for sure that your manager is in the first group, stick with following the policy that they’ve laid out — give your two months notice and nothing more. After all, that’s what the policy they’ve chosen is telling you they want.

Also, even if your manager is someone who would handle it well, it’s worth asking yourself what she could really do with the info if she has to keep it off the record. If she can’t act on it in any way, there may not be meaningful benefits to having the conversation anyway.

5. I have a great work history but nothing else to put on my resume

By all accounts, I’m a high performer with a wildly successful 20+ year career with a Fortune 50 company. For most of my career, I’ve been fortunate to work on high impact projects, being selected for roles based on my reputation and without really having to interview or even have an up-to-date resume. (I know, I only have first-world problems.)

I’ve been in my current role for about 5 years, and am starting to think about moving on. For the first time, I really need to have a proper resume. However, there’s a problem: I have some gaps that I don’t know how to address. For example, the Education section – I don’t have a college degree, although I have several prestigious industry designations and professional certifications. I also don’t have much in the way of extracurricular activities like mentoring, volunteering, church, or clubs to highlight. I’m just the kind of person who keeps to myself outside of work. I have a few interesting hobbies like travel and crafting, but that doesn’t feel right to include in my professional profile.

So my resume seems overly heavy on job history and results, but it feels light or non-existent on everything else. I want to come across as well rounded, but I’m not sure how to do that based on my situation. Am I thinking about this the wrong way?

Job history and results are the most important thing! In most fields, they’re vastly more important than the other sections. You can skip the outside-of-work stuff entirely, and for education just list the stuff you do have. This isn’t like college applications, where you want to seem well-rounded; you’ll be fine keeping the focus on your work history.

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