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Leave policy has employee feeling left holding the bag

Dear J.T. & Dale: My company moved to unlimited sick and vacation time. One co-worker has since shown up an average of three days a week. I find it so frustrating. My boss says as long as he gets his work done, it’s OK. But nobody’s keeping track of how his inconsistency makes my work more stressful. How can I point this out to my boss? – Benjamin

J.T.: These types of policies are really hard to keep effective for this very reason – once someone feels another co-worker is abusing it, the resentment kicks in and things start to fall apart.

DALE: Which is why it’s time to change your outlook on work. Here, in the New Economy, it isn’t your time at a desk that matters but your productivity. If your co-worker can do his job in three days a week, then it’s time for you to examine your own work routines and figure out how to be equally efficient. Then, if you’re ambitious, you keep showing up and use your extra time to innovate or to volunteer for corporate initiatives that will get you noticed.

J.T.: That’s a nice thought, but clearly Benjamin feels that his co-worker’s absences are creating stress. If that is just frustration tinged with jealousy, then perhaps I’ll agree with you. But, Benjamin, if you feel like your co-worker’s absence is hurting your productivity, then you need to quantify it. The company needs proof that his lack of office time is making it harder for you to do your job. Document the impact for several weeks and then go to him and say: “I’m really struggling with the impact your choices are having on my ability to do my job. Can we discuss ways to make sure that I’m getting what I need?” By having some open communication with him, you can put things in place that make it a win-win. And maybe you get to the point where you can take better advantage of it too!

Dear J.T. & Dale: My office attire is professional. As a woman, I’m expected to wear heels every day. I recently was diagnosed with some back pain and told to wear flats. However, after a week of doing so, my boss mentioned that he didn’t like my casual shoes. I told him about the diagnosis, and he brushed it off. Can he dictate what I wear? – Roberta

DALE: I saw this question and thought, sounds like a rejected plot idea for a “Mad Men” episode. This can’t still be an issue, can it? Really?

J.T.: Really. And, as an at-will employee, management can dictate dress codes if it was made clear that it was a set expectation for working there.

DALE: Not knowing much about these things, I went online and found a primer on the 25 types of women’s heels – 25 types? – and all painful from the looks of them. So I courageously agreed to accompany my wife to a giant shoe emporium. We saw plenty of dressy shoes that seem comfortable. Maybe your boss will agree that the issue is not really the heel versus no heel, but rather dressiness versus casualness.

J.T.: I’d be surprised if that worked. So, as a backup, get a doctor’s note that supports the diagnosis. Explain how long you’ll be in flats and ask for suggestions on what he feels would be appropriate. I’d like to think he values your work enough that he’ll support you getting better. If not, then I’d seriously question whether you want to stay working there. Is worsening your health worth it?

DALE: Agreed. And one more thought that your question provoked, Roberta: Looking back, it was the wholesale entrance of women into corporate ranks that opened up new clothing options for the corporate male. One look at a photo of corporate executives taken any time after women started joining in, and it was clear that the old restrictions on men – dark suit, white shirt, tie – were silly. So kick off those high heels, and I’ll toss away my tie, and we’ll get down to work together.

Email Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell and Dale Dauten at or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Fl, New York, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2019 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.