I am a lifeguard at a public pool and due to the pandemic, many things have changed, especially the way in which we operate. Some background information: we are only open 4 hours each weekday. Each hour (at the 45), we close the pool to sanitize, then proceed to open again on the top of the hour. We rotate positions every 15 minutes. Before the pandemic, we would usually have 3 lifeguards on duty. Now that the pool hours have been restricted, my boss presumably "felt bad" that not everyone could work as much (which is very kind), and assigned more lifeguards to work each day, albeit unnecessary. So every day, we have a huge surplus of guards. We're talking 7 lifeguards on duty (excluding my boss) when only 2 are required to be out on deck at a time. Since only 8 swimmers are allowed in the pool at a time, there are some points in the day when we have more lifeguards than patrons!

This has raised many issues. First and foremost: too much time spent on training. As one might expect, there are simply too many of us standing and waiting around, doing nothing for most of the day. So, my boss has been reviewing lifeguard training material with the guards who are off-duty. While I think that reviewing material and practicing certain situations are helpful to keep us on our feet in case of an actual emergency, we've been reviewing multiple hours a day, every day, for the past month. I feel like my time spent at work is 1/2 training, 1/4 cleaning/sanitizing, and 1/4 actually lifeguarding. I'd like to mention the fact that I am a college student, so this large influx of information isn't too overwhelming. However, there are some lifeguards who are 40-50+. Based off of their answers and performance in some of the trainings, it is obvious that they feel a bit overwhelmed. I can't blame them! After all, whenever my boss mentions more training, we all sigh (and some of us roll our eyes) in disbelief at the idea that we can possibly do more training. We even read in one of the training booklets this past week that the recommended amount of training for lifeguards is 4 hours a month - approximately 1 hour a week. That seems pretty reasonable. For the past month, we've been doing training for more than 4 hours a week.

This brings me to the next topic: unnecessary/somewhat demeaning tasks. One of my colleagues (another college student) lightly confronted my boss about the amount of training earlier this week as the lifeguards off-duty were tasked with reading training booklets out loud so that my boss could hear. I don't know about anyone else, but being tasked to read booklets about how to teach little kids how to swim (which we aren't even certified to do) just so that my boss can hear that we are reading seems a bit demeaning/belittling (my boss said that that was the sole reason we were reading out loud). Where's the trust?! After my colleague mentioned that all of the lifeguards have probably read that same booklet 3 or 4 times already, they weren't tasked with reading training booklets out loud any more. Instead, they were told to pull the weeds sweep up the excess leaves and debris surrounding the pool area. I don't have my actual contract handy, but I know that there is a clause that mentions "other pool-related duties as assigned by the pool manager." However, I feel as if pulling weeds is less of a pool-related duty and more of a facility maintenance responsibility. Thoughts?

Finally, the last topic: not following health regulations. As I've mentioned earlier, one of the pool rules during the pandemic is that there can be a maximum of 8 patrons in the pool at a time. During our "trainings," if there are not 8 swimmers in the pool (say, we have 6 swimmers that hour), we sometimes get in the pool to practice lifeguarding saves and using the backboard in case of a drowning or other accident. Because there are so many guards off-duty (4-5 most days), we all get in the pool, utilizing the open lanes. This means that there are 6 swimmers in the pool + 5 lifeguards. 11 people in the pool. That is a direct violation of our own pool rules, which state that there can only be 8 swimmers in the pool at a time. If I were a patron, I would be seriously concerned. In addition, when practicing saves in the pool, lifeguards are not socially distanced from one another. And since we are in the water, we can't be wearing masks. This seems dangerous, especially because only 2 out of the 10 total lifeguards share the same household.

So how should I approach this situation? Maybe a more important question to ask is: Why does my boss even have all of this extra time to train the lifeguards for multiple hours a day?

  • I guess this question would be better received if it was about the software industry.. anyway, good question, upvoted!
    – guest
    Jul 10, 2020 at 5:48
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    @Damila: I worked in the software industry while being a student. If the boss said on one day that I have to clean toilets, I would maybe also asked a question here and find it not okay. I don't see what being a college student has to do with "being too good".
    – guest
    Jul 10, 2020 at 9:46
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    @drunkOnData : your boss is trying to "KEEP YOU EMPLOYED". There is not enough work for the number of lifeguards that you have, so he either needs to fire some or create some made-up work. Which option do you prefer?
    – Hilmar
    Jul 10, 2020 at 11:35
  • @mxyzplk-SEstopbeingevil Oh I'm extremely thankful to have my job. It's just tiring to do the same thing over and over because we're truly getting nowhere. And I can tell that the older lifeguards are getting exhausted by it. I'm not complaining about cleaning up - I sanitize the restrooms and any handles that patrons may touch in the pool area when needed.
    – user106656
    Jul 10, 2020 at 19:31
  • @Damila I work whenever I can to help pay my tuition and housing... I never said I'm too good to pull weeds. I sweep up the mud and leaves near the pool all the time... never meant to sound like an entitled college student.
    – user106656
    Jul 10, 2020 at 19:32

2 Answers 2


Maybe he's not being nice, maybe he's just receiving money from the PPP program or something like it, and can't change the number of employees on his payroll. You can search if your organization is a recipient of PPP here. Either that, or he's receiving money from a budget and needs to use up his full budget, otherwise, he might lose his budget for next year.

In either case, become part of the solution, not the problem.

It's obvious your boss is struggling to find things for you guys to keep you occupied and still keep his legal obligations. So be the one to suggest novel ways he could use his surplus of human resources.

For instance, if there is an architecture student in your group, get him to design a new swimming pool extension with CAD software. Or if there is someone interested in Physical Education, have that person design an outdoor gym. If there is a graphics designer wannabe, have him design new marketing materials/logos/brochures. Or if there is someone who can do paperwork, have that person explore grant writing, for when things get back to normal. Hell, perhaps someone might even be interested in planting flowers and installing a fountain in the front yard, or build a new wooden fence, or build a new waiting area outside that helps with social distancing.

My point being, there may be a thousand ways to potentially help your organization/swimming pool. You just need to find a couple of those ways, then you won't have as many lifeguards in the same swimming pool trying to do the same job.

I don't have my actual contract handy, but I know that there is a clause that mentions "other pool-related duties as assigned by the pool manager." However, I feel as if pulling weeds is less of a pool-related duty and more of a facility maintenance responsibility. Thoughts?

If you bring up the contract, you're just asking to get yourself fired. These are extraordinary circumstances. And like you said, your boss is seemingly doing his employees a favor.

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    Yes, if you don't like what the boss comes up with, come up with your own suggestions, it's always better to have solutions rather than just problems to discuss.
    – Kilisi
    Jul 10, 2020 at 2:31
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    You should raise the public health issue. Perhaps replace the backboard etc. training with swimming practice, in lanes, keeping to no more than 8 total swimmers are any time. Jul 10, 2020 at 2:38
  • Thanks for the advice. I totally agree that we should find more creative ways to be useful. However, it seems like I should have mentioned... this is not a country club pool in an affluent neighborhood. This pool is located in a severely underfunded area. More than half the kids who come live in low-income housing a block away. Often times, we are left to essentially "babysit" kids whose parents drop them off at the pool because they don't want to deal with them (we've heard it come from the mouths of some parents themselves)!
    – user106656
    Jul 10, 2020 at 19:27
  • We've also already done some of the things you mentioned. Particularly, we've created a specific guide for teaching water aerobics, swim lessons, and water polo skills for when we reopen for "free swim" not just "lap swim." I have also created a spreadsheet to record how many swimmers we have per hour, their name, and their contact information in case we need the contact tracing information.
    – user106656
    Jul 10, 2020 at 19:36
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    @drunkOnData if you can't think of anything better for you all to do than what your boss is currently assigning, then don't be surprised when you're stuck with your current tasks. That's really all this comes down to.
    – Kat
    Jul 10, 2020 at 19:56

So how should I approach this situation?

Find another job where you feel your talents are useful and that you don't have to do "demeaning" tasks.

As others have pointed out, your boss is just trying to keep you employed given the pandemic situation. But if you feel the job is beneath you then you should absolutely set your goals higher and find something you believe is better.

Complaining is seldom a constructive use of time. I know people who spent their whole lives complaining and don't have any accomplishments. Then there are people who complain very rarely and have achieved great things.


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