So the company's CEO sent out a mandate for employees to return to the offices this week. However, there were several employees in my building that have not come back when I do my rounds checking that employees have returned.I am an HR analyst so it is part of my job to manage these sorts of things.

One employee replied that he was healing from foot surgery and said that his manager exempted him from returning and planned to let him work remotely for the next two weeks. I asked him why he couldn't use crutches as the memo had no exemptions listed. He didn't reply, but just forwarded me to his manager. I questioned his manager about it and he said that I could take it up with his manager if I was so insistent. Not wanting to jump around, I messaged the Managing Director -- New York and North America Seaboard and she replied that if this persons manager feels that this employee should get an exemption to heal, she is fine with that, especially when his role is not client facing anyway.

The memo did not allow for any exemptions so I messaged another managing director for a different office to see what he thought of what this other managing director did. He did not reply at all. I tried yet another managing director, the one for San Francisco and he replied to say that city operations are the responsibility of the local managing director.

So I emailed the employee to tell him that he risked termination and his manager's manager apparently got hold of that email and told him no and asked my boss to explain the meaning of my email and my boss doesn't want to pursue the matter further.

I don't know what I should do at this point. Nobody seems to want to enforce the mandate.

Where in the USA do people value rules? Would the MD of Denver be more likely to agree with me?

  • 16
    What exactly do you consider a win here? As at absolute best, you drag in some poor fellow and cause him a lot of pain and make a lot of enemies in your office, an office where nobody in management wants to drag him in as his manager said no, his manager's manager effectively said no, and the managing director told you she was fine with it. And to get your best-case scenario, you need to find someone interested in overruling a managing director on temporary leave policies for their office, which they get to run. I doubt the guy in Denver can do that. Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 3:03
  • 34
    So not only high level management of the company but also your boss have said to leave it alone but you still want to pursue this out of some crazed sense of OCD? I suggest you learn about the “Human” in “Human Resources” before you get fired for getting your management in trouble for being an irredeemable twerp.
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 3:25
  • 20
    HR cannot force people with valid medical issues to come into the office, and say something stupid like "Why can't they use crutches?" Seriously consider talking to legal about this before continuing to dig your own grave.
    – Nelson
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 3:29
  • 16
    You're pursuing an issue because of what you perceive as a technicality. This persons manager is perfectly OK with the situation. Someone several layers higher up is perfectly OK with the situation. Why do you persist in pursuing this when nobody else has a problem? You're in for a long, frustrating, disappointing career if this is how you intend to go about things.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 3:54
  • 27
    The first rule of creating and maintaining a rewarding, fulfilling career is: Don't be a d#ck.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 3:56

5 Answers 5


Working from home temporarily for medical reasons has been a thing since long before the pandemic; even in offices that normally have a strict butts in seats policy.

At a minimum, I recommend you drop this immediately. Apologizing for acting like an insensitive jerk would also be a good idea.

  • 14
    Because crutches are only a marginally less awful way for most people to move around than dragging themselves across the ground. Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 2:25
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    @discipline Crutches do not fix your broken foot. Given that he needs to use his arms, he's going to have problems using his hands because your arms are not designed to carry your body weight. If you need a body to be there, buy an inflatable doll and put it on their chair. Asking someone with a broken foot to go into the office is not remotely what your CEO has in mind, and you also show a complete lack of reason and regard for legal ramification for your insistence. You are putting your own job in jeopardy if you keep this up; the employee can sue you.
    – Nelson
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 3:27
  • 11
    It's none of your business. The employee discussed it with the manager and the manager agreed... Maybe the employee cannot drive to work. Maybe the employee needs access to physical therapy.
    – Chris G
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 3:28
  • 9
    @discipline You've never used crutches, have you? Borrow a pair and try walking with them- you don't actually need to break your foot but to simulate it that foot is not allowed to touch the ground. Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 8:07
  • 11
    The short answer is he doesn't have to use crutches because his boss is allowing a far better alternative, which is WFH. There is no doubt that WFH will result in a productivity boost for a person with mobility issues, which in a workplace is the most important thing.
    – user72058
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 9:35

I would raise the concern with whomever has given you the direction to enforce the CEO's mandate. If no such direction had been given, it is not your job to ensure that every single individual is present.

You said the memo didn't allow for any exemptions. Have all employees had their vacation/sick time revoked? If not, clearly there are some reasonable exceptions. The world is not nearly as black and white as you seem to think. Traversing the gray areas is particularly important in HR.

Your actions here are incredibly unprofessional: digging into an employee's personal situation, questioning the manager's judgment, and trying to get Managing Directors from other offices to override each other. I would be very surprised if you don't get hard, pointed feedback from your boss.

  • 11
    "hard, pointed feedback" I don't know where OP works, but for most companies I know or can conceptualize OP is beyond feedback and squarely into getting fired as soon as anyone notices this is happening to this extent.
    – Magisch
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 11:01

What you're describing here is, to put it bluntly, very unprofessional and downright obsessive. Who cares if he works from home for an extra two weeks due to a surgery? Why are you so determined to make sure that no one gets any exemptions for any reason, even when multiple layers of management are ok with it - just to say that you followed all of the rules?

It's not at all clear to me that the CEO even intended for their memo to be carried out so literally and rigidly - at least 3 managers in your firm (including a Managing Director), who I assume read the memo, apparently didn't think so, which suggests to me that you're not understanding it. The mere fact that they didn't list any exceptions in the memo doesn't mean that they didn't think that there should be any. They probably simply didn't think of spelling out "recently received foot surgery" as an exemption (or they regarded circumstances like that as obvious enough of an exception that they didn't think that it was necessary). The mere existence of a memo or policy on something doesn't mean that you shouldn't use your common sense in carrying it out.

Also, dragging unrelated third parties in (and especially shopping around for a managing director who will agree with you, even though they have no involvement in managing the individual in question) is extremely manipulative. Don't do that.

That kind of obsessive, rigid thinking can be a sign of mental illness, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. (Note that a major characteristic of this condition is that this behavior seems perfectly normal to people who have it, so even if you think everything is ok that doesn't mean that it is). I would strongly encourage you to get evaluated by a competent medical professional to see if this is the case.

Even if you don't have a diagnosable medical condition, I would strongly encourage you to read several books by Albert Ellis to help you be more flexible in your thinking patterns - otherwise, I 100% guarantee you that this kind of behavior will have major professional and personal consequences down the road (if you haven't already started having them).

  • 5
    This is unlikely a medical condition, it‘s just a stickler who unfortunately works in the wrong profession, this persons ideal job would be safety inspector at a nuclear power plant, given their ‚follow the rules indiscriminately‘ mentality. Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 9:19
  • 7
    @morbo oh HELL NO. If something were to start going seriously wrong, this person would be insisting that all the day to day precautions and prework planning activities needed to be followed and done to the letter first even if doing so would delay repairs/intervention long enough that the incipient problem worsened to a meltdown and fire/explosion of the reactor core and building. Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 12:01
  • 2
    @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight there is a seriousness to nuclear power that must be taken. Do not underestimate it. Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 12:03
  • 1
    @EJoshuaS-ReinstateMonica You don‘t have to be ocd to be a stickler Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 13:53
  • 4
    @morbo there is; but the OP is coming off as the person whose response in an emergency to "if we don't do emergency service X in the next 5 minutes, the reactor will melt down" would be "you can't do that without completing the 2 week long planning and safety process that is mandatory to be done before any work on the reactor systems". Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 15:06

It sounds like you need to have a chat with your boss about what your job actually is. From what I've read about "the job of an HR analyst", your job is to report on the behavior of people, not to try to force them to do anything. Managing their behavior is the job of their manager.

The question ends with something that can't be answered here, but the real question appears to be based on: "I don't know what I should do at this point."

So what you should do is ask your manager about your responsibilities. I'd normally add that you should tell them how you've been handling this situation, but I'm also hesitant to suggest it because you might be fired on the spot if you do. (Yeah, what you're doing sounds that bad.)

  • 7
    To the OP(@discipline,) I believe "your job is to report on the behavior of people." is the correct answer. Unless the policy of your company dictates that you have the power to fire that employee, I believe you already have done too much at this point. No wonder you get so many downvotes (I just added another one)
    – Nobody
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 7:51

I'll try to answer with another perspective. Look at it this way. The authority has decided that people should be back to office. Things are not happening as planned, for many reasons (someone being ill, amongst others).

One possible conclusion (yours) is that people should follow authority whatever happens. Another possible conclusion (everyone else's, here or in your firm) is that the initial order may have been brutal and excessive, and therefore, things not happening as planned is not that bad.

Orders are given by human beings, not by god(s), in our corporate world. Human beings are by definition fallible. So the order was not perfect - it did forget to allow for exemptions (health or others). That's life. Mistakes happen. Bosses do mistakes, not only us mere low-level employees. And they know it : they don't think enforcing the new regulation upon someone with health problems will would be a good idea.

I can understand where you come from. In some cultures, obeying the boss's orders blindly at any cost is considered as a religious duty. But this does not apply to the corporate world. You have to follow the direction, of course, but sometimes you meet a special case, not forecasted by the authority, that require sidewards thinking. This is exactly the situation you are in. That person has a health problem making work from home especially fit for him/her, so the authority's decision has to be bent to adapt this specific case.

Which does not mean people should not be back to the office overall - just that one needs to consider specific cases. Which your own management did. You'd be well inspired to follow their example.

  • 13
    Leaving out such exemptions might not even be a mistake. Likely they considered such exceptions common sense that did not need to be spelled out. Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 9:21

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