I hate my resume writer, rejection for a promotion in a group of other candidates, and more

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

1. My resume writer isn’t following through and I want to ask for my money back

I hired a resume writer and have paid half of the money to have my resume completed; it is a significant amount of money. The person has given me a timeline and has not stuck to it (it’s about three weeks late so far, and I have not heard from her), and I am not impressed with how she has conducted herself throughout the process, like not listening or making the changes I ask for, and I have had to give her the same information many times.

I would like my money back as I still have not heard from her. Any thoughts on how to do this?

I’d trying writing to her and saying this: “Since I haven’t heard from you and we’re three weeks past the timeline you gave me, and because you haven’t been responsive to my requests and I’ve had to give you the same information multiple times, I’d like to cancel our work together and have you refund my money.”

Whether or not she’ll do it is a different issue, but it sounds like you’re justified in asking for it. Also, if you signed any kind of contract with you, take a look at that and see if it provides for refunds.

2. Rejected for a promotion in a group meeting of other internal candidates

Have you ever heard of a firm telling their internal candidates that they were not chosen for an open position in a group meeting?

I recently interviewed for an analyst position at my firm along with three coworkers. After four weeks of hearing nothing from HR, the director of client services, or the hiring team’s manager (who is also the manager of three of the candidates), we were finally emailed a meeting invitation. 30 minutes later, we sat down with the director of client services, the hiring team’s manager and each other/our competition for the same position. We were all told by the director that they had hired the outside candidate. Are you kidding me?! Who does this? I cannot find any examples of this sort of thing on the internet. I was hoping you could provide your opinion on this unique situation.

Ick, yeah, one of them should have met with each of you individually to let you know that you didn’t get the position and give you some feedback — which is a pretty basic obligation for internal candidates, particularly when the hiring manager happens to be your own manager. I don’t think it’s quite as outrageous as it sounds like you do — but definitely bad practice and thoughtless.

3. We have to pay our own expenses for work travel and then get reimbursed later

My employer is requiring the office manager and me (creative director/product development/sales) to attend an industry show in Atlanta. It is a really big show and Atlanta is more expensive than your typical town, so the expenses for eating and/or taking cabs will be higher than typical. For example, we recently attended a show in Tennessee and our food allowance was $30 per day. For this Atlanta trip, the food expense will be $50 per day.

I have one problem with that. It’s going to be $400 in food expenses for the week for just one of us. The employer is requiring that we pay our own expenses during the trip and that he will reimburse us after we return from the trip. Both the office manager and I are on tight budgets, so it is going to take the money we need to pay bills with in order to pay our expenses during the show. In my view, this is asking something of us that should not be asked. The company is telling us we are required to go to this show, stay there for eight days, and finance it ourselves? Shouldn’t the company give us $400 cash to return with receipts and excess money? Or is this something I have to live with?

This is a very, very common way to handle work-related travel expenses, so it’s not outrageous that your employer is doing it. However, because it would cause you hardship, it’s completely reasonable to ask for a different arrangement. I’d say something like, “I’m not in a position to front this money and then get reimbursed later. Could we instead take petty cash and return itemized receipts, or use a company credit card?”

4. Can I negotiate a different work schedule rather than a higher salary?

I’m waiting to hear back about a job. To be honest, it’s a huge career change and I have little experience with the work I’d be doing, or even any kind of record in the kind of work environment I’d be in (moving from blue-collar to white-collar). I think I’m so far along in the running because I have genuinely had enjoyable experiences at all of the interviews I have been to, and I get the sense that they’ve enjoyed meeting with me too.

Even the bottom of their pay scale is roughly twice what I’m making currently, and I don’t think I have anything to negotiate with besides simply “I was hoping for more. Would you consider X?” because they’d pretty much just be taking a leap of faith for me. I have no qualms with negotiating just to see what happens, but I’m wondering if there’s any sense in trying to negotiate work schedule instead of pay. Is it more or less likely that I’d be able to negotiate starting and ending work early? I’m very much so an early morning person and would much rather work 8-4 or even 7-3 than the 9-5 that is expected. What’s my best bet here? A lot of the work is data-entry and envelope stuffing kind of work, so it seems quite possible to do outside of typical business hours.

You can absolutely ask for that type of schedule! Many people negotiate schedules like that for themselves. They may or may not agree to it (and it’s possible that there are legitimate reasons for it not working in this particular role), but it’s not outrageous to ask for.

Also, employers tend to be more agreeable to starting early/leaving early than starting late/leaving late, probably because the latter is at odds with some deep-rooted puritanism about early rising that as a society we still have.

5. Holidays and paid time off

I have a question about holidays/paid time off. My department is required to work on certain company holidays that other departments have off. To compensate for those lost holidays, the company pays our team an extra day’s work on those dates. However, we’ve recently been informed that if we aren’t working those days—i.e., using any accrued PTO, like annual vacation, sick, or personal days—we won’t be eligible for the extra pay.

Does that sound right to you? It seems to me that since the extra pay is meant to compensate for the holiday that the rest of the company gets, anyone in our department who needs those days off will end up getting “double taxed,” since they must dip into their accrued paid time off AND forfeit the value of the company holiday. My gut tells me anyone who uses their PTO for those days should either still receive the extra day’s pay (since they’re still losing a company holiday), or shouldn’t have that day deducted from their accrued PTO. Am I right, or am I overlooking something?

Nope, it’s unfair. While I can see not wanting to give you an additional day’s pay (since that adds to the overall cost of your yearly pay), if I were your manager I’d handle this by either giving you a day off at a different time or not requiring you to use PTO for that day.

Legally, you don’t really have recourse here; companies aren’t required to offer holidays off or holiday pay, and they can give a benefit to one department that they don’t give to another. But it’s certainly a recipe for bad morale. It would be reasonable to ask your boss if she’s open to handling it differently.

{ 264 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. KarenT

    #2

    My company did that once too. A VP rounded up the internal candidates, dragged them into a boardroom and told them they all didn’t get the job. And she did give feedback… to each of them… in front of each other.

    Reply
        1. KarenT

          She was eventually fired (not for this, specifically, but for many incidents along these lines). In fact, when she was let go, her replacement put in a significant amount of effort into wooing back the people who had quit under her (more than a few!).

          Reply
    1. INTP

      This is so bizarre to me. If you can’t take the time for individual meetings, you might as well just send emails and save everyone a lot of time and embarrassment. The managers in both of these cases probably felt righteous for making time for a face-to-face meeting, but there’s no point if it’s not going to be a very open discussion with each individual. (And they aren’t all going to discuss openly in front of each other, regardless of your intentions.)

      Reply
  2. Valar M.

    #3 I know this is common, but I wish it wasn’t. No one should have to front money for their company (unless they’re part owner or otherwise engaged with the company), and I think its unfair to employees who can’t afford to do this. I would feel pretty icky having a discussion with my boss about my financial situation, and needing to ask for special treatment. Its none of their business and it’s socially awkward.

    Reply
    1. Jen RO

      My company follows the same process, but you can get an advance by simply asking for it. You have to fill in a form estimating your expenses for the period, get it approved, and that’s it. I didn’t feel icky asking for this and I didn’t give a reason, I just asked if it’s possible to get an advance.

      Reply
        1. Ann Furthermore

          Every company is different though. I have a corporate card because I travel quite a few times every year, but someone who just does a one-off trip doesn’t have one. You’re expected to use your own card and then submit receipts for reimbursement. Travel advances are frowned upon, because they’re a hassle to keep track of, from an accounting perspective. I only know of one person who was allowed to get one, because her credit was so bad that she was unable to get a credit card. (Not that it was widespread knowledge…at the time I was a manager in the Accounting department, and had the AP people reporting to me, so I had to approve the check request for the advance.)

          There might also be more latitude in Europe too…like I said, I have a corporate card, and everyone based in the US who travels frequently has one too. But the employees in Frankfurt use their personal cards and then get reimbursed. I’m not sure why…I know I’ve asked a few times why we don’t issue corporate cards there, and I know I’ve been told the reason, but now I can’t remember.

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          1. Raupe

            We have a Corporate Card, too – but it’s set up so that the money comes out of our personal accounts first. I think the company would be on the hook if the personal account was not sufficient.
            We submit for reimbursements using the receipts. If you are very very lucky you are reimbursed before the credit card money disappears from your account, but that’s not the rule.

            “Big-ticket” stuff like airfare is paid directly by the company though; it’s stuff like rental cars and hotel rooms that is done this way.

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          2. BRR

            We have corporate cards… for every single person who might ever need to use one. So each one of my team members goes to one conference a year. We each get a card then for the once a year we travel.

            Reply
          3. Beezus

            My company does what Ann’s does. I am an infrequent traveler and cover my own travel expenses until I am reimbursed. Reimbursement is quick but not lightning fast – I think I got it within a week last time.

            We used to not have to submit receipts for tolls, but now we do, which is annoying. I wasn’t informed of the change and incurred $30 worth of toll charges on a day trip. The person who processed my expense report denied my tolls, but my boss jumped in and got me the money (she was a more frequent traveler and told me not to worry about toll receipts before I left; she hadn’t heard about the policy change either).

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          4. NJ anon

            I work in accounting. It is not more difficult, in my view, to give an advance. We give employees a per diem, up front. They are not required to turn receipts for that money. No muss, no fuss.

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            1. Ann Furthermore

              The accounting entries aren’t that harder, it’s true. But if your AP system is not integrated with your expense reporting system, then your expense reporting system doesn’t know that there’s an advance out there for you, and it’s a manual process to get advances tied to the right expense report.

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          5. Valar M.

            “Travel advances are frowned upon, because they’re a hassle to keep track of, from an accounting perspective”

            I appreciate that this is a problem with expenses. However, there are a lot of things in the business world that are a hassle to keep track of. That still shouldn’t be the employee’s problem. It should be up to the business/management/accounting to come up with a system that works, not ask their employees to front hundreds or thousands of dollars because they don’t want to deal with it.

            The fact that you know of an employee whose “credit was so bad she was unable to get a credit card” is exactly why I don’t like this system. Personal financial information is a private matter, and isn’t the business of my company unless we are talking security clearance concerns.

            Reply
            1. Ann Furthermore

              I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I was not in a position to decide what the policy was, I just had to enforce it. And you’re right that a person’s financial information should be a private matter, but you could make an argument that that information is relevant to the Accounting group if that employee has a shown record of poorly managing or handling money. With a travel advance, there’s the possibility that the person could spend the money on something other than what it was intended for (like paying their utility bill because the service is about to be cut off). It’s common for companies to run credit checks on people that will be handling cash, or working with cash accounts in any way. So it sure shouldn’t be announced via company-wide email that an employee has crappy credit and can’t get a credit card, but in certain cases it shouldn’t be treated like a state secret.

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              1. Valar M.

                My comment wasn’t aimed at you personally, it was just that your example was also a perfect example of what I hate about this policy. I definitely don’t think its your fault for needing to enforce it.

                Couldn’t the person spending the money on something other than what it was intended be circumvented by requiring receipts?

                I don’t mind an initial credit check, that I am aware of and have agreed to because of security reasons – i.e. like your example of cash handling. I expect them to need to verify that I’m reliable when I’m obtaining a job, we’re deciding whether we mutually want to work with each other at that point. This to me isn’t equivocal – the company is essentially telling (not asking) their employees to do them a favor – front money for business travel. And it’s not that its a state secret, it’s that money is generally considered a taboo subject in US culture. It’s not just potentially awkward for employee, but for the accountant, the boss, etc.

                Reply
        2. Colette

          That’s more complicated, and it’s not an issue for everyone.

          Let’s say you estimate your expenses to be $500, and so the company gives you a cheque for $500. You go on the trip and your expenses are $482. Now the company has to get $18 from you. Some people pay up immediately, some don’t think it’s a big deal (it’s only $18, after all) and have to be chased, and some pay in a way the company is not set up to handle (e.g. walk in with a $20 bill at a company that doesn’t keep petty cash or handle cash as part of normal business).

          On the other hand, let’s say you estimate your expenses to be $500, and they actually are $502. The company now has to write you a second cheque for $2, and they have the bookkeeping to go with that.

          Or, you estimate your expenses to be $500, and they actually are $600. Are you going to be stuck there? After all, the reason you’ve asked for an advance is that you can’t afford to cover the expenses.

          Reply
          1. Judy

            But floating $100 for a company is not the same as floating $500 for a company.

            What I’ve seen done was for the company to advance for a partial estimate. The company would be able to advance up to the meal allowance for 4 days if it is a 5 day trip. That would allow the employee to have money for the things that wouldn’t cost nearly as much at home. My breakfast at home (oatmeal and fruit) costs me less than $.50. Can you find me a breakfast out that costs that little? My lunch at home (brought from home) costs me less than $4, and I’m being generous. Can you find me a (healthy) lunch out that costs that little? Especially at a convention site.

            I would be able to float the money for the company, but there have been times in my life that I wouldn’t have been able to.

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            1. Valar M.

              This exactly. I don’t mind fronting small costs and handing in receipts, but the kind of trip that OP is describing? An eight day trip? No.

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            2. Colette

              I’m not saying the company shouldn’t provide money based on an estimate if the employee asks, just saying that it’s a lot simpler to wait until they have receipts to pay the employee. If the company pays promptly and the employee has a credit card they don’t carry a balance on, it’s not a hardship for the employee. If either of those things aren’t true, it is, and the company should come up with an alternate solution.

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    2. blackcat

      My employer handled this super well–when I was hired, it was made clear that I would be expected to cover a fairly large number of expenses up front and get reimbursed. In the same breath, the boss explained that they had a relationship with a local credit union, where I could a) get an account and b) get a credit card for $5k unless my credit was AWFUL (<500 or something like that). The idea was that they knew it could be a hardship, and had worked out a solution that worked for most employees. I had my own card and credit union I was happy with, so I didn't take them up on it. But I was very happy that that existed.

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    3. fposte

      I technically work for the state, and taxpayers reeeeaaallly don’t want to front us money. We can at least get airfares and hotels prepaid on an authorized credit card (held by the front office, not carried by an individual, unless you’re really high up in the food chain), but incidentals like food are never advance paid, and our per diem is pretty low (it wouldn’t cover $400 for a week in Atlanta, for instance).

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      1. Lia

        Same here (working for the state and not being fronted the money) — they will only cover conference registration, though, not airfare or hotel. We are on the hook for those and it can easily end up being $1000 for a 4 -day event.

        Our per diems are ridiculously low — recently I was in Philadelphia and the state rate was $35/day for food. Thankfully, the conference provided breakfast daily, and I brought a box of power bars to fill in the gaps.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          We have a small annual travel allowance; anything over that you have to find funding for, either from a grant or your bank account.

          Our per diems are $32 per day :-).

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        2. Chocolate addict

          Are you saying that you are totally on the hook for the hotel and airfare, as in you’re paying for it all, period, or do you mean you pay up front and then get reimbursed? Because even as a taxpayer, I think those should be covered and you shouldn’t have to pay for them yourself!!

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          1. Lia

            We pay up front and get reimbursed after the event. The problem is that in order to get the best airfare, we often need to buy it a few weeks/months ahead of time, but cannot file reimbursement until after the event. At minimum, it takes 3 weeks to get reimbursed, so I do wind up floating the costs through at least one billing cycle. Last year, I had two events in two weeks and almost 2K in outstanding charges that took over two months to get resolved due to a data entry error on the part of our reimbursement staff. UGH.

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      2. Valar M.

        Well government is a different beast altogether, considering you generally don’t get OT either. I can understand governments being stingy with the money to an extent because of the taxpayer aspect. In my past experience with government (anecdotal of course), they were actually much better about this than corporations by making cards available for these situations.

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        1. fposte

          Do you mean don’t get paid OT or don’t get authorized to work OT? Non-exempt state employees absolutely do get paid OT if they work it here. But the majority of folks on work travel would be exempt anyway.

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            1. Valar M.

              And to be clear I am talking about local governments, and obviously anecdotal again. I have no idea what the feds do.

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      3. Victoria, Please

        I am still waiting for reimbursement, 9 weeks later, for a conference that cost $1500. (State university.) I’m fortunate enough to be able to hack that, but a lot of faculty aren’t.

        Reply
    4. Lisa

      We have to front our hotel costs. Of course no one told us that before we went, so its a good thing I had money for this. As in they reserve it with a company card, but ultimately we have to pay it with our own. It sucks. Oh and we just found out that the highest position who travels has to pay for everyone. ??? Only VPs have company credit cards, this is ridiculous, who has thousands of dollars to do this weekly? I get food expenses, but hotel??? How come they can’t pay ahead? I had to pay the hotel, and incidental fee which on a debit card is $200 to be credited back 7-10 days later. I don’t have a credit card, so this is real money that doesn’t get back to me for awhile.

      Reply
      1. Rita

        You can still use the company credit card to pay for the room if you use a credit card authorization form. I’ve used it at a few hotels for business and personal purposes. The form varies by hotel company, but just call the front desk and they can help you out. I might be worth asking if your company can do something like this instead of having people pay on their own.

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      2. fuyu

        Would it be possible to pay for the work expenses on the credit card that has the farthest period end date? Normally, I get reimbursed for costs weeks before the credit card payment is due. For example, expense is incurred on the 1st. I forget to submit my reimbursement when I get back, and submit the for reimbursement on the 7th. Company reimburses me on the 21st or earlier (takes them 5-10 business days usually). My credit card statmeent period ends on the 25th and my credit card payment isn’t due until the next month’s 25th. Do people have a problem because it takes their companies longer to reimburse?

        Reply
        1. Alston

          When I was working for Princeton they had a 45 day reimbursement, so my credit card payments were due waaaay before I ever saw the money. And 45 days was when the check was printed, it still had to be mailed out and then you had to cash it. Once in a while you got the reimbursement quickly, but that was far from the norm. I HATED that system because you’d have to pay your credit card yourself or pay the interest. And heaven forbid needing to use my card for an emergency, the balance was usually close to the limit while waiting.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Changing to electronic submissions and reimbursements has been a huge boon at my university; I wouldn’t be surprised if Princeton had shifted as well and had sped up as a result. It used to be interminable here–45 days would have been speedy.

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      3. Valar M.

        “I don’t have a credit card, so this is real money that doesn’t get back to me for awhile”

        This is another question I have, if your company doesn’t pay you back for a month – and you are charged interest, can you ask your company for those fees? Or are you just expected to incur those costs for them?

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        1. Sharon

          I would totally add the fees to my (or a new) expense report and if they fought it I would not back down. Fortunately I’ve never worked for a company that skinflint.

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    5. JC

      One thing I found crazy when I worked for the federal government was that we did have a government credit card to use on travel…but it was not centrally billed and we had to pay the bill out of our reimbursement. I’ve heard that some agencies are moving towards central billing, especially for big things like airfare and hotels, but that has not happened yet in many places. At least they always reimbursed quickly.

      Reply
      1. Case of the Mondays

        And you have to pay it off in full if it comes due before your reimbursement. Most people just use their on CC and get the points than try to gamble with the fed CC.

        Reply
    6. PizzaSquared

      I totally get why people don’t like this, and I understand it’s hard for a lot of people (indeed, early in my career I had to take an international trip that far outstripped the cash and credit limit I had available, and I had to ask for an advance). However, I now actually prefer to pay my travel expenses myself and have them reimbursed, because it allows me to put them on a credit card I get points or miles for. I am going on a tropical vacation soon, flying round trip first class on tickets purchased with miles I largely earned from business travel. That’s a pretty great fringe benefit that doesn’t cost my company anything. My company reimburses me quickly, so as long as I submit my expense reports in a timely manner, I never end up having to actually pay the balance out of my own money.

      Reply
  3. Anon Fred

    #1 If you don’t get a refund, depending on how much you paid, think about contacting your location’s office of fair trading (or equivalent), or also looking to the existence of a small claims court.

    Reply
  4. Wo and Shade, Importers

    #4 – the thing to watch for in negotiating non-standard benefits is getting them in writing or otherwise on the record so that if you get a new boss in 6 months, you’ll have something to show them to justify your non-standard working hours. Even then, these kinds of special deals may not be taken very seriously: your new boss says “I don’t care what you negotiated – I need you here at 8am sharp.” You can fight it, and maybe even win – but it may damage your career.

    Personally, I’d negotiate for more vacation days.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      More vacation days are a great thing, but it sounds like the OP probably doesn’t have the negotiating leverage for them – but might for the early schedule, since that’s often easier for a company to say yes to (and may already be a thing there that other people do).

      Reply
    2. Zillah

      I think more vacation vs. different hours are apples and oranges, though – both in terms of the company approving it and in terms of basic quality of life. The OP may get a different boss who says tough luck, but it’s also entirely possible that she won’t – that’s no reason not to try, IMO.

      Reply
      1. some1

        I agree that the LW should still ask for those hours, and in many roles it would not be a big deal to come in a little earlier than everyone else, but it’s always a good idea to remember that sometimes these things are subject to change – when a new supervisor comes on or the needs of the business change.

        Reply
    3. PizzaSquared

      In the big companies I’ve worked in, I was told the company didn’t even have a way to “officially” record extra vacation time in the payroll system. The manager could decide to let an employee take time off without recording it, but there’s no way to actually make it show up in the system. I don’t know if that’s actually true or if they just didn’t want to deal with it, but it’s what I’ve been told. If that’s the case, you end up with basically the same situation you describe — a new manager could easily come in and say it doesn’t count any more.

      Reply
  5. Nina

    #1: Three weeks is a long time, but I’m wondering if the resume writer was preoccupied during the holidays, if that’s the time frame you mean. It’s not an excuse (especially with the other issues you’ve had with her) but a lot of people go into “holiday mode” in mid-December and either work like crazy to finish everything, or slow down and catch up after the New Year. Just curious. I would still ask for your money back, though.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      Hi,
      Thank you for your response. We started this process in Oct and the resume timeline was mid to end of Nov.

      I actually did say on many different occasions that if you need more time please let me know. I think the lack of communication from the writer was also part of the problem.

      Reply
      1. Nina

        Gotcha. Sounds like you’ve given her enough time to get her stuff together, before and during the holidays. Ask for your money back and don’t work with her again.

        Reply
  6. Apollo Warbucks

    #3 my firm recently did away with petty cash and company credit cards as it was to much hassle to administer them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence the manager who came up with the idea earns 5.5 times my wage and doesn’t understand the hardship it causes people. Not to mention it feels like giving an interest free loan to the firm before I get my money back.

    I guess if you’re staying at a hotel that’s been paid for in advance, could you arrange for the meals to be charged to the room and your firm sent the bill?

    Reply
    1. Matt F

      Having to tell the boss that you can’t lay out money for expense reimbursement also opens the door for an awkward situation where she could interpret the request as a criticism against the company (ie “you pay me so poorly, I can’t afford to lay out a few hundred bucks”) or an unflattering view of the employee (ie “I’m so bad at managing my money, a few hundred bucks during a business trip will sink me”).

      Not that I agree, but the boss that’s making so much more could hear a different subtext.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        “I did not foresee this expenditure and I have made other commitments, financially, that I cannot undo.”

        Or just saying “I have made other financial commitments and it is not possible for me to front these funds.”

        I would say this even if I did have the money. I have no way of knowing that tomorrow the dog won’t incur a $500 vet bill or the car will suddenly have to have $800 of repair. (In my world, both happen at the same time. It’s to such a point that speaking up is easier than trying to piece together a mini-disaster recovery program with no money. One month alone, a floor in my house gave way, the hot water maker went and my car needed a new head gasket. Ker-ching, ker-ching.)

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        1. Valar M.

          I think this is very professional phrasing, and I like it, but to me it still comes out sounding like “I live paycheck to paycheck and have no money in the bank” which I still don’t think is your boss/the company’s business. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’ve had enough gossiping bosses and admin staff that I would worry about the possibility of this getting around the office depending on where I was working.

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          1. fposte

            I think this is one of those frustrating situations where the information that gets you the most leverage is information that should be private. I too hate the notion that your lifestyle or financial strictures are your company’s business, but an argument on principle isn’t likely to be enough to get them to change their policy for you.

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          2. Annie

            I hate to say this but it also depends on the age of the employee. I had to ask for an advance for a trip once (and couldn’t put the $50/day hold on my card) and it was no problem to get the advance and have the master account charged my hold (I was maybe 27), but another (older) employee asked for the same thing and was given crap for it (we also dealt with different people in accounting and our travel department when this happened- which might be the cause for the reactions). I think it also depends on how you ask for it. I was not really apologetic, but realized I was asking for something out of the norm. My co-worker demanded it. All of that can have an effect on the reaction you get.

            Reply
      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        Maybe, but I would risk asking. I normally approach traveling employees by saying “you can either get reimbursed when you get back or we can go ahead and write you a check now and even up later. What is easier for you?”. I’m the boss, and I sometimes do an advance for long trips so that I can budget that money separately (I just get it all in cash and spend that on the trip). Granted, I work for a nonprofit and do not have a huge salary…and I’m we’ll aware that my staff don’t either. Bosses should never elicit information about someone’s finances.

        Reply
    2. MaggietheCat

      We’re moving towards this and I am dreading it. I do all of the purchasing for our office – supplies, equipment, etc. I am just going to be ordering more stuff from places we have an account with (billed/paid directly with the corporate office) even though often times these items are more expensive than if I shopped around locally and put them on my card. That also means a longer lead time for these items which is frustrating but there is no way I could afford everything we need on my personal (debt) card.

      Reply
  7. Ann Furthermore

    #4: I think it’s a great idea to be creative with negotiating and ask for a non-cash benefit like that as part of your deal. I’d love to start early and leave early, but I just can’t do it, because of the whole kid drop-off rigamarole I have to do every morning.

    I wonder though, if it might be better to negotiate that the earlier hours would start after 90 days or something, to give you a chance to prove yourself to your new colleagues (and manager), so they can get to know you and see for themselves that you’re reliable and you’ve learned the ropes at your new job. If you start with an earlier schedule from the first day, it might cause some grumbling of the “Why is OP getting special treatment? S/he just started! Who does s/he think s/he is?” variety.

    If the environment is one where no one gets too uptight about what hours you work as long as you’re getting everything done, then a different schedule probably isn’t that a big deal. But if people notice what time you come in, what time you leave, what time you take your breaks, and so on, then this might be something to think about.

    People who get uptight about this kind of thing bug the crap out of me, but they are out there. It might be worth finding out if your new colleagues are among them.

    Reply
    1. Aknownymous

      Good point, I agree – do not underestimate the potential grumblings of your new co-workers. A different (and perceived better) schedule than other people in your department/company, if they all mostly work the same hours, could definitely cause tension and resentment. Not that it would be your fault, but it’s definitely something to consider, because it may affect how well you integrate into your new job environment, which will ultimately affect your job satisfaction.

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      Yeah, really. If no one is there to show OP around on the first day, OP will just sit there until people start coming in. I think there needs to be some planning as to how training will go.

      But it could be that people show up at varying times and this is a non-issue.

      Reply
      1. Revanche

        One hopes that would be taken into account. I let my staff determine their work hours as long as they cover a certain amount of core business hours but only after training. Before that, they have to show up and finish when we say, so that they’re available to the group of people who do the training and have disparate availabilities.

        Reply
  8. Apollo Warbucks

    #5 That sucks, where I’m working we have various holidays that need to be covered and the options are:

    * Have the day off without using PTO
    * Work and take another day off
    * Work a get paid double time

    I’m in the UK so the law about holidays is different and I’d have to check my contract to see what it says, but the convention seems to be you have the day off and get something extra if you have to work.

    Reply
  9. Treena Kravm

    For #3, this question comes up every once in a while. And every time I always wonder the same thing–why can’t they put it on a credit card? I understand if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, with a credit score so low that you can’t get a credit card, that’s one thing. But the majority of people can access one, so what’s the big deal? I also understand if the company has a bad timeline for reimbursements, but if it’s within a month, what’s the big deal since there’s no interest to pay?

    I’m genuinely trying to understand this from another perspective, since I live off of credit cards and ask to pay for my own business trip hotels so I can get the points.

    Reply
    1. Just Visiting

      I agree with you in practice because I use my credit card as a debit card, I use it to pay for everything and pay it off in total every single month. But most people aren’t like us. If you’re used to paying only the minimum or only $200 a month or whatever, then you have to factor in adding this extra money, which is work that they’re not paying you for. There’s also the insult of having to give an interest-free loan to a company which is worth five billion times what you are (roughly).

      So I’d do it, but I wouldn’t like it. IMO, a small token “interest” payment from the company to the employee wouldn’t be out of line.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        I agree that, if you pay off your credit card monthly,it isn’t a big issue and can earn you bonus points on the card. But, you have to have an empty card and the employer needs to pay you back quickly. DH’s reimbursements from his government employer can take over 3 months to pay him back and it can get frustrating and expensive to carry the amount on the card.

        Reply
          1. Chinook

            No interest and it has been worse. When we were in the middle of moving to this job (after 6 months of unpaid training and a starting salary that was half of what he would make a year later as he was still a rookie) they told us to put the move expenses, including hotels, on credit card and they would eventually reimburse. Neither of us had the credit limit to cover a cross country move and living expense for one month in a hotel, so he had to beg and plead with the agency handling the move (who was combining the coverage of one agency he was leaving and the one he was joining) to pay him weekly his expenses so he could put them directly onto his credit card to free up room for the pre-charges every hotel puts on. (Couldn’t use mine because my Quebec photo id with my maiden name didn’t match my credit card with my married name which was legal everywhere else). Plus, his first pay cheque was a month away.

            He eventually threatened to sleep in his police uniform on the front lawn of the detachment if they didn’t start paying him.

            Reply
      2. hermit crab

        Right — if you have no balance AND the trip won’t go over your limit AND you get reimbursed quickly, this can be a great way to build credit and earn some free points while you’re at it. I got my first credit card specifically to take on work trips, and it worked great for me. But those are some pretty big “ifs” and they all need to apply for this to work out for the employee.

        Reply
      3. WednesdaysMisfit

        This is just me probably being paranoid but I would never use my debit or credit card to pay for work/travel expenses. (Fwiw, I’m talking about large expenses, like airfare, hotel, etc). Here’s why – let’s say your company suddenly goes belly up. In your bank or creditor’s eyes, who is responsible for the charges? You. I’ve seen and heard about this happening before.

        Reply
    2. Vadigor

      As you say we’ve seen these questions before and every time I wonder how prevalent this problem is. Maybe it’s a cultural difference (I’m European) but I find it hard to imagine that white collar workers are living paycheck to paycheck, especially
      when their work requires travel, and is accordingly likely not entry-level. I’d certainly balk at having to front the expenses for the reasons mentioned above but is it really that common for employees to simply be unable to do so? Or am I seeing a pattern in these questions that doesn’t translate to actual numbers?

      Disclaimer: this should go without saying but I don’t mean any offence. I’m just baffled that the problem of the working poor seems so common.

      Reply
      1. CAinUK

        I know you didn’t mean offense, but saying this is a problem “of the working poor” isn’t the nicest (or most accurate) way to frame this.

        I’d be considered white collar (my regional salary is above average for the cost of living, though not well-off by any means), but I still have a hard time making ends meet due to: student loan debt, a mortgage payment, car expenses, retirement savings etc. And I live somewhere with free healthcare. If I had childcare on top of that, and didn’t have a dual income, I’d have a really hard time budgeting and $400 for a week could impact my budget significantly.

        Trying to get a credit card with a reasonable limit and interest rate is still difficult at the moment – it was easier pre-2008 (or if you had established credit already – which many new college grads won’t).

        So, actually, the assumption that this is only a problem for the “working poor” is what could be considered problematic for many folks in non-working-poor jobs.

        My rule of thumb (as this blog so often proves): don’t assume anything about other people’s finances and make workplace policies reflect that when possible.

        Reply
      2. SC in SC

        I wouldn’t say that it’s widespread but it’s not an uncommon issue for people. Keep in mind, I wouldn’t classify anyone in the US who travels as white collar or non-entry level. Exempt employees can make as low as $23,600 per year and depending on the job young or non-exempt employees may be required to travel as well.

        Once you factor in travel, lodging and food a trip can cost several thousand dollars. Even floating this on a personal credit card can make some people uncomfortable. If your company is slow to reimburse you then you’ll have to pay the interest. Either way some people don’t like mixing their personal finances with work.

        Reply
        1. Judy

          If the average household income in the US is $55,000, and the average consumer credit card debt is $15,000 (this number is average of the people who have credit cards), then there are many people who won’t have the space in credit cards to handle this. Note that this doesn’t include school loans, mortgages, etc. I know that the balances that those of us who pay off the cards each month are included in the average, but that’s still a whole lot of debt. (We pay ours off each month, but it’s a rare month that it’s even $1500, unless we’re making a major purchase.)

          Reply
      3. Katie the Fed

        ” I find it hard to imagine that white collar workers are living paycheck to paycheck”

        You’d be surprised. A lot of fairly recent grads are dealing with rising cost of living, low & stagnant wages, and crippling amounts of student debt. It can take a while until you get to the point where you can comfortable save and have a bit of a cushion, and everyone’s circumstances are different. But no, I don’t think it’s that uncommon for “white collar” (or any for that matter) workers to be living paycheck to paycheck.

        Reply
        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          My first two jobs were in DC and NYC, respectively. I made peanuts, first objectively and then by NYC standards. There was a lot of calculating done on a regular basis. When I finally made enough to be comfortable, I still couldn’t save a substantial amount because my rent kept getting higher. I have always had excellent corporate jobs. So there’s that.

          Reply
        2. HR Manager

          So true. Many people are bad at handling money (in the US in particular!) and you’d be surprised how otherwise competent “professional” workers stink at living within their means and managing a budget. The old US environment didn’t help with the easy credit, and charge it and don’t worry about it mentality (or worry about it 1 month later).

          I once had an employee who was an attorney – made an extremely good salary, but for whatever reason always complained about being underpaid. The problem was this guy spent a crazy amount of money on his family always wanting the best of everything (summer home, private school, a hundred of different types of lessons for his kids). This guy was earning a good 200k but seemed to want the lifestyle of a millionaire.

          Reply
          1. A Teacher

            I think that’s not true for a lot of Americans. I live within my means–but I also have pets that have had emergencies, a car that decided to have issues, a furnace that needed fixed, etc… I’m a teacher so I don’t make a ton of money and couldn’t float a loan to my employer because stuff (life happens).

            Reply
          2. Zillah

            I think that it’s true that many people aren’t great at handling money – I’ve observed that especially for people in my age group (twenty-somethings), there’s often not enough awareness of how small incidental expenses can add up, or what things you can go without, even if it’s not really comfortable to do so. It’s something I’ve struggled with, too, but am trying to get under control (and I think I’m doing a lot better).

            However, I also think that it’s incredibly oversimplistic – and even insulting – to say that the issues being talked about in this thread stem primarily from people not living within their means. People may not always be the best at watching what they’re spending their money on, but that doesn’t negate the reality that many adults have crippling amounts of student loans and/or medical bills (including premiums) – and that the cost of both attending school and health care are skyrocketing at a rate that far exceeds inflation.

            Could a lot of people be better at thinking about what (relatively healthy) meals cost less money, or have more self-control when it comes to getting that latte or regularly eating out for lunch? Absolutely. But while that would definitely be a positive change in many people’s lives, that’s ultimately not the thing that’s breaking the bank.

            Reply
            1. Kerry (Like The County in Ireland)

              Or maybe you just like to budget in a way that means you don’t have tons of cash floating around to use for unplanned business expenses. I get paid biweekly. I pay rent from one check and have other bills taking up most of the next. Eventually I am paying my rent 1 month+ in advance–and I like it that way. I have savings, but it’s not a random slush fund to be used on whatever.

              Reply
          3. Mike C.

            I think a lot of people ignore or are unaware of the fact that wages have stagnated over the past 40 years in comparison to the GDP.

            Reply
            1. Katie the Fed

              Exactly. All the budgeting in the world doesn’t change the fact that most people are simply earning less and having to pay more.

              Reply
      4. Apollo Warbucks

        I think its more prevalent that you might think, I used to work for a professional services firm and recent grads earning less than $30,000 would be sent out to do field work, for two or three weeks at a time, the hotel bill would be picked up by the firm, but food and mileage would need to be paid out of pocket and claimed back later.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          If you are making 35K or less, here where I live, you are living hand to mouth and praying that you run out of bills before you run out of month. Unfortunately, a BA gets you around 32K a year here. If you get more education than a BA, then very few people can afford to hire you. It’s a catch 22.

          Many clerical jobs here are around 20k or so. Just because someone has a desk job does not mean they have it easy.

          Reply
      5. Carrie in Scotland

        Vadigor – I don’t travel for my job but struggle to pay my living expenses in an expensive city on a normal wage (my current city has the oil). If I were in a job that needed me to pay upfront, it would be a real hardship for me to do so. I’ve never had a credit card (yet) in my life.

        CAinUK – I agree with your post.

        Reply
      6. Regular Commentator; Anon for This

        I think that with the way that the economy’s affected the job market over the last 5-7 years it’s very dangerous to make assumptions about people’s finances based on their job.

        I’m a senior manager with a top quartile salary. On paper you would think I would have an excellent lifestyle and a good credit rating and therefore the ability to meet travel expenses and wait for the company to pay me back. The reality is somewhat different:

        Over the last seven years, I have been made redundant from an even better paid job, relocated across the country to take a job at $30k less, made redundant from that job 5 years later and relocated to take up my current job (now under threat). At the same time we couldn’t sell our apartment so had to rent it out at a price that doesn’t cover the mortgage and my partner lost his job. Add to that a credit card burden that was managable when I incurred it in the first job and it wasn’t long before I was living paycheck to paycheck and beyond.

        I’m now in a better place financially, but my credit rating is shot, over 40% of my salary goes on debt repayment and there’s no way I could cover the cost of business travel – I buy my clothes from charity shops and bargain bin groceries. Any spare money goes to debt repayment and building up an emergency fund in case this job is downgraded.

        But from the outside, no-one would know.

        TL:DR People’s financial situation may be very different to what you think it is, often through no/very little fault of their own

        Reply
        1. another regular in a similar boat

          Nobody at work knows this, but I went from a two income family we’ll above median income, to a one income family with massive medical bills, and low likelihood of going back to two incomes, ever. I make more than most people at my job, and seem to have very significantly less disposable income. As in, $20 extra out of pocket siggnificantly messes up my budget. You just don’t know who has money and who is paying for groceries with spare change.

          Reply
          1. Not So NewReader

            I will cosign this.
            My husband passed. I paid all his medical bills…. while being unemployed myself because I just finished my degree, sigh. And I am still playing catch up.

            I feel that I should not have to explain my tale of woe to an employer. This is my problem and I will deal with it. If you own a house and a car you are among the top percent of richest people in the world. Most people do not have that much. My preference is to focus on what is going right.

            Employers need to be more aware of how exactly much it costs their employee to hold a job with them.

            I rant. Please excuse me.

            Reply
            1. another regular in a similar boat

              I hear you on that – I hate feeling like I have to explain. Yes, I’m sure that this story would sound compelling, and that people would understand. However, I shouldn’t have to explain. People have all kids of reasons for not having extra money, and it shouldn’t matter what the reason is.

              Reply
            2. Revanche

              “I feel that I should not have to explain my tale of woe to an employer.”

              100% agree. I was paying off 100k+ of debt my parents had incurred & their ongoing living expenses while working my first job and had ample professional justification to warrant asking for a promotion and raise but the loonytunes mgmt I worked for at the time insisted I had to share my own tale of woe or they wouldn’t hear my request because “if there wasn’t a personal reason why [was I] looking” at the appropriate salary ranges for the significantly increased responsibilities and jobs I was doing?

              Oh I don’t know. Because I was essentially doing a job that had significantly changed in scope and responsibility?

              Reply
      7. BRR

        You just really never know anybody’s financial situation. Divorce, repairs for the house or car, unemployment, medical bills, the list goes on. I have two credit cards and one doesn’t have that high of a limit so if my main one was compromised and they were sending a new one while I was away the second one might not cover a long trip.

        Reply
        1. Ann O'Nemity

          Good point.

          I had a medical issue come up that just destroyed my finances. I went from living comfortably, no debt, and 6 months worth of savings to living paycheck-to-paycheck with substantial debt. I can’t believe how far I’ve fallen, especially for something that was completely out of my control.

          Reply
      8. MT

        I would not consider myself working poor, but the last time I moved, pay out of pocket then get reimbursed. My second week on the job they wanted me to travel for 2 weeks for training to other sites. This was before I had my moving reimbursement, i had to ask the company to direct bill my hotel because 14 nights was not in the books that week.

        Reply
        1. Burlington

          This is big for me; I had to move on short notice recently, and you have to put up first month + deposit well before you get your deposit back on the previous place, so I found myself overdrafting my bank account while expecting $5K worth of checks to come in at any time. $5K swings are a dramatic thing to weather, even if it’s only once every few years.

          Reply
      9. fposte

        I’ll note also that travel isn’t uncommon for entry-level employees in a lot of fields; it’s not correct that the fact somebody’s traveling means they’re not entry level.

        Reply
      10. esra

        Crippling student debt.

        I say as a Canadian.

        On top of that, Americans also pay crazy for healthcare and their minimum wage isn’t great.

        Reply
      11. A Teacher

        Student loans. My student loan payment has jumped $100 a month in the last two years, my income has not jumped $100 a month in the last two years and that’s on top of all other essential expenses. I drive a car that is 7 years old and has needed things like new breaks, a new horn, etc… and I have pets that have had emergencies that weren’t anticipated in the last year. I don’t have the money to front to my employer and get reimbursed later. I have minimal debt on my credit card but I don’t want to put more on my credit card. I’m solidly middle class based on what I earn per year but that doesn’t mean I can float money and “wait to get reimbursed.”

        Reply
      12. AnonForThisOne

        Pre-healthcare changes, I paid 500/month for health insurance (not counting prescriptions and dr visits), 500/month for student loans and $700/month for my half of rent. The entry level salary in my very white collar field (required at least an MA) was $30,o00 (or roughly 2200/month after taxes). I had to travel for my job on a monthly basis. I can’t give you numbers, because I don’t know if there’s been a study, but this isn’t a made-up problem. Plenty of us have lived it.

        Reply
      13. Anon for this

        In my area, a studio or 1 bedroom in a not-so-great area is maybe $1000. If you make $15/hr, that comes out to around $2600/mo. Assume 20% taxes between federal and state (spitballing here!), and you’ve got $2080/mo to spend. After rent, that’s $1080. If you took out student loans to get that job or had to get a car payment (another necessity where I live), take off another few hundred. Then food, gas and car/rental insurance is another few hundred. That leaves maybe $400/mo for other costs–likely sufficient in most months, but not if you’ve just had something like car repairs come up and suddenly need to travel. I don’t think this is an unlikely budget for someone just out of school, and it doesn’t leave much room for fronting travel or other business expenses.

        Reply
        1. Marcy

          You also need to add in health/dental/vision insurance premiums, any co-pays for medication you have to take regularly and of course, you should be contributing to your 401k. Where I am, we are required to contribute 3% of our salary to retirement, as in can’t even opt out.

          Reply
      14. Realistic

        I’m a white-collar worker who is really good at managing money, but we are living paycheck-to-paycheck too. My husband got laid off after 19 years at a company, found a good job in a dramatically more expensive city, but the cost of living increase really made it a lateral move. But we had to pay for his relocation costs. We haven’t been able to sell our house in the old city, finally rented it out to someone who skipped out on rent and did more damages to the house than the security deposit covered. At one point, we were paying for 3 places of residence since our rental house in new city wouldn’t hold until his apartment lease was up, and I was still in old city packing up to move. So our old house is empty and I’m paying mortgage and utilities until we can re-rent it (and supplement the rent to cover our mortgage). His student loan payments are $650 a month and they won’t negotiate them lower . He would be making a bigger salary if he went into the field he studied for, but he went deaf and can’t work in that field at all. Oh, and he was recently diagnosed with cancer, and our out-of-pocket costs for his care are expensive, even though we have pretty good insurance. So, yeah, the economy and the job market and the housing market and healthcare costs have added up to paycheck-to-paycheck. With a side of age discrimination and bad health/luck. Sigh.

        Reply
      15. Vadigor

        Thanks tot everyone who shared their insight and to the many who shared a personal story. I was not aware of how out of control the current job market is and that I incorrectly assumed that office work automatically meant higher than average wages.

        I hope that all of you manage to weather any financial struggles you may be dealing with. Hardworking professionals do not deserve to live paycheck to paycheck and I hope that we may one day manage to get the economy out of the spiral that leads to these kinds of situations.

        Reply
    3. Davey1983

      I also just prefer to use my own credit card now so that I can get the points, but I haven’t always been that way.

      As a new grad at my first job, I was expected to go to go on two one-month business trips back to back and the organization would reimburse me after the trips were over. The issue there was that to just pay for the hotel would max out my credit cards (the hotel bill alone was about $8,000) and prevent me from buying things like food for me on the trip (I was on per diem, but I wouldn’t actually get any of the money until the trip was over), or food/utilities/etc for my wife back home. Remember, I’m a newly minted grad– I have no money to my name. Very embarrassing, but I ate Roman Noodles every day and had to ask my parents for a loan to cover my expenses for the trips. The one plus was that since I spent almost nothing on food during the trips, the per diem money was like getting a nice size bonus my third month on the job.

      I have also seen companies that do not reimburse their employees for weeks on end. As such, I can see the issue the letter writer has. Plus, the letter writer may not have a credit card, or they may be maxed out, or the cost of the trip will be more than their credit limit, etc.

      I would ask the company to see if they would advance the money required for the trip, or at least getting the company to put the hotel and airfare on a company card. Several companies will pay an advance if you file some paperwork with reasonably estimated expenses on it.

      Reply
      1. BRR

        My old employer was one that took forever to reimburse. More than a full billing cycle most of the time. You would get your money back but you would have to foot the bill first. If you didn’t have the cash you wouldn’t be able to pay it off in full and owe interest which there is no way the company would pay for.

        Reply
      2. Not So NewReader

        Your story about not being able to eat decent food really rattles my cage. Companies are all about health care costs, but see no correlation between lack of food and poor health.
        This is a very undeveloped topic but I think it will be huge in years to come. Companies are contributing to their employees health problems in so many ways it is staggering.

        One place I work, required long hours. No one was allowed to drink water while working. A coworker went to the hospital for heart complications due to (get this!) dehydration.

        Reply
    4. LizH

      Not all of us like using credit. To me, credit cards are for emergency use only. I was recently unemployed for six months. I did get a job, but that period of unemployment had a major impact on my finances. About four months after I got my job, I had an emergency situation where my only recourse was to use credit, which I am still paying off. Also, some employers take forever to reimburse. I look at it this way: I don’t work and get paid to turn around and give my money back to my employer. Please don’t judge people and their finances. You really can’t know their situation, and no, I am not a spendthrift.
      I am about as frugal as I can be in all areas, out of necessity.

      Reply
    5. Alistair

      I’m with you Treena. I travel a good chunk for work, and I have a credit card I use only for work. I put all my expenses on it, and get reimbursed for it all. I get plenty of points, which I have used for some great purchases in the past.

      Now, this works because in 10 years, my company has never failed to repay expenses by the 10th of the next month. If someone’s business was flaky about repayment, I could understand throwing all that out the window. Furthermore, my bosses were willing to spot me money when I was first starting out. Again, I can understand if you’re new, and you don’t have that credit built up.

      I’m trying not to live off credit cards, but when I’m dropping $1600 on hotels, what choice do I have?

      Reply
    6. Sabrina

      My husband worked briefly at a payday loan store, and most of his customers made $50K+ and out here in flyover country, that’s decent money. But add in bills, daycare, student loans, and a mortgage, and you’re very quickly broke and likely living off credit cards and not for the points.

      Reply
    7. fposte

      Added to what other people say: if you’re carrying a balance, that means you’re paying a 25%–or whatever the interest rate is–surcharge on everything you buy. Bad enough on your own stuff, but that’s a heck of a work travel tax.

      Reply
    8. AnotherAlison

      Individual employees should not be taking on debt & risk for a company. It doesn’t seem like risk because you’re going to pay it off next month, but if they let you go or the company suddenly shuts its doors, you are out of luck. (You might still be able to get your money back, but not without headaches.)

      Reply
    9. Kathryn

      1. Business expenses and risk should not be placed on employees.
      2. No, I’m actually not paid enough to float the company $10k for a couple of months (my company has a policy that they don’t pay for flights until after you take the trip… but you have to schedule international travel or conference travel far in advance)
      3. And do they pay interest on that? Because I have to.

      I’d rather use my savings to cushion my life and emergencies, not my company’s float.

      Reply
    10. Allison

      I live off credit cards too, and personally since I’ve earned fairly decent credit lines I could probably use a card on business travel and expense it, but that’s not feasible for everyone and some people even have objections to using credit for a number of reasons. I don’t see why a company can’t get a corporate card to pay for major travel expenses up front (like hotel and airfare) and only reimburse for smaller expenses that are incurred along the way, like cab fare and meals.

      When I first traveled for work, I was nervous because I thought I’d need to pay for it myself and at the time it wasn’t possible. At the time I had but one credit card and the limit was only $300, not enough to cover the trip, and I didn’t want to use my debit card because I wanted to make sure I could still pay bills and rent. Luckily they covered the expenses, and I traveled with a co-worker who had a physical company card to pay for meals.

      Reply
    11. Regular, now Anon

      I am not the working poor. My salary is based on a far more expensive city so I am lucky (and grateful!) that there is a large gap between my wages and my cost of living. Being single with no dependents, this puts me firmly in the middle-middle class (as in not upper middle and not lower middle, but middle-middle). Considering my last job paid me poverty wages, I am assumed to be very comfortable.

      What no one knows from the outside is I am in my late 20s and burned with $75,000 in student loan debt (3 years into a college degree, my college was closed due to mismanagement of financial aid. DOE offers no recourse and I had to retake nearly two year’s worth of courses because transferring credits from a school that no longer exists is downright impossible)

      I could not front travel expenses. My debt is so high I cannot get a credit card. I am not entry level, and I am definitely white collar. As so many others have said, you just don’t know someone’s financial situation from the outside. What you do know is that nearly everyone was hit hard by the last 5-7 years in some way, shape or form.

      And for what it is worth, I bet the working poor are “baffled” by whatever it is that causes you concern in your workplace, too.

      Reply
      1. BRR

        If you still can’t get a credit card you might want to look into a secured credit card for your FICO score. I know this comes with hurdles but it will help with the stupid way they figure FICO scores.

        Reply
        1. Allison

          +1

          This was the only way I could get my first card. I put up $50, they gave me a credit line of $300, which they more than doubled after a while when I used it responsibly. I did have to wait 6 months to get my score, and when I got it it was low because my credit was new and with a tiny line naturally my utilization was high, but after about 9 months of using that card my score was good, and I was able to start opening cards that had rewards, cash back, etc.

          Reply
    12. fposte

      For interest–a Harris poll says that 36% of Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck, down from 46% in 2008.

      Reply
      1. Zillah

        I’m not sure whether I should be uplifted that it’s gotten significantly lower or really depressed that it’s still that high. :(

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I also didn’t dig in to see what it meant by “paycheck to paycheck.” I found a Bankrate survey that asked more specifically about how many months’ expenses people had available to them in emergency funds, which got headlined as being a much higher percentage of “paycheck to paycheck” but included people with emergency funds in that group (and broke it down by how many months’ emergency fund, so the actual survey was interesting), so I don’t think it’s quite the same.

          Reply
    13. CAA

      “but if it’s within a month, what’s the big deal since there’s no interest to pay?”

      It is only true that there is no interest to pay if the credit card starts the month at a $0 balance. Most cards now use the average daily balance for calculating interest if you start at any number greater than 0.

      So if your opening balance is $500, then during the month you charge $5000 worth of work travel, get reimbursed, and then make a payment of $5100. You’re still paying interest on that $5000 for every single day between when you charged it and when you got reimbursed and made the payment.

      If having work expenses requires you to carry a balance over to the next billing cycle when you normally wouldn’t, then you are paying interest on your own purchases as well.

      Reply
      1. Treena Kravm

        What?! No you’re not paying interest. That’s not how credit cards work AT ALL. I think a big part of this that general financial literacy in the US is so poor, because I think a lot of people are under the same impression.

        Say I have a balance of $1,000 on Jan 20. The billing cycle ends on the 20th of the month. So I charge another $1,500 during the Jan 21- Feb 20 cycle, and all the charges aren’t accumulating interest until that payment is due, which isn’t until March 19. The original $1,000 isn’t due until Feb 19, and there’s no interest until that payment is “due.”

        So if I were to charge $5,000 on Jan 20, that wouldn’t accumulate interest or even have a minimum payment until March 19th. Depending on where you are in your credit card cycle, you get an interest-free loan for 30-60 days.

        Reply
        1. CAA

          I believe it depends on whether your card calculates interest on “average daily balance including new purchases” or not. Both of my cards do include new purchases when calculating interest.

          Reply
        2. Mike C.

          Who cares?! Why should employees be responsible for paying business operating costs? If credit cards are so great, then then business can get one.

          Reply
        3. Judy

          I think that you would be paying interest. If you had $500 on your card, and you were paying it off $100/month, and then had to put work expenses on it, you would be paying interest on the work expenses.

          The grace period (no interest) only happens when you pay off the statement in full.

          Reply
        4. fposte

          From the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: “If you do not pay your balance in full, you will generally be charged interest on the unpaid portion of the balance, and interest will be charged on purchases in the new billing cycle starting on the date each purchase is made.”

          If you’re carrying a balance, you do indeed pay interest on every single new purchase–unless you’ve been fortunate enough to get an unusual card that doesn’t charge it.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            I suspect part of the confusion here is that CAA’s description doesn’t necessarily mean that the cardholder is carrying a balance–it could apply to somebody whose previous month’s bill hasn’t come due yet. If the payment’s not due yet, no interest accrues; if the due date has come and gone without the full balance being paid, though, interest will accrue on the new purchases.

            Reply
            1. Judy

              I guess I read this:

              It is only true that there is no interest to pay if the credit card starts the month at a $0 balance. Most cards now use the average daily balance for calculating interest if you start at any number greater than 0.

              to mean that the cardholder is carrying a balance.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                That’s how I read it, but depending on your take on “month” it could just mean that you hadn’t paid the previous month’s charges, I guess. Anyway, I figured the CFPB could clear the whole thing up.

                Reply
        1. CAA

          Things used to be the way Treena describes, but that changed quite a few years ago. If you carry a balance at the start of the billing cycle, then almost all card issuers in the U.S. will indeed charge you interest on new purchases from the day they post during that billing cycle.

          From consumerfinance.gov:
          “However if you don’t pay off your entire balance by the due date, you will lose your grace period. Without a grace period, you will have to pay interest on new purchases from the date you make them. Carrying a promotional balance can cause you to lose your grace period or make it harder for you to get it back. This is why accepting promotional balance offers can cost you more than you expect”

          From Motley Fool:
          “If you pay off your bill in full, your lender probably gives you a grace period during which you do not accrue finance charges. (If he doesn’t, we recommend dumping him and finding a credit card that offers at least a 20-day grace period, like The Motley Fool credit card. Wink, wink.) If you do not pay off your balance in its entirety for each billing period, however, you will accrue interest on new purchases from the day they are posted.”

          Reply
    14. Xay

      And I would argue that a solvent company that expects its employees to travel can afford to cover at least some of their travel expenses up front either through travel advance or direct billing for hotel/airfare. I switched jobs from a low paid government position where I was living paycheck to paycheck to a higher paying private role with high travel expectations. Even with the increase in pay, it still took time to adjust my financial situation. If I had been expected to cover all of the expenses for my travel (which was 9-12 days out of the month, all over the United States, for my first 8 months), there was no way I could have done it – especially considering the company I worked for averaged 6-8 weeks for reimbursement. Fortunately, their travel policy was to direct bill hotel and airfare and reimburse per diem and ground transportation so it worked out.

      Reply
    15. chewbecca

      I don’t have a credit card, nor at this point do I want one. I used to be really bad with money, and having one got me in to a lot of trouble when I was younger. I’m finally at the point where I’ve paid off my past mistakes and am making a very earnest effort to repair my credit.

      This relates two-fold, because while I probably qualify for a card, the interest rate would be pretty high. That combined with the percentage of my wages I put toward paying off other bills, I don’t have as much money as someone in my position who is debt-free would. I’d rather work off of spending only the money I know I have right at the moment instead of working off of future money, even if it is just a month ahead.

      When I was working from home, my company wanted me to come out to their offices to do some training on a new product. They paid for the plane ticket, but told me I had to pay for the rental car on my own and submit it for reimbursement.

      It was pretty embarrassing to tell my boss that I didn’t have a credit card and couldn’t afford to put it on my debit card. It was a huge hassle because my boss had to meet me at the airport and take me to the rental car place so he could put it on his card. He needed to be the in person for liability reasons, I think.

      Like I said, embarrassing and very humbling.

      Reply
      1. Treena Kravm

        Ok, I get the emotional part of ridding yourself from credit cards, but why not do what Alistair did and get one credit card just for work expenses? You keep it on a shelf at home (not in a wallet or purse) and have willpower about not using it.

        And, for what it’s worth, your credit repairing process would go a lot faster if you opened a credit card, made a $3 purchase on it each month, and paid it off.

        Reply
        1. A Teacher

          Because they don’t want to. It honestly isn’t my employer’s business why I do or don’t have a credit card. Just last month, my assistant principal asked me if I had purchased the item and submitted it for reimbursement. I point blank looked at him and said, I can’t afford to front the money and wait for reimbursement. It was embarrassing, but if you feel I need to have something or go on a trip, find the money to pay for it, I don’t have the money to front. Even $20 is a big deal to me right now, in 10 years, it may not be but right now , it is.

          Reply
    16. Alston

      It took me 45 days to get reimbursed through Princeton, so I was always on the hook for interest/can’t use my card for other stuff. A 2 week trip can get me up to/ over my credit limit

      Reply
    17. Chocolate addict

      Personally, I would rather not pay for any of my work expenses on my own credit card, points or not. It creates my own accounting aggravation. I do it because I have to, but I’d rather not.

      That said, I waited until my credit card statement just rolled over this weekend, before purchasing air fair for a conference in a couple months, to increase my odds I get the reimbursement before the bill is due. Thankfully, the office could pay for the conference registration on the office credit card (it can’t be used for “future” purchases, like hotel or airfare).

      Reply
      1. Treena Kravm

        But see, that’s the kind of thing I think people don’t take into consideration or think they can do. It’s perfectly acceptable to do this! If you time it right, you get 60 days to pay it off, and any company that takes longer than 60 days to reimburse is one of those situations that I completely understand being angry about.

        Reply
          1. Chocolate addict

            Agree with Mike, employees shouldn’t have to think about this, and depending on when/where the purchase is, they may not be able to do that. In my case, this is a conference I *want* to go, not required to, so fronting the money is something I was willing to do.

            Reply
    18. Amethyst

      As other people have mentioned, there are a lot of reasons that someone can’t put something on their credit card even if from the outside it would appear that they would be able to. I would like to add another: There’s a reason I try hard to keep empty room on my card and don’t want to fill it with expenses my business is supposed to pay. My family is very tiny and poor. I am single. If I have an emergency, there is no one I can ask for money to help me out. So, I just can’t cut into my available credit for work. Even if I’m reimbursed next day, I could go home and find that my kitchen is flooded or my cat is sick.

      I don’t travel but work did once ask me to cover a catered dinner for ~20 people because so-and-so wasn’t in the office that day with the office card. I said no. My credit is to help me handle expenses and emergencies only. Also, my coworker once had to wait over a month to get reimbursed for something she was told to buy (not like a surprise, unexpected expense). Waiting that long would’ve panicked me.

      Reply
  10. Cheesecake

    OP #4 In my experience(s), if you say you want to start earlier, it is an additional reason to hire you, not even something to negotiate :) But i am not sure if you have flexible hours at all. If you did – i’d negotiate salary and just mention your hour preference. But if you didn’t – by any means negotiate time, but don’t make it a huge favor to ask.

    As AAM was saying, starting early is still “better” in our mindset. Totally envy you, I am a “night owl” and for “creative” pieces of work after 5pm is when the magic happens and i have to deal with it.

    Reply
    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      Me too! I totally a 10 am person. 3pm to 7pm, I can FLY through some work. 8am, helpless and grumpy.

      Reply
  11. Katie the Fed

    “Also, employers tend to be more agreeable to starting early/leaving early than starting late/leaving late, probably because the latter is at odds with some deep-rooted puritanism about early rising that as a society we still have.”

    And it’s a damned shame. I’d be happy as a clam working 10-6.

    Reply
    1. Lily

      I actually did get to work 10-6 for about four years — it was the perfect schedule for me, especially since I was taking mass transit to work and so got to miss the peak commuting times.

      I suppose I *could* ask to go to that schedule at my current job which is very open to flex scheduling, but I’m lucky enough to walk to work (and all my coworkers know it), so I’d really have no real case for flex scheduling other than I’m not a morning person. (And to a certain extent, living so close does mean I can get up about the same time I used to at that 10-6 job.)

      Reply
      1. Cheesecake

        When a couple of jobs ago employer proudly presented “flex scheduling”, angels were singing in my head. But what they meant is “come absolutely anytime…before 9 am”

        Reply
      2. Revanche

        Is it a problem to ask, though? I’ve been perfectly happy approving similar requests when it didn’t negatively affect the business regardless of the reason. If someone knows they work best later (or earlier) in the day, I’d be even more happy to accommodate because they’re happy and more productive and I’m happy that they’re more productive and happy :)

        Reply
    2. HR Manager

      I hear you. I have never been a morning person and never will be. I’ve been unlucky in always have a boss who is a morning person, but at least I’ve worked at flexible companies where they don’t care. But I am so glad I no longer have 7am meetings.

      Reply
    3. AVP

      I do 10-6 and it’s effing amazing. It’s turned me into what I consider a “morning” person – as long as the morning starts when I want it to.

      Reply
  12. Aknownymous

    #3 – In the beginning of my career, just out of college, I used to feel really uncomfortable asking for an advance for costs. I didn’t want to seem “cheap” and I didn’t want anyone to think that I didn’t have the money. Which I didn’t. So instead I paid my bills late, overdrafted my bank account and didn’t buy food for myself when I was out money for the company. So stupid in hindsight, but it was my first job and I was embarrassed.

    Eventually, a friend of mine found out and made me realize that I shouldn’t put myself in dire straits for my job. Next time I was asked to front money for my job, I worked up the courage to ask them for the money in advance. And they did, no questions asked, no explanation required, no problems. Many companies have this system of reimbursement by default, which is assumptious, but in most cases probably benign. I bet if you just asked them for cash/a card ahead of time, the likelihood of it being no big deal is probably very high. Most companies would understand.

    Reply
  13. Purr purr purr

    OP#3, I’m very sympathetic to the situation you’ve described because the company I work for does the same (but worse!) Could you ask them to provide the $50/day for meals in advance and then you’ll keep the receipts and give them back the difference, assuming they even want the difference back (I say that because a former job gave me $50/day for meals and I got to keep what I didn’t use)? I’m sure that if you’re having issues, other people are too.

    It bugs me though when companies do this. My current company is even worse because I have to buy a one-way flight at the very last-minute (seriously, sometimes the day before), pay for all my hotel costs, food, etc. and then buy another last-minute flight to return home. It’s not unusual for my expenses to run to $3,000 and it’s been higher if I’m away for more than a month, and then I have to wait another month to get reimbursed. I don’t understand why companies think it’s OK for their employees to pay out of pocket for a company expense!

    Reply
    1. Apollo Warbucks

      There’s no excuse for a company to ask an employee to cover flights or hotel rooms they are so expense its a real imposition.

      Reply
        1. Cheesecake

          Is that normal for non-profits or for all? I am and was working for corporations and never had to pay this out of pocket. This is horror. Once i paid taxis out of pocket (because taxi drivers are not fond of credit cards) and it took 2 months to file expense report and get money back. Now, that was 100 bucks. But 2000???

          Reply
          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

            The business always pays hotel and flight upfront. Food is per diem (makes no difference how much you actually spend, you get the same amount), and we will do an advance if someone asks (no explanation needed).

            Reply
      1. Sunrays

        Exactly – it can cost as much as a private holiday for yourself which you at least have the option of saving up for.

        Reply
    2. Cheesecake

      Normal companies don’t. I never worked for someone who required me to do business trips, yet had no credit card/advance organized. This is not my personal expense (like if i wanted a couple of cocktails while alcohol is not permitted during business trip meals) this is a business expense.

      Reply
      1. Judy

        One company I worked for had corporate branded cards, but they went to your home address, and you had to pay them. They just were backed by the company, so employees could get them no matter what. This was a F50 company, one that 80% of US households have their products in them, and has a global presence.

        Reply
        1. Cheesecake

          But was that for business travel or just for your personal use with some special discounts? I once traveled every single week in a month and i had a junior salary that time. If i had to pay myself, I could only afford half of 1st trip

          I have a corp. card and i never receive or pay statements. I provide receipts for my expenses and if something doesn’t belong there (again, say i had too much cocktails, they were not approved), i pay this back. I once paid my groceries with corp.card – one word:tired. Was quite embarrassed and reimbursed immediately.

          Reply
          1. Judy

            That was for business travel. Only the very few people with P-cards (procurement cards) were direct billed to corporate, the T-cards were billed to you, and if it was reimbursed before the billing cycle, it was OK, otherwise, you had to float it until you were reimbursed. At least you could split your expense report, so you could start the proceedings for the airfare ASAP.

            Reply
          2. Raupe

            We have what I suspect is the same system (International company listed on stock exchange here). It’s really just for business travel – people have been terminated for putting private charges on there.

            Reply
            1. Cheesecake

              Well, you can put private charges there on purpose, thinking noone will find. Then termination is around the corner. Or you can do honest mistake like i did – noone said anything after i’ve reimbursed (and i obviosly confessed myself :)

              Reply
      2. The Cosmic Avenger

        It might depend on whether work is billed to clients or not. My company has to assign travel to the client code (or overhead, but that’s rare), then bill the client. They are smart enough not to make this the employee’s problem, as they will reimburse expenses promptly, help you sign up for a corporate credit card, let you use a corporate travel agency, and if you talk to a supervisor or someone in accounting I’m pretty sure you could get an advance on the per diem, although I’m fortunate that it’s been many years since I’ve been in that position, so I’m not sure what the policy is now.

        Anyway, just saying that the company should front the money instead of demanding an interest-free loan from their employee, but since we’re talking about what’s “normal”, one reason that poorly-managed companies might do this is because of how they make their profits. Having to bill clients for work that you do means accounting and expenses to be handled differently than if the company manufactures chocolate teapots, in which case it is basically investing its own profits in business travel.

        Reply
  14. doreen

    #5- I would check into the details of that policy, because I’ve had jobs with a different policy that often got confused for the one you describe. In my case, you got extra pay for working say Election Day . If you didn’t work Election Day, you didn’t get the extra pay and you used a day of leave- but the missing piece was that you got an extra day of leave for working the holiday so there was no net use of leave.

    Reply
  15. BRR

    #1 First. if you are only emailing, try calling her. If you have an agreement in writing I might try “One last time I would like my money back, if not I will be contacting my attorney.” You might be able to file a complaint with your state’s attorney general office. It’s pretty easy. There’s also small claims court. I just know “I will be contacting my attorney” worked really well on my landlord who wasn’t responding to giving us back our security deposit. If you have nothing in writing you’re basically SOL.

    Reply
  16. Nerd Girl

    “Also, employers tend to be more agreeable to starting early/leaving early than starting late/leaving late, probably because the latter is at odds with some deep-rooted puritanism about early rising that as a society we still have.”

    I don’t know if it’s about the deep-rooted puritanism or the fact that every company I interact with in a given day shuts down at 5pm. If I can’t do my work, then it makes no sense to have me stay past 5pm, even though I might prefer it.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      Shuts down in what sense, though? There are plenty of jobs that have work that can be done after the majority of the rest of the workforce has left – mine, for example. If I can still be productive until 6 or 7, it seems silly to make me leave at 5 just because everyone else did.

      Reply
    2. Natalie

      I’m not sure how that’s a material difference – if the company doesn’t start up until 8, going in early is just as useless as staying late.

      Reply
  17. some1

    #2, While rude, unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for internal rejections to be handled poorly. I’ve seen orgs pull a job req after internal candidates apply and not tell them, and I’ve seen internal candidates find out they were rejected by receiving an email announcing the new hire or being introduced to the new hire.

    Unfortunately, not every hiring manager has the soft skills that make them realize why this is a problem.

    Reply
    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      Not excusing this at all….but rejecting internal candidates can be really uncomfortable for the manager. If we’re not extra mindful about our actions when we feel awkward, it’s all the more likely we’ll do something strange and insensitive. I bet this manager was trying to avoid having multiple uncomfortable meetings, and ended up making it worse by considering her own feelings, but not anyone else’s.

      Reply
      1. some1

        Could very well be. Or the manager mistakenly thought the rejection would be easier or less personal if it was all at once.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          Easier for the one delivering the message.
          I do agree though, that shallow thinking could lead one to conclude “Well, they are all in the same boat, NONE of them got the job, so let’s just tell them as a group.”
          Again, shallow thinking.

          Reply
    2. Helen

      The email announcements reminded me–I once applied to a job at a nonprofit and was not selected to interview. They then took it upon themselves to add me to their e-mailing list, and the first newsletter I got was an announcement about the new hire for the position I applied to.

      Reply
    3. C Average

      It happens a lot at my company, and it sucks.

      Recently, I was sitting in a meeting with (among others) the hiring manager for a recently open position and two internal candidates for that job. (We all work in the same department.) As part of the announcements phase of the meeting, the hiring manager congratulated one of the candidates on getting the job. And that’s how the other candidate found out he DIDN’T get the job. And the poor dude had to act completely nonchalant and carry on with the meeting.

      So awkward.

      (I know that he was just finding out because he IMed me to tell me so while we were sitting in the meeting. Definitely one of those outtakes-from-Office-Space moments.)

      Reply
    4. WednesdaysMisfit

      That totally happened to me (found out I didn’t get the job until they announced the new hire in an email). To boot, the new hire was on my own team and my manager knew we were both in the running for the job. The manager sent the email out announcing the new hire was leaving before privately letting me know. It was so awkward and permanently damaged our relationship. I no longer trust this person.

      Reply
    5. Name Written in Pencil

      #2. As the individual who submitted the question, I appreciate everyone’s comments. I was not able to find any examples of this type of rejection on the internet so I sent my question to Ask a Manager. Thank you for answering my question and starting this discussion!

      Being told in a group setting was cowardly and disrespectful in my opinion. After the initial meeting, they did set up meetings with all of the unsuccessful candidates to discuss their interview highlights and to talk about a plan of attack to address any concerns or deficiencies. However, in hindsight, we all agreed they were just covering their behinds and trying to placate their frustrated employees. No action has been initiated and no proactive suggestions have been received by management.

      The backstory involves a meeting with mgmt and “group B” and mgmt telling “group B” that the company was going to hire an outside candidate for a position in “group A.” This position was not yet posted internall or externally. Essentially telling “group B” not to bother to turn in our resumes for the position (for which many of “group B” were qualified) because mgmt was hoping for some specfic designations and/or field experience that were not listed on the job description. After a few rounds of interviews with no success, mgmt came back to “group B” and stated that they would hire internally from “group B” for the position in “group A”. Four indivuals were chosen to interview out of the seven to ten internal candidates who applied. Midway through the interview process an outside candidate was thrown in the mix.
      We all know the outside candidate got the job. The kicker is that the outside candidate has neither the specific designation nor the field experience…

      Stepping back, this has been a very educational experience and I hope to find ways to apply the lessons I have learned throughout my career. All employees are valuable and want to think of themselves as valuable assets to the firm for which they work. They also want to feel respected. Mutual respect is the cornerstone of working through conflicts. Trying to avoid conflicts or uncomfortable situations for yourself as a manager will only come around to bite you in the arse and destroy any mutual respect previously cultivated. The now jaded and unappreciated employees will soon be looking for a new firm once it has been confirmed that they are not valuable and, on the ‘team roster,’ their names are written in pencil.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Yeah, it’s a crappy thing to do, OP. It’s perfectly acceptable to hire an outside candidate, but if you make your current staff feel devalued by the way you do it, that is, as you say, going to bite you.

        Reply
    6. Laura2

      Yep. I once applied for and interviewed for an internal position. I didn’t just send in my resume and get picked for an interview; one of the hiring managers actually requested that I apply for the position (this situation was actually quite similar to what the OP describes below with people potentially being hired from Group B into the empty Group A position). After waiting 3 weeks with no word from anyone I requested a meeting with the hiring manager to hopefully get some feedback (long story short – I didn’t get the job and the entire experience showed me a lot about the way management treated us).

      Reply
  18. Cleetus

    Perhaps I’ve always looked at it incorrectly, but I’ve always considered per diems to be an upward limit. In other words, you don’t have to spend $50/day. If your company won’t advance you money, I’d look at options to reduce your costs. Downtown and Midtown Atlanta (assuming that’s where your conference is) has many places to eat that are relatively inexpensive. Also, and as Apollo said above, if your hotel has food service, you should be able to charge meals to your room. If your company is paying for the hotel charges, then you may need to pull out those costs when you itemize your expense report, but that’s better than fronting your own money. Another thing I’ve done for long stays and to go by a grocery store once I arrive in town and pick up snacks, soft drinks, etc. to keep in my room (especially if there’s a fridge and microwave) so that I don’t have to spend $3.00 on a soda between meetings.
    I’d also check out the details of what the conference might be providing, if you haven’t already. While I obviously don’t know the details of LW #1’s conference, most that I’ve been to put on at least a continental breakfast – and many provide a lunch of some sort. You won’t be able to mitigate all of your meal expenses, but you may be able to significantly reduce your out-of-pocket.

    Reply
    1. The IT Manager

      Does charging meals to the room work? I have had travelled for work and while my organization paid the hotel costs, I think the hotels request a credit card for things like room service and long distance calls. And room service is very much likely to cost more than going down to the hotel restaurant or cheaper yet a non-hotel retaurant.

      If money is tight and you’re being paid a fixed per diem, you can get a little extra by spending less than the per diem rate.

      Reply
      1. CAA

        If you eat in a restaurant that’s located in a hotel where you’re staying, you can charge that to your room. When the bill comes, there’s a spot to print your last name and room number and then sign. It’s not as expensive as room service, but it usually is more than going out to the nearest budget chain or fast-food restaurant.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Though my employer smacks those charges (and any other add-ons) back off the hotel allowance; they’re very clear that you can’t turn non-lodging expenses into lodging expenses. You may even need to reimburse them for it if it can’t be justified under the meal allowance (and I believe it would need a separate itemized receipt–showing food ordered–to be justified).

          Reply
          1. CAA

            For us, we just put the meal amounts on the appropriate line on our expense report, and add a note that says “see hotel receipt”. I agree this wouldn’t work if your employer demands to know exactly what you ordered. For us, it’s fine as long as the total for the day is below the allowance.

            Reply
        2. Cat

          I think the issue is that they’re not going to automatically charge those expenses to whatever card your room was charged to at check out. You’re going to need to present a separate credit card for that.

          Reply
          1. CAA

            Oh I see what you’re saying. If the room was prepaid by the corporation, then yes, you would have to use your own card to pay for the meals.

            Reply
      2. AVP

        It depends on how they’ve set up the group rate, or booked the room for you. My company checks the “all charges” box, so those costs get billed directly back to the company card, but if the hotel asks you for your card upon check-in, they’ll go on whatever card you give them. However, they usually won’t total it all up and charge you until the the morning you check out, so it might give you some leeway in how you’re billed, particularly if it’s the end of the month and you want to push some charges to your next bill.

        However – some hotels are now charging incidentals more often than that (every day, or every two days) so you should ask them before counting on that.

        Reply
  19. Allison

    For #4, it is true that people who get to work early are praised for doing so. Plus, getting there early could mean less traffic, a better parking spot, and an hour or so of peace to get things done. Can’t argue with that. But people might not know you’re coming in early – they’re not there when you arrive, all they know is you’re there before them – so some people might wonder why you’re leaving before 5, and might not realize you have in fact been there for 8 hours by then. Depends on the office.

    That said, even though I’m not a morning person I swear by the in-early-out-early schedule. It’s great for work-life balance because you have more time for fun in the evening! I honestly don’t know why so many office still have “working hours” that mandate when people have to be in and when they’re allowed to leave, it does make sense in some professions, but it seems unnecessary or most offices.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      I have to say, people who watch the schedules of other people really suck. I mean seriously, what business is it of anyone but your boss?

      Reply
      1. Allison

        Seriously. Right up there with people who pay attention to what other people eat, and people who walk around looking at other people’s computer screens. Maybe they really care about the company and want to see everyone working hard for it so the company succeeds, or maybe they’re stressed from working so hard, and want to see everyone working as hard as they do out of fairness.

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          Ugh, that’s about the time I turn my desktop into a rotating gallery of teratomas and other disgusting medical oddities.

          “Why yes Nosy Nate, that is pretty disgusting. You can even see the teeth!”

          Reply
            1. The Cosmic Avenger

              Seriously, that sounds awesome! I want teratoma screensavers! Or better yet, jars for my desk!

              But as for the upthread comments, sometimes CSRs have to be at their desks right at 8am, or until exactly 5pm, or other staff may get urgent emails from clients (internal or external) at 4:30pm. I diffuse that last issue by checking work email from home once I get there, as all of my work can be done remotely, and anything “urgent” usually just requires a quick response, or maybe a couple of minutes of actual work. A small price to pay to commute during really light traffic hours, IMO!

              Reply
          1. Allison

            I’m often tempted to put a little note on my monitor that says “if you can read this, you’re too nosy!” but I’m afraid it’ll seem rude.

            Reply
            1. Cat

              In my workplace, it would be since people often look over each others shoulders for work purposes. Also, if something is in your line of sight, it’s not really a deliberate choice to read it.

              Reply
              1. Allison

                There’s a difference between seeing the note as you walk by, and actually pausing and looking long enough to read it.

                Reply
    2. Iro

      ^^^^ This can be devestating!

      It’s particularly bad with the brown nosers who always talk about how busy they are. *Sigh* I wish I didn’t *have* to work the weekend, but, well I’m the only one who can do this!

      In my experience these people are notorious for loudly announcing accross the cubicles “Leaving the office already John?”

      I have had at least one co-worker on every team who was like this. Sometimes they would yell this out when I was using a stairway to get to a meeting even. Unfortunately, I’ve seen these antics succeed more often than fail.

      Reply
      1. some1

        Ugh, yes. “I’m sooo busy.” Maybe if you spent less time chatting with people and observing which coworkers aren’t pulling your weight, you’d have more time to get your own tasks done. Not that I know anyone like this…

        Reply
  20. soitgoes

    Stuff like #3 bugs me on a fundamental level. OP3’s boss knows how much he’s paying him/her and the coworker, and since both of them feel that they can’t afford to front the money, I’d bet it’s known across the board that these employees aren’t rolling in dough (rather than it just being one employee who isn’t great with saving money). “I know I’m not paying you enough to be able to pay your own expenses, but I’m going to create a scenario where you feel guilty talking about it.”

    Reminds me of a conversation I had with a former boss’ wife. She asked me when I was having kids, and I said, “I haven’t been promoted to full-time, and this company doesn’t offer health insurance. How could I afford to have a kid any time soon?”

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      What was her answer? I love it when upper management/owner types start digging around someone’s uterus and are shocked to find out that having and raising a kid is expensive.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Just want to say that the phrase “digging around someone’s uterus” is the perfect mix of evocative and gross to convey how I feel about people who do that.

        Reply
      2. soitgoes

        She didn’t say anything.

        Also also also reminds me of another boss who asked me when I was moving out of my mom’s house. My answer: When I get enough of a raise to afford it. These people act like they don’t know how little they’re paying us.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Sometimes the problem is that they do know, and they believe it should go farther than it does–because they’re out of touch, because they lived in a box when they were entry level, or whatever.

          Reply
          1. Mike C.

            Or they’re like “I only made 8k a year back in ’60, quit your whining” and you run it through the inflation calculator and realize they’re still making more than you. That’s a fun one right there.

            Reply
            1. Sigrid

              My father made $17,000 a year when he was in grad school in the late ’60s and to this day can’t figure out why my budget was tight on my $26,500 stipend (from which I also had to pay undergrad loans, something he didn’t have) in the mid-naughties.

              Reply
            2. reader

              It would be nice to back to 1960. My father made $7500 a year. Could afford a house, 2 cars, 3 children, stay at home wife, and everything else we needed. Fast forward to the mid 70’s. Now 5 children (3 with their own cars) with 2 in college. Made $36,000 and paid for the college expenses from regular pay. Didn’t need to save for it. No loans and annual cost for 2 (tuition, room and board and the single health fee 0f $15) was $3030. Oh and we got $600 each year to pay for expenses like books, phone, gas, general spending money.
              For same college to use 10 % of your gross to pay the direct expenses of one child you would need to make $159,595.

              Reply
              1. some1

                Yes, college tuition was more affordable then and more jobs that didn’t require a degree paid enough to support a family.

                Reply
              2. fposte

                Yeah, once you throw college tuition into the calculation you’re lost, because it’s risen so hugely compared to everything else.

                Reply
                1. Zillah

                  Seriously. My mother went to the same (public) undergrad as me, 30 years earlier. We calculated out her tuition with inflation, and it still came to something like $1000/yr in today’s money. We paid something like $6000 or $7000/yr for me.

          2. Allison

            Basically this. Why can’t I just live in an unsafe area that’s barely accessible by public transit? Why can’t I just drive a 15 year-0ld Ford sedan that barely runs? Why can’t I buy everything I need at the Dollar Store and Goodwill? I mean, plenty of people live like that, anyone who wants to live an even *slightly* more comfortable lifestyle is clearly a spoiled princess who doesn’t know what hard work really means.

            Reply
  21. Sans

    We have to put everything on our personal card and then get it reimbursed. But if you submit your expenses as soon as you get back, you will get reimbursed before your credit card bill comes in. So that usually works out fine.

    Plus I get the frequent flier miles for the airline ticket and all the expenses on my card.

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Not everyone has good enough credit or enough available credit to do that. Some people don’t have credit cards because they’re trying to live more frugally and responsibly. And if they’re stuck carrying a balance while paying it down, on every card I’ve seen any new charges IMMEDIATELY start accruing interest charges if you already are carrying a balance.

      That said, I do what you do, for the Rewards dollars, but I don’t expect everyone to be able to do that. Look upthread at the stories of relatively high earners who are living paycheck-to-paycheck.

      Reply
  22. Iro

    #4 You get to work 9-5!?

    Where do you live? I haven’t seen a 9-5 company in the States since 2010. Everywhere is 8-5 with an unpaid lunch that most of us end up working through anyway.

    Reply
    1. JR

      This is an East Coast/West Coast thing. When I was in NYC I worked pretty much straight 9-5 (I’m very efficient and knocked about 20% more work than my co-workers so no one ever complained). Here in California 8-5 is the norm, probably because we have to do business with the East Coast.

      Reply
      1. Iro

        I’ve worked in North Carolina, New Jersey, and Maine and all of those companies were 8 – 5. I didn’t know any places were still doing 9 – 5 honestly, although it is pretty easy to get a “flex schedule” where you work through lunch and arrive at 9am (I had a long commute at one time so set this up) however I was constantly being bad mouthed as a “chronic late arriver” and had to switch back due to this perception.

        Reply
        1. Judy

          I’ve been in US flyover country all of my career, in 4 different states, border to border. As an engineer, the expectation has always been to work 40 hours and lunch is unpaid, with the same expectation for everyone in the organizations. “Exempt” means work what it takes to do the job, as long as it’s more than 40 hours.

          Reply
    2. soitgoes

      I work 9:30 to 5:30. This workplace would inspire so many “Is ThIS leGAl?!?!11!?!1/1/!” emails, but I’m not about to eff up this situation so I try to fly under the radar as much as possible. And yes, that extra half hour (coming in at 9:30 instead of 9) makes a huge difference. I’m in NJ, by the way.

      Reply
      1. HR Manager

        Our region too. If you take subway, the 30 min difference means getting squished into train chest to chest (or in my case, nose to chest) with all people (BO, strong perfume, spices, anything goes) for a 25 minute ride vs having actual inches of clearance and not packed in like sardines, and possibly even a seat!

        Reply
        1. soitgoes

          Waking up at 8:30 instead of 8 makes a world of difference. You wouldn’t think it would, but 8 = alarm clock, and 8:30 = I’m usually up on my own by then.

          Reply
  23. JR

    #2: I feel for you. I worked in the Public Sector for awhile and it was even worse. They didn’t even TELL you that you didn’t get the job. You just found out when you came to work one day and there was a new person doing the job. Sometimes, they wouldn’t even introduce the new person to the rest of the group.

    Reply
    1. Iro

      I’ve had this happen before. It was really shocking to me though. I simply couldn’t believe that they didn’t even bother to tell me that the role had been filled or give me any feedback whatsoever. This is part of what led me to decide that company A’s culture was not for me.

      Reply
    2. some1

      Yeah, my worst stories about this are from a former municipal govt job, as well. The one that takes the cake is my former coworker actually getting pulled into a meeting on a Friday afternoon and being told she got an internal promotion. Monday morning the dept head called everyone in for a meeting and said the promotion was going to her coworker. Ouch.

      I think since the hiring process is so arduous and bureaucratic for government jobs, the hiring manager is so relieved they have selected finally chosen someone, and that person accepted, that they kind of go, “Great! That’s finally over!” forgetting that the people passed over would probably like to be informed.

      Reply
  24. HR Manager

    My companies have always required a reimbursement for travel expenses. None ever offered advances, and even explicitly state this in handbook/policies. Chasing down an employee for the refund is never easy and something the companies want to avoid. If travel is required for a position, we always explicitly state this so that candidates understand they will be responsible for expensing costs and filing for reimbursements. I think this is important, because for heavy travel loads, they are indeed incurring quite a load of costs via their credit line.

    One the occasion when someone is asked to travel who doesn’t normally do so, we get creative. Flight and hotel rooms comprise of the biggest chunk of money, so we ask for direct bill arrangements where possible (some hotels are good at this, some not; corporate travel agencies can do this for you too) or if the manager can charge these amounts on his/her credit card. The last option is usually easier. This way the employee is only floating the cost of meals, which should be well within most people’s budgets.

    Reply
  25. Case of the Mondays

    I read the fine print when I opened my last points credit card. It said it is not for business use. I use it still when I have to front expenses and get paid back as addressed here. I don’t own the business or anything. Just curious if you think in the credit card company’s mind that counts as business use. I noticed that fine print is in almost all reward cards but it seems common to use your rewards card to book travel for work so you get the points. Curious if anyone here knows the real answer.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      I think that’s more to make sure you’re using and are vetted for a business credit card if you’re running your own business. I don’t think they care about what your business reimburses you for, unless they start doing something really shady like trying to make you cover all of the supplies or something.

      Reply
  26. AB

    The first job my husband had required him to pay for expenses out of pocket, for later reimbursement, but not just for travel but for any purchase he would need to do his job that was under $1K. So, if he needed a new scanner… we had to buy it and get reimbursed. The domain fee and other fees associated with the company website all came out of our personal account. The typical monthly fees were around $400 a month.

    It used to make me angrier than I care to mention and DH and I had more than a few arguments about it. We were both fresh out of school, with loans and all. Despite being a professional, white collar job, my husband only made $12-14/hr (over the course of his working there), and was exempt because he was a “manager”. We were barely even making it paycheck to paycheck and the constant floating money made me super nervous. There was more than one occasion where my husband had to talk to his boss (the company owner’s son) about advancing the payment of one or more monthly fees because we didn’t want to overdraw our account. My husband hated doing that, it was a horrible humbling experience that embarrassed him, he said it made him feel like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. I think that for a company to put someone in that position is unconscionable. I don’t think that companies should even make you float travel expenses if they’re going to require you to go somewhere. You never know what expenses your employee may occur (perhaps they have a wife or child or parent with significant medical expenses) and your employee’s financial circumstances are none of an employers business and I strongly disagree with any business that operates in such a way as to make it necessary for an employee to have to bring it up.

    Reply
    1. Chriama

      That’s super inappropriate, and more surprising to me than fronting travel expenses. The only situation it reminds me of is an admin forced to buy coffee or stationary on their own and be reimbursed later. Stuff like web hosting or electronic equipment is beyond the pale. Was this a really small business?

      Reply
      1. AB

        Yes… and no. It was a small newspaper that was directly owned by a media company (not a huge conglomerate media company, but still one that owned around 100 media outlets). I felt it was super inappropriate, and caused a lot of stress.

        As an assistant, I’ve bought things like stationary or coffee or lunch on my own here and there and been reimbursed, but that was nothing compared to this. The stationary and coffee was usually one off things. We had hundreds of dollars floating every month, most of it in regular bills. The company didn’t take long to pay back, but my husband was super busy and if he lost a receipt or forgot to expense something, we simply had to eat the cost. I hated that company, they were constantly doing small, exploitative things that felt like they shouldn’t be legal (I knew they probably were… but still…)

        Reply
  27. Where do we go from here?

    So we all seem to agree that businesses shouldn’t do this. But they do more often than not. How should we go about changing it? Get enough people to complain? Try to get Congress to pass a law?

    Reply
  28. Alistair

    Hey all, I feel I need to make a general apology regarding the expenses and credit card situations. I’ve been pretty sheltered, I guess, in having a company that was very good at repaying my expenses. I never realized the hassles and problems that many folks have in doing the same thing.

    Though I only made the one comment, I have been thinking of this all morning. Everyone’s comments have been eye-opening, and I apologize for being and thinking arrogantly about this. To all those who have issues with getting reimbursed in a timely fashion, I wish you good luck and speed in getting your money back and apologize once again.

    Reply
  29. Elizabeth West

    #1–I’m dealing with this on something I farmed out (not a resume). I paid and the check has long since been cashed and the product has not been sent to me, despite a promise via phone that it would be. I’m reluctant to be harsh about it, but nothing has worked. Here’s hoping it will be soon or I’ll have to get tough.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      I finally sent an email terminating the writer and listing the reasons why with dates. The response was favourable, and we came to a compromise that benefited both of us, and we are to settle next week. I hope the writer follows through!

      Good luck with your issue and I hope you find a solution.

      Jennifer

      Reply
  30. Jill

    Re: 3. We have to pay our own expenses for work travel and then get reimbursed later

    Question, when you pay out of your own pocket upfront and then get reimbursed for it, my company reimburses the amount on my next paycheck. My thinking is, wouldn’t I also be paying taxes on my reimbursement? That would mean, I paid taxes on it twice, right?

    Reply
    1. Cassie

      If the reimbursement amount is designated as non-taxable/non-income, you wouldn’t be taxed for it. You shouldn’t be taxed for it anyway (for most travel-related expenses; I think the IRS has some exceptions), but I guess it would depend on whether your company’s accounting/payroll system is set up to separate out income and non-income. Your company should only be reporting your wages/salary to the IRS as income and not the entire amount of the check (wages/salary + travel reimbursement).

      Our university has different departments that handle travel reimbursements, accounts payable, and payroll – travel reimbursements and other non-travel reimbursements (processed by A/P) may show up on the same check, but would never show up on the paycheck. I did a quick google search and it looks like some companies (e.g. small businesses) might combine them for sake of writing fewer checks.

      Reply
  31. Carrie

    #5 I must not be thinking about this the right way, but I don’t see any unfairness here. If a department is required to work on a day that the rest of the departments have off, then I feel like you should have to use PTO on those days if you don’t want to work them. Why would the company pay your salary for you to take a day off when your department is required to be there on that day? And the extra day of pay is a perk that you get for working on that day, not for taking the day off with pay. Why would they pay you double if you didn’t even come to work? I’m sorry, I’m just not getting the problem here.

    Reply

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