interviewing when you’re far apart on salary, turning down a date with a coworker, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. (Yes, four, not five. It’s the weekend!) Here we go…

1. Should I go to a cross-country interview when we’re far apart on salary?

I was recently recruited and had a successful first interview (via phone) with a reputable company. They are flying me across the country to participate in two days of in-person interviews and also disclosed that they only have two finalists.

During my phone interview, the salary subject was brought up and one of the interviewers did not phrase the salary talk in the form of a question. It was a statement of “$40k is the range in which we are looking at so we would like to be upfront with that.” I responded along the lines of “while that is significantly lower than what I would expect for this position I am open to negotiation.”

I am making slightly more in my current position (same title as the new job prospect) but the current organization isn’t as well connected and is significantly smaller. I’m feeling very uneasy taking this in-person interview knowing that in order for me to realistically move the salary offer would need to come up at least $30k. I feel a bit guilty requesting more, but the work weeks will regularly be pushing 60 hours and I would be working in a highly stressful (but very rewarding) environment. $70k-$100k is a comparable salary for other organizations of a similar size.

Should I contact the interviewers and bring up salary again? Or should I try to approach the conversation when I see them in-person? I’m very thrown by their idea of a salary range for this position and hope that my accepting an in-person interview does not mean that I will accept what I view as a lowball offer.

That’s a huge difference, and it’s really unlikely that they’re going to come anywhere close to that. Also, it’s not really fair that they told you what they’re planning to pay and you didn’t let them know that you’re in wildly different ballparks. You did tell them that you’re hoping for more, but your response didn’t indicate how very far apart you are — and “I’m willing to negotiate” sounds like you’d be willing to accept something close to their number.

If you let them fly you out and spend time and money on you and then raise this in person (when you already knew it was an issue before accepting the invitation), you’re likely to have a pretty pissed off interviewer. The time to raise it is now.

Go back to them and say, “Before you bring me out, I wanted to touch base again on salary so that I’m being considerate of your time and money. You had mentioned you have a $40K range for the position. I wouldn’t be able to accept less than $X, which is on the lower end of the market range for this type of work at the level you’ve described. I’m really excited about the position and would love to keep talking, but does it make sense to?”

Be prepared for them to say no, of course — which means that you want to make sure that the number you mention as your minimum is truly your minimum … and also a number you’d accept if offered, because there’s probably not going to be any negotiation after that if they do.

2. How do I turn down a date with a coworker who I genuinely like as a person … when I’ve already said yes?

I started a new job a few months ago, and while I’m fortunate enough to be working on an incredible team, one coworker in particular has been especially welcoming and friendly to me. Since pretty much my first day, he would stop by my desk and send me emails/chat messages asking how I’m doing, if I need help with anything, etc. Eventually our back-and-forths turned less work-related and more personal, and we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. We’ve gone to lunch together a few times (though I’ve gone to lunch with many other coworkers as well), and lately he’s started texting me on the weekends (he got my number from our team directory, but asked if he could text me first).

Anyway, one thing led to another and a few days ago, he asked me out. I was kind of caught off guard by it, so I said “sure,” but now that I’m thinking more about it, I want to back out of going out with him but don’t know how. I feel so guilty, since I know in a way I’ve led him on. Our discussions never crossed into “sexual” topics or anything, but they definitely got flirty… And while I think he’s a great guy (funny, smart, attractive), the last time I dated a coworker, it ended badly and made work life extremely awkward (not just for us, but for our other coworkers as well). Since I’m on a very close-knit team, I think us dating would change the team dynamic, especially if it didn’t work out.

On a more personal level, for the past year or so I’ve been trying to reconnect with my religious beliefs, and I don’t want to get into a physical relationship anymore until marriage (that includes kissing, not just sex). It’s been a big adjustment to my mindset, and obviously still a work-in-progress since I’ve managed to lead my coworker on so much.

How do I turn down his date without hurting his feelings? I really do like him as a person, but I don’t want to date a coworker and I don’t want to jeopardize my religious beliefs (I would feel presumptuous even bringing it up this early — like I’m just assuming he’s expecting sex right away or something). I feel like “it’s not you, it’s me” truly applies here, but I don’t know if he’d see it that way. I would still like to maintain a good working relationship, and a good friendship with him. I feel so horrible for letting it get this far! Any advice?

Well, first, stop feeling guilty. Boundaries with coworkers who are starting to become friends can be confusing, and it’s easy for it to start going in a different direction before you quite realize what’s going on. You didn’t do anything wrong here. I mean, ideally you wouldn’t have said yes when he asked you out, but it can be really hard to navigate that well in the moment it happens, especially when you didn’t see it coming, and especially when the person is a coworker. Furthermore, there’s no “leading him on” here; you were friendly to a coworker, and that is not leading him on or doing anything wrong.

Fortunately, you have a pretty easy built-in explanation for retracting your original “yes”: You don’t want to date coworkers. That alone is perfectly reasonable; you don’t even need to get into your religious beliefs. Go back to him and say this: “I thought more about going out, and I realize that I’m not comfortable dating coworkers. I’d love to stay work friends though.”

If he’s a good guy, that’ll take care of it. If he gets pushy about it, then he’s not a good guy and you can say something like, “This isn’t something I’m going to debate. Please stop asking.”

3. I’m forced to work during breaks

I am a minor in Indiana working at Dairy Queen. Although they let me on break, they force me to work during it. Is this legal?

Indiana requires that minors who work six or more hours in a shift be given one or two breaks totaling at least 30 minutes. They have to be real breaks, meaning that you don’t work during them. So no, it’s not legal if your shifts are six hours or longer.

If you were an adult, the answer would be different: Indiana doesn’t require employers to give adult employees meal or rest breaks at all, so the fact that they’re requiring you to work on a break (essentially taking away the break) would be legal — as long as they were paying for all the time you’re working. In other words, they can’t have you clock out for the break and then still do work, unless you clock back in.

It’s possible they don’t realize that the law is different for minors. I’d say this: “I just found out that state law requires minors to have 30 minutes of break time when working six hours or more. I know that’s different from adult employees. Would it be better for me to take my breaks off the premises, so that people don’t forget and ask me to do work during those periods?”

4. Update: my writing partner is a hot mess

Remember the letter-writer in March who was regretting entering into a writing partnership? Here’s the update.

I wrote a few months back about my writing partner who is a hot mess. Pretty much unanimously, the comments were: GET OUT NOW!

I hung in there for a while – just felt awkward to cut and run – until I found out one day her boundaries apparently include listening in on conversations I’d had on my phone, as well as insisting I should leave my briefcase with her while I stepped away to buy a cup of coffee at a coffee shop. And I do mean insisting.

Finally I got it – nothing was going to change, no matter how much I wished the situation were different.

A brief email explaining the end of the partnership sent, then a block on return emails (because OMG if ever you’d like to see a tidalwave of incoming mail, try breaking off from a person with no boundaries) and it’s over.

My sense of relief reassures me that those who commented on my post were 100% correct, and I thank all of you who gave me advice.

{ 118 comments… read them below }

    1. ExceptionToTheRule

      I’ve been flown halfway across the country for a job that paid $28k. It depends on the industry & talent pool.

      1. AcidMeFlux

        And the ingenuity of whoever handles travel plans for the organization (especially if it includes stops in Atlanta and Duluth and Boise or some such creative solution.)

    2. Not Today Satan

      Yeah, I knew of an org that flew someone in for a $40k job interview (in New York, no less). And imo it was indicative of their lack of judgment in general.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian

      Well, we’ve flown in tenure-track faculty candidates with a salary range of $40,000 – $50,000, so it happens.

      1. Jalinth

        Academia is different. Also, you are hopefully hiring someone you’ll be with you for 20+ years if they make tenure. Most 40k positions don’t have that expectation.

    4. MissDisplaced

      I thought that odd as well, but I suppose it depends on the geographic area. I don’t think it wise for OP1 to go either without being upfront with them, unless there is reason to suggest that their salary range is comparable for that part of the country due to the cost of living being vastly lower or something. But still, $40k seems low for pretty much anywhere in the US nowadays.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.

        Nah, $40K a year is a very comfortable middle-class salary in a bunch of places in the US. In my hometown in Idaho, that’s only $6K less than the median household income (where plenty of households are double-income these days).

  1. Hotstreak

    #2 – I would take this as an opportunity to talk about your religious ideas around sex and physical intimacy. Your beliefs don’t seem to line up with your actions, and I think you could benefit from bouncing ideas off someone with a sympathetic ear. To wit, you are saying you don’t want to kiss or have sex before marriage, but you also feel bad about “leading him on” to the point he asked you out. Unless you are getting into an arranged marriage, the only way I know of to get hitched is if somebody asks somebody else out on a date! So do you not want to have intimacy before marriage, or do you not want to have intimacy at all?

    To the coworker issue, I completely understand that and I think Alison’s advice is spot on. The trade off is between the awkward relationship you may have by rejecting him, and the awkward relationship you may have by dating (especially if it ends badly). Typically the second is worse than the first.

    1. hjc24

      I don’t think the OP was “leading him on” at all, and I wish that Allison had emphasized this in her reply. Women, you are not leading a guy on if you’re friendly with him, even flirtatious, and it results in an unwelcome advance. (I’m not even talking about something as extreme as sexual harassment or assault–just being asked on a date that you’re not interested in is not your fault!)

      1. LSP

        Hold up. The following is just in regards to your comment, not OPs situation:

        A man/woman being friendly with a person/coworker is so not on the same level as being flirtatious. If you (royal you, not You you) actively flirt with someone, don’t you usually expect a result? (Oo maybe they’ll ask for my number, or out on a date, or I’ll get extra curly fries!)

        I used to work in a very male dominated industry and even then you had to be careful being friendly, so I get what you’re saying especially regarding anyone having to deal with unwanted advances.

        1. blackcat

          I don’t really find “fault” with anyone in the described scenario. As long as the guy accepts the “no,” everyone here has behaved just fine. Yes, one should avoid flirting in the office, but it sounds like the OP is working on this and has some stuff she needs to work through on her own. And I’ve known plenty of people, male and female, who flirt A LOT, including in the workplace. I don’t like it, but it’s the way some people are. And most of those people are more careful if someone says “hey, that makes me uncomfortable.”

          And maybe it would be helpful to the OP to find some like-minded people at church to talk about these issues with. Preferably people who won’t shame her for occasionally “messing up,” but who will help guide her through this transition in behavior in her life. I wouldn’t bring it up at work–I’d find it super strange if someone did, unless we were quite close.

        2. Lady Bug

          My husband is super friendly, jokes alot and generally gets along with everyone (until you give him a reason not too). He is definitely that guy who tries to make you smile, and is generally successful, much to my chagrin when I’m trying to be mad. But, some people interpret him as flirting, which he doesn’t pick up on. If I’m around I’ll warn him if someone is talking him seriously and he’ll back down his personality. That was my long winded way of saying not everyone who is “flirting” is looking for a reaction.

          1. GH in SoCAl

            Thank you for your awesome attitude. I had a super-charismatic friend who had the actor’s knack of making everyone he talked to feel like the center of the universe. His fiancee would make fun of other women for “stupidly” thinking he was flirting with them. Dude. We know he doesn’t mean it because we see him do it constantly, but that doesn’t make them idiots.

            1. manybellsdown

              I had a male friend like that as well – and he was very, very, very gay. But women would be quite literally draping themselves over him because he was so sweet and charming to everyone. Even when he was with his boyfriend! He wasn’t actively flirting with women, and he often expressed confusion as to why they were still hitting on him when he mentioned his boyfriend. And obviously, he wasn’t “leading them on”, there was no chance of anything happening.

          2. BeenThere

            Exactly! My husband has this problem too, to the extent of women finding an excuse to get him alone and say ” I know you have a girlfriend/wife…” . We always feel bad for them, most of them are clearly quite lonely and this type of reaction doesn’t help their case. Is good way to make people aware that they aren’t the only person he makes feel like the center of the universe? Because he does that for everyone and I hate for him to change.

            1. Dynamic Beige

              It is a powerful thing to be Seen. Sometimes, too powerful. The problem is, you never know if the person you’re speaking to is someone who is OK with who they are, or perhaps unhappy/lonely and is easily swayed under the power of being Seen and acknowledged by someone else. The last two crushes I had were completely inappropriate for different reasons, the first one especially. I literally had to sit down and ask myself what was going on with me because I have never been the boy-crazy type of person who has a different crush every week — not by a long chalk. And I had to admit that it was the fact he saw me, I wasn’t invisible that was the key element — and it wasn’t a flirtatious thing at all. We all want someone to See us and appreciate us for who we are, it is not a common thing that happens every day for most people, I think. I had a better appreciation for why so many men want to ask out their waitress/hostess/bartender at their favourite place who is always customer-service Nice to them or why they think that an exotic dancer is in love with them after that first completely stupid crush. Too bad I hadn’t learned my lesson by the second one. :/

              1. UK Anon

                That’s actually… I’d never been able to explain it quite before, but that’s perfect.

              2. BeenThere

                Dynamic Beige thank you so much for sharing I am sorry for your experience. I’m a shy, introverted person who takes a long time to make friends. I understand the power of being Seen and I’ve never understood what it was until you explained it!

      2. Artemesia

        And it isn’t his fault either. Noone has behaved badly here except the OP perhaps in saying yes when she meant no — but that is understandable. We all sometimes respond quickly before we have time to think. The kiss off should be just as casual and friendly. ‘I really enjoy your company and was caught off guard when you asked me out. I just really don’t want to date co-workers and so need to say no here and just continue being friends at work.’

        Expect one more push from him where he is firmly told ‘I am serious, I just am not going to be dating any co -workers; I want to keep my dating life separate from my work life.’

        And then any further overtures to data should be met with the ‘I made myself clear; I am not discussing this again.’

        So far. No real harm, no real foul.

      3. BRR

        I disagree somewhat only because saying yes to a date and having flirty conversations is showing signs of attraction to someone. They definitely have a right to say no though, evan after saying yes. Being friendly is 100% different than flirting and I’m not saying the OP was “asking for it,” but I don’t think people (of any gender) shouldn’t be surprised if you flirt with someone and they ask you out (once again you have absolute right to say no and expect them to accept no as an answer). Far more often I have found it’s usually guys taking someone being friendly as a right to sleep with them and that’s a big no.

        1. fposte

          Yeah, all of this seems pretty reasonable, and it’s also reasonable to change your mind.

          To me, “leading somebody on” is when you’re knowingly flirting for the joy of the attention or whatever but you would never get into a relationship, and the flirtation is definitely increasing and/or you’ve gotten a clear indication the other person is taking it seriously. I think unintentional flirting/being really friendly is okay (though people need to be honest with themselves whether it’s just friendliness when they’re seeking some advantage out of it); I think mutual sport flirting is okay. Satisfying your ego by flirting with somebody who thinks you’re expressing genuine interest–not okay.

    2. MK

      While I don’t know much about it, I wouldn’t think it’s impossible to go on dates without things getting physical. And I don’t think the OP means she doesn’t intent to go on dates before marriage, just that she is in the process of redefining her attitude towards relationships and wants to figure things out with herself before she starts dating.

      I do wish people stopped using the phrase “leading him on” as if it was something wrong. The only thing it usually means is that you gave positive signs that the relationship is welcome; unless that wasn’t true and you were being flirty with someone you despise, there is nothing wrong with that. And it certainly doens’t confer any obligation.

    3. Merry and Bright

      I second the comments below about “leading” on and, to be fair to the OP, she does say in her penultimate paragraph that she might seem inconsistent and is still adjusting.

    4. Bend & Snap

      I’m hung up on no kissing until marriage. What do you do if you find out post I Do that your new husband is Tommy Too Much Tongue?

      That aside, I don’t think the OP did anything wrong, and it should be easy to have the don’t fish off the company pier conversation.

        1. Tomato Frog

          Yeah, that’s one of those things that they say on TV (“He’s a terrible kisser!”) that I just don’t get. I’ve never had a particularly good first kiss with anyone. You can use your words to make it better!

          1. Windchime

            There are people who are unteachable. There is the Black Hole kisser (I still shudder at that), there is the Tooth Banger, and the Lip Crusher. In my (very limited) experience, if someone is a bad kisser, then things aren’t generally not going to be better if we move further along. And people who think their technique is good (even when it’s not) tend to get offended if gentle constructive criticism is offered.

            Or maybe I’m just a bad teacher (or a bad kisser).

            1. Tomato Frog

              I’ve never had any trouble! You phrase it as “I like it like this” or if necessary “I just don’t like the way that feels” because no one can argue with that.

              That said, if someone gets offended because you’re telling them what you would like, that is probably a good sign that you don’t want to be kissing them anyway.

            2. eee

              I feel like it’s also an “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” situation. It’s a lot easier to “train” someone to be a better kisser/whatever if their distasteful habits are due to inexperience. The Lip Crusher who’s inexperienced is likely to welcome feedback, the Lip Crusher who’s 35 and been in a lot of serious relationships probably kisses like that because they find it pleasurable. Not to get too graphic, but even just the amount of tongue is a preference–some people enjoy heavy tongue presence in kissing, some like absolutely none. If one partner hates tongue-kissing, and the other hates tongue-less kissing, no cajoling will make you compatible.

      1. Anyonymous

        I remember asking someone this question in regards to sex: What happens if you get married and then find out you’re just completely sexually incompatible? He only likes this while you only like that? Her answer was that sex was not important. If it didn’t work out, then she and her potential spouse just wouldn’t have sex.

        It just sounds like a whole lot of yikes to me.

        1. the gold digger

          I dunno. My mom and dad didn’t have sex before they got married and had three kids, so they must have liked it enough to do it more than once. I am pretty sure they would not have had sex just to have children.

          At least, I cannot imagine being in a situation where I would say, “I love never getting enough sleep, cleaning up vomit, washing cloth diapers, and constantly picking up toys. I also look forward to funding two sets of braces and three sets of college educations! Oh! And you might go to war and leave me all alone for a year with small children? Let’s have more!”

        2. Artemesia

          LOL. Yes this. I was a naive bride the first time and vowed I’d never make that mistake again. And over 40 years of happy nights with my second husband I am glad I didn’t make that mistake again. I encouraged my kids to delay marriage and of course to experience life. BUT each of us gets to make this decision for ourself. The OP is perfectly entitled to her view of appropriate relationships of courting couples and I hope her experience of a first time after marriage works a lot better than mine did.

        3. BRR

          I think of Samantha from Sex and the City, “Honey, before you buy the car you take it for a test drive.”

          1. T3k

            Unless you’re asexual. Then it’s more like “why would I want heated seats when I live in a warm climate year round?”

        4. Linguist curmudgeon

          It sounds like asexual/gray people to me. The thing I’d worry about is if the other spouse is not ace…

          1. sunny-dee

            Not necessarily asexual. I’m, ahem, not asexual, but I was a virgin when I married my husband because I’m religious.

            Sex is important — but it is certainly not the only important thing. There are things that are important as a couple (kindness, respect, support, sex, goals, dreams, kids, pets) and there are things that are important as an individual (integrity, self-respect, discipline). If your religious beliefs outline a certain code of behavior — as the OP’s and mine do — then you have to balance who you are as an individual with how you function as a couple.

            Which is exactly what you would do with everything else that you do to build a life together.

    5. Not Today Satan

      Wow, I totally disagree that this man is someone she should “bounce ideas” of religion and sexuality off of. If she wants to discuss those issues with someone, it should be another woman and preferably someone from her religious background–not a man trying to get romantic with her.

      1. pony tailed wonder

        I agree. You don’t want to be the employee who continually talks about their views on dating or religion at work. This is something that needs to worked out in your personal time, not on the company dime.

        Best wishes OP on refining your views about dating and religion.

      2. Kerry

        Strongly agree – “You asked me out and I said yes, then rejected you partially because of my developing decisions about my religious practice, and am now using you as a sounding board about that very religious practice” sounds like a giant hot mess. There are thousands of other people in the world who will be better choices to talk to about that than this guy.

      3. UKAnon

        I really read that a different way – I thought that Hotstreak simply meant that the situation should be an opportunity for OP to re-evaluate their opinions/actions and that it might be helpful to find somebody (not the co-worker) to talk this through with because it seems like OP is struggling.

        1. Saurs

          She didn’t ask for advice about “re-evaluating” her life decisions and it’s incredibly presumptuous of Hotstreak to suggest that she needs to Really Think About It. She thought about it. Now is not the time to tell a strange woman she needs to be doing more sexxing / kissing because somebody on the internet says so.

    6. Kelly L.

      People in religious communities with these beliefs do manage to get hitched–but it’s usually with someone who is also on board with the same beliefs. They do go on dates. But the odds that a random guy at work wants the same thing from a date as the OP does, are slim. And of course there’s the complication of it being a co-worker.

      I strongly disagree with your first sentence. No, she should not have a discussion about it with this co-worker. That would be an awkward thing to do with a co-worker too.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        I originally read it as she should say that to the coworker and just about died inside. If she absolutely positively wants to make this guy run for the hills screaming like his arse is on fire… yup that would do it. TMI. Overshare. Yikes!

        But then I read it again and I agree with the other commenters that what Hotstreak meant was to discuss this with someone who is walking the same path/in the same religious tradition — NOT the coworker.

        I also agree that saying to the guy that you’ve made a mistake is fine, the old “it’s not you, it’s me”. Even going so far as to explain that you’ve sworn to yourself to never date another coworker again because the first and last time was just so awful for everyone involved. And a little apology might help “Coworker, I can’t go out with you. I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression when you asked me, you took me off guard, I honestly hadn’t thought you saw me in that way. My last relationship was with a coworker and it ended so badly, I’ve promised myself I will never jeopardise my career, team, job by dating another coworker again. I am sorry and I hope you understand.” And then you’ll have to dial the friendship back as well so that it’s strictly about work.

  2. Dot Warner

    OP #1, is there a significant difference in cost of living between where you live now and where you’d be moving? If you’d be moving from either coast to, say, a small town in flyover country, the $40K will go a lot farther there than it would where you currently are.

    1. MK

      I agree and, also, I am confused about the figures. This company offers around $40K; the OP now makes “slightly more”. Why do they think the offer needs to be $30K more to be competitive, especially since it’s the same job title? It sounds as if the only reason is the size of the organization, but larger companies don’t always pay more; often they pay less, but there are other benefits.

      1. Op 1

        To clarify a couple of different questions that came up:
        – I know that the person holding this position before me made $80k. It is a very small field and we are all connected. My mentor passed my name along to them and was absolutely shocked at the low offer.
        – I agree that it feels strange that they would fly me out for such a low number but it is a highly specialized field and the candidate pool is quite small
        – I didn’t consider cost of living as much as I probably should have. I will have to do some research into that this weekend. I believe that cost of living is higher where I am now so if that really is the case I could come down on my figure a bit.
        – while I understand that larger companies don’t always mean larger paychecks in this case it is the same title but more responsibility and I would be working significantly longer hours than I am now.

        Thank you for the advice everyone. I really froze up in the interview and felt like I missed my chance to speak about salary (my own fault.) I think that it would be best if I contact them before flying there so that we can all be on the same page. (Especially considering how small the field is!)

        1. MK

          Based on what you wrote, I think you definitely need to have a conversation, OP. Trying to get someone to do the job for half the salary the former person got is downright shady.

          1. Kyrielle

            Not always! For software engineering, for example, you may have pay bands based on experience. You might start near $40k and top out above $100k easily, depending on the person’s experience with software engineering, with the domain of the problem (public safety software vs design automation software vs spreadsheet programs vs tax software), and with the specific organization and products. Now, if the person leaving is equivalent to OP1 in experience, yes, that’s shady. But not necessarily in all cases.

            1. BeenThere

              Sorry, I just had to weight in on the Software Engineering figures to provide an better idea of salary range because there are plenty of Software Engineers reading this blog and I don’t want them to be underpaid :)

              The average Software Engineering salary range across the US last year was $89,750.00 – $137,250.00 from the Robert Half Salary Guide. This range is adjusted based on whether you have one of the big languages or databases so most college grads can add 9%. Plus it does depend on your location which most cities add +/- 10%.

              I’ve been doing some compensation calculations this morning in preparation for interview salary negotiation. They let go the core technology team which was supporting and developing the main platform I was developing our business applications on, the support of which will . I’m still employed however my job has changed significantly to the ones I rejected in favor of this. Job Hunt 2015 it’s on!!

              1. BeenThere

                agh, submitted before finishing my sentence.

                It should read: The support and maintenance of which will fall on the application developers, a much smaller team already stretched to the limit.

                1. Yet Another JD

                  Thanks for this- my spouse is in talks with a new employer for a Software Engineering position. These numbers are helpful.

                2. Judy

                  Those numbers are quite a bit higher than the numbers I’ve experienced and seen in several places. With the average newgrad starting salaries for any type of engineer (petroleum?) at $70k and sw engineers at $63k these numbers seem quite high. Also, that survey separated software engineers and software developers, implying some sort of job level in those titles.

          2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            I once replaced someone who had been at the organization for 20+ years and was at the top of the companies pay range.

            Based on job, responsibilities, and my level of experience I got a great offer…but it was nowhere near what this person had been making.

        2. MLT

          Another consideration is that the organization may have adjusted its expectations for the job since the last person had the job. For example, maybe they have split the responsibilities across more people or delegated some of the lower level tasks or reduced the scope, so the hours are no longer 60 per week. It may have the same title, but not be quite the same job as the $80k person.

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            We had a job that was held by a very senior, very experienced person who was compnesated at the level of our c-suite folks.

            When he gave notice, he shared feedback about the position and responsibilities, as well as ways the role could grow and develop if he only handled a portion of responsibility.

            My company ended up splitting the job into three roles, and hired more entry/mid level folks, rather than trying to find one person who could do it all.

        3. Kat A.

          You wrote that this “is a highly specialized field and the candidate pool is quite small.”

          So use that to your advantage. You’re holding the cards here. Either up the ante or get out of the game.

        4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

          Here are a couple of little horror stories.

          I live in New England. Back in the 1980s we had unparalleled prosperity here. Almost zero unemployment in the IS/IT field. If you lost a job, you often found another one the same day or within a week. But where there are plentiful jobs – there are also higher living costs.

          1) I’m going through a “new employee orientation” in 1987. A guy who had been a petroleum engineer in Texas lost his job in the oil bust, was in the same session. He came to Massachusetts. Good job, good money. BUT – “my wife and I went lookin’ for a house in (a couple of good towns) and we can’t find anything under $90,000” … no – you WON’T. They moved here without checking the real estate market.

          2) Church I attended. One winter morning the pastor walks into the doorway – here in New England it is common for a building to have a small enclosed portal in front of the door, to save energy. He finds a young couple sleeping there. He invites them inside, makes coffee. They tell their story. They were lured to Massachusetts – they took a bus to Boston from Houston, then a train out to a suburban community. They did so because they learned McDonald’s and places like that were paying $9 an hour (in 1986). They were. BUT – a two room apartment cost $1000 a month back then! They went to the local homeless shelter, I think they wound up going back home.

          1. INFJ

            I’ve been looking to buy in Boston and the 1987 “high” price of $90,000 almost made me spit out my coffee!

          2. ConstructionHR

            I turned down a job in ~91 in the Boston area because of the cost of housing/taxes/insurance. Yeah it was brutal.

          3. anonanonanon

            Now you’re lucky if you find a studio for $1,000 a month in Boston, and studios that cheap are rare.

        5. Artemesia

          The person you would be replacing made 80K at that company? Then I wouldn’t touch this with a stick. And certainly contact them now and let them know you want to be clear that for you to make the move you need to know that the salary is consistent with your goals for making a move and is at least 70K or whatever the magic number is. You might start out by asking again about the salary range because you think you might have misunderstood as it seemed well below the typical range for that position. Then indicate your minimum. And as Alison noted — you won’t get more than that minimum so make it realistic for that job in that area — don’t lowball it either.

        6. Kylynara

          Have you double checked that number? Since it seems so far off market value AND what they were paying before, I’d suspect that either I’d heard wrong, or the recruiter said the wrong amount. If he happened to glance at a 4 as he was speaking it’s possible mental wirs got crossed and 70k came out as 40k.

          1. Op 1

            That’s possible! I could tactfully ask for them to re-clarify what their salary range is. Good suggestion.

      2. Vicki

        She said she’d need $30 K more to move, to work longer hours, and to offset more stress.

        I once talked to someone who was living in Oregon and interviewed with a company in the San Francisco area. He realized they’d need to offer substantially more than he was making in OR for him just to break even on cost of living if he moved. (I think he said $15K more and that was 20 years ago…)

        Salary isn’t just a number; location and time involved and many other factors need to be considered.

        1. the gold digger

          I interviewed for a job in a town 45 minutes from my the job I had then. I calculated I would need at least $10K more just to break even on gas and wear and tear on the car and then a lot more to make up for losing an hour and a half a day of my life driving. Actually, more than that, because at the time, I took the bus to work, so got to read while someone else drove me. With the new job, I would have to drive the whole way.

        2. Dr. Ruthless

          I was recruited from my previous job (in state government) to work for a small consulting firm. Their original offer was $20k above my previous salary, which, after calculating the cost of living adjustment from a (relatively expensive!) Southern city to the East cost was actually a pay cut. We sat down with the NYT cost of living calculator and came up with some better numbers. (The guy who hired me was surprised to hear that the government was paying competitive rates with his firm, once you accounted for COL).

          1. K.

            Conversely, my best friend and her husband moved from NYC to a southern city for her job. (They were actively looking to leave NYC, although not to move to this particular city.) They knew she’d take a significant pay cut because the cost of living is lower there but they still thought that since the COL was so much lower, they’d come out ahead. They didn’t factor in the fact that they now had to drive everywhere so they had to buy, maintain, and insure two cars. They didn’t come out nearly as far ahead as they thought they would. (That’s on them, not her employer.)

            1. Former Academic

              Yep, that was my experience moving from NYC to the Deep South for my first professor job out of grad school. Everyone was telling me how beneficial the low cost of living was going to be for me. I was so excited because my income was going to DOUBLE from a $20K~ grad student stipend to $42-whole-thousand dollars!! I was rich, rich, comfortably well off!! What could possibly go wrong!! Well a few things.

              Housing: Yes, it’s cheaper to BUY a house in the Deep South than an apartment in NYC (OBVS!) but as a renter wanting to live alone it was a different story. I had no way during grad school to save up for a deposit on even the cheapest mortgage, not to mention I was not ready to commit to home ownership upon arrival. I had also happened to have had a really sweet deal on my apartment in NYC, so I ended up only saving ~$150/mo on rent when I moved to the Deep South (albeit, yes, you got more rooms for your buck in the Deep South–a 2 bed/2 bath townhouse with a backyard vs. 1 bed/1 bath apartment in NYC). The only way I could have saved more on rent was to have a roommate, which is what I eventually did for a time. But there weren’t many options to live alone in a rental apartment for much more cheaply than what I found when I first got there.

              Transportation: As with your friends, this was the big one. I went from paying ~$80 month for a metro card to having a ~$240/mo car payment (yeah, I had to buy a car for the first time), ~$120/mo car insurance, periodic car maintenance expenses, and of course gas. And I got the cheapest, smallest, most fuel-efficient used car I could find and a 3-year, low-interest loan on it from the university credit union. Like, I did everything that money experts recommend in terms of buying a car responsibly (again, I couldn’t afford to put down cash, having been living month to month off a stipend to that point). And it all still cost a fortune. This was a HUGE shift for me, mentally and financially.

              Travel: It was generally much more expensive for me to travel out of town for conferences etc. than it had been in NYC because I was coming from a more remote location that was less well-served by air, train etc.

              Health: Went from paying nothing at the student health clinic as a grad student (and having few health issues and ignoring the ones I had because I didn’t have any money) to to a plan with a $2,000 deductible and getting older and actually needing health care. Also got acutely ill my first semester and had to pay $100s out of pocket before my deductible at immediate care.

              Food: Yeah, groceries were somewhat cheaper than in NYC and there were lots of cheap fast food chains but I had already learned to eat frugally from a diversity of cheap local places in NYC. So my food expenses weren’t appreciably lower overall.

              There were other things but those were the main ones. So yeah, I was naive as hell when I moved to the “low COL!” Deep South and I’ve given the side eye to arguments about cost of living justifying low wages ever since. I guess what I mean is, always check that the generalizations about “low cost of living” will actually apply to you and your specific circumstances and not some generic family of four or whatever.

              1. Honeybee

                Yeah, I used to make the same arguments because I’m from Atlanta. But after having lived in NYC and job-hunted nationwide this year, I realize that the low cost of living doesn’t really offset the comparatively low salaries many Southern companies want to pay. I mean, some of the salaries I was seeing were just absurd compared to what I could get paid in other cities. And the cost of living in Atlanta is not THAT much lower than elsewhere. It’s really just the housing that’s a whole lot cheaper.

    1. AcidMeFlux

      Right? I’m kind of surprised there haven’t been more comments on this though I know the original post got a lot. What surprised me most about the comments on the first post was that many people seems to take the imitation and intrusion in stride. “oh, she’s young…imitation is must flattery..) Oh, lord, take me back to Psychoville. I had an 8 month long descent to Unwonderland thanks to a consulting gig (in EFL teaching in Europe). The woman who hired me turned out to have zero credentials (claiming degrees and certificates in training that turned out to have been 30 hour classes). In your case, the mere snooping in notebooks and agendas would have me defenestrating the culprit forthwith.

      1. OP #4 Author Author

        Thanks, AcidMeFlux.
        Having someone imitate my personal writing voice was disconcerting.
        Next: the snoop factor and her insistence and I mean she repeated it three times, ‘oh, just leave your briefcase here. Oh, why are you taking your briefcase to the counter? Just leave it here (wait for it, wait for it, here it comes) NEXT TO ME.”
        Finally: me noticing she had not disconnected a call because I could hear her still on the line breathing, listening to what was going on at my end.
        Sweet Baby Jesus Christ in a golden diaper; imagine the ca-ca show that was her family of origin. . . .

        1. Blurgle

          So you were basically going to be her one-stop plagiarism shop. Nice.

          If I were you I’d Google a few excerpts from anything you shared with her.

          1. Author, Author

            Blurgle: good idea – in my breakup email, I gave her the date the blog we shared (I was admin) would come down and be deleted. Before sending the email I deleted all my content after c & p’ing it into a document.

            I kept feeling like she wanted to barnacle her way solidly onto the ship of my writing.
            Why, oh why do people (ME) ignore our gut instincts when they first sound the alarm stomach-ache?

            Thanks for your advice.
            Update to update (which you never asked for, haha) is that my reconfigured blog is mine alone and seems to be getting a little traction with readers.
            And I don’t have that “weekly meeting you have to steel yourself to attend” feeling on the day we used to meet. :-)

            Hope all goes well for her . . . far away from me.

  3. Kyrielle

    OP #1 – since it’s halfway across the country, I’d also compare cost of living there vs where you are now, if you haven’t already. That could change your minimum number up or down.

  4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    #1 – best to get that out of the way … it also causes angst on the other end – going through a series of job interviews, only to get “low balled” at the end of the cycle. Had that happen to me a few times.

    And to fly someone trans-continental for a $40K job — uhh…. that in itself raises red flags.

    1. Artemesia

      I used to hire for a job that paid far less than the qualifications would suggest. (and we had lots of good candidates) I always made it clear what the range was before we brought people in and phrased it for very strong candidate as we generally pay X pathetic amount but I might be able to get Y slightly less pathetic amount but there is pretty much no chance it could get higher than that. Some dropped out. Didn’t blame them. And those we then hired were not disappointed when the most we could do was Y.

  5. GreatLakesGal

    OP#1: Long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I rejected a job offer, only to get a phone call the next day offering $25K more.

    Given the salary of the previous employee, and how small the field is, I’d be sorely tempted to get on the plane to see what shakes out.

    Tbh, if it turns out they really are trying to hire someone for 50% of what they were paying– well, I might feel a niggle of satisfaction that they shelled out the cost of flying me in.

    ( I’m coming off of a horrendous week at work. We just completed a big project,and I’m still too exhausted to feel a sense of accomplishment. Right now, work is at the BEC stage with me, so my judgment may be flawed.)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      No, don’t do that :)

      I can understand the urge, but there’s a greater chance that you’ll just end up marked as the person who indicated you were basically in the salary range, let them fly you out, and then dropped the bomb that you’re looking for $30K more. It won’t reflect well.

      1. Op 1

        Oh I absolutely won’t take this route (and I’m assuming that this suggestion was a joke! I hope??)
        I think that some reflection is in order this weekend and a phone call on Monday.
        Given the fact that the industry is SO small and connected I do not want to be “that candidate.” It’s in my best interest to maintain my reputation!

  6. AshleyH

    #1- I once phone screened a candidate for a job, said our range was whatever- I think it was 65-75, + bonus. She said it was less than she’s looking for but she’s open to negotiations.

    So we fly her in for an interview and all the sudden, five minutes into it, she won’t take the job for less than $100k (which is WAY over industry standard). And we were PISSED. I walked her out right then, $800 in travel fees down the drain because she wasn’t upfront.

    1. Artemesia

      The conversation should have gone to ‘we aren’t likely to get approval above the top of that range, but we might try for 80K — no guarantee but that might fly’ BEFORE flying her in.

  7. FD

    OP #2-

    There are a few phrases that together jump out as really, really concerning to me.

    It’s been a big adjustment to my mindset, and obviously still a work-in-progress since I’ve managed to lead my coworker on so much. […]

    I feel so horrible for letting it get this far!

    I really want to emphasize that this is not a judgement on your religious beliefs. No one should feel pressured to have intimacy of any kind if they don’t want to, regardless of whether that’s because they just don’t feel like it or whether it’s a decision they’ve made for religious reasons.

    That said, it really concerns me how much blame you’re putting on yourself in this context. The implication here is that because you flirted with him, you now owe him a relationship, which you do not wish to be in. Your concern seems to be at least partially based on the concept that flirting with someone automatically entitles them to have some sort of relationship with you.

    You may want to take a deeper look and think about how you feel about sex and relationships and why. Something that a lot of religions are really struggling with right now is to de-couple their beliefs from a lot of very unhealthy cultural ideas. For example, this might be the difference between having a positive belief (two people should wait until marriage to have sex) and a negative one (anyone who has sex before marriage–especially a woman–is sullied permanently).

    At the end of the day, from the information here, neither you nor the other person has done anything wrong so far. At most, maybe a bit of professional bad judgement, but that’s it.

    Don’t beat yourself up over it–but you might consider why simply saying ‘yes’ to a date and changing your mind is causing this much guilt.

    1. BRR

      I don’t think it’s that the OP feels she owes him a relationship but feels guilty for flirting and agreeing to a date and I think that’s human. He sounds like a nice guy and the reason for not dating him doesn’t have to do with him being a jerk and that’s likely why there’s guilt. It’s perfectly rational for him to be a little hurt for her to say yes and then say no (which she can absolutely do because she doesn’t owe him anything) and it’s human to feel bad for hurting someone’s feelings. There’d probably be less guilt if he wasn’t a nice guy.

      1. neverjaunty

        But FD’s excellent point is that she shouldn’t feel guilty. She’s done nothing wrong.

        1. BRR

          She shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no or for anything she’s done. I think she feels guilty because it will likely sting for the guy a little bit and it’s natural to not want to hurt a nice person.

        2. MK

          She didn’t do anything wrong, but she did make a mistake in saying yes to the date without thinking. It’s an understandable mistake that could happen to anyone, but the fact remains she gave him reason to hope for something, even if only for an interesting Saturday night. Guilty for s perhaps the wrong word; it’s natural to feel bad about disappointing someone.

  8. Aurora Leigh

    OP2, I totally hear where you’re coming from. I have similar views on dating/courtship. Have you read Josh Harris’s books (I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Boy Meets Girl)? They are a couple of my favorites on the topic. Elizabeth Elliott’s book, Passion and Purity is a classic on the topic.

    I got the sense from your letter that you don’t necessarily want to rule this guy out entirely, but you’re not at the point where you want a relationship. Could you tell him you don’t want a relationship now? That leaves the door open for group activities, inviting him to your church, etc.

    Just wanted you to know you’re not the only one dealing with these issues!

    1. Longtime Lurker

      Since this is a blog where people turn to for good advice, I can’t let a mention of Josh Harris’ books here go without someone offering that caveat that many have found them extremely harmful and shaming in terms of sexuality, female bodies and relationships. I don’t think that’s the kind of content that fits in with the AAM community/brand.

      1. fposte

        That makes it sound like it’s not okay for people to recommend some books here, though. Which is Alison’s call, but I personally would dislike that; I’d much rather have the kind of critique you provided for context along with the recommendation.

      2. Jessen

        Definitely. I think the big caveat is that a lot of Josh Harris’s writing focuses not only on restricting voluntary behavior, but on involuntary thoughts and feelings. My experience was that it made me feel very guilty for having teenage crushes, because it was “emotional cheating”.

        1. MJH

          Absolutely. I think the whole “don’t give your heart away” because you’ll get hurt is really a harmful message. In order to love or care about anyone, you have to give them a piece of your heart. Minimizing pain and heartbreak is good, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. Loving always involves risk.

          I “gave my heart” to people who turned out to be *not* my long-term relationship or spouse, but I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. They have made me more compassionate, caring, well-rounded, understanding, and much, much less judgmental. I was not cheating on my future spouse; I was becoming the person he fell in love with and the person who could have a functional and loving relationship with him.

    2. Try these books instead

      The church where Joshua Harris used to work has also been linked to a child sexual abuse scandal, so I’d steer clear (check out and search for his name).
      OP2, some books that have helped me as a single Christian are “Real Sex” by Lauren Winner and “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping” by Henry Cloud. I think they’re much more relatable, and I hope they help you!

  9. Isben Takes Tea

    OP #4: I’m glad you got out! Well done.

    I would encourage you (or any other reader) that if you ever decide to collaborate again (whether in publishing or any aspect of chocolate teapot production), the very first thing to do is outline an agreement that stipulates the responsibilities of each party, who owns what (relating to the actual output and ideas), AND a clean exit strategy in case things don’t work out (which could be caused by any number of things, including illness, life changes, or just deciding the partnership isn’t working). It’s a great opportunity to agree on a timeline, and it makes absolving a disintegrating relationship much more graceful.

    It’s also a great opportunity to notice red flags depending how the negotiation of the agreement goes. Additionally, if either partner balks at signing such an agreement, it’s a huge sign that they’re not ready for a business partnership.

    1. OP #4 Author Author

      Lesson learned, at my end.
      Your stage-by-stage advice is invaluable; I may print it out and thumbtack it to my forehead.
      Also? You’re very astute with pointing out that negotiating an agreement is a good ‘test drive’ for working with another person.
      One of the red flags I noticed was when the other party blithely mentioned keeping the security deposit from someone renting an in-law unit from her – there was a minor damage issue, but I could tell by the greedy glint in her eye that she was aiming to defraud the poor ex-renter of the entire deposit in the name of ‘expenses.’
      Sometimes I hate humans. :-(

    2. K.A.

      I think having an agreement is a good idea. Just don’t confuse ‘thinking it over’ with ‘balking.’ Some people take longer to make important decisions.

      1. Isben Takes Tea

        Oh, I agree. But “Let me think about it/Let’s discuss this” is very different from “We don’t need this” or “I don’t want to sign anything ‘official'”!

        1. OP#4 Author Author

          “The closer you get to the deal, the higher the emotions run.” A big creep of a manager told me that – he was a big creep, but he had a great stash of quotes in his creeper brain.

          I think the biggest proof I have about jettisoning the writing partner is that I feel: nothing. Not missing it, not feeling relieved, just feeling like I’m putting around 1000-2500 words per day out, and that’s all. But in a good way.

          And also in a good way, I’m glad Alison and everyone else called me out on my snippy frustration in the original post. When I get ramped up on frustration, really ugly truths come out both of my mouth as well as ME, meaning my ugly words reflect my ugliness inside. . . and everyone around can see it.

          1. AcidMeFlux

            Uh, well….forgive me for not giving up 0n this yet but…I keep going back to your original post, and I must say I was disturbed at the other readers’ comments. Frankly, I don’t think you were snippy; though of course neither I nor the commenterati saw the work of your collaborator, but having been through something similar, my antennae went up and I pretty much trusted your instinct/remarks. People like your ex work partner can be very convincing; hey, I’m an amateur, but reeeeaaallly, I’m trying soooo hard, give me a break! The sick wet puppy routine melts hearts as well as screws up the common sense response. In my case, my uh-oh kicked in after a few months with my con artist collaborator; but after she fled the scene I spent up to two years slowly looking through her old e-mails (I actually inherited her administrative role in the company I was consulting with), ad copy, etc, and realized she had copied a lot of her work from other sources (Google is your friend, sometimes..) our boss in common spent a year shaking his head and saying, “you know, maybe if you had been a little more patient with her”….until I finally showed him enough proof that she was just a con artist.

            1. Author, Author

              The other readers who commented a bit harshly didn’t bother me; but thank you – since you went through something similar, I truly value your opinions and tips.
              I troll my comments on my present blog to see if she is trolling me; while in the process of deleting the shared blog, I purposely did not look to see what she’d posted in the time between my content having been removed, and me (giving her a chance to save her own stuff) deleting the blog.
              I did catch a phrase at the top that said something along the lines of, ‘my sister (!!!OMG WTACTUALF!!!) for unknown reasons . . . ” and then I hit delete.

              As a kid I always poked my tongue in the pit where a recently fallen out baby tooth had been; I feel like I’m doing this here as well but I’ve never had so much creepy get so close to me. In the name of helping out someone just starting out in the writing biz (and she’s like 57, so late in life for her) I thought I was overreacting. Not so much, as it turns out.

              Would love to hear more about your ‘red flag incident’ but I dunno how to PM on Allison’s site.

  10. James E

    Re #1, Alison’s answer got me curious. Is it better to mention a firm minimum (ending salary negotiation there and then) (e.g. “I would be looking for $63,250”), or to say something like: “I would be looking for something more in the $70k range”, leaving negotiation open (either upwards or downwards), within reason?

    Just wondering how it really benefits you to mention your minimum once you’ve been open about the ballpark you’re playing in.

  11. Jade

    #3 (working on breaks) I seriously doubt your employer doesn’t realize this is against the law. If you weren’t entitled to a break they wouldn’t even be giving you one. My guess if they are asking you to do tasks they don’t consider to be “real work” or “a lot of work.” The same thing happened to me when I worked at Subway. My state law required I be given a paid 15-minute break, and my supervisors frequently asked me to “hop on the register quick” or “jump in the line quick” while on said break. When I protested that I was on a state-mandated break, they would get upset with me for not helping. Hopefully simply reminding your employer of this fact will be enough to get them off your back. If not, tell them you will have no choice but to report them to the labor board, and make sure you’ve documented your complaint should they mysteriously try and fire you for “unrelated reasons” later.

    PS- that break period is to be an uninterrupted break, so if they want you to jump in and help, that break has to be restarted at a later time, not cut into 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there.

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