advertising a job I might not hire for, secondhand smoke when you’re interviewing, and more

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

1. Advertising jobs I might not ultimately hire for

I’m a relatively new manager of a small team of 4.5 (one employee is part-time). Two of my four full-time employees recently put in notice within two weeks of each other. The first was an experienced position, and we were thinking of replacing her with more of a junior position and delegating her more senior tasks to some others on the team. But then our most junior person, one of those we were going to give more responsibility, accepted a job out of state. So that changes our hiring plans, and I haven’t quite figured out what to do. I haven’t yet put up the original job posting, and I’m not sure yet of my budget – if we’re going to be able to replace both positions or just one, or if we would want to hire two junior positions (where the responsibilities do have a lot of crossover).

So my question is more of an ethical one: Is it acceptable to post for both positions, one that requires more experience and one that could be taken by someone straight out of college, even if we may only hire one person? I kind of just want to put it out there and see if we get any great candidates who could fill either of the positions, or maybe creating a whole new position entirely. I’d like to see the resumes and do interviews, and base our staffing on the type of candidates we get. (Someone in a similar position to me recently was looking for a senior teapot designer, but the pool of candidates was so narrow that she ended up hiring a junior teapot designer.) However, I’m not sure if it will look bad if we only hire one person – both from an outside perspective and internally within our company. Is that something that people would consider unprofessional or misleading, or am I totally overthinking this?

Nah, this is a pretty common way to handle it. You’re open to hiring either position and potentially both. Just make sure that you’re transparent with candidates if the other position comes up; it’s not something you need to play close to the vest, and trying to do that could end up making it look shady when it actually isn’t.

But the other way to do this is to do one job posting and to say within it that you’re open to two different variations of the role. That doesn’t always make sense, but it’s something you could consider.

2. Secondhand smoke in an office where I’m interviewing

I’m going for an interview in a couple of days, after being out of work for almost a year. Yay! There’s a good chance that I will get the job since they are interviewing only three people. The office is located on an upper floor of an old building and the only entry is through an enclosed stairwell-elevator configuration. I’ve been up there two different times to drop off applications, and both times the stairwell area absolutely reeked of secondhand cigarette smoke. I’ve never been particularly sensitive to cigarette smoke, but it was so bad the last time that I had a sore throat for several hours after dropping off my app. The company has a no smoking policy so I’m assuming that the smoke was from visitors both times.

If the area is still terrible when I go in for the interview, how should I approach the subject and what should I say? I don’t want to come across as a complainer but this could be a deal breaker for me if I have to go through a smoke screen going and coming to work every day.

Wait until you have an offer. At that point, you could say, “Can I ask you about the smoking in your building? Each time I’ve been there, I’ve noticed the smell of cigarette smoke was pretty strong in the stairwell, to the point that one of those times I had a sore throat afterwards. I’ve never been particularly sensitive to smoke, but it was strong enough that I think it would be tough for me to field that every day. Can you tell me anything about how often it’s like that?”

Before you have this conversation, though, think about how you’d handle various responses. For example, if the person you’re talking with says they’ve never noticed it being that bad when you clearly know it has been, where do you want to go from there?

3. My coworker asked me to help out her daughter, who also works with us

I have an ethical dilemma. I was approached by a manager in another group about her daughter, who is in my group. Apparently, her daughter is not performing her job to our standard metrics (these metrics are not overly challenging to meet). Mom asked me to assist since I am the subject matter expert for our group, and because her daughter was afraid to ask me, thinking I am too busy.

Our company has very specific guidelines regarding familial relationships in the workplace, and this definitely goes across that line, so I feel like I need to tell my manager. My dilemma is this: How do I tell her in a way that 1) doesn’t unnecessarily implicate the daughter, since I don’t know if she’s aware that her mom asked me to help, and 2) has the best chance of not ruining a very good working relationship with her mom?

Talk to your manager first. Frame it this way: “I feel awkward about a conversation I had with Jane the other day, and I wanted your advice about how to navigate this.”

Once you talk to your manager, you should have a better sense of what she wants to do with this. If it’s clear that it’s going to get back to the coworker who talked to you, you’re better off giving her a heads-up that you spoke to your boss.

You could say it this way: “I wanted to let you know that I talked to Lucinda about your request for me to help out Ophelia. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t doing anything that would run afoul of our policies on familial relationships. She might mention it to you, so I wanted to give you a heads-up.” Or, depending on how your conversation with your boss goes, you could instead say: “I talked with Lucinda about your request for me to help out Ophelia. We ended up thinking it would run afoul of our policies on familial relationships, so I wanted to let you know that I’m not in a position where I can act on it — I need to keep things with Ophelia separate from any conversations I might have with you.”

4. My company gave me a sheet telling me how much I cost them

After taking on a significant amount of extra work and responsibility, having a spotless track record on my performance reviews (outstanding on every single one), I asked if we could review my job description and compensation, and discuss a title change. They said yes (woo!) and we updated my job description but the change couldn’t go into effect until my annual review (six months later). At my annual review, I had an outstanding review again and was offered a raise. The initial offer was so low that my boss told me the company was being “stingy.” With some perseverance (and advice from your blog!), we managed to get the company to come up another 2%. Despite this, I am still making over $3,000 a year less than the national average salary for my position, as it was determined by our HR manager. (The cost of living in our area is 32% higher than the national average.) I’m not happy with with what I receive, but knew it wasn’t going to go any higher, so I accepted it and decided to look for other jobs. I know that I am not alone in being disappointed in my raise, and how the process was handled over all. There are a lot of people in the company at the moment who have been grumbling about the raises, salaries, and compensation package in general.

Yesterday, HR stopped by and gave me a “personalized benefit breakdown.” It is basically a print-out that outlines exactly what employing me costs the company, and breaks down how much they pay in health insurance, dental, retirement match, worker’s comp, employment insurance, etc. I did not ask for this breakdown, it’s not something the company has ever handed out before, and I don’t know if it was handed out to other people as well. (I am assuming it was.)

After how hard we had to work to get me the raise I did get, I’m feeling a bit insulted by this. For one thing, I had figured out a pretty accurate estimate of what I cost the company on my own. But besides that, I feel like handing this out was a passive way to say, “Hey, this is how much you actually cost us, so everyone stop grumbling about salaries.” Is it normal for companies to give out this information? Am I reading too much into this? Also, the HR manager asked that I give feedback on whether receiving this information was useful. How do I tell her that, given the circumstances, it was actually kind of upsetting to receive?

It’s not unusual for companies to give these sheets out. The framing isn’t supposed to be “here’s how much you cost us,” but “here’s a look at your total compensation.” Often people don’t realize the full dollar value of the compensation package they’re receiving and so some companies distribute sheets like this every year. It sounds like yours may have distributed it not as a routine practice but in response to people grumbling about salaries — but I can’t blame them for wanting to make sure that people who are thinking about their compensation have the full picture to work with.

I can see why the timing bugged you, but I’d try to shrug that off. They’re giving you information; you can do with it what you like. But since the HR person asked for feedback, you could certainly say, “Coming right after our raise negotiations, it made me wonder if the subtext was that people shouldn’t be pushing for compensation more in line with market rates.”

5. My mom is being too pushy about my son’s job search

My son is 18, has recently graduated from high school, and moved halfway across the country to live with me. This means he has a wide open schedule, but no real connections in the area. Since he has decided to take a gap year, he is looking for a job. He is applying everywhere he can within his biking limits (no license yet). This includes all types of service jobs. However, no luck yet. I’m working with him on things like appearance and such, but he has very little work history to fall back on. While I’m fine with it taking a while, his grandmother is getting involved, trying to help him find jobs and have people she knows (who don’t know him) “put in a good word” at places that have already told him there are no openings. I believe this will end up hurting him. Am I right, and how can we get her to stop and/or work around this?

Yeah, that’s more likely to be annoying than not, and the word of someone who doesn’t even know an applicant but only knows his grandmother isn’t going to carry much weight.

That said, if a direct “please don’t do that — you’re making him look like he’s ignoring what they’ve already told him” doesn’t work, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. It’s not likely to be a black mark on his reputation that follows him around or anything like that.

{ 288 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, is there a way to limit how much detail/information grandma receives about your son’s job-hunting and prospects? It may be easier to simply work around her than to try to get her to stop (although I would first try a direct ask that she stop intervening).

    Reply
    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      My thoughts exactly. Trying to stop grandmas from being helpful is often like yelling at the clouds to stop the rain.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I removed a thread here about why the son doesn’t have a driver’s license, which is irrelevant to the OP’s question and tends to be highly derailing.

      Reply
      1. Not helicopter mom

        Hi- lw here! The transportation is a bit of an issue. Since grandma knows he can’t drive, she keeps trying to take him places out of his current range to apply and makes him uncomfortable about it. He does have his permit and a car waiting for when he gets his license in a couple months. Which I think will help! I’m just paranoid about the “helicopter parent” angle since I hate dealing them myself. I have told her to back off and she gets huffy and stops for a tiny bit,buy gets right back to it. I’m just happy to know she isn’t getting on his way as much as I thought. Thank you!

        Reply
        1. CityMouse

          I also think it is a timing issue. Right now places have done their summer hiring. But when school starts in August/September there may be more slots for him.

          Reply
        2. (Different) Rebecca

          Could you channel her energy into something that might actually help? Sort of a “instead of x, will you do y, because y would be SO useful?” type of conversation?

          Reply
            1. Grits McGee

              I was going to suggest asking her to use her network to find places that are hiring (since that seems to be the more difficult part of your son’s job search) rather than trying to get him jobs at places that aren’t hiring, but from your other responses it sounds like that’s a boundary that’s not going to be respected.

              What about maybe asking her to drive/financially contribute to a class or volunteer gig for your son? (If, of course, that’s something your son would be interested in?)

              Reply
            2. CityMouse

              What about instead asking around for babysitting or lawn mowing or similar jobs (assuming that is a kind of thing he is willing to do). I feel like a neighbor is more willing to hire a friend’s grandson to watch her kids or paint the fence that a hiring manager is to hire a cashier. Sure it isn’t a full job, but it would get him some cash.

              Reply
              1. the gold digger

                If a kid knocked on my door and offered to cut my lawn for ten dollars (it takes about 30 minutes, at most, to do both front and back), I would be thrilled.

                I would also pay someone to pull the purslane out of my garden. It is a weed, people. An invasive, horrible, garden-taking-over weed, not an exotic salad ingredient.

                Reply
                1. Annalee

                  I did this! I was in high school during the recession (2007 – 2011) and normal part-time jobs were nearly impossible to come by. I lived in a neighborhood with mostly elderly people, so I put up flyers and started mowing neighbors lawns, weeding, doing some landscaping. It was far more enjoyable than being a waitress, and I made way better money!

                2. AMPG

                  Purslane can be a weed AND an exotic salad ingredient! Yank it out by the roots so it never comes back, but then celebrate your victory by tossing it with olive oil, lemon juice, and radishes.

                3. M-C

                  Totally with AMPG. I make it a point to have delicious dandelion salads all though the spring when I have to yank it out..

    3. Jill

      I would also suggest a gentle reminder to Gramma that, since being that he’s 18, navigating his first job search is one of his first forays into the adult world and a great way to transition from kid/student to professional/adult.
      Perhaps a reminder that if she keeps “helping,” she’s depriving him of the opportunity to learn some valuable life lessons for himself. (To that end, kudos to you, Mom, for not wanting to get too helicoptor-y!)

      Reply
  2. neverjaunty

    Re 4, “workers’ comp” isn’t a benefit that employees get, any more than the heating bill or property tax. It’s a cost of doing business. (And likely “employment insurance” is, too.) So no, I respectfully believe AAM is giving your company way too much benefit of the doubt here, OP, particularly given the timing.

    It absolutely is normal for a company to provide employees with a breakdown of, for example, the employer’s contribution to your health benefits. It’s not normal for them to pretend that their workers’ comp is in that category, and it’s REALLY suspect when they suddenly start being transparent right when everybody’s unhappy with compensation.

    Reply
    1. Nela

      My company distributes these annually, including unemployment and workers comp info. I appreciate getting them and find the numbers pretty interesting.

      Reply
      1. Willis

        And it seems like it would be especially helpful for people evaluating other job offers! I can see how it might come off to the OP considering they just had disappointing raises, but I’d just take the sheet and move on with the job search same as I would’ve without it.

        Reply
        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          How? It doesn’t matter to employees what their employers spend, just that they have the coverage/benefits.

          Reply
          1. Monodon monoceros

            It does help if you see how much your current employer is contributing to, for example, health insurance or retirement, versus what another company may offer.

            Reply
            1. Monodon monoceros

              Sorry, should have re-read this thread. I agree that contribution to unemployment and worker’s comp is not helpful.

              Reply
            2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

              I don’t think even health care contribution is relevant. What matters to employees is what they pay, and what their benefits are. If Company A has negotiated a better contract and pays less for my benefits, that doesn’t mean that they value me less (nor does it mean that I should negotiate for a higher salary because I cost them less in benefits; my salary should be set by the market for my skills, not the cost of my healthcare).

              Reply
              1. Monodon monoceros

                True – I guess I was just thinking that if someone thinks, “whoo hoo, new company offered me 5k more than I make now!” then once they get their first paycheck there they realize that the new “raise” is eaten up because the new company doesn’t pay as much into their health insurance premium, or doesn’t pay into retirement at all or as much. This may be obvious to some people to look at when they get the offer, but I’ve had conversations with multiple people who really didn’t understand their benefits, and what the employer’s contribution was worth.

                Reply
                1. the gold digger

                  I made a spreadsheet comparing everything – cell phone reimbursement, transportation reimbursement (in lieu of paid parking), health insurance, 401K contribution – when I got the offer for my new job.

                  Even though the new job was offering $5K more, I would have taken an overall compensation cut because of the difference in benefits.

                  I was able to negotiate a higher salary with that information – ie, “I want to work for you but not enough to take a pay cut.”

                1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

                  I don’t understand your (sarcastic, I’m assuming?) question or point.

                  Of course employees care about their healthcare coverage. I’m arguing that employees don’t care about how much their employer pays for that coverage. If I have a health insurance package that costs me $400/month with XYZ benefits levels, it doesn’t matter to me whether my employer pays their insurance provider $10,000/year or $50,000/year for that package. (And the reason I’m arguing this at all is that I think it’s manipulative for organizations to share this information with employees, to justify lower salaries or salary discrepencies.)

                  (MHR made a good point that I hadn’t thought of, though — it DOES matter to me if I have to make those payments myself through COBRA upon separation from a job.)

                2. AMPG

                  It does make a difference, though, in terms of percentage covered. If your employer sets the expectation that they’ll cover 80% of your premiums, for example, that’s something they’re likely to try to stick to in the face of increased costs.

                3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

                  Got it, Zip Silver. Thank you!

                  AMPG: That’s interesting! It hasn’t been my experience. My employers have renegotiated their insurance contracts each year (often changing insurers), with an eye to keeping the cost for employees roughly the same. Sometimes that has meant changing benefits, sometimes changing insurances, sometimes broader-scale changes (like instituting a medical leave program to replace short-term disability coverage), sometimes it has meant a change in what employees pay, and I’m sure it has often meant a change in what my employer has paid.

              2. MHR

                It will be pretty relevant to you the first time you want COBRA and have to pay that amount out of pocket yourself. Plenty of companies choose better plans for their employees and then shoulder more of the cost. Its possible that you may move to a new company who has decided that they are not going to pay as much as your old company on your behalf

                Reply
                1. Kimberlee, Esq.

                  Yeah, came here to say this. It’s wonderful to have a really really good healthcare plan until you want to COBRA it, and then learn it would cost you $700 a month out of pocket.

                2. Samata

                  Yes, I once accepted a job with a company that paid 100% of benefits; salary was comparable but my paychecks were bigger so winner winner chicken dinner right??? Until I actually tried to use the coverage and my out of pocket was so excessive and so little was covered (like dental only covered silver fillings, which most offices don’t even do anymore) that I spent waaayyy more out of pocket and at times skipped appointments due to the increase in a simple PCP visit. Hard lesson learned.

              3. Tuckerman

                I agree that ultimately, what matters to employees is their pay and their benefits. However, as someone who has studied the healthcare system extensively, I also think knowing your employer’s contribution can help you become a more informed healthcare consumer and citizen. So I’m glad businesses provide this info. People with employer sponsored healthcare are insulated from the total cost of their healthcare. It’s easy to forget that while my family’s premium is $650 (generous coverage with no deductible) the total cost of the plan is closer to $2200 (my employer pays 70%.) I think this understanding is helpful when discussing the future of healthcare in this country.

                Reply
                1. CDM

                  That insulation works both ways – employees can complain loud and far about their premium increases (often with a “Thanks, Obama!”) while they have no clue that their employer decreased their contribution, whether to bolster the profit margin, keep the company out of bankruptcy and avoid layoffs, or because the business owner wants a bigger boat.

                  While everyone was blaming the ACA for their increased premiums was a perfect time for a not-so-great employer to pad their profits at the expense of their employees.

        2. The Other Dawn

          Yes, my company gives these out every year and I think it’s really useful information to have, especially if one is looking for another job. It’s true that people often don’t realize the dollar value of the compensation package they get.

          Reply
              1. neverjaunty

                But the OP’s employer is, and is pretending those costs are a “benefit” like health insurance. That’s what makes it clear this is not an informational sheet about employer contributions to compensation – it’s “look how much you cost us!”

                Reply
            1. nonymous

              In some states there is an exemption for farms, LLC and/or small businesses – it is an optional benefit in those orgs. While I don’t think the employer’s cost of workers comp is the perceived value (although it is an educational point that helps make me a more informed voter and consumer, rates are really hard to understand), it might make me consider private insurance options differently depending on the coverage provided. Think “Aaaaflaaaack!”

              Reply
        3. neverjaunty

          How is it helpful to know how much your employer spends on costs like property taxes and worker’s comp? “I might get paid less at this new job, but they sure do have lower electric bills!” is not something a job seeker is apt to say.

          Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        I think it’s partly a timing problem–this is a normal thing to do, but if the company implements the new system right when there’s a lot of grumbling about being paid under market rate…. well, unless that page shows that the company’s benefits are miles above the industry average, it’s going to come across as insulting.

        I’ve known people who were mildly grumpy about the coming changes to the health insurance policy (cost going up) until they got the company’s graphics-heavy page spelling out how TOTALLY AWESOME the new system would be, calculating the HSA like the pre-tax account was a fabulous raise of thousands of dollars they were giving you. Then employees were insulted. (The HSAs already existed and weren’t changing with the new plan; “you don’t pay tax on HSA money” was just the only thing the company could come up with.)

        Reply
        1. AndersonDarling

          Yep, unless the company has above average health coverage then their isn’t much to gain from the document. I received one of these at an old dysfunctional job and the health premiums the company were paying were outrageous. It started a witch hunt to find out who was driving up the health premiums…and the mob found who the culprits were. One was a family with a terminally ill daughter. Things Got Ugly.
          It wasn’t the intent of the document, but in that awful environment it was a predictable consequence.

          Reply
          1. Monodon monoceros

            My last employer switched to being “self-funded” the last year I was there. That year there were multiple serious illnesses that befell employees or family members, including organ transplants, airlift evacuations and weeks-long hospitalizations. Luckily it didn’t devolve into the back-biting situation you describe. I would have never, ever, blamed those employees, but that org was really hurting for money and I always wondered what kind of hit those illnesses gave to the budget. I wonder if they switched back to a “normal” health insurance plan after I left.

            Reply
        2. Trout 'Waver

          To be fair, I’ve saved ~$2k/year in taxes by using my HSA. That’s a huge benefit to me, given my company’s particular coverage options.

          Reply
          1. Falling Diphthong

            I’m all for HSAs. (Within reason–it helps to be rich, healthy, or both, and can be hard to build up the savings if you are instead poor and sick.) But they were not new, and calculating the money in terms of “it’s like we’re giving you a huge raise by letting you have an HSA” just assumed that their collection of hard science PhDs were very naive about numbers and basic math.

            Reply
            1. Artemesia

              HSAs are great for paying deductibles and such but the idea that it can substitute for good insurance (which we are hearing in the current debates on health care) is absurd. My husband spent one night in the ER for a possible heart attack (which thank goodness he didn’t have). The bill was 18K; an annual check up runs about $1500 where I am. My daughter spent one night in the hospital with a threatened premature labor; treatment consisted of IVs and ultrasounds. $4000. The problem of health care in the US is cost and noone who isn’t making millions a year can come close to paying the inflated prices out of pocket.

              Reply
        3. The Rat-Catcher

          I found it hilarious that my company calculated our sample HAS benefits based on the 25% tax bracket, when anyone below director level falls into the 15% bracket. I realize people are married to other people who have incomes that might put them up there, but not based on what they pay us.

          Reply
      3. ThatGirl

        We got them at my last job too, although I don’t think they had unemployment/workers comp on them. But they were called “total compensation rewards” or some such nonsense. And it was kind of interesting to see how much our insurance and whatnot were worth.

        Reply
    2. Zombii

      Re 4, “workers’ comp” isn’t a benefit that employees get, any more than the heating bill or property tax. It’s a cost of doing business. (And likely “employment insurance” is, too.)

      Came here to point specifically at this, with a look of mild contempt. I once worked for a place that called a meeting to explain that since they paid us $X/hr and billed the client $Y/hr for our work, that meant we were actually costing them $[X+Y] for every paid hour we didn’t work (ie: sick days and vacation), so we needed to understand that total lost cost for days off was part of our compensation and that’s why they couldn’t afford raises again that year—which, no raises, fine, whatever, but the premise that’s built on is definitely bullshit.

      Tl;dr: I don’t have a lot of tolerance for employers who confuse their costs with my benefits.

      Reply
      1. Lora

        Ha. When I’ve been in jobs like that, I knew exactly what the overhead costs were too, so I knew how much money I was making for them. It inspired all sorts of questions like “why don’t we have profit sharing” and “how come we have non-client-billing senior managers instead of just business development staff and admin support? What is Fergus actually doing here?”

        Reply
      2. JKP

        Except the math is not that you cost $X+Y for lost time. The X (what they pay you) is already included as part of the Y (what they bill the client). So you only cost them $Y for each hour not worked.

        Reply
        1. AMPG

          They were talking about paid time off, though. So they pay the employee $X for a day off, but can’t bill the client $Y for a day’s work, which makes the loss to them X+Y.

          Reply
        2. AMPG

          Although, rethinking, the company never received $Y for a day’s work – they receive $Y-X. So never mind.

          Reply
        1. Saviour Self

          For most (many?) positions, that isn’t really how it works. Obviously it depends on the type of company, but unless you are directly billable to a client, bringing in sales/clients, or something similar than it is difficult to quantify money that you are making for the company. For example, an admin or a manager are supporting the organization but are probably not directly attributable to an income line item.

          Reply
      3. sstabeler

        Exactly. it may well be that it costs them $X to employ me, however, some of those the employer must pay anyway. That, and categorising them as employee benefits makes it far too easy to mentally justify shifting the cost onto employees.

        Reply
        1. LetterWriter4

          Thanks everyone for the feedback, this discussion is so helpful. Since writing in, I have heard a little bit more grumbling, and others in my office interpreted the letter the same way I did. Where worker’s comp and employment insurnace were mentioned on the letter they are followed by “paid by company on the employee’s behalf” so yes, it does seem like they are trying to present these as a benefit, rather than as a cost of doing business. As to health insurance, the insurance provided is pretty good, but the over all cost of the insurance is also extreme, as the average employee here is closer to retirement than not and we are a small to medium sized company. (Our employee paid premiums went up this year, and there was a lot of discussion about why.) Its useful to be reminded that some people might not be as aware of their benefits as I am, and that this information would benefit them more than it benefits me. Thanks for the feedback everyone!

          Reply
          1. nonymous

            To take a positive spin, these docs are really helpful when framing requests for OT vs extra employee. What you want to look for is the break-even point when the 50% OT premium exceeds the fixed cost of an additional employee over a three year period. There are more complicated analysis that follows regarding workflow (many hands vs dedicated individual), but my experience is that the numbers have to be in place before it makes sense to consider that additional level of detail.

            Reply
    3. DCGirl

      It’s not at all unusual for a total compensation statement to be broken down as follows (and there are software programs that do it this way):
      1. Compensation – Salary, Commission, Overtime and Bonus
      2. Insurance Benefits – Medical, Dental, Vision, Life, STD and LTD
      3. Mandated Benefits – Workers’ Comp, Social Security, Medicare and FUTA tax
      4. Retirement Benefits – 401K and Simple IRA Match
      5. Work/Life Benefits – EAP, Tuition and Training
      6. PTO – Vacation, Holidays, Sick Leave, Jury Service and Other Leave

      So, to me, if workers comp or employment insurance are put in that category in such a statement, I wouldn’t complain. I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but I once worked for a nonprofit that has the tax status of a church (and puts bell ringers with red kettles on street corners in December). Because it has the tax status of a church, it is legally allowed to not pay into the unemployment system. Had I known that, I would not have taken the job because being laid off without unemployment to fall back on was too big a risk for me. A total compensation statement might have clued me in.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        Also, when you break down what the mandated costs are, it helps to understand what it would cost you, the employee, if you decided to freelance or work as a contractor (where I have to account for all of those items in the list in what I charge a client). True, most people don’t think like that, but it is eye opening to many to see that the cost to the employer of a specific employee is much more than the salary they pay you.

        It can also explain why they don’t just hire someone at an entry level to ease the work load – that $35,000/year salary that everyone thinks there is room in the budget for actually is $60,000 when you add everything up.

        Reply
      2. Bean Counter

        It doesn’t necessarily follow that you wouldn’t have received unemployment benefits because you worked at a nonprofit. In my state, at least, former nonprofit employees can still receive unemployment benefits, even if their employer is usually exempt from paying in.

        Reply
        1. DCGirl

          Trust me; I applied and was turned down for unemployment because I worked for a church, and churches are not required to pay into the unemployment system. They may chose to do so voluntarily, but they are not required. They are also not required to offer COBRA benefits either.

          Reply
      3. Toph

        Yeah that was similar to my thinking too. Not that the sheet included workers’ comp to imply to the employee this is “part of their compensation” as opposed to cost of doing business, but more that whatever program they use has a report that spits all this out, and that’s what they were giving people.

        Reply
    4. Arjay

      We get them here, and I don’t find them particularly useful. I also think that sometimes they’re just poorly done out of stupidity rather than malice or ulterior motives. I think that ours list our annual salary dollars and PTO dollars as separate line items, though obviously, I’m not getting paid twice when I take PTO.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        ” I’m not getting paid twice when I take PTO.”

        But, depending on what their policy is, that PTO money may be owed to you when you leave if it hasn’t been used.

        Reply
        1. sstabeler

          that’s because accrued PTO that hasn’t been taken is effectively you having worked more days than you agreed to. Hence, you need to be paid for that time.

          Reply
    5. LP

      I work in academia and have actually built out these spreadsheets for myself, because our salary is middling but total compensation is outstanding, compared to local markets. HR at our organization ought to be advertising this info annually to all employees! For the OP4, it might have been better if HR had framed it in a friendly way, like “we want our employees to be satisfied and feel their compensation is fair, so we want to share this info with you so you can be comparing apples to apples when you’re researching this stuff.”

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        I’m in academia too and we get the total compensation sheets every year. In our case, I agree it is a big selling point–our salaries are reasonable but not super high, but we get unlimited PTO, a very generous health plan, a double match to our retirement–benefits I would not necessarily be getting in a different job, and that really add to both my compensation and overall quality of life. I am also technically a 9-month employee (with salary spread over 12 months), meaning I get paid a substantial additional amount if I teach in the summers. However, if the benefits you’re receiving are fairly average for your field, I feel like spelling that out for you would not make you want to stay!

        Reply
    6. CDM

      Workers comp will pay for lost wages and medical bills for any injury that happens on the job – even if the employer has no liability whatsoever. That’s absolutely a benefit.

      If I break an ankle jumping in the hallway at work (like my mother did, once) everything is covered, unlike if I do the same thing at home in my hallway. If I get pushed in front of a car by a guy who has a bird phobia, I’m covered (because my employer understands work comp law and aren’t jerks, unlike Liz’s employer) Work Comp case law frequently cited in classes is that an employee injured during rough sex while on a business trip is covered. Work Comp is designed to reduce the financial exposure employers face from workplace injuries where the employer has liability, but the employees who gave up their previous “right” to large settlements for injuries gained a big expansion in coverage in return.

      And workers compensation rates are based on company payrolls, so increasing payrolls via raises has a direct effect on workers compensation premium paid. Especially if you do raises mid-year without budgeting correctly – the audit will show higher payrolls than estimated and the company will pay additional premium after the policy year has ended.

      While employees probably couldn’t care less about that, employers do need to consider the increase in their work comp premium when they give out pay raises.

      Reply
    7. Bea

      I had an employee handbook once list it as a benefit. Regardless of it being mandatory. They also listed social security and Medicare >_<

      Reply
  3. Katy Olson

    3. As a coworker in the same group as the daughter I don’t see anything wrong with trying to help her improve her performance. It doesn’t sound like she asked you to help her get a promotion, just help her improve in her current position.

    4. I had a previous employer do this and I found the breakout quite informative because I don’t usually think about how much the company pays out for my position. This may be especially eye opening if you work for a smaller company that might not be able to pay as much as others.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      I had the same reaction. I feel like dropping the time on the mother is pretty inappropriate given what she was asking.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        The OP says it broke the company’s rules on family relationships in the office. I imagine the issue is that they don’t want to hire relatives if it’s going to cause situations where one relative tries to intervene on another relative’s behalf; it can cause all kind of problematic dynamics.

        Reply
        1. Zombii

          I don’t see an issue with looping in OP’s manager either way just to be safe but it seems like the probable solution is going to be to let Gertrude know the request for assistance has to come from Ophelia herself. If the policy is as specific as OP says, it’s strange that this manager would blatantly break policy in a way that would potentially have professional consequences, but I’ve definitely heard stranger things here before (quack quack).

          Reply
          1. Falling Diphthong

            I was a bystander to a situation where a junior employee was not impressing the boss, and junior tried to get a senior employee to intervene and talk to the boss on her behalf. Problem being that the boss’s issue was that junior seemed to not get her work finished and just be good at appealing to other people in the group to finish it for her, so this third party appeal was the worst possible approach to take with the boss.

            Ophelia may be unaware of her mother’s machinations on her behalf, but it’s a very bad look.

            Reply
        2. Married to OP 3

          OP #3 has very good reason to know the familial relationship policy, as we work for the same company, and formerly the same division. The issue is basically that no person in a relationship is allowed to “supervise” the other person.

          Reply
          1. Leenie

            Asking someone else to talk with her doesn’t sound like supervision. I’d think the company is trying to avoid things like the mother being in control of her wages, reviews or work schedule. I mean, I understand being irritated that a mother is intervening on her daughter’s behalf in a professional environment. But if the policy that you think is being violated is about supervision specifically, I don’t think this conversation rises to that.

            Reply
            1. OP3

              There’s also legal and ethical issues because we work in the finance industry, related to collusion of accounts

              Reply
          2. Leenie

            I think an appropriate response would be to tell mom if Ophelia needs your help, Ophelia should ask for your help.

            Reply
          3. animaniactoo

            I think the best thing OP3 can do is go back to mom and say something along the lines of “I thought about what you asked, but in order for me to consider this request I need her to approach me about it herself. I appreciate that you want to help her, but she needs to be the one driving the bus or nothing I do to help will really help her.” and loop in the manager that this is what’s been done.

            Reply
      2. Ramona Flowers

        Take the mother out and imagine it’s just Random Colleague telling you someone in your own team is performing poorly and is afraid to approach you, which kinda sorta implies that either you’re somehow to blame, or that the poor performer is incapable of handling workplace relationships (if they’re genuinely unable to approach you, you should be hearing about it from your manager or their manager). The optics aren’t great even before you add a family connection into it.

        Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It sounds like the mom pretty knowingly broke whatever internal policies regarding nepotism exist in OP’s workplace, though. Even without that policy, I thought what mom did was a huge overstep.

        First, it sounds like a boundary violation—based on OP’s impression, it sounds like mom spoke to OP without her daughter asking her to or assenting to her mom taking the reigns. If the daughter was too “intimidated,” and if she asked her mom, then this is not great but a little less problematic in terms of the mom and daughter’s relationship. But regardless, the daughter needs to suck it up and ask OP for assistance herself. It’s on the daughter, not the mom, to manage the daughter’s professional relationships, skill-building, and communications.

        Second, the mom is asking OP to give her daughter special treatment by reallocating OP’s workload so she can coach the daughter. That’s not really an appropriate request, even if there were no policy in place. It’s different if OP’s manager or even the daughter approached OP, but someone from a completely different chain of command trying to direct how you work with others in your department because of their personal, non-job-related interest in that person’s performance? Nope.

        Reply
        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

          If it was me and I really wanted to protect the working relationship with the mom, I would tell the mom that I had to clear it with the manager to make sure there wasn’t a family policy violation before I spoke to my manager and give her a chance to say nevermind.

          If I wasn’t as invested in protecting the relationship, I would follow Allison’s advice.

          Reply
          1. MegaMoose, Esq.

            I think this is a really good compromise. It gives the mom the opportunity to withdraw the request and keeps everything out in the open.

            Reply
        2. Kyrielle

          This. If Mom wanted to interfere in the daughter’s job, she really should have done it by coaching the daughter in how to approach OP, or her manager, or something. (Outside of work hours.) The same as she might if her daughter worked at a different company and was telling her about this.

          Reply
        3. sstabeler

          to be fair, to me, it depends on what the requested assistance is. If it’s “my daughter’s struggling to understand how to do the job, could you run through it with her?” that’s not too bad, same for “my daughter’s got issues with time management- can you give her some tips?”, whereas “can you give my daughter less work?” would- to me- justify considering disciplinary measures for both.

          Reply
      4. Karen K

        I’m not sure inappropriate is the word I would use. I think “premature” might be better. My first reaction would have been, “Thanks for the head’s up. Have her come and talk to me herself.” But I would not do anything until the daughter asks me personally.

        Even if the workplace did not have rules around familial relationships, the daughter needs to learn how to navigate her professional life on her own.

        I would not be surprised if the daughter knows nothing about the mother’s request. She was probably venting a bit, and the mom ran with it.

        Reply
    2. Ramona Flowers

      #3 This isn’t a helpful way to do it though. Your mom approaching someone for you to ask for their help because you apparently can’t is… not great. If you replace mom with random colleague it’s still not great.

      I’m actually wondering if the daughter really feels afraid to approach OP or if it went more like this:

      Mom: you should approach LW to help you.

      Daughter (thinking oh crap, I shouldn’t have told you as I didn’t want advice, and this isn’t actually going to help): no, um, I don’t feel able to approach her, that’s not going to work.

      Mom extrapolates from there and tries to ‘help’.

      I wonder if the LW has any reason to believe the daughter is actually afraid to approach her? Can you do some kind of general outreach to your group e.g. tell them you updated some documentation and then mention that you are here if they have questions etc etc?

      Reply
      1. KarenT

        Agree, 100%. Mom should have told the daughter to ask the LW herself. If the daughter is too intimidated, too bad. This relationship is highlighting exactly why it can be iffy when family works together.

        Reply
        1. Czhorat

          That’s fair, but absent the family connection I’m not sure this if I see this as a “notify your manager” kind of situation. I’d at least be open to seeing what the daughter needs and, if it’s simple and can be done without impacting my work load then why not help a colleague? If it would impact my workload and/or I can’t find the time to do it then it’s easy enough to tell the mother, “I’m very sorry, but I’m pretty swamped lately. She can ask if anything specific comes up, but I can’t promise to have time for her,.”

          If that’s the end of it, then that’s the end of it. If she presses, then you can direct her to the manager.

          Reporting her for simply asking – even if doing so informally – creates a bigger issue where none needs to be created.

          Reply
          1. Just J.

            I agree with Czhorat. I agree also with other posters saying approach this as Random Colleague saying something.

            I have certainly reached out to other managers in my firm when I have seen people struggling yet are too intimated or fearful to speak up for themselves and ask for help. It’s usually just a head’s up notice to another manager to speak to the struggling staffer and see what their needs are (and then we work among the management group to see what we can do to help). The head’s up is not a “hey, you need to completely rework Fergus’s work load and his schedule”.

            The OP didn’t highlight exactly what Mom asked her to do, but Czhorat’s approach is the approach I would take if it were me.

            Reply
            1. Falling Diphthong

              To me, this makes it all the more weird that the request for help isn’t coming from anyone on the daughter’s team who observes her work.

              Maybe if the request came from someone at the company that Ophelia knew through outside paintball who was just passing on a quick “hey, she’s too new to figure out exactly what she needs, but as an experienced hand I think the OS tutorial would really help her.” But we don’t assume that parents are objectively evaluating their children as clearly good workers the company should take steps to retain.

              Reply
          2. M from NY

            +1 There’s a big difference between “can you speak to daughter to provide additional support” and “can you intefere on daughters behalf”. I can totally see a younger person being hesitant to ask for additional explanation from a higher up when they are already falling short of expectations. I can also see conversation where colleague asks an equal level colleague can you speak to her without undermining her entire existence. However *to me* although we take letter writers at their word I’m just not seeing an egregious request that requires looping in manager.

            OP if mgr had asked this request on behalf of non relative (a mentee or fellow alumni) would your concern be the same? If not I think the training on this policy needs to be revisited.

            Reply
            1. Hedgehog

              Mom shouldn’t have asked, but I think part of the response here should be dictated by what OP would have done had daughter asked on her own behalf. If it’s unreasonable on its face, that’s one thing. If it would have been a reasonable request had it come from daughter, then just redirect. “I may be able to help Jane out, if she can come talk to me directly about what she needs.” And when Jane does come for help, let her know that she shouldn’t be asking for help through mom. If Jane didn’t ask mom to intervene, she will probably never come ask for help anyway, so problem solved (except for poor Jane who is struggling at work and has an embarrassing helicopter mother).

              Reply
          3. Jesmlet

            But you can’t just subtract the family connection. This is a manager mom asking a subordinate (though not a direct report) something on her daughter’s behalf. From the post, it sounds like OP isn’t the daughter’s manager or supervisor, just a peer that happens to know more on the subject matter. The adult thing to do is for the daughter to speak up for herself, and mom asking on her behalf would seriously undermine any good opinions I had of the daughter. What I would do is either approach your manager and explain the situation, or go back to the mom and tell her you thought about it and while you’re happy to help, you feel it’s best for her to let her daughter approach you or her manager on her own.

            Reply
            1. Czhorat

              THat;s how I read it as well.

              Speaking to the mother (or even the daughter) can very likely resolve the situation. I try not to draw my boss into situations which can be solved without their involvement, saving their attention for issues which really require it.

              If the issue CAN be handled appropriately and reasonably without bringint in the boss, then that is (in my opinion) the way to handle it. If the mother pushes back you can then say something like “this isn’t my call to make. Can you run it through my boss, or would you rather I ask them?”

              Reply
      2. ancolie

        We don’t even know if the daughter wanted to ask for assistance at all. It’s possible that it went like this:

        Mom – So how’s everything going with your job?

        Daughter – Not bad. A bit stressful at times, because XYZ is throwing me for a bit of a loop, but I’ll figure it out.

        Mom – :: Decides immediately that daughter Needs Help Now!!! ::

        Reply
        1. ancolie

          Whoops, I meant to add that mom then goes to OP without saying anything to daughter. Daughter has no idea mom spoke to OP.

          Reply
    3. Jesmlet

      If daughter was asking for help that’d be an entirely different story. Instead, mom did it for her which is not appropriate or professional regardless of what is on paper in terms of policy.

      Reply
  4. Baby Driver too

    #5, this would be an excellent opportunity for your son to get a driver’s license. Even now he is facing limitations on where he can work based on the fact he doesn’t drive. Don’t perpetuate that in the future.

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      That’s not what the LW asked, though, and it would be really nice if we could have a letter about a non-driver without everyone focusing on that.

      Reply
    2. Not helicopter mom

      Lw here – I mentioned above, but I’ll add here- he’s in the process but the earliest for his actual DL is October. Our area has some public transportation but not much, so Grandma has become part of the solution for now, which is part of the problem. She hasn’t listened to his current requirements and keeps trying to bring him places to apply that he can’t currently get to on his own consistently.

      Reply
      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        Sorry your letter got derailed a bit by one of the blog’s favorite hobby horses.

        I might sit grandma down and have a serious heart to heart about how she sees transit working if he gets a job he can’t get to on his own consistently. She might not have thought about that or might think she can help but hasn’t thought about the reality of how the hours at those jobs might work.

        For your son, I suggest signing up with a temp agency. It is a good way to sample a number of different workplaces.

        Reply
        1. Not helicopter mom

          Thank you for the temp idea, I actually hadn’t considered that. I’ll be suggesting it to him later today. I can help him get to out of range locations for a little while, so that could be a great filler for him.

          Reply
          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

            I did it between undergrad and grad school and found it really useful to get a sampling of different office cultures and get an idea of different sectors. I did data entry mostly, so was able to work at everything from big companies to local non-profits. The work itself was tedious, but the experience was valuable.

            Reply
          2. Jen A.

            I was an office temp every summer beginning after senior year in high school through college. I worked in an OSHA clinic at a steel mill (this is where I learned how to use a fax machine – it was 1994), at major food product manufacturer in 4 different departments over 2 summers (which was awesome because I got tons of free samples), a general contractor (where I accidentally included the subs bids in a fax to the client because of unclear directions), a credit union, a quarry, one disastrous day at an architectural firm (they wanted me to run a switchboard after 1 hour of training on a system that I later found out usually takes at least a week of training) and several other office jobs.

            Reply
          3. Lora

            My then-husband used to do day labor too while he looked for more steady work. It was all stuff like temporary construction help (sweeping up sawdust, move that table saw over there, help unpack the truck etc) and weed whacking the local office park type of work, but it was a job and he was able to get a really decent temp-to-perm job after he established a job history from it.

            Reply
          4. animaniactoo

            Also a point – is Grandma thinking she’d be willing to drive him to and from work every day? Because if that’s a factor in her thinking, then she probably really doesn’t get why you/he are opposed to the out of area locations.

            Reply
          5. Samata

            Yes! I did temp work during the day on summer breaks during college and was a waitress/bartender nights. It was great experience for me and taught me a lot about office norms.

            Reply
        2. BadPlanning

          A couple places (factory type work) in my hometown pretty much only get short time workers through temp agencies. I did 2 summer jobs via temp agencies.

          Reply
        3. Midge

          Another option, Not helicopter mom, is a program like City Year or AmeriCorps. They are paid volunteer programs meant for recent high school or college grads. The compensation is low, but they provide work experience, help the community, and pay an education stipend once the year of service is over.

          Reply
      2. CityMouse

        The more I hear, the more I think grandma 100% needs to acknowledge that this isn’t an urgent issue and kid may have more and better opportunities in a few months. The combo of summer ending and him having car access opens stuff up for him. He is 18 and it sounds like there isn’t an urgent financial need. I think a paradigm shift may be in order – at some point let him take a break and do something fun and then restart the search in a month when people go back to school and jobs open up.

        Reply
        1. CityMouse

          (Alternately, if there are any classes he could take at a community college or similar to help his resume, that could help too, I just worry we are in the middle of a semester now). I had a lot of trouble finding a job the summer before college and got really stressed out until one of my parents let me know it was okay to take a break. In hindsight that was the last “summer off” I ever got.

          Reply
          1. Toph

            It sounded like the son was intentionally taking a gap year before college, so I’m not sure taking classes would be a desirable option in this context.

            Reply
  5. Artemesia

    4 look at this sheet as a helpful way to evaluate future job offers and get cracking on getting those offers. If you are this underpaid in a high cost area then presumably there are similar better paid jobs. You have one now so you can take your time and not rush into anything. Don’t complain about the ‘what you cost sheet — yeah they are common — I worked for a place with the annual 2% raise and they put those out every year too and we always felt it was that same ‘see we really compensate you much better than you think we do’ thing. Don’t complain about the sheets or the raise — go get a better job and feel the pleasure of putting in your two week notice when you do. But in the meantime don’t even hint that you are still annoyed by their raise and behavior.

    5. Shut down Grandma. This is so inappropriate. I’d be blunt with Grandma. ‘Mom, it is going to hurt Herkimer’s job search to be trying to get people to call for him, especially at places that have already indicated they have no openings. It is embarrassing and it doesn’t help. Please let him handle this and learn from it what he will learn.’ It would be different if a particular close friend of hers had work and asked her to send him over or something — jobs do happen that way, but her approach is going to do no good and hurt her relationship with her grandson.

    Reply
    1. AMT

      Re: #5, I think a lot of people would benefit from being more direct with their older, well-meaning relatives. There is a cultural sense that we’re not supposed to do that, or that we’re supposed to say, “Sure, thanks, Grandma, that helps a lot!” and then work around her. However, the pushier ones won’t take the hint unless it’s spelled out, and I’m sure the less pushy ones will appreciate honesty rather than continuing to offer help that’s actually hurting. In other words, let’s treat old people like people.

      Reply
        1. Artemesia

          Of course kind but not vague. I had a couple who had to be told ‘I really never want to hear a word about that again.’ to stop endless nagging or meddling. Some people need blunt — add the fluff around the edges but don’t obscure the point.

          Reply
  6. John Ames Boughton

    Re: #4 – my company has historically paid significantly below market rates, using the excuse that we’re in an affordable place to live, and they’ve definitely used “Here’s your TOTAL compensation!” as a way to weasel around the fact that they’re under-paying us and try to make us feel like we should be glad to get as much as we do. So, no, maybe there’s a good reason to do what your company does, but it’s still definitely something to raise an eyebrow at.

    Reply
    1. Caro in the UK

      I can completely see how this information can be informative and useful to employees. But I can also see how obnoxious it could seem if they’re using the benefits package to gloss over underpaying their staff, because it’s not like organisations which DO pay their employees market rate (or above) don’t also give their staff the same benefits as well as a better salary.

      Reply
      1. Anon to me

        I think many organizations use their benefits as an excuse to not pay market rate. At least I know my organization is guilty of that. They discuss the stellar benefits, but they aren’t stellar. Overall they are average (good vacation time, terrible health benefits, etc.).

        Reply
        1. Lindrine

          What is the best way for us to determine how good the benefits are? I have a pretty decent idea for myself but it has been built over time after having worked for different companies. Are there any resources we can find online that rank benefit factors?

          Reply
          1. Perse's Mom

            This is tricky, simply because benefits are weighed differently on an individual basis. Susie may prioritize health insurance while Bob cares more about PTO while Sam is concerned about the 401k.

            It’s less about ranking than it is about getting clear information about benefits in general (which a website could do, laying out the purpose of Common Employment Benefits A – F with how each benefit generally functions), but it’s still on the individual to get the specific info from their employer as to -which- benefits they offer and how those benefits function for their specific employer.

            Reply
        2. paul

          yeah, if you’re going to push your “benefits” make sure they’re worth a damn.

          Is the current employer paying 100% of the employee’s health care? Do they give excellent PTO? A really aggressive 401(k)? Those would be worth factoring in…but I see a lot companies advertise for “Great benefits” when that means 5 days PTO and crap insurance

          Reply
        3. Shadow

          why does everyone think companies should pay market? By definition market is an average wage in your market and companies have a salary philosophy whether they know it or not. The ones that offered you below market to start of with probably made the active choice to pay below market salaries. You might get them to throw you a bone if you make a big deal about it but for the most part it’s going to be a futile exercise. Companies don’t typically suddenly agree that you should be at market when probably everyone else is below market.

          Reply
          1. Czhorat

            Because market is usually widely-agreed on as a fair wage for the skillset and responsibilities.

            On a more selfish note, if employers do not pay market rates they will had trouble attracting or keeping good talent. The OP looking for a new job elsewhere is a perfect example.

            Reply
            1. Shadow

              But in reality market is an average of wages for that job for average tenure/skills. It’s naive to ask for market if your experience/skills/responsibilities or your company are less than average.

              Reply
              1. Czhorat

                Yes, but if a company is paying well below that average than they either have to offer some other incentive to work for them or will lose their best people to competitors.

                Reply
                1. Shadow

                  Many companies understand and accept that they’re not in the top performer market. This is why many people start out at small companies (who typically can’t pay as much) to gain experience then move on to larger or more lucrative companies that pay more.

              2. Newby

                You should be asking for the market rate for your experience/skills/responsibility. Market rate does not mean that a sales analyst should make $X. It means that a sales analyst with Y years of experience and A, B, C responsibilities tends to make $X. If you have an unusual skill or extra responsibilities you can use that to try to negotiate a higher salary or if you lack a skill or some responsibilities are not included in the job, the company can use that to negotiate a lower salary.

                Reply
                1. Shadow

                  Yes I’d also factor in the company’s reputation and size. The better and/or larger companies tend to pay market or above.

          2. paul

            Why should anyone want to work for less (total compensation) than they can get though? I don’t get why you’d *not* expect workers to do this. Compare compensation, and go for as much as you can.

            Reply
            1. Shadow

              They shouldn’t. They just shouldn’t expect market if they don’t have market skills/responsibilities/experience/company. Too many people misunderstand what market actually means

              Reply
              1. Jadelyn

                Honestly, it sounds more like you don’t understand what market rate means. Or perhaps simply that you’re using it in its most general sense of “average pay for a given position”, where the rest of us are talking about a person’s *individual* fair market rate, which is inherently tied to their qualifications and experience. If a company is paying a person below the average market rate, but the person is very low on the experience/qualifications scale, then they are still paying the person market rate for that individual. What we’re talking about as far as companies choosing to lag the market, is when a company pays a person below *their* fair market rate, not just below average market rate in general, and that the situation most people are objecting to. This isn’t about people who aren’t qualified making below average market rate; it’s about companies paying *everyone* below even the individualized fair market rate based on each person’s skills and experience.

                Reply
                1. Shadow

                  If you object to the company lagging the market it doesn’t make sense for them to make an exception just for you. And whats the likelihood of them bringing everyone to market?

          3. sstabeler

            because it’s often- not always- paired with “you should feel grateful to have a job”. That combination is particularly irritating, since almost by definition, the employee is doing the employer a favour by not insisting on market rate,

            Reply
      2. neverjaunty

        OP’s company is adding in things that are costs of doing business and pretending they are “benefits” to the employee.

        There is an enormous difference between disclosing the company’s contribution to things like an employee’s health care premiums, and “see how much you cost us!” accounting used to justify low compensation or no raises.

        Reply
    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I totally agree. What’s the purpose of them sharing it with me, if not to suggest that I should be happy with what I’m getting?

      Reply
          1. Hedgehog

            I think it is valuable when comparing different jobs. In fact, for that reason, I’d say the company probably shouldn’t be handing it out if their benefits aren’t above average. My last job switch took me to a higher salary, but the health insurance at the new job was awful. It didn’t matter to me because I am covered on my husband’s policy, so don’t use the health insurance (In fact, I think the large proportion of married women who were using their husbands’ insurance rather than the work insurance is probably why the original job was able to pay 100% of coverage for those who did take it). But if it had applied to me, and if original job had pointed that out in writing, it might have made a difference in my job search.

            Reply
          2. Shadow

            Because lots of people don’t know how much those benefits would cost if they had to pay for them out of pocket. For example many companies offer wellness incentives and people frequently don’t realize how much money that might save you.

            Reply
            1. Mike C.

              But many of those benefits aren’t available for me to buy out of pocket in the first place. Also, many of those “wellness” incentives are an absolute waste of money.

              Reply
              1. MCMonkeyBean

                At my company the wellness incentive is a free program where all you have to do is get an annual health screening and then mark that you have done 30 minutes of activity (even walking counts) and you end up saving almost $500 on a year on your insurance premium. You don’t have to pay anything, but if you already own a fitbit you can link it to the program and then you don’t even have to mark your activity, it will give you credit automatically.

                Reply
                1. Mike C.

                  You aren’t saving a thing – they’re charging you more if you don’t participate in their invasive screenings.

              2. Shadow

                Yes, excellent benefits that you don’t use aren’t worth anything to your compensation. This is why generally healthy young people don’t care as much about the intricacies of medical coverage the way older or people with families do.

                Reply
    3. a different Vicki

      If your benefit package is unusually good, you already know it. I had a job, a while back, which paid below market but had significantly better benefits than typical: more vacation time, generous matching for the retirement fund, and they covered the entire cost of our health insurance.

      I didn’t need a sheet from HR to tell me that I was getting more vacation than my friends who worked in other places, or that most companies didn’t more-than-match employee contributions to their retirement savings.

      Reply
      1. Shadow

        You only know your benefits are good when you know what other companies offer. If you’ve been at your company for a while you may have a false sense of good benefits

        Reply
        1. Hedgehog

          Agreed. My first job out of school covered 100% of insurance premiums. I literally did not know for years that that was not standard. It wasn’t Cadillac insurance by any stretch of the imagination, but it was decent for a healthy 20-something and I didn’t have to pay for it and I thought that was typical.

          Reply
      2. doreen

        You would think so, but you would be surprised at how many people really live in a tiny bubble, where everyone they know has roughly similar benefits and they almost can’t believe that other employers offer more or less. I remember a conversation at my government job thirty years ago where I actually asked my coworkers if they knew anyone who worked at a private , for-profit, non-union job – and none of the ten or so others in the conversation did. And some of my private-sector husband’s coworkers have flat out told him he must have misunderstood because my employer can’t possibly pay for my health insurance after I retire.

        Not to mention that knowing you have good benefits doesn’t mean you know how much they cost- I’ve always known I had good health insurance , but until it appeared on my W2, I had no idea that it cost about $20K a year. ( which could make a difference should I end up needing an extended leave after I am eligible to retire)

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          A generation ago most people got health insurance from companies at retirement. My mother had it for 15 years after my father died from his company. (medigap of course; medicare was primary) It has now mostly gone the way of pensions.

          Reply
    4. Lora

      Had an employer who used to give us a breakdown of what we paid the insurance company vs. how much we cost the insurance company in claims, hence why our insurance costs were skyrocketing. “All you terrible people getting cancer and being old at us are COSTING EVERYONE ELSE, you should really think twice before going to the doctor, do you really NEED that much care?” Yes, they said that. The employees voted in a union shortly thereafter, and management was shocked, shocked! They also spent all their money on anti-union consultants (not lawyers because lawyers are expensive and the consultant was someone’s cousin), the union lawyer and NLRB ate them alive, and then the company went out of business after paying out some hefty settlements for wrongful terminations and workman’s comp chicanery.

      But yeah, what other people said: if you’re going to claim that you have “good” anything, you better be really, really sure of what “good” means relative to the market in your area. Have gone on many interviews and had offers from companies who did not do their homework in this regard, played up how great their benefits were, and upon receiving an offer it turned out to be thoroughly average. Plus, us old people remember back in the day when there were such things as pensions (I even still have one from an old job that hasn’t gotten around to converting to 401k), and health care we didn’t have to pay a dime towards, so in comparison to that modern benefits are just depressing.

      Reply
        1. Lora

          It was an education, I’ll say that. I learned a lot from that job, starting with “how unrecognized privilege can totally wreck a business” and ending somewhere around “run as fast as you can from pathological liars”.

          Reply
      1. the gold digger

        I even still have one from an old job

        Me, too. Last year, they offered me a cash buyout. I would have had to get 17% a year return on that thing to generate the pension payout. Seriously, people – 1. I am not bad at math. 2. Apparently, the people who set up your pension are.

        Reply
        1. Lora

          Haha, I swear I got the same buyout offer, only I calculated 20%.

          I’m pretty sure that Finance doesn’t adequately appreciate the math skills in other fields, as a rule. Otherwise they wouldn’t say such nonsense at shareholder meetings. (I may have been booted out of a shareholder meeting for Being A Smart Aleck.)

          Reply
        2. Falling Diphthong

          I think these sorts of things come over particularly poorly to people who are a) good at math; b) employed by the company for skills that directly translate to being good at math.

          Reply
            1. Gadfly

              Basically a matter of if I was stupid enough to take an offer that low, you shouldn’t be paying me that much….

              Reply
      2. Lumos

        I work for local government, and while they don’t provide us with a “here’s how much your benefits cost” part of my orientation was “Here’s how much we’re in deficit because of employee insurance costs because we’re self funded and you all should really consider going to cheaper doctors and not going to the hospital unless you absolutely have to.” which made me really glad I’m under 26 and still covered by my dad’s amazing insurance. (I’m gonna cry when I lose that.)

        Reply
        1. Shadow

          Wow screams of “look how bad we are at managing benefits or how unwilling elected officials are to address these unbudgeted costs

          Reply
          1. Lumos

            They did use that opportunity to tell us that premiums were going up for the first time in five years but it was still really poorly handled.

            Reply
  7. Casper Lives

    #3 I’m reminded of why I’m uncomfortable with family members working closely together in the workplace. What would you do if a manager, who wasn’t related to your teammate, reached out to you to ask you to help someone on your team? It reads to me as intrusively stepping into your relationship with the person on your team. If she wants help, she should go ask you. I’d be so embarrassed if my mother did this to me!

    On family relationships – the stepdaughter of a partner at my firm is an admin/receptionist. It’s mostly fine, but there are times I watch what I say carefully…

    Reply
    1. Namast'ay In Bed

      I am 10000000% in favor of keeping family and work separate. I used to work for an uncle, and besides it already being a high-stress, semi-toxic environment, he would CALL MY PARENTS if he was ever displeased about anything and everything. And since I never worked with him directly, everything he ever told them came as a result of third-party misinformation, or was just days out of date and already resolved. I felt like I could never escape from work, and it bled over into my home life in a way work never should.

      This was years ago, and it’s still a really weird feeling to think “oh phew at least my parents don’t have to hear about this” over minor things at work.

      Reply
    2. Anonymity

      We have the Executive Nepotism Suite dipping their hands into a few (part-time) summer hires this year. It frankly sours my opinion of a number of executives.

      Reply
  8. Ramona Flowers

    #5 I think I would be tempted to actually lie and say he has a job just to stop her getting people to ‘put in a word’. Because that’s horrifying. Did it even work decades ago, really?

    Reply
    1. Not helicopter mom

      Lw here- Oh for me it did! Grandma got me my first job that way… with her. It was a great job, but she over stepped boundaries then too.

      Reply
    2. Hiring Mgr

      My uncle Jerry pulled alot of strings to get me that job at Dunkin’ Donuts making the donuts at 4am each Saturday and Sunday. It helps to have powerful connections who are in the room where it happens

      Reply
    3. LaurenB

      I live in a small city in a remote area, and that’s still how it works. Especially with federal government jobs. :)

      Reply
    4. Case of the Mondays

      It still works in my small law firm. They prefer to hire someone that has any connection to the firm. A friend of a friend’s husband who only knew my boss through bar activities and only knew me socially put in a good word for me and that got me an interview. We still work under the “foot in the door” type of mentality. If there is some connection, you will likely get a courtesy interview but then you really do have a good chance of selling yourself despite not having all of the requested hiring criteria.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        LOL The remaining partner at my husband’s old firm hired someone who did all those ‘gumption things’. I told him he is the reason people keep doing these annoying things to ‘get their foot in the door’.

        Reply
    5. Grapey

      It works now. I frequently have contact with my old professors from school and we chat about prospective biology graduates that want a job. It’s how I got my job 10 years ago.

      Thing is, our company wants people with certain skills that I know my university taught, not just unskilled high school labor.

      Reply
    6. Falling Diphthong

      I was mildly gobsmacked during sidelines chatter when a dad mentioned his daughter catching flak for not getting back to the prestigious lab at which he’d gotten her a job offer (via work connections) because she was going to another good job offer. A word from someone you trust does go a long way.

      Reply
    7. LBK

      It can work if the connection actually has value, eg is basically a referral from someone whose opinion you trust. But a random person putting in a good word wouldn’t have much weight for me.

      Reply
    8. SC

      It works in my area. My husband got his first job (10 years ago) in retail through his father’s connection. My BIL got his first job after moving to our area (a year ago) through FIL. And, to some extent, after passing the initial interviews, I got my current job because my husband and his sister went to school with Big Boss’s kids–I was basically hired about 2 minutes into the interview when Big Boss figured out the connection.

      Reply
  9. Kerr

    #4: Ooh, this is an interesting take, because I’ve seen a (marketing) push for employers to provide this type of “total compensation” report, presented as a positive thing for employees. Thing is, it can also be read as “Here’s how much the company ACTUALLY pays for you, you ungrateful squirt” instead of “Here are employer’s awesome benefits, here’s how much they value their employees.”

    I can see why, in this instance, it feels like the latter. Companies with poor salaries & benefits should probably refrain.

    Reply
    1. Eric

      Oh yeah, absolutely.

      I worked at a place that paid a little below market rate, but had an awesomely laid-back environment. Senior management sent out a feel-good email about how salary analysis had been done, and we were all getting raises to make the company more competitive in the talent market.

      My boss and I were good friends, so he shared something with me: to compensate for bringing us to average salary, the above-average bonuses were going to be reduced next year.

      I wasn’t around to see the next year’s bonus.

      Reply
  10. Junior Dev

    #2, that level of secondhand smoke would be a deal breaker for me. The only way I could see taking that job would be if, for example, I knew my day-to-day work would take place in a different building and I would rarely have to walk through the Hallway of Smoke. If it’s giving you a sore throat just to have walked through it imagine what it would be like to work there every day.

    Reply
    1. Zombii

      Yes, me too. I don’t see why the letter writer can’t mention it before the offer, if they absolutely wouldn’t take the job under those conditions. Nothing overly dramatic, just introduce it into the small talk at the beginning of the next interview and see what happens.

      Interviewer: How are you today?
      LW: Great! A lot of cigarette smoke in the stairway though. (Pleasant tone of voice is crucial here, maybe slight confusion but absolutely no hint of judgment or demand.)

      For me, if the interviewer reacted with anything outside the range of mildly-embarrassed-to-horrified and didn’t say they would address it, I’d probably finish up the interview but withdraw from consideration soon after. If asking about it cost me the job, that’s not a good fit for me anyway and I don’t see a lot of point in trying really hard to get an offer just to turn it down. (I worked as a cook in a restaurant where all the servers smoked right outside the back door and the kitchen reeked of cigarettes all the time; I quit within a month and will never work under similar conditions again.) That’s me though—LW should do whatever they think is right for them.

      Reply
    2. Sharon

      I agree. I would assume that the smoke smell is there every day. The company might have a no-smoking policy but it could mean just that the smokers go out into the stairwell to smoke. Just like my current company where the smokers hang around just outside our back door (where the parking lot is, so we all have to walk through it). I thought that was illegal in my area, but apparently not. (I did request that they relocate the smokers away from the door.)

      Reply
      1. Been there

        If the company is leasing and there are other businesses in the building (from the description that’s what it sounds like) they may have little to no control over the smoking. It’s a situation that’s unlikely to change.

        Reply
      2. Gadfly

        At OldJob it was illegal in our area and all that meant is occasionally HR would remind everyone not to do it. Nothing was actually DONE about it. Just reminders not to do it.

        Reply
    3. Falling Diphthong

      I have asthma, and smoke can be a trigger for me. But… it seems like the smelly entrance is a known known of this job, and out of the company’s control if it’s other tenants smoking there. Moving the entrance probably isn’t feasible. I think some random drop-ins, rather than a direct question, would give a more accurate answer as to whether it was a one-time weird thing. Except it’s already a two-out-of-two weird thing.

      Reply
    1. (Different) Rebecca

      That doesn’t mean the company can stop it; it may be someone randomly ducking in out of the weather, having a smoke, and bouncing.

      Reply
      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        People used to smoke in the stairwell of my 50-plus-floor Manhattan office building. They got away with it for years because no one ever took the stairs; then we started doing more frequent building evacuation drills and encouraging more people to take the stairs.

        Reply
      2. paul

        We’ve had/still have fits with that; sometimes I think half of what our security guard does is chase people out of the foyer when they step in for a smoke.

        Reply
    2. Audiophile

      I worked at a building where it was illegal to smoke directly in the front of the building. so people smoked in the visitor’s parking lot, in the back of the building which was the employee entrance, and in the employee parking lots too. And yes, people still smoked in front of the building quite often.

      A lot of things are illegal, yet difficult to enforce so people don’t often comply.

      Reply
      1. Stop That Goat

        That was my first thought. It may be illegal but I doubt you’ll find someone willing to enforce it.

        Reply
  11. Channel Z

    #1 Our university sometimes has two positions within one job posting, and the descriptions would be for Post-Doc and a Research Assistant, for example. The job description then outlines that this could be one or two positions, depending on the experience of the candidate/s. This is in part due to the lengthy bureaucratic process to post any job, so having the option within one posting makes life easier. Another option groups use is posting for a Research Support Officer, which can cover a range of experience levels and degrees, and the salary is adjusted according the pre-determined factors and the experience of the successful candidate.

    Reply
    1. Letter-Writer #1

      Thanks for this idea! I want to be transparent about the situation, and this sounds like a good option.

      Reply
      1. BRR

        I was going to suggest something similar. I’ve seen job postings that are for “teapot designer/senior teapot designer” with some details that differentiate between the two in the description. Would you be able to put in the job description something like potentially multiple openings?

        Reply
        1. Letter-Writer #1

          I think so! These positions aren’t quite as similar as designer/senior designer, but both employees had the same college degree. I love this approach, thank you!

          Reply
      2. Artemesia

        We have done this sort of thing; it is not uncommon to be willing to fill a job at multiple levels and there is nothing dishonest about it. You can tell interviewees that you are doing it or not.

        Reply
    2. Sunny

      Yes, I’ve seen job postings like this too–a general job description and then something like “we’re also considering hiring at a more junior/senior level, depending on the candidate,” making it clear that they’re doing exactly what the LW wants to do.

      Reply
  12. CBH

    OP3…Alison’s advice is spot on how to handle the situation. I don’t dispute anything from that angle.

    What gets me is the part about the “daughter was afraid to ask”!?! I know the mom had the best intentions, but this seems a bit helicopter parent to me. If the daughter is old enough and responsible enough to have a job, and is struggling, there are plenty of resources she could use to get caught up. She could speak to her manager, ask about additional training… I just feel like the mom should not even be involved outside of giving her daughter advice outside of work – ie at dinner, hey mom I need your advice on a work situation.

    If any other coworker had issues and their parent didn’t work for the company, it would be a bit weird for their parent to call up the child’s coworker out of the blue.

    Reply
  13. Channel Z

    #5 I thought the hiring by recommendation days were being phased out. However, I know a man, now in his 70s, who left academia to start his own business about 15 years ago. The business has been successful, but they are expanding and are having difficulty getting and retaining new people. Here’s why: he doesn’t post open positions publicly. He uses his personal contacts at the university to get recommendation for people who are “good.” I have been approached twice by one of these contacts, the first time looking for someone who was “good in the lab.” Considering I was in the lab myself and nearing the end of my contract, I was a bit put off, thinking You mean I’m not good? The second time she said she had a “friend” who was looking for a technical sales person and if I could recommend any sales people I knew to her. I asked what friend, but she wouldn’t say, though of course I knew. It honestly creeped me out. I guess my point is that this tactic isn’t good for candidates OR employers.

    Reply
    1. Zombii

      I don’t think hiring by recommendation is being phased out (or at least I know getting an interview based on a recommendation is still a thing), although it’s getting less common in a lot of industries. The issues is that the person giving the recommendation wouldn’t be able to speak about the quality of work of the person they’re recommending, which makes the recommendation worthless:”You should hire my grandson, he’s a very nice, polite young man!” is great if one of your friends need their lawn mowed, not so much for an actual job job.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        “he’s a very nice, polite young man!”

        Don’t get me wrong, being nice and polite is definitely important in the workplace, but useless on its own. I want to work with people who are nice, polite, and capable of doing their jobs, which means a foundation of certain skills in place and the ability to build on that foundation. For entry-level jobs, just the ability to commit to a schedule, get to work on time, and stay focused is huge.

        Reply
      2. nonymous

        I know many companies where it absolutely helps to have an internal referral. One place I worked guaranteed a phone interview (+bonus if the candidate was hired). Colleagues of mine have told me their employers promised that internal referrals are flagged for review by HR, instead of relying on the automated process to filter them for follow up. In both cases the current employee was expected to act as a reference up-front, with the understanding that internal references carry more weight than external ones.

        Reply
    2. Gazebo Slayer

      That sounds so inefficient. And why wouldn’t this person say what “friend” was looking for technical sales people – why the pointless hush-hush? (Makes me wonder if he has a really bad reputation.)

      Hiring by recommendation also tends to perpetuate inequality and reduce diversity among hires.

      Reply
    3. Grapey

      I don’t understand why him posting publically is hindering the retaining rate of new employees. Maybe the job just sucks?

      I have contact with my former bio professors and I always ask them if any competent and recommended graduates would be interested in an interview at my company. There’s a specific course that is taught that aligns perfectly with what our organization does, so I always know where to look when we need to hire someone. We don’t do contract work and the entry level workers usually advance up to other positions within a few years, so we always have openings.

      That is how I got my current job. I’ve been here 10 years and my company trusts my hiring judgement. I’m curious why it shouldn’t be done this way?

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Thneed

        I think you missed a word – he *doesn’t* post job openings publically. (Which really restricts his pool of potential employees. And it sounds like he’s essentially using other people to do his recruiting work for him, too.)

        Reply
  14. CoffeeLover

    #5 I’m kind of surprised that people are so against grandma putting in a good word. I’m in my mid-20s and only a few years ago was working the kind of jobs your son is looking for. I had about 8 of these jobs from the age of 14 to about 22. Everything from fast food to high-end luxury retail. In my experience in these environments, a good word, even from someone you don’t know, at least got you a second look if not the job. So many people are total disaster hires (ie no showing, stealing, etc.) that it’s nice to have any kind of connection to the hire just to say “he probably won’t steal or no show”. Besides a lot of times these aren’t even full blown references so much as they are “I know someone looking for a job” comments. This could be because my area was somewhat desperate for unskilled labour, so maybe standards are much higher in your area, but I think grandma could really land him a job. If grandma has a lot of connections in town, I don’t think it hurts your sons chances for her to do some *reasonable* networking on his behalf.

    Reply
    1. Zombii

      But according to the letter writer, grandma wants to network at places that already told her grandson there are no openings. That doesn’t sound like they’re desperate for unskilled labor.

      I know LW didn’t ask this, but maybe a staffing service could help find him something? They might know of openings beyond what he’s considered and if he’s willing to work anything reasonable within a set location, it could be worth a shot.

      Reply
      1. CoffeeLover

        Again could be market differences here, but the turnover is usually so high that while they may not be hiring this week, a month from now they could be filling multiple positions. I guess I just don’t really see the harm. They’re unlikely to even put two and two together to realize the person who came in a week ago is the same as the one being referred now. Even if they do, these positions usually allow for much more pushiness than the average office job. Ie following up after applying is almost always a good idea at these places but never in an office.

        Reply
      2. Allison

        Some people (or maybe many people) seem to think that “there are no openings” and “we aren’t hiring” are lies employers tell people to see who will push hard enough to get the job. Or they think that employers are always willing to create a position for the “right person,” and getting hired is all about convincing an employer to find a place for you in their company. Like they totally have the salary for an extra person just lying around in the budget somewhere.

        Reply
        1. Eric

          Yep. Got this from my dad when I graduated. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t pounding the pavement in a suit with a folder full of resume copies, and not taking no for an answer … for programmer roles. And he was a programmer before he retired. I love him, but it was very strange.

          Reply
          1. Artemesia

            My son is an advanced programmer and always has multiple job offers within two weeks of starting a job search; it always amazes me as I was in a field that didn’t have many jobs even 50 years ago. In my first job there were like hundreds of qualified applicants and about 3 positions in the city I was searching in. The first time he was looking I was horrified that he hadn’t started his job search because he was working on his masters thesis because for me it had always taken months to get a job. He had three offers within two weeks of going on the market — all of them paying more than I was making then. I have no career advice for him.

            Reply
            1. Eric

              It’s a weird field. I graduated with a degree in a different field so it took me a little while to find something. Worked out for me, though.

              Complicating it more is how many of those jobs are remote (I’d say 5% are completely remote, and around 50% offer at least partial remote as an option). So you can’t really pound the pavement for them.

              For a retail or cashier job though, it makes sense. Like

              Reply
            2. Eric

              Cut off mid thought there. Last line should be “like what the letter writer’s son is looking for.”

              Worst case is they’ll tell him to go online to apply, if it’s something like CVS.

              Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Facebook all have offices in my city but if I walked in and gave them my resume, they’d tell me to go away.

              Reply
      3. Erin

        If he just started applying it can take sometimes take a month to 6 weeks from submitting an application to first day of work. he shouldn’t stop applying for jobs, but he shouldn’t get discouraged either. Also he does have 2 big marks against him, no independent transportation, depending on his location and no prior work history. Even for starter jobs someone with experience and transportation will get an interview before someone who doesn’t.
        Maybe grandma should ask if one of her friends has yard work that needs to be taken care of that way the 3rd party can be a reference.

        Reply
    2. Grits McGee

      The position and reputation of the referrer plays a huge role in this too though. Grandma’s recommendation might open some closed doors if she’s got a positive relationship either with the business or the community at large; but if she’s a virtual stranger recommending another stranger, I don’t know how that would be a leg up over just putting in an application cold.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        If Grandma runs a business and has a network of contacts she may be very helpful. If she is approaching friends of friends or husbands of women in her bridge club, she will be doing more harm than good.

        Reply
    3. Morning Glory

      I agree with this, as a fellow mid-twenties person. I got my first job as a teen in a grocery store because of my father, and my second job as a waitress because of a family friend. At that age and skill-level (particularly if this is a small town) ‘he comes from a good family’ still can carry a lot of weight.

      OP, you wrote that your grandmother got you your job this way, and have perhaps concluded that times have changed enough to the point that this is no longer how things are done. But, if she’s determined to help anyway, it may actually lead to something. As CoffeeLover says below, a lot of these places have high turnover, so putting in ‘a word’ to a place without an opening today could work out for your son tomorrow.

      Also, if a big obstacle for your son is lack of experience, perhaps he could look at part-time volunteer-work now, and then either stop when he finds a job, or continue with both.

      Reply
    1. Anon for this

      Actually, not totally. There are also matching employer amounts paid for social security for example that are not necessarily shown on your check.

      Reply
      1. Judy (since 2010)

        I’ve had “standard” paystubs at several places, and some companies do have what I’d call “enhanced” paystubs.

        They include not only your payment for the health insurance premium, but the company’s contribution. They include not only your SS and medicare payments but the company’s contribution. They include not only your deductions for the 401k but the company’s contribution.

        I don’t think I’ve seen any UI and workers comp payments on them, but I certainly have see line items for company contributions to things that the employee also contributes.

        Reply
      2. Another Anon

        May not be shown but it is easy to figure out how much the employer contributes for Social Security and some other things.
        My previous employer gave us a break down of what they paid towards things like our health insurance and Life Insurance on each paycheck but did not include things like what they paid towards things like workers comp and Unemployment. I have always assumed that this was due to the fact that health and life insurance were benefits provided by the company and Workers comp and unemployment are things they are required to contribute to by government.

        Reply
      3. MassMatt

        And this is irrelevant in comparing compensation unless comparing work as an employee vs: a contractor. No employer is paying more in social security than any other.

        Reply
  15. MommyMD

    I feel like complaining about the smoke could cost you the job. I think that risk is there and the benefit of complaining will be nil. I don’t think they are going to change the situation for one prospective employee.

    Reply
    1. Juliecatharine

      I completely agree. I would wait until I worked there awhile to bring it up. It’s not nice or right but if OP has been unemployed for a year I would be really hesitant to suggest any course of action that might spike their chances.

      Reply
    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      I think you may be misreading the intent here. The point isn’t to complain with the goal of them fixing it — the point is to ask “how often is this a thing?” It’s a huge difference between “oh jeez yeah there was an Incident but it’s unusual” and “nah, that’s how it is every day.”

      Reply
      1. Grits McGee

        Yeah, if OP2 had said that she’d take the job if it was offered, smoke smell or not, then maybe it wouldn’t be worth it to bring it up. But if this is a deal breaker, then that’s definitely something worth asking.

        Reply
      2. BadPlanning

        Right, is it a “Oh yeah, that’s a thing. You get used to it.” Or “Sorry about that, the ventilation got messed up and it’s getting fixed in September.”

        Reply
    3. CityMouse

      I have asthma and this would be a total deal breaker for me. If it is important to LW, I see no problem in speaking up, she needs to know if this is a fluke or a constant thing.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        I think she’d get more reliable information by dropping by the office at a few more random times, rather than by asking someone probably long immured to the odor.

        Reply
    4. INTP

      OP says they don’t want the job if the smoke won’t go away, though. So if complaining costs them the job, that’s a goal accomplished (avoiding a job requiring walking through smoke). I don’t think it would cost them the job if it’s just an occasional thing.

      Reply
  16. The Outsider

    OP #5 I just want to chime in here that I too, at 17 moved to a new area and had trouble getting a job. Unbeknownst to me, my uncle put out feelers, asking people he knew about openings and putting in a “good word”. Two employers called me back after initially refusing my previous job applications. I took one job – worked it a year and then changed to the other employer. Both gave me invaluable work experience and were the basis of my whole work history. To this day, I’m very thankful to my uncle for “budding” in.

    Reply
  17. PieInTheBlueSky

    #4 — These sheets may be common at some companies, but this is apparently the first time OP4 has seen one. OP has presumably been with the company for a number of years, so this raises the question why did they start now? It seems this is a new thing for the company, since the HR person asked for feedback. I think I would feel a bit suspicious like OP is. I wouldn’t see any purpose in complaining about it, though. I would be miffed for a day and then forget about it.

    Reply
    1. Michelle

      We received a breakdown sheet like that years ago when no one had received a raise in 5 years and everyone asked for a raise at our annual reviews. Instead of just giving it to us, we were called into the Director of Operations office and she personally went over it with us, told us how lucky we were and to make sure kept track of the sheet for “future review purposes”.

      That was also the year during open enrollment the benefit company made an info-graphic of how much our employer spent on us. One man said he could get better benefits on his wife’s insurance and if they would just give him that on his paycheck he would switch to his wife’s insurance. He’s no longer with us.

      Reply
      1. Shadow

        Health Insurance is a no win for employers because the cost increases every year The good companies absorb some/most of the increase and employees don’t always realize that when they’re all they’re thinking is “damn my premiums are increasing again, this sucks.”

        Reply
        1. Toph

          Everywhere I’ve worked the employee-employer split was specified in the handbook (ie, they were very open that the company paid, in one case, 75% and the emplyees 25%). So yes, premiums did go up every year, but the employer didn’t make any attempt to absorb the difference. It always went up and we knew the proportions.

          Reply
  18. Looby

    #2, if this is the only entrance/exit to the office, the smokers are probably finishing their smokes and coming straight inside. There’s not really any way to get rid of the lingering smoke smell unless they start a policy that you have to remain outside for X minutes after you’ve finished which I doubt is going to happen. And even then, the cigarette smoke smell is hell to get out of paint/walls/carpet so it’ll stick around anyway.

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      My guess is that they’re actually smoking in the doorway. I always forget that the 20 ft rule doesn’t apply everywhere. It’s so nice to not have to run through a smoke gauntlet to get to work.

      Reply
    2. SSS

      Another thing to look for is where are the ashtrays near the doorways. I’ve seen them right next to the doors, so the fumes from the smoldering half-finished cigarette will flow right into the doorway and up the stairwell.

      Reply
  19. Anonycat

    A few years ago, my company didn’t give out raises but instead gave a letter to each person saying that they couldn’t give out raises but here’s a list of all the benefits we give. It went down like a lead balloon.

    Reply
  20. Anonycat

    #2, if it came to a crunch, would wrapping a gauze scarf round your face make the stairwell bearable? I’m thinking it depends how much you need the job, but there might be ways to make you able to get through the smoke. The smokiness could depend on the time of day too.

    Reply
    1. Gadfly

      Depending on the ventilation system, that might be a bad sign for the office spaces as well. I once worked somewhere that frequently smelled of skunk (the whole building) because there was a skunk that liked to hang out near an intake. OP#2 needs to also watch in the interview if that also affects the offices.

      Reply
  21. Temperance

    LW5: can your son start volunteering in the neighborhood while he looks? That could get him some connections and might get your mom to back off. It could also help with scholarships when he’s ready.

    Reply
  22. Laura

    For OP #2,
    As someone who is sensitive to smoke (due to asthma), smoke in the stairwell would be a deal-breaker for me. There’s no way I would ever want to work somewhere that didn’t enforce “No Smoking” rules in their building.

    Reply
  23. FDCA In Canada

    So, I work in the employment field, and specifically with young people looking for their first jobs.

    Depending on your geographical area, right now is a tough time–seasonal work has all been hired and working for a while, and places looking for summer help are usually all full and working. But in about a month or so, people will start peeling off to go back to school and they’ll be looking again for fall help. And a lot of these places might not have openings right now, but turnover in some types of these positions can be insane, and two weeks from now might be a different story.

    In all honesty, if grandma actually knows people in these different places (and actually knows, not “I go there frequently and they know me” type thing), it can be a fairly good thing for these type of very entry-level retail/food service/customer service positions. I’ve spoken with many, many owners and managers of these places who are definitely more willing to take a chance on the kid of a friend or friendly acquaintance with no experience compared to Jane off the street with no experience. But this is contingent on Grandma actually knowing the manager or owner–not a friend-of-a-friend long chain of references, which is a pretty key distinction. So I would say yes, if Grandma knows the owner of Tim Horton’s, certainly have her put in a good word for Billy even if they’re not hiring right this second. But no, if Grandma goes to church with the best friend of the woman who owns the grocery store–that’s not a close enough relationship for it to count.

    And all other standard advice applies: make sure the resume is including casual work (babysitting, lawn mowing, snow shoveling), volunteer experience with school clubs or extracurriculars, and don’t forget a cover letter. For these type of positions it doesn’t have to be a full-on letter, but even just including a brief paragraph along the lines of “I’m interested in working at Cafe X because I love seeing different people every day and I’m great at making small talk while I make coffee. I volunteered at a barbecue for my Cadets league and handled the cash box, and the leaders praised me for not making a single mistake on a very busy day” can go a long way. Be clean, wear presentable clothing, look the person in the eye, and smile.

    Reply
  24. Delta Delta

    #3 – I’m going to deviate from AAM’s advice and suggest OP go to Ophelia first. It doesn’t need to be framed in terms of “your mom told me XYZ.” It could be framed more in terms of, “I realize I’ve been quite busy lately and wanted to make sure you and I check in about how things are going.” Because without knowing exactly how the conversation went between Mom and Ophelia, this could end up getting blown out of proportion really quickly, and if there are company rules about family, perhaps one or both of them could end up in trouble. It could be the conversation was as LW understood it and wrote it here. It could also very well be that Ophelia and her Mom were having coffee one day and Ophelia said something like, “geez, I’m afraid things aren’t going well. I wanted to talk to LW today but she was busy and upset about the Penske file so I didn’t want to bother her.” This gets translated to “Ophelia is afraid of LW” which may not at all be what the situation is. (I mean, maybe it is, but I’m just saying I can see how it might have gotten mixed up) Perhaps after that conversation with Ophelia, loop in the manager to give her a head’s up about the mom’s comment, once the situation is a little more clear.

    Reply
  25. MCMonkeyBean

    My company has a “Your Total Rewards!” section on the HR page that gives a detailed breakdown of what they pay to employee me: salary, bonus, retirement contributions and health benefits. I do agree with other comments that it probably shouldn’t include workman’s comp but otherwise it is I think a pretty common way to try to make employees feel better about their salary.

    It is honestly a fairly effective tactic on me because it reminds me that my company offers what I’m pretty sure is an unusually generous 401k plan (though I’m not really sure what the norm is because this is my first real full-time job).

    Reply
  26. Katie Fay

    4. I’ve received these types of breakdowns for years, at three different employers – – this isn’t uncommon and there is no need for insult.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      But the OP’s never received one from this employer before, so obviously something was the catalyst for them deciding to start handing them out. Even if it’s not unusual to receive a statement like this in a vacuum, in this particular case the timing is at least somewhat suspect given the rest of the situation.

      Reply
    2. Shadow

      When they start handing them out as a replacement for a raise it is definitely insulting, escpecially when they count legally required costs. “Look how generous we are by complying with fed/state law”

      Reply
  27. AMPG

    OP #1 – I think you should get your budget straight first before you advertise. I understand why you want the flexibility to see what the talent pool is like before you make a final decision about how to fill those positions, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you know how much actually leeway you have on salaries first.

    Also, if you only advertise one position, be up front with candidates that the parameters of the position may change depending on how the hiring process goes. There have been plenty of stories here in the past from candidates who got hit with a bait-and-switch at the offer phase, and I suspect at least some of those were situations similar to yours. But there’s no reason to blindside a candidate in the process.

    Reply
    1. Letter-Writer #1

      Absolutely. In the example of the teapot designers, they ended up using the budget slated for the new hire to promote someone else on that team. I hope to get a decent budget from my superiors, but I am worried they will only want to hire one person to fit both positions, so I was trying to preemptively plan for that – since we still need all of the work done.

      And yes, I plan to be up front about my desire to hire someone who’s a jack of all trades… but I know this might be easier said than done. It’s probably like searching for a magical unicorn. I certainly don’t want to misrepresent the position.

      Reply
  28. MassMatt

    #4, lots of places give out total benefit statements but it seems screwy that A) they only did so after grumbling about no raises and B) they included irrelevant stuff like worker’s comp.

    Yes it’s a good idea to compare your total benefits when considering a new job but it’s not like competing employers aren’t also paying social security, worker’s comp, and health insurance.

    If a company is paying below market rate, and not giving raises (so they are likely falling further and further behind) it’s unlikely they are making up the difference elsewhere with fabulous health care and awesome vacation time. They are probably below average in all areas, because they have decided to keeps costs as low. They should pay the consequence of losing their better employees and being stuck with below average performers with fewer prospects. They don’t get to have Neiman Marcus employees while paying Wal Mart comp.

    Reply
    1. DCGirl

      A lot of the software packages that generate total compensation statements include a category for “mandated benefits” which include workers comp, unemployment system taxes, and Social Security. People fought for years to get these things as benefits. Think about what life was like for workers before they existed. We don’t know how these benefits were categorized on the statement that the OP received, but these benefits are not irrelevant.

      Reply
        1. LBK

          Yeah, if you’re trying to show “total cost,” that’s not really relevant because it’s an obligatory cost and it’s moot across employers.

          Reply
      1. Shadow

        This is like factoring in how much your office cost to build or the cost of the copier broken down per employee- it’s kind of insulting to count those as benefits

        Reply
        1. DCGirl

          If they included in a category called “mandated benefits” then they are not counted with the other benefits categories such as insurance, retirement, PTO…. Again, as I stated, we don’t know how they were categorized on the statement that the letter writer received.

          Reply
          1. Shadow

            The problem is calling mandates benefits serves no purpose and actually makes you look bad. If you count wc insurance or the employers portion of ss taxes as a benefit im looking at you the same way I look at a car salesman who uses airbags and seat belts as a selling point.

            Reply
  29. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)

    OP2, can you bring it up before the interview? “The last two times I visited the building, I entered through the X Street entrance and found a high level of smoke, to the point that it irritated my throat (and I’m not generally over-sensitive to smoke). Are there alternative entrances I could use when I arrive for my interview on Tuesday? Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you then!”

    Reply
  30. Noah

    OP #3 should not say, “I’ve never been particularly sensitive to smoke” to her potential employer. She may not think she’s sensitive to smoke, but if she’s getting a sore throat from walking through a stairwell where somebody has smoked, but there is no active smoker, then she IS sensitive to smoke and saying otherwise will annoy a lot of people.

    Reply
  31. Former Retail Manager

    OP#3…have to disagree with Alison on this one. If you really want to maintain the good working relationship you have with the mother, going to your boss about her request likely isn’t going to accomplish that. Quite frankly, if it were me (although I’d never do what this mom did) it would piss me off royally. The person to speak to is either the mom or the struggling employee or both. Looping the manager in at this point has the ability to make this into a bigger deal than it needs to be, especially when you don’t really know what the co-worker wants/needs help with.

    If it were me, I’d tell the mom that you are concerned about the familial policies in place and wouldn’t be comfortable stepping in at her request without speaking to your manager first. This will likely result in her retracting her request. I’d follow that up with “if child co-worker is having some issues, I’m available to chat briefly about what they may need assistance with or provide some guidance. Please ask them to feel free to reach out to me when it’s convenient for them.”

    Reply
    1. Czhorat

      Yes. Taking it to the boss is an escalation. One shouldn’t escalate unless the issue can’t be solved at your level.

      You at least need to try.

      Reply
  32. Matt

    #2 – As a former 2 pack a day smoker, I would be willing to bet that if the odor is extremely strong, employees are ducking into the stairwell to have a quick smoke so they don’t have to go outdoors. (I have done this in jobs where it wasn’t officially allowed, but it was ignored).

    If you take the job, and then make a big deal of it… well, I can assure you that if the smokers find out, they will hate you. If you ask before, and the interviewer(s) happen to be one of those smokers… you’re not going to get the job.

    Even though I don’t smoke anymore, I bristle strongly at a brand-new employee making these kinds of waves that could potentally impact morale.

    Reply
    1. Gadfly

      I hate how people doing something problematic (and in a lot of states smoking in the stairwells is illegal) always want to blame the person who is expecting something like basic common standards rather than accepting that things like smoking where it is forbidden or harassing people based on race/sex/religion/disabilities/etc is not okay even if they used to be able to do it because some failure of a manager didn’t crack down before. It is always the fault of sombody else rather than their own damn responsibility to deal with the law and company regulations.

      Reply
  33. Must Love Cats

    LW 2 here. Thanks for all the great advice. I interviewed for the job but it turned out that it was not as advertised and a bad fit in several ways. The good news is that I got another job offer (different location) the very next day that I’m better suited for. After being out of work for a year this month, I’m pretty excited! I almost gave up several times. My interviewer said that she was very impressed with my resume. All credit should go to Alison and AAM. I revamped it several times based on your suggestions. Thank you.

    Reply
  34. Nox

    5) I just had someone’s grandma blow up my phone MULTIPLE times this week because we interviewed her grandson a few weeks ago and while he recently passed his GED, he did not demonstrate that he had the basic listening/attention to detail skills we were looking for (call center call auditing). My boss almost wanted us to hire him out of guilt because of the frequency of the calls but myself and the other hiring manager put our foot down…

    so yeah, don’t let that happen to your kid either.

    Reply
  35. Julia

    Re #2, I’m allergic to cigarettes. Normally I would not consider working in such a building.
    But if I’d been out of a job for a year, I might take the job and wear a surgical mask to go through the stairwell. You can buy them at drugstores in boxes of 50. I always carry one in case there’s smoke I can’t avoid.
    I would do like AAM says and ask about it. By their response you can get an idea of whether the employer cares about this and whether it will be addressed.
    So they wouldn’t wonder why I’m wearing a mask, I would tell them I intend to wear it until the smoke problem clears up.
    If it’s not addressed, I would probably take the job and keep looking for a job where they actually care about the health and well-being of their employees.

    Reply

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