coworker asks me the same questions over and over, hiding burlesque work at a new job, and more

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

1. My coworker asks me the same questions over and over

I have a coworker who asks the same questions over and over despite many email communications and verbal conversations already addressing the question. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m frustrated and my tone may come off as aggressive at this point. I’ve even tried sending a confirmation email that states, “Per our conversation…” and her response confirms an understanding until she asks the same question again a couple of days later.

Her questions at times impact my workload. For example, she asks the same question about a process we have changed three times already. Now she wants it changed again. We have had many conversations as to why the change won’t work which is why we reverted back to the original process. If we change the process once again, I have to go in the system and make the change for the fourth time. Any advice on how to handle this is appreciated!

A good trick in this kind of situation is to explain the problem to the other person and then ask for their advice on it. It comes off as less complainy while still making it clear that this is a real problem and needs to be dealt with. So you could say something like this: “Jane, I’m finding that you come to me with the same question multiple times, when we’ve already talked about it previously, often just a couple of days earlier. With things like your question about the X process, it can really impact my workload. Is there something I should be doing differently that would help cut down on that?”

Who knows — maybe there actually is something that would help — for example, maybe she feels like you give her too much information and so it’s hard to remember the core pieces she needs, or maybe you’ve been less clear than you think you have been. So it’s worth asking and seeing what she says.

But if it continues after that, then it’s fair game to be much more blunt: “Jane, I’m ending up spending a lot of time answering the same question for you over and over. It’s impacting my workload, so can you come up with a better system for tracking these replies?”

From there, if it continues, it’s reasonable to reply to question repeats with, “We talked about this yesterday. It should be in your notes!”

2. Do I need to hide my burlesque work at a new job?

I’m currently a manager at a 10-person company that is pretty low-key and flexible. I’m starting to look for a new job though, and at the suggestion of a former coworker I’ve started to look at some higher end, more corporate jobs where I could make about $10k more.

The kicker is, I also do burlesque. I’ve been doing it about three years and I’m a decently well-known performer in a large city. I actually produce a show with my boyfriend as well, and it fills a hole in me that I’ve had since I quit acting post college, so it’s not something I’m going to be giving it up any time soon. My former coworker told me I should not mention it going forward, even after I was potentially hired, but I’m worried about that. It’s a huge part of my life and at my current job I am “out” and able to attend to some burlesque tasks during the day.

I told my current job a few weeks in and never invited coworkers out. Is this something I should completely avoid mentioning in the future, or just play it by ear? I would hate to have to hide something like this from my job, and it’s not like I’m going to be working with children, or in a particularly “prude” city or industry. Thoughts?

I really want to be able to tell you that you don’t need to worry about it … but the truth is that that’s not going to be the case in every industry or every office. There are still offices where this would be A Thing that would be talked about in a negative way and where it could impact you professionally. It’s ridiculous that’s the case, but it is.

So unfortunately, my advice on this one is that you’d need to feel out any new office on this, and proceed with caution until you’re pretty confident about whether it’s a group of people who can handle it or not. But I wouldn’t default to assuming it’ll be a non-issue. I’m sorry!

3. We have to use our personal credit cards for business expenses

I work for a national nonprofit foundation. My office is in a major city, and we have three offices in the area with 20 employees. Our office does not have a corporate credit card. Apparently, none of the offices do. Whenever we have to book travel or hotels or pick up items for fundraisers, we have to put it on our own credit cards, then submit expense reports. I can understand that it would be silly for each employee to have a corporate card, but I can’t understand why each director (one in each office) doesn’t have one. One our our employees was asked to purchase tickets to a sporting event for the chapter — she had to put over $3,000 on her own credit card. A new employee was asked to purchase an electronic item for the office and was worried that he had to put $250 on his credit card.

Is this normal? We can submit our expense sheets weekly, and there is direct deposit for the reimbursement, but I think it’s odd that a regular staff employee should be expected to max out their credit card. What do you think?

It’s a really bad way of doing things, but it’s not unheard of. It’s actually more common than you’d think, given what a crappy policy it is.

It’s the kind of thing that’s ripe for pushing back against, ideally with a group of your coworkers. Point out that not everyone even has credit cards, that people who do don’t always have room on their cards, and that charging big expenses like this can impact people’s credit scores (since one factor in a credit score is what percentage of your available credit is used at any given time). Your idea about each director having a corporate card makes a lot of sense, and you all should advocate for that. You may or may not get the policy changed, but it’s the type of thing that employers often do until people make a stink about it. (And because your organization is small, it’ll be easier to get your voices heard, and it make it easier to change policies like this without going through hundreds of layers of bureaucracy too.)

4. My old boss was fired — can I still use her as a reference?

I am a young professional with only a few years of experience in my field. As such, I have few former supervisors in this field who can serve as references. A really great job in my company just opened up (basically my boss’s old job). Since I know the work well, I think I’m a great candidate.

I would ask my old boss to be my reference, but they were fired for an incident involving my work during which they misrepresented the company. I don’t know to what extent they believe I was involved (I wasn’t at all and didn’t even know what they had done or that they were fired until afterwards). Would it be a bad idea to ask this person to be a reference? I have had so few professional supervisors that it seems like I must ask them, even if they were fired from the same company. On the other hand, would it be better just to use a reference from a colleague who is not really aware of my experience in this particular job, but one who does not have a bad relationship with the company?

If you were applying for a job at a different company, I’d say to use your old boss as a reference. since most reference-checkers vastly prefer talking to managers rather than peers (for the reasons here). But this is the job she got fired from? Unfortunately, I wouldn’t — it sounds like she’s dashed her credibility with them. Plus, they know her and know she managed your work, so if they want to talk to her, they’ll reach out to her regardless of whether she’s on your reference list.

Given that, I’d use anyone else there who can speak to your work, plus as many past managers as you can list from previous employers. Non-manager references aren’t ideal, but this is your current employer so external references are a lot less important; they already know your work.

5. Explaining why I’m moving back to my old city after 10 months away

Ten months ago, I moved coasts to be with my partner, and now the two of us are planning to return to my old city. The reasons are many, but the fact that my new job is extremely stressful and the culture is toxic is high on the list (I’ve read your entire archives trying to figure out how to make it easier for myself—and learned so much, including that this is one of those jobs that you just have to leave). Other reasons to move: his job also has become untenable, we’d rather be closer to family, neither of us love it in this city, if we’re both applying for jobs at the same time, we may as well be looking somewhere we want to be. I moved here in good faith, but it just makes sense for us longer term to be in my old city.

But I’m worried about how to frame this u-turn without looking indecisive or flaky to employers. I think part of the reason I’m having such a hard time is that I’ve always been advised not to mention making decisions based on a partner (we aren’t married). For instance, when I moved here, I always told interviewers I was moving for a change, and didn’t mention my partner at all (which, to be honest, felt weird, but also, seemed right). (Or is that wrong?) Do you have any advice?

It’s not a cardinal sin to ever mention a partner in an interview — there are times when it’s useful context to give, especially around your reason for a move (“my partner is starting law school here,” “my partner’s family is here,” etc.). It’s true that it can sound a little less than solid if you say “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” but “partner” implies enough of a commitment that it’s as reasonable to mention as it would be with a spouse.

With this situation, though, I don’t think it’s necessary. You could just say, “I realized I wanted to be closer to family so I’m moving back for good.” Or “Seattle’s a great city, but moving here showed me that I’m a Marylander through and through.” You’ve got lots of understandable reasons here; you can avoid getting into the bad job altogether, and there’s no need to mention your partner at all!

{ 420 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. FTW

    Re: #4

    I would ask your old boss of they would be willing to give you a recommendation. It’s unclear from the letter, but a couple considerations are:
    – does your old boss think you were involved in getting them fired?
    – is your old boss willing to pick up the phone and talk to the company that just fired them?
    – does your old boss think they have the credibility with their old company to provide a useful reference?

    Reply
    1. Tau

      My main worry with this approach would be that boss may not be able to accurately judge point 3, and it’s likely to reflect badly on you if they get it wrong.

      Reply
  2. Observer

    #3 – A point that you might want to raise with your organization is that when organization has the credit card and controls its use they have much more ability to manage and monitor the use of the CC. They can have better documentation and better audit trail than with reimbursements.

    Also, it avoids problems like dealing with Sales tax. If you are in an area with Sales Tax, you have a problem. Either your staff is not being reimbursed for sales tax, which stinks, or you are going to get dinged for paying sales tax by many auditors.

    Also, they should not be purchasing so much stuff on CC / Reimbursement. I can’t remember the last time my organization did a reimbursement payment for a non- emergency purchase.

    Reply
    1. NotAnotherManager!

      I get the sales tax and auditing issues (which is specific to non-profits), but are reimbursement payments really that big a deal? I work for a mid-sized, for-profit, local organization, and expenses are submitted electronically (for the audit trail) and paid once per week via direct deposit. I had to register one of my folks with a professional organization a few weeks ago, and I got my $350 back in under a week, plus I got to keep the credit card rewards. We have people who ask to be contacted for large filing fees because they get reimbursed quickly, and they’re racking up miles/cashback/whatever their reward is. I’ve never had anyone ask to use the corporate card, though we do have one available.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        It’s a big deal if you have debts and don’t have space on your cards. It’s a big deal if your finances are tightly balanced and one delayed reimbursement would cause real problems (when I say something like that I often hear about how it shouldn’t be the case, but it is, and I have yet to discover time travel). It’s a big deal if you feel uncomfortable fronting money to your employer. It’s a big deal if you don’t get credit card rewards and just feel stressed about getting into more debt. And so on.

        Reply
        1. MillersSpring

          It is a big deal, for all of these reasons. Most for-profit corporations give their regular travelers an AMEX and a lot of other folks get an AMEX purchasing card. AMEX provides the web portal for submitting receipts, coding charges and approving expenses.

          Because it’s so easy, I’d be surprised to walk into any company that didn’t do this. And at small companies, I’ve seen them use a CC that the president has for the business. Even the smallest upstart nonprofit should be able to get a CC for the organization.

          Seriously, making employees use their own CC is ridiculous.

          Reply
          1. Accounting is fun

            I’ve had significant issues when I have given employees access to a corporate card. In auditing the bill, I’ve found personal dinners when the employee hasn’t been traveling, socks, deodorant, and a washing machine and dryer set. Some of the expenses came from highly compensated employees. It was annoying and a significant fraud issue.

            What I did was if an employee needed to travel and didn’t want to use their own card, I would book their airfare and hotel, putting it on my card so I would get the cash back, and then the employee didn’t have to deal with anything other than meals.

            Reply
            1. WellRed

              Sorry, if I am traveling for work, give me cash or a corporate card to pay for my meals. Don’t make front you the money.

              Reply
              1. CarolynM

                Depends on the hotel – most that I have worked with have an authorization form that will let you pay for the hotel room and specify which additional charges, if any, can be charged to that card.

                Reply
                1. kittymommy

                  Yep, I just filled out 7 of these yesterday. And you can attach your moon exempt status to them. Only once have I ever had a problem and that’s a nightmare of a hotel inDC.

            2. MCL

              I have a corporate card, though we have the option to use a personal card. There are clear rules about what will and won’t be reimbursed… If I bought stuff that wasn’t directly related to my trip on my corporate card, I would be billed personally for those expenses. I wouldn’t be able to claim that stuff in my reimbursement forms.

              Reply
            3. the gold digger

              In auditing the bill, I’ve found personal dinners when the employee hasn’t been traveling, socks, deodorant, and a washing machine and dryer set.

              Although those should not be on a work CC, it’s not like you guys are paying the CC bill directly, right? I have a company CC, but it’s in my name. I have to pay the bill. I get the money to pay the bill by submitting an expense report. I have never worked in an environment where everything I charge to a company CC gets paid directly by the company with no work on my part.

              I don’t put personal expenses on my company CC mostly because it’s against the rules but also, why would I forgo the points on my own card?

              Reply
              1. Mpls

                My corporate card (for travel expenses) is paid directly by the company. I submit an expense report in order to generate a payment from the company, but I am never see any of the money that pays the CC bill.

                Reply
                1. OhSoMe

                  Mine is even easier. Accounting sends me a copy of the bill, I attach invoices for purchase I made, and send it back for payment.

                2. Recruit-o-rama

                  Me too. I pay every travel expense with my travel card, which the company pays. If I charged something personal on my business card, they would take it out of my paycheck AND I would get in trouble, it’s not allowed.

              2. De Minimis

                My org pays the corporate cards directly. If there’s a personal charge on it the employee pays the org back later on.

                At least a few times a year someone will accidentally pay for groceries on their company card. Of course, with the cost of living here I wonder if it’s an accident.

                Reply
                1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian

                  This is what our company does.

                  The employee in charge of the card must reconcile the charges on their card with receipts (we make a spreadsheet and then attach the receipts).
                  Any personal things that get charged must be immediately paid back to the company. (We’ve had a couple brainfarts over the years due to similar-looking cards/numbers, but they’re caught during reconciling.)

              3. That Would Be a Good Band Name

                I’m really surprised to learn that there are corporate cards that are paid for by the employee, so that’s definitely not the norm everywhere. We have 50 or so employees with a corporate card and the payment comes directly out of the company checking account. It also worked that way at my last 3 companies.

                Reply
                1. Girasol

                  I’ve been billed by AmEx (corporate card) and was expected to pay for it myself. The company paid some bills directly, like the flight and sometimes a prepaid hotel, and I paid the rest and was reimbursed. This has some real downsides. For one, on one instance when there was confusion over a hotel bill and the company didn’t pay, no one contacted me until I got a letter months later threatening collections and damage to my own credit rating. Although I settled it immediately I learned that delay on the part of the company to pay would indeed damage my personal credit rating. I also had problems with AmEx freezing my card if it wasn’t used regularly, and my corporate travel sometimes wasn’t regular enough. They would never tell me, so I would learn that my card was dead at a hotel desk at midnight. So I ended up using my personal card a lot, and by preference.

                2. MoreNowAgain

                  Perhaps not the norm – but also not unusual. Out of the three companies I’ve worked for where I’ve had my own company CC, two required me to pay the bill myself. I could choose to pay it off right away out of pocket (which I always do as long as its a manageable amount), or wait for the expense reimbursement.

              4. Amber T

                Out of curiosity, how is this different than using your own card? If you’re the one paying the bill and being reimbursed by the company, aren’t you taking on the same risks as using your own personal card, without the benefits (points, cash back, etc.)?

                Reply
                1. nonymous

                  At my org, the card is set up such that our travel admin can charge and pay towards the bill (although it is my responsibility to make sure everything stays current). Also, if I were a person who carries a balance, charges to the corporate CC would not affect/be affected by my personal debt.

                2. Bostonian

                  Technically, the employee is responsible for paying the card (because it’s in employee’s name), but as long as you file your expense report to the company within a month (or whatever the billing cycle is) AND you haven’t made any unauthorized purchases, the company pays the credit card directly in full. I have had a CC for almost 3 years and I have never had to pay the bill myself.

                3. Not a Morning Person

                  The employee typically doesn’t pay an annual fee for cards provided by their company, even while the employee may be personally responsible for the charges. The limit is often higher than on some personal cards due to the high cost of travel vs. the day to day use of a card for personal expenses. There may be other advantages, although mainly to the company and not the employee. For example, although I was responsible for the card, the company had access to the account for review. I got spoken to one time when I charged a belt to the corporate card; the store didn’t take my personal card (MC? maybe?) but did accept Amex. I was traveling on business. I needed the belt. I used my corporate Amex. My finance person called me up to discuss it. I wasn’t in any trouble, but it was an expense that wasn’t typical for business travel and so got flagged. I was amused rather than troubled.

              5. nonymous

                whatever I charge to the company card that is an itemized reimbursement (e.g. flights, hotels, cab fare), it gets paid directly to the card. The per diem stuff does not, so I usually put anything that should be paid out of that on my personal card.

                Reply
              6. Lindsay J

                My org pays the credit card directly.

                However, things like personal meals, washer and dryer, etc, would get you fired.

                If it was something that you could reasonably have had a question as to whether it was a work expense or not they’ll talk to you and let you pay it back. Or if you say accidentally pull out the wrong card to pay for groceries and put it on your business card by mistake, you notice it when you’re submitting your receipts in the web portal, notify them, and pay them back.

                But something like a washer and dryer and you don’t notify them that it’s a mistake. Fired. That’s just as bad a stealing $100o from a till or petty cash fund to buy a washer or dryer, or stealing and selling several work computers to get the money.

                Reply
            4. Aphrodite

              I’m astonished by this. I have one of the approximately 300 credit cards given to college employees for work usage, and before getting it I had to sign a two-page agreement that said I would not take cash advances or put personal expenses on it otherwise I could face immediate termination. (A guillotine may also have been involved so stern was the language.) Having a corporate card makes it so much easier to run to the store to pick up meeting supplies or ordering iPads or whatever is needed. And there is no way I would ever use my personal card even if I was immediately reimbursed. What’s mine is mine, and I consider what’s their’s to be their’s.

              Reply
              1. Blue Anne

                Yes, I’m pretty shocked too. I used to have a corporate card and signed a similar agreement. It basically said “You can use this for personal expenses in absolute emergencies, but we had better have to come get reimbursement from you at the hospital where you’re in traction and heavily sedated, or add your ransom bill to the amount you owe us.”

                Reply
            5. Natalie

              There are options for preventing the personal charges besides requiring people to use their own card. You can set up purchasing cards to require pre-approval, you can set alerts so you find out about any charges immediately and can intervene if they are inappropriate (like appliances), you can restrict access to the card to a smaller group of people. And in the event someone does buy a personal item, it’s either a mistake, in which case you shouldn’t have any problem getting paid back, or it was fraud, in which case you should be firing them anyway.

              Reply
            6. Candi

              Then it’s a problem with those employees, not the card.

              What you do is you have a strict policy that you do not pay for personal expenses. (Especially if you’re a non-profit. It looks bad.)

              If the card holder is reimbursed to pay off the card, they don’t get payment for personal expenses.

              If the card is paid directly by corporate, consult with a lawyer/get your legal team on the case to find out the legalities behind retrieving the money, from the gentleness of asking politely through a few steps to garnishing their paychecks. What exactly will work best depends on the type of business entity in question, the laws involved in the area, and your corporate culture.

              If you wrote in to Alison or posted on Open Thread, I’m sure people here could give you much more nuanced and expert advice.

              (Not aimed at you, but it’s a huge bug bear of mine when the object or process is blamed rather then the people who screw things up. Government, profit business, nonprofits, economic systems, social systems, allllll the things. So many things work perfectly in theory; humanity’s dark side effs them up.)

              Reply
        2. Falling Diphthong

          When I say something like that I often hear about how it shouldn’t be the case, but it is, and I have yet to discover time travel.

          Gah! You know who shouldn’t have to worry about getting $3000 from somewhere to cover a business expense? The employee who was forced to use their card to pay for it. That worry is supposed to be on the business.

          NotAnotherManager, it’s one thing to offer people the option of piling business expenses on their credit cards so they can rack up miles; it’s another thing to force them to do it. My tangential experience has been that places might take a month to reimburse, that oh gosh something happened you’ll need to resubmit, and that basically it’s a tremendous pain in the neck.

          Reply
        3. neverjaunty

          This. It’s one thing for an employee to decide they would prefer to front their employer’s business costs so they can get reward points; another thing entirely to depend on employee credit cards to front business costs.

          Reply
          1. Not a Morning Person

            Yes, my spouse’s former employer used to do that. They were notoriously slow to reimburse expenses and employees were told they could not charge late fees because the company would not be responsible for those…even when the lateness was due to the company choosing to reimburse slowly. Jerks.

            Reply
        4. Original Poster

          My finances are comfortable, I don’t really have an issue putting items on my card. However, I feel bad for the associates who are just starting out and my have “difficulty” either paying their cards or even speaking up and saying they just can’t do it this month. I actually got a new card that gives me cash back just since I started working here.

          Reply
        5. NotAnotherManager!

          I get that insisting people front money is a bad practice. I have people that prefer to use their own cards and a system that tracks and reimburses all expenses so we pay them back in a timely manner, so I was more wondering why this is a bad practice if we make the corporate card available (and readily offer it for use, if there may be a need) and they choose otherwise – it sounded like, from the post above mine, there was some major issue with it maybe from a tax or legal perspective and we shouldn’t be cutting expense checks at all, but, in reading further, it sounds like a difference option of what works best for specific organizations.

          Reply
      2. Taco Salad

        Once per year, I spend about $2,000 on a work trip (and some years, it’s more). It takes several weeks for me to get the money back. I’m lucky that I can swing it; I know other people for whom it would be a hardship. So yeah, for some people, it’s not a big deal; for others, it is.

        Reply
      3. Sarah

        I think it’s nice to have the choice. I usually choose to use my own card and get reimbursed, because my company is very prompt about getting me the money through direct deposit and I get essentially free rewards points. But, it was nice to have the option of the company card recently when I had to book a ton of conference travel right as we were closing on a house and getting our mortgage approved — even though our lender said it wasn’t a huge deal, I still didn’t want to be putting over $1K on my credit card right at that moment, just in case it could impact something!

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          If it’s a choice, that’s fine – my org does corporate cards, but I know some of the higher-ups use their personal triple-platinum-diamond-rewards-cards for booking travel because it gets them perks. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s not being required of anyone who doesn’t want to do it.

          Reply
      4. Original Poster

        We can submit our expenses weekly and reimbursement comes about two weeks later. It’s not too bad. I just found it odd that there wasn’t a corporate card and wondered if this was the norm.

        Reply
        1. Wilbur

          When I travelled for work in the past, I had a similar issue. Corporate cards were really hard to get, and they wanted to have everyone get reimbursed. I estimated cost of the trip, talked to my manager, and got a cash advance. Anything not covered by the advance would get covered by an additional reimbursement, but it usually ended up being less than $100 difference. A lot easier to deal with than worrying about getting a $2-3k reimbursement. I agree with other commenters, employees shouldn’t be expected to “loan” companies for business expenses. My other annoyance, specific to my company, was a sort of double standard they held. I’m a contract engineer, and work embedded with my Fortune 50 client. Travel was for the Fortune 50 company. They wanted me to be reimbursed after the trip and effectively loan them travel money, while being very stingy with reimbursement. Then I find out my company is charging a 2% fee on the cost of the travel. A little odd that I’m expected to give an interest free loan, while my company is gave the client a 2% interest short term loan.

          Reply
        2. Safetykats

          Definitely not the norm. Most companies have corporate cards or accounts, although you may have to work through an authorized buyer or the travel department to utilize those cards/accounts. My current employer also allows you to use your own card for things like travel or other allowables, should you choose to do so – although obviously you then have to file for reimbursement.

          The problem comes, I think, when companies are using their employees as short-term lines of credit – which is not okay. Trust me, your employer has a higher credit limit than you do. I would never put something on my personal card for business purposes that I wouldn’t put on my personal card for personal reasons. For example, $3000 worth of tickets to a sporting event – or any amount that would jeopardize my ability to pay my mortgage. It’s just fine to politely say that your personal circumstances won’t allow you to put these charges on your card. In my experience – and I’ve done this several times in my career, and advised others to do the same – there has always been a reaonable way for the company to cover the costs up-front (company account, company card, cash advance) once they have been asked to do so.

          Reply
      5. 2mc1pg

        Yes, they are a big deal.

        I am not hired to carry the carrying costs of my employer. Period. I don’t care who my employer is. My salary does not include assuming the carrying costs of an entity doing business.

        I took a job a few years ago where this was the norm. And I refused to do it. It got to the point where the food I was having to organize for meetings could only come from approved vendors because I flat refused to put the food the participants wanted on my PERSONAL credit card.

        It was also galling to be placed into a food-ordering position when I was told that was not part of the job. But even outside of food, basics like office supplies for meeting presentations were regularly put on employees PERSONAL credit cards. Which employees then spent time filing for reimbursement in an archaic and byzantine software system. Taking time away from their actual job duties. Can you tell how I feel about this entire situation overall? Hahaha.

        I finally said it loudly enough to an admin who was criticizing me about my food choices for a meeting within earshot of the CFO. I made it completely clear that “No, I do not carry the costs of doing business of my employer. I am not a line of credit for my employer to offload carrying costs onto, and it is the company’s responsibility to bear the costs of doing business!”

        She was taken aback. But she never criticized me again. And the CFO shut up about food after that with me. He either had someone else order it who would put it on their personal cards. Or he dealt with the food of approved vendors. Or (best outcome) when I was submitting paperwork to get a new vendor approved, he actually signed it off in a reasonable time frame instead of making it the problem of my personal credit card.

        No. Employees are NOT the lines of credit for employers to rely on to carry the costs of doing business. Period.

        Employees have responsibilities to their families, their credit scores, their ability to get mortgages with certain terms, and sometimes religious or cultural reasons they do not use credit cards, and a host of other reasons it’s WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE for a business of any size to regularly expect employees to bear the burden of the costs of doing business.

        One-off occasional situations is one thing. True emergencies. But not as a general practice. Absolutely not. I swam upstream against this practice in a business where it was routinely expected, and I spent about half political capital doing it. But I would do it again.

        Reply
        1. Erin

          +1 if you’re asking an employee to float the company money than you can do without it or figure out another way to pay for it. The only time I did something out of pocket for a company I work for is bring in a couple rolls of TP when our supply order was late.

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          1. Tiny Soprano

            Yeah I bought a plunger from the dollar store once for a clogged sink in a company kitchenette when it would’ve been ridiculous to call a plumber over it, but that’s it. My theory is if it goes beyond the realm of petty cash the company’s being kinda dodgy and unethical.

            Reply
      6. Jadelyn

        Yes. They are a big deal. They are *that* big a deal. Absolutely. Just because they’re fine for you, doesn’t mean your experience is universal and they’re nbd for everyone.

        I mean…do people not get that NOT EVERYONE EVEN HAS A CREDIT CARD that they can use for this kind of stuff?

        My mom, for example. When my dad left her, she was left struggling to make payments on the house they’d bought shortly before the divorce, and this happened right during the worst of the real estate crash in 2008. She wound up doing a deed-in-lieu back to the bank, which apparently (the bank didn’t bother to warn her about this) came with some nasty tax ramifications, resulting in her owing tens of thousands in taxes that she still hasn’t been able to pay down because the IRS have been jerks about allowing her to set up a reasonable payment plan. Plus, the parent loans she took out for my brother and I have been coming due and the loan company is being awful about her IBR plan. She wound up having to declare bankruptcy a few years ago. At this point, she couldn’t get a reputable credit card if she tried. If her company demanded that she pay for things upfront and seek reimbursement, she’d literally be unable to comply, because she lives paycheck to paycheck and doesn’t have a credit card to put things on.

        I’m at a point in my life where I could use my credit card if I had to, but it’s really only within the last couple years that that’s been true for me. Before then, I had a couple low-limit retail cards but no regular credit card. Again, if an employer had required me to put things on my own credit card and get reimbursed, I literally wouldn’t have been capable of doing so.

        And nobody should have to disclose that kind of personal financial information and history to their employer to “get out of” giving their company interest-free loans, which is what a pay upfront/get reimbursement structure really is: I’m loaning the company the money for a purchase, and they’re paying me back for it later.

        So yes. It’s a big deal. And companies that *require* their employees to do it this way are the literal devil.

        Reply
        1. 2mc1pg

          Exactly this.

          Expecting employees to carry business expenses on their personal credit cards presumes a certain level of (for lack of a better term) privilege. Oblivious privilege at that.

          Employees should never be put in the position of having to explain how or why they can’t or won’t try to get a credit card. That is private, personal, family information and veers way too close to sensitive information like the kind Jadelyn has indicated.

          There are also people who don’t have credit cards for religious or near-religious reasons. For example, Dave Ramsey is a financial guru big in evangelical Christian culture. Whatever one does or doesn’t think of his general financial philosophy, he abhors credit cards as the systemic undermining of opportunity. He cuts them up with scissors as a gimmick on stage.

          Ramsey does tolerate debit cards, but even using Ramsey-approved debit cards presumes an employee has enough *in their primary bank account* to carry the costs of doing business of the company. Which makes the practice even more unacceptable.

          Whether an employee follows the Ramsey school of debt elimination, or does not keep a credit card because of any number of other closely held personal or religious beliefs, should not be a discussion required to be had with one’s employer. It should never come up, or come close to coming up.

          These policies put employees in a bad position, indicate an unbecoming degree of obliviousness on the part of the employer, and can create conditions for conversations that should not be had at work between employees and bosses.

          It’s bad policy, period.

          Reply
        2. NotAnotherManager!

          I’m not sure where this went off track and into a big lecture about forcing people to use their own money and privilege, because I was clear in my comment/question that we offered a corporate card for expenses and are not forcing employees to front expenses. No one is required to disclose their financial status. The “big deal” question related specifically to the scenario that, when asked, “Do you need a corporate card for this?” and they say, “No, I’d prefer to use my card [for the miles/points/whatever].” For things that require cash, they can get petty cash from accounting. But I have maybe one or two people who ever avail themselves of either of those resources, and I wondered if I was missing some larger issue. We know our folks will incur a lot of incidentals – copy charges at the court, filing fees, overtime meals, transportation around town, etc. and have tried to put a system in place where that money comes from us directly without hassle, yet it is still not used 9 times out of 10.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            You asked, “Are reimbursement payments really that big of a deal?” and you asked it within the context of a conversation about companies that force employees to use a reimbursement system. I responded within that context, as did many other people. I’m not sure why you’re surprised at the response you’ve received.

            Reply
            1. NotAnotherManager!

              Because anyone who bothered to read past the first sentence would have seen the additional context, including that use of personal cards was voluntary and an employee preference, that a corporate card was available and offered though rarely chosen, and that we repay people quickly. In contrast with the post above it (the only one there when I wrote that) where the assertion was made that people shouldn’t have to be reimbursed and that they didn’t even remember the last time a reimbursement was made at their organization made me wonder if I was missing something majorly wrong about our allowing people to use their cards for rewards and paying them back rather than requiring they take a company card or petty cash.

              Many commenters upthread caught that and noted that it was the voluntary/involuntary thing that was an issue and not that nothing should ever be purchased on personal cards and reimbursed. I get that. My post did not say, “Geez, why can’t everyone afford to front thousands of dollars in expenses for months!?!?! It’s so unprofessional when people ask for a corporate card!” or something equally clueless, so I do think that your response unnecessarily hostile and lecturey, as is the check-your-privilege one that followed it. I do not FORCE my employees to use their own money for work-charges, which I think we all agree is wrong — but that’s not what I said initially and that is what surprises me about the tone of your response.

              Reply
      7. Decima Dewey

        Lucky you. A few months ago, I got a reimbursement check for something in May of 2016. I don’t even remember what the reimbursement was for.

        Reply
        1. NotAnotherManager!

          I sympathize with that as our accounting department used to be a mess – they frequently lost things, didn’t pay invoices, and would randomly lose an expense report (all paper, of course) that resulted in issues like this. It was maddening, and the old CFO blamed everyone but himself (and his complete and total failure to implement a system or process that worked) when things fell through the cracks. My sense was that they were handling the high-level people’s expenses just fine so they didn’t explain and screwing over the less powerful people who probably needed the money more. They were awful, morale was low in the department, and everyone hated having to deal with accounting at all.

          We got a new CFO a few years ago, and she’s the bomb. One of the first things that she did was implement all-electronic expense, invoice, and check request handling, she started paying expenses out weekly instead of monthly. She said at one of the meetings where they rolled out the new system that, if people are generous enough to shoulder an unexpected expense, the very least we can do is pay you back ASAP. It is like night and day, and the employees who stayed post-transition are so much happier working for her. She’s tough and expects a lot out of them, but she also has really clear processes and has empowered them to make decisions within their specialty areas. (She would also not tolerate people like Bob the Guacamole Auditor, though, so they have to use their powers to help people.)

          Reply
      8. peachie

        It would be less of a big deal if it always worked like you’re describing (though, still, a few hundred dollars can be a lot for some folks). My office is pretty decent about it and I’ve still had to wait over a month for several large reimbursements.

        Reply
    2. Ramona Flowers

      If non-profits are exempt from sales tax, then would people need to pay it on their individual cards?

      If so, that’s a good reason not to do things this way – it’s not just getting dinged by auditors, it’s spending the charity’s funds when you don’t need to.

      Reply
      1. Zathras

        I only dealt with this a couple of times when I worked retail, but in order to not pay sales tax at the register you needed to show the nonprofit’s tax-free certificate and fill out a form. So if you didn’t have that, you would have to pay it. I don’t remember the method of payment mattering at all. I’m not sure how it would work for online orders, or at retailers less married to paper forms than my old employer.

        Like the tax itself, I imagine the rules and the process also vary by state.

        Reply
        1. Liane

          This was how it worked at (In)Famous Retailer, which is multinational and does most everything on computers, although you did have to come in before 2pm when the cash office closed to get an application.
          We saw minor tantrums from business employees and owners who assumed that saying, “Buying this for MyCo” and showing a company CC or state exemption was enough.

          Reply
          1. Liane

            This was a one-time thing. You filled out our tax free form and received a card that you showed any time you bought for your employer. Once you had the card it was easy, any cashier could process the sale without an override

            Reply
        2. Turquoise Cow

          Yeah, I worked at a grocery store and there were a few groups who came in and were tax exempt – mostly charities and group home type places. They had to first stop at customer service and present their credentials, at which point the clerk would transfer the information to our form, which they then had to present to the cashier when they checked out. (Which the store had to keep a copy of, although I don’t remember if the bookkeeper did anything with it afterward…)

          And most cashiers didn’t know how to do the procedure to remove tax, and it required a manager override. Since most food is not taxable anyway, the deduction was minimal, and I often wondered if it was worth it to go through the trouble.

          Reply
          1. Merci Dee

            Lucky for you guys that your groceries are not taxable. I live in one of a handful of states that still taxes food purchases. Every year a bill is introduced to make grocery purchases exempt from tax, and every year it’s tabled and ultimately killed by inaction.

            Reply
      2. De Minimis

        Many nonprofits aren’t exempt from sales tax. It varies by state, and usually only certain types of nonprofits qualify.

        Reply
    3. Specialk9

      My corporate credit card is tied to my personal credit score and I have to pay it down from my personal bank account.

      The only thing it does is automatically go into the expense tracking system (though with a several day delay) for reimbursement – I mean it prepopulates fields, I still need to log in and submit the reimbursement form. And it makes audits and fraud investigations easier. (But I often use my personal card because paying it is much easier, the customer support is way better, and I get points, and the time saved is minimal.)

      Commentariat, is this how corporate cards usually work?

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Oh and I prefer my own card because I might auto-pilot into using it for personal reasons by accident – grab it automatically for gassing my car or paying for a non-business meal. I’d hate to get fired, or have a fraud investigation started, because I got absentminded (which I often am).

        Reply
      2. neverjaunty

        This baffles me – why would the company not pay the card directly? I have never had a corporate card work this way, not even at ToxicJob. It’s always been a card the company obtains and the company pays for.

        Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            That’s a good reason to require expense reports and receipts. It’s not a good reason to assume all expenses are non-work related and should be covered by the employee out of pocket until proven otherwise.

            Reply
              1. neverjaunty

                Are there companies that actually do that? If so, I can’t imagine they’d be in business for long. Even if the employees were all scrupulously honest, it’d cause a lot of accounting headaches.

                Regardless, it seems like the solution to monitoring use of company funds ought to be expense reports – not forcing employees to loan the business money interest-free and then having to petition to get it back.

                Reply
                1. the gold digger

                  I think that Shelby County (Tennessee) did that years ago. Someone discovered a county employee had charged tens of thousands of dollars – including his daughter’s wedding, I think – to his county credit card.

                  I was so confused – I couldn’t figure out how on earth something like that could happen.

                  Then I learned that the county was just paying the CC bill directly, without requiring an expense report.

                  (This was almost 15 years ago, so I don’t remember all the details.)

      3. Samata

        I’ve had corporate cards that work this way and corporate cards that work where the bill goes right to the accounts payable, then they forward to me to turnaround with an expense report signed off by my manager. I actually preferred the one where I paid on my own for very selfish reasons – I could submit a reimbursement weekly, from wherever I happened to be, and budgeted time for that weekly as opposed to having to save and sort and deal with a months work of expenses at a time (which is a lot when you average 20 nights a week away from home)

        Reply
      4. Book Lover

        Not for me. Ours do not count to our credit score and are paid directly through Concur after filling out an online form. And there are two months to pay rather than one in case the system is slow. Only personal expenses on the card have to be paid by me.

        Reply
        1. De Minimis

          The only time employee’s personal credit has come into play at my job was when an employee filed bankruptcy. His corporate card was cancelled along with his personal accounts, so we had to get it reissued [which they did with no problem.]

          Reply
      5. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        I posted a bit of this above, but not how it’s worked in at least 4 places where I’ve worked. We are a bit behind in technology here so still lots of actual paper. The CC are autopaid in full out of the company checking account each month. The employee still turns in paper receipts attached to a paper statement. All statements are mailed to corporate (where I work) and then distributed. If someone accidentally makes a personal purchase, they just send a check with their statement/receipts back to finance to cover their purchase. It’s no big deal at all. It doesn’t go on their credit report and the person who sets up the cards doesn’t even get their full SSN.

        Reply
        1. De Minimis

          This is almost exactly like our process. Tons of paper, I have to create a packet for each month with all the receipts and travel vouchers. I have a lot of printed out e-mails for things bought online.

          The only difference is we don’t do autopay, I have to remember to pay each month, but we do pay the bill immediately. We pay first and then reconcile later, and sometimes it can take a long time if someone doesn’t send in receipts. We have 1-2 staff members where it’s apparently not a big priority for them to get reimbursed so they hold on to stuff for months and months—and both of them are too high up in the organization for anything to be done about it.

          Reply
      6. zapateria la bailarina

        this is how (u.s.) government credit cards work. they affect your personal credit, and you have to pay it off out of your own accounts. the government reimburses your expenses after you file for them, which is a huge hassle, and sometimes takes ages to be get your money back.

        Reply
    4. Nervous Accountant

      Reading all of this, I am so glad we don’t have to deal with this at my company. Typically I only have 1 expense per year (my # renewal) and that gets reimbursed quickly, and going forward it may not even be an expense anymore. Employees who take licensing exams are reimbursed if they pass, which idk is a perk or standard thing that companies do.
      I mean the company may pay sh*t salaries, but at least they pay for all the crap we need (and dont need…aka monday breakfast full of carby goodness -_- )

      Reply
      1. Ghostwriter

        A young coworker recently ran into problems with this kind of policy. She had just been hired full time from being an intern, and only had one credit card with a $500 limit. Her flight was $1000 and the hotel was $400 a night. Our company only does reimbursement checks twice a month. The next one was going to fall after her rent was due. She ended up taking money out of a savings account to cover, but I felt so bad the company was putting her in that situation.

        Reply
    5. Original Poster

      We purchase everything on cc/reimbursement: travel, donor meetings, parking. We also purchase items for the foundation for events, decorations, food etc. That’s why it’s amazing to me that we don’t have an office card.

      Reply
    6. introvert

      Our travel is arranged and paid for by our company – we don’t see the bills or pay them. This includes air, car rental and hotel. Meals, Uber, parking and personal car mileage etc we pay out of pocket and get reimbursed direct deposit (they pay twice a week). I do not have any problem with it. I do have a corporate card for purchases but we follow a strict PO policy with approvals and the company pays the card but I am responsible for reconciling all charges, verifying them and providing receipts. All of this seems reasonable to me.

      Reply
    7. nonegiven

      I don’t get the sales tax thing. If I fronted the company money to buy something and had to pay sales tax, why wouldn’t I be reimbursed and I better be reimbursed?

      Reply
      1. Tableau Wizard

        My guess would be that this is in line with Alison’s default pronoun for her responses. Typically, when a gender is unknown, Alison defaults to “She” pronouns.

        Reply
    1. Flossie Bobbsey

      I read both versions of your answer to #4, and I think the bigger detail that was missed is that LW4 doesn’t know whether OldBoss believes LW4 was involved in her firing. As described in the letter, the firing was related to LW4’s work, and LW4 doesn’t know whether OldBoss is aware that LW4 was NOT involved in the firing circumstances. Therefore, even if LW4 is applying to a job at a *different* company, the issue remains as to whether OldBoss harbors ill-will, has a tainted view of LW4, or can/will speak positively about LW4’s performance.

      Reply
      1. Flossie Bobbsey

        Clarification: I realize this isn’t a “bigger detail” for purposes of the answer at hand — which pertains to an in-house job opportunity, so the question is fully answered without even needing to get to the issue I raise above. But even for the future, I would be wary of using someone as a reference who might blame me for being fired.

        Reply
      2. OP Poster

        Original letter writer here. Yes, that was also a part of my concern. I suppose I could have a direct conversation with them about it, but I’d rather not risk any retaliation. Given the advice and this fact, I have decided not to request this supervisor’s recommendation.

        Reply
  3. PollyQ

    Is it wrong to wish that we could lock co-worker who asks the same questions and co-worker who over-explains in a room together?

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      Wrong? No. Genius? Quite possibly.

      Maybe they used to work together and that’s the real explanation for the problem.

      Reply
  4. Artemesia

    I can see requiring use of own credit card for personal business travel; it isn’t great but it is understandable and fairly common. To expect an employee to buy equipment, or materials for a fund raiser. That places a lot of risk on the employee and if the reimbursements are not very quick, the employee runs the risk of having to pay high interest on the card. In any case, the employee will be running up interest charges at some point with this practice.

    #4. No way would I use a fired supervisor to recommend me for his old job. There are so many ways that can go wrong. The thing is, THEY know he is your old boss. It is the same company. So if they want his opinion they can seek it. For you to list him as a reference is so tone deaf that that alone might knock you out of the running.

    Reply
    1. AcademiaNut

      That’s how it works for my employer. Purchasing equipment goes through the office, via a purchase order, and my employer pays directly. Plane tickets for travel are booked through a travel agency, and again, billed directly to my employer. But we are reimbursed for things like the hotel, meals, subway or cab fare and so on (although we can request an advance if needed).

      The one weakness is that it’s incredibly difficult for foreign employees to get a local credit card in the first place. So you either have to use an overseas card and eat the fees for foreign exchange and transfer, or if you don’t have a credit card and can’t get one, depend on fellow coworkers to cover your hotel reservations (which generally need a credit card).

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah—I hate these policies because they put a lot of pressure/burden on employees, and they have a huge embedded class bias… particularly for employees who don’t have credit cards, or who have relatively low credit limits, or who have personal ethical/moral limitations on credit card use, etc. I don’t even like it in the travel context, but it’s especially problematic when it comes to things like buying supplies or forking over $3000 to buy tickets for a group. **shakes fist at sky**

        Reply
        1. Anon for this

          It is most definitely a privileged blind spot. Between my husband and I, we have about $50,000 in available credit on our credit cards. We pay our balances in full each month and we have never missed a payment on something to ding our credit. People in my situation forget what it is like just starting out. I think my very first credit card had a $500 limit and the second one had a $2,000 limit until I built up my credit history. That doesn’t even touch people coming out of an economic disaster that can’t get approved for a credit card. There are some people that can’t even get a checking account. Google the unbanked. I think all you can do is gently remind those people of their privilege with basic facts like “since I’m only a few years out of school, I don’t have the credit history yet for a big limit credit card. I don’t have the ability to front the expense.”

          In the same realm of forgetting what it was like, the senior attorneys at my firm excitedly told me the local country club had reduced its membership initiation fee for new young members to “just” $15,000 that year. In their eyes, it was the opportunity of a lifetime! I couldn’t pass it up! I still had significant student loans at the time. Not wanting them to know I didn’t even have $15,000 to my name, I just said all of my extra income was going to my loans and I’d consider joining once the loans were paid off. In reality, that’s a big ole nope and I have better things to do with my money.

          Reply
          1. Anonymousaurus Rex

            Re #3: This frustrated me SO much with my previous job. When I started there, I didn’t have a credit card. I cancelled all my credit cards before I moved abroad in my 20s and then had a really hard time getting any credit when I moved back to the States. (Pro tip: don’t do that. Leave the cards active but unused. Worth it even if there’s an annual fee.)

            When I traveled for business I had to save up for months in advance or risk getting my debit card refused, as costs for flights/hotel/meals etc could be upwards of $1500 and I didn’t always have that much cash lying around. In the end this practice is what made me get serious about rebuilding my credit, so I benefited in the end, but I’m very relieved that I now work for a company that issues a corporate card!

            Reply
          2. medium of ballpoint

            Seconded! For several years I worked at Fancy Schmancy Teapots, Inc. and every few years a coworker would I go to a special conference. FSI, Inc. could certainly afford to shell out a few thousand dollars to send us to the conference, but we couldn’t always afford to front that money. It was embarrassing to have to ask for the money up front and we were often given a hard time because that wasn’t the norm. Higher ups incorrectly assumed that everyone made a fancy schmancy salary and that blind spot made things quite difficult when they didn’t need to be.

            Reply
          3. neverjaunty

            Gosh, if that country club membership was so important, you’d think the law firm would have paid for membership as a benefit.

            Reply
          4. la bella vita

            Employers who do this are the worst. My first week in my first job after grad school I had to go to a training out of town for a week and we were expected to pay for a bunch of the expenses up front and get reimbursed. I was so stressed because I had just graduated two months earlier, I didn’t have much room left on my credit cards, and what little cash I had had all just gone to my first and last month’s rent on my apartment in my new city (plus the relocation expenses I had also fronted and was waiting on reimbursement for). It was so stressful, I was so worried my cards were going to get declined. Companies should NEVER ask employees to pay business expenses up front.

            Reply
        2. Liane

          We had a letter from a newly hired employee in this situation. Will try to find a link

          Please let’s not do what happened in that one. No “This wouldn’t be a problem for you if you did / hadn’t done XYZ” moralizing disguised as money management “advice” which usually comes from the class bias and blind spots Princess and Anon for this mention.

          Reply
      2. De Minimis

        I don’t see how an organization isn’t using a corporate card once they get beyond a certain size/scope, and the OP’s employer is way, way beyond that stage.

        Reply
    2. AdAgencyChick

      Same. It’s very normal in my industry to require use of personal cards for travel, but I have never been asked to purchase equipment for the office. Even the travel is annoying — I had a trip a couple of months ago that ran about $4K, and it took more than a month to get paid back! WTF?

      If the OP is unsuccessful in getting the policy changed, she can at least speak up in individual cases where the amount being asked for is too much for her to carry and ask that her boss or someone else more senior take on the expense.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        Our reimbursement was always slow too. We had the means to pay the card off every month whether we got reimbursed timely or not, but many people don’t and credit card interest is horrendous.

        Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      Common maybe, but not understandable. Employees should not be required to front business expenses, period. “Well, it’s an airline ticket, not furniture” is an argument I don’t understand. What am I missing.

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        I think it’s fairly routine, and logical from a fraud perspective, to restrict corporate cards to certain employees – maybe it’s everyone above a certain level, or people in a specific job category that travel a lot, or some other logical reason. But then you might have an employee who travels occasionally, so they’re going to have to pay for incidental expenses and then file an expense report. The boss might be able to buy their plane ticket & hotel from the office, but not dinner or a snack at the airport.

        But there should be an alternative system for any employee that doesn’t have a credit card they can use, regardless of the specific reason.

        Reply
    4. MinBalance

      A former company of mine changed their policy to state that not only did you put all travel expenses on your own card, but that if the total was under $150, you had to carry that balance until you went over the $150 min. It was nice in that I got to keep all the miles and generally they were pretty good with reimbursements, but that min. always made me nuts.

      Reply
    5. Winifred

      If it’s business travel, it’s not personal though, right?

      I work in a nonprofit (church) and recently we got what are really debit cards with limits for 2 members of staff (one of them me) who routinely make purchases on Amazon or at the post office, and who also take our youth on a service trip every 2 years (need a card for booking transportation, snacks, etc.). I pay the bills when they come in but our diligent treasurer keeps an eye on all expenses and signs all check payments.

      I think it’s totally UNreasonable to *force* staff to use personal cards. Any organization that has a bank should be able to get at least one debit card to use.

      Reply
  5. AlligatorTrainer

    If you’re just applying, #2 (burlesque question), it’s a potentially good time to factor that element of corporate culture into your decision-making process. If it’s a company where you felt you’d be unable to share that part of your life, would you be as eager to work there? There’s no right answer, of course, but something to think about.

    Reply
    1. Tau

      Yeah, coming here to suggest that. Doing or divulging things that may reflect negatively on you in an interview isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you wouldn’t want to work at places that take it negatively anyway. OP sounds like she’s pretty happy and stable at her current job, and definitely wouldn’t want to work anywhere where she can’t be open about her hobby. For her, it maybe worth it to mention it early and view dropped offers as dodged bullets.

      The wrinkle in this is whether there are managers who *would* be fine with it but still react negatively to someone mentioning it in the interview (because they think it’s unprofessional or the like). I’m not sure how likely that is but I can see it happening.

      Reply
      1. Online social

        I don’t do tons of interviews, but I feel like that’d make a weird first impression. Bringing it up eventually is fine, but I’m not sure how to segue into it from an interview. I almost wonder if there’d be some way to fit it in, if it’s relevant… experience? Like a volunteer section on a resume, but talk about the relevant experience from burlesque (okay probably not!)

        At the same time, I’m not sure I’d ever really want to hear about a coworker doing burlesque. I think it’s actually a cool hobby, but a bit more mature than I prefer to discuss with my coworkers. So perhaps I’m just a bad match! :)

        Reply
        1. Yorick

          I wouldn’t have a problem with this in general, but it shouldn’t be discussed in the interview. It’s like the guy who wanted to put video gaming on his resume – it will seem unprofessional to relate it to job experience.

          Reply
          1. Naruto

            Yeah, that’s the problem. Even if you’re cool with it being a thing and even talking about it at work, it isn’t relevant to interview topics and you come across as not understanding professional norms by bringing it up in an interview (unless y’all are chatting about hobbies or something, maybe).

            Reply
          2. Secret Burlesquer

            A burlesque colleague of mine produces a festival every year and several shows per year. It’s absolutely a lot of work and takes a lot of coordination and event planning. She put it on her resume because it shows organization and leadership. She found a job that is okay with that part of her life. I don’t think it’s unprofessional at all and is actual work – producing on top of my muggle job is like having two full time jobs. I wish I had the gall to put it on my resume like she did. It took her a few tries but she did land a job that was okay with burlesque and valued the skill and drive it takes to be a successful producer.

            I know that my production experience makes me better at my job. I wish I could talk about it openly. I could try and find another job where I could do that but my company pays me well and has better benefits than anything else I’ve found.

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              Why not just be vague and call it theatre or dance? “Manage annual fall show for small local theatre/dance company. Coordinated fundraising, ticket sales, staffing, set design, dance choreography, and talent meltdowns.” It shows executive function and management experience, without getting into too much detail. (And if the company is called something racy, just use initials – TWA Theatre Co.) You can find SFW details to talk about if they ask.

              Reply
              1. Secret Burlesquer

                I guess she would say, “Why be vague when I could just be open about it?”

                I don’t have a good answer. Everyone is different in their approach.

                Reply
              2. Not That Jane

                I don’t know, I can see the benefit of that, but it could also lead to some awkward interview small talk: “Oh, it’s cool that you do community theater, what’s it called? What are your shows like?”

                Reply
        2. Zip Zap

          I feel the same way. I’m more of a compartmentalizer than most people, but I wouldn’t want to hear about something like that at work. If we went to lunch or after work drinks and it came up, I’d be cool with it. I just don’t think it mixes well with office stuff.

          Reply
        3. nonymous

          I agree with the person below who said that for resume purposes, only leadership or highly recognized involvement should be listed in the hobbies/community/volunteering section. Regarding how to talk about it in the workplace from a PG framework, I’d imagine it’s like any other hobby that is not of wide interest – talk about the challenges, people drama, and personal satisfaction. For example, I’m not hugely into organized runs, but it’s still interesting to hear my coworkers share their successes and challenges! I always figure if I don’t share the hobby, it’s a chance for me to learn enough info to participate in convos in other parts of my life (like if coworker is really excited about breaking a milestone time, I now know how to cheer appropriately when hubby’s friend shares his times.)

          Reply
    2. Tealeaves

      I’ve been through a similar experience and want to highlight that even if the corporate culture may seem ok with your hobby, individual people may not be ok. If you are well-known, people who are ok with it would be ‘in’ the scene and would soon figure out who you are. The rest, keep them on a need to know basis. Watch out for hints about whether they are cool with it.

      I once worked for a lifestyle-related company so you would think everyone would be fine with my hobby. I still kept it low and only told some coworkers. They didn’t make a big deal of it and I didn’t talk about it much (I think staying casual about it sets the tone for their reactions too). But once at a meeting, a rep from the other company ranted about how (that hobby) was a waste of time and bad idea, how she would never let her kids do that. I sat there with a pokerface as she tore apart what I loved, the whole time not knowing that was my hobby. I never told her either after that but I learned that keeping some details from your professional life is better. I wondered if she would be secretly judging me if she had known.

      At a corporate company with a stiff culture, it’s unfortunate that you can’t make friends at work by sharing this part of your life, but is it really worth it? I get that you’re proud of your hobby and don’t feel there is anything to be ashamed about, *bleep* anyone who thinks otherwise. But people who don’t understand your hobby often have preconceptions, and it can affect how they view you at work. The same as how you don’t bring pastries on your first day of work, don’t make this your first impression. Take your time to build up your reputation, and observe which of your coworkers is trustworthy enough to know this detail of your life. By then, even if the word spreads, you won’t be defined as just “the burlesque person” which overshadows your actual work.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        By then, even if the word spreads, you won’t be defined as just “the burlesque person” which overshadows your actual work.

        Yes, this. You want them to get to know you as “the teapot inspector who also does burlesque,” not “that burlesque dancer we hired to inspect teapots.” At least at work. ;-)

        Reply
    3. Gen

      Yes, I was just going to say this. A friend of mine is a teacher and a model/burlesque performer, obviously because she works with kids she does have to keep the two personas pretty separate at work, but going from a catholic school to a non-religious school had a big effect on the staff room dynamics. Although it’s technically the same job the culture can vary widely so it’s certainly worth considering whether an overly strict environment might make op unhappy

      Reply
    4. Engineer Girl

      I’d avoid any male dominated industry. Women get less respect anyway, and anything sex based will end your credibility as a peer. It’s not fair, but that’s how it goes.

      Reply
    5. Effie, who is herself, and is moving forward without self judgement

      I’m involved in certain performance type activities that are becoming more mainstream and still carry a certain stigma, depending on your audience, and finding a job that accepted my activity (like OP #2, it’s something that I enjoy massively, make money from, and have invested a lot of my free time in) was very important to me. I went from Job A where it was okay for me to be “out” to Job B where it was very not OK (very conservative company, I don’t think I would have been reprimanded but I would have definitely lost a lot of my coworkers’ respect), and when searching for a new job after Job B it was so important to me that I actually mentioned it in interviews (regarding why I moved to New City, which is also why I was job searching). YMMV, and of course as other posters have mentioned, there may always be people who are not accepting even if your company is. However, I’ve found that being very matter-of-fact about it helps. I’m also a private person, so my default is, yes I do activity, everything’s fine, moving on and it’s worked for me. Hope this helps!

      Reply
      1. Julia

        The thing about that is, the interviewers might say they don’t have a problem when they actually do.
        They might be trying to be cool and wish they didn’t have a problem, but they still do.
        Or they might say they don’t have a problem because they’re embarrased to admit they do – but in that case they wouldn’t hire you, so it’s not your problem.

        Reply
    6. CheeryO

      How would you suss that out in an interview situation without coming out and asking, though? First impressions of company culture and individual people’s personalities can be so wrong. I guess it would be easier at a bigger company where you could read reviews on Glassdoor and such, but it still depends on the coworkers and manager you get stuck with.

      Reply
    7. paul

      I’m not sure most people can suss that out easily from an interview. It seems like the sort of thing you’d need to be there a while to gauge.

      Reply
        1. Specialk9

          I have a couple friends who do burlesque shows, and am in a fairly sex positive/open friend group. I haven’t been, and didn’t want to sound stupid by asking – but what exactly is burlesque? I have a vague idea of music, dancing, scanty clothing, a high level of sexuality, but no actual nakedness. So not stripping, but more like the old timey can-can, just updated?

          Reply
          1. Secret Burlesquer

            There is usually, but not always, striptease involved in burlesque. In classic burlesque, most will strip down to a thong or c-cup and pasties.

            Reply
            1. Lil Fidget

              I think this exchange demonstrates that even well meaning people like myself don’t really know much about this topic and might assume it’s basically stripping / sex work / whatever.

              Reply
              1. KaraLynn

                They strip off their clothes. Maybe not every garment, but sometimes they do, and if not, it’s most of the garments.

                Hence, stripping.

                Reply
                1. Lil Fidget

                  You say that, but I think within the world of burlesque they consider it a different case. I shouldn’t speak to this, anyone else want to weigh in?

          2. Tiny Soprano

            There’s often an element of humour, theatre, or circus skills involved in my experience. I’ve known burlesque performers who strip off a fireman’s outfit whilst on top of a 9 foot tall unicycle (and this was a gentleman), or start in a safari outfit and gradually discover fake insects in different layers of clothing before running from the stage in a panic with tarantula pasties swinging wildly. There’s a lot of variety in what constitutes burlesque.

            Reply
      1. Allypopx

        That sounds ridiculous no matter what you insert there.

        “Hi, I’m a cat lover. I’d like to work at your company as long as you don’t have a problem with that.”
        “Hi, I’m a mom. I’d like to work at your company as long as you don’t have a problem with that.”
        “Hi, I’m a burlesque dancer, which is demonstrably not the same thing as being a stripper but there’s nothing morally wrong with either. I’d like to work at your company as long as you don’t have a problem with that.”

        Reply
        1. KaraLynn

          Very glad you picked up on the ridiculousness.

          Whether or not you think something is morally wrong with it, many people would. That’s the reason the question was submitted in the first place as well as the reason the person who submitted it is so apprehensive.

          Reply
    8. RVA Cat

      Would it help OP#2 to network with fellow burlesque performers to get a feel about companies/industries that would be cool with it or not?

      Reply
    9. Twirling Girl

      Yeah, like if it just seems like a particularly conservative company that would have a huge problem with it, that’s something to factor in.

      I used to do burlesque and would never have told anyone at work – not because I was ashamed, but because I’m hyper aware of my own security and keeping my stage presence separate from anything else. I recently did tell a couple work friends who I’m close enough with that we hang out outside of work though, so that’s fine of course. But I didn’t want to fuck with my money, my day job pays much more (with benefits) than burlesque ever did, and nothing would be more terrifying to me than losing my job. Of course I was not as big in the burlesque community as the LW presumably is, it sounds like it’s a much bigger deal to her and she may be more recognizable as well. I was generally pretty careful about keeping my work life/normal life/stage presence very separate, and didn’t put my face or body in photo form out in the world too much. I also performed in a very particular community (it was queer burlesque and usually just at one venue that you’d only go to if you were queer) so the chances of someone at work finding out were fairly low. My job is also outside of the city, as are most of the people who work there.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        I don’t talk about any of my hobbies at work, TBH. Maybe if it comes up in conversation I’ll throw in something neutral, but it’s nothing I lead with. I want my boss and coworkers to assume I love TPS reports so much that I just go home and fill out more for fun, and then dream about them, and I can’t wait to come back here in the morning to fill out more of them. It’s unrealistic, but in my company that’s the kind of reputation you want to get ahead. Anything else just detracts from that.

        Reply
        1. Tealeaves

          Oh yeah, or else they pull the “Are you sure your hobby isn’t distracting you from your day job” card which is terrible.

          Reply
  6. periwinkle

    #5 – If a job doesn’t work out in a city that didn’t work out, there’s certainly no shame in getting away from both. I like how Alison framed a potential response – you now realize you prefer to live in X city so you’re excited to return for good.

    (also, I was amused because I am a Marylander who moved to Seattle… and discovered that deep down inside, I’m a Seattleite and should have moved here years ago)

    Reply
    1. Blue

      It definitely happens. I made a big move in my late 20s (DC/Maryland to the PNW, as it happens!) and knew within about 3 months that I couldn’t be there long-term. I was living in a college town and quickly realized that I needed to get back to city life. When I started looking at jobs ~18 months in, I was concerned that I’d look flaky for jumping around the country so dramatically, but it wasn’t a problem. I briefly addressed it in my cover letter, which must’ve been enough to assuage some concerns, since I ended up getting interviews out of most of my applications.

      Most did ask follow up questions in the interview itself, but a “moving here taught me I am a city person at heart” response was pretty effective. I also work in a field that can be pretty dramatically impacted by the surrounding community, so talking about how I’d learned to appreciate and miss the opportunities and characteristics unique to an urban setting was useful, as well. (And no regrets, by the way! It was definitely worth going slightly out of my way to reassure them that I was unlikely to pick up and move again after 2 years. It’s been more than 4 and I’m quite happy here!)

      Reply
      1. KT

        Would you feel comfortable sharing the kind of language you used in your cover letter to explain your intention to move? That would be really helpful!

        Reply
  7. SFsam

    To LW #3: that policy is how Jayson Blair’s plagiarism scandal happened at the NYTimes. Reporters had to use their own cards and he couldn’t float that and personal expenses, so he stayed home and pretended that he went out in the field. It’s just a bad policy that can have tons of unintended consequences, for the organization and for the employees. If it’s occasional travel, it probably doesn’t make sense for employees to have a company card, but if it’s $3000 a trip, or frequent travel, there should be a way for the company to absorb most of the up front cost… and the attending liabilities.

    Reply
    1. OlympiasEpiriot

      That really is a non sequitur. Jayson Blair’s plagiarism didn’t happen *because* of the NYT reimbursement policy. No one else there pulled that and blamed the cc use.

      What an odd claim.

      Reply
      1. Laura

        Yeah, no. I’ve written for the Times and they reimburse you huge amounts really, really fast so you never have interest payments. He’s just a lazy plagiarist.

        Reply
  8. Rose

    You missed the mark on #1 “my coworker asks me the same questions over and I over.” Early-onset dementia is REAL. I work in the medical field and have seen people as young as 51 get a diagnosis of dementia. Contributing risk factors include: heredity, blows to the head/concussion and excessive alcohol abuse. It’s rare, but it does happen.

    Reply
      1. M-C

        Remote, 3rd party armchair diagnosing :-)! While it’s a possibility that dementia might be a problem, there are plenty of people stupid from birth, and that’s not a medical diagnosis. The OP does not imply that they have any choice about working with this person, so I’m with Princess CBH that this is not a productive line of discussion.

        Reply
    1. attie

      That’s an interesting idea, but “you missed the mark” is going a bit far. It’s not on a coworker to diagnose that. Allison’s script addresses the behaviour rather than speculating on the cause, and once the coworker becomes aware that there is a problem and it’s impacting her work, she can go seek explanations. I would probably not react well if someone I worked with just came up to me and said “Wow, you are so forgetful, do you have dementia or what?”

      Reply
      1. attie

        That said, if it does emerge in the conversation that the coworker just genuinely doesn’t remember anything of the previous interactions, you might be able to slip in a suggestion to get evaluated for memory issues.

        Reply
    2. Tau

      In addition to what PCBH said, what’s OP supposed to do about it? Going to a coworker to say “I think you may have dementia” is several shades of inappropriate.

      If anything, her highlighting to her coworker that she keeps asking the same questions to the point where it’s impacting OP’s work may help coworker realise something may be wrong and go see a doctor.

      Reply
    3. Defrocksyoursocks

      But there is no mention of age. It could very well be an inexperienced worker.

      In an old administrative position, I was responsible for training new hires, and still assist from time to time. For some reason, they consider the position entry-level, although the responsibilities and skill sets needed to do the job really well are beyond entry-level, so I experienced this behavior frequently. A lot of people will play dumb if they can get you to give them the answer, so they don’t have to do the work of looking for the answer. There are also people who honestly cannot remember a thing, and need to write down notes to remind them, but either don’t take notes or don’t review them. In this case, I’ve created job aids for often forgotten tasks, and reviewed them with the employee, reminding them that they will need to reference the aid for questions on the matter in the future. And then kindly reference back to the job aid, or email reminder, etc. when the question is repeated.

      I think it’s best to assume that more training is needed, in this case, rather than jump to a medical condition as an explanation. I could be wrong, however.

      Reply
      1. Turquoise Cow

        Yes. It’s one thing to go back to someone and say, “how do I do this again?” because the task was explained in a meeting, it’s another to continually ask the same question, even when the answer hasn’t changed. I’ve seen enough people do this who were either overworked with work and resistant to change or new tasks, or just lazy, to definitely agree that sometimes it’s just plain laziness and a reluctance to do the task that manifests as “I don’t remember.”

        In the case of my former coworker, who reminds me a lot of this story, it was partly because the procedures as they existed were time consuming and complex. So she’d suggest ways to make it faster, and get shot down, either because of system limitations or just the nature of the tasks. And even if the system could be changed, it would be a long process and the task needed to be done immediately. Yet she brought up these suggestions all the time.

        I think laziness or stubbornness is far more likely than dementia or another brain-related disorder.

        Reply
      1. DementiaFriend

        Dementia, and early on set in particular, is becoming a lot more common. The first thing that I thought of when I read Letter Writer #1’s letter Dementia. It is a myth that someone with dementia cannot continue to work. And in this instance, a diagnoses, or rather more familiarity with dementia in the workplace without a diagnoses, could actually change the advice.

        One of the most frustrating things for someone who is in the early stages of dementia is having someone say something along the lines of “We talked about this before. Don’t you remember?” The first suggestion is a variation on that, and becoming more blunt would be as well. The resulting frustration is more likely to exacerbate the problem, then help solve it. The Alzheimer’s Society in the UK and Canada has a great program, called Dementia Friends, that has resources on how to help someone in a business setting who is in the early stages of dementia. https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/

        Obviously a colleague should not ask if someone has dementia, and its not something that most people would feel comfortable sharing with their colleagues. And the forgetfulness or misunderstanding could be a result of many other things. (Stress, lack of sleep, a different mental disability, laziness). But in general employers (and their employees) need to start becoming more aware of how we deal with these kind of issues that could potentially relate to dementia. There are better ways to communicate with someone exhibiting this kind of behavior, whether they have dementia or not. Considering dementia as a possible cause is an opportunity to gain some additional training, and think about what kind of accommodations can be made, just as would happen with any other physical or mental disability.

        Reply
    4. Temperance

      I used to with a dude who didn’t retain information. He knew he could ask me, so he didn’t care to learn. I think that’s what is happening here.

      Reply
      1. Beatrice

        Yep! I work with a few. I refer to it as ‘using my brain as an external hard drive.’ They don’t bother retaining info because they assume I will always be there to fill in the blanks for them. (I will not, and assuming that is bad for me AND the company, so no.)

        I’m actually working on building additional documentation into our process binder, to explain WHY we do things the way we do, when we might need to consider doing them differently, and things we have tried before that caused big problems and we don’t ever want to do them again. Sharepoint has a wiki tool that is great for this.

        Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          That’s such a good phrase for it! I work with someone who, as I’ve put it, uses me as their “auxiliary brain.” It’s a lot of “This is on the tip of my tongue–Kelly, do you remember?” It’s not even a big deal if I don’t, we can both look it up, it’s just the constant asking.

          Reply
        2. Turquoise Cow

          I’m actually really working on documenting a new system at work, and I’m going out of my way to explain what each thing means, in the hope that understanding the why will encourage people to do things right.

          Reply
        3. Elisabeth

          Oh my gosh, this is the perfect description! My colleague was out sick the other day and I realized I absolutely had been using his brain as an external hard drive for a few key things. (“What’s the password to X?” etc etc). It was a good wake-up call for myself.

          Reply
        4. kitryan

          I have one of them too. I’ve documented and documented and corrected and I still constantly get ‘oh, I forgot’ or even better ‘I didn’t know that’ – whether it’s doing it the wrong way/old way and being corrected or calling and asking ‘how do we deal with x’ and I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying ‘the same way as the last time’. I do succumb to my frustration on occasion and attach the last two or three times the issue came up to the reply email and say that we’ve discussed this before.

          Reply
      2. Menacia

        Exactly, I work with coworkers like this, who are perfectly capable but are lazy. I don’t want to sound like I’m frustrated with them, but also want to convey that they should be able to find the answer themselves. How do I do that without coming across as a bitch (RTFM, dumbass). I also don’t have a great personal relationship with these coworkers because of their approach to their work, which, in a word, sucks and I have no respect for them. Previous coworkers had been great, we got along well, they did a great job, and we could be obnoxious to one another all day long. I miss those days!

        Reply
        1. Eloise

          Maybe something like, “I believe the answer is XYZ, but of course you’ll want to check all the details in last month’s memo.” Of course.

          Reply
            1. kitryan

              oh gosh yes! In my weakest moment I did do a ‘let me google that for you’. I’m not proud but it was a ridiculous questions (that came after a bunch of other ridiculous questions.

              Reply
    5. M-C

      To try to get back to the point, I think if I were in OP#1’s shoes my tactic of choice would be… literacy! Make sure that every conversation/exchange is followed up by an email stating clearly “to recap our conversations of the past 2 days, your questions about this were answered thus” without too much distracting meanderings, something crystal clear.

      Then when the question comes up again, say “oh, but we discussed it already and came to x conclusion. Let me help you find the reference”. Then pull up the email, resend it, refuse any further discussion with a broken-record “but we discussed it last week/month, you have the summary in your inbox. Do you need me to send it again?”. Rinse, repeat.

      If they think you’ve overlooked something huge, or your decision is wrong, or whatever, they’re free to take it up with your manager, their manager, whatever. But at least you don’t need to go round and round. And you can then make the case to your manager that you’ve already spent n hours rehashing this with them (and for a while you might want to document how long you spend wasting time like this). You don’t sound like you’re working -alone- with this person, OP, so don’t hesitate to pull in outside resources if they help.

      Reply
  9. Anne of Green Tables

    #3. Our company, 85K+ emploeeyes, makes employees use a corporate card, but the catch is that payment is the employee’s responsibility. An employee has to apply for the card using her own credit, the card is issued in her name, the bills go to the her, and bills are only paid after expense reports are submitted and approved. The company will not pay late payment charges. The process is going much smoother now, but for a long while employees were having to pay out of pocket to avoid the late charges that would not be reimbursed while system glitches slowed bill payments. Some of the temporary out-of-pocket expenses were for things like a tank of gas, others were $2K+ worth of project costs. Basically the company was using employees as a source of temporary interest-free loans.

    Aside from the odious system and being a bank for the employer, the complaint that many employees had was that if they were goign to have the credit in their name and be the guarantors for payment, why couldn’t they use their existing cards and at least get the perks of travel miles and the like. Someone higher up was probably making momey somewhere…

    Reply
    1. eplawyer

      That’s the key right there — the company was using employees as a source of temporary interest-free loans. If you are buying things for the company on your credit card, you are loaning money to the company. Employees should not loan money to the company. The company needs to pay its expenses. If it can’t afford to, it needs to look at its business practices.

      Being a non-profit with a really cool mission that everyone buys into is no excuse to use your woefully underpaid employees as a bank. Even if you pay them back promptly.

      Reply
    2. Still learning how to adult...

      I’ve always had some heartburn about these types of corporate credit cards; because the payment can be delayed from the company to the employee for any number of reasons beyond the employee’s individual control. The company accountant for that process is generally slow processing, or is out for an extended period with sickness or whatever, or the corporate network gets hacked & data are lost, etc, etc.

      It’s just wrong for the company, with its consierably larger assetts than the average employee, should be putting the onus of both payment and risk on those employees. AOGT’s comment at the end strikes a familiar note, famously said about Watergate: “Follow the money”

      A simple answer to the request to use your personal credit rating and credit card would be “No, I don’t do business that way.” You could also add “It’s too dangerous to my personal finances.” Or claim you don’t have any credit cards. If the company wants to accomodate an employee on business travel, they can issue a per diem advance.

      Just my $.02

      Reply
    3. Beatrice

      My company has this system. I had to pay $30 in late charges earlier this year because I forgot to click “submit” on my expense report. And yeah, I’m accountable for that mistake, but I don’t have to financially bear the burden of the cost of any other mistake I’ve made in the course of doing my job. (Thanking my lucky stars for that…I just estimated the other day that I spent $1 million in expedited freight in the 10 years I was in purchasing…. O.O )

      It was either pay, or lose the card, and the ability to travel for work, and all the advancement opportunities that travel leads to…I decided it wasn’t a hill I wanted to die on.

      Reply
    4. Anon for this

      This is also the gov’t policy at the two agencies my husband has worked for. My friend with a third agency gets her card paid directly by the gov’t. My husband just used our card for the points but now he has to get a gov’t card for hotels to avoid the taxes. Same deal though. He is personally responsible and has to pay by the deadline even if the reimbursement isn’t received yet. They are usually speedy with the reimbursement but it’s an all around messy system.

      Reply
      1. Anon for this

        Oh, and the only benefit of it is the gov’t does co-sign so employees that don’t otherwise have good credit can get a card. However, if you don’t pay the card in full by the deadline you face discipline so it doesn’t solve the “I don’t have the money to float this” problem. At least on a personal card, if the reimbursement is delayed you can pay the minimum, float it and eat the interest in a worst case scenario if you didn’t have the cash on hand.

        Reply
      2. kittymommy

        Wow, that’s interesting. I think every government agency I’ve worked fur actively tried to avoid any usage of personal credit cards, one because tax exempt status isn’t transferable to a personal card and they would have to reimburse that and two, it creates more work and paperwork for finance (issuing multiple checks to individuals, rather than one to the credit card company).

        Reply
        1. a govt employee

          I work for a state government agency. It’s only been in the past few years that we’ve been able to avoid putting hotels on our personal credit cards. Now, we can choose to have them put on the state’s card, but it’s a huge hassle because we don’t get to carry a physical card, so I choose not to. And yes, it does mean the state has to pay sales tax on my hotel, but it also means I don’t risk showing up at the hotel and finding out the person who authorized my paying for my room with a piece of paper is gone that day and no one knows what to do.

          Reply
    5. Specialk9

      Oh hey, that’s exactly the question I posted above! My company does this and it seems odd, but I’ve never had a corporate card. I get why it benefits the company, but not me. In fact, it distinctly inconveniences and concerns me.

      Reply
    6. The IT Manager

      The federal government does this with their government travel card.

      It’s annoying. I’ve occasionally had to pay out of my own pocket because of the timing of the card’s cycle or difficulty getting my travel voucher approved (which I contributed to by having higher priorities than fixing issues on a difficult travel voucher). But it is only an annoyance for me; I can afford to front the money.

      I have several friends (not govt employees) that don’t have credit cards and are living on the edge. They would have trouble getting a credit card, I imagine. And they certainly couldn’t front a week’s worth of hotel stay or rental car if they were not reimbursed in time.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        Yep. A while back, I fronted the combined travel costs for a whole group of us grad students going to a conference (it was, on the whole, cheaper to book as a group). I put down $5k, and enjoyed the cash back and the hotel points.

        But 90% of why I did it was that one person in the group really, really couldn’t front the 1k on a credit card to go. And that’s really fair when you are only paid 25k/year! I only have a cc with a high limit (and the savings to pay it off immediately to avoid interest) because of my previous job.

        But yeah, in general, I am happy to reap the rewards of putting stuff on my own card. At the same time, I totally get that it’s not possible for many people.

        Reply
    1. Loz

      Exactly. When we go out with friends I’ll pay on card and collet the cash if there are no objections. I put everything on the card and pay it off. Hell, I paid for my father in law’s funeral on Amex for the points. I hasten to add the funeral director made this perfectly ok by suggesting I use the card for that reason. Very common apparently.

      Reply
    2. Temperance

      Oh heck yes. I recently charged $1800 to my credit card for work and did the shopping through Swagbucks. So I really made out on that purchase.

      Reply
    3. a1

      Yes! The last job I had was at a large company with a lot of travel for clients, even at the “lower” levels of employment. They had tried corporate cards in the past but so many people preferred using their own cards for the FF miles or cash back or what have you. If the company is timely with reimbursements it can work out quite well. (This one was).

      Not to dismiss valid concerns raised above. At my past company, I’m sure some people couldn’t use their card for whatever reason (not enough open to buy, didn’t have a card, too new to credit) and I’m sure accommodations were made, but I don’t know what.

      Reply
    4. neverjaunty

      That’s not a reason for an employer to make this mandatory. “Yes, you’re going to be required to give us interest free loans as part of your job – but think of the frequent flier miles!”

      Reply
    5. periwinkle

      FF miles aren’t as valuable as they used to be, alas. I’d rather let the company keep whatever benefit they’re accruing through our corporate cards in exchange for not floating the company a loan every time I need to fly to a customer site or conference. My employer requires corporate cards for everyone in office roles – they’re in our names and addresses but the company pays the bills. I think it reflects on my credit rating, so thanks go to HugeCorp for assisting my mortgage approval!

      I get the FF miles anyway when flying, just not the double points I’d get for buying a Delta flight on my Delta AmEx. Now, if I ditch that in favor of a cashback card, hmm.

      My husband’s former employer compromised by paying for big-ticket travel costs and reimbursing for smaller travel costs; they paid airfare and hotel, but my husband had to submit expenses for taxis and meals.

      Reply
    6. MoodyMoody

      True, but not every card has incentives like that. I’m quite happy with my 7.5% interest rate and need no further incentives. I’d be upset if my husband’s company made him use it for travel and wait for reimbursement.

      Reply
  10. e271828

    #3, one way of mitigating the effects of imposing on employees to float company debt for travel expenses is for the employer to issue a travel advance preemptively. If the organization will not get corporate cards, then advancing the cash is a slightly better way of handling the effects of using employees as a bank.

    Reply
  11. Ramona Flowers

    #3 If you want to try another solution now while also suggesting managers or directors have cards, maybe investigate whether cash advances are a possibility. We have departmental cards at work but sometimes you need cash e.g. for getting taxis while travelling. My colleagues all seem to just use their own cash, submit receipts and claim it back. I wouldn’t want to do that even if I could (and my finances are tightly budgeted as I’m repaying debts, so I mostly actually can’t).

    So I looked into alternatives and found I can apply for a cash advance if my line manager signs the form. Then I submit receipts along with any change left. It’s worth looking to see if you have a similar option.

    Also, people need to start saying no to putting things on their own cards. If that’s a problem, it needs to be the problem of the employer, not the employee.

    Reply
    1. Cambridge Comma

      Another option might be (assuming things work broadly the same in the US) to get accounts at places so they invoice the business. I looked into this for a former employer as cash advances were taking up so much of our time and with three or four new accounts we covered all conceivable needs and almost eliminated reimbursements and advances.

      Reply
      1. kitryan

        My non-profit performing arts company did a combination of all of these options. The two purchasers in the dept – me and my boss- each had cards which did not affect our credit and which the company was responsible for paying. Every month I would go through all the entries and mark them off for the project and expense category they were for – and if there were any personal charges (my boss did this sometimes – I think I did it once or twice by accident over 5 years) then you’d bring up cash or a check to cover it with the annotated statement and all (non personal) receipts, marked to match them up with the entry on the statement. Then the card would be paid off.
        For smaller expenses or cash only vendors the two of us each had $100 to $500 revolving petty cash, which we would use up and then submit receipts which were similarly marked as to the project and category and a little tracking spreadsheet. Then, to top things off, some of the biggest vendors we used would have an account for us and would invoice us. When we got the invoice, I would fill out the PO form with the same expense allocation information and the company would cut a check to pay them. Between the three methods, you’d think we wouldn’t need to use personal cash/credit – however you’d be wrong. Sometimes the company’s overall credit usage would be too high, so even if my department’s cards were well within their limits, the cards wouldn’t work. And if you don’t pay off your account at a vendor, they tend not to want to extend you more credit. The company had definite cash flow issues and we did sometimes have to choose whether to be out of pocket or not be able to do our job.
        To be fair to them, they always made good and the industry does both tend to live on a knife edge of profitability and to have dramatic variations in spending as projects ramp up and close down.

        Reply
  12. Ramona Flowers

    #1 I wonder if the problem is simply repeated questions because the letter mentions making changes based on the questions. It sounds it’s like it’s a passive aggressive way of getting you to change things. You said you’ve changed that process three times in response to the questions – so from infuriating coworker’s perspective, the strategy works. I think you will need to stop rewarding the behaviour by not making any changes in response to questions!

    Reply
    1. Blank

      Good catch – the issue might not be the repeated questions alone (and the coworker’s) comprehension, but also might be about the coworker trying to get that process altered.

      Reply
    2. hbc

      Yes, even if it’s not deliberate, some people can have a pattern of re-asking questions when they didn’t get the answer they wanted before. I know one person who I kind of sympathize with because he’s terrible at laying out his arguments. He didn’t say his reasons clearly, so the other person never really refuted them, and he’s still left with the certainty that he’s got good reasons to change something. The obvious thing for him to do would be to come back and say, “I know we talked about this before, but we didn’t cover X scenario,” but since he’s still bad at explaining things, it’s just “I think we should change to Process B” again.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        “Yes, even if it’s not deliberate, some people can have a pattern of re-asking questions when they didn’t get the answer they wanted before.”

        I’ve had a few colleagues ask me “how do I ____?” and would not accept that I didn’t know how to do it, or even whether it was possible. They’d have me stand behind them, and they’d keep asking me “so how do I do this? do I do it this way? what about this?” as though that’s going to jog my memory, and maybe it would, if I EVER knew how to do it, which I didn’t. Please, just accept that I’m not the right person to help you figure it out and let me get back to my project.

        Reply
    3. Triplestep

      Yup. I have a co-worker who not only asks the same things over and over, but goes to others to ask the same things and seems quite content to get what she perceives is a different answer. She also does things she’s been asked not to do repeatedly – think “toe stepping” things, or “process step-skipping” things.

      A few months ago when she was new, we assumed this would work itself out. But it hasn’t, and it’s also now accompanied by a tendency to wrap things up either by e-mail or in meetings in a way that does not represent the conclusions the rest of us reached. She seems to want to be “the decider” over things we’ve been asked to collaborate over. Since we are all peers, there is not way for us to reel her in, and her own manager is clueless.

      So yes – I would not assume the OP’s co-worker is asking questions because she truly does not understand.

      Reply
      1. Turquoise Cow

        Yeah, I had a coworker like this. She didn’t really skip things so much as she would add things that we repeatedly told her were unnecessary, like writing down almost everything she did, and quadruple checking it all to make sure it was done. She also kept bringing up issues that were merely limitations on either the system or the process, and asking the same questions over and over as a way to point out these issues. She was constantly over apologetic for the smallest things, playing up the image of her as kind of a ditz who didn’t quite understand what was going on.

        The bosses knew she was an issue, but it wasn’t until they did a massive reorganization and house cleaning that she was let go. And then she took like (at least) thirty minutes to clear off her desk, going through work papers one by one, handing them off to people even though we told her not to worry about it, it wasn’t her concern.

        My job changed after that so I wouldn’t have been working with her directly as much, but it was such a relief when she was gone.

        Reply
    4. a1

      Yes, this does happen – keep asking the same question because they didn’t like the answer, for whatever reason (they don’t think they expressed themselves well, it inconveniences them, etc). At last job at current company, I worked with someone that was “famous” for this. We all knew to just repeat, plainly and with no “tone”, the answer. We’d often sigh to ourselves things like “Repeatedly asking the question isn’t going to change the answer” or “Just because you didn’t like the answer doesn’t mean asking again will get a different one”

      Reply
    5. LAI

      Right!? I couldn’t tell if the coworker is asking the same question over and over again because they don’t *remember* the answer, or because they don’t *like* the answer and are hoping for a different one. Of course, if it’s the latter, this isn’t a very good strategy but it might require a different response from OP.

      Reply
  13. The Other Katie

    OP#1, perhaps in addition to the suggested script, you could send them follow-up emails saying what you just said. Then when you’re asked to explain again in a few days’ time you can just refer them to your email.

    Reply
    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice

      Came here to say exactly this – I train and tutor, and am frequently a victim of repetitive question syndrome, so I’ve taken to following up questions from clients, students (or their parents!) etc. with an email outlining what we discussed.

      Reply
    2. Bagpuss

      Another option would be to specifically suggest that the coworker makes notes or writes down the answer you are giving.
      If you have the conversation about asking the same questions multiple times, then make the suggestion as part of that conversation, and then the next time the same question comes up, raise it “we discussed this when you asked me the same question last week. Did you make a note, like I suggested, so that you wouldn’t have to repeat the question?”

      It puts the onus back on the coworker to keep track of what they have been told, rather than you taking responsibility for it.

      Reply
    3. MicroManagered

      Likewise, if you’re busy when she has a question: “Oh I’m working on X right now, can you send me an email?” which then allows you to write the answer to the question.

      Two days later, she comes and asks the same thing? “Oh it was in that email I sent you, let me look in my sent folder–this one! Do you still have it? I’ll send it again.”

      Reply
    4. Antilles

      This.
      Another trick is to make sure you end your conversations by restating the most important piece of information and/or whatever action he needs to take. People remember the very last thing you say better than the stuff in the middle, so a short, quick 1-2 sentence sum-up can be surprisingly effective in cutting down repeated queries.

      Reply
    5. a1

      She does send emails.

      “I’ve even tried sending a confirmation email that states, “Per our conversation…” and her response confirms an understanding until she asks the same question again a couple of days later.”

      Reply
    6. Marty

      This is what SharePoint or a wiki is for. Document everything, answer her questions by directing her to the documentation. Positive side effect: next time you have to on-board someone, you can direct them to the documentation as well.

      Reply
  14. NonProfitFounder

    #3 As a founder of a (501c3) non-profit in the US, I have to say that getting corporate credit cards for them is VERY difficult. Talked to various banks – they all told me it’s no problem, but then after the application is filled out I get denied because a) The non-profit doesn’t make enough profit (NO JOKE!) or b) The just don’t do CC’s for non-profit. I’ve tried to tell the bank that I would personally guarantee for them, but still no go. I’m told that this is not possible for non-profits.
    So while it might be crappy, don’t necessarily blame management. I wish I would be able to get CC’s to my employees, but just haven’t found a bank willing to do it for smaller non-profits. If the higher up management doesn’t have corporate cards, then this might be the issue.

    Reply
    1. Former Retail Manager

      Since the nonprofit can’t get credit cards, would it be able to get something like a prepaid VISA card (one that can be registered and tracked and all that jazz) and load the funds, plus a little extra for contingencies, onto the card and allow employees to use those? I realize that non-profits are often operating on razor thin margins and this would require the cash outlay up-front, but really, the cash outlay is going to happen within 60 days anyway when the cc bill comes in. Just a thought….I don’t know enough about non-profits to know if this might even be feasible.

      Reply
      1. Ms. Annie

        For the little stuff like meals and taxis, sure. You will still need an actual credit card to check into a hotel and rent a car. But prepaid Visas are essentially debit cards. Companies like rental car places and hotels will put a hold on the funds to cover their expected expenses and could eat up the entire balance of the card and make it unusable for other charges even if the actual charges are much less.

        There is a gas station near me that has both gasoline and diesel. They cater to commercial vehicles. They will drop a $500 hold onto my card and leave it there until the actual charge of about $30 processes all the way through. That can take a full day. If I am close to the limit, that will take that card out of use until the actual balance clears.

        Reply
      2. paul

        We did that for a while at ours and it was the best system from an employee standpoint; I’m not sure why they discontinued it TBH.

        Reply
      1. NonProfitFounder

        It’s not reasonable. But in our case, it’s just a fact and until I find someone willing to do credit cards for our organization, it’s something we have to accept. (Generous cash advances, very fast expense payment and offering to pay direct for whatever is possible is the only real solution I found so far).
        My point was to not blame the company as it might be the same issue. They might be trying and just failing.

        Reply
    2. J

      I am a career non-profit employee, and I’ve had company credit cards before. (I have one now!) But the organizations I have worked for have been very large, well-known organizations. They negotiate contracts with cash back on employee purchases and everything, probably based on the degree of visibility the organizations have.

      I am sorry to hear smaller organizations have a harder time of this.

      Reply
  15. Mike C.

    Why is this credit card issue so common? Even the smallest of organizations can apply for organization cards that are controlled by management and have approved cards for employees tied to the main cards that can be administered quite easily. All you seem to need for one of these is a business account with a major bank and the ability to fog a mirror.

    It’s just frustrating to me that these answers are out there, it’s less risky for everyone involved, it makes paperwork/taxes/record keeping easier and yet these groups still do the stupid and more difficult thing that also ends up being potentially harmful to employees if there’s a screw up.

    Reply
  16. gawaine

    On #3 – We revolted when they made us stop using personal credit cards for travel and managed to delay it for a few years, and when they finally made the rule permanent, some people quit or started to refuse to travel. My last two family trips to Hawaii and my anniversary trip to Spain were paid for with points generated by personal credit cards, mostly thanks to travel and training for work. My credit score is nearly perfect, since I have a record of paying things off every month, so the only downside I’ve seen has been at companies I didn’t trust to pay me back quickly.

    Many “corporate” cards issued to people are still held in your name, and they have exactly the same effects on your credit score. The only real benefit you get out of it is that your company can negotiate for things like a longer time to repay them or travel insurance.

    There are exceptions, but they’re mostly used for purchasing, not travel, where they can add safeguards to let them see how things work.

    Reply
    1. Former Retail Manager

      It’s fantastic that this arrangement works for you, but the issue with this is that not everyone has nearly perfect credit, cannot necessarily get cards with high limits that will cover all of the expenses that need to be covered, especially if they’re a low to mid-level non-profit employee (who typically have lower salaries than the private sector) and have varying levels of other debt (large student loan balances seem pretty common among younger non-profit employees these days). It’s also entirely feasible for an employee to have bad credit stemming from events that occurred before they even got that job. Tying your ability to do your current job to decisions you may have made 5-6 years ago is unfair, unless that requirement was disclosed at the time they took the position. If an organization wants to give employees the option for the folks like you, I think that’s great, but forcing it just isn’t the way to go IMO.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        And it’s not even limited to past mistakes – people bankrupted by medical bills, or who had their credit ruined by an addict spouse, shouldn’t be punished because they are unable to act as a bank for their employer.

        Reply
        1. JokersandRogues

          Or even are on a Debit Card only. My husband and I were no credit cards for about 8 years in order to pay off debt (we probably could not have got a credit card anyway). Also, our cash flow (as he was in school) was such that I could not float the company money for travel. Just did not have it.

          Reply
  17. Triplestep

    #5: I agree with Alison’s advice, but not that “‘partner’ implies enough of a commitment that it’s as reasonable to mention as it would be with a spouse.” Perhaps it is generational, but I would not assume this to be true across the board, especially in opposite gender couples. (I think same-gender marriage is till new enough that people don’t expect couples to “just get married already” the way they do with opposite-gender couples.)

    For context, I was partnered with my first husband for 8 years before we married. During that time we had two children and owned two different homes, so we were definitely “partnered” but not looked at as equal to married by our families, friends or co-workers. Sure, this was two decades ago, but I think for some people “partner” still implies “not really committed” or “can’t agree whether or not to marry” which it certainly did then. (For the record, neither of us did want to marry until he needed health insurance and I had it. This doesn’t change what anyone assumes, though.)

    In a hypocritical twist, I recently found myself feeling a twinge of uneasiness upon meeting a woman who moved to my city with her partner for his job with no job lined up for herself. Turns out this is the second time she’d done this. She is a bit older than my daughter who I would not want to make the same choice, and this is what I attribute my initial somewhat critical feelings to. Obviously I see the irony, but the point is you can’t expect others to see “partner” as equal to “spouse” – even those who have been partnered!

    Reply
    1. Zathras

      I don’t think Alison was suggesting that employers would automatically see ‘partner’ as 100% equivalent to spouse, just that using the word implies a level of commitment. where people are moving to new places because of the other person’s job, etc.

      In the context of an interview, it would be really weird for the interviewer to even have a second thought about the level of commitment in your romantic relationship because you mentioned you moved for your partner. They are mostly interested in making sure the answer to “why did you leave your last company in Other Location X” isn’t “I set fire to the building and fled across state lines.”

      Reply
      1. Triplestep

        Hypothetically, if I was in the position to interview the woman I described above, and during the interview she disclosed she moved to follow a partner, I would likely get the same uneasy feeling I did during casual conversation. I’d make assumptions about her judgement.

        And again, this is coming from someone who two decades ago was partnered, and left herself legally and financially vulnerable to another person. I question my own youthful judgement as well!

        Reply
    2. Doodle

      I do think this is a generational thing — I have many friends who use “partner” (some of whom are married, others of whom are not) in lieu of husband/wife and to imply a longer-term/more serious relationship than boy/girlfriend. (It also solves the problem of boy/girlfriend seeming very juvenile once both parties are well beyond the “boy” and “girl” stages of their life.)

      It seems like more people (LGBT and heterosexual) are in long-term relationships outside of marriage.

      I have used “partner” in a number of business transactions (landlord, etc.), and I didn’t get any impression that they misunderstood the relationship.

      I’m sorry your family and friends were so judgmental of your relationship!

      Reply
      1. Doodle

        Forgot the work part — I also used “partner” in an interview when I was moving for their work — no one batted an eye. I’m not sure if “boy/girlfriend” would have the same impact, but who knows.

        Reply
      2. Triplestep

        Honestly, you really don’t know how people in business transactions view being “partnered” vs. being “married” or “engaged.”

        I didn’t meant to imply that anyone was critical of my relationship – I assume you meant “judgmental” in the way most people mean it these days, which is “look down on.” I’m sure family, friends and co-workers did judge it – they judged it to be not the same as marriage, because it wasn’t.

        Reply
    3. Elfie

      Maybe I’m really naive, maybe this is a personal viewpoint, or maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I just can’t see the difference between partnered and married, I really can’t. I’ve known people in partnerships that have lasted longer than marriages, and people that have had more spouses than other people have had partners. To me, partner means living together (and this is where it might just be my personal viewpoint) – and if you’re living together, you’re already entwined – financially, physically, emotionally, logistically, etc. So I wouldn’t blink an eye if someone said partner not spouse, and it certainly wouldn’t imply a lesser commitment to me – it wouldn’t even occur to. So what I’m saying is, I guess, don’t assume – there’s no way to truly know what the other person is thinking, so err on the side of caution – but don’t beat yourself up if you happen to say partner.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Are you European by any chance? I noticed that attitude was very common in Germany and Switzerland. In the US, we still have an annoyingly Puritanical undercurrent even when we don’t mean to. Less so over time, though, thankfully.

        Reply
      2. Rusty Shackelford

        Maybe I’m really naive, maybe this is a personal viewpoint, or maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I just can’t see the difference between partnered and married, I really can’t.

        A big difference is that one involves a legal contract, and is recognized by the government. While *you* may not see the difference, many important entities certainly do.

        (Coincidentally, Yahoo informs me today that comedian Ron White and his purported wife/soon-to-be ex-wife may not have been married after all, though it may turn out that they were, whether he believes it or not, because Texas supports common law marriage…)

        Reply
      3. The IT Manager

        I do the see difference. In part because I see some people move in together really fast. (There’s the whole lesbian u-haul stereotype based on this idea but is not just lesbians.)

        There’s an easy in /easy out feeling for those people that move in together really fast that makes me feel like it’s still just a dating relationship and not yet a partnership.

        But that’s my POV. If someone tells me about their “partner”, I’m going to assume a long term relationship based on my bias and if it comes out that they just met, I will adjust my assumptions.

        Reply
      4. Cherith Ponsonby

        I think it’s partly cultural and partly generational (speaking from a non-US perspective, anyway). I know there are legal differences, but the perception here is that de facto relationships give you all the benefits of marriage anyway (the tax office certainly doesn’t seem to make much distinction between married and “living together as if married”). I’ve moved between cities with my partner without work lined up for myself, and the reactions from recruiters have actually been more positive than negative.

        Context: Mr P and I have been together for 20+ years but are not legally married. I call him my partner; partly because we aren’t legally married, partly out of habit, and partly because I enjoy teasing nosy people who hear “partner” and must instantly find out the gender of this person without actually asking me. My mum says we’re as good as married, and calls him my husband. His parents aren’t happy that we haven’t made it legal, but they don’t treat me any differently (the only thing that would change if we did get married is that they’d start back up with the “so when are you finally going to have kids” talk!)

        Reply
    4. Specialk9

      In this topic, 2 decades makes a huge difference. Even 1 decade does. Society changed rapidly!

      And it’s not hypocritical to worry about a woman moving without a job for a partner without legal/financial protections — there’s no judgement on the validity or worth of the relationship, but an observation about the law. Plus women tend to move for a partner more than men do (in my observation), and that can cause gendered financial vulnerability.

      Reply
  18. High Score!

    Op1, I have a co-worker who does this. I just resend the same emails I answered with the first time. If coworker asks me vocally vs email, I answer with, remember we discussed that? And resend the email. I always put everything in email.

    Reply
  19. Temperance

    LW3: My office has the same policy for most things, although some people have corporate cards for larger expenses (like $3k in event tickets!). I have a rewards card and do shopping through Swagbucks for the cash back, so I have come to enjoy it a bit.

    Reply
  20. Deis

    In that third question, in which Alison advocates for getting together to suggest a policy change, I’m having trouble explaining to myself what the difference is between that and the interns who were all fired for trying to get a dress code changed. I have a few inklings – that they’re pushing back on a policy which is truly inconvenient while the dress code was more of a preference, that they’re sitting down and talking about rather than signing a petition – but I’d really appreciate if someone could explain to me, in a really simple way, what the difference is. I’m a student, so I won’t be entering the professional world for a few years, and these sort of nuances aren’t immediately obvious to me!

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      Great question!

      So firstly, there’s the question of what the issue is. It’s reasonable to question a policy that creates financial stress for employees, as that isn’t something you should reasonably expect from your job.

      Keeping to a dress code, on the other hand, is a more acceptable aspect of working for a company. Why is that different, when you pay for your own clothes anyway so both things cost you money? Answer: because you’d need clothes either way. The employer is stipulating what kind of clothes you wear, not whether you wear any at all. Plus you can find your own clothes at the price you choose (I mostly do thrift, eBay and clothes swapping events) whereas work expenses are probably fixed.

      It’s not necessarily always so black and white, so the question of what to push back on is something you will pick up with time and experience.

      But then there’s the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’. Even if you get together as a group, you’re still not going to do it the way the interns did – a petition is not the way to go.

      Others will explain it better I’m sure!

      Reply
      1. Zathras

        I think this is well said. The lesson to take away from the intern story wasn’t “You can’t ever push for change at work”, it was “This is absolutely the wrong way to push for change at work.”

        It’s possible to push for changes to the dress code at work in a professional way, particularly if you are someone with a lot of political capital to spend at that workplace (which interns and new employees generally don’t have).

        The intensity of the push should also match the impact of the issue you’re trying to change. Changing a dress code that is normal for the industry isn’t something anyone should spend a ton of time and energy on. But expecting your employees to routinely float the money for large, non-travel-related business expenses is not normal and can cause financial harm/stress to employees, so it’s worth spending more effort to change.

        At the end of the day you still have to gracefully accept a firm “No” and then privately decide whether you still want to work there, given that Thing X is not going to change.

        Reply
      2. Specialk9

        A big part of it is whether it’s your family/your house, or you’re a guest invited over for tea. (Metaphorically)

        Employees have standing – it’s their house/their family and they get to raise issues. Especially if it is a problem that creates actual hardship – one shouldn’t have to suffer in order to work, and it’s reasonable to request a policy change.

        The interns weren’t employees, they were much more in the category of guests. (This made worse bc frankly internships mostly benefit the interns — managing interns is a big hassle and time suck and the benefits are largely one-sided. So it’s like offering to sew a wedding dress for free, and the benefitting person criticizes how you decorate your house and demands you buy new throw pillows).

        They were arrogant, entitled, and childish — they walked in, looked around for 3 minutes, decided that they knew better than the established people with years or decades of experience who are training them, and then pushed to do things their way, in a way things aren’t done.

        And lastly, it was a petty issue. Casual dress? Seriously?

        So those are the ways it’s different.

        Reply
          1. Deis

            Thank you. :) I’ve been lurking for a while and definitely picked up some tips on how to phrase it!

            Thank you all for expanding on that. Rephrasing as an understanding check, it feels like some big differences were that this has a larger effect on employers, and that employees will have to put up with it for longer than interns would. There’s also the fact that there are lots of different ways companies handle expenses while fewer companies have casual dress codes.

            I can also see the difference in approach; Alison’s suggesting opening a discussion while making it clear that it affects a lot of people, which is different to marching in with a petition, which reads more as a demand/ultimatum. The interns were also insensitive in not understanding why one specific person was an exception to the rule; they could have opened with “can you tell me more about this policy and its purpose” rather than demanding change.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I think the bigger issues are that dress codes are not an outrage, whereas asking employees to front business expenses is pretty crappy, and that interns do not generally have standing to push back in such an aggressive way on fairly routine company policies.

              Reply
    2. Apollo Warbucks

      The interns over stepped, they were there to learn not to affect a change in the business. After being told no they kept pushing for a change in the dress code. Really they shouldn’t have asked about changing it once never mind starting a partition.

      In this situation there are a number of ways a business can handle expense so it’s not unreasonable to ask about a different method, although there would be a point at which they have to accept no for an answer if management can’t or won’t change the current set up.

      Reply
      1. Kate

        “After being told no they kept pushing for a change in the dress code.”

        I think this part is really important too. Not only were the interns not really in a position to push back on work place policies (and the dress code probably wasn’t a policy to pick for the reasons others have mentioned), but they were already told “no” by their managers before putting together the petition. Continuing to push for that change made them look insubordinate.

        Reply
    3. No Pink

      With work clothes, once you know the dress code, it’s up to you to decide what to buy and how much to spend, and you can spread purchases out. And then you can keep the clothes for your own use.

      With the business expenses, you have to pay up in full right now then wait for reimbursement – risking your own money and your own credit rating, and maybe late fees if you can’t cover your own bills – and the business benefits, since they get the goods or services while you’re paying for their essential running costs.

      Reply
    4. Liane

      The intern situation also involved bringing up a coworker’s exemption from the policy due to a disability the interns didn’t know in the form of “This isnt fairrrrr! Sherry is in violation every day, and no one says a word, so we should be allowed!”

      Reply
    5. Mike C.

      One other issue is that it’s the responsibility of the business to cover the expenses of the business. You generally shouldn’t be fronting money unless you own part of that business.

      Reply
  21. AvonLady Barksdale

    #5: I would look very kindly on someone who said, “I left this city and realized how much love it; I wanted to come home.” To me that shows a likelihood to stay, not flakiness. “Flaky” would be someone who moved back and then moved away again shortly thereafter. Honestly, don’t sweat it.

    Reply
    1. Former Retail Manager

      Yes…this! Considering someplace “home” and using that phrasing says to me that you have a deep attachment to the place and people and the likelihood of leaving is slim. I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you.

      Reply
  22. Former Retail Manager

    OP#2….first and foremost…very cool side hustle you have going on!

    As far as keeping the burlesque under wraps, I assume you perform under a stage name, but do you have social media accounts under your real name on which you promote the burlesque shows? Or is your real name associated with your burlesque in any way? If so, you might consider making some adjustments there, to the extent that you can, and I’d obviously Google yourself if you haven’t already. Absent an electronic footprint, I really think there is a slim possibility that anyone would ever “find you out,” but I certainly wouldn’t offer the information regardless.

    Reply
  23. Miss Elaine E.

    RE The poster involved with burlesque: Perhaps one way to make the situation less awkward is to be sure at the other job to dress in a way to match the culture.
    I say this based on a past experience as a nurse aide doing homecare: The family of one patient hired about five people to assist with round-the-clock care for their loved one. One new aide dressed rather differently: always a tad too made up for the situation (we were sitting with a bed-bound 80-year-old woman, prepping her meals, changing her, cleaning her home and yard etc. yet she wore full foundation and A LOT of other makeup.) Her skirts were always thigh high etc. Just something always seemed “off”.
    Turns out she was also a stripper. When the family found that out, she was let go. I think had she dressed “normally” (i.e., jeans, scrubs, clothes meant for housework), she would have been fine.

    Reply
    1. Owl

      I feel like this anecdote isn’t really helpful to the letter writer, you just wanted to tell this (depressing/infuriating) anecdote about some poor woman who lost her job because she happens to have a second job of which her employers didn’t approve, but which didn’t affect her work at all.

      Also please don’t call them “strippers,” that’s rude.

      Reply
      1. Miss Elaine E.

        I am sorry. I did not mean to offend.

        I also didn’t realize the word “stripper” was rude. (I do realize it is different from burlesque.) When I was told the story, the word “stripper” was the term used.

        Also, I apologize if it seemed that I implied that using full foundation was a negative thing. It was a poor word choice and I’m sorry for it. All I meant to say was that, in my area at least, using very heavy make-up (i.e. “stage make-up”) is highly unusual for something like homecare settings.

        All this to say, if the person in question had dressed more appropriately for the role at hand, rather than the side venture, it would not have raised the red flags it did.

        Again, I do apologize for my clumsy wording. Peace.

        Reply
    2. Murphy

      While agree with you about dressing appropriately for one’s job (and there’s no reason to believe that OP doesn’t do that already), this comes off as pretty judgmental.

      I wear full foundation all the time…

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        But it’s reality – this happened. It stinks and we don’t And shouldn’t have to like it, but one would be foolish not to realize that some people are judgmental and will fire a woman for inappropriate attire + sex related work. It is hugely relevant to the OP’s question. Let’s not blow rainbow smoke rings up her nose – good on you OP for finding something fun and fulfilling, yes some people will judge you, it could impact your job, your call from here.

        Reply
    3. Kelly L.

      You’ll find that most people with “alternative” hobbies know how to dress appropriately for their Muggle jobs. Or perhaps you won’t, because the ones who know how to dress appropriately, you’ll probably never know about their alternative hobbies. I’m into some stuff my co-workers would never guess. I dress like the Queen of Mundanity at work.

      Reply
    4. Here we go again

      I think what Miss Elaine E was trying to communicate was that this employee already had things going for them that weren’t in line with the work culture and the family finding out that she was a dancer just pushed it over the top, causing her to lose her job. It was just a way for her to indicate you need to be extra careful if there are elements of your personal life that could add to conflict.

      Reply
  24. Secret Burlesquer

    #2 – I have been a burlesque performer and producer in my city for 6 years now. I’m successful to the point that I have been recognized in public. I do not share this part of my life with my current job, although I was open with previous jobs. (I used to work retail and nobody cared. I now work in finance and am a little wary.) I know that it’ll come out eventually, but for now I keep it to myself. I have a feeling it won’t go over well once I’m found out.

    Please be cautious, as I have friends who have been outed, lost their jobs, and faced public backlash. It really depends on the industry in which you work. The service industry seems to be more understanding, although I have a friend who produces here as well she put it on her resume and found an office job. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Secret Burlesquer

      Also I want to add that I keep my muggle and burlesque lives separate. I have two Instagrams and two Facebooks. I do not promote my burlesque shows or even talk about it on my muggle pages. I do not friend burlesque profiles on my muggle pages. I blocked as many people from my work as I could find on Instagram and Facebook from my burlesque pages. Few people in the burlesque world know my legal name. I am sure you are already taking these precautions (and if you’re not, I humbly suggest you start). You just never know, and you want to do as much as you can to protect yourself.

      Reply
        1. Secret Burlesquer

          A lot of burlesquers use it! I’m not really sure how it started, but it feels like the perfect way to describe how I feel about my two lives.

          Reply
        2. Kelly L.

          A lot of people use it in a whole variety of subcultures–burlesque, kink, pagan, etc. “Mundane” used to be more usual, I think, but Rowling gave us a better word, so huzzah!

          Reply
    2. OlympiasEpiriot

      My private life isn’t even about things that would get nosy-parkers/pearl-clutchers going and I keep the two as separate as possible, too. There’s always reasons to be wary until you know the people you work with. (In my case, I work in construction often around politically conservative or just we-want-a-25%-ROI people and my private life is full of grassroots, community-oriented politics. Since I’m female in this biz, I know there’s all kinds of assumptions about my views just as I make assumptions in return, but, this way, we can all concentrate on work.)

      Best of luck (and I really like Secret Burlesquer’s way of putting it: Muggle and Burlesque!)

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        This is probably off topic, but I can’t help feeling like everybody believes they’re a magical, powerful wizard, while the rest of the population are sad pathetic muggles. I’m not sure I’m thrilled with how this dichotomy seems to be playing out in our polarized and narcissistic times.

        Reply
  25. Anonforthis

    LM#2 – As a belly dancer working in a conservative profession (law), I hear you! Personally, I don’t hide it, but don’t go out of the way to tell people about it either. Over time, coworkers who know me have learned about it and I don’t know that anyone much cares beyond thinking it’s pretty neat or maybe a little weird. I get that burlesque is more likely to be judged and misunderstood, but I wouldn’t sweat it too much. You’re a whole person, not just a person-with-a-job. Scrutinize potential employers carefully for signs that they would or wouldn’t be a good cultural fit for you – any employer who has a serious problem with something that’s an important part of your life probably isn’t somewhere you want to spend 40 hours a week.

    Reply
    1. A Different Anon For This

      I’d watch out for employers who might be overly interested too, or places with the kind of culture where some employees would get inappropriate about it.

      Knowing people who do burlesque, I understand that it has its own associate subculture and forms of etiquette. I also know that some people unfamiliar with the culture can misunderstand things and behave inappropriately. Like asking for photos at work, asking overly invasive questions, etc. I’d look for a place where that sort of thing would be discouraged.

      Reply
  26. radiolady

    #1, Story of my life! I work the morning shift at our radio station, and the afternoon guy calls and texts me as many as 20 times a day with the same dozen or so questions. I’ve discussed it with my boss, and there isn’t really much I can do short of consistently reconfirming. He’s only been here a few months and it is his first job out of college. Boss is never here (he’s a state politician in addition to our GM, family-owned business), and rarely available for mundane questions so everything has fallen to me. Ugh! Such is life. Aside from that, I love my job and I am hopeful he’ll get more confidence and lessen the calls as he’s been with us longer.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Oh my goodness, I would not tolerate that. You’re not even on shift! That is different and worse than OP’s situation. I think you’d be doing this new worker a favor to point out to him kindly and directly that this is excessive and that he needs to be part of developing a system that will redirect these questions. Like you’ll write it down once and then not answer any texts while he figures things out.

      Reply
    2. Marty

      There is one thing you could do, start a wiki, put your answers there, and make it easier to look them up than to bug you. Online documentation is a lifesaver for this kind of problem.

      Reply
      1. Laura

        Don’t answer! You have terrible cell reception now at the gym/treatment centre/library where you now spend the afternoons which are your free time because you’re not being paid to work then.

        Reply
  27. Kirsty

    #3 I don’t have a credit card so they could shove that idea. You’d point blank not getting me to use my own money at all and if they tried to sack me with it, I would sue them for unfair dismissal.

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      This is one of the reasons I dislike Dave Ramsey. I’ve heard him advise people in this situation to just refuse to use their personal cards for travel and I’m like, Dave, take a look at the real world sometime.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        There are *lots* of reasons to critique Dave Ramsey. I still think he’s the best at what he does – making debt repayment/saving emotionally happy and exciting – and I recommend him to financial newbies. People who are at the next level need someone else, but DR is brilliant.

        Reply
        1. D.W.

          I love Dave Ramsey, I have been using his snowball method to pay off my school loans and I’m almost ready to do my debt free scream!!! But I do have a credit card that I pay of religiously every Sunday, and use Every Dollar as my envelope system. It has been working out beautifully.

          Reply
      1. KellyK

        She didn’t say she’d quit though. She said she’d be willing to be fired over it. And, really, if you don’t have the money or the space on your credit card, you don’t have it.

        Reply
        1. KellyK

          Which is not to say that a lawsuit would actually be successful. As far as I’m aware, firing someone for not being able to front money to your business is crappy, but perfectly legal. It’s probably not the sort of misconduct that’s going to get unemployment denied, though.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yep, it’s legal; there’s no lawsuit there, at least not in the U.S. Even with unemployment, I wouldn’t count on them awarding it because this is such a common policy.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Wait, I’m changing that last part — if you said you couldn’t afford what they were asking re: the credit cards, I could see them awarding you unemployment for that. If you were protesting on principle, I’m less optimistic.

              Reply
            2. Rusty Shackelford

              I know it’s common to be required to use your own personal credit card for travel, but what about buying office equipment?

              Reply
  28. Jen

    For the burlesque performer, perhaps you could put feelers out in the burlesque community for job leads? Presumably if one of your co-performers works, or has worked, at a company, they will either be okay with it or at least have clear advice for you on how to handle it. Obviously teams within a company can change, but it struck me as one way to get solid information on the unknown.

    Reply
  29. apopculturalist

    #3:

    This is how my company operates. When I first started here, I was in my early 20s, and I admit it was a hardship during one of my first trade shows. I thought a pre-reserved room in my name was paid for, but it wasn’t, and I had a CC with a $1,200 limit or so. For a 5 day conference + food + other expenses, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough, but it worked out. But that stress, when at a work event, was tough! (Especially when it’s your FIRST work event for a new job!)

    I’m lucky to have good credit, so I then opened another credit card with a much higher limit. The nice thing about using your own credit cards is that you can rack up points in reward programs, so if I were you, I’d definitely look into that! (I have Chase Venture, and it’s great.) Many CC reward programs offer bonuses for spending a certain amount within the first few months of opening an account, so I opened one around Nov./Dec. to take advantage of work travel + Christmas shopping, and got enough points to book flights for my BF and I!

    But, at the same time, my office does have an office CC — we just have to ask our accountant to borrow it and return it with a receipt. That might be a great next step for your workplace, OP: Have a CC at each office, under someone’s purview (accountant, HR, etc.) that can be borrowed by you and your co-workers for purchases you make in the office. It won’t help if you travel for work, sure, but it’ll help defray some costs. (Like the coworker who bought a printer? That’s ridiculous. That should go on a corporate card.)

    Best of luck!

    Reply
  30. Scattol

    #3: Corporate Cards are just like your own cards. You are on the hook for all expenses interests and fees no matter what, it goes to your credit rating etc. If an expense reports get declined, guess what, you just bought it yourself!

    It’s not like corporate card are a stack of blank checks from your company.

    The real risk is the company not paying you back on time or at all (yours or corpo card) and using employees as a source of cash. If you are concerned about that, I recommend you ask for an advance.

    Reply
    1. special snowflake

      Agreed with J – It is entirely possible to have a corporate card (like all the ones I and everyone I know have had) that has no bearing on your personal credit or credit report whatsoever.

      The company never asks for a credit check and the issuer never asks for personal information. Its an account with authorized users each of whom has a card.

      While the scenario you mention can occur it’s very inaccurate to paint that as the only option across the board and can cause even more confusion and problems with the issue.

      Reply
    2. kitryan

      I have only encountered the kind of card that belongs firmly to the company and does not appear on your credit and for which you are not ultimately the responsible party.
      However, reading the comments, it seems clear that there are two kinds. One that the employee pays for and that can impact your credit and for which you are ultimately on the hook – and the other kind, where the employer is the responsible party.
      Personally, I would only want to sign on for the latter, but I have never seen that arrangement benefit the employee in the form of points or miles, which is important to some commentators.

      Reply
  31. (Mr.) Cajun2core

    #1 – I know this won’t help in the example you provided but for other questions would developing a policy and procedure manual help?

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      Yes! This hasn’t been said yet. Make a manual, and after that refer them to the manual.

      But also don’t keep changing the procedure for this person. They sound like they could be asking as a nag, rather than for knowledge. (Or they could have a memory problem, we don’t know – so back to the manual.)

      Lastly, loop in your manager, cheerfully. Here’s the situation, it’s been pulling me from my workload, here’s how I’ve handled it, ideas on what else to do?

      Reply
  32. Spooky

    #3 – That’s the way our credit card policy is, too. To make matters worse, they don’t pay back things like classes until the whole thing has been completed and grades have been submitted, which for semester-long classes means about four or five months later. And of course they don’t pay interest on it, just the cost of tuition, so that leaves the employee scrambling to front thousands of dollars (my current class cost $3000). :( Oh well- at least they’ll pay it back at some point.

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      Yeah, but paying for school is a perk, a huge one, for you. Paying for work travel is a required routine expense, for them. Big difference.

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        It depends on the job, though. In some professions, continuous ed is required to maintain a license or certification, and some companies really push people to take classes. Some classes, like training on a specialized piece of software, might not be related to a degree at all, but may just be required for work, and whether they’re a benefit to your overall career depends on how common the tool is and whether the course is worth putting on your resume.

        Reply
    2. J

      I’m in the middle of this right now. Because I have excellent credit, I got around it by signing up for a new 0% credit card where the promotional rate doesn’t expire for over a year from now. That way, I can make minimum payments in the meantime and zero it out when I get reimbursed.

      NOT A SOLUTION FOR EVERYONE. I take a small–like 3 points–hit on my credit score in the meantime, but, like hair, it’ll grow back and I have the luxury of being able to afford it.

      Reply
    3. Natalie

      This is completely normal for employer provided educational assistance, because if you drop the class it’s no longer a business expense and becomes part of your income.

      Reply
    4. Anna H

      Have you asked the school about deferring tuition? It’s a common practice that the bursar should be familiar with. My school allows me to wait to pay for classes until after my grades come out. I just had to submit forms proving my company’s policy.

      Reply
  33. Pineapple Incident

    To OP #1, I was recently in a similar situation with someone at work. She ended up being recently let go, but prior to that she was continuously interrupting the woman who worked near her space (small open-style office, admin support for head-honchos in offices branching off from theirs) with questions, as well as rehashing items covered in rounds of formal training, and going to other people by phone/email to ask the same questions in different ways.

    To try and mitigate the effect of this habit she had, she was instructed to cut down on going to multiple people for the same issue as much as possible. She was also asked to set an informal meeting sometime in the day to bring her questions to her colleague in the same office as a batch, as opposed to interrupting her workflow over and over. We also laid out POCs for her in each area of tasks she was meant to do, to try and minimize the burden to each individual person. It didn’t work, but who knows whether it might for your person!

    I’m sorry you’re in this position- good luck managing your over-asker.

    Reply
  34. Frances

    #1 I’ve worked with someone who can’t remember a thing. Despite asking for and taking copious notes on procedures, feedback, or anything, he never absorbed that information. He had a positive attitude and was pleasant to be with so I never thought it was some sort of attitude thing. I figured he might have had a medical reason for it, but I wasn’t sure if that was the case and that isn’t any of my business anyway.

    The problem I see with your situation is that Jane’s inability to retain the information she needs to do her job is affecting your workload and productivity (probably hers as well). This makes me wonder at what point do you ask the supervisor to get involved. At what point does this become a performance issue?
    In my situation, the guy who couldn’t remember (or develop a system to help him remember) crucial information for performing our tasks essential to our job was let go. He had over a year to figure things out but it became clear he couldn’t do this job. He knew he wasn’t performing up to par and is now at a different job where he is better suited and a lot happier.

    Reply
    1. Dust Bunny

      From somebody who is very visual and kinetic: Taking notes doesn’t always help as much as it’s supposed to. It’s hard to listen and take notes at the same time if you’re somebody like I am who really struggles with processing information auditorily. I’m basically frantically writing while you’re talking but cannot actually absorb anything in the moment, so at the end of the session, I’m left with my own notes, which are usually flawed because they were “translated” and written by somebody who wasn’t familiar with the process (or I wouldn’t have asked for instruction, right?). If you’re not an auditory person, taking notes is actually kind of distracting and can mean you hear even less of what is being said. It would be better if somebody who understood the process thoroughly wrote the guide.

      Reply
      1. Marty

        Which is why written communication can be such an improvement here. Especially if they are hosted in a central wiki (or SharePoint) that is easy to find.

        Reply
  35. MissDissplaced

    #3 I don’t have credit cards, only a $300 prepaid one I occasionally use for online purchases. I would be VERY hard pressed to be expected to put $500 or thousands of dollars on one for work purposes!
    What happens to people like me who are without credit cards or just don’t have that kind of credit limit?
    Goodness! That’s a pretty big burden for employees to shoulder.

    Reply
  36. Allypopx

    #3 – My company is just starting to move away from this. The worst is when a manager paid for a work-sanctioned morale event on her own card and had a delayed reimbursement because the approval for a karaoke room and a round of drinks had to bounce between confused directors even though it had been preapproved. So she had $400 on her credit card and was getting nauseated and super anxious about it. It’s a huge deal for some people!

    Our director even has his own company credit card, he just runs up the balance so much they put a cap on it and therefore we can barely use it. Luckily, when the finance director learned the expense was on a personal card for so long she freaked out and rushed the reimbursement. But it shouldn’t have gotten to that point.

    I agree with Alison about pushing back as a group. We had luck with bringing up instances like this and presenting it as “obviously, this can’t happen again” or “following that, you understand why I’m not willing to front that cost”. It sounds like you have examples to pull from for that kind of thing. And you have a solution to offer, which creates a better chance for success. Good luck!

    Reply
  37. Dust Bunny

    LW1: Are these communications primarily verbal? Are they the sorts of procedures that could have guides written out and stored on a shared server?

    I’m not a verbal/auditory person (I have a *very* hard time absorbing and remembering things that are told to me), and my boss is not good at keeping track of emails, although we both prefer to have things in writing. So my office has a “[Department] Guides and Procedures” folder where how-tos and guidelines for the various things we do are typed up and stored. If your department doesn’t already have things like this, it might help your employee retrieve answers herself, and maybe help her remember them better. She might just be lazy, and asking you is easier than taking responsibility for remembering (my dad is like this. Drives us nuts), but it’s worth a try.

    Reply
    1. Marty

      Furthermore, it isn’t too hard to make hosted documents easier to use than asking. Search engines and links are wonderful. Put it all in SharePoint or a wiki and then it will be easier just to ask the computer.

      Reply
  38. Employment Lawyer

    2. Do I need to hide my burlesque work at a new job?
    Yes, absolutely.

    I disagree that this is “ridiculous” as AAM thinks. We have very strong laws regarding sexual harassment (though they are most strictly enforced in a quasi-corporate environment). Burlesque is sexual, of course, and if it’s an open activity then it will increase the likelihood that someone will engage with (or about) you in some way that references sexuality; that increases employer exposure.

    If someone were a popular and open burlesque performer (pictures on posters, etc.) it increases the chance of an interaction we don’t like. Imagine the complexity if we have to deal with a sex harassment complain which begins with one of your co-workers going to your burlesque show, right?

    You can’t be the only person whose sexual expression was free and open and OK to discuss it w/r/t you (not anyone else)… this is horrible legal exposure for the company even if you’re OK with it, and it is bad to have special rules for you specifically. Similarly you can’t easily be the person who has a significant public persona which, unlike everyone else, is forbidden to be referenced or discussed at work, this special rule is also hard.

    Best bet is to hide it.

    Reply
    1. Murphy

      I think what Alison was calling ridiculous was that simply knowing that OP does this might negatively affect her professional reputation, which it shouldn’t. But knowing that’s wrong for people to be judgy won’t make them less judgy.

      Reply
    2. Lauren

      Are you implying that the dancer is the one sexually harassing her co-workers by being in a burlesque show? The only thing that would ‘increase employer exposure’ to a case of sexual harassment is if they treated OP as the reason for any comments and chose not to do anything to stop unwanted behavior / comments. OP being in a burlesque show doesn’t give anyone free rein to:
      – sexually harass that person
      – be an a**hole

      Reply
      1. Allypopx

        With the ” it will increase the likelihood that someone will engage with (or about) you in some way that references sexuality” comment I read it more as anyone talking to the OP about her burlesque could be construed as harassment towards the OP.

        Which I find equally ridiculous though less offensive. I’ve seen a lot of interactions with pregnant coworkers where people ask if they were trying, which implicitly is “tell me about the level of protection you and your partner are using in your sex lives”. Sex comes up, it’s a part of life. You can run into a coworker at a strip club or at the Slutcracker or whatever when you’re both patrons, it’s still a sexualized situation. I don’t think the OP is asking if she can do burlesque in the breakroom, she just doesn’t want to hide part of her life. It sucks that she has to, though I agree with Alison, she does. At least at first.

        Reply
      2. Jessie the First (or second)

        Yeah, that’s such strange logic – that the exposure to the company is because *other people* would then harass the dancer at work because they saw her show, or start talking to her about it in sexually inappropriate ways? Then the problem isn’t the dancer. It’s the harassing employees.

        That’s just… a weird line to draw, to decide that the dancer who is subjected to harassment the *cause* of the harassment. Like asking “well what were you wearing” to a crime victim, you know?

        Reply
      3. Employment Lawyer

        Are you implying that the dancer is the one sexually harassing her co-workers by being in a burlesque show?
        No, of course not. However it is possible to sexually harass people by discussing one’s participation in burlesque. If the OP brings her personal life to work at all, this can lead to a claim.

        The larger problem is easy to illustrate by analogy. Imagine that there were laws against “discussing politics” instead of “sexual harassment.” Imagine you’re deciding whether to hire Sean Spicer as a part-time employee.

        Even if Sean doesn’t mind, the presence in your workplace of a political operative will make it more probable that someone will discuss politics with him. Maybe he’s upset by it (and you have a claim), maybe not. That’s a risk. It will also make it more probable that other people will discuss politics generally, since his presence and profession encourages those discussions. That’s a risk. And of course there’s the risk that he will discuss politics with someone else and that THEY will file a claim.
        If you want to avoid those risks, which may or may not be entirely successful, it is extremely probable that you will need to devote more of your time and energy to enforcement and rules and such–which is also a downside.

        In that situation the advice is simple: Don’t hire him. And the advice to a would-be political wonk is simple: Keep it under the radar if you want to get a job.

        Same here.

        The only thing that would ‘increase employer exposure’ to a case of sexual harassment is if they treated OP as the reason for any comments and chose not to do anything to stop unwanted behavior / comments.
        Well, this is sort of true, right?

        I mean, we all have a social rule “do not discuss what your co-workers look like in their skivvies.” We even have a bit of a white-lie social rule “…and while you’re at it, either don’t or pretend not to even think about what your co-workers look like in their skivvies”. We blame people for violating those rules.

        But assigning blame is a little tricky when people publicly get on stage and say LOOK AT ME, while wearing skivvies.

        Reply
        1. Susan Calvin

          How bizarre! Mind, I’m not a lawyer, and you might have a point – but it’s quite baffling to me.

          Look, I’m a bisexual woman who is low-key out at work. I don’t know if any of my colleagues think that’s hot (or, for that matter, a crime against god or whatever) and I couldn’t care less – we’re also fortunately not prosecuting thought crimes. It becomes sexual harassment when, for instance, one of them suggests I go make out with the marketing intern, or asks me to join him and his wife for a threesome. It’s not that blurry a line.

          Like, do you also require relationship status and pregnancies to be kept under wraps because they draw attention to the fact that there’s someone out there your employee is having sex with?

          Reply
        2. Elizabeth H.

          “But assigning blame is a little tricky when people publicly get on stage and say LOOK AT ME, while wearing skivvies” – this seems kind of judgmental to me. Burlesque is a legit hobby. I work at an art school rather than somewhere extremely conservative, but it doesn’t seem too inappropriate to me, even though it’s related to sexuality.
          It’s the kind of thing that some people who are more conservative, might find inappropriate/surprising/would prefer not to know about a coworker, but there are other things (not related to sexuality) that fall in that category too, I think. That’s why I think it probably makes sense not to very assiduously hide it, as you have suggested, but rather to just wait to mention it if it seems like a workplace culture where people wouldn’t find it inappropriate to know about.

          Reply
      4. Specialk9

        They pretty clearly weren’t saying that at all. Tone down the defensive aggressiveness a bit.

        They were saying that it gets tricky for a company to know how to judge if co-workers are sexually harassing someone, since usually the rule is ‘wtf why are you taking about sex at work’, but then they go to co-worker’s burlesque show and make comments about a sexually charged performance, and what are appropriate lines in the sand then?

        Reply
        1. Jessie the First (or second)

          Specialk9, appropriate line in the sand is do not make sexual comments at work. I just don’t agree that letting slip that one is a burlesque performer is fraught with risk as EL is claiming. Knowing someone does burlesque in their off-hours isn’t an invitation to make sexual comments, even if you’ve seen their show – it’s not too hard to not go into detail at work. I’m just not seeing why it’s on the performer to hide for liability reasons – because it’s not – though I do see it may well be wise to hide for culture/fit/conservative/bad reaction reasons.

          Reply
          1. Employment Lawyer

            The performer is very unlikely to get sued personally, unless they discuss their performances at work (which can be harassment, obviously, since burlesque is sexual). Note that this harassment can be third party so even a conversation which is perfectly OK from the perspective of the performer can theoretically be a problem. That said direct liability is quite rare.

            To the degree that the performer (a) personally talks about performing/herself; (b) encourages others to talk about performing/her; or (c) by publicizing her participation, causes others to talk about it/her… well, those things can easily lead to EMPLOYER liability for harassment. And most employers are very focused on avoiding liability, so they would probably decline to hire the employee rather than take the risk. This is sensible.

            yes, I know: it’s not her fault if anyone else talks about it, yadda yadda. This does not actually reflect reality. Most people DO NOT feel the same about “I ran into a direct report on the beach last weekend and he was wearing a Speedo” and “I was in a bar last weekend and my direct report was doing a Chippendales routine, wearing a Speedo.” My advice is based on what is, not what I want things to be; to the degree that some folks can’t acknowledge those vast differences, I don’t think they have a very good read on on the workplace.

            Reply
            1. Jessie the First (or second)

              “My advice is based on what is, not what I want things to be”

              That’s what I referred to regarding culture/conservatism/fit, etc. That’s an entirely different issue than actual legal liability for sexual harassment. I’m aware of the difference between reality and what “should” be. For company culture reasons, she may not want to say anything. In terms of liability issues, I think you are way out there and stretching to find risk when there really isn’t.

              Reply
  39. Lauren

    To OP #2
    OMG, you are awesome. If I was your boss, I would absolutely support you. This activity is just like any other interest, only to me its way cooler that coworkers who like watching Walking Dead or volunteering or hiking.

    While AAM is correct that some people will not approve either openly or behind your back, there are a ton of bosses and coworkers who view burlesque as an art form and view people who perform it as confident, ambitious, and just all around awesome. This is so cool. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Depending on costumes or lack there of, I would be the boss who would want their team to go see the show and support their coworker. I would have no issue in squashing any negative commentary regarding her choice. I’d treat it as a case of potential sexual harassment, and shut it down at the first inkling letting the offender (the person making negative comments) know that it will not be tolerated and that this was their only warning in at-will job.

    Reply
    1. Employment Lawyer

      Your idea:
      1) Bring employees (or encourage them to attend) the show. Let’s imagine OP is, at the least, in a skimpy outfit.
      2) Carefully manage any commentary. (How?)
      3) Fire people for “negative” commentary. (what about “positive” commentary, like “wow she looked really hot in that outfit”?)
      4) Rest in your righteous sex-positive glow. F*ck anyone else, right? Squash them!

      The reality:
      1) Bring employees (or encourage them to attend) the show. Let’s imagine OP is, at the least, in a skimpy outfit.
      2) Carefully manage any commentary. (How?)
      3) Fire people for “negative” commentary. (what about “positive” commentary, like “wow she looked really hot in that outfit”?)
      4) Get sued for harassment (#1) or selective discrimination/firing (#2-3)
      5) Lose.

      I mean, feel free to test your theory but I would not advise it.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Oh Lord, I can just imagine the AAM column now!

        Dear AAM, my manager insisted we go to a sexual dance performance by our co-worker, who was dressed very scantily. I’m an Orthodox Jew and my religion has very strong rules about modesty, but she made it clear it was mandatory, and that we had to discuss it after. I was so uncomfortable. Then she fired one Orthodox Jewish co-worker for objecting to the sexual nature, and one for getting too enthusiastic. What should I do?

        Reply
    2. Jessie the First (or second)

      Yeah, now *here* I am with employment lawyer. Don’t organize an outing of employees to see a burlesque show. That’s … I don’t even know how to talk about the many ways that’s a problem, but I’ll give it a shot:

      Some people are going to be uncomfortable attending a show like that, and that’s their prerogative, but having boss say “we all need to go!” makes it really difficult and icky for people. Some people don’t have any issues with it but DO NOT want to see their coworkers in any stage of undress or involved in anything remotely sexual, because they are coworkers. And as EL sais, how exactly are you going to squash “wrong” comments? What kind of awful environment is that, where now everyone sees you watching over everything they say like a hawk?

      Reply
      1. Lauren

        I used ‘negative comments’ to describe commentary that is sexual harassment. Examples of sexual harassment include: “wow she looked really hot in that outfit” even if the person who says it thinks it is a positive comment. So yes, I would shut down that type of commentary and not let it slide just because the OP is a dancer and ‘asked for it’ as some (not referencing you specifically at all) might claim by putting herself out there.

        Those in this overall thread think that I would make it a mandatory outing as a boss, but I should have spelled out I would be the boss that says: ‘That is cool, I want to go see the show. Would you mind if I went?”

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          Then you’re putting your employees in an impossible situation. The whole point of burlesque is that it has an erotic component, and if it’s sexual harassment for anyone to comment on that in any way, even positively, you’re throwing them into a minefield.

          Also, ps, telling or even requiring employees to go to a burlesque show may be sexual harassment.

          Reply
          1. LS

            I am wondering what one could say at an erotic show that couldn’t possibly be considered sexual harassment. “What gorgeous tassels!” “I love that colour on her…” “Please pass the salt.” You can’t put people into an intentionally sexualised setting and then wrap them over the knuckles when they respond to it in a sexual way.

            Reply
            1. kitryan

              How about ‘what beautiful beading’, ‘do you have to train a lot for the acrobatics in this routine?’, ‘what song was that, it was really good!’, ‘how much to you need to rehearse for a performance?’, ‘they put on shows like this every week – that must be a lot of work!’. I would think that there’s a lot to say.
              Not that I think there should be mandatory work sponsored outings, but frankly I personally don’t see much difference between it and a musical or theatrical performance. I have a lot of friends/family who do comedy and theater and those can have risque content at times as well – if there’s something that I’m not comfortable engaging with or that it would be inappropriate for our relationship for me to comment on, I just don’t comment on that or attend that show or whatever.

              Reply
              1. neverjaunty

                “At times”? Again, eroticism is central to the art of burlesque. Saying it’s inappropriate to comment on that is a bit like saying people ought to be able to compliment an opera without discussing the singing.

                Reply
                1. kitryan

                  People can compliment an opera without complementing the singing. There are a lot of other production elements and acting that go into a opera and it’s reductive to say otherwise. There’s a reason that live opera hasn’t been replaced by recordings and concert performances and there’s a difference between burlesque and someone standing onstage under houselights and silently taking off their street clothes. If there’s artistry and athleticism in a performance then there’s nothing wrong with focusing on that.

              2. LS

                The thing is though, that going to a burlesque show shouldn’t be an experience where you have to behave differently purely because your colleague is in the show. It’s strained and artificial.

                Reply
                1. kitryan

                  My behavior in pretty much all situations is based on the circumstances I’m in – I behave differently at work than at home with my cat and in turn, differently with my family, and so forth. This is generally how many humans exist in society – sexy talk for intimate partners, work talk for work people.
                  So, if you find a slight modification to your behavior where you don’t tell someone they’re sexy in a situation where you might otherwise do so to be so strained and artificial, don’t go to your coworker’s burlesque show (though frankly, I’m not sure how you would 100% guard against encountering someone you wouldn’t want to see at a show unless you just didn’t go in the first place).
                  Anyway, I don’t find that sort of adjustment to be any harder than most other situational adjustments I make in day to day life. I just don’t talk about how attractive I do or do not find people unless I have reason to believe it’s welcome and appropriate to the time, place, and company.

        2. paul

          You did specifically say you’d want your team to go and support your coworker.

          And what sort of discussion *would* you allow? frankly, burlesque is inherently sexual, so it’s not a jump to assume that discussion around burlesque would *be* sexual in nature.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth H.

            In context, I interpreted Lauren’s comment as an expression of appreciation and interest in the LW’s burlesque hobby, possibly exaggerated, rather than a specific plan to be interpreted literally

            Reply
            1. Lauren

              Thank you. That is what I was trying to convey – a genuine interest in the hobby, but somehow expressing my opinion (too excited, not conservative enough for a boss), became of the discussion instead.

              Reply
        3. Julia

          Yes, but that’s not good either. What if she doesn’t want her boss to go? She won’t be comfortable saying no because it might damage the work relationship with her boss.
          This is one of the reasons she should keep it to herself – having people respond too enthusiastically is almost as bad as negative response. For you to say anything beyond “oh, cool, whatever” could cause awkwardness.

          Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      In addition to all the problematic legal reasons Employment Lawyer mentions – this seems far less about supporting the OP and a lot more about broadcasting one’s own enthusiasm and Super Hip Bossness.

      Reply
      1. Lauren

        How is thinking and expressing how OP’s activity outside of work is cool to me – turn into me trying to broadcast / be a fake super hip boss? I genuinely would react like this whether it was in front of a group of people or just me and OP.

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          “Oh, you do burlesque? Cool!” is very different than a boss organizing a trip to a burlesque show, and then strictly policing anything they say about it.

          Reply
          1. Lauren

            Since I can’t seem to express myself in a clear way, its prob best that I not comment so much on AAM. But I will end with this. I did not mean every comment would be sexual harassment. But I would try to stop the comments that are sexual harassment. As for organizing – I clearly don’t articulate myself well in these comments – basically I assumed a situation where OP tells coworkers about her hobby, and how some people including me would say they want to go see it, and it becomes a natural – lets all go on the same day – not a mandatory work event. But to everyone’s point in the thread, prob best to avoid it all as at least one person who might feel pressure to go even if it was a genuine interest in the hoppy on my part.

            Reply
    4. LS

      Hmmm… do you think that encouraging your direct reports to go and see their colleague removing their clothing might not be considered a form of sexual harassment? Just playing devil’s advocate here.

      Reply
    5. Rainy

      So I have actually worked in a department with someone who did burlesque and was very open about it, twice.

      The first situation was a nightmare. The burlesque performer was incredibly pushy about it (put up her giant promo posters in the lounge, which was otherwise field-specific announcements for conferences etc), told *everyone* that she was a burlesque performer, and insisted on performing at our department’s annual fundraising event. No one was willing to be “the prude” who told her no. They couldn’t hold it the next year because when they started asking around about interest, there was none. (This was an event that featured dinner and dancing with a live band, and had been incredibly popular and well-attended for over a decade.)

      The second was fine. The performer was active in the local dance community, did a lot of different forms of dance, and would occasionally mention burlesque but wasn’t pushy about it, and never announced in a broad fashion that she was a burlesque performer. She also didn’t insist on taking most of her clothes off at office functions, which most of my coworkers would never have considered was a possibility, but which I, still shell-shocked by my experience with Person 1 above, will never again be able to dismiss as a literal thing that could literally happen to me at literally any time.

      Reply
  40. Callalily

    #5: I think you are over thinking the situation. Flaky doesn’t mean you moved away from home for 10 months and are now returning to your home town… I think that is something that everyone can relate to and doesn’t need explanation.

    If asked about why you were in X town for 10 months you keep it simple and say that you moved for new opportunities but found you preferred your home town. Getting into unnecessary details can do more harm than good.

    It would probably be different if you moved from New York to LA for 10 months, then back to New York for a year, and now trying to find work in LA again – that would make employers weary that you’ll jump ship to head back to New York.

    Reply
  41. MCMonkeyBean

    My company switched to corporate cards last year and everyone was so bummed to lose out on all the points and travel perks they would be getting if they put the expenses on their own cards and then got reimbursed before they had to pay them.

    But asking an employee to put $3000 on their card is ridiculous. Some of my cards that’s practically the whole limit. Someone higher up should be responsible for charges that big.

    If you personally are finding yourself closer to your limit than you like, if you have been good about paying your card off in the past you can try calling the credit card company and ask if they will raise your limit. But I think it would also be reasonable for people to put their foot down and say they can’t afford to put expenses larger than $X on their personal card. And for the smaller charges–make sure you are using a good rewards card and enjoy the free money! I’m a fan of the Citi double cash card but if you often spend in places that fall in the Chase Freedom 5% categories that’s a good card too.

    If you know they’re going to keep asking you to put big expenses on your card in the future anyway–you could try to get a vacation out of it! Some cards will give you up to like $500 in points if you spend $3000 within the first few months. I did that with the Citi ThankYou cards. Got my points, used them to buy flights, and then never used that credit card again.

    Reply
  42. Sara

    LW1: I worked with a woman last year who was training me and one of my reports on new accounting software. Every time either of us asked a question, the answer involved so many tangents and additional information that we didn’t need to know at that time that we were extremely confused and had to ask the same questions over and over trying to get a straight answer. I have no idea if this is the case here, but keep it in mind.

    Reply
  43. Here we go again

    #2 – I think it also depends on the position you are holding. I would have zero issue with a coworker doing burlesque on the side and talking about it, but knowing that a manager does it (specifically my manager)…. just seems… weird to me…. It’s not necessarily a good bias for me to have, but something to consider.

    Reply
  44. Sunshine on a cloudy day

    For #1 – I’m obviously viewing this with my own dirty lens, but please – if you take Alison’s advice and ask your co-worker how you can help her – be sure that you are ready and willing to accept that there is some sort of possibility that there is actually something you can do differently to help alleviate this issue.

    I swear this could have been written by my former co-worker/trainer about me. She felt that she was explaining things perfectly clearly and that when I came to her with questions (sometimes the same question multiple times) it was because I wasn’t retaining the information. The thing is – she was absolutely horrible at conveying information (not saying this is the case with OP #1, but it is possible that there is a disconnect in communication or learning styles). Example – she would explain how to do a process like this: step C, meandering commentary on importance of process, tangent on related but secondary process, step A, step D. Notice anything missing?. So then I’d try to do process, but would have to come back to her and ask about how to get from step A to step C. She felt like she had already thoroughly explained the process and would tell me to check my notes. I’d come back and she’d give me some sort of curt explanation. Id try to figure it out based on that, but would usually have to go back to her again. Finally I’d get it and create a coherent step-by-step guide. Then a couple weeks later she would come to me in a panic because “related secondary process” wasn’t being done, b/c in her mind she had trained me on that as well. And yes – I tried summarizing steps after the training process to see what I was missing, but she accused me of being very “controlling in our conversations”.

    Totally not trying to say this is all OP#1’s fault. My situation was extreme, however because of it I am very aware of how differences in learning/communication styles can effect training and how hard training or communicating with others effectively really can be. Look up “Curse of Knowledge” – its a cognitive bias that makes people vastly overestimate how much others know/understand based on our own knowledge. Once something makes sense to you (generic “you”), we tend to overestimate how much of that knowledge others have.

    Just something to keep in mind. It’s also completely possible that OP#1 is explaining things very clearly and the asker really is failing to comprehend, but it would be a kindness to explore all possible options/solutions.

    Signed – someone who was put on a PIP b/c I was “failing to comprehend even the most basic responsibilities of the job”, however once I moved to the exact same role in a different company I’ve been excelling in these tasks and have been commended on my thorough understanding of said processes/procedures/policies

    Reply
      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day

        Sure – the classic “visual”, “auditory”, etc… But I meant more in a holistic way and probably should have focused more on communication styles.

        I don’t think anyone can deny that what works for one person does not necessarily work for the next. If someone is giving me verbal information I need to doodle, take notes or otherwise need to be doing something with my hands. I can not just sit still and listen if there is any chance of me retaining the info. Not because I’m “visual learner”, but because I probably have undiagnosed ADD/ADHD issues but have found coping mechanisms that work very well for me (I was an A student and general over-achiever – aside from that one role, which probably compounded my frustration with the situation). That said, my co-worker might be just fine sitting still and listening.

        My main goal was to highlight the “Cures of Knowledge” cognitive bias – the more aware of our biases, the better we can be at combatting them.

        Reply
      2. kitryan

        There are still ways to customize your training for people – I tend to be trained best by and be a good trainer for those who need to understand how the whole thing looks as an integrated process before getting into the individual steps of the particular procedure.
        My coworker loves it when I give him SF or comic book character based analogies – and he does tend to grasp concepts faster when I use them – Wayne Enterprises features in a lot of my analogies.
        On the flip side, another coworker will just jump right in and say ‘click on this, select xyz’ and give *no* context. This works for some people, but can be very confusing for others who need the contextual background.

        Reply
      3. Candi

        People still learn in different ways, regardless of a particular style theory being debunked.

        I can not process more then one or two auditory/verbal sets of instructions, depending on length. Give them to me in writing, and I’m zipping alng.

        My son learns best in either a discussion format, or practicing hands on with the object or at least a mockup.

        My daughter processes best by once hearing the instructions, and once reading them, including her own notes. Once I explained the difference between the letter notes A, B, C, etc., and the musical notation of whole note, half note, quarter note, etc., then showed her a source online that explained it (Do Re Mi etc helped), she… taught herself to sight read music. I’m still getting over that. >.<

        Reply
      4. sstabeler

        Not really- the specific learning styles have been, but I have a suspicion that it was always supposed to be more “not everyone learns the same way so find the method of teaching someone that works for them” NOT “People learn in these discrete categories, and if you can determine which category someone falls under, they’ll learn better”- indeed, the second one *really* misses the entire point.

        Reply
  45. Jessie the First (or second)

    For #1:

    I’m not clear from your post – are the questions actual “I am confused, can you show me how to do TPC reports please?” or if they are “Hey, why are we doing TPC reports this way? Shouldn’t we run them in triplicate instead?”

    I assumed it was the former, which is really, really annoying for you. But the second part of your post talks about how she’s asking a question on a process that you’ve already changed, and if you change it again you have to do more work and you don’t want to, it won’t work, etc.

    So it sounds like her questions are not “how do I…” but that her questions are *issues* she is raising. Things she wants changed, and she is asking you to change them, or asking why they can’t be changed, etc.

    If that’s the case, you need a different script. It’s not that she isn’t remembering, it seems to me. It’s that she is advocating (obviously ineffectively) for process changes.

    So something like “Yes, we’ve talked about this before but we aren’t changing the process again. I need to get back to work now, thanks” or something like that. Also, are you her manager? Why does she come to you with these issues/questions?

    Reply
    1. McWhadden

      I had the same question.. Most of the letter seemed as though she was asking for instructions on the same task over and over.

      But if she is really asking for a process to be changed then it’s not like she’s just confused or having issues following. She keeps asking because she thinks she has a legitimate issue that isn’t being addressed.

      That’s not to say she’s right or that that isn’t a serious issue that should be addressed. If you want something changed and you are told no then at some point you have to let it rest. But it’s a pretty different problem.

      Reply
  46. BlueWolf

    #3 – I do not do any travel in my position, but my company works the same way from what I can tell from others. I do have a pretty good credit score and a fairly high limit between my two credit cards, but I would still be wary about having to charge expenses on my card. I think there should be a way for companies to cover hotel and airfare on a company card at least. Meals and local transportation expenses wouldn’t be a big deal to cover on my own card, but big charges like those would make me nervous. Not to mention that many people may not have any credit cards or may not have the available credit to cover business expenses, as others here have said. I would say it doesn’t hurt to at least ask if there is a possibility of changing the policy.

    Reply
  47. Anon For This

    #2 – I also do mildly controversial stuff under various stages names. I was unsuccessful at keeping it separate from my 9-5 life. I tried. But I got outted. People posted pictures of me and info about my performances online using my real name. They tracked it down through friends and other info about me. It was kind of a disaster.

    So I stopped going out of my way to hide it. Then a co-worker started stalking my stage persona. There started to be weird issues stemming from the fact that my office persona and stage persona are different. A whole bunch of people thought my office persona was the “real” me and we’re offended that I would do something “fake”. Apparently they didn’t take into account that my performer thing generates zero income and the office work pays the bills.

    I left the 9-5 world so I could keep doing my thing. I tried doing a little teaching. No go. The parents found out about the other projects and were not happy.

    I tried working in a related office job, but that just caused issues with blurring of boundaries.

    So now the creative thing is my whole life and I find odd jobs that don’t conflict with it. I figured that if it was pushing so many people’s buttons, I must be on to something. I’m finding ways to make more money doing it, and getting better at earning income through random odd jobs. I miss health insurance, but I’m glad I made the choices that I did.

    I would be wary of the culture thing. You can’t tell early on what a company’s culture is really like. Some seem accepting but are not. And vice versa.

    I think reaching out to other burlesque people would be a better bet. Do you know any other performers who do office work? Or who might know someone who does? Maybe you could end up at the same company as someone else from the community. Then you could sort of have each other’s backs while dealing with all the crazy 9-5 job vs performer life stuff.

    Reply
    1. Julia

      Yes, I can imagine, this is more like my work experience. Even though I’m not a performer and am very conservative about sexual things, I’m involved in music, love jive and swing dancing, and have a large group of unbusinesslike friends. there have been many, many workplaces where someone was jealous or judgmental and tried to use things from my personal life to cause trouble.
      In my experience it’s always better to keep my personal life to myself. Now I work at a medical institution where the people are more accepting and they know I’m involved in music and dancing, but I still don’t hang out with my colleagues after work. I would be open to certain things, such as seeing a musical, if it was suggested, but I wouldn’t go out of my way and I wouldn’t do it often.
      Good for you being true to yourself and not letting them oppress you! I hope you do very well! You deserve it!!! :)

      Reply
  48. Fabulous

    #3 – Try reaching out the the Travel and Expense department (if you have one, might just be Accounting that handles the reimbursements.) I worked T&E previously and the policy was near identical: all employees had to use their personal cards for expenses then be reimbursed. Occasionally there were instances where the expense would make undue hardship on an employee, especially if their position doesn’t usually travel, and it was requested to use our corporate travel credit card. The corp card was “electronic” meaning that there wasn’t a physical card, but it was connected to a business bank account and we could call the hotel ahead of time to have them bill the charges directly to it. Usually just a form needs completed and signed by both parties (employee & finance manager).

    Reply
  49. Ruthie

    #1: I work with this person, too! She asks me the same question over and over again, and a lot of the questions are things she should know or easily be able to figure out on her own. I have finally gotten to the point where I just say, “That’s not a good use of my time to walk you through that (again).”

    #3: I just want to add that if OP is able to influence a new payment system, to advocate that employees who want to continue using their personal cards still have the option to do so. I consider it a benefit of my job that I can put all my travel on my personal credit card for reimbursement because I earn a lot of points this way, and would be pretty frustrated if this perk was taken away. But I get why it’s not a good system for everyone.

    Reply
    1. Samata

      RE: #1. I work with one of these, too. I have found she asks the questions over & over or conveniently “forgets” when it is something she doesn’t agree with or something she didn’t assign herself. I once came out and asked her what tools we could put in place to make sure we didn’t run into this issue over and over, I put what she asked into place…and….still happens. I think what you are doing and what Alison suggested are probably where I need to head next.

      Reply
      1. Marty

        The best thing to do here is to make another solution easier than asking you. Specifically, put documentation in a shared wiki or SharePoint and answer questions with, “this is documented here.” If she had questions about the document, update the document and ask, “is this better?”

        The basic idea is that you aren’t going to answer questions unless someone has already tried to find the answer in the documentation, and then any answers will come in the form of improved documentation. End result: it is easier to find the answer in the documents than to ask you, and the problem will go away.

        Reply
  50. formerburlyq

    OP #2, former burlesque performer here. I was working corporate jobs while I was performing. I understand the worry–I had it too. At one job, I did disclose it to a couple of co-workers who became friends (that I hung out with after work), but no one else. Those were people I trusted to not talk about it at work, and as far as I know, they did not. One become interesting in performing herself.

    My next job was in a more formal corporate setting, and I did not disclose it. I think Allison’s advice is spot on; you just have to feel it out.

    I should mention that one of my fellow performers was an adjunct faculty member at a local university. One of her students discovered she was a burlesque dancer, told a parent, and the parent complained to the university. As you probably know, not everyone understands what burlesque is and some will assume you’re working a second job in a traditional strip club.

    If you want to be more out about it at your new job, could you dip your toes in the water by first refering to it with different words, like “vintage vaudville act” or something similar? As you get to know people more, you could decide what to say or not say. Good luck!

    Reply
  51. Another secret burlesquer

    To Question-Asker #2:

    Burlesque dancer, here! Large city, reasonably well-known (although I am not the TOP by any means in my market), perform anywhere from 1-5 times a month, depending on what’s coming up/my schedule.

    Last year I transitioned from a super relaxed non-profit (my boss went to my debut show!) to one that has a more corporate culture, and I was very nervous about this. I am still in the process of sloooowly outing myself.

    I started by mentioning that I do some sideshow (glasswalking, etc) and hosting and then started mentioning it in the context of performing in or hosting burlesque shows. My boss actually told me about a burlesque-ish show she went to in Vegas.

    While I’m not OUT as a dancer yet, by any means, I’ve gotten the sense that the people who have input and impact on my career really don’t care, as long as I show up, am reliable, and do my job.

    Perhaps there’s a slow way you can feel it out, similar to that?

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Can I just honestly ask you why you wanted to share this? I’m not criticizing you, I’m honestly curious. Given the potential downsides, what did you see as an upside? I can’t think of one, but then again I do lots of things I don’t share with my work colleagues, and I’ve never felt any desire to tell them more about myself. I figure things are none of their business and they’re probably not interested, either.

      Reply
      1. Another secret burlesquer

        Partly the whole hippie dippie “I want to be my authentic self at work,” but also because I’d rather not be waiting for the other shoe to drop – it’s stressful!

        If someone asks me what I’m doing on a Friday night, I’d rather not do the mental calculations of what to say. If I take time off to go perform, I like to be able to say “Hey, I’m going to perform.” (I just did this for an out of town show over Labor Day weekend).

        Reply
      2. Another secret burlesquer

        And, I’m paranoid: if I have some sort of vengeful coworker that “outs” me to someone, welp, I’ve already outed myself.

        Reply
  52. Julia

    Re #2
    I had a lot of jobs when I was younger, and there’s always someone who:…
    1. Gets freaked out and thinks you’re a sinner if you do anything that could lead to sex – like going dancing or hanging out late at music clubs. Burlesque, after they’ve looked up the word, could bring a hell of judgment and attempts to “save” you.
    2. Is a man who is emotionally still a teenager, who will – after he looks up the word – become fascinated and require you to babysit him.
    I’m really surprised you haven’t had trouble with this before. I’ve never seen a workplace that didn’t have one or both of these characters. The really bad workplaces have mostly these!
    Unfortunately the only suggestion I have is to keep it to yourself and have a boundary between your personal and professional lives – which is the only thing that’s ever worked for me, and the worst thing I do is go out dancing.
    If anyone insists on knowing, keep it vague like, “I sometimes go out for music”, or “with friends” and if they say what music do you like, say “all kinds” and don’t get any more specific.
    If you are doing burlesque and a co-worker sees you, they probably are ok with it. If not, and if they try to cause trouble, just tell boss/HR they were at your show, and this is why you’ve kept it to yourself. And you’d appreciate being able to continue to do so. :)

    Reply
  53. rudster

    Is having a company credit card such a big deal? It’s not like company pays the bill – usually you pay and get reimbursed soon after you fill out the expense report. At least that’s how my company did it. The company card was just a convenience so that people who traveled a lot wouldn’t have to constantly get cash advances if they didn’t have a cc or enough of a limit, and for easier expense tracking. But it’s still your name (along the with company co-branding) on the bill and your responsibility to pay. Do other companies do it differently (pay the card directly, etc.)? I could have had one but didn’t see the point for my occasional company expenses – why let the company get my points and ff miles?

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      It’s a big deal if you don’t want/can’t qualify for your own CC, or if you have one but it doesn’t have a high enough limit.

      Reply
    2. periwinkle

      It depends on the set up. I have a corporate card from my HugeCorp employer. It’s in my name but the bills go directly to the company for payment. I file expense reports to validate the use of the card; no receipts are required for the vast majority of travel expenses such as meals and taxis. As long as I remember to use the corporate card, the only reimbursement I ever need to request is for mileage on a personal vehicle or cash tips to housekeeping. It’s a wonderfully efficient system.

      Reply
      1. Original Poster

        It is a big deal if this is your first job out of college and you don’t have much credit and you’re expected to max out your card. I pay my cards off each month, but two co-workers I spoke to about this do not pay their cards off each month.

        Reply
  54. De Minimis

    Somewhat related to the card issue, one thing that really bugs me is that our IT person pays for all of our computer supplies/services on his personal card, then we reimburse him each month. He always has receipts and the purchases are legit, but I know he’s getting thousands of dollars in points/cash back each month. But our upper management is okay with it, so I guess nothing to be done.

    I guess it has to be done this way because he wouldn’t qualify for the company AMEX [it’s only for management team] and his expenses would bump up against the credit limit for the card that he would normally use [for all other employees.] Just doesn’t sit right with me, though.

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      Well, no, it doesn’t *have* to be done that way. The company could pay for its own purchases, like millions of other companies do.

      Reply
    2. periwinkle

      Why? Your IT person is floating a business loan to your company every month, since they’re requiring him to pay for their computing expenses (instead of having a manager with corporate card do the purchasing). That cash back is a”convenience fee” for the loan and the company isn’t even the one paying it. If I had to keep my credit line high enough and free enough to buy thousands of $$$ worth of servers and software, damn right I want a financial reward for it.

      Reply
      1. De Minimis

        I have a feeling he’s choosing to do this on his own, though in thinking about it more, it’s probably also for the sake of efficiency.

        We’re small, and his manager [executive staff member who doesn’t actually work in IT] is located on the other side of the country. My guess is, he’s given a blanket approval for whatever purchases he thinks we need. We could pay directly [or have his manager make the actual purchases] but it would slow things down a lot having to get that extra approval from someone offsite who wouldn’t really be familiar with our purchasing needs and who is often unavailable due to their own work duties.

        Years ago, we had an actual IT department, with its own manager who I gather did something similar to what people suggest, but nearly three quarters of the staff were eliminated a few years ago and the IT department is now the one employee.

        Reply
  55. Stranger than fiction

    Op one, I have several coworkers like this, so boy do I commiserate.
    In my case, it’s a couple of things. 1. they’re unorganized. 2. They’re not tech-savvy enough to know how to pull up past emails even though I’ve trained them on that too. 3. They’re lazy and figure calling me “real quick ” is easier.
    I don’t have much advice for you, but I too get snappy sometimes. Sometimes I get pretty full of rage about it and take a walk actually.

    Reply
    1. Marty

      Set up a team Google; most wiki software has a built in search engine with a search box on every page. I’m willing to bet that SharePoint does too. Hopefully that will be easier than teaching someone to use the advanced mode on their email.

      Reply
      1. kitryan

        Wikis and other forms of shared documentation are not the solution to all problems-not even to all instances of this *type* of problem.
        Also, seven different comments recommending the same solution are probably sufficient to get the message across.
        An example of it not working:
        My team of two has a ‘how to’ document. I put my associate in charge of writing up a new procedure. They did so and submitted it to me for review. I gave them notes, they revised. They WROTE it.
        They then performed this procedure multiple times over the next few months. I later checked in on a specific instance and found that they were doing it differently from how I expected – but I didn’t write up the procedure and hadn’t been dealing with it day to day… So I checked the documentation and sure enough, they were deviating from the procedure they themselves had written up. There is no amount or type of documentation that will reach out and grab someone when they screw something up and tell them they’re doing it wrong.

        Reply
        1. Jessie the First (or second)

          Not getting the relevance of your comment, kitryan. You’re not describing a problem that is related to what Marty, Stranger than Fiction, or the OP are talking about. On your team, people aren’t following the right process, even though the process is documented. If your people refuse to follow procedures, well, sure, you can’t rely only on writing the procedures down. Marty is offering a suggestion for people who don’t *know* the process in the first place and who keep asking how to do something. Is there a reason you think writing things down in that scenario isn’t helpful?

          Reply
          1. kitryan

            Marty has made essentially the same comment about wikis being useful many many times in this comment section. My initial statement was that the point has been made and does not need to be made quite so repeatedly.
            My example involves a coworker who is repeatedly asking me questions as well, and the point is that wikis and how tos don’t help when someone doesn’t even recognize what their difficulty is or that they’re doing something wrong in the first place, or that what they’re asking you about can be more quickly accessed in the documentation, even in a situation where they themselves have written the documentation. In this particular instance it was notable *because* he had written it himself. It happened to be one where I caught the error instead of where he asked me the question first. In other instances where he was asking questions, the source that could have been checked before asking was documentation I had written or sometimes something as simple as Google for the definition of a term or Google Maps to check an address.
            Looking at a wiki or how to requires that the person identify the problem they need to solve and come up with a plan to discover what they’re missing-even if the plan is ‘check the how to’.
            Not all problematic co workers are willing or able to do this and a wiki is not a panacea and the repeated comments by Marty – seven of them- suggest this and only this solution.

            Reply
            1. kitryan

              Oh, looking at a resource also requires the querant to see how the example situation or instructions given in the resource map on to the situation they’re dealing with and sometimes this is not a skill that they have.
              The thing I have to explain the most to my coworker are variants on the theme of ‘Procedure A is applicable to situation A1 and A2 just as it is to situation A, the example in the how to- because the spouts on milk, dark and white chocolate teapots *all* have to be tested for heat resistance as they are all, in fact, *teapots* for holding tea.

              Reply
              1. kitryan

                sorry, that was meant to begin ‘Or, looking’. In summation, using documentation for complex procedures still requires complex thinking in order to recognize, use, and apply the information in the documentation. Not all question asking repeat offenders have these skills, and if they did, fewer of them would be question asking repeat offenders.

                Reply
  56. Abby

    RE question #1… could it be early signs of dementia/alzheimer’s? I had a coworker (an older woman) who was doing this, and that’s what it turned out to be. I mean it might be a long shot but it is a possibility.

    Reply
  57. Corporate

    @#2

    I actually have a coworker who faced this situation at her last job. She was working in a very formal corporate environment but doing some acting and burlesque dancing on the side. Someone higher up found a video online – nothing explicitly provocative but not something they wanted clients to see. The senior person expressed a lot of concern over it, because if you googled her name, this video and info about burlesque performing showed up and it didn’t give the best impression of the company. I can’t remember if she was fired or quit but that was the start of things going downhill and management not thinking she was the best fit.

    That said, she now works at my also corporate company and has told us this without repercussions. She isn’t actively involved in burlesque anymore though.

    Reply
  58. Oscar Madisoy

    Here’s a crazy question inspired by the comments in response to 3. We have to use our personal credit cards for business expenses:

    Employee uses a company credit card for personal items. However, the employee is up-front about it and is ready to reimburse the company for those personal expenditures upon request (or just goes ahead and does so at the time of notification: “I used the company card to buy $x-worth of personal items, here’s my check to cover that amount”).

    Thoughts, comments, opinions?

    Reply
    1. Rainy

      That’s how mine does it. Sometimes people put purchases on the wrong card. They just write a cheque for the amount that isn’t a covered business expense.

      Reply
  59. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

    #3 – Separate your banking, now! Pick a brand new bank or credit union, open a new checking account with a single lump sum, and then manage all work expenses through that account. Do not ever mix your personal money with your “work” money. Once you fund the account initially, it should sustain itself with reimbursements without getting your personal finances in as much trouble.

    In 2009/10, the organization I was working for hit some cash flow problems. Travel reimbursements were low priority. At the end of the fiscal year, there was a final influx of cash that allowed most travel reimbursements to be completed. One employee was owed $18,000. Another was owed $24,000. There were nearly two dozen people owed over $10,000 for travel. Several of the employees had separated their finances and were in a position to cover the expenses without late charges or damaging their credit. Other employees were completely stressed because the debts were on personal cards that they used frequently and their credit was damaged for years.

    One coworker didn’t get approved for a mortgage because of it, even when the organization provided a detailed letter explaining. Mortgage company rightfully said the organization’s poor management led to a cash crisis and didn’t bode well for the future, so they wouldn’t secure the loan.

    Reply
  60. WillowSunstar

    I have a #1 currently. He is the annoying co-worker that was 50% of the reason why I left my last job. He has been there 3 years, but acts like he is unable to think for himself and needs his hand held on everything. I am in a new role now & he still keeps contacting me with questions, even though I have said, ask xyz. All of his questions are either things covered in training documentation or others could help him with.

    I have tried e-mailing my old boss several times. Nothing has come of it. Myself & others agree that former co-worker is a bad fit for the job and never should have been hired. Is it acceptable to just delete his e-mails after a certain point? It would be one thing if he were brand new, but he has been in his job for 3 years. My old job was just data entry, it was not rocket science. But you do have to have a functioning brain to do it.

    Reply
    1. WillowSunstar

      This was the co-worker who I think has either Aspergers or OCD or a combo thereof. He’s in his 20’s, so it isn’t dementia.

      Reply

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