coworker calls me his “work wife,” error in my offer letter, and more

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

1. My coworker calls me his “work wife”

A couple of months ago, I joined a new team at work, in a role that is somewhat isolated from the rest of the group. So I was glad when another junior staff member who had joined the team a bit earlier reached out and showed me the ropes. As we grew more friendly, we also started sitting next to one another (our office has open seating with no assigned desks), and chatting occasionally during the day. Our remarks were always casual, and though they were not strictly work-related, we never discussed deep or personal topics. So, I was surprised when one day, he began referring to me as his “work wife.”

At first, it was simply in reference to that fact that someone had sat at the desk I usually claimed, breaking up our “marriage.” But in the next few days, he repeated the comment a couple times, once to another colleague. The term “work wife” makes me uncomfortable as it overstates our relationship, and may have a dubious connotation. As a young woman, I worry that it may undermine my professionalism. On the other hand, this colleague uses the term so casually that I don’t think he means anything by it. He is also on my level and does not work on any of the same projects as me, so there is no threat to my performance here.

Am I right to find the term “work wife” strange or is it actually commonly accepted? Either way, how do you think I should proceed here? I don’t want to alienate one of my only friends on my team by bringing this up as some kind of big problem or having a serious talk, but I would rather not deal with these comments.

It’s a common enough term (along with “work husband” and “work spouse”) to refer to someone at work who you’re close with and get along with uncommonly well (and can be same sex or opposite sex), although it sounds like he’s using it where the relationship doesn’t really warrant it. Either way, though, you don’t have to like it and you’re allowed to tell him to stop.

It would be fine to say something to your coworker like, “Hey, I don’t love that term. Let’s just say ‘coworkers.’”

2. My work is excellent but I can’t get promoted

I work at a very large company in a support role, it is basically glorified data entry, but it can call for a little critical thinking in some cases. I out-perform my coworkers by a large margin. On a team of 14 people, I account for 30% of the total productivity on any given day (on busy days, it is 50%). We are assigned work through “tickets,” and when we resolve an issue, we close a ticket. We are able to view how many total tickets the team closed every day, as well as how many we closed ourselves, which is how I have calculated my results.

Management is aware of this and of my aspirations to move up within the company, and they even “fight” for me to get that promotion (at least they say they do) but HR won’t grant the requests due to my lack of time with the company (four years). I would be okay with this if I wasn’t pulling all of the weight and having nothing to show for it.

Management will do things like nominate me for awards, discretionary bonuses, and extra PTO, which is great, but I feel like they are avoiding the real issue, which is the rest of their workforce. What will they do when I am gone? Are they holding me in this position because they know they will be in trouble if they lose me? Am I wrong in asking them to enforce their productivity metrics or raise the bar in order to light a flame under my coworkers? I understand that lazy people are everywhere, but I can’t help but feel as though I am being used as a crutch holding up the weight of our department.

They won’t promote you because you’ve only been there four years? When you said it was due to lack of time with the company, I thought you were going to say you’d only been there six months or something like that. Four years?! That’s ridiculous. At every other company in the world, that’s more than enough time to overcome any tenure rules about promotion.

So either they have a bizarrely ridiculous rule about length of tenure (have they told you how long you’d need to be there before they’d consider it? is it, like, a century? are they all vampires?) or they’re keeping you in your position because you’re doing the work of four people.

“Top performer on a 14-person team, resolving 30-50% of daily tickets” is an excellent line for your resume. Go use it and find a job that rewards you appropriately.

3. Do I need to organize social outings for my staff?

I manage a staff of about 15 people whose offices are scattered across our company’s campus, so there are many members of my team that I won’t see/won’t see each other if it’s not intentional. For our team to function well, it’s important that we communicate and collaborate. To that end, we have standing meetings, regular professional development sessions and occasional group trips to industry conferences, an orientation process that emphasizes getting to know the rest of the department, etc. … all specifically work-day activities.

Previously, I had a couple of staff members who initiated regular happy hours and other social activities, as well. I was grateful for them because when the work day ends, while I truly enjoy my colleagues, I can’t wait to go home to my family and read a book in the bath with a glass of wine after dinner. I am also reluctant to be the organizer of happy hours because I don’t want to create “Ugh, I have to go out after work to make my boss happy” situations. That said, I know many people do like to socialize! With coworkers! And when someone else organized a happy hour, I went for a drink when I could — it was fun and low-key and there was usually a good crowd. I realized recently, however, that after some normal turnover, the main “social directors” are gone and no one has stepped up to take their place. Do I need to take this on? Or can I just go home and lock the door behind me?

You do not need to take this on! You do need to ensure that your team has opportunities to interact and collaborate, and it sounds like you’re doing that. There is nothing that says “and some of those opportunities needs to be after work or with alcohol.”

If you really want to address it, you could say to your whole team, “I’ve realized that since Jane and Fergus left, we haven’t had many happy hours or other social activities since they were generally the organizers. If anyone misses doing those, feel free to organize them! I’m not going to do it myself since I wouldn’t want anyone to feel pressure to attend. But it’s fine if you want to! And fine if you don’t, too.”

4. There’s an error in my offer letter

I recently received an offer from a great company, and the director of the program personally called to extend the offer. When negotiating salary over the phone, the director and I agreed on an hourly pay rate. The pay is not the best and much of the currency comes from getting a foot in this company’s door.

However, I just got my offer letter via email. The letter reflects an annual salary that ends up being less than our agreed upon hourly rate (and it has no mention of the hourly rate we discussed via phone). When I asked if our previously agreed upon hourly rate was used, the director sent me her formula. She calculated 40 hours per week x 4 weeks a month x 12 months a year x my hourly pay rate. Basically, her formula mistakenly uses 48 weeks in a year instead of the correct amount of 52 (essentially shorting me 4 weeks of accumulated pay).

It seems like my only option is to call out the director (whom I’ve met once and is essentially my future boss’s boss’s boss) on her math skills. She’s extremely accomplished, regarded for her intelligence, and generally comes across as someone who does not like to be corrected. How do I advocate for the correct pay without embarrassing her?

If she’s worth working for, she’s not going to penalize you for pointing out that she’s shorting you a month’s worth of pay! Truly — and if she seems to be holding it against you, that’s a huge red flag.

Just be matter of fact! For example: “Ah, it looks like you calculated it using 48 weeks in the year rather than 52. At 52 weeks in a year, it should be $X. Can you confirm that on your end?”

5. I spent 45 minutes helping a student and heard nothing back

I am an allied health practitioner who is sometimes approached by students from the local university for informational interviews or to answer questions about the way I work. I am happy to assist where I can — other professionals in my field certainly gave me similar access during my own training. I suspect that the course faculty are suggesting me as a contact for students because of my willingness here.

A student recently emailed me a set of (numerous) questions about the way I work, my thoughts on the industry, etc. It took about 45 minutes to work through it, so it wasn’t an insignificant request. I am a bit taken aback that the student didn’t reply to acknowledge my response or say thank you. Judging from the question design, I think the student sent it to several practitioners at least.

I feel like I’m saying “I DESERVE GRATITUDE” but really I’m thinking “THIS KID IS GOING TO ALIENATE HALF OF THE LOCAL PRACTITIONERS,” which is hardly fair on the next student who wants help.

It felt unprofessional, as well as a bit discourteous. Am I just being petty? I’m aware that students are often still developing their understanding of professional norms. I’m wondering if I should email the course tutor and suggest they remind students to follow up with an acknowledgement when they’ve asked for someone’s time, without naming the student involved. Would that be an overreaction?

Not at all. It would be doing their students a favor. I encourage you to do it — and be specific about what happened, that you’re happy to help but you spent 45 minutes answering numerous questions and heard not a peep back afterwards.

You could also email the student and say, “I haven’t heard back from you and want to make sure you received this. Assuming you did, I want to mention that courtesy is enormously important in this field (as in most others), and you will alienate people if you don’t acknowledge their time or assistance.”

{ 515 comments… read them below }

  1. On a pale mouse

    #4. I’ve had that conversation so many times, because I used to work in child support enforcement. No, your monthly pay is not 4x your weekly pay. The best way I could get people to understand it was to say, “You know how sometimes you get paid 5 times in a month? Okay, so we have to average that over the year.”

    1. Delta Delta

      I do some child support work too. I feel like I’m forever averaging pay stubs and multiplying by 4.333.

      1. On a pale mouse

        We multiplied by 52 and then divided by 12, which comes to the same thing, but again was easier to explain to an NCP (non-custodial parent) who was convinced I was using too high an income to figure what they had to pay.

    2. Sam.

      I don’t work in payroll, but I’ve encountered a similar problem. Our official workday is 7.5 hours, but the tracking system logs it as 7 hours, 30 minutes. For some reason, that sticks in people’s heads, and I’ve had to explain to more than one individual that they needed to divided their PTO hours by 7.5, not 7.3, to get an accurate count of how many days they had available. I feel OP’s pain – if you know someone’s generally prickly about corrections, it can be tricky to point out such a basic math error.

      1. Hangry

        I’m so glad the employees at my company aren’t the only ones who don’t understand that 2:30 =/= 2.3. Now that I think of it, it’s one particular department. So chances are it’s the supervisor who cannot math. Hmm.

        1. Goya de la Mancha

          Ours too. When they had to fill out the time card…..oh the head palms. Now that we have a digital tracking system, we don’t have to worry about people getting it wrong, the computer does it all for them!

          1. Decima Dewey

            On our timesheets, a day is 8 hours, and PTO is measured in 16ths. Half an hour is 1/16, a full hour is 2/16 and so on.

            The oddity is that for a full day we put down 7 1/2 hours, not 8. We’re allowed a fifteen minute break in the morning and a fifteen minute break in the afternoon, for which we’re paid.

          2. Half-Caf Latte

            I read this to mean: now the people don’t get it wrong, the computers get it wrong for them!

            I was like wait, wut?

          3. Connie-Lynne

            I had to argue this with the accountant in charge of paying me once! She was convinced I was overcharging the company by putting .25 for 15 min.

            I even showed her the math and she still didn’t believe me. Finally I said, look, VP signed off on it and I will take you to court if you under pay me, so put it through the way I said.

        2. Rachel

          One of my managers did something similar. Yes, I’m sure that you don’t have to punch 7.8 into the machine to get seven and a half pounds just because eight ounces are half a pound… If you did it would display as lbs and oz not just lbs and you’d be able to enter greater than 9 “ounces” if you wanted. Never did convince her…

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        I find the people cannot do 45 minutes more often than 30. They understand that 30 minutes is a half-hour, but then if they work 7 hours, 45 minutes then they’ll put 7.45. I cannot comprehend how they can get 7.5 when it’s 30 minutes and then put a lower number when they work 15 more minutes!

        1. Kelly L.

          Ugh, this is the bane of my existence! I have a set of student workers who write their time down manually (long story), and the trickiest part of reading the timesheets and entering them into the computer is sussing out that Fergus put 5.5 hours but meant 5 hours and 50 minutes, and Jane put 3:25 but she actually means she worked 3.25 hours.

          1. Anna

            I supervise student workers too and have to check their time sheets for the hours and this comes up frequently. So frequently that I asked our math instructor to spend some time on decimal to time conversions.

        2. Aunt Vixen

          But 45 is a higher number than 5. ~blink~

          [/NO I KNOW I AM FEELING YOUR PAIN PLEASE DON’T CORRECT ME.]

          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

            Hahahaha – I had this discussion once. I finally just said 75 is even higher and you get paid more when I couldn’t get them to understand.

        3. essEss

          I discovered our online system can’t handle .25 numbers. If I put it in, it converts into some bizarre different decimal. I can only do it in .1, .2, .3 units which drives me crazy since it is far more normal to say you worked an extra quarter of an hour (.25 or .75)

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          We were told about a year ago to start logging our time in 15-minute increments, and I started seeing quite a few entries for 0.15 hours. My first reaction was “wow, that’s a lot more time-tracking diligence than I can ever talk myself into having” and then I was, “oh wait… They probably think that’s 15 minutes.”

          I’ve been seeing fewer of those lately, probably because our hours have to add to a minimum of 40/week, and 4 times 0.15 is not one hour by a long shot… Whoever did that, probably got dinged on their time logging once or twice.

      3. Postdoc

        I recently was debating what my effective hourly pay was with my SO. He was convinced that I was being paid way too little for the number of hours I work (which right now is pretty high). It took a while to convince him that his math had me working 60 hours a day rather than 60 hours a week.

      4. TootsNYC

        similarly–when we were buying our co-op apartment, the building’s downpayment requirement was one-third.

        Our lawyer kept multiplying by 0.33.

        No, $145,000 * 0.33 =/= $145,000/3.
        $47,850 is different from $48,333.
        It didn’t make a difference for the buying decision, but it made a difference what we put on the check!
        And if we’d been paying more, it would be an even bigger decision!

        1. Noah

          As a lawyer, say this: the only lawyers you can trust to do math are tax lawyers and corporate finance lawyers.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger

      Wow. Back when I first started working and earning an hourly wage, it seemed simple once I worked out that there are 2,080 work hours in a year (52 * 40), so using 2,000 usually gets you really close. And that’s a really easy calculation… $24K a year ~= $12/hr, and $8/hr ~= $16K/year. Maybe closer to $17K with the extra 80 hours, but it’s really easy to multiply or divide by two!

      1. Koko

        And if they don’t pay for holidays/vacation/sick leave, 50 x 40 might be the number of actual hours you work/get paid for at some companies. You could easily be off unpaid on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, day after, Christmas, and New Years Day, and have 5 days some combination of sick or requested the day off.

    4. Samata

      The 1 x 40 x 4 x 12 formula always baffles me. Just because it seems so complex.

      Since I was a teenager working part time at a car dealership I have always been taught that to figure out your equivalent annual salary you take your hourly wage x 2080. I think our payroll person taught me that, but am not positive on that part of it.

      1. Jennifer Thneed

        Well, it’s especially complex when it’s wrong. Your formula seems to say “40 hours a week, times 4 weeks a month, times 12 months a year” and that’s not 2080, it’s 1920. I can’t figure out where the initial 1 is coming into things.

        1. Samata

          the last I witnessed someone trying to covert an hourly wage into a annual salary (wrongly) they used:
          hourly pay rate x 40 hrs x 4 weeks x 12 months…the “1” in my example was the rate per one hour.

          And yes, I know it’s wrong, I guess that was my point – why make it so complicated and try to work it all out when it’s wrong anyways. But as someone pointed out down thread someone who doesn’t know 2080 wouldn’t be likely to get their on their own.

        2. Not a Morning Person

          Maybe it is one hour of pay times 40 hours in a week etc.? In any case, it sounds like Samata is making the same point.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, it’s also ok not to answer emails that require 45 minutes for you to respond. It’s your call, but I’d be tempted to ask the student to call at a specific time for 15-20 minutes to discuss their questions. That might also help separate folks who ghost you after asking you to contribute a significant amount of your time.

    1. LouiseM

      +1. I agree of course that it’s important to help emerging professionals in our fields like we were once helped, but you mentioned that it seemed like the student basically sent a form letter to you and others. If they couldn’t even find a way to make it seem like they were specifically interested in talking to you, I’m not sure they’re worth your 45 minutes.

    2. OP5

      OP5 here – I appreciate your suggestion.
      I honestly enjoy helping students, and it’s part of my professional culture that practitioners with my particular qualification mentor other practitioners and students – we can even cite the time as part of our required professional development hours for our professional body. In general I do find interviews or discussions more interesting than those kind of questionnaires.

      I wonder if there’s a thread anywhere on ’embarassing things I did before learning professional norms’. I can think of one or two that gently haunt me to this day.

      1. Blue

        Echoing Princess Consuela Banana Hammock’s recommendation! My job involves working with college students, and whenever I get an email inquiry that’s clearly to require a significant time commitment on my end, I reply and say something like, “I’m certainly happy to help you out with this, but given the nature and volume of your questions, I think it’d be much easier for us to have a conversation rather than trying to address them over email. Are you free for a phone call this afternoon?”

        The students I work with generally default to email and avoid phone if they can, as do I. But every time I’ve said, “Phone is a better medium for this,” they’ve adapted without complaint. Even if they did resist, I don’t think it would be inappropriate for you to point out that answering all the questions carefully would require a significant time investment and to ask if there were particular questions they considered more important than the others so you can focus your attention there.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          Heh. “You mean talk? Into the phone?” hadn’t occurred to me, but could absolutely be a contributing factor.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Totally—this is what I do, too. I’m super happy to meet with folks or offer support, but having been burned by badly behaved students, I now direct nearly everything to phone. It helps filter out the form-questionnaire-style spamming and usually encourages the student to put a little more “skin” in the process.

      2. plot device

        You can also opt to select two or three questions and respond just to those. Feel free to point out that those are the most important ones to answer over email.

        If you feel the need to address the other questions, perhaps offer to meet in person to discuss them. (Meeting in person requires they make time in their schedule as well, so the candidate has to put more skin in the game. They now have to find time in their schedule, show up looking professional, and prepared to have a face to face conversation rather than a low-stakes email exchange.)

      3. A Nickname for AAM

        I think it would also be worth finding out who the instructor is for this class and having a chat with them.

        I had to do a lot of stuff like this in college for various classes, and honestly, the professors tend to have this attitude “You should interview X people, in depth and with critical questioning, because you are learning/practicing/preserving history, etc., and it’s their JOB to give interviews.” In my journalism classes, the professors forbade us from thanking our “sources” because it was “unprofessional bribery,” for example.

        But in reality, multiply the number of classes that send students out to interview experts, story sources, old people who experienced a historical phenomenon firsthand, and people in prospective career paths by the number of students in those courses per year, and it’s a huge imposition on the job of university employees and those in the surrounding community.

      4. else

        If you think that more than one of your peers got this same survey of an email, they might be trying to do research on y’all without your permission, too. That is unethical. So, there’s that.

      5. I Like Pie

        As an Allied Health student, I appreciate you making this point! I’ve had great instructors who are professionals in the field and they’ve spent a lot of time with me outside class hours answering questions, offering guidance and advice. I am extremely grateful for people like you and will definitely make sure to always say please and thank you!

    3. Dust Bunny

      Yeah, I work for an academic library and there is a limit to how long I can spend on things like this. They are the researcher, not I–it is my job to enable them to find the answers, but it’s not my job to find the answers for them. I would definitely be required to treat this as a major request and would expect follow-up.

      We have a form that we ask researchers to fill out on their first visit. I would be tempted to send this person one even if s/he didn’t come in in person, because a survey like this is a big enough drain on my time that I think some investment should be required of the researcher in kind.

    4. AnotherJill

      This exactly. If you do it that way, you have essentially done their homework for them. If this is an assignment, they just have to cut and paste your email into a document.

      If you do it via phone or in person, they have to do some actual work – take notes, write up their document, etc.

    5. PersephoneUnderground

      Yes, this sounded to me like they should have interviewed you or something and written up answers to the questions themselves, but instead just sent you the questions to basically get you to do their assignment for them… Don’t know if that’s actually what happened, but it seems pretty lazy to email you an extensive questionnaire and themselves put in no other effort.

      1. PersephoneUnderground

        Oops, hadn’t read the rest of the thread when I wrote this responding to PCBH- um, what they said!

  3. Cafe au Lait

    OP #4, my aunt who is the VP of hiring uses 2080 hours to calculate salary. I’d write back using that number rather than the weekly math. It frames the conversation differently.

    1. Bea

      But you’ll still have to tell them where you get 2080 from. Which is 40×52, so it doesn’t solve the problem of telling the person they used the wrong formula. They’re going to still be thinking it’s 4×12 and not necessarily see where you’re getting the magical 2080 from.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah. I usually tell people to calculate it using 52 weeks because a sizable number of people seem to misunderstand how hourly calculations work, and the 4×12 fallacy is really common. If someone’s not grasping that there’s 52 weeks, they’ll also miss the 2080 hours.

          1. Lance

            To me, that seems rather doubtful; it’s likely more so the thought of ‘oh, there’s four full weeks per month, so 4 x 12 seems fine’.

          2. MCMonkeyBean

            I was wondering the same, if they negotiated for an hourly rate rather than a salary.

            1. Aunt Vixen

              But does a job that pays hourly have four weeks of leave per year? In the United States? Color me skeptical.

              1. LizB

                I actually have an hourly job with four weeks of paid leave (plus several paid holidays) in the US! I am extremely not the norm, though… and I still get paid for 52 weeks a year even if I take all four weeks of PTO, because it’s PTO.

                1. justsomeone

                  I get paid hourly and will have 4 weeks of paid vacation as of next year. Right now I have 3 weeks, 2 floating holidays and 5 paid holidays, plus sick time that accrues at a reasonable rate.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  I was about to say that. When I worked hourly, if we received vacation time, it was paid time. So it doesn’t decrease the 52 weeks calculation.

              2. Half-Caf Latte

                I’m in an exempt role but my large org still includes the “hourly” rate in offer letters.

          3. Bea

            But that means PTO is unpaid. You still make 52 weeks if pay if you have vacation, sick and holidays.

          4. General Ginger

            Four weeks time off and sick is highly unlikely for an hourly job that the LW describes as pretty entry level: “the pay is not the best and much of the currency comes from getting a foot in this company’s door”.

    2. WonderingHowIGotHere

      Whether rightly or wrongly, when working out our household monthly bills (not the same as salary, I know!) we use 4.33 weeks per month. The thing is, it’s 4.33 recurring, so you can’t get it perfectly accurate. It should be close enough though – and personally, depending on any other potential benefits, slightly weighted towards the employee, especially since OP4 specifically mentions it’s not great

      1. Frank Doyle

        That makes sense for household bills, but in this case the conversion is from hours to a year — no stopover in months required!

        It is seriously boggling my my mind (my mind, it is boggled) that apparently a lot of people make this mistake. 52 x 7 = 364, that’s pretty dang close to 365. Whereas 4 x 12 x 7 = 336. Not even close. I know I’m an engineer, but this is ARITHMETIC for goodness’ sake. It’s not a matter of people not figuring it out, it’s a matter of people not taking two seconds to even THINK about it and check their work. Come on.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          While I agree the error is unforgivable, it sounds like you’re assuming most people would casually calculate 52 X 7 in their heads and notice the issue, as easily as we’d notice if someone said 2 + 2 = 5. And trust me, this is not the case for a lot of us non-engineers.

        2. a1

          To me it’s weird to assume 28 days each month (which is what 4 weeks per month is) unless you think all months are February.

          I mean, I can see using as a quick a dirty (40*4*12) for an estimate of something, but when you do a “quick and dirty” estimate of anything, you know it’s not accurate, just more a guide.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Unfortunately, I’ve found numeracy is not super common, especially as people get older, and there’s a kind of perverse “brag” people put on when they joke about their lack of math skills (I think it’s masking insecurity, but that’s another story). My colleagues frequently think I’m magical for being able to calculate the tip (in CA, double the sales tax or take 20%, which is crazy easy), or translating percentage changes. It makes me a little sad.

        4. Khlovia

          IKR?! How do people get out of third grade without understanding this? I’m serious. I got this in third grade, I think. I had to explain it to one my managers, once. I found it so incredible that anybody could actually fail to understand it, I just assumed she was trying to rip me off and was hoping *I* was such a moron I wouldn’t notice. So I walked her through the math in a rather sarcastic tone of voice, I’m afraid. But the next day she thanked me for explaining it to her. Apparently nobody else ever had. If she’d been trying to rip me off, she wouldn’t have thanked me. The mind boggles at the thought of how many paychecks had been shorted before I started working there….

    3. Queen Esmerelda

      My first thought was “How many people in management/hiring *don’t* know that a full time work year is 2080 hours? I’m very surprised this error was made.

      1. A Good Problem to Have

        That would hold only if every company worked a 40 hour week, which they don’t. I’ve always used the X hours/day x 5 days = weekly pay, x 52 weeks formula.

        There is a store I go to that sells 5 foil burner liners for $1. My stove has 4 burners (like most) so I buy 4. Every single time, the cashiers struggle to figure out the price per item. So sad.

        1. Lynn Whitehat

          I used to work as a cashier after school. I was taking AP calculus at the time, and I have a master’s in electrical engineering today. I will put my math skills up against anyone’s. But that job is so monotonous and tiring, it really does take away your higher-order thinking while you’re doing it. I was definitely on the receiving end of some tirades about “KIDS TODAY, WHAT DO THEY TEACH IN THOSE SCHOOLS” when it took a few seconds to do the math on “it’s 3 for $2, and they bought 5…”

          1. A Good Problem to Have

            I can appreciate that, but dividing 5 into a dollar should not be a challenge to someone in high school. I did give the answer eventually, without comment.

            1. Kelly L.

              There are multiple problems here: One is that as Lynn said, it fries your brain. Another is that you’re really not supposed to be crunching prices by hand, you’re supposed to ring things up on the register, or else inventory will be off. Finally, the price per item isn’t necessarily the same as the “5 for $1” price–sometimes you need to buy 5 to get the discount at all!

            2. CmdrShepard4ever

              I have to second @Lynn’s comment, I used to work as a cashier and am fairly good at math usually I was fine, but every once in while sometimes toward the end of my shift, or after a dealing with a good solid rush my brain would just give out if I had to do some mental math. When you get in a good rhythm your brain stops thinking critically and just focuses on the repetitive tasks you need to do. You get used to being told by the register how much change to give you don’t even think about it, so when someone gives you extra money to get a $5/$10 bill back instead of singles it takes a few seconds for your brain to kick in and mentally figure it out.

              1. Kelly L.

                Plus, you’re told to be on your guard when customers start spewing numbers at you, because it’s a common way to scam. Obviously, not everyone who starts saying numbers is scamming, but once you’ve had it happen to you once, you do kind of pause and slow down to think it through when the numbers start flying.

              2. Amber T

                I used to work at Gamestop, where we kept the used games behind the counter in sleeves in alphabetical order. It doesn’t just happen with numbers – mentally, the alphabet magically rearranges itself, and always at the worst possible time. So when all of a sudden you have a line out the door and someone buying 12 used games and which comes first, H or J? P or R? And you’re singing the alphabet song to yourself like an idiot while people are getting impatient.

                If you’re one of those people whose brain never tires and makes dumb little mistakes, more power to you. But please be patient with us mere mortals behind the cash registers when it’s “so sad” we don’t know basic math.

                1. Kelly L.

                  My dad used to bemoan that the cashiers at the local supermarket didn’t have every price in the store memorized rather than scanning them to ring them up. They used to, Back In His Day, you see. Never mind that he was probably remembering a tiny corner store with like 10 items for sale, and no computerized inventory that needed to be accurate.

                2. TootsNYC

                  when I worked as a student aide in the library, I put the alphabet on a strip of paper and taped it tot he pullout platform in my desk. I felt kind of silly, but when I looked at an author name beginning in “K,” I couldn’t have told you, “Oh, that’s right before L” without going, “H I J K L…”

                3. TootsNYC

                  Kelly L., they may have had those prices memorized, or at least many of them. But that wouldn’t scan them into the store’s computer!

                  (there’s a gimmick in “Ricki and the Flash” where Meryl Streep’s character shows off her ability to recite all the produce codes, since she works as a cashier in a supermarket.)

                4. On a pale mouse

                  Kelly L: And, of course, we know all the sale prices. Because everyone working at the grocery store can memorize all the 20,000+ items we sell AND the thousands on sale this week.

        2. kb

          I was a mathlete in hs and it took a minute to do easy mental math as a cashier. It was more of a mindset issue than an inability issue. “One divided by five is… Oh my god the customer is glaring at me. PANIC! JUST GIVE IT TO THEM FOR FREE.”

        3. Lurker

          I get your point, but if you’re buying them repeatedly, it would be less expensive in the long run to buy packages of 5 if individually, they cost more than 20¢ per liner. (Then after four purchases you’ll have an “extra” set of 4 for the discount price.) Pennies difference, I know, but as the saying goes, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

      2. Caramel & Cheddar

        I didn’t know it was 2080 hours because I’ve never thought about it that way before, but I also know enough to calculate things based on 52 weeks a year. :D

      3. Glomarization, Esq.

        I’m afraid I’m surprised, too. When I’ve worked in payroll departments it was a very basic rule of thumb that 1 year = 2080 hours. I thought this was something that everybody who ends up pushing paper in the payroll department would pick up — but maybe I’m showing my age!

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          When I got paid by the hour, the formula I used was 174 hours/month (it’s actually 173.something, I think). I don’t know why I never thought about it in terms of monthly instead of yearly. Although, now that I think about it, the type of jobs I was applying for were advertised with a monthly rate, not an annual rate.

        2. Bea

          Everything is so automated these days, many who try to find the answer themselves struggle.

          I’ve seen some pretty “wtf” moments within HR where you should know this kind of stuff. Also if the person writing an offer letter is a manager who doesn’t hire often that trick usually won’t work. They’ll need to know the fact there are 52 weeks in a year.

      4. Trout 'Waver

        If you want to be even more precise, accounting for the 365th day, it comes out to 2085.71 on average. ~2087.09 on average if you account for leap years.

      5. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)

        Yeah, I’m thinking I worked for her brother. In my experience someone who makes basic mistakes and doesn’t like to be corrected only makes those “mistakes” intentionally and is angry at being caught and corrected.

  4. Jen S. 2.0

    Dear 2: You are not wrong.

    But is it more important to get what you deserve, or to try to make them act right? Especially because you’re not going to be able to make them act right? This is how they operate. They’re not changing. They’re happy the way things are. If you hate it — which you are justified in doing — go elsewhere. What happens to them after you leave is not your problem.

    1. sunshyne84

      That’s what I had to do. I ended up with another team where I basically work by myself so no more frustration from watching others relax all day while I get everything done. If things fall apart when you leave it’s not your problem!

      1. Irene Adler

        Exactly correct!

        Just goes to show: you are the only one who can advocate for you. No one else has your best interests at heart-except you. So always do what’s best for you (regardless of whether it seems that your employer is interested in you and your well-being).
        Employers are going to ride a good thing for as long as they can. They will feed you nice words if they think it will keep you there. It’s so much easier than, say, promoting you and having to train your replacement.

      2. Specialk9

        I’d add, even more baldly: OP#2, why on Earth would your managers promote you? They have the world’s sweetest deal. They get 7 people’s work from 1 salary. And have for years.

        So let’s look at the math. Let’s say you make $35k. They’re getting $245k worth of work for only $35k of pay so they get to float $210k for other things they want.

        Let’s say you make $50k. They’re getting $350k of work out of you, and getting $300k float.

        Their incentives are wildly toward keeping you exactly where you are.

        There are places where they understand the value of keeping great workers. This is not that place.

        But… Even if HR inflexibility is truly the issue, that’s still a problem, because HR shouldn’t have that much clout over management. Other places have a more sensible balance, or an appeals process for managers to fight for rockstars.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          So, I don’t understand why it’s up to HR whether she gets promoted, either. HR usually is the person to process a promotion initiated by a manager, not who decides.

          1. Luna

            In some organizations HR does get to decide- supposedly in the name of “equity” but it usually doesn’t work out that way at all.

            1. The Friendly Comp Manager

              I am in HR and I will second that. My function in HR is to support promotions and provide guidance on pay to ensure things are fair, which usually ends up in favor of the employee, not the company’s bottom line. Doing things like “I am the gatekeeper of all promotions” brings shame to the HR profession — but some people need to justify their existence so I guess that’s why they do it. Happens all the time — shame on you, HR people!! Shame.

      3. RVA Cat

        Not only that, but quite frankly they *deserve* to have things fall apart because they’ve built their department on taking advantage of you.

    2. Ama

      Yeah, in my experience, even if your immediate manager understands the issue and is fighting for you, if upper management doesn’t understand (or doesn’t care) that they are at risk of losing good employees because of an unbalanced workload and lack of promotion, nothing is going to happen. I have had a promotion denied because of supposed HR rules before, and I’ve had another position where my boss told her bosses flat out that they were going to lose me if nothing was done to alleviate my workload (I hadn’t even said that to her, she could just see my increasing frustration) and in both cases I ended up having to leave to get what I wanted.

      I now work for an employer that actually understands that the way you keep good employees is by making sure they get raises and promotions regularly (I’m going into my fifth year here and I’ve been promoted twice, received several generous raises and a couple of spot bonuses when I had to handle my department’s workload while we were shortstaffed). They are out there.

      1. Sharon

        Can you say where you work? Because in my 30-year career I’ve never found a place like that. My career record was almost 10 years with one place getting consistently exceeds expectations and never promoted once.

        If I have a fault, I suppose it’s that I’m too patient. :( Although now I’m kind of bitter and cynical, too.

    1. LouiseM

      I’m sure most of us on this blog realize we’re lucky to have stable employment, but…the idea that people with stable long-term jobs have problems at work is sort of the entire premise of a workplace advice blog, no?

      1. Jennifer Thneed

        No. Lots of jobs aren’t long-term, but they’re still jobs.

        Lots of folks are like me, always contracting even though it’s not my preference. A year-long contract is a *sweet* thing to find.

    2. TL -

      Everybody is lucky in some frame of comparison. But what the OP is experiencing isn’t normal and it totally reasonable for her to find a job that rewards her for doing well.

        1. Willis

          I know “sandwichy” and “Olympicsy” are both bad, but a Sandwich Olympics sounds awesome. (Well, y’know, except not everyone can eat sandwiches…)

          1. First time buyer

            What does Olympicsy mean?

            I’ve not heard Olympicsy before and wasn’t able to find a definition on google.

            1. Lady Jay

              I imagine the reference is to the “oppression Olympics,” competing to see who’s in worse shape.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever

            If it is a sandwich Olympics why cant everyone eat sandwiches? You have the turkey sandwich sprint, eat as many 6 inch sandwiches as you can in 3 minutes, the 6 ft BLT dash the person to finish first wins, the days old french bread javelin throwing event. 1st place medal winners get a gold subway card valid for 1 free sandwich per day for life, 2nd place winners get a silver subway card for free sandwiches for a year, and 3rd place gets a bronze card valid for just one free sandwich.

              1. Jennifer Thneed

                With points deducted for bread that falls apart while you’re holding the sandwich!

          1. Lindsay J

            The sandwich thing comes from “Well, not everyone can eat sandwiches,” where people preemptively reject a solution that will work for 80% of people outright because it won’t work for 20%. It’s hard to explain, but possibly someone can explain better or post a link that explains it better.

            And the Olympics reference is to oppression or oneupsmanship or misery Olympics. Basically, one person goes, “I had to walk a long way to school when I was a kid.” Then the next one has to one-up them with “Me too, but my walk was uphill.” “My walk was up hill both ways.” “Both ways in the snow.”

            1. Catherine from Canada

              I call it complaining tennis. There’s also sick tennis, stress tennis and insomnia tennis.

          2. Koko

            Somewhere on this site, I think in the commenting guidelines, there’s an admonishment that it’s not helpful to shoot down suggestions by picking apart edge cases where they might not work, and the example given is, “But not everyone can eat sandwiches!” when another commenter/AAM has suggested serving sandwiches.

            Note that it’s fine to say, “And if you happen to have anyone who can’t eat sandwiches, here’s another/supplemental idea for that situation.” It’s the negativity of just shooting down a suggestion because it’s not perfect without offering anything constructive that’s frowned on.

              1. Lauren

                I love looking for comments by the OP. I always search for the additional details that may be hidden in the comments. Do you ever ask OPs to use a specific handle? Like – “I am OP#1”

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I’ve avoided giving letter writers any direction on that kind of thing, because I worry that for letter writers who aren’t comment-section people normally (which is a lot of them, since it’s most people), I’ll be making it sound more complicated than it actually is, and I don’t want to raise the perceived barrier to entry. (People have also sometimes asked if I can make OPs’ comments a different color, which I agree would be great, but there’s no way to do it.)

                2. Laura

                  Another idea is that once the OP comments to put a pinned post at the top saying what handle the OP goes by. Then those of us who typically ctrl+F through the comments for specific people can look for the OP’s posts.

            1. Hey Karma, Over here.

              Thank you to everyone who followed up. I do recall those comments now, and they make perfect sense in this context.

    3. MakesThings

      Of course being employed is great. I thank my lucky stars every day that I have a good job.
      However, what you’re essentially saying is that she should be okay with not getting a promotion despite good work. That attitude adds up pretty quickly to “she should not expect to advance in her career, ever”. That is not reasonable and not a good strategy for life.
      Most people progress in their careers over the course of their lives, and it’s not a bad thing to work for that goal.

    4. Lynca

      I’m not sure what you’re even getting at. We should be lucky to even have a job so don’t rock the boat? Employees shouldn’t aspire to upward mobility based on good/excellent performance? That’s not a healthy outlook.

      Staying somewhere 4 years (noticeably they haven’t even given the OP a raise- just bonuses) without upward movement is a problem. Especially since the OP has the (probably right) suspicion they’re being used to prop up a department with actual productivity problems.

    5. Gazebo Slayer

      I’m in the same boat as you, Simon, but I still think this employer’s behavior is crappy.

    6. LBK

      If no one is allowed to have a problem with their job because someone always has it worse then this whole site should just be deleted.

  5. LouiseM

    OP#2, I urge you to take Alison’s advice and consider taking your talents elsewhere! It never fails to amaze me how many commenters and LWs on AAM are doing the work of 3 or 4 people–it almost seems like it should be impossible! And in fact, it is impossible for this kind of situation to be sustainable in the long term. Either someone gets frustrated and resentful (you) or they end up like the LW from yesterday who suffered from such severe exhaustion that they literally slept through an entire day of work. You’ll be much happier, OP, when you are doing the work of just one (productive) person–and being compensated accordingly. Good luck!

    1. Stormfeather

      TBF it sounds like it might not be that the OP is doing 3 or 4 full people’s work, but overachieving some while the co-workers are underachieving.

      1. JamieS

        Kind of hard to tell for sure from the outside. On a 14 person team each person would close about 7.14% of tickets (adjusted for difficulty of ticket) so if OP really is closing 30% of tickets and those tickets are of equivalent difficulty to the ones others close then OP actually is doing the work of 3-4 people. OTOH, if OP closes all the easy tickets and coworkers are working on ones that are significantly more difficult and thus take more time then they’re not doing the work of multiple people.

        Regardless it sounds like OP is being jerked around and probably being taken advantage of.

        1. Gen

          I’ve worked these kind of jobs and I’ve seen both situations, especially if the system doesn’t show who is looking at the tickets so people can cherrypick the quick ones. OP could switch up their workflow to see if that’s the case if they knowingly do that, but some people are just faster at this kind of work. A former colleague of mine did everything he could to slow down his processing speed but the best he could do was three times the usual productivity and two hours staring into space. We’ve both left that company now but in a year after he left the role no one came close to his record

          1. MsChanandlerBong

            I have had to do that at my current job. I could spend four hours a day doing nothing and still get more done in the remaining four hours than my colleagues can get done in an eight-hour shift. I don’t think it’s a matter of people not working hard; I just happen to be really fast at some things (I type 121 WPM, I’m a fast reader, etc.). Plus, I’ve finally found a job that works with my ADHD. I get interrupted about 100 times a day, but my brain actually welcomes the ability to hop from task to task and never have a solid block of time where I have to pay attention to just one thing. In contrast, one of my colleagues finds it really difficult to reset after someone interrupts him with a question or asks him to take care of an urgent issue.

            1. MySherona

              I’d be really interested to hear more about how you take advantage of your ADHD at work. Do you ever have times when you need to concentrate on one thing for a longer period of time, and if so, do you have any coping mechanisms you might share?

              1. MsChanandlerBong

                Sorry, didn’t check this thread again until after work. I wish I had some tips to share, but it’s really the nature of my job that works with my brain, not anything I am doing in particular. My job is a weird amalgamation of duties (small company), so I mostly train new writers, edit their submissions, and so forth, but I also recruit new writers for our two busy seasons per year, which involves phone interviews, reviewing applications and writing samples, and doing new-writer paperwork (W-9 form, independent contractor agreement, etc.). Plus, I have to pitch in and do some assignments if the writers miss deadlines, so my Slack and Skype are going off all day long. “Ms. Bong, so-and-so missed the deadline on project ID 181. Can you take care of it?” So I might jump from editing to writing to reviewing resumes to doing a phone interview to terminating a bad writer all in the same hour.

          2. Stranger than fiction

            Ha, this reminds memof my bf’s first job out of school. He was a technician and his first week, the guy training him admonished him for getting so many devices repaired and straight up said to slow down you’re making me look bad. This guy was repaired like one item a week, where my bf was doing like five a day. The guy eventually got fired a few months later for sleeping on the job, but he had apparently gotten away with this glacially slow turnaround time for years!

        2. Colette

          It’s really hard to tell without more information. If you look at my team, I close relatively few tickets – but I also do a lot of work that no one else does, and I also tend to get the more complex issues.

          It sounds like the OP is a high performer who is doing way more than average, but that doesn’t mean she is doing to work of 3-4 people.

          1. Bostonian

            Yeah, these points you make are important. OP, I caution you about making conclusions about your coworkers being “lazy” based only on the # of tickets they close compared to you. Unless resolving tickets is THE ONLY task you all have to do, other people could have other priorities to tend to.

            Also, knowing what I know about this kind of work, I can’t help but wonder if there’s enough work to go around for everyone, and the “lazy” ones are just taking their time/being more thorough, because there’s no point in rushing through your work when the load is enough for everyone.

            Also, are y’all hourly? When you’re completing that 30%-50%, is there still an hour or 2 left in the shift? Maybe the “lazy” employees just don’t want to be twiddling their thumbs at the end of the shift.

            All that being said, I 100% agree with Alison that 4 years is a decently sized tenure and should not be an excuse for not promoting you!

          2. ThatGirl

            Yeah, I probably answer fewer phone calls and close fewer cases than my co-workers, over the course of the year, but I also answer questions on Twitter, Facebook and that are posted on our website, as well as work on additional projects, which they don’t. I don’t mean for that to sound like I’m dissing them – but they are full-time CSRs, I’m in a weird hybrid role. I appreciate that they do more work than I do on the CSR front so that I have time for other things.

          3. Beatrice

            This is me, too. I handle a small percentage of the incident reports that flow through my team, but that’s because I am the only person with the skill set to handle the very hardest ones, and they take 2-4 hours of focused work to knock out. I never get the 1-15 minute ones. I also field questions from everyone on complications with the medium-difficulty tickets. On a team of 8, I’m handing maybe 1% of the tickets directly, I’m dealing with questions on maybe another 10%, I engineer the information flow and the processes by which the tickets are handled, I troubleshoot problems, I maintain status dashboards, and I attend meetings our manager can’t get to that relate to our work. I have the same title as everyone else who works tickets, I think my pay is about 10% above the team average, and I am advocating for more. If you just went by ticket clearance percentages, you’d get the wrong idea of who’s keeping my team afloat.

        3. HyacinthB

          I was the “overachiever” on our team and actually had co-workers tell me to dial it back a little as I was making them look bad. I just liked to do a good job, plus it was mind numbingly boring so I would make games out of it… and one game was how many can I do in a day with zero errors?

        4. Lauren

          So a ticket could mean resetting a computer password, or a ticket could mean a 4-day build of 20 computers in a lab. The difficulty of the tickets matter. My boyfriend was getting reamed for not doing enough tickets, but then he said then he looked and found that like 60% of his coworkers tickets were closed out in 10 minutes or less. He was getting the harder / longer cases. When he brought this data to his boss, the boss scoffed and it was clear that they just wanted him gone and didn’t expect him to come prepared to back up his work. He used this information to get out. Use the lies that HR is telling you about longevity, and get out. Even if you are taking harder tickets, this information is gold that they are giving you. LISTEN. GET OUT.

          1. Specialk9

            I didn’t read it as HR lying, I thought either the managers are lying, or HR has managed to grab too much power and are being inflexible/power trippy to the business’ detriment.

            1. Lauren

              Ok, so lie was harsh. Its more of an excuse. If the excuses or reasons keep changing and the obstacles to overcome keep moving further and further away, its time to listen to that and OP should move on.

        5. Samiratou

          My husband’s job (before he was laid off) had issues with this for awhile. Their performance & raises were all determined by how many tickets they closed. Period. He refused to cherry pick, while his coworkers did not, so he tended to get the more complex tickets.

          Until the holidays rolled around or spring break of something when many of his coworkers were out and his closure rate magically increased. Go figure.

          Not saying that’s at all what’s going on with OP, here, as her situation sounds like it’s been going on for awhile and she says “assigned work” so it could be their ticket system assigns you the next ticket based on order or priority or whatever.

          1. Stranger than fiction

            Yes, and the Op seems bright enough and aware of their own processes to be able to distinguish number of tickets vs difficulty etc.

        6. Jamoche

          Coworker Coffeecup earned his nickname by doing less in one day than I could do on top of my own stuff just by having an extra cup of coffee. The day after he left, I spent a couple of hours doing a dozen of the things that had been assigned to him – and, it turns out, part of his PIP was to do at least one of them a day, all of them very easy so he’d have no excuse not to hit that metric.

          So if you measure by Coffeecups, I did the work of over a dozen people that day. But by the standards of the rest of my team, it was Tuesday.

    2. Persephone Mulberry

      I read it as the OP is responsible for 30% of all tickets closed, not responsible for closing 30% of all tickets received. If 500 tickets come in in a day and the team is closing 100, and OP is closing 30 of them, there’s still plenty of room for the rest of the team to be more productive. (I realize the math isn’t perfectly reflective of the size of the team, I just used round numbers to illustrate my point).

    3. Polaris

      Agreed with this, OP #2. My job also has a very slow advancement track. Many people have been at the company for ten years or more, so anyone who’s been there five or less doesn’t get promoted, regardless of their quality of work or ability in other areas. I’m content where I am for now, but I’ve seen other coworkers for opportunities elsewhere with better opportunities for advancement.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Right. Not every company has a career track. We don’t here where I work. You’d pretty much have to wait for someone to die or retire. But in ops case, they seem to be playing the charlie brown and lucy football game.

    4. Yorick

      The number of tickets closed is only one metric. As someone else noted, OP may be picking the quickest ones and thereby closing more. Coworkers could be resolving issues more thoroughly or doing more quality assurance checks, so they’re closing fewer. Others on the team may have more duties outside of responding to these tickets, so they naturally do fewer.

      This isn’t meant to imply that OP isn’t doing a great job, just that her performance in comparison to coworkers may not be quite what she thinks it is.

      1. Specialk9

        Except that management is recognising that her performance IS above the rest, with bonuses and awards and PTO. I’m taking OP at her word.

    5. Koko

      Honestly, even if she’s not overworking herself, I’d be half-inclined to suggest she initiate a slow-down in protest of her coworkers’ lack of productivity being tolerated.

      They allow it to continue because managing people is hard and OP’s productivity has made it so they can get away with not having to do it.

      If she slows down and is only doing, say, 15% of the tickets in a day, they will notice that they’re suddenly seeing 15% fewer cases completed. But are they really going to chastise the person who is still completing twice her share of the work, who is still completing more than any other member of the team? I feel like that would be such hard ground to stand on that you’d force their hand into confronting the employees who are barely contributing.

      1. KitKat

        The thing is, if it’s data entry, which is already not the most engaging, slowing down might not have any effect except making OP’s day more boring.

      2. Indie

        My boyfriend is in exact same situation as OP and I suggested a slowdown. When he tried it he found the boredom too tiring.

    6. Engineer Woman

      I guess I’m somewhat in the minority. I’m not that bothered by the term, depending on really how close you are to your colleague. I don’t like it and would never use it myself – but I’m just not sure if I’d feel strongly enough to request the user not to use it. I can see a case long ago where I had a close working relationship with a collegue whose sense of humor might have lead him to use such a term. I just can’t muster up any strong feeling against it should it have happened. If we hadn’t been so close – I can see asking whomever not to say it again.

      That said, if it rubs someone the wrong way: speak up and the word-user should stop immediately! I wouldn’t even say the OP is too sensitive: things rub each of us the wrong way and I agree this isn’t a good term!

  6. Jennifer

    Yeah, I’m in #2’s position as well, though the lack of promotion isn’t technically my boss’s fault–the union won’t permit my going any higher in my level.

    “Are they holding me in this position because they know they will be in trouble if they lose me?”

    Probably.

    1. LouiseM

      Ugh, so frustrating. I just hate to see unions that are anti-worker and pro-bottom line. Best of luck to you!!

      1. sssssssssss

        Work I work, a union shop also, there is no promotion. Only competition for posted jobs. If you want to move up, you compete for the job and hope that no one with more seniority has also applied…or that they fail testing.

        There are also no merit raises: everyone at X level makes the same salary, same raise. That I find more galling, that a 22-year-old makes the same as I do, and I’ve got years more experience. And there’s just no discretionary raises.

        1. LV

          If that 22-year-old is at the same level as you, doing the same work, why shouldn’t they earn the same salary? Should they be getting paid less just because you haven’t been able to move up despite your years of experience?

          1. sssssssssssssssss

            We started nearly at the same time. In the private sector salaries are often within a range and if you have more experience, you can often leverage that into a salary in the upper part of that range.

            And in the private sector, same job, same level, widely varying salaries happen all the time, gender gap not withstanding.

            1. Talia

              And that’s not a good thing! Same job, same level, should be the same salary everywhere, with some raises for time in job.

            2. biobottt

              I still don’t understand why you think a 22-year-old doing the same job with nearly the same amount of experience shouldn’t get paid the same as you.

            3. LV

              You think your coworkers should be paid less than you for the same work, even though they’ve been in this job for as long as you have, on the grounds that you have more work experience elsewhere? That makes no sense.

    2. Brett

      Yeah, the transfer rules at a university job where I was a temp data entry clerk were ridiculously complicated. Basically, regardless of any other qualifications I had, I needed about 7 years tenure as a temp before I could be guaranteed a shot at permanent. (Any permanent full time clerk at the same level or one level lower had to automatically be hired over me.) After about the 4th failed try to convert me, the contract company gave up and put me on a different job.

  7. Lumen

    OP #1: I gag a little bit whenever I hear the term “work wife”. It always strikes me as (professional words) inappropriate for the workplace and (unprofessional words) gross and weird. The fact that it’s common doesn’t make it any less ick. But that’s me!

    The only exception was a pair of teachers I worked with once. They were both women. One was married to a man, the other was married to a woman. They didn’t use the phrase often, and there was no power differential in their relationship (not even “this person showed me the ropes”; they founded the classroom together when the school expanded). That was the only time it didn’t give me the icks, and yes, it was definitely because it was not a man (of any sexuality/relationship status) saying it to a female coworker (of any sexuality/relationship status). *SHRUG* YMMV.

    But my threw-up-a-little-in-my-mouth reaction aside, it’s definitely the sort of chummy thing coworkers should assume they need to be careful about. You know, like when someone calls Jonathan “Jon” and then pauses to say “Is it okay if I call you Jon?” so that Jonathan has a chance to say, early on, “Actually I prefer Jonathan”. Coworker should not assume you are on board with being called his ‘work wife’, but either way, you’re in the clear to tell him not to.

    I wonder if ‘work sis’ can be a thing. That seems a tad less loaded to me,

    1. mr cholmondley warner

      Agreed.
      I’m not easily offended, but “work wife” makes me want to throw up. It’s almost as vomit inducing as “baby daddy”

        1. boo bot

          I’ve always liked “my friend and colleague,” and when that’s too much of a mouthful, use my darn name!

          1. KitKat

            I do this too. Or if I really want to be cutesy, work bff.

            If I’m going to go potentially overboard in analyzing my dislike of the work wife/husband thing, I think what I don’t like about it is that it plays into society’s elevation of romantic relationships over all other types of relationships. It implies that the highest level of relationship is husband and wife, that “friend” couldn’t come close.

            (I say all this as someone who has an amazing husband :)

            1. Luna

              That’s interesting (and I don’t think it’s overboard!), because many other commentators are objecting to the term seemingly for opposite reasons, that they think it devalues marriage to use the word spouse in any other context. Which TBH anytime someone uses the phrase “devalues real marriage” it just really grates on me, maybe because I associate that phrase so much with political social conservative movements.

              I tend to agree with your take, that it’s an unnecessary elevation of romantic relationships, and usually I just stick to saying “work friend” or something similar.

              1. Stranger than fiction

                I understand this is very personal and subjective, so I get it’s not for everyone, but my partner/bf of ten years and I each joke about each other’s respective work spouses. We have a trusting relationship and there’s no jealousy, so can tease each other lovingly about the person we’re closest to at work and spend 40+ hours a week with.

          1. Specialk9

            Haha that’s… disconcerting to anyone who grew up in the Cold War, and now that we’re back in a Neuvo Cold War.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar

        That feels… definitely not gender neutral (like, way less so than “guys”, which isn’t gender-neutral either but people can often largely get away with). I am admittedly not from the west coast, but I’d love to hear from others on that side of the continent about whether or not they’ve found this to be the case as well.

        I’ll add that the “bro” component would make me feel like I was in a frat house, so even if it was considered gender neutral where I live, I’d probably give major side eye to anyone calling me their “work bro”.

          1. Lora

            Mmm, “bro” is somewhat derogatory in the social and work circles I’m in. Means you are kinda sexist, not good at communicating with people outside your demographic, entitled, party hard/binge drinking, self-absorbed type of person.

        1. BenAdminGeek

          It’s hard- I’ve heard it in a context that did seem gender-neutral, which previously seemed impossible to me. But I’ve also heard it many times where it seems very gendered. “Dudes” seems less gendered to me, but I might just be biased because I love that term. I sometimes toss in a “fam” to try and be hip, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t work.

        2. Specialk9

          The first time I heard the term was when my lesbian coworker used it in reference to her straight guy coworker. That helped it get cemented in my head free of gender power stuff. But I totally get why it could feel icky to others.

          I call my opposite gender co-worker my work husband… But never to his face, just when telling stories so my real hubby knows who I mean.

        3. Teclatrans

          I am West Coast, and in my circles Bro is derogatory about the sorts of guys who are hypermasculine and express the worst aspects of the patriarchy, this being something they also call themselves. I do think there was a period where someone could be”my bro” (meaning homie, solid friend, etc.), because I remember being surprised by and having to adapt to the negative connotation that goes along with the whole “bros before hoes” sorts of bros. So maybe the shift from general usage to specific has been uneven across the region and/or subcultures?

      2. bookartist

        I’m in the SF Bay Area, and ‘bro’ in my office, social, and neighborhood circles is def not gender neutral. Maybe this is more a generational thing?

      3. K.

        I would hate this, sorry. Female East Coaster here, and “bro” isn’t seen as gender-neutral. It also connotes a culture that I really don’t like – I describe a former (awful) workplace as “bro-ish,” and it was most definitely not a compliment.

        1. Specialk9

          Yeah, the only thing worse than a bro is a brah. Not compliments by any stretch. Not gender neutral in my sub culture either. Though dude can be.

      4. GriefBacon

        “Bro” is very much a derogatory term for (certain) men where I’m from and where I currently live (South and Mountain West), and I know a number of native Californians that use it as a derogatory term for certain men. So I wouldn’t recommend it as a gender-neutral term or as a positive term for the general public.

    2. MLB

      I guess it depends on the dynamic of the company, but I have called many guys that I work closely with my work husbands (I’ve always been in IT and one of few females). We were always close friends and guys I would hang out with outside of work. Most of these guys were married or were in a relationship, and until recently I was single. It never crossed a line and never meant anything inappropriate, and in fact when one of my “work husbands” got married, I thanked them for inviting us and his wife said “of course we had to invite his work wife”, so clearly she had no issue with it either.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.

        It’s different when the woman is involved in creating the title, though. I know people who do that, as well, but it was mutual. The guy didn’t come in one day and tell another, oh, she’s my work wife. It was more like, “hey, you’re like my work wife/husband.” And it grew from them using it with each other, to others becoming aware of it.

        1. Mickey Q

          I went to my husband’s company picnic and some lady I never heard of came up and said she was his work wife. I did not appreciate it and was ready to give her a knife hand to the throat. My husband said she was delusional and didn’t even work in his department.

    3. Buffy Summers

      I really hate that term too. If someone were to call me his work wife, to quote Negan, I would “shut that shit down.”

    4. LilyP

      And do you think he’d call a fellow dude co-worker he gets along with especially well his “work husband”? I’m guessing no…

      I don’t see anything wrong with saying “work friend” here

      1. Recently Diagnosed

        First of all, I actually agree with you that the term is squicky and that my husband is the exception, not the rule, but…yes, he calls his neighboring male colleague his work husband.

      2. Ainomiaka

        My husband did when he had a Male friend he worked with. The OP is perfectly reasonable in not wanting to use the term, but I think plenty of people know it isn’t sexual.

        1. neverjaunty

          It isn’t always sexual, but it does imply a very strong level of personal intimacy (emotional is nothing else) with a work collegue.

          1. Ainomiaka

            But I think in the case of the LW she isn’t denying the intimacy. I don’t disagree with you that the term implies intimacy but I hugely disagree with the implication I’m getting from the statement that intimacy is inherently inappropriate with coworkers. Yes be aware of power dynamics and consensuality. And the lw gets to decide if this coworker counts or not. But it’s not wrong to be close with some particular coworkers.

            1. neverjaunty

              She is, though: “Our remarks were always casual, and though they were not strictly work-related, we never discussed deep or personal topics. So, I was surprised when one day, he began referring to me as his “work wife.”

              There’s nothing at all wrong with being close to particular co-workers, or even being very close friends. But ‘intimacy with a spouse’ is, to most people, a whole different level of intimacy with friends you aren’t in a relationship with.

              1. Ainomiaka

                First point-fair, I skimmed that part too fast. Though it should be covered under lw gets to decide.
                Second point-but this is exactly what I am saying work spouse isn’t. That is just not how the term is used. And no matter how it is used, I think we could do with less “eww gross” than the comments here are showing.

                1. Luna

                  Yeah I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase myself, but I don’t get why people are acting like it’s gross. I think some people are reading way too much into it.

      3. Jesmlet

        I’ve definitely heard straight males refer to other males they work closely with as their “work husband”. Bringing in a term that’s applied strictly to romantic relationships gives me *ick* feelings regardless of the genders involved.

        My married male equivalent of a “work husband” refers to me as his partner and I’m not weirded out by that. With that said, when I introduce him, I refer to him as my boss because that’s what he technically is.

    5. HyacinthB

      My husband is a very congenial guy and many female co-workers in the past have referred to him as their work husband. I don’t say anything because I know it means nothing, but I don’t really think it’s appropriate. Get your own husband! (Plus I know I have the best one, and they WISH they had one this good! LOL)

    6. Tardigrade

      Yeah, I don’t consider work wife/husband appropriate terms even if they are common (which I’m not not doubting, but I’ve never personally heard them in my workplaces).

      I think work friend, work sis/bro, frelleague, or any other term along those same platonic lines are fine.

    7. Canadian Teapots

      I’m just jaw-agape at the idea of “work wife” or “work husband” at all. I would be the first to say that I feel someone using that term for me is being inappropriate, and if they kept it up, I would be speaking to my boss about enforcing basic courtesies regarding modes of address and reference, being that calling me “(my name)” is how I want to be referred to.

    8. Kathleen_A

      I despise the term, too, but I agree with Alison that the OP’s coworker almost certainly doesn’t mean anything inappropriate by it. He’s just heard other people use this term and so thinks it’s OK.

      That doesn’t mean the OP has to put up with it of course – I most certainly would not – but it does mean that a conversation in which she says something along the lines of “I really don’t like that term. Can you stop using it?” need not be difficult or fraught. She just needs to ask in a matter-of-fact way, and that ought to pretty much take care of it, though if he’s been doing it a while, she might have to remind him once or twice.

    9. Funbud

      Ugh. “Work Wife”/”Work Husband”. It’s always made my skin crawl. At best, it sounds like high school dating. Even if it’s purely platonic and joking it sounds juvenile.

      1. Kathleen_A

        From what I understand, it’s almost always purely platonic. People don’t go around calling the coworker they’re having an affair with “my work-husband/wife.” I agree that it’s icky, and more importantly I agree that the OP should put a stop to it if she finds it icky, but I also think it would be a mistake for her to assume – as she seems inclined to do – that it indicates that her coworker has inappropriate feelings for her. His feelings for her are probably perfectly appropriate, so he just needs to be made aware of the actual problem, which is that the OP dislikes the term he’s using to describe those feelings.

        And that can be done in a very simple and matter-of-fact way.

        1. Specialk9

          Yeah, it means ‘platonic person I work with closely and feel a kinship with’. But I get why it can feel weird.

    10. the cake is a pie

      I’m making awful faces here in response to “work wife.” I like KitKat’s point above–why is “friend” or “bestie” lesser than “wife/husband”?

      One of my issues with “work wife/work husband” is that I don’t need the reminder that I spend as many (or more) of my waking hours with my colleagues as with my actual husband.

    11. Lissa

      I might be in the minority in that the term doesn’t bother me, but for sure OP should speak up if she doesn’t like it! Stuff like that is only OK when it’s actually mutual and either person feels OK opting out.

    12. Any Mouse Wife

      I have a strong negative reaction to the work-spouse terms, too. I’ll mind my own business if other people are using such language, but I will shut that down if it comes my way.

      From my perspective, I immediately associate it with some guy who wants me to prop him up, do his drudge work for him, and take little to none of his credit afterwards. Literally the first thought that comes to mind when I hear those phrases is, “I am NOT doing your laundry for you.” I guess that probably says something about my view of marriage.

    13. Nic

      One of my former places of work we had a whole work family, and the gender that people presented and the traditional gender of the roles were not necessarily related.

      I was work mom to a handful of people, some of whom were worksiblings, some not. I had a work wife (female. I’m female), and she was workmom to some of my workids, but not all. We also had work cousins and various other things. I think someone made a family tree at one point. It was all in silliness and fun.

      That’s how I’ve always taken the term, but from what I’m reading that sounds like not-the-usual way it’s used. I’m a lot more icked out by it knowing more.

      1. Not a Morning Person

        I’d say that your original take about being friendly is more on the mark than the ickiness take. IMO the issue is whether the people using the term agree with it. I can see why a wife or husband IRL might be a little annoyed, but mainly if they already have some concern about the amount of time their spouse is spending at work, and as others have said, it would be pretty weird for someone to use the term if they were really romantically involved. All of the situations where I’ve heard it used were mutually agreeable to the people involved and just meant that they were people who worked together a lot and liked one another, like BFF’s at work and not romantic at all. Just people they trusted and spent a lot of time with at work, not romantic, but friendly. So I’m a little surprised by how many people are finding it icky because I’ve never seen it construed that way before these comments.

  8. Espeon

    OP1 you’re perfectly entitled to not like the term and request that it’s not used! But please don’t concern yourself by reading into it too much; I have a work husband now, and I’ve had a work wife at a previous job – in my experience it’s merely amusing shorthand for two colleagues who just really click with one another and actively spend work time and/or work-break time together.

    1. Peanut

      “… it’s merely amusing shorthand for two colleagues who just really click with one another and actively spend work time and/or work-break time together.”

      I prefer to call that “coworkers,” myself. Why does it have to be such a rare thing that it requires a special term, to simply get along with people you work with?

      1. Espeon

        I get along well with most people I work with, but sometimes you find a colleague who’s really on your wavelength in a way that is the next level up, and that can be uncommon in a workplace where people from wildly differing walks of life are thrown together and “have” to get along for the sake of professionalism. At the end of the day, it’s just a bit of fun.

        What were you hoping to achieve with your response to me? Perhaps I’m reading the tone incorrectly, but you seem oddly bothered by my opinion, which has no bearing on your life.

        1. YuliaC

          I am bothered by your opinion because you say “please don’t concern yourself by…” to the OP, which is not a neutral thing to say, it is pretty condescending.

          1. Not a Morning Person

            Uh, because “please don’t concern yourself by” means “don’t worry?” It seem perfectly appropriate to tell someone “don’t worry” that it is probably a very innocent term and something not to be concerned about.

        2. FortyTwo

          When I was in grad school, I TA’d a summer course instructed by a colleague of the opposite gender, both of us happily married to other people. We were already friends, but in working together every day on teaching that course, it really felt like we had a special partnership and were always in synch.

          A few years later, when I was having coffee with his wife, I cautiously mentioned, “It’s like he was my work husband, you know?” She responded, “He used to say the same thing about you!” She knew I didn’t mean anything sexual and that I was at no point a threat to their actual marriage. It’s a pretty common term, but of course, people shouldn’t use it if someone is uncomfortable with it.

      2. Casuan

        Peanut, if by “rare thing” you mean “work spouse” & its variations?
        If so, I’ve always thought of these terms as something fun that can help one through the work day. Such terms might be acceptable around the office yet not with clients or the public. I’m not a fan of “work spouse/wife/husband” although I am a fan of having a good work culture & environment.
        :-)

      3. Amber

        I agree, I’ve worked with someone who could be considered my “work husband” we get along, we hang out, we go to lunch together but anything with the word “wife” is degrading to me as a coworker because it implies we’re sleeping together. We worked together closely for 5 years without ever needing to use the term “work wife”. Not only would it bother me, but it would make other coworkers uncomfortable, and I’m certain his wife wouldn’t appreciate it. Yes our relationship was much better and much closer than most coworkers but we did not need a special term for it.

        1. TL -

          Work wife/husband does not imply you’re sleeping together; it means you have a close (for an office), supportive helpful friendship.
          It’s okay not to like the term, but nobody is going to hear “work husband/wife” and think “SEX”

          1. Ashley

            I’ve never heard the term before and I’d assume they were either blazé about an affair or she was willing doing menial tasks for the man (like when people expect someone with previous admin experience to do all the photocopying or get coffee for them). Same with work husband- “I am subservient to this man”. Not a term I’d want management to hear being used about me

            1. TL -

              That connection of subservient and husband is…highly unusual. Both of those interpretations would be outliers in most US offices.

              1. hbc

                I don’t think the connotation is so unusual. “Wifely duties” doesn’t mean “provide amiable companionship.” I understand that people don’t intend Work Wife that way, but I also have never heard the term applied to, say, a 50 year old woman who has the same rapport with her 30 year old colleague.

              2. Corey

                It’s not highly unusual at all. You’re projecting your own unusual understanding of these terms onto a whole culture. There are established histories and connotations for these words, which is why their use in describing colleagues skeeves people. Your use of “nobody” in these comments is bizarre.

                1. Yada Yada Yada

                  So when you meet someone in a social setting and they say “that’s my wife” do you think “oh wow poor thing, she must have to wait on him hand and foot?” Yes there are stereotyped gender roles in a marriage but I don’t think TL’s interpretation is unusual or bizarre, I think yours is (sorry). Unless one’s part of some weird traditionalist group that believes women only belong at home and must be obedient (yes, they exist) you don’t hear “work wife” and think “gosh that must be the woman who cleans out his cubicle at night.”

                2. TL -

                  I’m protecting my cultural understanding of a phrase that was developed in my culture onto my culture? Okay, then…

                  Look, there are plenty of people who don’t like it for gendered reasons or for emotional specificity of the term husband/wife. There are plenty of people who think it’s harmless/funny or who don’t mind at all. There’s two people who think it implies sexual behavior (one who has never heard the term before) and two (?) people who think wife = submissive to husband, with overlap between the two groups. Y’all aren’t the norm.

                3. Yada Yada Yada

                  TL- these are biases and you seem to be reinforcing them. When someone hears wife and thinks of subservience, maybe instead of going to bat to defend and perpetuate that notion, you should look at how to reduce that connection and bias in your own mind, and in turn reduce its prevalence in our society. I’m going to be someone’s real wife and I don’t want those terms coming to people’s mind about me when I am

                4. TL -

                  ….not sure what part of my comments you’re referring to? I’m definitely arguing against the wifely submission as default model.

                5. Yada Yada Yada

                  Lol whoops sorry TL, I thought you were replying to me, you were replying to Corey. We are 100% on the same page. I got mixed up with usernames. I disagree with Corey and Ashley. Sorry about that!

                6. Corey

                  It’s cool and good that you pretend that the subservience connection is the only one Rachel expressed and the only one we are referring to, like there are no records of her views on this very page lol. Use of the term is absolutely not “the norm” in major regions of the US.

              3. Any Mouse Wife

                Actually, if you look at any study of how household chores and duties get split up whatsoever, you’ll find it’s the wildly dominant view of what marriage is today.

                If you learn a bit of history, where “history” means “the period of time before 1970 in the USA,” you’ll learn that’s also the historically dominant understanding, too. Not very long ago, men effectively owned the women they married in the US. In some countries and cultures, they still do.

            2. Yada Yada Yada

              What about the term “wife” makes you assume subservience? Yes there are gendered stereotypes still going strong about marriage but subservience seems a strong word. How about thinking of marriage as a partnership?

              1. Detective Amy Santiago

                Yeah, I find this more troubling than the use of the phrase ‘work husband’ or ‘work wife’.

            3. MLB

              It IS possible to be JUST friends with someone of the opposite sex. As someone who has been one of a few females in a department, I’ve had plenty of male colleagues who have become good friends and there was never any crossing of lines or inappropriateness going on. If it’s not your thing fine, but don’t make assumptions that people who use the term are secretly having an affair or being subservient.

              1. Pebbles

                Thank you for describing my entire life as a software engineer! I give serious side-eye to people who assume something MUST be going on because me female being with male coworker in public outside of work just shouldn’t be done in their minds.

                That being said, I don’t particularly like the work wife/husband labels because personally I’d rather just use “friend”. If we are close enough at work that we’ll spend time with each other outside of work, then we are friends AND colleagues. (I’m not a Farscape fan so frelleagues isn’t a word for me.)

              2. Indie

                That’s exactly why I have problems with the term work wife actually. Like it’s not possible to be actual work buds with a member of the O/S. He has to define me otherwise.

            4. Not a Morning Person

              I’ve never heard anyone use the work spouse terms used in any way to mean that women are less than men. It’s only ever been used to denote friendship. And it goes beyond just coworker because coworker says nothing about the state of the relationship, whether cold, warm, friendly, adversarial, or whatever.

          2. Yellow Bird Blue

            Eh, I’m going to hear “work husband/wife”and think: wishful thinking.

            It’s a little bit immature and inapprpriate and does hint at a slightly flirtatious connection. If you’re only talking about support, “friend” would fully suffice. If you’re talking about wives and husbands, different associations come to mind.

        2. What's with today, today?

          My husband has a work-wife. I love her. He vents to her about work, at work, and that saves me from having to hear it(he can vent about the same thing several times, so I usually only hear it once instead of twice or three times). She watches our kid for our date nights and would be the FIRST person to tell me if he was doing something he shouldn’t after she knocked the crap out of him. She coordinated our wedding party. She’s pretty great and we do girlfriend things together too. Not all wives are unappreciative of work-wives, for some of us it is quite the opposite.

          1. LBK

            Sorry, that sounds like a super weird relationship to deem a “work wife”. That just sounds like a regular friend to me, and it’s strange to couch it in such gendered terms – it doesn’t sound like there’s anything that makes this woman a “work wife” and not a friend aside from the fact that your husband is male, this woman is female and ergo woman + man = spouses.

        3. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

          When it becomes common for two straight dudes that spend a lot of time together at work to refer to each other as “work husbands” THEN I’ll agree that “work wife” isn’t a gendered and problematic term. Until then? Nah.

          1. General Ginger

            My friends are probably unusual in that regard, but I do know straight dudes who do refer to each other as “work husbands”. We/they are in the Northeast, if that matters.

              1. General Ginger

                Oh, absolutely! I am not on board with calling anyone something they don’t want to be called.

            1. Clare

              Yes, and straight women who refer to each other as work wives, or straight woman and gay man who refer to each other as work wife & husband, etc. It really has nothing to do with sexual relationships.

          2. Someone else

            My experience is that this is just as common as two straight dudettes referring to each other as work wives, both of which being slightly less common than a dude and dudette pair referring to each other as work wife/work husband.

            Although actually now that I think about it…I don’t usually encounter “work husband”. I usually hear “work wife” regardless of the genders of the people involved, possibly because the alliteration feels better to say. But in general the people I’ve heard using it about each other generally just mean “of the people I enjoy spending time with at work, the person I enjoy and spend the most time with”.

      4. Defrockz

        That’s fine that it’s your preference, but some people don’t mind the term as it denotes a closer bond than just co-worker.

        I’m not fond of the term, myself. As Lumen in a comment above suggests, perhaps work brother is more appropriate, but you’re not required to feel comfortable with that either. There are co-workers I work well with at work, and I’m close to, but there is one co-worker in particular that I have a very, very close connection with, and I sometimes refer to him as my work “brother”. That’s just our relationship; we met at work, and now probably communicate more outside of work than at work.

        Obviously, that’s not the case for everyone, but sometimes people wish to express their endearment towards co-workers who mean a lot to them. Sure, I work really well with Alice, but Bobby is my so called brother-from-another-mother our work just clicks like that.

        1. A.

          I prefer work friend. I’ve used work bff too. I hate when men call me their work wife. In my experience, it’s always been the man who unilaterally decided to start calling me his work wife. And I’ve never felt an affinity or particularly close to a he person, so its seemed forced.
          Generally when I started calling responding with work friend, the person has gotten the hint.
          There was one guy who I had to ask to stop calling me his work wife. But this guy would also get upset if I got coffee or lunch with someone else. As “playfully” confronting me and asking “are you cheating on me.”

          1. General Ginger

            That “playful confronting” about “cheating” sounds creepy as heck. Glad you shut that down.

      5. Penny Lane

        There’s a perfectly good word already to describe a coworker who you really take a personal liking to and with whom you get together after work. It’s called “friend.”

        1. TL -

          Oh, I would assume a work spouse didn’t actually hang out with you outside of work :)

          Also I wouldn’t adopt the term for someone I was actually attracted to/flirting with. Super awkward.

      6. a1

        Because many people are coworkers, but you usually only really click with a few. I’ve been a “work wife”, I’ve had a “work husband” and “work wife” and in all cases it’s always been shorthand like Espeon described. It’s always been that for me. That said, of course, people get to decide if they like the term or not, and let others know.

      7. princess paperwork

        Sometimes it’s a rare thing and requires a special term for reasons that aren’t obvious. I had a coworker report to me that guy coworker described me as his work wife. She provided this info without judgment in a “i thought you should be aware tone.” I explained to her that guy coworker and my husband shared the same name and I accidentally called guy coworker when I meant to call my husband (we all work for the same company) and as a joke he calls himself my work husband.

    2. Emily Spinach

      Sure, it can be no big deal, but in outside of work situations someone has to agree before they’re anyone’s spouse! It seems to me like part of the problem is that this label was just adopted by her colleague and this indicates that he sees their work relationship as more intense than the LW does. So the label itself is one thing, and the seemingly unequal view of the relationship (and that being public, that he refers to her that way to other colleagues! without her input!) is another.

      1. Espeon

        As I said, it’s perfectly fine to not like it and to ask that it not be used. She was also concerned that it would reflect poorly on her professionally and asked if it was common, and I was offering my reassurance.

        1. MK

          I would argue that it should be something to opt in, not out. It’s not fair to the OP that she is put in the awkward position of asking her coworker to stop; he should have been the one to check that the term was ok for her before using it.

          1. Yada Yada Yada

            I am chuckling now because I’m imagining a guy in khakis on one knee saying “will you work-marry me?” You have a good point MK

      2. Luna

        Yes this, I get the impression the LW does not view this coworker as being particularly close, at least not close enough to use this phrase to describe their working relationship.

        It does also seem weird to me that that the coworker is using this word when talking to other people, most of the time I hear people joking about a “work spouse” with the actual coworker/work spouse, not so much to other people at the company.

        1. Emily Spinach

          Yes, exactly. Her relationship with him is being gendered and described as superclose without her input! I would definitely worry in her circumstances that other coworkers are drawing conclusions about my relationship with this peer (and that he was implying things, not necessarily even sexual, but at least intimate) that I did not want drawn.

          I, personally, am not even referred to as “wife” by my actual spouse (I’m a woman married to a man), so I would be pretty put off by a colleague unilaterally deciding to tell other people we work with that I was his “work wife.”

          Which is not to say it’s awful in all cases! But again, this colleague started saying that without asking her. If you’re going to work-marry someone, I’m not saying get down on one knee and propose but like at least talk about it to make sure you’re on the same page, geez.

    3. Whyblue

      For me, the term has no weird connotation. I’ve often worked on isolated, 2-person teams, where you are thrown together with your coworker for 90 % of your work day and had a bunch of work husbands / work wives. After a couple of months, other coworkers often start asking jokingly “how long have you been married?”, because they see these little behaviors that are common to people who know each other quite well: being able to finish one another’s sentences, little debates about things that feel like you’ve had them a hundred times before, knowing the other person’s weird little habits like using half sugar and half sweetener in their coffee. To me, that is really all it means, absolutely nothing sexual and no power dynamic implied.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        Yup, this.

        I had a work husband at my old job. We worked in pairs as a Teapot Analyst and Coffeepot Analyst. We were one of the top performing teams on the floor because we developed a style/rhythm that was fairly seamless. We were invested in each other’s success. It was beyond mere ‘coworkers’. We were truly partners and the work spouse thing never bothered either of us and no one ever thought there was anything inappropriate going on between us.

        The best example I can give is that I was out of the office one time and they randomly decided to move our desks around (which happened fairly frequently). Our set up was always that he was on my right. When they re-did the seating, they tried to put me on his right and he was like “no, you need to switch us” because he knew that it would drive me nuts the other way around.

    4. Q

      I had a work husband once. When someone first used the term I was a bit taken aback but then I looked at the situation and realized they were right. We sat next to each other, were closer than any of our other co-workers, helped each other out, and enjoyed spending time together at work. Outside of work, we had no relationship whatsoever and every night we went home to our own real life families. While its not a term I would have choose, it did not offend me. And if it did offend me, I would have shut it down post haste.

    5. neverjaunty

      But it’s an “amusing” shorthand because the joke is that the two people are so personally close and intimate they might as well be married. Otherwise you’d just refer to a close friend, a buddy, co-worker Bob, etc.

      And while for some people “we’d never sleep together, lol” is part of the joke, a lot of people understandably don’t like that hanging in the background.

    6. Kathleen_A

      The key thing for the OP to know is that, like it or loathe it (and I personally dislike it a whole lot), the OP’s coworker almost certainly isn’t using “work-wife” to imply that he has inappropriate/unprofessional feelings for her. He’s just using a fairly common term to describe their relationship, and that’s all there is to it. Yes, it’s a fairly icky term, at least to me, but it isn’t to lots of people, including people here at AAM. It is both common and used to describe a perfectly respectable relationship. But that doesn’t mean the OP has to like it or accept it. All she has to do is explain to him, “You know, I really don’t like that term. Can you just call me ‘work friend’ or ‘work buddy’ something?”

      It almost certainly isn’t a big deal to the coworker, so getting him to stop using it won’t be a big deal either. All it ought to take is a simple, matter-of-fact explanation – and maybe a reminder or two, if he needs to break himself of a habit. It really, really, really should not be a big deal.

    7. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!

      I agree that it shouldn’t be made into a big deal because it can be fairly common. We all have terms that rub us a little the wrong way. If it’s approached like that, then I think it’s fine.

      I started my current job at the same time as another colleague who is male (and married), I am female and was married at the time. Because we were both experiencing the same learning curve, did a lot of work together and got along so well it kind of became a running joke. Especially when we had to travel together internationally for work. There was a lot of “don’t forget XYZ” or “Hey, I got us some ABC” that made us laugh because it did sound like we were married. There is and never will be anything sexual about it, but instead a camaraderie that you don’t find/have with everyone in your office.

    8. not so sweet

      In my experience, work-spouse also tends to get used to indicate that they are best-friends or closest-collaborators at the office. Another reason to shut it down ( of course, OP1 doesn’t like it, which is sufficient reason anyway) is that you might not want to be known as just part of a two-person team – you might also want to develop close collaborative relationships with other colleagues, you might not want to be part of all the other person’s projects, and you might want to nip in the bud any tendencies of other people in the office to treat you as the work-husband’s personal assistant (“Where is he? Is he in today? Do you know if he’s finished the Llama Counting Report? Can you get his Llama file and finish it while he’s in the meeting? I need to meet with him this afternoon, will 2 pm work, or can I tell you what I need for you to tell him?”)

      So yes, I think the OP1 should ask him not to use the term, soon. (If it were me, I’d say something about not liking the term in general, “it’s not about you”).

  9. Lumen

    #4: I’ve been in this exact situation! The hourly rate/annual rate discussed over the phone wasn’t what was listed on paper. They didn’t match, and I wanted to make sure I knew which one was accurate. I think I actually was able to bring it up with the person who would be my immediate supervisor and not the person who prepared the letter so it was a little less awkward for me personally; future boss got in touch with HR and they fixed it. But it’s really important to know exactly what you’re getting and have that documentation. If they’re worth working for (and serious about getting you), they’ll simply apologize and quickly send you a corrected offer letter.

    1. einahpets

      I had a somewhat similar situation with my current job, minus the salary vs hourly part. There were minor errors in what would be my target bonus % and stock options vs what was talked about on the phone.

      I guess the lesson I took away from it was that no matter what you talk about on the phone, read any offer in writing carefully and make sure you understand / agree with what it says.

    2. Happy Lurker

      I really like Allison’s advice about being “matter of fact”. Take it at face value that it is a mistake and will be corrected.
      I think so much of her advice says this and it has really put a different light on how I think about things now. I keep reminding myself that people make mistakes and generally don’t double check things. Some days it seems like it is volume over accuracy.
      Good luck OP and please send us an update.

  10. Espeon

    OP2 I’m sorry to say, but before I even read Alison’s response I thought “You need a new job”. Four years is an age, these people aren’t going to promote you because you’re too valuable to them where you are, and they are demonstrating that they don’t care about what you want, or what is good for you.

    Like you, I am the best employee on my team, but I know both my manager and the company would support me if I wanted to move within the business – it’s something they both pride themselves on, and I’ve witnessed it in action many times. Go and find a company that wants to work WITH you!

    1. Clare

      Agreed. I also really dislike companies that give HR this type of veto power over promotions. If there was reason to suspect the manager was favoring an employee for non-work related reasons, or if the request was clearly out of the norm (like giving a promotion after only a few months) thats one thing. But a manager wants to give a promotion to a top performer who has been there for 4 years? Time for HR to shut up and stamp the paperwork.

    2. ExcelJedi

      This. I was once a manager in a majority entry-level department – the kind that the rest of the company used for their hiring grounds. After one of our stars had been there for 3 years, a position opened in the field we all knew he wanted to break into. Our director forbade us from telling the staff it was open, and decided to choose others to quietly refer to the position because their presence wouldn’t be missed. She didn’t seem to realize that she’d lose this person to another company instead of another department as a result.

        1. ExcelJedi

          It had a (mostly) happy ending: One of the other managers was fortunately in a situation where they had just given notice, and had other supervisors from that job who had already moved on to use as references. They burned their bridges with that director by tipping the staff person off to the opening. He contacted the hiring manager directly and got the job, but it caused some drama down the line.

    3. K.

      Me too. I was like “Four years is a short tenure now?!” This company has proven to you that you won’t get what you want if you stay there; go find it somewhere else. What happens to the company/department after you leave is not your problem.

    4. Indie

      I think the very worst types of employerare obsessed with getting people to stay a long time while offering paltry reasons to.

  11. MommyMD

    This director has some very basic math issues. Four weeks does not a month equal, except in February. I hope the field is not accounting.

    1. hbc

      Maybe obstetrics? The number of people who use their OBs to justify “pregnancy is actually 10 months” astonishes me. I get that 40 weeks breaks up nicer if you round that way, but it still doesn’t line up with the actual calendar.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        It also probably works better for OBs because “Xth month of pregnancy” and “X month of the calendar” probably don’t overlap cleanly, and it’s more important to talk about how far along you are rather than whether it’s March or April.

      2. EW

        You’re not considered “overdue” until you reach 42 weeks, or 9.7 months. That’s close enough to 10 to round up for me, especially since 9 months is really only 39 weeks.

        1. J.B.

          Only as a turn of phrase when you’re close to the end and it’s been forrrevvvver. But the 40 weeks starting before you’re even knocked up is weird anyway :)

      3. Arielle

        I recently had to explain to my husband that the 40 weeks of pregnancy starts 2 weeks before you’re actually pregnant and it blew. his. mind.

    2. einahpets

      Why is the assumption that it was the director / hiring manager doing the offer letter? When I had errors in an offer letter, I followed up with my HR/recruiter, as it was their department generating the info.

  12. Espeon

    OP3 If no one has taken up the social reins since they left, it may be because everyone else feels as you do! Alison’s script is great, of course, but if I were you I’d be sorely tempted to just leave it be so I could have my peace.

    I could be wrong though, I’m very much an introvert and socialising with colleagues in real life is a horror scenario for me – and I like most of my colleagues! My fiancé had a post-work social thing that he HAD to attend get cancelled recently and I was like “Oh fantastic!” assuming that he was as relieved as I would be, but he was annoyed because it transpired that he was actually looking forward to it… which just does not compute for me. Some people like… doing things, with people?!

      1. Twilight Fancy

        Which Espeon acknowledged clearly, so I’m not sure that the point of your comment is?

        If the team wanted that sort of social interaction, one of them would most likely have stepped up to organise it by now. The fact that no one has suggests that the people on this team now may be quite happy without it. That has no bearing on what YOU personally like or want.

        1. Immy

          The fact that no one has could also suggest that, while organised by two employees, it seemed like an ‘official’ function and the absence of them means people think the Company is no longer OK with them. Therefore by using the script it makes it clear they are still OK to occur on the basis they were before but there is no obligation on the OP or anyone else to attend or take up the mantle if they don’t want to. It is better than OP organising as a) she doesn’t want to and b) people feel more obligated if it the boss.

    1. Casuan

      OP3: What Alison said. I’d probably leave out the line “I’m not going to do it myself…” because that sounds a bit too… elitist? [sorry, I can’t think of the best word here]
      Your team are adults & they can sort out socialising on their own. :-)
      If you want to do something social, you could have food & drinks during a meeting or even take the meeting out to lunch if you think your team would appreciate that. Hopefully your team can appreciate that they have a manager who is concerned for her work children*!

      *sorry, I couldn’t resist the phrase!
      ;-D

      1. Harper

        Yeah, that line felt funny to me too. Maybe “I’d rather not be the one to organize events because I don’t want anyone to feel pressured to attend.”

      2. LBK

        Yeah, I wasn’t a big fan of that line either – I get the intent, ie making it clear that acknowledging this isn’t volunteering to do it, but it does sound a bit like passing the buck. “I know this is a thing, but I mean, *I’m* not going to do it, but you can do it if you want to!”

      3. nonymous

        I think there is value in staff socializing without a superior present.

        Depending on how much OP’s org budget can support this, perhaps she could say that she is not organizing b/c it has been historically a peer event but there is reimbursement/whatever available if someone picks up the reins. And she can toss out the option of designating some of the other activities to be for peer bonding without her, if the after-work schedule no longer works. Realistically, it could be that the work group has other life commitments that didn’t exist in prior years. My working group does lunches because we have parents in the mix.

    2. Bow Ties Are Cool

      I know, so weird, right?

      Of course, what determines my attendance at any work social event not organized by manager is: Do they have a beer on tap that I’ve been wanting to try? Y/N

  13. LizM

    I don’t care for the term “work wife.” I know it’s meant to be harmless, but I already have a husband, and having a “work husband” feels like it diminishes the value of my actual marriage. I would feel weird if my husband had a “work wife,” and I am not normally the jealous type. I don’t mind at all if he has female friends.

    People I click with and enjoy spending time with are my friends. I’m not sure why there needs to be another term for that relationship.

    1. AcademiaNut

      I have a work husband. But he’s my home husband too. Someone else at work using the term would be weird.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      For me, it kind of evokes the “wife in every port” trope. So yeah, immediate ick.

      1. General Ginger

        Oh, I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but it does kind of, doesn’t it. That definitely makes it feel ickier.

    3. boo bot

      I feel like it diminishes the value of my work! I don’t have a husband or wife, but I’ve had people I work very closely with and “click” with, and to me the suggestion that a relationship like that is only plausible in a spousal context is actually pretty insulting. I get the joke, I just don’t like it.

    4. a1

      But they are not necessarily friends outside of work, so it is different. My friends are people I talk to on the phone, go to dinner with, go to shows with, shop with, maybe spend holidays and vacations together. I don’t do that with a “work husband/wife” – aka someone I click with and work well with at work. So, calling them “friend” seems like too much, and “coworker” seems like to little. I, personally, haven’t heard the term used in quite some time, several years probably, but I do think it fits the bill for that in-between just coworkers and friends status. Of course, people are free to like or not like it and not be called it if they don’t want to. I just wanted to say why I (and maybe others) wouldn’t think it right to call them friends.

      1. Happy Lurker

        I have always called them work friends. I have had some turn into real friends.
        It is not a catchy phrase, but it is true.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      I’ve heard OF the term before. Someone I knew outside of work had a work husband (I think?) Never heard it used by anyone in any of my workplaces, and I’m happy I haven’t. It does set my teeth on edge.

      I would also hate it for a rumor to get started because someone heard “that’s my work wife” and took it the wrong way.

      Everyone I’ve worked with has been perfectly happy with “work friends”. I don’t know why there needs to be another term, either.

  14. Susan K

    #2 – Wow, are you me? So many of the details are eerily similar to my situation. My management is happy to keep giving me more responsibilities and putting me on more projects (in addition to the regular workload, of which I already do close to the same proportion as you), and yet every time I apply for an actual promotion, I get passed over. I suspect it’s largely because they can’t afford to take me out of my current role, since it’s easier for them to rely on me than to get my coworkers to pull their weight. Good to know that I can put this on my resume, though — I wasn’t sure if it would be considered arrogant to include something that essentially says that I do way more work than any of my coworkers.

    1. AlexandrinaVictoria

      You’re my sister from another mister! Same thing here. And you bet I’ve put all that stuff on my resume!

  15. Casuan

    OP1: What you tell your colleague/co-worker/fellow drone/partner-in-work-crime/work [familial term]/teammate/[other] is in the delivery.
    Just mention your preference as a simple request because it really is a simple request [assuming your colleague is reasonable &or doesn’t have a secret crush on you]. It isn’t as simple to you because you don’t want to offend your colleague. :)

    some variation of:
    Fergus: “…my work wife.”
    You: “Actually, Fergus, please don’t call me that any longer. I don’t like it.”
    Fergus: “Okay, although what didn’t you tell me before?”
    You: “At first I just thought it was a one-off & then you continued to say it. I just can’t get into that phrase. About this work issue…”

    1. Casuan

      Just had the amusing [at least to me] thought of what if someone actually used the nickname “Grandboss” at work?
      “Hey, Boss! Did you talk with Grandboss about that raise we discussed?”

      1. Yada Yada Yada

        While we’re on the topic of relationship focused terms at work, I have to confess that I can’t STAND grandboss. Reminds me of all the sorority girls in college who would ramble on and on about their “Big,” “GrandBig,” and “Great GrandBig.” Not a really good reason, I know, but I just don’t like the sound of it. It’s like of cutesy in a way

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          I’ve always liked the term because it so easily describes the relationship, but I didn’t know this sorority girl thing and now I feel icky.

          1. Yada Yada Yada

            Well, I wasn’t trying to imply that sororities are icky. I just don’t like the cutesy terminology

            1. Rusty Shackelford

              Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Adults talking like sorority girls is icky, in the same way that toddlers aren’t icky, but adults talking like toddlers is icky.

        2. LBK

          I assume it comes from grandparent, which I don’t think is particular cutesy…I don’t think I would ever actually say “grandboss” in the office but it is a more eloquent way to say “my boss’s boss” in a casual setting, IMO.

        3. grace

          I never thought of that relationship – and I’m a sorority woman. Personally doesn’t bother me, especially since it’s easier than saying my boss’ boss and figuring out where the apostrophes are going to go.

          1. Yada Yada Yada

            Yeah it is a very succinct way to describe the relationship, just one of those words that bothers me, like “moist.”

            1. Hey Karma, Over here.

              Aside: I surveyed my nieces and nephews, “name something you hate.” My niece, “the word moist.” never thought about it till then, but yeah, yuck!

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            But I’ve got a manager and a grandboss and a great-grandboss. To me, the great-grandboss is the Big Boss.

        4. General Ginger

          I’m not familiar with sorority culture (my college didn’t have greek life); would this be in reference to their sorority mentors?

          1. Kelly L.

            Yeah, people have a Big Sister when they enter the sorority, so their grandbig would be their big sister’s big sister.

            1. General Ginger

              Aha! That makes sense (but sounds really weird to me abbreviated to just “Big” and “Grand Big”). Thank you!

          2. grace

            Yep – they match up by personality. Though they usually say ‘big’ but not ‘grandbig’ – it’s G-Big, GG-Big, and the same for the littles (it goes all ways). Though sometimes it’s just “G” and “GG” — I know I never called my GG-Little anything other than her name, but my G-Little is/was/has always been G to me, lol.

            When I first joined my family knew my big just as ‘Big,’ because I almost solely referred to her like that until I got a little. :)

        5. JustaTech

          I’d never head the sorority connection before (my college didn’t have a greek system). It’s pretty common in academia as a way of describing the relationship between your adviser and their adviser and *their* adviser. Who came from what lab is almost like a family tree.

        6. Pebbles

          I’ve always liked “boss”, “grandboss” and “great-grandboss” just because it describes the hierarchy much more succinctly than “my boss’ boss’ boss”. But then I was never in a sorority so I had to read other’s comments to understand what you meant by “Big”, “GrandBig” and “Great Grandbig”.

      2. Casuan

        Is Grandboss often used in the real world?
        I thought it was only used socially— eg: with friends or in forums such as AAM. With that assumption, I like it because it’s succinct to type & to understand. I’d never think to use it in a real work environment. “Work [blank] is bad enough, although if everyone in the relationship is okay with those terms then I can deal with it.

  16. Josie

    #5: I gave up answering student questionnaire sent by email after a few of these. It’s rude but not unusual sadly. I now offer a phone call and most you then never hear back from. Sometimes it’s for an assignment they left until the last minute.

  17. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    #2 – LEAVE. It’s evident they don’t want to promote you – because you’re too valuable in the lower role. When you give notice, anyone in your role and position will be counter-offered.

    I’ve been held back at various junctures in my career and had to force the issue. Support is extraordinarly difficult because they may not find another “you” out there.

    1. PM

      This! Also, when they ask if there is anything they can do to get you to stay, the right answer is “thank you, but I’m committed to this decision and excited about my next opportunity.” Nothing good comes of taking a counter-offer in this situation, no matter how much money they wave at you.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        Agreed – unless OP 2 really likes the job – but is frustrated by the pay.

        Advice – squeeze them, and keep looking. Your next position will be based on your (then) salary. You CAN also demand that a promotion be retroactive (yeah – “stay bonus” = “retroactive raise”.

        It also looks like management is hiding behind HR’s skirt to avoid the promotion. Kick back.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        Let me clarify.

        The reasons people say “oohhh -noooo-oooo – don’t EVER take a counter-offer….”

        Some of those opinions are written by headhunters, who lose their commission after working on a person’s behalf.

        Some things are true – that many leave six-eight-ten months later. Reasons –

        1) The employee’s hand was forced, he/she sought a better opportunity elsewhere and was offered it. And then the original employer decides “all right -here’s the promotion, here’s the money, here’s a stay bonus… etc.”

        2) If #1 happens, two other things happen with the promoted / pay-raised employee –

        – a) the manager just went to the wall for the employee to get the counter-offer and the working relationship might just be a lot better going forward.

        – b) the employee now has a higher pay rate and was just promoted – ironically making him/her more marketable.

        – c) with the financial / promotional distraction removed – the employee is now free to pursue even BETTER pursuits – without pressure.

        I can tell you – that it’s a lot easier to function in a workplace and develop your career if the distraction of money is removed. If your stomach is full and you can put food on the table, and you’re not driving a car with four bald tires, life is easier, and your means of career thinking and advancement are greatly improved.

        Trust me on that. Been there, done that.

      3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        And let me add one more thing – if you accept a counter-offer and leave within a year, the departure will often be much more peaceful and professional.

        No manager wants an unhappy employee to leave and say “I was stonewalled and held back by the ass*hats that I worked under” – HR won’t reverse the actions of a restrictive manager, as that would be undermining him and could cause a loss of face for the company, but they will take note of this if it’s a pattern, so even though the manager will be backed up, he’s still in a jam.

        If you got what you wanted in a counter, and leave within a year – it will likely be a “dream job” you’re going to, and your parting will not be an acrimonious one. You’ll feel better about that, and so will your manager. And if you work in a small world, you may have friends down the road that you might need, or, they might need you, and you won’t feel disgusted or offended in helping them.

        Been there, done that , too.

    2. Happy Lurker

      This isn’t good advice, but just a random thought. OP, do you take time off? Like a week or two at a time? A good 2 week vacation or 8 days for some nasty illness might help management push the issue with HR.
      No matter what you do, be sure to take all your PTO before giving your notice.

  18. LS

    OP #4 – it’s a simple and understandable error and a low-key correction will be fine. And if it’s not fine, it’s a good thing you found out now that they are planning to pay you less than they said! Or that there’s a mandatory four-week furlough over Christmas/New Year (my brother’s law firm had this) in which you could choose to either not get paid, or use up your entire holiday leave for the year.

    1. Angelinha

      And the boss probably isn’t thinking about the full year salary because it’s an hourly position so even if she screws up the math in the offer letter, she knows payroll is going to pay you by the hour so what you’ve earned at the end of the year will wind up being the correct full year amount.

      I would still not accept until the letter were corrected, though!

  19. The Cheese Woman

    For OP#3 – we had the same situation: the social staff members left, and then suddenly, nothing happened.
    What worked for us was just to put a casual lunch in a local cafe into the calendar on the last Wednesday of each month. There was no pressure – it was ‘turn up if you have time’. It didn’t take any organisation beyond listing it in the calendar, and just having it on the calendar made people think about it and often come along.
    Maybe you could do something similar with a lunch or happy hour? Throw it on the calendar and see what happens.

    1. Lou

      Man, I wish we had that low pressure approach at my work. There’s one guy who we’ve managed to convince to move coworker lunches to monthly rather than weekly, and he still spends ages obsessing over menus, discussing restaurant options and getting stupidly offended when someone can’t make it. Really takes any fun out of it.

      1. Cheese woman

        I’m too busy to obsess over menus! (Well, maybe for the Xmas party.)
        Making it monthly means we can keep going back to one place without getting get too bored with the menu (or at least we haven’t yet).
        The other thing that helped was that we picked a cafe within walking distance. Noone has to coordinate cars and lifts, we just wander out.

    2. Blue

      Our staff is also scattered around a couple of buildings, and a lot of our work is quite self-contained, so there are many people I don’t typically see outside of staff meetings. Once every 4-6 weeks, the office has a social hour at 4:00 on Friday in our main conference room. It’s basic – really just some beer, wine, sodas, etc. available to drink and some snacky things to nibble on – and people tend to come by for 45 minutes or so, chat with folks they often don’t see during the day and then head home as normal. Things during the work day (like a monthly lunch) are ideal, and because this is low-pressure and low-commitment, it’s not a stressful addition to anyone’s day.

  20. Mark L

    Regarding hourly rate, is this perhaps a different understanding of definitions rather than a mistake?

    Hourly pay is normally measured according to hours worked rather than elapsed time: we quote 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week rather than 24 hours per day.

    Salaries are usually quoted according to elapsed time: 12 months rather than the 4 months we actually work (12 * 8 / 24).

    I receive 25 days holiday, which is five working weeks. If we are measuring actual working time rather than elapsed time that means I work 47 weeks per year, not 52. That works out at approximately 1880 working hours per year.

    In practice my employer only uses that number to decide whether I have worked sufficient hours. My salary is quoted as an annual figure, but paid in 12 equal installments which implies my hourly pay varies over the course of the year.

    1. Llama Grooming Coordinator

      Possible, but I still think it’s on payroll to get it right. They know that LW’s hourly rate is X and there are ~260 weekdays per year. They still made a mistake that led to an 8% pay cut.

    2. MLB

      I find it odd that they spoke about an hourly rate over the phone, but the offer was shown as an annual salary. The standard for an FTE is 2080 hours per year. I’ve always been salaried, but that’s how my salary rate is always calculated. Either the director made a mistake or is trying to pull a fast one and hope the LW doesn’t notice.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger

      I receive 25 days holiday, which is five working weeks. If we are measuring actual working time rather than elapsed time that means I work 47 weeks per year, not 52. That works out at approximately 1880 working hours per year.

      But you get paid for those 25 days, right? So when I’m doing calculations, I include those days/hours, because they make up part of your salary or wage. So, for example, regardless of whether it’s work days, holidays, or PTO, I get paid for about 2080 hours a year, so if I wanted to convert my salary to an hourly equivalent, I’d divide it by 2080, or the converse to calculate how much I’d make in a year if I was hourly. (I wouldn’t assume that I would take time off unpaid, although it is always a possibility.)

  21. ExcelJedi

    OP #4: Your future director likely did this intentionally, or she’s not competent. I’ve never met an effective manager who didn’t know that there was 52 weeks in a year. I’ve met managers who’ve wanted to get one over on their staff by using tricks like this, and managers who couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag without help, though. I’d keep my eyes WIDE open going into this position.

    1. CM

      I was thinking the same thing, minus the incompetent. I think it’s the right approach to act like it must have been a mistake, but I think there’s a chance it was deliberate. Next time, if you’re working at an exempt position, negotiate based on an annual salary rather than an hourly rate. If this is an hourly position, then the hourly rate should be clearly written in the offer letter.

      1. ExcelJedi

        “Incompetent” is the only benefit of the doubt I’d give her….and only because I’ve seen some pretty incredibly unqualified managers in my day. ;)

    2. Half-Caf Latte

      Malfeasance aside, I was concerned that if the boss negotiated the hourly based on the available budget and their bad math, the correct salary might be more than the org can afford, especially if BadMath puts OP at the top of the budgeted range for the position.

      For every dollar an hour OP makes, that’s an annual difference of $160. For $20/hr, that’s over 3k.

  22. Anononon

    I’m not getting the comments saying that there’s already a word for work wife/husband, and it’s friend. Like, of course every meaning can be expressed by multiple words. It’s why we have thesauruses and the word synonym.

    Like, if you don’t like the phrase, that’s one hundred percent valid. OP should definitely tell her coworker to stop, and he should listen immediately. But there’s nothing wrong with the phrase if both people like it. There’s no reason to snottily look down on it.

    1. sunshyne84

      Yep just keep it simple. Don’t need any rumors starting especially if they are already actually married.

    2. LBK

      It seems to me that where there’s already a word that doesn’t potentially have weird connotations, it’s probably better to stick to that word. Even if both people in the “work couple” like it, others may still look askance at it since it’s kind of an odd term to use in a professional setting.

      1. Anononon

        But it many offices, it doesn’t have weird connotations, and it’s common. That’s the thing.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Hey, come on. This is a discussion about the letters in the post. If someone’s reaction is that something isn’t a big deal, there’s nothing weird or wrong about them saying that.

              1. neverjaunty

                It’s pretty rude to imply that other people are silly for talking about X if I, myself, am talking about X. Especially doing so in a dismissive manner.

                1. LBK

                  I agree, dismissing the whole discussion as “much ado about nothing” undercuts the whole conversation.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  We may be reading it differently, but I read the comment as a contribution to the discussion — which is in large part about whether or not the term is a big deal. Saying that it’s not is taking a side in that discussion.

        1. LBK

          I have yet to see one of these offices so I guess I’ll just have to take you at your word – but unless it’s truly widespread and practically everyone has someone they refer to as a work spouse, I would not necessarily assume no one outside of these pairings finds it weird just because they haven’t said so.

          1. Anononon

            Well, we all have our own anecdata, so we do just have to trust that there are different experiences out there. I can totally see the phrase being completely out of place in some offices. But, like I said, not all. And, no matter how it’s generally seen, if someone doesn’t like it used for them personally, that trumps all.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I have no data on how widespread its actual use in actual offices is, but it’s very widespread in the media as (a) common and (b) not weird.

  23. Damn it, Hardison!

    #5, please do reach out to the tutor and the students. I’m an adjunct teaching graduate students and I have heard from people in your position and experienced this behavior directly from my students*. I absolutely want to know, and it’s something I address in class. A lot of my students are very casual and behaviors we might consider professional norms are not always at the top of their minds.

    *not that I need a thank you for everything, but when I send a very detailed list of resources and suggestions for directions in a paper, that’s when the student should at the very least acknowledge receiving the email.

    1. CM

      I agree about reaching out to the tutor. I don’t know if I would reach out to the student — seems like there’s a 50-50 chance that they would be apologetic and grateful for the advice, rather than angry and hostile. Maybe less than 50-50 — I think somebody who sends a questionnaire like this in the first place with no explanation or “thanks in advance” is less likely to be grateful for advice.

  24. Mrs B

    #3 We had an employee who was really into this stuff, brought a cake for everyone’s birthday, took care of passing around cards for other employees major life events, organized football pools, secret santa, holiday gatherings etc etc. When they retired , as the “highest ranking” regular employee, there was an assumption that I would take over, and at the beginning I tried, but I just don’t have that skill set, and honestly that’s not the kind of thing I’m into. I still feel guilty about it now and then, but as someone upthread said, these people are adults (most of whom are decades older than me) and nothing is stopping them from doing this themselves if they wish. I work in public service and years back this kind of camaraderie was certainly part of the work culture, but as our workplace became more fragmented and more strictly regulated and administration worried about “optics”, getting everyone together outside of work (perhaps on your only Saturday off all month) felt more like a chore than something fun and morale boosting. So instead I focused my efforts on providing some “creature comforts” at the office, keeping the break room stocked with beverages and snacks, fancy soaps and lotion in the bathroom , which all seems a bit lame as I type this, but I really can’t (and don’t want to) be responsible for being the office social secretary.

  25. WellRed

    No 4. Salary calculations aside, why is your first reaction to “call out” someone a few levels above? That’s not your “only option” and it seems a rather aggressive stance right out of the gate.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      To me, it sounds like the LW thought pointing out the math error would be “calling her out.”

      1. Pollygrammer

        Yeah; I read it as though she was worried that any kind of correction would come off as too aggressive/insulting, not that she actually wanted to react strongly.

    2. LBK

      The director is the one who made the offer and the incorrect calculation – she’s the one the OP has been communicating with about the whole situation, she’s not just randomly deciding to skip a bunch of levels in the hierarchy.

  26. MLB

    #1 – after reading some of the comments I’m amazed at how many people find the term work wife/husband insulting and icky. Maybe I’ve always worked in more casual environments so it’s no big deal to me. Bottom line if it makes the LW uncomfortable she should speak up, but people need to stop making assumptions based on the term. I’m in IT and usually one of few females in a department so I’ve used the term on multiple occasions with men that have become friends. And it also doesn’t always indicate there’s something inappropriate happening. Regardless of what “Harry” said, it IS possible to be friends with someone of the opposite sex.

    #2 – I think something else is going on and they’re not telling you. I was a contractor once and was told that they loved me and wanted to hire me as an FTE but they were dragging their feet. They kept giving me BS excuses, and only hired me after they found out I was looking for a new job. Turns out there was a manager who had told them she didn’t want them to hire me because of one time I told her something she didn’t want to hear. I wasn’t rude, but I wouldn’t cave on something. Start job searching because they clearly don’t value you enough to promote you. P.S. I don’t know what type of tickets you’re handling, but be careful about your ticket count boasting. Amount of tickets does not always equate to amount of work being done. Some issues take longer to resolve so the number of tickets resolved is not the only indicator of how hard someone is working. I’m not saying you’re not awesome, but I had a boss that focused on ticket number and that wasn’t a true picture about how hard each of us was working.

    1. grace

      I’m honestly the same RE: #1. If you don’t personally like it, say something (tangentially: always surprised by how many people don’t like something and yet never say anything about it), but it’s not that big of a deal if you both like the term and use it.

    2. McWhadden

      “Regardless of what “Harry” said, it IS possible to be friends with someone of the opposite sex.”

      I don’t think anyone is disagreeing with it. But calling them your husband or wife takes it out of the realm of friends. You are comparing them to a sexual partner.

      1. LBK

        Yeah, a spouse is not just a friend. There’s definitely connotations around using the term “work spouse” that don’t exist when you just call someone your work friend. It implies a certain level of intimacy and exclusivity.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I, think, though that you’re asking individual people here to defend a term that’s very much in the culture. Maybe it shouldn’t have started up in the first place, but it *is* a term that’s commonly used to mean “very close colleague” and that lots of people are comfortable with.

          I think a lot of the discussion about the term here today is based on people not realizing that / not having heard that, and so reacting to it in something of a vacuum … but the term is very much A Thing in cultural use.

          See for example:

          https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=work+spouse&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

          1. LBK

            I’m not disagreeing that it’s a thing that people are fine with, I guess I’m just disagreeing that it’s been successfully stripped of the connotations of wife/husband to the point that it’s its own completely separate term, independent of the general meaning of those words.

          2. Tardigrade

            I want to clarify that I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion about the term or suggest that they are wrong for it in a consensual way, but when one of the search results is “How to Score an Office Wife,” I don’t think it’s fair to say people are reacting to this in a vacuum.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago

          I think that’s kind of the point though and why substituting work friend doesn’t necessarily encapsulate the kind of relationship a lot of people are describing.

          For me, at least, I’ve only had it come up once in all my working years. My ‘work husband’ knew me, knew my habits and moods, and we provided each other with a level of support that neither of us got from our other colleagues/work friends. Other teapot/coffee analyst pairs were jealous of our working relationship because we were so in sync and worked so well together.

          1. LBK

            I’ve said something similar in a few other comments, but I just find it weird to escalate the terminology down a path that implies a romantic relationship rather than just describing that person as your best (work) friend. Most people don’t describe their closest friend outside of work as their “personal life spouse”.

            1. LBK

              And for the record, I met my current best friend at work, and never described each other that way when we worked together. So I can absolutely relate to having an extremely close relationship with someone at work, but “husband” wasn’t a term I would have ever instinctively reached for.

        3. Luna

          I think that is part of the point though, that there is more intimacy than just a regular coworker or work friend. I’ve never used that word myself, but if I had to think about who, if anyone, I would ever consider a “work spouse” it would be my work friend that I shared an office with- when you sit 2 feet away from someone for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, that IS intimate. You hear all their conversations, you get attuned to all their habits, you spend more time with them than you do at home. But it obviously isn’t sexual. There are many kinds of intimacy, it doesn’t mean that there is anything sexual or romantic but “work spouse” is meant to imply a level above other work friends.

      2. soon 2be former fed

        No you are not. The work qualifier means there is no sex in this wifely/husbandly relationship.

          1. Grad Student

            Presumably the unique closeness of the relationship? Most people (not all!) have several to many friends and zero to one spouses.

            1. LBK

              I still just don’t understand what necessitates referring to this person as a spouse. That just sounds like a best friend to me – I don’t call my best friend who’s not my significant other my husband, why would someone with whom I have a similarly close relationship whom I just happened to meet at work be my work husband?

              Spouse is a specific term that, as I said above, implies more intimacy than just a friend, or even a best friend. That’s why this feels so weird to me. It almost feels like it devalues actual marriages by implying they’re just very close friendships.

              1. Plague of frogs

                My best friend at work and my work spouse were not the same person. It’s just not the same relationship at all. I’m not arguing that it’s the same as an *actual* spouse–but that’s why the qualifier “work” is added.

                1. Plague of frogs

                  LBK, I think the difference that you may be missing is that a work spouse is the person you do nitty-gritty boring stuff with. This starts out as work stuff, and tends to extend into minor personal stuff (like, purchasing the ingredients for sandwiches together and making lunch together, working out together, etc). I talked with my work spouse about my feelings more than I would with other coworkers, but much less than with my best work friend.

                  The “spouse” part comes from the practicality of the relationship more than the closeness of the relationship. You end up knowing a lot about each other so you can quickly cut corners like you would with a spouse. But most of it is going to be superficial rather than deep emotional stuff.

                2. LBK

                  This starts out as work stuff, and tends to extend into minor personal stuff (like, purchasing the ingredients for sandwiches together and making lunch together, working out together, etc).

                  That…just sounds like a work friend to me. I’m still struggling to understand the distinction.

        1. McWhadden

          You are still comparing it to a sexual relationship. You could say work best friend. But you choose to compare it to romance. It’s unprofessional and not because women and men can’t be friends.

          1. Plague of frogs

            OK, so that’s the disconnect. When you hear the word “spouse/husband/wife” you are thinking of “the person I am romantic with/have sex with.”

            Whereas it can also mean, “the person I pay the bills and clean the house with.”

            The “work spouse” concept refers to this latter definition. Work spouses are, by definition, platonic. They tend to work closely together, and solve basic life-at-work problems together (such as buying food for lunch together).

            1. LBK

              But a spouse isn’t only one of those things, they’re all of them. That’s why I feel like it’s almost insulting to actual spouses – because it reduces a spouse to “the person I have to do boring stuff with.”

              1. Clare

                I think that you’re reading way too much into it. No one is saying it is the exact same as an actual spouse. It’s just an expression, like “brother from another mother.” Everyone knows that doesn’t mean your actual brother.

                1. LBK

                  But I don’t get why you’d inject a term with a romantic connotation into a relationship where “friend” seems like a readily available term. I also feel like I’m getting very conflicting descriptions here, so that doesn’t help – some people seem to think it’s more than a friend and some people seem to think it’s less.

                2. Clare

                  And I don’t get why you are continuing to pretend to be confused by this. It really is not that hard. Words and phrases can have more than one meaning, and no two relationships are identical, so of course some of the descriptions will vary a bit.

                  As for why would someone inject a term with a romantic connotation into a platonic relationship? For the same reasons people sometimes inject a term with a biological connotation into a relationship instead of just saying “friend”- because it is JUST.AN.EXPRESSION.

                  You seem to want to insist on some special claim over the word spouse, but you really don’t get to dictate how other people choose to describe their relationships.

                  I also really disagree with people who are trying to assert that one type of relationship (marriage) is better and more special than every other type of human relationship, because for many people (both married and unmarried) that is not the case. It might be true for some, but others feel a closer bond to their children than their spouse; or they feel closer to their siblings over their spouse, or they feel closer to their friends than their siblings or parents; there was a study not that long ago where over 50% of married people reported feeling a closer emotional connection to their pets than their spouses. There are couples who have never been married who have a better relationship than couples who are married.

                  So if two people who work together feel a certain connection and want to use the word “work spouse” to describe their relationship, they are allowed to do that. Others don’t have to use it themselves, and others can find the term annoying or silly, but to try to claim that one person’s use of the term *to describe their own bond with someone* somehow demeans or devalues another person’s marriage is ridiculous.

      3. Pollygrammer

        I had a work wife and I was her work wife. It meant that we were each others’ go-to for wait-you-have-lint-on-your-shoulder, don’t-forget-an-umbrella, do-I-have-spinach-in-my-teeth, etc. The person you’re not embarrassed to ask to take care of you a bit in minor ways, not just somebody you’re especially friendly with or work closely together.

        The term “work wife” isn’t necessary, and in an orientation-compatible pair it gets a little weird, but it’s a very nice kind of relationship to have.

        1. Lauren

          It also can mean the only person you feel comfortable at work to be extra snarky with about work. Someone that you trust completely and would go to bat for. Mine is my life-long mentor and he is also my boss. It isn’t weird to us.

        2. Squeeble

          I have always understood it to mean, in addition to your example, someone you can confide in about work issues and who will have your back at work. They’re basically your partner at work, which is where the husband/wife thing comes from.

      4. neeko

        But that isn’t what the phrase means. Again, you can dislike it all you want and refrain from using it but you are assigning meaning to it that isn’t there among people who actually use it.

    3. Tardigrade

      Regardless of what “Harry” said, it IS possible to be friends with someone of the opposite sex.

      Interesting, because this is what I find problematic about the work-spouse terminology, because wife/husband would usually indicate a higher and different position in the relationship hierarchy than friend, which we both agree is a possible relationship to have with someone of the sex you’re attracted to.

    4. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant

      I think part of the reason people don’t like the term is precisely *because* it’s possible to be friends with someone of the opposite sex!

    5. neverjaunty

      “It IS possible to be just friends with the opposite sex” is the whole point, though. Why do friendships between men and women have to have a relationship-y term slapped on them, as if “friend” needs a jokey-distancing term when one of the people involved is a woman?

  27. LBK

    #3 I’m not totally sure I agree on this. If these happy hours were an important part of the camaraderie of the team and not something that was just naturally coming together via your employees being outside-of-work friends, I do think it falls on the manager to ensure this is still being done (whether by the manager herself or delegating to someone else), the same as any other task that had previously been done by a departed employee. There are people who naturally take the lead on organizing this kind of stuff, but that doesn’t mean the people who aren’t natural organizers didn’t enjoy the events.

    I think you can keep the pressure low by making it recurring and low-key, eg a happy hour on the last Friday of the month, always at the same bar. That way it’s not a whole “thing” that people feel more obligated to attend like it might be if you were organizing a different event every month that clearly took more effort to plan.

    1. CM

      I would hate it if my manager organized stuff like this — I’m in the same camp as OP#3 about thinking these things are fun on occasion but mostly wanting to skip them. If my manager organized happy hours, I would feel pressured to go. Also, as somebody who has been in the “social secretary” role when it didn’t come naturally and I was just trying to fill a void, I really didn’t enjoy it and afterward vowed never to take on that role again.

      1. LBK

        That’s the point, though – that you don’t really “organize” something, you literally just stick a recurring meeting on the calendar and maybe remind people once a few days beforehand that this week is happy hour if people want to go. If you keep it low-key and don’t constantly ask for attendance lists, send a million reminders, etc. then I think that keeps the pressure off.

        As for being forced into the role…well, sometimes as a manager you have to do stuff you don’t really want to do. That’s part of the job.

        1. Marthooh

          What you’re describing is literally “organizing something”, though. If the employees want to do that, fine, and the boss can even say so once, but keep in mind the number of letters AAM has gotten over the years from people complaining about mandatory socializing at work.

          And it’s not useful to say that if you don’t want to do something, you probably should.

          1. LBK

            And it’s not useful to say that if you don’t want to do something, you probably should.

            ??? where did I say that?

    2. grace

      I agree – though maybe asking first if people want it to continue, and then if so, suggesting exactly this. It’s easy to set up on calendars, though I’d suggest a Thursday, because Fridays are when everyone is dying to leave :-)

      1. LBK

        Ha – for me, Friday is usually when I’m dying to have a drink after surviving the work week, but point taken :)

        1. Pebbles

          Drinks on Thursday help give me an extra push through Friday. At which point I can have another drink with non-work friends if needed! :)

    3. Jennifer Thneed

      There is no way the manager can organize events and have there be no element at all of “must attend boss thing” for her employees. I agree that the manager *could* delegate that to someone else but it would still be a thing the boss arranged.

      And this particular boss is already doing a lot to keep her people in contact — a lot more than most bosses do.

  28. Lisa

    #1: I have had what some people refer to as a “work husband.” What I called him was my “work best friend.” It’s not as alienating a term, and it’s just not weird. That’s basically what a work spouse is, your best friend at work.

    1. TeacherNerd

      “Work spouse” just sticks in my craw (probably more than it should). I have a spouse. An ACTUAL spouse, one I’m legally married to and everything. (We even had a church wedding, and there are pictures, so I’m pretty sure it happened.) I only need one spouse. I do not need a spouse at work. I do not even need a FRIEND at work (although it’s a bonus, and I do have many colleagues with whom I’m friendly, and some of them are becoming friends).

      tl;dr: Work spouse is a silly term. And it bugs me. And someone needs to bring me cookies because I think I’m just super cranky today.

      1. SnowedIn

        Okay, well, good for you?

        People spend a lot of time at work, so whether they are married or not there are plenty of people who do want to have friendships or camaraderie in the workplace. It’s certainly not required, but it’s not a bad thing to want either, and I really don’t understand this attitude of looking down on others for it.

        1. TeacherNerd

          It’s not looking down on others. It’s simply a phrase that bothers me. Not usually, not even often, just when I hear it, which is rare. I’m all for friendships and camaraderie; even when I was unmarried I thought it a silly phrase (because just to my mind, a spouse implies something a bit more intimate). That said, we can agree to disagree on phrases that annoy us as individuals. :) It’s not a phrase I’d use, that’s all. No need to read more into my opinion than is there.

      2. Jennifer Thneed

        You may have all the cookies I have accepted this week as I visited various websites (for work, even!)

        Also you may have the rest of the box of Samoas on my kitchen table. But it’s strictly pickup-only on the cookies. :)

  29. Goya de la Mancha

    #2 – They’ve got you niched and it’s not going to change.

    Our organization has a nasty habit of not promoting great workers either. The most current situation I know of is with Alice who is fantastic at her job, has great rapport with everyone in the company and is highly spoken of. She is currently in a very demanding/difficult job (think llama gangs), she has applied for jobs within our organization to deal with a more typical population of llamas and has been turned down for each one. Of course there may be other reasons, but as far as anyone can figure out, she does a phenomenal job in her current position and it would be more difficult to replace her in the llama gangs then to find a new person to deal with easier typical llama populations.

    1. Happy Lurker

      I have a friend in a similar situation. He keeps applying for jobs within the company and keeps getting the “Sorry, next time. You are great”. They then hire outside the company. I tried explaining that it is easier to hire and train one person than 2. My friend NEEDS to get a new job outside of his current company, if he wants a promotion.
      I think it is a clear sign of dysfunctional employers. This is of course, is one of many examples at his current company.

  30. GertietheDino

    I was at a job where they promised a promotion after a year, then decided it needed to be two, then I had to be on a certain project for two years. It was five before I got that promotion. I left shortly after not wanting to wait a decade for the next.

  31. Not So Super-visor

    LW2:
    A. I think that Alison is right, and you need to find a new job to get what you feel you deserve.
    with that being said…
    B. With your current job, are there are actual promotions? (ie – Analyst, Sr Analyst, Team Lead, ect) Or does it go Analyst and then Management? While I definitely think that they’re placating you to keep you and your high productivity, my only other thought is that there aren’t built in levels other than the entry-level and then management, then they may not feel that you’re cut out to be a manager. I be off base here, but there’s a huge difference between being a terrific (and productive) individual performer and being a manager. If your organization is set with a really flat organizational structure, the issue might be that while they appreciate your contributions as an individual performer that they’re not sure about your leadership abilities to be a manager. I only point this out because I’ve worked at several jobs with very flat organizational structures where there was no real room for promotion because the next option would be a manager. Even at my current job, I have some very talented individual peformers who wouldn’t make great managers. With these people, if they are looking for “promotion,” I actually have to try to help them find another position outside of our department. While I hate losing good people, I figure that it’s better for the company if we can keep a good employee even if it’s not on my team.

  32. Dr. Doll

    “Work wife” makes me cringe but in great part it’s due to my mother using it about her own boss many years ago. She was definitely on the hunt for an actual husband, although not that particular man, and it came across as a desperate, pathetic reflection on herself. (…or is this just mom-baggage?)

    Anyway, no need to put up with the term if you don’t want to be called it!

  33. That Would Be a Good Band Name

    #4 – I too would want my offer letter fixed, but just to make you feel better, if you are set up as an hourly employee then you are going to get paid, well, by the hour. In other words, the payroll system isn’t going to cut you off at the salary it says in the letter. The only danger here is if she communicates to payroll that “we offered them $X per year” and payroll has to calculate what the hourly rate is from that number, but IME it’s always communicated to payroll with the hourly rate for hourly (non-exempt) employees.

    1. McWhadden

      I’m not sure she is actually an hourly employee though. They would usually have put her hourly rate in the offer letter if that’s the case.

      It seems they negotiated what she needs to make an hour to take this job. But the office converted that into a salary.

      1. The one with the offer letter error

        McWhadden, you’re correct. I’m technically a salaried employee, however, due to the nature of the job and the company, my salary will be measured hourly.

        Unfortunately, it looks like HR will take my less-than-asked-for yearly salary and divide it to get my hourly rate.

        1. Luna

          Ugh I’m sorry that happened to you. I think we work in similar industries, because that sort of thing is not uncommon where I work. Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot you can do. When that happened to me I decided to take the offer because I really needed it, but am planning to start looking for other jobs as soon as I can. Depending on the job and company, it might be worth taking just to get the experience, if you think it’s a job that will open up more opportunities down the road.

    2. Noah

      Yes, but if she is hourly, they’re going to calculate her hourly rate based on the annual salary in the offer letter. So her hourly rate will be too low.

  34. JB

    OP #5 – I work in Career Services at an institution of higher ed, and I have to say I love it when we get specific feedback from employers or other community members about students’ professional practices. We can then pass that feedback on to the students, turning it into a teaching moment. Plus, students often take advice and feedback from outside employers/alumni much more seriously. Career Services folks can and do say, “Always write a thank-you note,” but when students get specific feedback from a potential employer about their LACK of a thank-you note, it really drives the lesson home.

  35. The one with the offer letter error

    Like Alison advised, I pointed out the miscalculated number of weeks to my future director. Additionally, like many of you have asked, I framed my question around whether or not the four week discrepancy counted for unpaid holiday/vacation time. The director was very responsive and apologized for her incorrect math.

    Unfortunately, after some back and forth, HR would not honor the agreed upon rate negotiated between my director and I. The organization I just got hired onto is very large and bureaucratic, and has pretty defined salary ranges. While that was disappointing, my director made sure to write in my contract that I would be considered for a raise in six months.

    1. Gorgo

      Would they have agreed if the salary you negotiated with the director was already (correctly) in writing? Because if so, that’s really disappointing, and both your director and HR are seriously problematic.

  36. neverjaunty

    OP #1, the problem here is that regardless of when or whether the term “work wife” is or isn’t okay, your co-worker is making it weird. He’s presuming a level of personal closeness that isn’t there, and he’s telling your colleagues that you have this super-close relationship.

    Also, the thing about the desks ‘breaking up our marriage’ makes it extra weird, because that really turns it away from ‘we use this humorous term to describe our close friendship’ to describing everything in terms of romantic tropes. Dude, no.

    Don’t worry about alienating this guy by politely telling him to dial it back; he clearly didn’t worry about alienating you.

    1. Naruto

      Agree 100%. Regardless of how people feel about the term generally (and the LW’s feelings are perfectly valid), the issue here isn’t just the term — but also the fact that it got used in this weird way based on the circumstances.

  37. theletter

    #1 – Try ‘study buddy’.

    I think ‘work wife’ was originally in reference to colleagues who were in charge of fetching coffee and screening phone calls back in the 1920’s. I can’t remember where I read that but I think it was on this blog in a comment somewhere.

  38. TootsNYC

    2. My work is excellent but I can’t get promoted

    They may also not have a logical spot to promote you into.

    I worked with someone who was angry that she’d been there two years and hadn’t gotten promoted. But the workload wasn’t growing, and the tasks were well-balanced among Department Head, Associate Department Head, and Admin Assistant. They weren’t going to take one of the three monthly higher-level tasks away from the Associate to give to the less-qualified Admin; and they weren’t going to reassign the low-level admin tasks to the highly paid Department Head. “Time to move out,” I told her. “They can’t reassign duties; this is working perfectly for them. The only way you can move up is if one of them moves out–and even then, you might not have enough experience yet. So it’s time to go elsewhere and get that stepping-stone experience.”

    If that’s true for OP#2, then it’s time to move on.
    If they’re not promoting her because they don’t want to lose her productivity at these lower-level tasks, it’s ALSO time to move on.

    One good thing–our OP has metrics to put on her resumé.

    The only thing I’d caution is: don’t lean on them too hard, because you don’t want to still do those tasks.
    Talk about what you’ve learned by gaining those metrics–what creates productivity, and what sorts of insights you’ve had for higher-level thinking, planning, and managing.

    Also, in the meantime, try to get your hands on a few higher-level tasks, even if you don’t get that promotion, and even if it digs into your numbers a little bit. That will give you things to talk about in your job interview with the OTHER companies. (Someone once told me that one way you prove you can handle more is to ACTUALLY handle more, even if you don’t have the official promotion yet. Of course, you don’t want to then not do your own job at all, or overstep and get in the way of someone else doing their job.)

    1. The Other Dawn

      “They may also not have a logical spot to promote you into.”

      I agree. In my company there’s a lot of turnover on the front end (very normal), but very little on the back end. That makes it hard for people to get promoted–there just aren’t many openings to promote someone into and people on the back end are the ones who want the promotions. Just because someone is doing great at their job and has been in my department for five years doesn’t mean I can just promote them. I have to have an open position, or the company has to grow, which would cause my department to grow. I also have to have the budget for a promotion.

      1. nonymous

        That’s why I/II/III and career ladders were created. So someone can stay in the same position, but there is an acknowledgement that the level II person is going to perform at (and be held to) a higher standard than the level I staff. When I worked in a production lab, people who were cross trained on multiple benches were ranked higher and were expected to take a more active role in troubleshooting, but got a slightly higher rate and more opportunity for OT.

  39. tango

    Re: #2. I would be curious if in fact it’s HR or your immediate management that’s keeping you in your role. Apparently HR says you haven’t been in your job long enough. Have you actually heard that directly from a person in HR or only via your direct supervisors? Do you ask for promotions or apply to other jobs by notifying your supervisor who then is supposed to put in the request for you or do you apply directly to the position via an internal job board so have proof of submission? Have any coworkers in the 4 years you’ve been there moved to different jobs within the company even if they’re only average producing employees?

  40. Jaybeetee

    LW2: Since they’ve said you lack “tenure” after four years, I wonder how long you do have to be there to get promoted? Did anyone say? This sounds like an excuse, but I’d be curious about what they come up with. Like others, my money is that they don’t want to move you out of your current position where you’re killing it.

    It reminds me of an OldJob, one of those places where most people had been working there 15-20 years. One of my colleagues described the manager as “new” when she had been in the position for two years (and had worked in a different role prior to that). I had been there on a contract, but when they offered me a permanent job, I wound up moving onto my current job. Part of my decision-making there was the knowledge that while I enjoyed OldJob, the people were great, the lunchroom was cheap, etc, I would likely NEVER move up out of the entry-level role I had there, simply because the few positions I could move into were inhabited by people who had been working there 10 years or more…and even if one of those people did move on, there were people even on my level who had been there 10 years or more, who would certainly be considered over me. Basically, if I had stuck with that job, I would have been sticking with it until I was sick of it, then leaving for whatever else I could find (fairly niche work as well, so it wouldn’t be a smooth transition elsewhere – the other reason there were so many long-timers there). By taking my current job, I have already been promoted in the first year and a half, and am about to change departments for another promotion and to take work closer to my actual field of study.

  41. Wendy Ann

    What if OP#2 lowered her productivity but still stayed above the metrics? Say they’re meant to close 10 tickets a day, she could close 12 instead of the 30 she was doing previously, but still exceed expectations. And maybe the powers that be will start paying attention to the workers who are dropping below. Curious though, are the slackers actually not meeting goals or are they just not over-achieving like the OP?

    1. AdAgencyChick

      I wouldn’t use this as a strategy to get the employers to do anything (either promote OP or crack down on the poor performers). Most likely it will just get the bosses wondering why OP isn’t performing to her usual standard.

      But as a strategy to stay sane while looking for a new job — sure.

  42. LBK

    #2 I wonder if this is a union environment where seniority plays a big part, so it’s not necessarily your individual tenure that matters but tenure relative to your peers. If none of the more tenured people have been promoted they may not be able to promote you over them because they can’t promote someone with less tenure over a more senior employee.

  43. I'm Not Phyllis

    I can’t stand the terms “work wife” and “work husband” … and lately I’ve also been hearing a lot more of “work mom” and “work dad” which I have equal hate for. Huge ick factor – why can’t we just be coworkers or colleagues or something else that doesn’t make my skin crawl?

    1. LBK

      Yeah, I was also thinking of the “work mom” letter that was posted here a while ago. The commentariat seemed pretty unilaterally opposed to that term, so it’s interesting to me that the reaction to “work wife” is more mixed.

      1. Luna

        IMO “work mom” is way worse, I think because it implies more of a power and age imbalance.

      2. neeko

        I think work mom denotes a way different power dynamic than the partnership implied in a work spouse.

    2. EvanMax

      I wonder if this speaks to a lack of a work/life balance at some firms, such that the employees never see their actual family, and have to invent new family members around the office to fill the void.

      Alternatively, I say get creative. Have a “work sister-in-law” or a “work estranged cousin” or even a “work mail carrier”

      1. Plague of frogs

        I don’t think so. I worked at the same company as my actual husband, and I still had a “work husband” who was not my actual husband. I like the term because I can’t think of a better one. But, I see no reason for the OP to have to put up with it when she doesn’t like it (and it doesn’t sound like it applies anyway).

  44. Hiring Mgr

    I never really liked the work wife/work husband thing.. In my case, it’s because I’m very handsome and charistmatic, so people tend to naturally be attracted to me and I wouldn’t want to blur the lines of professionalism

      1. Lumen

        Ha. Ha ha ha ha. *flat*

        Have been a woman in a workplace where the ‘work harem’ joke was made. By men, right as more women were finally being hired.

        Bad joke. Not funny. Gross.

        1. McWhadden

          It’s not any more gross than “work wife” which many here say is perfectly acceptable.

          1. Pebbles

            I don’t like “work wife” but I think “work harem” is worse because it’s universally(?) one man and several women (with the one man in charge), whereas “work wife” has a counterpart “work husband” with a 1-1 relationship.

    1. Jennifer Thneed

      You know, there *is* more to life than being really, really ridiculously good looking.

  45. VioletEMT

    OP1, my best work friend and I used to refer to each other as work husband/wife, but when we really interrogated it we realized that the term has roots in the notion that a certain level of closeness/admiration/affinity/helpfulness cannot be platonic in cross-gender couples. So we decided to abandon the term and now we call each other “BWF” – Best Work Friend. I’m trying to get the term to catch on.

    1. Manager Mary

      Love it! Do you say it “Bee Double-u Eff” or do you have a funky pronunciation like “bwoff”?

  46. ALPA

    #5 – I had someone call me out for this when I was just out of college. It was absolutely mortifying at the time (Seriously I cried, it was not the most gentle use of words and I still read the email when I need a small dose of humility) but I am proudly an over-thanker now. I have never not thanked someone for their time. Profusely. Won’t make that mistake again!!

  47. EvanMax

    In re: #1:

    I think part of the discomfort with “work wife/husband” terminology is that it can be used at times to cover-up emotional affairs. I’ve seen people engaging in inappropriate interpersonal behavior, only to have it waved off as “or, that’s just their work spouse.” Maybe so, but if they are doing things with their work spouse that they wouldn’t want their real spouse to know about, that sounds like cheating to me.

    My wife and I work in the same office, though, so my “work wife” is my wife. No conflicts there.

  48. Rachel

    OP #2, closing more tickets =/= doing more or more important work. Some people might be handling longer, more complicated tickets, and thus doing less per day, while others are doing quicker, simpler ones and thus doing more per day.

  49. Manager Mary

    I hate the term “work wife” and anything like it with a fiery passion.
    “Oh, Mary is always so good at remembering to get the coffee for meetings! She’s such a good little work wife.” (from a male peer)
    “Mary and [other females] are such a great team. I love my work harem!” (from a male boss)
    “This is my work mom, Mary! She always takes care of me.” (from a male employee)

    None of those mean friend. None were intended to mean anything even a little bit close to it. They ALL mean “Mary is subservient.” You can call me Mary, or if you really can’t stomach that, you can call me ma’am or boss or madam director… Or you can call me and tender your resignation. :)

    1. a1

      That is not at all how I’ve ever heard the term “work wife/husband” used. That’s just crazy. And demeaning.

      1. a1

        And I’d hazard a guess that no matter what term they’d use otherwise, their remarks would still be demeaning.

        1. EvanMax

          I saw one other reference on this comments sections to a similar usage dated to the 1920s. I am curious now if there is perhaps a parallel origin/usage of the phrase (since both “work” and “wife” are fairly common, simple words) that might have meant more along the lines of “taking care of a man ‘like a wife'” that may have been in previous usage but gone out of fashion over the decades as gender roles shifted in our society (and even where they didn’t shift enough, it became taboo to refer to them in a professional setting.)

          I have no idea, just idle speculation. If that were the case, I could see some bastions of “the old ways” out there where people still say such horrible things.

      2. Manager Mary

        I’m in the bible belt. If I stood any closer to some of the men I deal with, I’d probably get literal pats on the head. As someone who sees professional women demeaned and harassed every day, I’m not cool with men calling us anything but our name and/or our title. I guess I’m glad women in San Francisco or wherever can get nicknamed “work wife” by a man and not have it mean anything except “we’re friends,” or impact their reputation, career, or people’s perception of them, but it just ain’t that way here.

        I can’t help but wonder how many women in my area read advice like this and think they should just suck it up and deal with it when their male peer says “thanks, work wife” as she cleans the staff kitchen. I get that “typical” means “applies to the most people,” and obviously the bulk of readers will come from the coasts and big cities, not rural red state areas. I’m just offering my personal experience, and how it led me to my very firm belief that–unless he’s literally my boss and is giving me a new job–no man gets to change my name or title.

  50. Lauren

    #1 Ugh. I also dislike that term. My boss mentioned his work wife once and while I knew he was likely referring to me because we work so closely together, but I (in a shocked/confused voice) asked who his work wife was, and he awkwardly replied, “ummm, you…” I think he got the message that I did not like being called that and hasn’t done it since.

  51. Super Nintendo Chalmers

    Ok, I know plenty of people have commented on letter 1, re: “work wife” actually being offensive. It is!

    But I have to tender a correction here: The terms “work wife” and “work husband” are in NO WAY COMMON WHATSOEVER WITH YOUNG PEOPLE. I’m talking Millennials and younger. We do NOT use these terms, mainly because they are awkward, gross, offensive, and we have better words for people with whom we work well and/or are friends. Like… “friends” and “coworkers.” I have never, ever, ever, ever heard anyone remotely near my age (31) use the terms “work wife” or “work husband.” I want to throw up even thinking about being called this or calling someone else this!

  52. LadyCop

    “Top performer on a 14-person team, resolving 30-50% of daily tickets” is an excellent line for your resume. Go use it and find a job that rewards you appropriately.”

    *applauds*

  53. RB

    There are actually 52.14 weeks in a non-leap-year year which translates to 4.34 weeks per month or 2,086 hours per year. Just sayin…

  54. Sparkly Librarian

    When a colleague moved out-of-state and I transferred into her old position, a coworker told me that the departed employee had been her “work wife” and wondered whether I would be the new one. I told her I was “work dating around” and wasn’t ready to settle down yet. ;D

  55. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    OP#3: The expectations are dependent on workplace culture. In some workplaces, the department head is expected to organize an occasional social activity for his/her group. In some workplaces, there are social “team building” activities that might be as simple as a nice group dinner outing, a group class (cooking, painting), etc. If you have a workplace like that, it will be noticed if you don’t take on that roll, and you may receive feedback on it later. BUT if you don’t have a workplace like that, then no, you do not need to step into the role, although you could certainly encourage voluntary participation.

  56. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    OP#1: Add me to the list of people who hate these terms like “work wife”. I would not want to be called this, nor would I ever refer to anyone by this name.

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