update from the reader whose boss kept drawing blood in front of her

Remember the reader who got very queasy around blood and needles who had a diabetic boss who often tested her blood in front of her? She also happened to be the reader who last month asked whether she could ask for time to review an employment contract before signing it (#3 here).  Here’s her update on both situations:

As you might have gathered based on the second question, the boss who checked her blood sugars and injected herself with insulin in front of me has retired. While she was still worked, I eventually resorted to leaving the room while she checked her sugars — as long as it was just the two of us in the room and I wasn’t interrupting a meeting or anything, which was often the case. She eventually caught on to the fact that I was extremely uncomfortable when she injected herself and would give me a 10-second warning before giving herself insulin… usually, anyway.

In any case, she retired about a month ago — to write a book about how she deals with her diabetes, no less! — and I was hired on by her successor. I wasn’t particularly pleased with how the negotiations went. I’m not good at negotiating, but using your advice, I think I did okay, negotiating with my new boss to a salary we both found fair (about $19.50 per hour). I’d been hoping for more, but apparently that’s what was budgeted for the position, and it was a rate I was comfortable accepting. He said he’d pass it along to the Board for approval, but from what I understood, that was our final number.

Lo and behold, when I got my employment offer, it was for $17 an hour after a probation period. My new boss didn’t even mention the lower figure; I had to bring it up. “What happened to $19.50?” I asked. “Oh,” he said, “the Board wanted to hire someone at $12, but I knew you wouldn’t accept that, so I negotiated up to $17.”

By this point, I had been out of work for five weeks (unpaid), been back and forth negotiating at least three or four times, and discovered that every time I made a counteroffer, it delayed my employment date by at least a week as my boss (the Executive Director) “ran it by the Board.” And generally it wasn’t getting me anything anyway. So I decided to take the lower offer, and I’m hoping to negotiate upwards in the spring.

The kicker for all this is that, if you look at it as an hourly rate, my new boss is making twice as much as my old boss. “It’s not in the budget”… ha!

{ 27 comments… read them below }

  1. Henning Makholm*

    “In any case, she retired about a month ago … and I was hired on by her successor.”

    Um, what’s going on here? Weren’t you already working there — I see no mention of quitting due to the diabetic manager? When the old boss retired, were all her underlings automatically fired and had to re-apply for their old jobs? Sounds kinda feudal to me.

    1. Meredith*

      I reread her question from the employment contract situation, and she was a temporary employee under the old boss and was being hired as a full-time employee with the new boss coming in apparently.

  2. Anonymous*

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who is confused! Also, what is up with the incredibly low salaries for management? Did I misinterpret that? I made $12/hr as a student worker in college and $17/hr when I was a lowly assistant. Both positions were in a rural state and I worked at a nonprofit as an assistant, so I know those weren’t big city/private sector salaries!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think it’s a management job. But what I found troubling is that the board has to approve the salary — which is a level of day-to-day involvement that no board should have.

      1. KayDay*

        I was just about to ask what the board was doing approving salaries for that level of staff. Even at a small organization with an active board, I can’t imagine why an executive director wouldn’t have the authority to set the salary.

      2. fposte*

        Did the board really have to approve the salary, I wonder, or was that just a useful way to keep the rate low? Perhaps it was a convenient fudging of the board approving the budget from the new director.

        1. Anonymous*

          Good point. That does seem like a convenient excuse. I’ve worked with many boards over the years and none were interested in the salaries of anyone below the executive level.

        2. Julie*

          It’s certainly possible that he was just using the Board as an excuse. On the other hand, one of the thing the new boss constantly complains about is how the Board feels the need to approve just about everything, even though we’re a very small office. So I’d say it could go either way on this one.

      3. Chris*

        My last employer was a non-profit labor advocacy org.

        During salary negotiations we got to the point where I agreed to a salary because yearly increases for the rest of the staff were due next month and I was told I’d get the increase along with everyone else to keep everyone on the same schedule. It was memorialized in an offer letter signed by myself and the director.

        I did not get the increase. When I asked the director he claimed he never made that agreement. When I pointed out the language of the employment agreement, director claimed it was a typo….a two sentence typo.

        Turns out the board approved a salary (an actual number, not a range) and due to the labyrinthine bylaws of the organization it would have been too difficult for the director to get the number amended – so he made the offer knowing full well he’d have to renege. He then had a different version of the employment agreement ratified by the board (the full board) at the monthly meeting. (The board apparently appointed an incompetent director on purpose who would be too weak to influence individual board members on policy – hence the level of micromanagement.) After all the shouting he told me, to my face, that I should be happy with the salary I got since they took a chance hiring a “girl” as a financial analyst.

        Worst. job. ever. Needless to say it didn’t last long. I was so scarred by the experience I’m really hesitant to work for any non-profit with bylaws and organizational politics ever again.

          1. Chris*

            Yeah, they’re actually terrible employers since they are mostly elected positions. You get for a president someone who 5 years ago was making mashed potatoes out of a box in a corporate cafeteria for $8.50/hour….they win the shop steward or local president election by being the biggest blowhard in the place and then they come in and push the staff around and tell them what to do. Obviously that weekend training at some out of the way airport hotel has made them an expert on non-profit management. Awful employers. I don’t dislike all non-profits and non-profit boards, but I’ll never work for labor again.

  3. Julie*

    Hi all! OP here. To clear up the confusion:

    1. Under the old boss (the diabetic), I was working as a temp through an agency. When she retired and the new boss took over, I requested that I be an actual employee of the organization, not a temp anymore. Hence the contract negotiations.

    2. I’m an admin assistant, not management. $17 is not unreasonable for the position, except that’s we’d negotiated for more and to be told “nope, it’s $17 now” was an unexpected shock.

    3. Despite only having 3 employees (me, my boss, and our event planner), this organization is extremely bureaucratic and has been for some time. The Board sticks their noses into all sorts of things they really shouldn’t. (Like salary approvals and other, even more mundane issues.)

    Hopefully that clears things up. Please let me know if there’s anything else unclear, or if anyone wants to give me negotiating tips for the future!

    1. Anonymous*

      With all due respect, that sounds like a disfunctional workplace. It’s really appalling how they reduced your promised hourly pay rate by so much. I’m not sure how much mobility you have but I would personally look for a better company to work for.

      1. Julie*

        There’s effectively no mobility because we’re only three employees: me, my boss, and the event planner. It’s not terribly dysfunctional for me, given that I get along pretty well with my new boss and don’t generally need to deal with the Board. It’s a pleasant environment and I get the opportunity to wear a lot of different hats, as I’m often the only one in the office on any given day.

        That said, I’m still unhappy with the way the negotiations went and feel I probably could have done better if I’d stuck to my guns more. (Or been willing to say, “You know what, I’ll go find somewhere else. Good luck in your hiring a new admin.”)

        1. KayDay*

          I’ve worked at a few very small non profits, and the salary you got seems reasonable for an admin assistant (so is what you negotiated for, but for a 3 person org, I think it’s on the higher side of average). That said, the fact that they just changed your salary from what you negotiated is indeed a very serious red flag. The difference between $17 and $19.50 is significant for a full time employee. That and the fact that your board is so (over)-involved at the day-to-day level.

          I’ve found that in very small organizations one of two things can happen either (a) you get lots of opportunities to take on increasing responsibility and do things at a much higher level that you other wise would or (b) you’re bogged down in day to day admin work because the org is understaffed, so you have no time to do “a” and your experience is very limited because your org’s systems are so basic that you don’t pick up the skills you need to work at a larger organization. If “a” happens, it’s worth a really low salary to work there for a few years. If “b,” get out as soon as you can.

      2. Nichole*

        I have to agree, this situation has red flags planted all over it, and no indication that your new boss is a reasonable level of trustworthy-at best, he/she promises things that aren’t yet guaranteed, then expects you to deal when it doesn’t come through. At worst, your boss is a liar and doesn’t have your back. A disclaimer: in my geographic area we’re a typically on the low end of the national average wagewise, so I have very little concept of whether that was a reasonable expectation to begin with to ask for almost $20 an hour for an administrative assistant. Still makes your boss a jerk, a wimp, or both, though.

        1. X2*

          If the OP said “He said he’d pass it along to the Board for approval, but from what I understood, that was our final number,” I don’t necessarily things its a red flag.

          He should have made it clear that it was not a final number, but the OP also shouldn’t have assumed it was final without something in writing.

  4. Kat*

    Regarding taking the lower salary and hoping to renegotiate later: I’ve had a boss tell me that “negotiating is done before you are hired. Everything after that is begging.” I hope you fare better than I was ever able to at that position!

  5. Anonymous*

    OP’s situation with her new contact happened to me a few years ago. I was hired to work in the office as a temp via an agency. The office decided to hire me directly. At first, the manager said that he would try to ask for a $30K annual salary for me. When the employment contact was presented to me, I saw that my annual salary would be $27K. At that time, I had graduated from university for over a year and since then I had been temping between 3 agencies. I was getting tried in temping and I wanted to settle down somewhere. $27K per year still was a pay raise for me at that time. So, I didn’t argue and signed the contact.

    I wasn’t working for a small office. It’s a regional office for a national company. So, I guess it happens everywhere.

    I liked the temp agencies at the time I just got out of the school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, only know that I wanted to start as some sort of an administrative assistant. The temp agencies gave me to chance to expose to different industries. And if it were not for that assignment I wouldn’t be where I am today. But I don’t know if I was being put into a disadvantage in contact negotiation because I was a temp. I wonder if the manager thought that I would sign the contract no matter what was on the contract.

    1. Anonymous_J*

      That may well have simply been the best he/she could do. He/she may have indeed tried very hard to get you what you wanted but been unable to. It does happen.

      I’m sorry about what happened to the OP, but I’m glad she’s happy. Personally, I would not thrive in an environment with that much mircomanaging by people who do not work in the trenches every day!

      1. Julie*

        (OP here.) Thankfully, the Board doesn’t interfere too much in my own activities, and my boss is pretty hands-off in terms of management. (He’s generally only in the office 4-6 hours a day, and not at all on Fridays.) It’s a remarkably autonomous position, all things considered.

        That said, I would never even consider applying for the executive director position, even if I had the qualifications for it.

  6. Carrie*

    I’m new here, but read this thread yesterday and have been thinking about it since them. I’m sort of appalled at the lack of empathy for the (former) boss with diabetes. A person with diabetes that brittle is at serious risk for losing her eyesight (retinopathy), having a heart attack or stroke, or losing a toe or even a foot(neuropathy) if she does not keep her blood sugars well in control. If she wants (wanted) to have children, her risks of miscarriage or the baby having birth defects are higher. I understand that you may have a physical reaction to blood or needles, but to be blunt – that is absolutely trivial compared to what this woman is going through with her diabetes. Not to mention, it isn’t exactly a picnic for her to have to test her blood regularly either. It hurts. I had gestational diabetes (again, trivial compared to this woman’s Type 1 diabetes) and the finger stick for testing was much worse than injecting myself with insulin – there are many many nerves on your fingertips and it gets sore quickly. My husband had a roommate with diabetes, and he would walk around with the finger stick and sort of “trick” himself into triggering it suddenly because he so dreaded it.

    In short – have a heart, blood and needle-phobic people out there! It could be much worse!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think it was an issue of lack of empathy for the boss … just the reality that the OP still got queasy around blood/needles, regardless of how much empathy she had, and she was looking for a strategy on how to manage that.

    2. Julie*

      Hi Carrie. OP here. This issue was brought up in the original post. I said there that I absolutely appreciate that my boss (and all diabetics) must take their blood sugars regularly. I understand and appreciate the risks involved in not doing so, and I would never dream of telling my boss (or anyone with diabetes) not to check their sugars or not to inject with insulin when necessary.

      My problem is that I get very queasy around needles and blood (as AAM noted, just above). I can’t even watch obviously-fake blood on TV, like Monty Python. What I was hoping for was a 5- or 10-second warning so that I could turn around or leave the room when my boss was taking her sugars, and this is eventually what happened.

      I must say, I am *incredibly* glad I don’t have diabetes, and am very scared that I’ll get gestational diabetes when I decide to have kids, as it runs in my family. I absolutely know that my boss had/has it worse than I do.

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