wee answer Wednesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. I have to buy my own office supplies

I recently started working at a major company. On my first day, I asked about supplies (stapler, pens, pencils, etc.). I was told that I am responsible for my own supplies. In my first week, I have spent over $150 ordering basic supplies (folders, binders, Post-its, etc.). Do you know if I can write these work expenses off on my taxes next year?

You can deduct unreimbursed businesses expenses if they add up to more than 2% of your adjusted gross income, and then only the amount over 2% is deductible. Which probably isn’t going to be the case for Post-its. But are you sure your employer doesn’t reimburse for these items (even if you have to buy them yourself initially)? They should.

2. Racism by same-race manager?

My supervisor is biracial and has voiced several times that she detests one part of her heritage — the darkest part. The problem is that I am of that race and the more I hear her make comments about our race (and how much she dislikes dark people), in front of coworkers and others, the more I begin to wonder if she is truly capable of impartially managing me. I don’t know if I would sound silly reporting same-race racism to HR, but I feel uncomfortable having to constantly defend my skin color and plead with my boss to stop making comments about our culture at work. I feel very alienated as a subordinate and I don’t trust other managers enough to share this with them because they are friends of hers, and in some cases also subordinates. What should I do?

Absolutely you should raise this. Tell HR your concerns exactly as you did here. They’d want to know, and they need to have a serious intervention with your manager.

3. Why did this recruiter waste my time?

Why would a recruiter waste someone’s time? I had a phone appointment scheduled for Tuesday. I called at the scheduled time and got her voicemail, so I left a message. She emailed me to tell me she was stuck in a meeting and asked if we could reschedule for the following day at the same time. I called the next day as scheduled and got her voicemail again. No response until Thursday and we agreed again on a time to speak. I waited for her to call me and nothing, so I called her and got her voicemail yet again and left a message. She emailed me saying that she was stuck in yet another meeting and asked if we could speak afterwards. I emailed her asking her how long the conversation would be since I had to be somewhere. No response. I sent her another email and never heard back. I emailed her again today and nothing. Out of curiosity, I checked the online application system and noticed that my status said “Reviewed; Not selected.” Why would a recruiter do that? I don’t believe it was anything I did. Could you shed some light on this bizarre experience? I’m more pissed off than disappointed.

She’s disorganized and inconsiderate. And by the time your week of phone tag ended, she had already found other candidates who she was moving forward with, so now feels she has no need for you. And of course she should explain that to you, but see previous: She’s disorganized and inconsiderate.

4. Asking for a higher salary after stating a lower salary requirement

I have an interview coming up. In order to apply, I had to go through an automated application system, and one of the questions was salary requirement. Since the hourly rate was posted in the job description, I just copied that number into the box. I was worried that I’d get automatically rejected (and my lovely custom cover letter would go to waste) if I put a higher number in. The truth is, I want to push them for a higher rate. Now of course I’m worried I’ll look disingenuous for putting that number in the box when I intended to ask for more money. Is there any way I can address this with them so that I won’t look like a jerk? For what it’s worth, I won’t do this again, I feel too icky about it now.

You can’t credibly ask for a significantly higher rate, but you can certainly ask for a bit more than what you entered, if things get to that stage. Just say that after learning more about the job, you believe your performance would warrant $X.

5. Asking for a higher salary when you’re not using the employer’s health insurance plan

I’m applying for a job at a presumably budget-conscious non-profit, and I won’t be using their health insurance and would like to ask for a higher wage as a result. Do you or your readers have a ballpark figure for what one employee’s health/dental/vision benefits would cost per month? This is a non-profit in a big city with about 100 employees, and they advertise having excellent benefits.

It varies widely by company and by plan, and by what percentage of the premiums they cover, versus what portion their staff pays. (It can also vary by their staff demographics — if they skew pretty young, for instance, they’ll generally have lower rates than if they don’t.) But it’s reasonable to assume they’ll be saving at least a few thousand dollars a year by not covering your insurance premiums.

By the way, this is a totally reasonable thing to ask for. (I used to routinely agree to do this for people who weren’t going to be using employer-offered health insurance.) That doesn’t mean you’ll get it, but it’s worth asking.

6. How can I make my company hear my complaints about my boss?

I work for an outsourcing company and am having real problems with my boss. The last straw was a conversation we had recently that veered so far off course that it ended with him screaming into the phone, “I can’t take this anymore, I have to call you back.” I emailed the director of human resources about a month ago, asking if I could talk to her about some issues I had (it was a previous conversation where he screamed at me) and she never even responded to the email. So I went above her head to the director of operations. I asked if he could put some time aside so we could talk about some things He said sure and we set up a phone meeting. Not only did he blow off the meeting, he didn’t even respond to my email a day later asking if we were going to reschedule. Now I’m really pissed. I have a right to be heard. It’s not just to complain, it’s other things. What should I do, keep going up the food chain till someone listens? I want to be transferred to another site so I can work with another manager and I have the right to be heard!

Actually, you don’t have a right to be heard. Your employer is completely entitled to ignore you on these issues — rightly or wrongly — and they’re sending you pretty clear signals that that’s what they intend to do. If you keep trying to move up the chain until someone responds, that response is likely to be one that you won’t like. At all.

Look, a good employer would either talk to you or tell you explicitly that these are issues you need to work out with your boss on your own. Ignoring emails and missing meetings is not the right way for them to handle this. But you can’t force them to care and pay attention — and trying to make them isn’t likely to give you the outcome you want. You need to focus on working things out with your boss directly — and if you can’t, I’d start looking around, because a boss who screams “I can’t take this anymore” isn’t one who’s signaling that you have long-term job security.

7. Can I contact an internal hiring manager about a position I want?

I applied for a job within my office three weeks ago. The hiring manager and I are acquaintances. I was told by a colleague that my application was passed to the hiring manager from HR the following day (I haven’t heard anything since). There is an interim person in the position until the position is filled. There is a small chance this interim employee will be hired for the position.

As an aside, I was told I would be working as the interim, but that fell through. It turns out a friend of a manager was put in the position instead. I’m mentioning this, because I believe the office thinks I am qualified for the job.

My question is, do I contact the hiring manager about an interview schedule? I do not want to come off as pushy, or sound like I’m entitled to an interview. If the position is withdrawn and the interim stays, I would regret not doing anything further to show my interest in the position.

Because this is an internal position and because you know the hiring manager, it’s completely reasonable to contact her, reiterate your interest, ask what the likely timeline is for next steps.

{ 173 comments… read them below }

  1. Laura M.*

    7 -Not that I disagree with the advice, because I still think you can contact the hiring manager and ask about the position, but I wouldn’t hold my breath… If the manager’s friend was chosen over you to work as the interim person than they seem more likely to get the position if everything’s working out… Or that manager is actually looking for something different that neither of you have and will be hiring someone else entirely.

  2. TMM*

    #5 – I don’t disagree with Allison but I wonder what will happen if the employee decides to take advantage of the benefits at a later time. Perhaps the unused benefit amount could be given as an monthly allowance, rather than rolled into the annual salary, so that it’s easy to change if (s)he takes advantage of the benefits later on.

    1. Anon*

      This also avoids the other problem with giving unused benefits as salary (which I’ve heard expressed by employers who are reluctant to do it), which is that going forward all your raises are based on the salary with unused benefit amount, which is great for you – go ahead and ask for it! – but doesn’t necessarily track from the employer’s perspective.

    2. Jamie*

      It is fine to ask, and some companies do this – but TMM points out where it gets sticky.

      If things change and you need to take the insurance at some point, I don’t think (IANAL) they can deny you – and it’s really awkward to lower someone’s salary at that point.

      I would think a year end payout would be more workable, if they agree to anything.

      There is also the issue of how this complicates raises given as a percentage, as Anon noted below. This is one of those situations where there isn’t a lot of benefit for the employer.

      1. AD*

        If they have an annual open enrollment period, they do not have to let you change your election outside of that period, unless you have a qualifying life event.

        I have worked several places that do this (you have to show them proof of other insurance, though), and it is itemized separately from your salary on your paycheck.

      2. Laura*

        I know a lot of companies that do this. Mine does not. For colleagues of mine that do this, I know they are getting around 5k additional wage (I am in my very early 20s), but I am sure the wage increase varies tremendously between company. A lot of my co-workers didn’t take the benefits at all at my company, and there was no compensation at all.

    3. your mileage may vary*

      I worked with a lady who did this. She was on her husband’s insurance when she was hired and her salary was raised to compensate for not using the company’s insurance. A couple of years later, she divorced and, using that as a qualifying event, got on the company’s insurance. She said they did not lower her salary and she didn’t bring it to their attention.

      I knew another lady at the same company who also took advantage of the compensation by being on her husband’s insurance. After she had a baby, she came back to work part-time. At that point, she wouldn’t have qualified for employer-paid insurance anyway but the company never lowered her hourly wage then, either.

      Not that I’m saying you should try it to permanently raise your starting figure, but it seems to have worked out for these former co-workers of mine.

    4. Anonymous*

      #5. My health insurance benefits are covered by my spouse and I don’t take them from my current employer, a non-profit, however my employer does not offer any incentive to refuse health insurance. I have worked for a company that did offer this incentive and paid it as a separate line item, not a salary increase, to employees who elected not to have health insurance through this employer. It was a fixed amount and much lower than the cost of providing health insurance, but it was still a significant payment to the employee and a savings to the employer. It can’t hurt to ask, especially if you present it as a savings option for them.

    5. OP #5*

      Thanks for your thoughts and experience, everyone. And of course, a big thanks to Alison–I wouldn’t have even thought to give this a try if it weren’t for reading this blog! I’ll propose having it paid as a stipend or something else separate from my salary.

      1. Laura*

        I actually disagree OP. I think you should ask it to be part of your salary. If you read “Your Mileage May Vary’s” post, she gives clear insight that you can permanently raise your salary for years. As in, if they give you an extra 5k for not taking it, and then a few years from now you DO ask for the insurance, they aren’t going to take that 5k away from you, so its almost like a non-intentional raise.

  3. TMM*

    oops, I meant to add a comment about #6.

    OP, maybe I’m way off base here but may I suggest respectfully that perhaps you’re the problem here and it’s not everybody else? I agree with Allison that your employer is not handling the situation in a professional manner. If you are the issue, then they should be having discussions with you.

    I’ve had to deal with what I call ‘frequent flyers’ many times. These are employees who complain constantly and are never satisfied with the frank conversations that I (HR) and their leaders have had with them. They take up way too much time and eventually we spend our time looking for a way to get rid of them. (sorry, but that’s what really happens!).

    If you truly wish to solve this situation, I suggest you ask someone who is removed from the situation to give you a frank assessment of what’s going on, your part in it and some advice on how to proceed. Don’t just ask someone who always agrees with your complaints, find someone who is known for their honesty and professionalism. And then take what they say to heart and really search your thoughts and actions.

    And frankly, if your work environment sucks that much, then leave. Clearly it’s not the right culture fit for you.

    1. Mike C.*

      This OP has asked for a frank conversation many times and has been blown off at every step. Why do you think their situation is similar to your “frequent fliers”?

      1. Anonymous*

        Whether or not the OP is the problem, some bosses/higher ups have no backbone, and they will do anything to avoid a talk/confrontation. I am quickly learning that with my manager. When I approached mine about something, the only thing he could do is give that hesitant laugh as a time killer in order to come up with a response. Even when disciplining another employee, he tries to turn it into a joke to make it easier for him to say. Basically, people who are like that try to avoid these situations. That is not a reflection on the OP since we do not know what the problems are.

      2. danr*

        I took the ‘frank conversation’ to mean with someone outside the complaint chain or reporting hierarchy. A trusted colleague in another department or a professional friend outside the company.

        Or, wait for the next time the boss screams ‘I can’t take this anymore’ and ask him ‘What specifically can’t you take?’. Then make sure you write everything down and follow up on the problems.

        1. chachacha*

          I did write everything down, and my plan was to talk to the Director of Operations, before he blew me off!!!

          1. danr*

            If any of the items are things that you have control over, take control and start improving them. If the items are things that you don’t have control over, it sounds as if you’re in the line of fire and you need to be calm. Other than that, AAM’s advice is probably the best.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        I agree that the OP was blown off by the Director of Operations several times, but I wouldn’t necessarily say she was blown off by HR. She sent only one email and never followed up. Maybe that email was missed by the recipient or it never arrived for whatever reason. It happens. If OP really wanted that conversation she should have at least made an attempt to call or drop by the person’s office (assuming it’s in the same building) rather than going over HR’s head.

        1. chachacha*

          That’s one of the problems. Since it’s an outsourcing company HR is located in Los Angeles, I’m in San Francisco…..my BOSS is in Los Angeles.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            After not getting a response to the one email you sent to HR, did you make a follow-up attempt by phone or another email? If not, I think that should have been done before going over her head.

      4. LCL*

        …because the people that want to meet with management to discuss “some issues” or “some things” are agressive backstabbing narcissists who are really saying “I am smarter than the rest of you and you should run things my way and nobody else gets it or is qualified. Except me.” And that is what they will say to management.

        Unfortunately, in the US, managers are loathe to tell people to shut up and go away and do their job, and to only contact them with specific complaints. So they dodge the complainer, because it is easier. And ignore any good ideas the complainer has, which is too bad because the complainer has spent so much time analyzing everyone’s job and actions (instead of doing their job) that the complainer will have a good idea or two.

      5. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Mike, I’d say that there are a couple of clues in the OP’s letter that she’s at least part of the problem — the whole “I have a right to be heard!” thing indicates that at a minimum she doesn’t understand how this stuff works, which indicates to me that there’s a decent chance she might not understand how other things work either. I’m in no way excusing the boss — if the OP is a problem, the boss needs to address that straightforwardly — but just reading between the lines here, I’d bet the OP is playing a role.

        1. chachacha*

          “she doesn’t understand how this stuff works, which indicates to me that there’s a decent chance she might not understand how other things work either. ”
          WOW, seriously? What am I not understanding? That I shouldn’t let someone know that my boss can’t keep his temper under control when he’s questioned on just about anything?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That you can’t demand to be heard if your company is signaling to you that they’re not interested — that there’s no “right” to be heard higher up the chain (which was the language in your email).

    2. chachacha*

      TMM-It’s not me, it’s my boss. The office manager at the site I was placed is done with him, the Partner is done with him, my co-worker is over him, and the other Managers at other sites are sick of him. I’m anything but a ‘frequent flyers’ This isn’t about complaining, I’m trying to address important issues, one of them is reimbursement related. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to talk to someone about transferring off this site so I don’t have to deal with a manager who is so….whatever he is, (insecure???) that he loses his shit and starts yelling when someone under him is right about something and he’s wrong.
      And yea, I’d leave, but there’s this little thing called high unemployment. I’m looking for a solution here.
      And I just emailed the Director of Operations and said I was disappointed that he didn’t keep the meeting AND ignored my email to re-schedule and his excuse was “my laptop crashed last week I lost all my calendar appointments. I received replacement laptop last night and I am still catching up”
      I have to LAUGH, I mean that’s not even a “thing”!! If your laptop crashes you just log in at an empty office and figure out your schedule. I have to believe this excuse is a lie because if it isn’t, this guy and this company has BIG problems.

      1. Anonymous*

        This response gives me two vibes:
        1. The OP is at the end of her rope with this company.
        2. Her reactions to all that occurs might be to her slight disadvantage. We don’t know how the emails are formulated to the other people, and now she is accusing those people of lying. There is sarcasm in this post when people are trying to help which leads me to think there is sarcasm in her emails. That in turn leads to unanswered emails.

        Solution? Stop going over people’s heads every time you don’t get a response or one you don’t like. Pretty soon, you’ll be a problem bigger than the person you’re complaining about, and pretty soon, you might find yourself on that high unemployment line.

        1. chachacha*

          So you think it’s unreasonable to think that an excuse like “my laptop crashed last week I lost all my calendar appointments.” (coming from a Director of Operations) is a lie???!!!!!! Like I said, this guy and this company are in SERIOUS trouble if the Director of Operations can’t keep any meetings for a week because his laptop crashed. It’s totally outrageous.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            What I am saying is that if your company is signaling that they don’t care, you can’t make them care. It doesn’t matter if it’s outrageous or they should care; if they don’t, you can’t make them, and in trying to, you will impact the way you’re perceived in a way that can result in very bad consequences for you. It’s not about what’s fair; it’s about dealing with the reality of the situation and how it’s actually working.

            1. chachacha*

              So you agree that the whole laptop crashed excuse isn’t true, and he’s trying to send a “signal” that he doesn’t care? He said to give him till the end of the day to catch up and re-schedule. So am I to assume I’m going into a meeting with someone who doesn’t give a shit and who is only doing it because he got “called out” on being unprofessional?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Chachacha, I’m going to ask you to take it down a notch when you’re posting here. You are asking for help; I and others will be glad to try to give it, but it has to be calm discussion.

                1. chachacha*

                  I’m confused, how am I not being calm? I’m trying to get an idea if I’m jumping to conclusions about the laptop

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  You are coming across as hostile and closed to the idea of perspectives other than your own. Using all caps and “!!!” is part of it, but it’s especially the substance of your words.

                  If you’re not seeing this, and strangers are picking up on it online, it is almost certainly a problem for you at work as well, and is probably playing a role in your dynamic with your boss and others at your company — and possibly even is the source of the problem itself.

                  Before you react to this, I would recommend taking some time to consider what’s being said here rather than trying to respond or defend yourself — think about it with an open mind, because at a minimum you’re coming across differently than you realize you’re coming across, and that’s an important piece of knowledge to have about yourself.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            “So you think it’s unreasonable to think that an excuse like “my laptop crashed last week I lost all my calendar appointments.” (coming from a Director of Operations) is a lie???!!!!!!”

            I think unreasonable to automatically assume it’s a lie. It does happen and not every company has a hard drive backup/recovery program in place. Some employees, especially higher-ups, store everything on their laptop and never back it up. In addition, someone who is higher up in the chain usually has a very full, complex schedule and that’s tough to rebuild if it wasn’t backed up.

            If the Director of Operations has a history of lying and blowing people off, then I could see why you’d think he’s lying. But, if you have no past interaction with him, or he has a good track record, why assume he’s lying?

            1. chachacha*

              I guess I’m just not understanding how someone who set up a meeting in Outlook wouldn’t be able to recover that information in a timely manner if their laptop crashed.

              1. Jamie*

                It depends if they are running off an Exchange server or if they have it set up locally.

                If it’s local then it’s entirely plausible.

                Even if he wasn’t being truthful, the best thing to do would have been to be understanding of the missed meeting and pleasant as you asked to reschedule as he caught up.

                You may be 100% justified in how angry you are and how awful your boss is. But it doesn’t matter how right you are, if your delivery is so off-putting that you won’t be heard, or taken seriously if you are.

                I can feel your anger emanating off your comments – if even a fraction of this hostility is evident when you are trying to make a case with HR and the Director of Operations you are hurting your credibility.

                You want to create a tone in which they want your input because it’s just reasonable people discussing a problem so there can be a resolution. People shy away from discussions when one party is already combative, because those discussions tend to be a waste of time.

                The more open, professional, and calm your interactions with them are the better chance you have of being heard.

                1. chachacha*

                  Jamie: Thanks for your input. I don’t know enough about computers to know about the local or exchange thingie so I was trying to get some input on whether I was jumping to conclusions. It just didn’t seem plausible to me that someone that high up would have everything come to a screeching halt for a week because their laptop crashed. Thanks again, I appreciate it.

                2. Jamie*

                  Actually the higher up someone is the more likely this kind of thing could happen.

                  ITs are human, too (almost always) – sometimes the rules which are enforced with an iron fist on everyone else are relaxed and (certainly violations not written up) for people at the top of the org chart.

                  It’s not right and I, of course, have never once been swayed by office politics so I can’t say I understand it …but it happens among the humans…from what I hear. :)

                3. The Other Dawn*

                  Actually if my computer at HOME crashed, everything would come to a screeching halt, even though there’s not any work-related information or a schedule on it. If it happened to my work computer, I’d be dead in the water until I could build another hard drive and get back into the network.

                  Jaime’s completely right. These things are much more likely with people higher up the ladder. While we underlings must always make sure we save our work on the network and not bring it home, the CEO with the laptop is usually saving all sorts of important work-related info on his laptop, it’s not always backed up, and he’s taking it home with him.

                4. chachacha*

                  Jamie and The Other Dawn THANK YOU for all your input, really appreciate it. I was totally ignorant on the whole laptop/network thing, so I can quit assuming he was just giving an excuse, which helps a lot!!!

                5. khilde*

                  chachacha – to your last point made at 2:39pm. So it’s good that you accept Dawn’s & Jamie’s explanation of the calendar problem. But you said something that jumped out at me: so I can quit assuming he was just giving an excuse.

                  See, that might be part of the problem. That you were assuming he was a lying scumbag. I can imagine that past experiences with the people in your workplace have scarred you enough that your natural reaction is to just assume they have negative intentions. However, that tendency to assume the worst about their motives is not going to help you as you move forward with this issue.

                  If you reflect on your conversations and thought processes about these people, then you might realize that you’re already assigning intent to their actions. If you have already decided that they are lying, how will they ever prove to you that they are not?

              2. Laura M.*

                I can understand perfectly why your boss wouldn’t want to be stuck in a meeting with you. lol. If you’re not the entire problem; you are some of it. It takes two to tango, chachacha. Your boss clearly isn’t blameless but just your posts here show me that you’re high maintenance.

              3. Laura*


                It may be a lie, but what does it matter? You put him on the spot by calling out the fact that he missed the meeting/didn’t plan to reschedule. What did you expect him to say? He was on the defensive and made an excuse. You sort of forced him into it by calling him out. I also dont’ think you should ever call our a superior.

                Lets assume he IS lying about outlook. That means he is avoiding your requests for appointments AND is lying. He is a Director and you are not. You have very limited options and almost all signs point to “suck it up an deal with it.” (or find another job, but I hate when people suggest this, because you are right, that isn’t realistic in this economy).

                1. chachacha*

                  my ignorance of computers lead me to jump to the conclusion that he was not being honest. I don’t know anything about laptops, so I just assumed that if he made the appointment in Outlook and his laptop “crashed” that he would just go to another computer in the office and log in to the system and go from there…..not let his entire schedule/meetings, etc to come to a screeching halt for a week. It also confused me that it would take an entire week for him to get a replacement. I mean he is the Director. At other companies (I’ve worked at) it would have taken maybe a day.
                  But from what I’ve learned here I was possibly mistaken….something about Exchange server or local.

                  At any rate, when I didn’t hear from the woman in HR and I contacted the Director and asked for 1/2 hour of his time and he agreed then didn’t keep the meeting and didn’t respond to an email about rescheduling I wasn’t going to just let it go by. I wasn’t raised to not speak up for myself….no one else is going to do it.

                  What most people who are responding (very rudely some of you) don’t seem to have read is that this is not about complaining! I want to request a transfer, and discuss issues like why my co-worker and I weren’t told we were intitled to transportation reimbursement, when everyone else has been told that, and not only that, when I asked about it I was told twice that they didn’t offer it. So, you see it’s not about “complaining” I just happen to feel that I don’t deserve to work my hiney off just to be yelled at by a boss who can’t control his temper, it’s unacceptable behavior in my opinion

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  No one responding to you has been rude. People have been pointing out that you’re coming across rudely here, and thus might be doing that at work without realizing it. Please pay attention to this — people are trying to help you and I get the sense that you’re not processing that part of what people are saying.

                  “I just happen to feel that I don’t deserve to work my hiney off just to be yelled at by a boss who can’t control his temper, it’s unacceptable behavior in my opinion.”

                  But your company might be totally fine with it (even though they shouldn’t be). You can’t force them to care. If they tell you (explicitly or implicitly) that it’s not something they’re going to address and you keep pushing anyway, not only will you probably not get the transfer you want, but you could be out of a job altogether, because you’ll be seen as a pain in the ass. It sounds like you’re operating as if you’re entitled to be a pain in the ass because they’re not being fair with you — but nothing requires them to be fair with you, and nothing requires them to tolerate you being a pain in the ass, no matter how justified you might be. They can just fire you. And that’s a frequently response in situations like that.

                  You need to change the way you’re approaching this in order to maximize your chances of getting the outcome you want.

                3. Jaime*

                  “…..not let his entire schedule/meetings, etc to come to a screeching halt for a week.”

                  Actually, considering that he’s a director and you are not, it could just be that he prioritized his schedule as he rebuilt it. It’s certainly possible that he had an especially full schedule that week, or lots of client meetings (or whatever else might be considered more important than a 30 min meeting with a subordinate) … so in the process of rebuilding these items that might materially affect the bottomline your meeting may have been forgotten or pushed back. Since his next week might have been just as busy, he might have been waiting till he could get back to you with a concrete time rather than something tentative. If he was doing that, then it’s also possible it was just forgotten. When you confronted him about it, I imagine he would not want you to feel marginalized by explaining he forgot about you, so just gave you a bare bones explanation. An explanation you were not even entitled to frankly. He could have simply said “couldn’t make it, haven’t had time to reschedule yet” and left it at that.

                  I could easily think of 10 reasons why he wasn’t lying, but still didn’t meet his meeting with you without even half trying. However, it is much more difficult to do so when you are in the middle of the situation, with all of its accompanying high emotions.

                4. Anonymous*

                  chachacha –

                  Reread what you wrote:
                  What most people who are responding (very rudely some of you) don’t seem to have read is that this is not about complaining! I want to request a transfer, and discuss issues like why my co-worker and I weren’t told we were intitled to transportation reimbursement, when everyone else has been told that, and not only that, when I asked about it I was told twice that they didn’t offer it. So, you see it’s not about “complaining” I just happen to feel that I don’t deserve to work my hiney off just to be yelled at by a boss who can’t control his temper, it’s unacceptable behavior in my opinion [sic]

                  Those are complaints, particularly when you want to mention that your boss has a temper in which he yells at you. That’s why you want to transfer.

                  Regardless of any of that now, you may want to take a look as to why your boss has this temper. Are you as reactive in the workplace as you have been here? If someone is not with you, are they deemed to be automatically against you, just like how you are calling people rude here? If, after reflection, your answers are “Yes” to these questions, then you need to change your behavior. You cannot change other people’s behavior, but you can change your own. And I think we are getting a pretty decent picture of how you really are, and I think you need to reflect and change.

          3. Katie*

            I think I’m beginning to understand why your boss screamed “I can’t take this anymore” at you in a phone conversation.

            1. Ellen M.*

              C’mon, it is not OK for the boss to be screaming such a thing (or anything else!) at an employee. If that is happening, it IS wrong and SHOULD be reported.

              This victim-blaming is getting just a little bit out of hand here, IMO.

              It sounds to me like the OP is being abused by her boss, is reporting the abuse to the higher ups and is being blown off because they don’t want to be bothered with it. And she’s very frustrated, which is perfectly understandable. Imagine if that were happening to you, or to a loved one of yours.

              Perhaps her reporting of what’s going on will get some result, if so, maybe it will be a result favorable to her, maybe not. Yes, it is in her best interests to keep her cool and not be hostile when communicating about this at work.

              Regardless of the outcome she’d likely be much better off and happier in another job, and I hope she is actively looking.

              Attacking someone for being upset in a situation where it is normal to be upset is unfair.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, being yelled at sucks. (Of course, the OP was doing the Internet-equivalent of yelling here, with the all-caps.) But being yelled at sucks. No one has disputed that.

                But she’s not being attacked for being upset. She’s being criticized for refusing to acknowledge that it seems like she is playing a role in the dynamic between her and her employer, and for being combative with people here.

                Only a small portion of question-askers on this site get heavy criticism, and when it happens it’s pretty much always because they’re being defensive and refusing to listen to people’s input. A question-asker who just wants validation of their existing viewpoint and isn’t open to other feedback shouldn’t expect kid glove treatment.

              2. chachacha*

                Ellen, once again, thank you, I appreciate it. I was starting to feel a little weird about all this. I felt like it got to a point where there was a “gang up on” vibe going on.
                I am updating my resume and will have to start looking, you’re right, I will be much happier elsewhere!

                1. Anonymous*

                  @Chachacha – No one is ganging up on you. We have been trying very hard to get you see a different perspective on what is happening in your workplace through the words you used in writing to Alison and all subsequent posts. Your boss has no right to yell at anyone, but from what we are seeing here, it seems like you assume the worst out of everything and are very quick to go to the next person when you do not get way on things. You have called the Director of Operations a liar because you assumed how he took care of his calendar only to admit afterwards you do not completely understand computers. You only went to him after the HR rep didn’t answer your email, and you had only written her once. You need to remove yourself from the situation mentally for a few minutes and review all that has gone on. Do you regret any decision you have made that might have aggravated the problem? That question doesn’t put you in the wrong, but in the end, you want to come out as the one who did everything right.

                  But you are not doing that. I understand where Ellen is coming from, and by no means are we blaming the victim for this entire mess. But what you two need to understand is that we are getting only 1 side of the whole situation. If we were to call up your boss, he’d give us a story, possibly the same, possibly different, but either way there will be some variation. He might tell us something you are omitting or he might be lying himself. Who knows? We don’t, but from the clues you leave us and the way you write, it can be quite possible you are exacerbating the problem without realizing it.

                  And of course, your choice of answering Ellen (no offense to Ellen as she does have a good comment) shows that you have found someone who has taken your viewpoint and you deemed everyone else “rude and pointless” because they might be trying to point something out to you that you don’t want to know about or refuse to acknowledge. We can’t force you to acknowledge it either, but maybe someday you will.

                  One more thing, then I am truly finished with this particular post – If you flip through in this blog back to mid-May, you will find a post about a mother who wants to return to work. The comments point out to her that she just needed to readjust her approach to the situation. While she took it hard at first, she did come around and I believe she is now in the process of taking Alison’s advice to better her career opportunities. As an outsider, if you read through that, you might then see what we have been trying to tell you. We have been polite, and we do have a valid point to make.

                  With that, I wish you the best. Let us know what happens.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  I think that’s a good idea, to start looking. If you’re not happy, it WILL show, no matter how hard you work.

                  I glean from your posts that you are at the end of your patience with them. Believe me, I know how you feel. All my attempts at trying to get feedback on issues only got me culled when it was time for layoffs. And there are horrible, incompetent managers at my exjob who are still there, throwing their weight around and treating everyone like dog poo.

                  You’re better off leaving on your own terms than having to deal with sudden unemployment. I learned the hard way; no one gave a rat’s patootie, even if those issues affected customer service, which they did. Next time, I’ll politely try, but then if there are no results, I’ll just keep my head down, do my work and start sending out resumes.

                  Take a deep breath, blow it out slowly. Remember, you are not in the least responsible for what they do, only your reaction to it. They can’t frustrate you if you don’t let them.

          4. Anonymous*

            I don’t know if your Director of Operations in lying, and unless I knew for certain that his laptop crashed, I wouldn’t be going around calling him a liar.

            At first, I thought maybe there was something wrong with the company, but now I am starting to see the company as not the sole perpetrator. And now I finally understand why the boss says he can’t take it anymore.

            1. chachacha*

              “going around calling him a liar.” you mean on a website? I don’t understand.

              1. Anonymous*

                “going around calling him a liar.” you mean on a website? I don’t understand. [sic]

                What is there not to understand? It’s harsh to call someone a liar when you are assuming and not knowing the truth. And yes, believe it or not, a website is reality. Luckily you haven’t mentioned names, but if you did and he found out, you wouldn’t be going to work tomorrow.

                Please take a huge step back and take a look at yourself in the situations in work. You are obviously digging yourself a hole and you will be in way over your head before you finally wake up. Do so now before you on that high unemployment line.

              2. chachacha*

                Elizabeth, thanks I appreciate it, you are 100% right on “you are not in the least responsible for what they do, only your reaction to it. They can’t frustrate you if you don’t let them.”

                1. Anonymous*

                  This would explain why you call some comments on here rude and you avoid constructive criticism at all costs.

      2. Vicki*

        I’m beginning to think that the reason no one wants to hear your complaints about this guy is that they already have had an earful and for whatever reason, don’t intend to do anything.

        You need to start looking for another job.

        1. chachacha*

          I’ve spoken to one person in HR about my boss. He was demanding a reason for why I was late to work. I said I was running late and he said “But what’s the reason” and I said it was personal. he said he would write me up if I didn’t tell him a REASON. This made me uncomfortable because it was a feminine personal reason so I called the woman in HR to cover myself and explain I felt uncomfortable talking to him about it. She said you don’t have to give a reason, and he can’t write you up, just call as soon as you know you’re going to be late. So no one has heard an earful.

          1. moe*

            This is oddly confrontational, too, though, and I’m surprised you needed an HR person to explain that you need to call ahead if you’re going to be late. It’s totally reasonable for your boss to want to know why you’re late, in fact it’s quite humane to give you a chance to explain your lateness instead of just writing you up off the bat.

            Are you in the habit of going over your boss’s head for every little thing? I am confused why you would involve HR in this and not at all surprised the relationship has broken down if you’re in the habit of publicly questioning his authority this way.

            And it’s none of my business either, but I can’t imagine a “feminine personal thing” that would make me late to work instead of just calling in sick for a full or half day, unless I just failed to plan properly or was looking for an excuse. This sounds like a scenario that would happen in junior high, to be frank. You don’t get to evade responsibility by playing the female card.

            1. Jamie*

              You know how to cure a male boss of asking for details for personal things? Give them the details once – they won’t ask again.

              Kidding – it would work but I don’t advocate that.

              And as a PSA here’s a tip for male bosses:
              Rule #1: When a female employee takes an approved PTO day, which she had on the books, to go to a doctors appointment don’t ask what kind of doctor.

              Rule #2: If you stupidly violate rule one and she politely tells you that it’s personal, don’t smile knowingly and say “ooooh…one of THOSE doctors!”

              Rule #3: If you are so inept that you’ve violated both one and two don’t ask if there is something wrong or if it’s a routine appointment and think this makes you BFF and segue into a conversation about various types of birth control and how women feel about their gynecologists.

              I’m not saying this has ever happened to me – but trust me – bosses like this are out there and if you’re one of them knock it off!

              1. chachacha*

                Jamie…HA!! I actually contemplated that for a split second but it was just too embarrassing!

              2. mh_76*

                or you could just tell him that you had food poisioning and that the problem has resolved itself – it has happened that (for example) I’d have something for dinner that bothered me and it took until the next morning to fully resolve itself. I won’t go into details about that part. Or you could tell him the truth – if he lives with a woman or has a sister who is close in age, he’ll understand (and blush a bit).

                1. chachacha*

                  UH, that would be the day they ordered in pizza for everyone and I’d have to pass!!!! Not a fan of lying.

                2. Anonymous*

                  “tell him that you had food poisioning and that the problem”

                  Don’t ever lie. A key rule in life.

                3. mh_76*

                  so, in your opinion, that boss would rather hear the words “menstrual cramps” or “insanely heavy period”? Should that truth be followed with a textbook explanation of anatomy and cause/effect?

                  I generally do agree with “Don’t ever lie” but sometimes you do have to tell the occasional tall tale that can’t be disproven – the boss has no way to prove that she didn’t have mild to moderate food poisoning.

              3. Anonymous*

                Jamie, I love your sense of humor. I laughed and laughed about the doctor part. Thank you, I really needed a good laugh today.

                1. chachacha*

                  mh_76 “Should that truth be followed with a textbook explanation of anatomy and cause/effect?”…….Is that a snippy comment?
                  I’m not the kind of person that’s going to lie about why I’m running late, it just snowballs and puts you in an awkward position. No my boss wouldn’t have any way to prove if I did or didn’t have food poisoning, but then I’d have to fake (like I said, that would be the day they’d order in lunch for everyone and I’d have to pass, etc.) that I just got over food poisoning, people would ask how I was feeling, more lies. It’s never a good idea.

                2. mh_76*

                  I agree with what everyone else is saying in their replies to your comments. Your reply is the very epitome of “a snippy comment”.

            2. chachacha*

              Moe ….??????? Didn’t need an HR perosn to explain that I need to call when I’m late. My boss threatened to write me up for not giving him the reason I was late. I didn’t want to be written up, but I also didn’t want to go into details with him, so I called the woman in HR to explain why I was uncomfortable with him pressing me about something I didn’t want to go into with a male boss. Like I said in my post she agreed and actually told me he shouldn’t have pressed me for a reason and it didn’t warrant being written up, that all I needed to do was let him know I was going to be running late, which I did.

            3. jmkenrick*

              Moe – I agree that she seems a bit oddly confrontational, but let’s not jump to conclusions about whatever was making her late to work.

              “Feminine personal thing” could cover a variety of issues.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                LOL the male bosses I’ve had would, if I said “feminine personal thing,” reply immediately with “Okay, I don’t want to know any more. Just go to your desk!”


      3. Ellen M.*

        What the OP who is being blown off is describing is very common. She may continue to get blown off and/or suffer consequences from reporting a problem at this dysfunctional and toxic workplace, but that doesn’t mean she is doing something wrong herself – and whether she is or not, the higher-ups are defintiely doing wrong (screaming at an employee and ignoring reports of serious problems, for starters). Victim-blaming is part of the problem in cases like these and makes good honest employees even less likely to speak up when they are being mistreated.

        One the one hand, people are encouraged (on this site and elsewhere) to report it if a supervisor is abusive or other things are going on that negatively affect the workplace and work, but in the next breath are told, “If you report something and don’t get a response, or expect a response, then you are a troublemaker”! Wha?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No. I’ve kept pointing out that the manager is in the wrong — you don’t scream at people. If there’s a problem, you address the problem. However, what I and others are saying is that the OP appears to be part of the problem herself too, based on her posts here.

          And actually, I don’t think I’ve ever given a blanket “you should report problems to someone higher up,” except in the cases of illegal harassment and discrimination. Whether or not to report higher up depends on (a) the issue and (b) what type of people are above you and their demonstrated interest in hearing about and dealing with issues. In fact, I’ve written about that here:

        2. chachacha*

          Thanks Ellen I appreciate your response. It’s hard to go into extreme details about all the B.S., but I’m glad you got it. I was starting to wonder about some of the rude comments here.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No one here has been rude to you; to the contrary, some of your responses have been rude. I’ve asked you before to drop the hostility when you post here; this is the last time I’m requesting it.

            I’m not hosting this site as a way for people to simply validate what they want to hear; that’s not what it’s here for. If you’re not open to feedback, there’s no point in continuing a discussion about your situation.

            1. chachacha*

              In my opinion “I’m beginning to think that the reason no one wants to hear your complaints about this guy is that they already have had an earful” and “I can understand perfectly why your boss wouldn’t want to be stuck in a meeting with you. lol.” and ” think I’m beginning to understand why your boss screamed “I can’t take this anymore” at you in a phone conversation.” are rude and pointless.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                They’re blunt, absolutely. But they’re making a point (that others have made as well, more diplomatically) that doesn’t seem to be registering.

                1. Laura M.*

                  lol. Chachacha, you’re not really getting it. Most of the commentators, myself included, aren’t trying to be confrontational. However, IMO a lot of your posts here could be considered confrontational. If your internet persona is anything to go by, and you are confrontational in person, it may be that your boss isn’t the only person to blame. If you don’t think you’re being confrontational, that’s probably part of the problem because you aren’t recognizing what others see and hear when you present your thoughts and ideas.

              2. Anonymous*

                “I’m beginning to understand why your boss screamed, ‘I can’t take this anymore’ at you in a phone conversation.”

                Think about how you are reacting here. You feel as if people don’t understand your situation, and people are being “rude and pointless.” Am I correct? If so, then think about the conversations you have had with your boss when the end result was him screaming at you and hanging up. Did you feel as if your boss didn’t understand you and that he was being “rude and pointless?” If yes, then I have one more question for you. Between these two scenarios, what is the common factor? If you answered, “I, the OP, am the common factor,” then perhaps there is a problem festering with the way you behave and the way you react. This by no means condones your bosses outbursts, but you might be adding fuel to a fire. And furthermore, going over people’s heads when you don’t get a response you like or one at all, doesn’t go over all too well with people. Follow up with whom you are reaching out to before reporting him/her to their boss.

                If you continue to refuse to reflect on yourself in the light of how others, total strangers, on here have seen you via your posts, then I wash my hands of this. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

                1. K Too*

                  OP is starting to remind me of the Southern mom and nice lady who had issues with constructive criticism.

                  ChaCha do take a step back and look at how you are coming across. I don’t doubt that what you are going through is frustrating, but I’m willing to bet that your reactions and tone in certain situations is the main issue b/t you and the higher ups.

                2. Anonymous*

                  @K Too

                  That exact thought crossed my mind earlier. Maybe this particular OP should go back and read that post and answers. Sometimes, you need to be outside of the situation in order to see it properly.

                3. Anonymous*

                  Hi. This is the Southern mom talking. Yes, I can completely relate to this poster. I got my feelings hurt a lot here, but I really do believe and appreciate a lot of the advice I received. When I was in the moment, I think my confidence was really down and I already knew how stupid I looked. You don’t know how much now I really appreciate the things you told me. I believe most of the people were trying to help me. I especially believe Alison was. I really believe in a way Alison was trying to throw me a life jacket. Maybe, this poster is like me. We just feel so embarrassed. When you are over 45 and starting over, you already feel embarrassed that you are doing things the wrong way. Maybe, this poster will see some of this too.

                4. chachacha*

                  I guess theres no other way to respond to all this than to go into detail about one of the incidences where he started to scream. The receptionist is late…everyday. So the Partner complained to my boss. Boss sent out an email to receptionist and me (I relieve) saying you have to be on time. I said I could just go to reception every morning automatically and open up till receptionist gets there (trains are always late) Boss said No, only on occasions when he’s late. We’ll notify you. I never heard from anyone that he’d be late after that. A month later big bru-ha-ha about receptionist being late everyday, why wasn’t it being taken care of. My boss repremands me, and I remind him of my suggestion, that it wasn’t approved and that no one had notified me of receptionist being late. He says he doesn’t understand why I didn’t just do it. I said because you specifically told me not to. This is when he starts to raise his voice and get huffy. He says why can’t I just “step outside myself” and realize what needs to be done, you’re smart figure it out blah blah. This totally confuses me, so again I said “why would I do something you told me not to, I made a suggestion on how to fix the problem and was told no” This is when he lost it and screamed “I’m not your child don’t talk to me like a child” The whole thing was so bizarre. So after all that nonsense it’s decided that I’d go to the front every day automatically…..my original suggestion. The way I looked at it, he lost his mind because I made a suggestion to fix a problem, he nixed it, his solution didn’t work and he got reemed for it. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong but his reaction and the whole thing about not being a child was just off the hook

      4. TMM*

        I just caught up on yesterday’s conversation.The other posters have done an excellent job of pointing out what I meant so no need for me to reiterate it. Good luck to you.

    3. nyxalinth*

      I’m not sure how the kind of culture that involves getting screamed at is right for anyone, really.

  4. TMM*

    omg, Alison, I can’t believe I spelled your name wrong – not once, but twice. argh. My apologies. I hate it when people spell my name wrong (which happens all the time) so I feel particularly sheepish to have done this myself.

  5. Anonymous*

    #5 – At my workplace, we pay about 50% of an employee’s salary for health benefits. This is true regardless of actual salary , from the $20K bottom rung employees up to the $350K top level managers. I hope that most other places don’t do it that way, because it seems illogical to me, but it apparently works for them. If you opt out and ask for a raise in place of your health benefit, it will not be anywhere near that much.

    I would suggest that you look at the private market for health benefits to get some reasonable numbers for your raise request. Basic health coverage ranges from roughly $3k to $13K, depending on the state, the deductible, and whether it is family or single person care. My guess is that $10K is the very high end of what you could expect for a raise, while $5k is in the middle and $2k is near the bottom.

    Vision costs are usually about $500 per pair of glasses per year – dunno what the insurance cost would be, as I just buy my own glasses. Dental coverage will be in the ballpark of $500 per year as well, so combined you might be able to argue for another $1K on your raise.

    One last consideration. The Supreme Court will rule on Obamacare very soon – before the end of June, according to the pundits. You may want to take that into account when you make your negotiation. Regardless of what they decide, the healthcare market will change dramatically after that decision comes out. I’m not well-versed enough in health economics and health law to make decent predictions about what will happen, but it’s very much something you should think about as you go into this discussion. If you start the discussion after the ruling comes out, your employer might respond very differently than if you bring it up today.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wait, your employer pays 50% of an employee salary toward that person’s health insurance premium? That can’t be right? No health insurance annual premium costs, says, $100K (for someone earning $200K).

      1. Jamie*

        Could it be that your employer pays 50% of the premium, regardless of plan?

        Because health premiums don’t have a direct correlation to salary like that.

        The only insurance which has a direct correlation to salary is employer based life insurance. In that case I can see it being 50% of salary – although I’ve usually seen it as a 100% up to a certain cut-off.

        1. Anonymous*

          If you think that’s bad, in the USA with my union, I can’t have their health insurance and another. I came into the job having my own basic healthcare so I can at least be covered for when I get sick. But I can’t take any of theirs unless I drop mine completely. And mine is much better than what they’ll give (they only will pay up to $300 in prescriptions with a $2 copay so if you’re on a ton of medication, or even just BC, forget it by midway of the year). Plus, I already know the doctors I have are covered, but if I were to switch to the union’s, then I would have to switch doctors.

            1. Anonymous*

              Perhaps, but it still sucks that I have to pay union dues and their insurance isn’t the better deal for me.

                1. Anonymous*

                  Would you happen to know of a blog like yours and Suzanne’s “Evil HR Lady’s” that answers questions regarding them and that you would recommend to read?

                2. AD*

                  Wait, what? Providing health insurance is NOT the primary function of a union, and I’d be shocked if that’s really where her dues go.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, the dues would cover lots of other things; I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. But if they also cover health insurance premiums that she’s not using and she can’t opt out, that sucks.

      2. Anonymous*

        That’s right. It’s a University, and we have very tiered health benefits that are supported by the very tiered health care costs. Apparently, this system works out in aggregate to somehow pay for health care costs. I was astonished and horrified when I found this out, so I asked lots of follow up questions and looked into it as much as I can. My healthcare, like my salary, is on the very low end and it is certainly not worth 50% of my salary. The fellow who told me about our system had no real motivation to lie about it and was certainly high-ranking enough to know how it works, and has hired many employees. He said that the university also gets another 50% of your salary from your department to provide you with business infrastructure: power, telephone service, internet service, office space, payroll services, and so on.

        So, in the end, hiring someone costs about 200% of their actual salary annually. As you can imagine, this puts a pretty heavy damper on hiring, even when we have extreme backlogs of work that would benefit the university.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, okay. They’re not actually paying 50% of that employee’s salary to the health insurance company. They’re looking at the total cost of an employee to the university. That makes sense.

      3. Anonymous*

        I basically blurted out the same thing about paying $100K for someone’s insurance. I had a less charitable remark about solid gold ambulances as well, though.

        This info was in a project management class run by one of our lab’s directors of operations, and backed up by the few payroll figures that I have access to through friends (more on the $50K level than the crazy high end salaries).

        He said they use the “extra” money from managers to pay for better healthcare for the normal staff, and that it worked out as long as departments had a certain manager-staff ratio. I can’t really fathom how it works out after trying to run the numbers myself. I suspect our university overpays substantially for health insurance, and someone somewhere is getting a lovely kickback for it.

        1. Jamie*

          “I suspect our university overpays substantially for health insurance”

          I’d make book on it. This is one of those situations where I always wonder: stupid or evil?

          Not you – whoever cut this very sweet deal with the devil.

    2. JLH*

      Be prepared to show proof that you already have health insurance before asking to drop the new job’s coverage in exchange for a higher wage. I’ve heard of companies not letting you do this without proof you have insurance somewhere else.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — typically the company’s contract with their health insurance provider requires that. The provider doesn’t want all the young, healthy people deciding they don’t want to pay for insurance because they don’t think they’ll need it, leaving the provider with only the (probably) more expensive people on the insurance — the idea is that if everyone’s required to have insurance, the costs will balance out.

    3. OP #5*

      Thanks for your thoughts on this. I have awesome insurance through my husband, so no problem with showing proof of insurance. When I was a contractor, I paid for my own insurance and it was about $300/month–but I was getting screwed based on Blue Sheild trumping up a minor and common “preexisting condition.”

    4. Diane*

      I bet the employer contribution is 50% for ALL fringe benefits and taxes, including Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, health, vision, and dental, and retirement–which comprises a large portion of the benefit package at my employer. As others said, it’s not possible it’s 50% for insurance only.

  6. ChristineH*

    #1 – I’d definitely double-check to make sure you’re truly not getting reimbursed for the items. And frankly, I’d be concerned about budget issues; I’ve never heard of an employer asking employees to pay for their own supplies…it just seems like such a basic thing to me.

    1. Jamie*

      Even if they were reimbursing, this is very strange.

      I am assuming the OP is working in the office, and not a remote worker…in which case it wouldn’t be strange at all to have them make the purchases and be reimbursed.

      I definitely wouldn’t want to work in an office where I’d feel guilty asking to borrow a post-it note because they are privately owned.

      1. MaryTerry*

        Can you imagine the theft that would go on if all the office supplies were privately owned? Just remember the boss who stole people’s food… it would be so much worse!

            1. Jamie*

              Ha – what they save in money from paper clips will have to go into an on-site CSI lab.

    2. Marie*

      I find it very weird if it is in an office too. It’s reasonable to expect basic supplies to be managed by the company (binders, post-it, clips…) if the employee wants tu use fancy post-it notes, then yes they should buy it.

      My company usually buys everything for every one, but for those who have no office (ex. sales rep), they have an expense account that they use for various reasons, one of them is for office supplies.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I find it strange also. Our company buys the standard supplies (yellow Post-its, blue Bic pens, etc.), but if someone wants a super-fancy pen or the florescent Post-its, we buy it ourselves. And I admit I am extremely protective of my super-fancy pens and florescent Post-its. And I love the big Post-its that have lines like a notepad.

      1. Anonymous*

        “And I love the big Post-its that have lines like a notepad.” – Best invention ever!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Seriously. What I love even more are the bold colors. Yes, I’m an office supply geek.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Please keep in mind that we learned in the comments on the recent post about working from home that some people use post-its on their foreheads to prevent wrinkling.

            1. Jennifer O*

              I must have missed that one. What post was it? How do post-it’s prevent wrinkling?

    4. Heather*

      It’s completely bizarre. Office supplies are a business expense. The cost of doing business. Not an employee expense. Employees are expected to spend money on clothes and food and transportation. Not post-its.


      1. Stephanie*

        Actually, I had to buy office supplies at my old job (a federal agency). We were completely fee-funded; back during the depths of the recession, we got fewer fees, and office supplies was one of the first things that went. I had a friend who loathed his job and started stealing pens for me (partially to help me, but I suspect it was a small act of rebellion on his part.)

    5. A Bug!*

      I can’t help but wonder if there was a simple miscommunication, and that the asker’s workplace is set up so that they don’t have backup supplies kept on inventory, but rather just have all the employees individually order from their supplier what they need, which is then billed to the company by that supplier.

      There are a lot of suppliers which offer free next-day delivery locally, so it might be more cost-effective than having someone in the office spend time managing the supplies.

      Asker should definitely get some clarification one way or the other, though!

    6. Elizabeth West*

      It sounds weird to me, too, especially when the OP called it a “major company.” Every company I’ve ever worked for had office supplies. I know, because it was usually my job to order them. Even when my exjob was bought out by a major global conglomerate, we still did not make people buy their own supplies!

      1. Suz*

        I agree this is weird but one of my previous employers did the same thing. If you weren’t a manager or higher, you had to bring your own pens from home. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Worst job I ever had.

  7. Anonymous*

    #6 – Follow Alison’s advice.

    I was in a similar position and was not the only staff member to take concerns to HR and my boss’ bosses. Even with documented (mostly emails) evidence of my boss’ disrespect for the organization, inattention and lack of attendance at important meetings, and lack of professional knowledge, nobody cared.

    Though I generally liked my actual work, I left that workplace. I’ve kept in touch with a couple of colleagues and heard that nothing has changed.

    1. chachacha*

      That is just…sad, but unfortunately I think it’s common, the nobody cares, nothing ever changes thing. I think I just need to realize that I’m SO much better than this and start looking instead of trying to find a solution. I know my value and I deserve better!!!

      1. Editor*

        A word of advice about office email courtesy — avoid exclamation marks, and if you do use them, use only one.

        People know it’s a crisis if an email announces that the first-floor women’s room is flooded and won’t reopen until maintenance gets it fixed. Even if the office pool wins the Powerball drawing, people can tell from the news that it is exciting. Exclamation marks aren’t generally needed in business writing.

        “I know my value and I deserve better.” is a nice, assertive statement that stands on its own.

        “I know my value and I deserve better!!!” looks like you were stamping your foot and adding “so there” while you typed it.

        Be restrained with punctuation. It’s part of your office “voice.”

        And always, always, when you email someone at a higher level, hold the email a few minutes and reread every word, editing the sentences to make what you’ve written clearer, shorter and more polite. Never send an email to someone of much higher rank in your company without giving the email a revision — walk to the water cooler or the break room or something before you look at it again; hold it for hours or a day if you can; and if you work from home, do a couple of jumping jacks or pushups or something before you revise and hit send.

        1. K.*

          I used to work with a woman who punctuated every sentence of her emails with an exclamation point, even questions (like this: ?!) It was incredibly jarring. Didn’t matter what the topic was: paperwork, my grandmother’s death, a work event, whatever. She was a lovely person, but reading her emails gave me agita.

        2. chachacha*

          I would never in a million years send an email with exclamation points to a superior. This whole thing is just spinning out of control on this board

  8. Anonymous*

    #3 is rapidly becoming a pet peeve of mine. How many rude recruiters can there be? I had one contact me to schedule a phone interview last week. I responded within a few hours and never heard back from her. She didn’t respond to the follow up I sent a few days later either. Even a simple “Thanks, but we’re pursuing someone else” is better than leaving me wondering if my emails are going to her spam folder. I wish there was a site where we could rate recruiters and out the ones that do nothing to enhance the reputations of the employers they represent. Because I think that’s really a problem.

    1. Jamie*

      There should be a yelp type site for recruiters – and if there is someone please tell me.

      I just met with a recruiter this am (just as a networking thing for a possible project I need to outsource down the road…not for myself) and she seemed great – but I’d love to know how they are rated when it comes to treating their talent.

      1. Stephanie*

        There is Glassdoor. You probably can’t write it for individual recruiters, but you could write a review of a particular recruiting company (or any company, really).

      2. chachacha*

        I’ve personally seen recruiters that I’ve dealt with critiqued on YELP, you just type in the company name, like “Robert Half Legal” and you should be able to see specific reviews about specific recruiters.

      3. K.*

        I’ve reviewed two recruiters on Yelp (one favorably, one not) itself and I know I’m not the only one. Just plug in a recruiter’s name for the Yelp in your city – that’s a start, at least. There are also company reviews on Indeed.com, so you could look there.

    2. mh_76*

      #3 – AAM is right. I would add: don’t chase recruiters who don’t return a call or an email because it’s just not worth the headache. I don’t know where you are (city/small town/etc.) but I am in a large city with thousands of recruiters & agencies and figure that it’s best to move on. I don’t consider it “burning a bridge” because if your calls & emails weren’t returned, no bridge exitsed. As for the quality of recruiters, there are lots of bad ones and some good ones. Same for agencies. Within each agency, there are bad recruiters and good ones. It wasn’t anything that you did. That recruiter’s focus is solely on her client and not at all on the candidate, in her mind candidates are just a means to a commission. A good recruiter will place some focus on the candidate as well and an excellent recruiter will (ideally) find you work…or at least try. One of the best bullet-points on my resume was suggested by a recruiter (the position in question didn’t pan out but there was a phone screen…which is a good thing even though I didn’t get the job…that potential boss sounded like a jerk anyway).

      There should be a site like ratemyprofessors.com to rate the specific recruiters in addition to others mentioned in this thread. I read somewhere that, even though there are a few professional associations for recruters, there isn’t any industry-wide credentialling system or licensing board or oversight anything.

        1. Stephanie*

          This. I’ve had to fight against recruiters pushing me toward completely off-base positions.

        2. nyxalinth*

          I’m fine with that concept, as long as they don’t act like they’re jerking my chain, as in the scenarios below. At least tell me what’s going on, and don’t contact me to try to drum up business. :P

          1. mh_76*

            If you feel that they’re doing that, you can certainly ignore them. I don’t respond to every call or email that I get, especially the ones from out-of-area agencies/recruiters. There are plenty of both within the reach of public transit and a large handful within walking distance. If it looks sketchy, it probably is and is best marked as spam and ignored. I have a separate email address and a Google Voice number hooked up to my Monster account as a way to screen for spam. And with GV, I can block the out-of-area numbers so that I never have to hear from them again!

            1. nyxalinth*

              The thing is, the one that tried to resume farm em is a very legitimate agency, and has been around for ages! I had no reason to expect that they would do such a scummy thing. So they didn’t even remotely look sketchy, and they had good reviews.

              The one I mentioned from 2006 I don’t even know their name anymore, of if they still exist, so it’s just as well.

              I’m not a hard placement. Right now, I would take a job shovelling sand in the sahara if I could get it :D

              1. mh_76*

                Sad thing is that most recruiters/agencies consider you to be a “hard placement” if your background doesn’t exactly match the “requirements” for the jobs that they’re trying to fill at the moment in time that they contact you, even if you could do some/all of those jobs in your sleep.

              2. Anonymous*

                I understand your feeling right now. Looking for a job is weary. Nyxalinth, hang in there. Hope something great comes along soon.

        3. mh_76*

          That, they do.

          They’ve been very present part of my long job search and I’ve mostly figured out how to tell which ones are -solely- focused on their clients and which ones understand that candidates aren’t (well, shouldn’t be) just pawns in the pending transaction (filling a job) that is on their to-do list at present, that X candidate may not be a “fit” for Y position now but might be a possibility a future position that needs to be filled. Some agencies have recruiters who only work with candidates and account managers (or whatever title) who only work with clients and other agencies’ recruiters do both roles. I think there’s a parallel to be made with the real estate industry but need to think through the details a bit more.

      1. Anon2*

        ” I don’t consider it “burning a bridge” because if your calls & emails weren’t returned, no bridge exitsed.”

        Well said.

    3. nyxalinth*

      I’ve had similar happen since 2006. The first time, the woman absolutely insisted on emailing me the details for a job she was sending me to interview with, and when I told her “Could you tell me while I have you on the phone, just in case it gets lost in cyberspace?” “No, I’ll just email them to you.”

      So of course the email never showed. This was on a Thursday, and the interview was Monday. Friday, the weekend all came and went, and no email. On Friday I’d sent her a polite email telling her the details never arrived, which she ignored.

      Monday, still no email. No response to me calling, either. Finally I sent a tartly polite email saying “Hi, Emily, I was really looking forward to speaking with Client X today. Unfortunately, my attempts to obtain the interview information beyond the date and time went unaddressed by you, so I was unable to make it. Blah Blah polite closing blah blah.”

      She ignored that, too. I don’t know if this woman had suddenly decided I wasn’t a good fit during our conversation and didn’t want to be honest about it, or what. It wasn’t something that looking online could resolve, because they had multiple locations in the area, and only a corporate Contact Us number to call.

      Another occasion was just about two years ago. Interview went great, she said she’d forward me the website that the employer used for testing potential employees. The website was broken, so I emailed her to let her know. “Oh yes, they know, they’re working on it, I’ll get back to you on it.” So two days pass, and nothing, so I called. She’s out of the office for Thanksgiving, and no one else there can help. I emailed again a week later, and nothing, not even a “Go to hell” response.

      Here’s the good (sarcasm!) part. Back in February, this woman had the gall to email and ask me if I had any friends who would be interested in a customer service position, and would I have them send in their resumes?

      I told her “My friends are all currently employed, but I’d be happy to hear about any positions you have available.”

      No response. Yeah, same to you lady, and your horse, too.

      1. Anonymous*

        Yelp is fantastic when it comes to recruiters. It’s the first place I go when I’m contracted by a recruiter to see what their staffing agency ratings are. I usually take them with a grain of salt because a lot of them are negative, usually complaining about how X agency dragged them to meet with them and ended up not having any openings for their particular skill set. Usually it’s followed up with a statement like “I’m such a stellar candidate. I’ve got a PhD in rocket science and 50 years experience in splitting atoms, how dare they not consider me for an administrative assistant position!” (ok, slight exaggeration for effect, but the attitude is the same. :) )

        It truly makes me wonder how some people find jobs. I’ll read articles about surveys which state employers are having trouble finding skilled workers in this economy. Maybe the skills they speak of aren’t necessarily hard skills. If it’s candidates lacking soft skills–diplomacy, good interpersonal skills, etc. Interesting idea, I think.

        1. nyxalinth*

          Oops my reply above should have been to you! Yay for no coffee yet.

          The one in 2006 I didn’t think to check their reviews, so bad on me. I don’t even recall their name anymore, so it’s just as well.

          The second one, it was a well-established company that’s been around for years and had multiple offices in Chicago and Denver (where I am) so it never occurred to me that they’d try to resume farm me. Also, their online reviews were very good. I suspect a bad egg in an otherwise good nest, but I doubt I will use them again.

          1. Anonymous*

            I suspect a bad egg in an otherwise good nest, but I doubt I will use them again. Sounds like that was the case and good call.

            1. mh_76*

              (oops, forgot to type in my “name”…now to figure out how to get the “picture” to show up).

  9. Anonymous*

    #1. In very large companies, sometimes the managers are not always clear about how administrative stuff gets done. (In one instance, a manager told one of my coworkers that he had to pack and move his office himself when the real process was to schedule it online with the logistics department that provided boxes and labels and then showed up to move everything, including phone and computer station. Employees were responsible only for packing and labeling their own boxes, not lifting and moving everything.) Everyone was responsible for ordering their own supplies, but not for paying for them. We ordered from the same supply company and billing was done monthly. Could it be that the OP misunderstood and the manager wasn’t clear?

  10. K Too*

    #2 – What type of company do you work for that would allow your manager to speak like this in the open?

    It’s sounds like your boss has some baggage in her life (maybe she was picked on a lot as a child from both sides because of her background or she’s having some daddy issues). Either way she needs a talking to about keeping her racist biases out of the workplace.

    Have you approached her to discuss your issues with her comments and how that makes you feel uncomfortable? Perhaps in her mind, you’re not like the other “dark” people that she detests.

    Take it to HR so that this can be nipped in the bud promptly. If she wants to be racist on her own time then fine, but she needs to leave her disgust of certain ethnic groups (one that she is a part of) out of the workplace.

    If it continues, start looking for another gig. No one of any race should be subjected to this type of behavior at work.

  11. Ellen M.*

    Re: not using employer’s insurance, some employers will pay you a one time payment (when you are hired) if you sign a piece of paper saying you will not be using their insurance. Usually when this is the case you will be notitifed of this and the form is included when you are sent your contract and/or other documents prior to formally acception the position.

  12. Jaime*

    #5 – (insurance) – My mother’s employer pays them about $200 per month (maybe per paycheck?) on top of their salary if they’re not using her employer’s insurance. Pretty sweet deal. I’d never heard of an employer doing that and she works for a college, but it sounds like it’s more common than I realized.

    #6 – (right to be heard) – Chachacha, you are definitely coming off to me as fairly combative here in the comments. In light of that, I would suggest you spend a few minutes writing out all of the issues you want to discuss, perhaps even a few notes on any particular verbiage you’d like to use to emphasize particular points. Review it to make sure it’s as professional and unemotional as possible, then take it with you. Not only does it help you to remain on script, but it will help to make sure you don’t forget any points you want to address.

    We’re all human beings here, there’s nothing wrong with getting upset over things that bother you. However, there’s a big difference between having a calm, collected conversation with someone and telling them “During the process of __, I have felt ___ (angry, confused, frustrated, etc – but pick only 1 or 2)” and your tone and/or word choice conveying that for you. I could be wrong (I’m not a manager), but I see nothing wrong with acknowledging that emotions have been felt, especially if you can do so with a calm demeanor. Afterall, you don’t want someone to think you weren’t upset or didn’t take something seriously just because by the time you’re talking to them you’re completely calm or trying to be professional. Yanno? :)

    1. Jaime*

      Also, if you do want to state that the process has been difficult for you, please also choose those words wisely. As an example, even if I felt like my company betrayed my trust in some way, I would not use the word “betrayed” when talking to my manager about it. That word is too charged and likely to provoke his defensiveness so matter how well I framed it.

    2. chachacha*

      Jaime: Yes, I wrote everything down, then re-did the list and re-did it so that it was really pared down and void of emotion. I think I’m good to go. I appreciate the words of advice. And this IS a matter of trust. There are things that he says “This is the way it is, period” and it just doesn’t sound right to me, so I run them past a friend of mine who does employment law, and every time he’s like “No, there’s no such thing!” And the issue of the reimbursement was just the last straw, you DON’T mess with my money!!!!
      so again, thanks.

      1. danr*

        chachacha…. a question. Does your lawyer friend do defense or plaintiffs work? It will make a difference in the off the cuff advice he’s giving you. You don’t need to answer here, but think about it.

        1. chachacha*

          He doesn’t give off the cuff advice, I was just giving a Readers Digest super condensed version of his answers.

  13. JessB*

    Wow, super interesting comments this week! I love Alison’s advice, and I love how there’s often one question from the group posts that gets a lot of comments. I think that would be really helpful to people – I know it is for me!

  14. Editor*

    Asking for a higher salary in exchange for not taking benefits:

    I didn’t get anywhere with this at my workplace. Then, a couple of years later, my spouse’s plan started charging a penalty if the spouse had the option to take health insurance from their own employer and didn’t, and that penalty was steep enough so I had to sign onto my own employer’s benefit package. Both our dental plans changed that year and mine turned out to be a better deal, so he went on my dental plan and dropped his.

    Shop around and see which plan is better, and don’t assume that a spouse is always going to be able to provide insurance.

    On the depressing side, it turned out that I was better off on my own employer’s insurance plan because when my husband died unexpectedly, I didn’t have to sign up for health insurance along with the rest of the mountain of paperwork that I had to deal with. A preretirement death involves a lot more than a post-retirement death, even though either one is painful.

  15. Ellen M.*

    I have a “what if” re: two of these short answer questions, which have different advice: the OP with the same-race-racist boss and the OP with the screaming-on-the-phone boss:

    Let us assume that each OP is giving an accurate account of what is happening. The one with the racist boss is told “report it to HR”; the other one is told “you may just have to put up with this, it is likely you are part or all of the problem, don’t pursue it”. Now the racist boss is breaking the law, which is a significant difference, to be sure. Both bosses are clearly abusive, though.

    Here’s my “what if”: what if they both work for the same company? And no matter what, this company ignores anything and everything that is reported to them. If backed into a corner, HR will say “it never happened”. The employee with the racist boss can get a lawyer and sue but if the company says “nope, never happened” and the abusive supervisor says “nope, never happened”, what are the chances of a favorable outcome? There are workplaces that operate this way and more often than not, they get away with it. They label the employee a “troublemaker” or “disgruntled” and attack his/her reputation.

    What’s to stop them, really? Sure, it’s not good business, and you may say they’ll pay down the road with lower morale and higher turnover, but in reality, most new hires would have no idea things were that bad prior to being hired, or about the turnover. Job applicants are advised not to ever say anything bad about a former employer, because it will make them (the applicants) look bad. And with the economy the way it is, there’s always someone else willing to take the job. So there are no real consequences for the employer.

    An argument could be made never to report anything, unless you are 100% sure there will be no retaliation, and how often can you be sure of that?

    For the record, I am an advocate of reporting abuses. It seems to me though, that if a company routinely ignores reports of bad behavior, they’d have no problem ignoring a report of the law being broken, and saying later that they investigated and it was a troublemaking employee making a false accusation against her supervisor. And they could make (a) counter-accusation(s) against the accuser, or “lay off”/fire the accuser – exercising “at will” or “for cause” – before follow up reports could be made. Employers have the power here.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, there are some companies that will ignore reports of illegal harassment. But they are few and far between. Most companies will take it seriously, whether they want to or not, because they know that they need to or they could be sued. And there are usually other employees who can corroborate the stories, or even become additional plaintiffs.

      But reporting a boss for being a jerk only pays if the person you’re reporting to cares. And they often don’t or value something else more highly. It is FAR, FAR more common to be ignored or penalized in this situation than in the first.

      I lay out the difference, and the difference in approach that you should take in this post:

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