four more “where are they now” updates

Four more updates from readers who had their questions answered here in the last year:

1. The reader wondering if it’s okay to always leave work right at 5 p.m.

A little bit after I submitted my inquiry, I accepted a position with a public relations firm. I was very clear during the interview process that I did not want to travel frequently and asked an excessive amount of questions about office culture and the flow of a typical day. I met with several different people over the course of three separate interviews and felt all of the answers I received were genuine. When my company made me an offer, I felt great about signing on the dotted line. I truly believed they cared about their employees and would be flexible with family situations. Turns out, I was right.

My toddler is nearing two-years-old and tends to wake-up early. As such, I get going even earlier! I’m ready to walk out the door before Baby is even awake – that way, I can focus on starting her day together as soon as she gets out of bed. I typically handle drop-off and am able to scoot into the office well before anyone else. By 4:15 p.m., I have put in a full day and either head home to start dinner or go to pick-up Baby, depending on the day.

My direct supervisor is a mother of two – one of her sons being very close to my daughter’s age. She, too, juggles drops offs and pick-ups and school functions and sick days. We completely understand each other, which has made for an incredible working relationship. She simply trusts that I am managing my workload. If, for whatever reason, I am running a little behind one day, I’m not necessarily expected to stay late – so long as everything pressing is addressed.

There have been instances where we’ve needed to adjust. The two weeks leading up to Christmas were especially hectic. My husband stepped in and did most of the drop offs so that I could get to work even earlier. I found myself taking my computer home each night and working late from bed using our VPN.

Most people in my office work your typical 8:30-5 schedule, but no one seems to mind that I come in early and leave early. In fact, the feedback I get from most colleagues is that they have no idea “how I do it”. I tend to take on quite a bit at work, because I am hungry for the next step. Some days it is a lot to juggle – a career, a husband, a toddler, two dogs and myself – and I definitely couldn’t do it as well if I didn’t have a flexible work schedule! I am lucky to have found such an AMAZING company. Their respect for my life balance makes me want to work even harder for them.

2. The reader whose office insisted they refer to higher-ups as Mr. or Ms.

Thanks very much for answering my question earlier this year. As you and many of the commenters correctly inferred, the new policy was both an indication of my department’s changing culture and something I couldn’t change. I think you put it best when you said that having registered my objection, it was either time to leave or to “suck it up and deal.” So that became my mantra. I still find it annoying and silly, but I like my bosses and I’m getting good experience, so I’ve chosen to play along so far. I will say that I’ve avoided calling the higher ups by name since the policy was announced — not in an over-the-top, “I’m making a point” kind of way, but more in the way that some people avoid calling their mothers-in-law by any name because nothing feels right. This policy just doesn’t feel right to me. I have recently begun looking for a new job. The policy was a bellwether for other things I don’t love about the culture of the organization and the priorities of its leadership.

3. The reader interviewing with a speech impediment

I got a job that I was interviewing for around the same time that I wrote to you back in March. During my interview I didn’t stutter and I think I got the job because of my willingness to work hard, and that I took time to research the company and the industry. I am thriving and while I do at times stutter at work, I don’t think people take it as a negative thing.

I took speech lessons in the spring to learn different techniques such as slowing down and continuous flowing speech (ie what a lot of news reporters are taught actually). I have also learned that when I do get stressed out to take a few minutes to destress, which helps with my speech. From reading the comments, I looked into toast masters in my area, but due to my work hours I wouldn’t be able to make it!

For people who do have a speech issue, don’t let this get in your way, because we are just as capable of doing the job as anyone else!

I just want to thank you for your wonderful blog. To this day I read it religiously!

4. The reader required to donate money for gifts to the boss (#4 at the link)

I wanted to give you an update on my situation in which my office manager annually collects money from employees for Christmas gifts for the physicians.

An assistant manager sent out the interoffice message on a Monday stating “it’s that time of year again” and went on to say the amount required from each employee was $70, and she wanted the money given to her no later than Wednesday because the office Christmas party was on Saturday night. I immediately responded, only to her – not all recipients, that “I cannot contribute this year.”

About 30 minutes passed before I got a reply that contributing “is not an option” according to the office manager, and “maybe you should talk to her.” I ignored this and was never confronted about it. I heard through the grapevine that another employee, who is quite new, was flabbergasted and also declined to participate and was told in a separate e-mail that the contribution is mandatory. I do not know if the employee handed over the money, but I can only assume she did.

I started taking some paid time off a week ago and do not know what awaits me when I return. I am trying to clear my head and decide if I even want a future with this company. The Christmas collection is just one of the MANY backward requirements of this workplace and after several years, I do not know if I have it in me to continue. With the help of your Web site, I have come to understand that if the manager refuses to manage (what she does manage she does poorly) things will not change.

Me again. Any chance you could bring this to the attention of the physicians and let them know that it’s making you and others uncomfortable? It’s possible that they don’t know what’s being done on their behalf and that they’d be outraged to know.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. BW

    #4 – $70 each? That’s not chump change, and I really think that is asking too much. How many people spend $70 on an individual outside of their own children and loved ones? Holy crap! That’s outrageous.

    1. EM

      My thoughts exactly. I didn’t spend that much on my own mother this year. It’s actually making me angry thinking about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if spending $70 poses a real hardship to some. It may mean the difference between a child receiving a gift and getting nothing.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.

      Yeah, $70 is ridiculous. I tend to feel that putting in $5 for work-related gifts, charity funds, whatever, is a good idea when asked, because I believe that almost everyone can swing that. But if I were asked to pony $70 for gifts to people making way more money than I was, hells no. There’s no way I would do it. I can’t believe they don’t get that response from everyone they ask!

  2. EM

    Yay for number one! I work part time so I’m not expected to put in crazy hours. If only more employers would realize that treating workers like responsible human beings actually benefits the company.

  3. Kerry

    Pardon my French, but #4 is fucking ridiculous. $70 per person is way, way, way too much to be spending on any kind of office gift whatsoever.

    I’d love to hear what happened with the other employee who (rightly) attempted to decline.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I debated suggesting that the OP reach out to that other employee and make a united stance, but ultimately I think she just needs to stand her ground: “No, thank you.” “No, I cannot afford that.” And repeat as needed.

      1. Kerry

        Yeah, the one way I think reaching out could be helpful is for the other employee, just because she’s new and it could really help her to know there’s someone else on staff who’s resisting the shakedown. But I agree I don’t think it would help very much with the management issue.

  4. Not So NewReader

    OP # 4 -I would not want any gift from anyone that wasn’t given freely- I don’t think too many people would. A mandatory gift is NOT a gift.
    If you are confronted OP, I hope you point these things out.

    If it’s mandatory, I wonder if they are handing out receipts for tax purposes. After all, it is a work expense. Speaking of which, shouldn’t the recipients show that on their taxes? Isn’t that the big deal now- no more untaxed holiday bonuses?

  5. Sneaking Suspicion

    Re #4 — are you sure the $70 per employee contribution is being used for gifts and not to line the manager’s pocket? Mandatory my foot!

  6. ChristineH

    #3 – Really happy you were able to get a great job and that the speech lessons have helped.

    #4 – $70 per person?? Are you serious?? I definitely echo all the advice given!!

  7. AdAgencyChick

    #4, are you bloody well kidding me? $70? I don’t think even a token amount like $5 or $10 should be mandatory. $70 is more than many people spend on a loved one — much less your COLLEAGUES.

    OP, good for you for ignoring the shakedown. Have other coworkers grumbled about it? If so, I’d be saying loudly that I didn’t pay, and nothing has happened.

  8. OP #4

    The breakdown was $10 for doctors and $5 for PAs, which worked out to $70 per employee, according to the manager. Two other young women who confide in me were also threatening to decline but backed down.

    In the past, I have asked the manager for a receipt for tax purposes for the “mandatory” kitchen fund and was told it is not income for the business, and she refused to give me a receipt. I have since declined to give for that without a receipt, although she has bullied people in staff meetings about it. I have asked her to take it out of my check, but she refuses and gives the impression it would be too difficult for bookkeeping purposes.

    Alison, the doctors also receive a card signed by the employees with their gift cards, so I have concluded they are OK with this. The PAs actually sent out thank-you e-mails this year, which is more than has been done in the past. I do not know if the doctors know about the kitchen fund …

    I am standing my ground, but the backlash from these things can wear one down. This is why I am trying to regroup on my attitude and either suck it up for the new year or muster the energy for a job hunt. I do owe this manager for letting me get my foot in the door, and she has been flexible with me regarding some personal issues over the years, but I can’t keep feeling indebted when overall the place is putting me in a horrible mental space. (Probably more than y’all wanted to know.)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ah, but the doctors may not know it’s MANDATORY — and probably don’t, in fact. That’s the part to tell them — that it’s being framed as mandatory, and that people who have tried to decline to participate have been told they’re required to. Any sane person would be horrified by that.

      1. OP #4

        I considered responding to ALL recipients, thinking that maybe that would have prompted a flood of responses declining to participate.

    2. Canuck

      I totally agree with all the comments here about how ridiculous this is – and definitely would like to read a future update. A contribution for gifts for the doctors is itself unbelievable – let alone being mandatory.

    3. Heather

      The manager helping you getting a foot in the door etc in no way means that you HAVE to contribute to a gift fund. There’s no law that says you have to. What you owe someone in that case is being a good employee; not forking over part of your paycheck on her say-so. And what’s the kitchen fund? I really want to know what that is.

      And let’s not forget that office gifts shouldn’t be that staff gift the managers – it’s the other way around. This whole thing really stinks.

      1. OP #4

        I agree with you, Heather. I consider myself to be a very good employee.

        The kitchen fund is something the OM started when she decided the office was paying too much to provide coffee, sodas, creamer, breakfast items, lunch items, snack items, candy, and on and on for the employees. So, rather than just say “food items are for the doctors and limit yourself to coffee and the occasional snack,” she decided to charge employees $20 a month.

        1. EM

          !!

          I’m sure it didn’t occur to her to cut down or eliminate the free stuff. 20 bucks a year is like getting a pay cut of $240 a year. Yeah, it’s not a ton, but if someone is living paycheck to paycheck, that $20 can mean a lot.

          Is the OM really the last word on everything that goes on in the office? Is it a private practice? The partners may be interested to know that the OM is basically extorting money from her employees.

          1. Maria

            This OM sounds insane. I agree, make it known to the physicians that these things are framed as mandatory and hope that, if they aren’t genuinely horrified, they’ll realize they should at least pretend to be when confronted about it. Is there no one above the OM or is it the physicians? It sounds like a lot of strange requirements about money…

            1. Heather

              I agree – I wonder if the physicians and PA’s know that their gifts are being paid for mandatory “donations” and I wonder if they are aware of the kitchen fund. Stuff like that wouldn’t come out unless someone said so or went looking for it. It’s not that it’s hidden but on financial statements it’s likely lumped in with office supplies or something. And the gift thing probably would never be revealed.

            2. Elizabeth West

              There has to be someone over the OM. I actually had to go to the OM once in my doctor’s office because he would not return my calls. I don’t know what the hierarchy is there, but there has to be someone over her.

              This whole thing is ridiculous. I would definitely want an accounting of where the money is going, especially for the kitchen fund, if I were the OM’s boss. A requirement to donate is bunk. When I worked for a collegiate / corporate non-profit, they forced me to donate (every employee had to make at least one donation), and even though it was a small amount, I nearly quit right there. In hindsight, I wish I had. That place was a nightmare.

          2. Heather

            Good lord! Unbelievable. Either provide it and the office pays for it or don’t provide it. You aren’t a restaurant.

        2. Rana

          Good lord. $20 a month per person?! What is she putting in that kitchen – Waygu beef jerky and caviar? Artisan chocolates?

          Seriously.

          1. Confused

            $20 a month and $70 at the end of the year = $310! Yikes.
            $20 per person per month (even with a small staff) = ~$200 a month! What is she stocking in the break area? It sounds like she is overspending and passing the expense to you.
            *The doctors may not have thought of how much each person has had to chip in. If they have to chip in themselves, they may not think $70 is a lot (blanket statement: doctors can probably afford it). The problem is with the OM, yes, but I can’t believe the doctors accept these gifts (“gifting up”).
            *Good for you for standing up for yourself. Maybe instead of “cannot” you could say “cannot afford to.” I know it basically means the same thing but I feel like the latter would drive the point home (even though a simple “No, thank you” *should* be enough.)
            When you go back, act as if nothing has happened, and don’t let the OM push you around. Good luck!

        3. Not So NewReader

          OP, one of the reasons that unions came into existence is because people were being forced to pay to keep their jobs.
          OP, do you feel if you do not pay the kitchen fund and/or the gift fund you could lose your job?
          Maybe this can go to the DOL?

          How many people are paying into the kitchen fund? How many people use that kitchen stuff? (Hint: should be the same numbers.)
          Where is the proof that all the money is being spent on kitchen items? (To me it sounds like OM has another income stream on the side.)
          We had a coffee fund where I worked. We would pay a couple dollars a week. Every so often, the boss would come around and say we did not have to pay this week because there was enough money in the kitty to carry us through the week. I had the definite sense that the money was being taken care of properly. Additionally, joining the coffee club was optional.

          Which doctor seems to be the center of power in that office? I think that is the doctor to speak with.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I can’t think of any law that this violates (other than the Law of Don’t Be Ridiculous), but maybe there’s something I’m not thinking of that someone can remind me of….

            1. OP #4

              I am starting to look into what may be unlawful, just in case I am confronted. I think it is against the law for her to try to tell me how to spend my paycheck regarding the Christmas collection.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                I wouldn’t go the legal route (unless I’m wrong and there’s truly a law that applies here, but I can’t think of one) — I would simply say that you can’t afford it, and it’s not happening, period. And I would absolutely raise this with the physicians.

            2. Jamie

              the Law of Don’t Be Ridiculous

              I long for the day when this will be enforceable.

              And fwiw I wouldn’t hand over $70 for something like this no matter how much I made. In fact the higher on the food chain I was the more passionately I’d argue against this because I’d know I was speaking for a lot of people who might not feel as comfortable taking a stand themselves.

              Also, fwiw, my mom was a nurse and the doctors gave the nurses gifts…other than bringing in some homemade cookies and her famous eclairs it gifts didn’t trickle up.

              1. -X-

                “In fact the higher on the food chain I was the more passionately I’d argue against this because I’d know I was speaking for a lot of people who might not feel as comfortable taking a stand themselves.”

                Yes.

          2. OP #4

            As the OM, she doesn’t have to prove anything to me. I just know this is not the way to run a professional business. I don’t know that the kitchen fund cannot be mandatory, but then I expect her to take it out of my check or give me a receipt for tax purposes. If she is going to do it, she needs to do it correctly.

            I think she keeps a spreadsheet of who contributes and how often. And there is a large discrepancy in how many people eat and drink what is bought and those who bring their own items most of the time. I am starting to bring my own coffee, I have always brought my own creamer, and I bring my own lunch or buy lunch from the cafeteria.

            And I think she escalated her problem by charging people because those that pay now eat more in order to get their “money’s worth.”

            1. Twentymilehike

              And I think she escalated her problem by charging people because those that pay now eat more in order to get their “money’s worth.”

              Oh this is a sign that others are bothered by this practice! If it wasn’t a big deal to you to contribute the $20, would you be as concerned about getting your “fair share?” I personally would be making this into an issue that needed to be addressed (though I tend to be exceedingly outspoken). Your OM doesn’t seem to be very intuitive … Or she hates her job and is being a PITA! If the office can’t afford to provide those things, then they just shouldn’t, IMHO. There’s nothing wrong with bringing your own drinks.

            2. BW

              Oh heck yeh! If someone were charging me $20/month for coffee and snacks, I am sure as heck making sure I get my $20 worth. That’s $20 I wouldn’t want to also be spending on buying food outside of the office to take to work.

        4. BW

          Wow. Just. Wow.

          In a sane world the OM would have just reduced the number of items to cut the budget. Most offices I’ve worked in provide free coffee, tea and related items (sugar, creamers, etc), and then offer snacks and soda but only via vending machine. That way, people who want those additional items can still get them and the costs of stocking the kitchen are kept down.

          1. Yuu

            This is often a perk for doctors – especially those that deal with surgery, etc, they just don’t have time to leave the office to get food, so many practices provide it for them. They can even have trouble getting bathroom breaks if there isn’t coverage.

        5. Lisa

          The fact that she won’t give you a receipt screams illegal to me. Can you tell the head doctor that you no longer want to contribute to the kitchen fund out of pocket, and that if the office is hurting that badly then maybe the kitchen extras should be eliminated all together. since its tax season now. Send an email to EVERYONE (OM, doctors, co-workers,etc) and request receipts for both the gift money and the kitchen fund. Mention that since both expenses were mandatory, that you would like a receipt to be given for tax purposes.

          Hi all,
          I know everyone is busy, but I thought I would preemptively ask for some work receipts on behalf of the office. I know OM is busy, so I wanted to help her out and get a list going on who will need receipts for the mandatory 2012 expenses that many of us contributed to.

          Gifts – $70
          Kitchen Fund – $240 ($20 /month)

          If I am forgetting any other expenses that may need receipts, please reply all to this email so that we can all benefit from getting those tax receipts early this tax season.

          Thanks, and Happy New Year!
          OP

          It sounds like the OM has created a caste system of happy (oblivious) doctors and resentful (about to quit) second-class workers. She is basically recouping your salary and it reminds me of the Upper Crust scenario where management got fined and then took back the fine with a paycheck deduction scheme.

          http://beaconhill.patch.com/articles/upper-crust-tried-to-scheme-workers-out-of-overtime-wages-c41d3ca3

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I’d actually just be direct — this has the risk of the doctors not picking up on the subtext of the message. Instead, I’d say the OP should simply be direct and go talk to the doctors about her concern about what’s happening.

    4. BW

      How many employees are contributing? At $10 per person per doctor, I suspect that’s a pretty generous gift certificate.

    5. Brett

      The fact that the “gift” is a gift card is the most amazing part. It’s kind of like a reverse bonus, the owners are getting a cash bonus from the employees!

      $70 is ridiculous and especially so when it’s not even used for a physical item or service.

  9. DA

    Seriously, what kind of gift is being given where it requires a $70 contribution from every employee? The recipient should have red flags flying in their mind at the actual gift, or the staff should wonder how much of that money is going into the pocket of the person demanding $70. Either way, the recipient and/or upper management needs to be made clearly aware of what is going on.

    Oh, and an update after this happens would be awesome!

      1. Henning Makholm

        Huh? I think it was explained to me in a different thread not long ago that an “office manager” in English is not a manager at all, but more something like a janitor with a desk …

        1. Ellie H.

          If you’re familiar with Mad Men, Joan Harris is the office manager there. I think that her role there is probably what most people think of as “office manager” but as Heather says it varies from place to place. It’s not quite the same as being a “manager” like a store manager in that you do not have hiring/firing power nor do you direct the work of other employees (again, this can vary) except for perhaps, administrative assistants, but it means you are literally in charge of the *office*, supplies, supervising maintenance things, coordinating mail and deliveries, doing hiring paperwork/interfacing with HR, payroll and the office budget. At least, this is my impression of the common perception of what that title means.

          1. Jamie

            This is a great explanation. And it truly does vary – it can be the receptionist who also orders office supplies, or it can be the staff accountant who also ordered office supplies.

            I’ve worked at places where both were the case.

            Weird confession – my first direct job (as opposed to temp) was Office Manager and I was lateral to the plant manager…and initially I thought that was because the positions were lateral. It turned out my boss just structured it that way and hence my surprise when people treated me like an admin.

            I recall one early episode of The Office when Michael referred to himself as “the Office Manager” and I thought that was odd. Looking back I think that was when a lot of the scripts were just taken right from the British version and they didn’t translate that properly.

            OT – anyone else working today? I don’t know if it was the cold-eze or the elderberry extract you guys told me about, but I swear my flu was truncated by taking that. I owe you guys – because I still feel crappy but this is the first flu in years that hasn’t turned into walking pneumonia (at least) for me. I owe you guys for the cure – thanks!

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I thought I was coming down with a cold late Frida, but I immediately drank Emergen-C and a weird concoction of hot water, apple cider vinegar, and honey, and I swear it seems to have knocked it out. (The apple cider vinegar thing was from the Internet, not the product of my own brain.)

              1. Job seeker

                Thanks Alison for this remedy. I have never tried Emergen-C but my son and his girlfriend do this when they get a cold. I have used cold-eze and I usually load up on eating oranges in the winter. Glad you are feeling better.

            2. Twentymilehike

              First: YAY! Jamie, I’m so glad you are feeling better and that you were able to get elderberry extract!

              And second: Henning, “janitor with a desk”. Made me LOL. And snort a little.

              I do recall having this convo in an earlier post and as an OM, it’s a ridiculously difficult position to describe! I think the best way to put it is “do whatever needs to be done.” It could mean anything from making coffee to actually overseeing the entire business operations. It requires a large amount of flexibility, IME.

              1. Jamie

                I spoke too soon – in the interest of science I thought I would report back that I think these things would have worked if combined with rest…but I’m not sure anything works if you don’t get enough sleep.

                Four more hours of quarantine and then a four day weekend of nothing but sleeping, coughing, and nose blowing in the privacy of my own home. I sure know how to have a good time!

        2. BW

          In smaller companies especially, the Office Manager is an actual manager and can be in control of a certain portion of the budget needed to equip and staff the office. That is the person who is in charge of all the office equipment and supplies, front desk staff, space allocation, mail services, etc.

      2. Yuu

        She’s upper management for running things, but from what it sounds like it are the doctors who have made partner who are running things. I would see if you can talk to them. If they hand down to her to stop making it mandatory (for both funds) I bet that would be the end of that…

  10. CC

    #4 is ridiculous! $70 is not an insignificant sum for a lot of office staff. Heck, even if you make a decent living, $70 is a lot of money. I would refuse, too.

  11. Jenn

    I definitely think it should be mentioned to the physicians/PAs. It sounds like they’re the only ones with the power to stop this. The OM is probably relying on all of you to keep it under wraps…..to that I say, bring this whole thing out into the open. Just be sure to do it in the nicest/most respectful way possible.

  12. Tricia

    Do the doctors of PAs know that these annual gifts come from mandatory staff participation? I know that I would be HORRIFIED if I found out that you were being bullied into contributing to it.

  13. just me

    #2
    I am really not seeing why this is such a big deal. When I started working way back when, it was very common to call the higher ups, managers and so forth… Mr…. Mrs…..

    My brother was in the military and he was called… Major Smith. The place I work at now it owned and operated by a doctor and we all him Dr. Name.

    Are religious higher ups just called… Pete or Bob? Or are they called Reverend ? Or Reverend Pete? Or Rabbi Jones? Or Hey there Bobby dude?

    What is the difference in the basic logic of calling people by their titles or Mr. or Mrs., in my scenario and the OP’s?

    If any scenario is OK with calling people by their first name fine. I am not arguing for or against. But if they want to to be formal like the OP’s what is the big deal? It can’t possibly be a deal breaker for a job.

    OP I think you are making way too much of this. I don’t see why you have such a problem calling someone Mr. Jones. You give no indication that they treat you poorly, you are getting good experience, you like your bosses and since you have not mentioned pay it must be OK.

    You said you are looking for a new job for this and other reasons? Would you really tell a potential employer that you didn’t like the fact you had to call someone Mr. Jones? I hope not as it would sound silly. What would you ask about their work cultural? Would you ask how they address people?

    I don’t understand why you are so rebellious about this. There has got to be worse things about a job.

    1. Rana

      It’s the inequality. Having to call someone “Mr. Smith” when they get to call you “Joe” is annoying.

      Yes, there’s structural inequality there, but to reinforce that sense of superiority/inferiority artificially by dictating how people are to be called is ham-handed at best. If “Ms. Smith” the CEO isn’t getting respect from her employees by dint of her position and her qualifications, demanding that they give her the pretense of respect by requiring they address her formally isn’t going to fix the problem; as the OP’s reaction shows, it’s just as likely to make it worse.

      Similarly, if employees are already feeling a bit disrespected and underappreciated by the higher-ups, putting them in a situation where they are reminded of it every time their boss calls them “Jane” and they have to respond, “Yes, Mr. Gonzales” isn’t going to make them feel better.

      (I’d also argue that there’s a difference between earned titles like Doctor or Major or Reverend (or even CEO) and formal courtesy titles like Mr. and Ms. Using the former shows respect for the work and effort the person put in to earn it; refusing to use the latter for someone implies that you think they’re not even worth basic courtesy, especially if you demand that they show you that courtesy, even when they don’t want to.)

      1. just me

        I stand by my comments. The OP has NOT indicated she is being demeaned. She likes her bosses and the experience she is getting. Are thy RUDE to her? Are they talking disrespectfully to her? She did not say that. She just doesn’t like that she is ” Jan” and Mr. Jones is Mr. Jones. Woopie…

        It is the act of what they are asking for that SHE is deciding her self- worth. I doubt greatly they are in their offices going…. ” Hooray ! We get to be addressed as Mr and we an call Jan… Jan. Lets think of other ways we can demean our staff ”

        It is ridiculous that something like this is apparently ruining peoples self- esteem. I have never once looked at any job and its requirements as it relates to addressing people and decided it was the absolute worse scenario one can have in a job. I am not sitting on a couch for it.

        I also have issues in general with rebellion about it. If the OP can’t handle something like this, can she take orders well without griping? Regardless if one likes the policy or not to just say ” I will just suck it up and play along” doesn’t sit well with me. Are the bosses suppose to say….. wow… isn’t great of her to do what we asked?

        And as far as the ” inequity “? If we were to agree this is truly a problem.. I say.. oh..well. welcome to the world.

        It is not annoying to call someone Mr. Smith and for them to call me Tabatha. My self-esteem is stronger than that.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          You might find reading the original post (linked above) and the comments on it interesting. My take is that it says something about the culture there, and she needs to decide if that’s a culture she’s interested in working in or not.

          I certainly wouldn’t be interested in working in a culture that dictated that some people are worthy of more respect than others in how they’re addressed. It’s a choice about work culture like any other, really.

    2. Lily

      It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it can be and I needed many years to get used to addressing and being addressed formally which feels to me as though people have already decided they don’t want any kind of relationship before it has had a chance. I only felt comfortable with it, once I realized that I DON’T want any sort of relationship with the majority of people who I address formally.

  14. just me

    I see exactly what she is saying.

    But we also don’t know for sure how it is being related to the staff and is it in the intensity she is perceiving and stating to us even now. Yes the choice of words like “important “who is and is not was probably not the best wording. Agreed it looks pretty bad. Probably not the first time poor worded directives has been written and not the last.

    She has clearly stated she likes her bosses and her job. She has made no statements saying this directive has caused an office wide need for a coupe. She has not stated that it has affected her ability to do her job. She just doesn’t like it.

    Although I didn’t state it specifically, yes she needs to leave if that is not the right culture. But, rolling of the eyes, feeling angry and resentful and the obvious agitating she demonstrated was an overreaction.

    And that was her question.

    ” Am I overreacting here? Does this happen in other organizations? Should I just take a deep breath, roll my eyes, and start calling everyone in my office by their last names? I know I have a tendency to stand on principle long past the point where it does me any good. However, I am so very turned off by this development that I feel angry and resentful every time I see / hear it happen.”

    By her own admission of her reaction she might be the type of fly off of anything she feels is wrong. That will not get her far in the working world. I question her ability to handle basic office BS. And that is why I question the harshness of the policy as stated.

    The issue to me is not the policy as much as how she dealt with it.

  15. Anon

    I’m curious how much the #4 OP makes (ish I don’t need exact figures) and how much others make in that office. My boyfriend is arguing with me that they could be making more than usual there which is why these gifts are asked for.

    Goodness, $70 would be HUGE to me but I know people who make $100 an hour.

    Regardless, if the office is in such bad shape that employees need to pay for kitchen supplies and business gifts, wouldn’t it be simpler just to pay everyone a bit less – this seems a lot more straight forward. It’s almost like baiting and switching – “You’re going to make X” during the interview and then “We’re taking X back.”

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Point out to your boyfriend that it’s never appropriate for anyone to require a gift from someone else, let alone to be told how much they have to spend on it — and that’s especially true when it’s your employer making the demand of you. It’s just not okay; it has nothing to do with how much you make.

      1. Lisa

        Why isn’t forced gift giving in the office illegal other than for government? Its basically recouping the paycheck, which is illegal in some circumstances.

        1. Lisa

          Its the same as requiring each employee to pay a portion of the office overhead. You are being forced to pay for a business expense with the kitchen fund at least, so I want to ask the is it legal Q here. Since the office won’t give receipts to put on taxes, shouldn’t the labor board be notified of the office recouping the paycheck?

          1. Jamie

            But it isn’t technically mandatory as she is refusing to give the $20 without a receipt and didn’t give the $70 and hasn’t lost her job because of that.

            So while they are saying it’s “mandatory” no one is being penalized for pushing back and not contributing.

            1. Lisa

              But some workers may not realize that it won’t affect their jobs. Its intimidation that implies there will be a backlash since they tried to not give money, and then told it was mandatory. This type of thing, just makes me more cynical of people and life in general.

              1. Jamie

                I agree with the cynical part – and I totally think this sucks and I wish the people who get things done by intimidation would be met with pushback more often.

                It’s weird – because I’m not confrontational by nature, I certainly don’t go looking for it…but I’m always amazed by how people will talk about being intimidated by so and so and I was oblivious. I just don’t register intimidation unless it’s physical so I tend to pipe up when others are afraid to – since it never occurs to me to be nervous about it until people tell me later that it was brave.

                I’m only brave when I sense no fear apparently – otherwise I’m a total coward.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          Lisa, I agree with you that it’s incredibly unfair, but I’m not able to identify a law that it would violate. If you can find one, let me know — I’d love to be corrected on this!

          1. Lisa

            Did you see my link about the Upper Crust thing above? They got into trouble for recouping overtime pay. I feel like its related somehow regardless of what the money is used for since its the office is making it mandatory – IE giving back a portion of their pay back but forcing it to be cash so that they don’t get in trouble for doing it.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Very different situation — in that case, the company tried to recover the money that the court ordered them to pay employees by turning the hourly workers into “managers” and putting them on salaries at a reduced rate, and writing fake checks to former workers that they never sent out. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a law that prohibits employers from charging employees in the situation that we’re talking about (but again, if you can find/cite a law that does, I’d be interested)!

  16. jesicka309

    I’m glad things worked out for OP#1 – I was reading over the comments, and it was really interesting seeing how different people’s opinions were on start and finish times.
    I have a bad habit of drifting in 10 minutes late when my train is late – it only happens maybe once every two weeks, but I still look like the office slacker. I felt a lot better after reading the comments where people drift in half an hour to an hour later!
    And 5.30 (finish time) at my office is like a race. We all watch the clock tick over, then we grab our bags and leave. I’d stay back to make myself look ‘busier’, but when you finished your work at 2.30, you really can’t contemplate staying back without your brain exploding.
    I hate the butt in seat rule.
    And I dream of a job like OP#1 where they are actually understanding of workload vs. time commitment.

  17. K.

    $70?! Fuck that. Excuse my language, I’m not sure if it’s OK to curse here, but if I got an email REQUIRING me to put in $70 for an office gift, that’s exactly what I’d say upon reading it. My share of my mom’s gift was only a little more than that. Hold your ground, and if the office manager tries to give you a hard time, I wouldn’t hesitate to tattle. And the kitchen fund is insane. This office manager sounds power-crazed.

  18. gabrielle

    I am just gobsmacked over the $70 “requirement” in #4. And then $20 a month on top of that? And the OM says it’s “too complicated” to take it out of people’s checks? That all makes me very suspicious.

    OP, good for you for standing your ground. Please update us…I’m interested in how this pans out.

  19. Editor

    OP #4: A kitchen fund with a $20 a month contribution? In a four-week month, that’s a dollar a workday.

    Also, if there are five people in the office, that’s $100 a month for snacks — if each worker is eating a large candy bar each day, is that a healthy habit for a doctor’s staff to have? How much total is being collected per month?

    1. Jamie

      I agree that it’s ridiculous that it’s mandatory – and thankfully my office wouldn’t think about charging us for coffee but for the sake of argument I probably go through $20 in coffee a month at work.

      Using $0.63 per cup (Keurig) that’s 12.60 at a cup a day and then half and half…probably hits near 20 and that’s not counting the days where I’m at 2-3 cups or coming in on a weekend. Still cheaper than stopping for a cup on the way in.

      Don’t get me wrong – mandatory is ridiculous and as is charging for coffee in most circumstances – but if people are coffee/tea drinkers and the supplies are there I’m not sure there is a whole lot of profit in skimming off the top on this one.

      1. Lisa

        I hate contributing to other people’s snacks. If you never take anything from the kitchen, are you excused from contributing? Keurig machines get disgustingly filthy, and I wouldn’t use the office one (I buy my own coffee each morning). So, what about offices where there is a single person that eats all the stuff and others avoid it? So why should 10 employees be forced to pay for the one person who eats everything? Just saying…

        1. Jamie

          I’m completely opposed to any mandatory collections and if they want to do this it should be completely voluntary.

          Now I need to google sanitary conditions of Keurigs…I have a feeling I’ll be bringing my own coffee from home by the time I’m done. :)

          And I’m with you – I wouldn’t pay for other people’s habits either. In some cases a vending machine makes sense, in others just provide a place for people to store their own lunches and be done with it.

          There is almost always someone who will take advantage of this kind of thing. My employer is very generous with lunches and will pay for food to be ordered in at least once a week – often more. It’s a very nice perk and participation isn’t mandatory or noted, it’s just an offer. But a former co-worker would take the opportunity to order double meals in order to have enough left over to take home for dinner. The family sized pasta dish instead of the lunch portion, two hamburgers, etc.

          Believe me, this didn’t go unnoticed. It was just so rude, someone is doing something nice for you and you need to milk it for two meals. And this was a person making a decent living – so poverty wasn’t an issue.

          There is always someone who delights in trying to get away with something, no matter how petty.

  20. TT

    In regards to followup to #1., I think it’s BS. I’ll say again: I THINK IT’S BS! Since op said her and her boss are on the same wavelength and time schedule, it’s impossible to know how the rest of her co-workers truly feel. (Who’s going to be bad-mouthing the person with the same work habits and friends with the boss?)

    But I think if you have a flexible work-life schedule, it should be allowed for EVERYONE. Which is to say, ANYONE should be able to work from 7am -4pm if they so wishes, they don’t need/require the excuse of family/sickness/social functions etc to do it. Otherwise, it’s reverse discrimination.

    I’ve seen it happen way too many times, people with kids or families are allowed way more frequent excuses for missing work than single/indepenedent workers, that in and of itself is discrimination against single people.

    You CHOSE to have a family, you CHOSE to have a child, you made those CHOICES out of your FREE WILL. Just like some other people might CHOOSE to have a single life. Why should you obtain privileges that they cannot have just because you made a different set of choices than they did. Being single is not a physical impairment or reason to discriminate, but every time I hear “so and so needs to go to pick up their kids” while rest of us have to work late it peeves me more and more.

    So in summary: I’ll state the obvious again, if your office allow a flexible work schedule, the opportunity should be available to everyone, not just employees with families.

    ps: I still remember a stupid discrimination video tutorial I watched about 10 years back, one of the acts was when the manager assign Bob, the only single guy out of the 3 peers the work which requires coming in on a weekend. The manager’s reasoning was “Well Bob, you don’t have a family. So it’s not like there’s anything critical in your life you will miss by coming in on a weekend..” And the tutorial blatantly described this type of situation as discrimination against single people

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