rude texts from manager, should HR be required to use the company’s benefit plans, and more

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Boss texted me rude comments about my marriage and wants me to work on my anniversary

I am a salaried employee who is considering divorcing my husband. My boss is aware of this and we have had several discussions regarding this during our lunch time. This past week, my boss asked me to come into the office on a Sunday because I was out sick Thursday and Friday (which I took vacation days for). I responded to the text message that Sunday was my wedding anniversary. My boss sent one back that said, “Who cares? Are you celebrating or leaving him?” I answered and said I could work Saturday, she said no, that she had other plans that she couldn’t break.

Is this legal? Can she request that I come in on my normal day off (we work M-F) that is a occasion for me, and try and make me feel guilty?

Yes, it’s legal. No law prevents your manager from trying to make you feel guilty or from making rude remarks about your marriage. She can also ask or require you to work days that different from your usual schedule. You can say yes, no, or propose a different arrangement. If you say no, it’s her prerogative to insist — but a good manager isn’t going to require someone who normally works Monday through Friday to work on a Sunday when they say they can’t except in fairly rare circumstances.

2. Can I ask an employee to show me the offer letter they claim they received?

Is it legal to ask for a copy of an offer letter when an existing employee is asking for a raise based on this supposed “offer”? I have my doubts that the employee actually has this offer, but I’m in a nonprofit organization and the culture is more relaxed than my for-profit experience. If I give this employee the raise they want, they will surpass peers and this person doesn’t have the credentials their peers have. I don’t want to lose the employee but I need guidance on how to handle.

Sure, it’s legal to ask for that, but I wouldn’t do it. You need to decide if you’re willing to pay this person what they want based on their value to you, not to an entirely different organization. Does paying them more make sense for the organization (considering value and how this will position them relative to their peers)? If not, then you shouldn’t offer a raise just to keep the person. (In fact, you probably shouldn’t counter-offer at all; read this.)

3. We can’t take time off unless we find our own coverage — but there isn’t anyone available for coverage

I was happy to find your post about overly rigid vacation policies, as I am in a similar work situation, also in a hospital. However, I’m curious about the “find your own coverage part.” Our director sends out every schedule (3 to 4 months in advance) with the caveat that “PTO requests are not considered approved until coverage has been found.” Here’s the rub: there is NO ONE to cover by the 12 full-timers who work in the department. We have no part-time or PRN employees and the director refuses to bring in agency/temp help. So, we are constantly being guilt-tripped and pressured into picking up extra shifts and working OT on our scheduled days off so that one of us can go on vacation. The implicit threat is that if you don’t pony up and do your share, you might not get to take your vacation.

I have scoured our HR policies and there is nothing that addresses this. So, I’m guessing it is legal to do so, but what is a person supposed to do in this situation? We work 80-hour weeks (7 to 8 consecutive 10-hour shifts, some have a day or two off before the final shift depending on the shift they are working). We’re tired and we all have lives and things we have to do/need to do/want to do on our days off. Not to mention feeling like your PTO is being held hostage — in my opinion, once it goes on the schedule that you are on PTO, isn’t that considered “approved”?

Yeah, a company can set any rules for taking PTO that it wants, including that you have to find your own coverage. It’s a terrible rule and it pretty much guarantees that employees will end up feeling like you do. Your options are to accept it, push back against it (ideally as a group), think about unionizing (which has both pros and cons, so you’d want to do a lot of research — although they’re really asking for it in this situation), or find another job. But yeah, your management sucks.

4. Do employers still hire in December?

Every company and industry is different, but do people usually hire (for long-term positions) in December or do things start slowing down?

Sure, plenty of employers are still hiring in December. Some slow down because people are away … but the flip side of that is that job-seekers often slow down too, so of the employers that ARE hiring then, you can sometimes end up with less competition.

5. Should HR managers be required to use the benefit plans they negotiate for their organizations?

At a recent family gathering, one of my relatives was venting about some rumors about the head of HR and the benefit plans at their employer. Apparently next year, two providers will be switched, leading to a drop in the range of benefits provided in one case and, in the other case, to a benefit provider with a reputation for slow payment and frustrating communication issues. (Neither of these changes are in medical insurance or related to the ACA as far as we know.) The change will save the company an amount near the very bottom of the six-figure range. The employer is financially healthy and is expanding at a modest rate.

These changes, of course, are legal. At present they are considered ethical. Here’s the thing, though — the head of HR brags about their spouse’s cadillac benefits and does not use any of the benefits HR negotiates. Any problems with the reduction in benefits or delayed payments will not affect the head of HR.

My relative is outraged, and I can see the point. I wish SHRM or other groups would stipulate that HR managers who negotiate this stuff must also have to sign on to use the benefits. It seems fairer to me, although I know curbside fairness has nothing to do with corporate legalities. It also seems practical to me — if HR is using the benefit providers, they are an early warning service if the provider is not meeting acceptable standards of performance. Do associations for accountants, IT staff, corporate procurement, and other business executives have ethical standards and would something like this be appropriate for SHRM or other relevant groups?

It’s an interesting idea. I suspect organizations like SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management — the professional association for HR people) wouldn’t go for it, because HR isn’t always the final word on what insurance plan an employer offers. If you were the HR director at an organization that could only afford a cheaper plan, but your spouse had excellent coverage and you had health problems, is it realistic to require you to forego that better coverage that’s available to you, particularly when you’re not the final decision-maker? And if even if you were the final decision-maker, sometimes financial realities dictate lower-cost plans anyway, no matter how sensitive someone might be to the health care needs of their workforce.

It’s another reason why tying health insurance to employment is a flawed idea.

6. Can I negotiate this job offer?

I am 25 years old and recently received my master’s degree. In the past, I have held internship positions and done work in the industry that I am applying for jobs in as a part of my masters curriculum. However, I have been applying for jobs the last 3 months post graduation. I have had interviews but no clear offers until I had a chance to speak with a relative who forwarded my resume to one of is former colleagues. His colleague was impressed with my resume and after an initial phone screening I was invited to interview with 4 separate people, including the company CEO, in day-long interviews. Last week, I received a phone call that they would like to extend me an offer.

Here’s the issue. The company is restructuring and my position was a newly created one. I discussed what sort of projects and priorities I would be expected to tackle after being hired, but at the time of the interviews the position had no title and the organization was still working on nailing down what they wanted as the duties of the new hire. So I have an idea of what my job would be, but I cannot research salary and benefits to negotiate a job offer if I am not even sure of a position title. I do want to work at the company and found the people I spoke with to be very engaging. The work would be a challenge, as I would be creating a platform and doing things that don’t currently exist for the company in the form of creating performance metrics. Both the company and I would be making it up as we go along, and I do expect a steep learning curve working for a company in the healthcare industry. I was told they would make me an official offer within the next 2 weeks. How should I approach the job offer as a new hire and recent graduate with limited work experience? I am excited to start my first real job but do not want to botch the job offer. Do I have room to negotiate?

Like all negotiations, it depends on how badly they want you and you want them. As a recent grad without much work experience, you don’t have a lot of standing to negotiate (you can’t point to a track record of professional success, let alone one in the area they’re hiring you for). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try at all; you just can’t ask for something dramatically over what they offer. I’d wait and hear their offer and then see if it feels reasonable to ask for a bit more than that (a bit meaning a few thousand, probably). But make sure that you have the details and responsibilities of the job nailed down first, because you’re right that you can’t intelligently negotiate for more money (or even say yes to an offer) without knowing what the work actually is and what you’ll be expected to achieve.

7. Should I thank this search firm for interviewing me?

I applied to a job that was actually through a professional search firm. I had the phone interview last week and met the recruiter today. I do not know if I will get an interview with the actual company. Sounded like it, but like you always say, when you submit a resume and maybe even get interviews, until you get a job offer, carry on to the next resume/intervew. But my question is, do I send a thank-you to the search firm?

If so, I was just thinking of a simple “It was a pleasure meeting with you, let me know if you have any further questions for me…” Something to that nature. Short and simple. I don’t think it is a bad thing to do so, but is it necessary?

Necessary? No. Thoughtful and gracious? Yes. It’s rarely a bad idea to thank someone for their time or for helping you.

{ 252 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Regarding #5: Last year at open enrollment time, my company told us that they would be raising the amount that the employees have to pay for our health insurance benefits by a lot next year. I’m anxious about this because my family needs to have decent health insurance, but I’m concerned about the cost. My partner is self-employed and has diabetes, and we boh have prescriptions that need to be filled every month. We’re scraping by as it is, and I know a lot of people are in similar situations. I really like my job, but I’ve been thinking lately that I might need to look for a higher-paying job (and then i worry about whether I would be able to get one that pays enough).

    1. Clever Name*

      Do some research on the insurance exchanges that just today went into effect through the ACA. Pre-existing condition limitations are a thing of the past, for one, and if one of those monthly prescriptions happens to be for birth control pills, they are now available free of charge through insurance. :)

      1. Brandy*

        Agree, but with the caveat that the pricing of the plans on the exchanges, while far, far better than the cost for an individual policy for someone with health issues, may still be more expenseive that what you could get through your employer–if your employer covers a portion of the premium. For example, I found my exact health plan on the exchanges–but since my employer pays 50% of the premium, it’s still better to go through my employer.

        I do recognize that many people don’t have employers subsidizing the premiums…but just a word of caution.

      2. JoAnna*

        If you can get the website to work, that is.

        Bear in mind, also, that you are required to use your employer’s health insurance unless the premiums are more than 9.5% of your income (not sure if it’s gross or net).

          1. fposte*

            Though I believe the websites are state-handled, so they’re not directly affected by the shutdown. (Library of Congress website is dark :-(.)

            1. Bea W*

              The states had an option to either set up their own exchange or have the feds run it for them. I think I heard either 28 states set up their own exchanges OR the feds are running 28 exchanges. I don’t remember which or even if 28 is accurate, but it sounded like they weren’t impacted by the shutdown like other fed sites that were taken offline.

              1. Bea W*

                Also, the Library of Congress being shut down makes Boston Public Library the largest accessible library system out there.

            2. Loose Seal*

              Not about the exchanges but I saw today that weddings at the courthouse in D.C. are cancelled because of the shutdown. (For those who don’t play along with U.S. politics, Washington, D.C. gets its city budget from Congress.) I immediately wondered if this is going to affect Alison’s wedding.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Well, you’re not required to, but if your employer plan would cost you less than that 9.5% you can’t get any subsidies you would otherwise be qualified for.

      3. Broke Philosopher*

        If your employer offers health insurance, then unless the cost YOU pay for your premiums is more than 9.5% of your income (i.e., the cost to your spouse/children can be higher), then you must use that insurance and cannot buy insurance on the exchange.

        1. HR Anon*

          That’s not true actually. You are allowed to buy insurance on the exchange even if your employer’s plan meets the standard, but if your employer’s plan meets the standards, you will not qualify for any tax subsidies through the exchange. But if for some reason you really hated your employer plan and/or could afford to buy through the exchange, you are allowed to.

          And some exchanges are run by the states, but in most states the federal government is running the exchange since the governors in those states refused to set up their own exchanges.

          1. Broke Philosopher*

            Interesting. When I was being trained to be a health insurance navigator, they told us that people actually could not buy health insurance on the exchange if they were offered employer health insurance, but maybe that’s just for my state. I might do some sleuthing later!

  2. jasmine*

    Re: “Should HR managers be required to use the benefit plans they negotiate for their organizations?”

    These HR managers are just doing what the Congress did when they exempted themselves from Obamacare and decided to keep their own very high-class health insurance plan. Unfortunately, people in positions of power frequently get to avoid the consequences of their decisions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      And your response to the points I made about the fact that they’re not always the one controlling all the factors that go into the pick is …?

      1. EngineerGirl*

        They might not control the factors but I would bet they’d lobby a whole lot harder if they were forced to use what everyone else has.
        I know one of our HR people was clueless. We had people from a state 2000 miles away helping on a project. The HR person had them fly home to see the doctor instead of arranging for coverage while they were deployed and working for us. I would have loved to see her be forced to take a four hour plane trip cross country every time she needed to see the doctor.
        And somehow I think the temporary insurance would have cost less than multiple $1000 plane tickets.

      2. Anonymous*

        Doesn’t matter that “they are not always the ones controlling all factors.”

        The point was they have enough power to “opt out,” if it is not beneficial to them.

        1. fposte*

          More than other hires? How does that work? It doesn’t here.

          (Unless you mean “opt out” as in “not sign the whole company up,” but that’s not really opting out.)

        2. Deborah*

          As a Human Resource professional part of my job is to protect my company’s bottom line and to assist in creating a culture that attracts, hires and retains top talent. When negotiating our benefit plans that all has to be considered. Also considered is the employee population and their needs. That being said I have never carried insurance through my employer; my spouse’s years of advanced education and experience have placed him in an industry that offers much better benefit programs than the companies I have worked for. (As a side our premiums will double next year due to the taxes on “Cadillac” plans.) The fact that I do not use our plans has NEVER impacted my decisions. The relative’s HR person is just an unprofessional jerk if she is proclaiming that her plan is better than what she chose for the employees.

    2. Actually*

      Congress is not exempt from the Affordable Care Act. The ACA requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance and requires people to be insured, but it does not mandate what health plan those people need to be on. The ACA does *not* establish a national health plan like the UK’s NHS.

      1. Anonymous*

        Each I was wondering what this person was talking about because I couldn’t see how they were exempt.

        1. MousyNon*

          It’s a common talking point, it came about when the Republican party tried to push for an amendment requiring that congressional members and their staff be mandated to use exchange insurance plans (side note, their mostly-underpaid staffers were PISSED). It didn’t pass, and the talking point manifested from that. But as Actually pointed out, it’s incorrect- the ACA doesn’t require that employers have a specific insurance, just that they provide any insurance that meets a minimum threshhold of benefits.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      What are you even talking about? Have you bothered to check a single, basic fact?

      Congress is not exempt – the ACA requires people to have insurance through either their employer or from one of the private companies participating on the exchange. Congress/staffs have the exact same Federal Employees Health Benefit Program as the rest of the government – a long list of options of various health insurance plans administered by private companies, with varying rates. The employer pays some of the premiums, and the employee pays some of the premiums.

      I have Blue Cross/Blue Shield. OMG! HOW VERY HIGH CLASS!

      Oh, did you think Obama care was government-run, single payer healthcare? Because that’s the only way your comment makes a lick of sense. Seriously, tone down the rhetoric, fire up your google, and check a basic fact.

      “the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and Congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are — (I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an Amendment made by this Act).”

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Thanks guys! I’m doing ok – I actually could really use a few days to catch up my enormous to-do list, and my pets are enjoying extra snuggles. My boyfriend is furloughed too, and the weather is gorgeous, so we’re taking advantage of some quality time together.

          Gotta look for silver linings because there’s not a damn thing any of us can do in the meantime.

          I actually did civilian deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and invested my danger pay/post diferential pay well so I can weather this for a few months if need be.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yay for pet snuggles! I hope you can get back to work soon, and it doesn’t last a few months. :P

            Ex-bf has to work–he’s federal LE and they are considered essential. I don’t know whether they’ve suspended their pay, however. I just got a raise; he should come back and marry me for my money. ;D

      1. Forrest*

        “I have Blue Cross/Blue Shield. OMG! HOW VERY HIGH CLASS!”

        That right there is the best comment of the day.

      1. Anonymous*

        Jimmy Kimmel had an interviewer go out to Hollywood Blvd. to ask people if they preferred “Obamacare” or the “Affordable Care Act.” A LOT of people didn’t inow they are the same thing. It’s more sad than funny.

        1. Loose Seal*

          They did that on The Ed Show the next day and most people knew that they were the same thing. I’d like to think the Jimmy Kimmel bit was highly edited to only include those that either didn’t ever know the difference or too flustered by having a camera in their face to distinguish.

          Although, if I were teaching a marketing class, I’d point this out. Branding the ACA “Obamacare” helped the Republicans/Tea Partiers un-sell it to their constituents. They are good at branding bills to get the visceral result they need: Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind. Dems could learn a lot about this.

  3. Jen in RO*

    For my previous job, I interviewed and got an offer in December, so it definitely happens. The only downside was that I had to wade through 20 cm of snow to get to the interviews!

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      It can happen, especially if a company would like somebody to start in January (which happened to me). Also, the hiring process might get bogged down by year-end projects, so recruitment which was intended to be finalised by October, ends up being put back into November/December.

      1. Jen*

        They had been trying to hire for my position since summer (or maybe even spring)… it just took a long, long while to find someone with the right skills. You never know what situation the company is in.

    2. Tina*

      I just had a flashback to one of my first interviews post college during December – trudging over a windy bridge in a foot or more of snow, having to change my shoes at the office, and then carry my boots around with me!

      In this case, the company won a new contract and needed to hire more people. Hiring isn’t always based on timeline, but on specific needs.

    3. Jen*

      I’ve gotten hired in two jobs in December (both wanted me to start after January 1) and then one job hired me in November. So it certainly does happen.

    4. Gjest*

      I received two job offers last December (I had to do the whole string one along while I waited for the one I wanted more…it was a great position to be in, but nervewracking as well!).

      Anyway, yes, places to hire in December. The job I didn’t take was in academia. My new job is in an international organization.

      1. LCL*

        Interviewed in May or June, offer came in early December. Typical of my government employer, at the time. They were doing a lot of hiring, and had to test applicants, rank them, etc. This was before the ubiquity of computers, though they were being used. The process is faster now.

      2. Anonymous*

        Similar experience here – I got two job offers last December (about a week before Christmas, no less). I’d started interviewing for both in September/October but the processes dragged along until then. Both in professional services firms. One (the one I accepted) was for the job I was most interested for most of my job search, but the other one would also have been a great place to land.

    5. Jubilance*

      I had the same experience. Applied around Thanksgiving, interviewed in early December, received my offer a week before Christmas. It was a great early gift.

    6. Brton3*

      I got my last job offer in December too! But I live in California, so all I had to deal with weather-wise was the brutal December sun and 65 degree temperatures.

  4. Elle-em-en-oh-pee*

    1. Happy Anniversary. Your boss is a tool. Thank you for reminding me why I don’t talk about home stuff at work (despite the culture at many of my jobs where it was encouraged), many people seem to take it as an invitation judge and qualify your personal life.

    I am sure I am hyperracting by many people’s standards, but had this happened to me I’d be plotting my escape from that job, since this boss’s desire to take liberties won’t stop here. Her comment reeks of contempt; once someone feels that way, it is hard, if not impossible, to change it.

    I imagine she’ll harp on you here on out, regardless of the choice you make in your personal life, now that she thinks she has the inside track.

    I hope she apologizes.

    1. Working Girl*

      I agree. It sounds like the boss is taking advantage of your personal situation. I keep my personal life out of work for this reason.

    2. Chinook*

      #1, add me to the voices tht believe your boss is an unreasonable jerk. You have plans that were just as valid as her Saturday ones. You said it was your anniversary, which can either mean reminiscing about good times with your spouse or spending the day trying to forget about the time you waisted with said spouse. As well, you are contemplating divorce, which is in now way, shae or form the same as getting a divorce – contemplation could equally end in a decision to divorce or the realization that the issues can be worked through.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Agreed, especially with that last bit about contemplation. I think the OP should tell the boss “I really don’t feel like discussing it anymore,” and then don’t.

        1. Ruffingit*

          +1. Shutting down personal conversation at work is a must for the OP because she now knows how the boss will use that information against her. Not worth it.

    3. Brooke*

      Agreed! I don’t discuss very personal things at work either for this reason! But I do think that for some people, like myself, we have to learn that the hard way. OP, I’m so sorry you even received a text like that. It made me burn a little when I read it. I am divorced myself and my ex-husband and I get along extremely well. Although we are divorced, we still go out for dinner on our “anniversary” just to get together and have a good chat. I’ve been divorced going on three years now and in those three years, one thing has become crystal clear to me: those who have never been through a divorce THINK they understand everything about everyone’s divorce; in reality, those who have never been through a divorce really have no clue (and how could they, really?). Wish you the best!

    4. Brton3*

      This is tangential but I am a staunch believer in not discussing home life at work. You never know the roads it can lead you down.

      In the past year I started a job at the smallest office I’ve ever worked in – just 4 of us, and we are very close. The other three are always talking about their personal lives (I even went to the wedding of one of them) and it’s natural because we really are friends. Nonetheless, I still clam up about my own personal life, and I don’t feel left out because of it.

  5. Ellie*


    Geez, your line manager has way overstepped the boundaries here but so have you. She’s not your therapist, or even your friend. She’s your boss. It’s probably too late for this job but take this lesson to your next job. Don’t bring these issues into the office.

    And also consider *why* you are bringing this up to her. If you wanted leeway or sympathy or certain liberties (days off?) because of it, then you are setting yourself up for her to take certain liberties on her end. It’s wildly unprofessional but so are you. Be professional and people will generally respond in kind.

    1. Jen*

      We spend at least 8 hours a day at work, I don’t think it’s unthinkable to want to know your coworkers as actual people! You should be careful *who* you share with (and it looks like this manager was the wrong person), but you can’t simply say that your personal life should disappear when you get to work. I don’t think the OP should be chastised.

      1. Forrest*

        I think there’s a big difference between knowing that “Jane is married to Bob” vs “Jane is married to Bob but things haven’t been great lately and she’s thinking about divorcing him but not yet and oh its all so confusing!”

        First half is fine but save the second half for close friends. Your boss can only use what you give her against you.

          1. Alan Wexelblat*

            I agree as well. This is one reason why I don’t bring my personal life into the office. And that boss is being a tool, as another poster said PLUS is treading quite close to sexual harassment.

            I would handle this with extreme care and document everything. You are standing in a minefield and need to be careful about every step until you’re out.

                1. Ruffingit*

                  I don’t see sexual harassment either, I just see rude and insensitive, which is not actionable and that’s probably a good thing because the courts would be clogged beyond belief if it was.

        1. Cruella Da Boss*

          Oh, sorry. My “+1” was for the “…spend 8 hours a day at work…” comment.

          This reminds me of something our pastor once said: “Our Heavenly Father created a day to be 24 hours, so that man could spend 8 hours on work, 8 hours on play, and 8 hours on rest.”

    2. Gjest*

      This reads as harsh, but I agree with the sentiment. It would be hard to not discuss your personal life at all at work, but maybe sensitive things such as “considering divorce” should be kept to yourself, unless you are absolutely sure that you are talking to someone who is more of a friend than a coworker/boss. If your boss is this crass/unfeeling to send this text, they don’t sound like good friend material.

      1. Chinook*

        What Gjest said. Unless your boss asks you why you are an emotional wreck (because marital can affect you like a serious illness in the family and can cause uncontrollable grief), there is no reason to talk to your boss about your personal life until your legal status or mailing address has changed). That is what friends and therapists are for.

      2. Anonymous*

        + 1 as well. Employee created the potential for this by discussing details of her personal life. Also, when saying she couldn’t work Sunday because it was her anniversary. TMI.

        1. VintageLydia*

          I wouldn’t generally consider someone’s anniversary to be TMI. Its not much different than saying its your birthday and already had plans because of that.

            1. doreen*

              The “we might be divorcing” is definitely the original TMI- but having disclosed that I would not have brought up the anniversary as the reason for being unavailable to work . Bosses are human, and I don’t imagine anyone wouldn’t have questions after hearing both those pieces of information, whether they gave voice to them or not.

                1. fposte*

                  True. But I wonder if it just would have been a different rude text if the boss didn’t know. Seems to me the “get your butt on on Sunday” thing is problematic no matter whether it’s linked to the state of the OP’s marriage or not.

      3. Fee*


        OP – are you and your manager good enough friends to tell her you were hurt/offended by the text message? If not, you’re not good enough friends to be discussing your marital problems IMO.

        Manager sounds like a jerk for making someone work a Sunday when they took sick days as vacation. Manager sounds like a jerk for sending that text message. However I think these are actually two separate issues.

  6. Zahra*

    #6: From your letter, I’m guessing that you are working in a field similar to mine. So here’s my own data:

    I recently graduated in Business Intelligence (KPIs, Dashboards, data analysis, data integration or ETL, data warehouses and data marts, etc.). The starting salary for a fresh, out-of-school candidate with a master’s degree is around 50k in Quebec. The usual benefits are health/dental/vision insurance and at least 3 weeks off. If working downtown, you can request the parking pass as part of the benefits.

  7. Working Girl*

    #2 You can be sure if you raise a junior staff pay over senior staff pay rates, it will get around and you will have a bigger problem at hand than whether you want to keep one staff member. Everyone’s pay should be increased accordingly, then everyone is kept happy. You can go nowhere good by creating office resentment. Consider if your pay was lower than someone who just started with your company. There is no reason you can’t ask who presented your employee with an offer to know who is trying to poach your staff. Rehiring does cost the company more in training, interviewing, etc and maybe have to pay a new employee more than the existing one – can you offer her other incentives than pay raise – like more vacation time? – keeping in mind other staff will notice so you need to increase them all, or a one time bonus – but she may leave anyway if she is telling you she has another offer . What is the company policy on pay raises? Tell her how much you value her work and when raise time is and that you do intend to raise her pay at that time may satisfy her – as long as you follow through.

    1. Forrest*

      Except nonprofits can’t always afford to increase everyone’s salaries “according,” whatever that implies (merit? cost of living?). Nor can they really afford to take a chance and hope they don’t have to rehire in a month anyway after they spent money on the raise.

      The employee is half way out the door – let her go.

    2. Joey*

      Yeah, I agree that its a good idea to ask for the offer letter. This is hard data that you can use if it starts becoming more than a one-off issue. Pitching the case for raising a salary range or increasing salaries is a whole lot easier when you have some hard data to back you up.

      1. fposte*

        I could see this as a standard policy, actually, and I wonder if there are places that have the requirement that requests to match counteroffers must involve a letter/email with the figure.

        1. CollegeAdmin*

          I received one for my current job (started 6 months ago). Got an email on Friday letting me know I got it, a call on Monday to discuss terms, and the official letter (to sign and return) arrived on Wednesday or so.

        2. Eric*

          I was supposed to get one. But it got lost in the mail, so I didn’t get it until after I started working. (Postmark date the day after the phone offer 4 weeks earlier).

        3. Mike C.*

          Ok, you people are weird. :p

          Or maybe I am. I assume like the speed of light there’s no preferred frame of reference here. ;)

          1. Jamie*

            Getting all sciencey on us …nice.

            We do it because we put in the details of the offer, and we call it a contract and treat it as such. If you are getting a 6 month review of salary, it’s in the offer letter along with vacation days, other benefits, compensation, tuition reimbursement, etc.

            That way there are no surprises and you aren’t relying on anyone’s memory about what was promised several months down the road.

            1. Mike C.*

              That’s awesome, I love that. What a great way to build trust between the company and a new employee.

              1. Jamie*

                It also comes in really handy if the hiring manager leaves the company. This way HR and everyone is on the same page about what was promised.

        4. Bea W*

          I have always gotten one, and I have always had to sign it and return to HR for formal acceptance. This is standard practice in my industry, and you can’t really consider that you have a job until you’ve received that letter and returned it with your signature indicating your acceptance.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I think mine was email too–but it was a document that I had to acknowledge electronically. Very little is paper around here, both because there are so many remote / WFH employees and because of the confidential nature of our business (passwords on EVERYTHING).

          1. HR Competent*

            I draft offer letter for every new hire and have the hiring manager sign off on them.

            I like it for the very reason mentioned up thread, good to have for payroll records and easy to refer back too.

  8. Happy Office Worker*

    I’m with Jen, we spend so much time at work it is natural for us to sometimes share with our co-workers. I have been guilty of over sharing when I need a a sounding board and it’s something I am starting to think differently about.

    I love the work of Brené Brown, she talks about how we should only share our stories with those who deserve to hear them and I like this quote “If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.” That came straight to my mind when I read that post. Good luck to the OP #1, it sounds like she has a lot on her plate.

  9. Working Girl*

    #1 maybe the boss thinks they are saving you from spending time with your spouse by pulling you away on your anniversary or maybe she is trying to hurry up the divorce process so you are not conflicted and discussing it at work. Tell her you have plans for your anniversary and can’t break them but another time would be fine with you – early mornings, evenings. Also, tell her you are working out your marriage and stop discussing it at work – set your boundary and keep it there.You can’t very well tell your husband you are upset because of what your boss said about your marriage so delete the txt before he sees it. If you need to talk to someone about your marriage try a professional who is paid to keep your confidential information confidential. Your boss and fellow employees are not.

  10. Construction HR*

    #1 Just when was the boss going to advise the OP that she had to work on Sunday (regardless of the OP being out on Thursday & Friday and taking vacay for it)??

  11. Bea W*

    #1 – You took PTO for the days you missed, and she wants you to come in over the weekend? Is she going to let you take off another day for coming in Sunday? You can’t work Saturday because *she* has other plans? I presume you both would have to come into the office together on Sunday? Is there a pressing deadline?

    Okay, you can’t really tell your boss to go *#@(@ herself and it’s within her perogative to ask you to come in, but she’s being a jerk about it in a big way. Wow. If it were me, I’d stop talking to her about my marriage or much of anything personal. That comment is inappropriate.

    1. Jamie*

      Yeah – this is what bothered me most. OP took PTO for the days missed…so there was nothing to make up from a hours/bookkeeping standpoint.

      And is it certain the boss wasn’t making a flippant remark meant to be seen as funny? I mean if you’re close enough to discuss your upcoming (maybe) divorce are you close enough to joke about it?

      Personally when it comes to leaving someone my mom gave me great advice – unless you’re sure and ready to go keep it to yourself. Because if you make up and work things out other people will always remember what you said about him long after you’ve forgotten. Talking things out with people very close to you if you need advice is one thing – but it shouldn’t be public knowledge until you’re ready to rent the U-Haul – IMO.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s good advice–and we all know someone who whines about leaving their boring/annoying SO and then goes back and whines and goes back, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Agreed. Keep your own counsel is always good advice in situations like this. I believe that applies to many things where things can change in an instant. I’ve always believed this particularly when people are trying to have a baby. It’s so bizarre to me when people share that – we’re trying to conceive. UH…OK, well good luck with the sex you’re planning to have…I mean really, what’s the answer to that? What until you’re pregnant and actually have something to share.

  12. Bea W*

    #2 – I’d be cautious about countering, and it’s a really bad idea for all the reasons Alison’s article talks about. This employee is either manipulating you to get a raise, has been looking for a job because they want to leave, or both. The reasons people look for other work are often bigger than the paycheck. You might buy yourself some time, but that person will probably end up leaving soon anyway, and you’ll also set up a precedent that the way to approach asking for a raise is to claim you have a better offer.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      And — if you truly believe there’s a good chance this employee is lying about having an offer letter, *is* this someone you want to keep?

      1. Chinook*

        And if the employee is lieing bout the offer, you will have double the satisfaction when you tell them you won’t counter, you wish them well at their new job and you would like a letter confirming their resignation (which is implied when you wave offers around) by the end of day. They will either have to admit they lied or will be gone.

        1. thenoiseinspace*

          My thoughts exactly! It seems like this employee has a rather inflated sense of his/her own value. Whether or not he’s lying, this would take him down a peg or two.

          1. fposte*

            If she’s not lying, why does she need to be taken down a peg? Going back to one’s employer to see if they can match an external offer is a pretty common practice, and if it’s true, then this employer *is* paying less than the employee can get, so it’s not arrogant of her to believe so.s

            1. Bea W*

              In my experience, it’s common that someone gives notice and then the company initiates the counter-offer process, not the other way around. If an employee came to me out of the blue asking for a raise because they have a better offer elsewhere, I’d wonder, “If he really wants to stay and believes his work is worth more than what I am paying him, why did he not approach anyone to ask for a raise in the first place?” It would seriously make me question his professional judgement and wonder if he felt entitled based on factors that have nothing to do with the actual work he does.

              Maybe the employee did have a discussion around pay and started looking because he was told he couldn’t get the raise he wanted, which then still begs the question, if you’ve gone through all the trouble of getting a better offer, why not just take it?

              Maybe it’s me. I have a really low tolerance for these kinds of games. Come to me with a well thought-out line of reasoning for why the work you do in my Chocolate Teapot factory is worth more than what I am paying you, not with something that comes across with a tone of “Give me a raise or else!” The former actually goes toward demonstrating your worth. The latter just feels like poorly executed extortion.

              1. fposte*

                Oh, in my experience it’s really common to do it the way the OP describes, so this could well be industry variable. It still runs into the counteroffer problems that Alison notes, but not any more than the version you’re familiar with.

                Though even in an industry where that’s annoying, it’s still not an inflated sense of value if somebody’s actually willing to spend that money on the employee.

                1. Bea W*

                  It’s not common in my industry (or maybe it’s just my field). My impression is that companies in my corner of the economy are wise to how competitive it is, and try not to give people reasons to operate this way in the first place. Counteroffers themselves are rare. You might expect one if you’re some high mucky mucky executive. The rest of us are pretty dispensable apparently, and most managers have absolutely no power over the process. You’ll have more luck trying to straight out negotiate for a raise with threatening to leave and convincing your manager to go to bat for you than hoping someone will come back with a counteroffer.

                  I agree, if it’s a common practice in your industry, then there’s probably not as much ego involved, it’s just doing what everyone else is doing.

                2. Bea W*

                  GAH! I meant “You’ll have more luck trying to straight out negotiate for a raise *withOUT* threatening to leave…”

                  No, threatening to resign in order to get a raise generally doesn’t go over well here!

              2. anon*

                I just want to add something to this: salaries have been frozen for years at my current job. We cannot ask for raises. It’s fairly commonly known that the only way to get a raise is to have a counteroffer. I don’t like this, and I’m not sure I’d go that route, as I have low tolerance for this kind of thing, too. But in this economy, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that a person should have asked for a raise before going the counteroffer route. It really depends on the circumstances.

                1. Bea W*

                  That would irk me even more, because of the inherent unfairness of people purposely gaming the system to get something that no one else is allowed to have. It then creates exactly what you said – people learning the only way to get something is to threaten to leave, so more go that route than would have otherwise.

                  That plan is a bit short sighted, if most similar companies do not have wage freezes as well. You might manage to eek a raise out of a counteroffer, but with a wage freeze who knows when you’ll get another increase. If the other company is doing well and does not have a wage freeze, it might be better to take the new job at the higher rate and have the chance at raises again if money is the primary motivator.

                1. Bea W*

                  There’s nothing to wonder about if the employee is handing you a resignation rather than just using an offer as leverage for a raise. I suppose that person could be hoping for a counteroffer, but if they’re not demanding one, it’s probably safe to assume their intention is to actually take the new job rather than using it to strong arm a raise.

              3. AB*

                “In my experience, it’s common that someone gives notice and then the company initiates the counter-offer process, not the other way around.”

                If I gave notice, it means I have accepted an offer already (at least that’s what a smart person would do not to run the risk of ending up without a job if the new opportunity fells through after resigning). And then, I’m no longer in a position to discuss a counteroffer, as this would mean going back on my word with the new job. So I can see why the person would be interested in discussing a counteroffer before accepting the new job / giving notice.

                1. Bea W*

                  Oddly, that’s what I’ve seen it take to light a fire under the butt of someone who can make a counteroffer – a resignation letter. I’m guessing it’s pretty effective in cutting down the number of people who would consider using an offer as leverage to get a raise. Not many people will want to take that kind of risk.

    2. Colette*

      The thing that disturbs me on that one is that the employer doesn’t trust that the employee actually has another offer. That seems like it’s more of an issue than merely what salary to pay. Why would you want someone working for you if you believe they’re lying?

      1. Anonymous*

        This. I feel like the LW is using “my employee might be lying” as some red herring here because she doesn’t want to give the employee a raise or doesn’t have the budget.

        If this is the chance the LW wants to take, what kind of precedent is she setting? Any employee who can produce an offer letter with a higher salary from another org gets a raise, regardless of the budget of whether the employee in question deserves it?

      2. Bea W*

        “I have my doubts that the employee actually has this offer”

        True! LW – look at what you wrote. If you have good reason to believe this person would lie to you about an offer letter for his own personal gain, there’s no need to take it any further than wishing him best in his new job.

      3. fposte*

        Or, to put it another way, does it matter? If the employee isn’t worth the additional money to you, don’t pay it; if the employee is, then pay it.

  13. kdizzle*

    Is the OP for #6 the 25 year old version of me who got in a Delorean and traveled back in time just to write this letter?

    My first job at 25, fresh out of graduate school, was to work in a newly created position…no job title…no formalized duties except to create performance metrics. They told me that I would create 50-60% of my other duties.

    Congratualations on your pending offer! In my case, I negotiated for a tiny increase from the original offer. We settled on a generic Operations Analyst title, but since I was the only analyst, it was easy to march up my career ladder to “Senior Analyst” and “Director of Operations Research.” Since I was an unknown and the job was an unknown, my boss and I decided to have a performance review with raise potential at both 6 months and 12 months. If you’re a self starter who has a healthy sense of curiosity, you’ll thrive in a job like this. Good luck!

    1. Frieda*

      Agreed with kdizzle. And this is probably a great time to bring in the “Describe what a successful first year in this role would look like” conversation, rather than trying to pin down specific job functions.

      Maybe you can combine the two: Have a discussion about what success in this role would look like at 3, 6, and 12 months, then agree to have a formal sit-down review at those steps to see where you are in relation to that initial discussion of success, and also (maybe just at 6 and 12 months) discuss if your salary is commensurate with what your job duties ended up being. And when those times come up, be pro-active in setting up the review meeting. Bonus points: setting up the conversation in this way (define goals, measure, review, repeat) is a common framework for performance improvement in general, so you’ll also be showing your new bosses from the start that you are a methodical, analytical, results-driven person.

  14. Felicia*

    Regarding #4, my best friend got hired for her job in mid December, and worked two weeks before they shut down two weeks for Christmas, and then she went back in January. That company told her they were hiring then because it was slower and they had more time to devote to the process. So it happens:) And then when I worked at the head office of a retail company, December wasn’t slower at all, it was the busiest time of the year:)

  15. Anony*

    Re: 3. We can’t take time off unless we find our own coverage — but there isn’t anyone available for coverage

    Something similar like that happened to me except I was the receptionist at the front desk. Have you tried letting your manager know about this situation? The fact that you can’t find anyone to replace you?

    1. Anonymous*

      This happened when I was a receptionist, too, and I didn’t abuse my vacation or sick time. The other admins were so inflexible that I actually got the head of the dept involved when they refused to cover a vacation day so I could go to my Grandma’s funeral (& I told them it was for my Grandma’s funeral).

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Happened to me too, at Exjob. They made the coverage position only a half day after the full-time person quit, and I had to work sick quite a few mornings until he showed up–and he was late a lot. If he was out that day, I had no backup at all.

  16. MousyNon*

    Alison and AAM readers!! Follow-up question re: the answer to OP#2 (not the OP, btw):

    Would you say an employee and employer are in a better position to negotiate a raise if the employee already turned down the offer (but brings the offer to the table as a reference point), or in the case of negotiating a raise do you think an employee should just keep any offer data/information off the table? I feel like saying “I turned down this offer but here’s my market value” hopefully shows loyalty, but I don’t know if it pops a red flag in the employers head (in the ‘she must be on her way out the door…’ vein).

    I’m asking because, going back and (re)reading the link you suggested to the OP, one of your points is that as an employer should already be paying fair wages for a position–but studies have shown that wages have really stagnated, and in many industries/companies (like mine, which is why I’m asking), companies will pay as little as they can get away with, and the only way for staff to bump their wages up along with inflation is to negotiate (I know senior staff in my company that are getting paid effectively less than I am, because they’ve never negotiated raises).

    Sometimes it feels like the only way for an employee to be paid fairly in these situations is to play hardball, but if every (crummy) employer chose to selectively follow Alison’s advice (i.e. they don’t pay fair market wages, but don’t counteroffer) there’d be a lot of turnover and wages will just keep dropping.


    1. fposte*

      I dunno, to me it’s kind of the worst of both worlds–they know you’re thinking about leaving and you don’t have any leverage. Maybe recast it as a conversation about being paid below market value and just a straight negotiation? Articulate the things you like about the company and why you want to stay and grow there?

      1. MousyNon*

        Fair point. In my industry it’s just tough to get a read on what fair market salaries are (and as you know Glassdoor and are not very helpful), so I feel kind of helpless. I got an offer from one of our biggest competitors earlier this year and turned it down, but the money was almost double what I’m making now. It feels strange not to use that at all, but maybe you’re right and I should just let it go.

          1. MousyNon*

            It required a relocation clear across the country, and I had family considerations (they cropped up midway through the interview process) that kept me from making the move. Otherwise, I have to admit I would have taken it, because right now, I still live with family because I don’t make enough to live independently (I work in a very, very high-cost-of-living area). It’s tough, because I feel like the offer letter is sitting there in my hard drive mocking me, lol.

            1. fposte*

              I’m not saying don’t have the conversation; I’m saying don’t cast it as a response to an offer that you’re still thinking about. (Are you sure regional costs and norms aren’t at play here, by the way? I’d have to be paid at least double to live at my standard on the coasts.)

                1. Bea W*

                  It could be in Seattle the pool of people with the skills and experience they need is very limited, so they have to pay much more to attract the people they want.

                  In my field pay differs wildly depending on what kind of company you work for. If you are fortunate enough to make the leap from one type to the other, near doubling your pay is not unheard of.

                2. NBB*

                  Replying to Bea W and MousyNon, but cannot nest the replies any further.

                  Seattle has a thriving job market, with a highly skilled and educated population and lots of competition between candidates. So I am super curious, what industry are you in that a company in Seattle can’t find someone qualified?

                3. Bea W*

                  I don’t know, but i’m interested to find out if that’s the case. I’m in Boston and don’t know what skills are in high demand right now in Seattle. It’s the same situation though, highly skilled and educated population but also tons of high tech businesses and metric shit ton of medical facilities and universities. Any kind of rapid growth in certain industries with specialized jobs can create stiff competition even in this area. I work in biotech/pharma. Before the economy went south competition to fill certain roles lead to my peers rapidly seeing increases in income, some even into the 6 figure range. You’d think Boston of all places would not experience suuch a shortage, but it happens. About 2 years ago, when I was back on the market, the NJ area went through something similar. I could barely find jobs in the Boston area while companies in NJ were actively recruiting out of state looking to relocate people in order to meet demand. The economy is a strange and finkle entity.

                4. Bea W*

                  You say Seattle has a thriving job market. That is exactly when this type of thing happens. More jobs to fill means employers need to compete harder to attract the best people. Pay goes up. It’s expensive to relocate someone. That a company was willing to do this tells me there may be a shortage of great local candidates with the skills and experience MousyNon has.

            2. EngineerGirl*

              Then it might not have been a huge pay increase. If you were living in Ohio and moved to a major California city then your salary may have to double to maintain the same standard of living. Things need to be viewed in the whole.

              1. MousyNon*

                It was a move from NYC to Seattle. The standards of living are actually lower where I would have been moving.

        1. Frieda*

          Here’s the thing about “fair market salary”: It’s not what you consider fair. It’s not what you need. It’s about what “the market” is willing to pay. So, theoretically, if you think you are underpaid and your employer won’t give you a raise, you can look for work elsewhere. If you can find the same job at a higher salary, then you were underpaid according to the market but now that has been corrected. However, if you can’t find a job at a higher salary, then your employer is technically paying a “fair market salary.” Again, not necessarily fair to you. If the market is working efficiently, then your comment about ” there’d be a lot of turnover and wages will just keep dropping” is wrong–if your skill set is in demand and your company isn’t paying enough for it, another company will pay more to be able to take advantage of that skill set. The company that pays undermarket will lose their workers with the most in-demand skills and the company that pays at or above market will retain workers with the most in-demand skills. If your skills aren’t in-demand, though, that’s another story.

          Also keep in mind that job markets are regional, just like housing markets. So even if you did bring up the Seattle job, that may not reflect the market in NYC, which might be why your current job doesn’t pay as highly as the other job.

          1. MousyNon*

            I understand all of this, though thanks for the recap. I don’t think I made many “It’s not fair to me!!!!!” statements, but was talking about overall fairness in the market place, but I’m on my phone and it’s a pain to scroll up so I can’t verify.

            Regardless, I think where you and I disagree is that the job market is an efficiently functioning market economy (or at least a true ‘free’ market economy) and should be judged in the same way. If all wages (public or private) were public record to allow for comparison shopping and thus market corrections, it would be different. But in this country private sector salaries are jealously guarded, so the only real risk is on the part of the employee–they can stay and risk leaving money on the table/being undervalued, or leave and risk an unknown future (and should they decide to leave, they have weak negotiating power with a new entity because they may have little to no accurate industry wage standard information).

            The imbalance of risk here means that employees move/change companies less frequently than they should to properly adjust market worth in a truly unbiased way. Similarly, employers have no incentive to adjust wages for competitive purposes specifically because they understand where risk is highest (and it helps that a tough economy means a broadly diverse employment pool, so underbidding is in their best interests).

            And we disagree when you say my comment (“a lot of turnover and wages will just keep dropping”) is wrong, and the research bears my position out. Google ‘median income adjusted for inflation.’ It’s a well known fact that employee wages have stagnated while employee productivity and corporate profits have improved overall. So while yes, in a true free market income should have been adjusted precisely as you described, that hasn’t happened because the job market isn’t a truly free and efficiently run market. The deck is stacked against us.

            I understand Alison’s perspective because her stance is to give the best practical advice overall so that the employee can best navigate the job market as it is now, but at the macro level, the deck really is stacked against us, precisely as I described.

    2. thenoiseinspace*

      I don’t know that I’d mention that I had another offer. I think I’d start by pointing out your recent accomplishments in the role and ways in which you’ve improved or developed that are worthy of a raise. Then I’d add that the current going role for those skills is $X according to some research you’ve been doing. That way, it shows that you want to give the company the chance to give you a raise first without necessarily implying that you’ve already started actively looking for a new job (and, to me, it implies that you’ve been doing research in your field, which shows that you care about staying on-trend in your field and keeping your skills up to date). Saying that you’ve gotten an offer shows that you’ve not only been actively looking for a while, but have moved through interview stages and have likely negotiated a better offer. To me, the first would be a case of “Are we paying market value?” and the second would be “How much do we care about trying to keep an employee who’s actively trying to leave?”

      That’s just my 2 cents, though, and I really don’t have experience to back it up with. Other thoughts or comments, fellow readers?

      1. Judy*

        I worked with a guy who had received another offer. He went to his manager with x, y & z research about why he should be paid more. The manager said no. When he turned in his resignation the next day, the manager said “If you had said you had another offer, I could have gotten you a raise.” I heard the second part, it was pretty loud and I was only 3 desks away.

        But that manager was a dufus in more ways than one.

        1. MousyNon*

          See? This is what I’ve been thinking of in my head. Why wouldn’t a lazy or non-confrontational type manager (the type hesitant to ask for anything from corporate without their back right up against the wall) ever negotiate for anything based on a well reasoned, well supported conversation about an employee’s value and addition to the office? I know the practical response to this is “your manager sucks, find a new one” but that’s really not an option for all of us.

          1. fposte*

            There are all kinds of managers. Those that won’t give you raises without a counteroffer, those that will fire you for thinking about leaving, those that won’t give you a raise for any freaking thing in the world; there are also those who know that people who stay for a counteroffer don’t stay long, and those managers aren’t actually irrational. Then there are the managers who do listen to a rational case made for a greater salary.

            You would know better than the rest of us which manager in that pile is yours. But there’s no one tactic that would be playing it safe everywhere–what’s CYA with one manager may lose you a chunk of valuable gluteal real estate with another.

    3. Joey*

      That worked for me……or at least I think it played a part. When I negotiated my promotional raise one of my speaking points was that someone had reached out to me multiple times and offered me a job with a raise that I turned down. And I turned it down because my first choice was progressing within my current team. I negotiated more than the original offer.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The difference here is that it doesn’t sound like you were actively looking — instead someone reached out to you and you turned it down because you’re happy where you are. That framing gets rid of all the worries about “oh, this person is actively looking to leave, so it’s only a matter of time anyway.”

        1. MousyNon*

          Hm, well someone did reach out to me via a networking site. I wasn’t actively looking, but I didn’t turn down the chance for an interview, which I guess amounts to the same thing?

  17. Lisa*

    But yeah, your management sucks.

    I love this, it is the most helpful thing that AAM can say for many of the OPs. Validation when you are in a management or HR twilight zone.

      1. txrph*

        Hallelujah! It wasn’t the answer I wanted, but it sure sums it up nicely. Now what to do… sigh.

  18. FSP*

    At my previous employer, as the HR Manager I was indeed involved in negotiating the benefits package for employees. I fought hard to get the best possible rates. There were two big problems that we had when negotiating health and life:

    1) the age, pre-existing conditions, and BMI of employees. Because we were a Virginia employer with less than 50 employees we had to go through testing before receiving final offers. Every time the rates would more than double from the original quote to the final quote following testing. Some employees understood that there were some ways in which they could help control these cost and took action to improve their lifestyles (quitting smoking, losing weight, etc). Still others just wanted to blame the employer and thought that it should be 100% an employer cost.
    2) the employer was not interested in taking money from their pockets (profit from the company) to cover cost for the employees as they thought many of them were overpaid already. No matter what I presented, they were the end-all say-all as to what happened with benefits.

    I really tried to get them to cover a larger percentage and was able in the 3 years that I was there to get them to go from covering 21.2% of the premiums to 57% of the premiums for health insurance and 100% for life. While doing that, I found that it was actually more cost-effective for me, as a healthy person in their late twenties, to get my own health coverage outside of the employer. I paid out-of-pocket but didn’t make a big deal about it. I discussed it with my manager beforehand so that he was aware. It just didn’t make sense to me to have more than $700 deducted monthly from my paycheck when I could pay less than $200 monthly.

    My new (current) employer pays 98% of costs and I pay less than $10/month for health insurance. They are similarly a small employer in VA but they opted to go the PEO route instead. I’m not sure what will happen with ACA (I change positions and am now doing Graphic Design, my passion, so I’m not on the inside track anymore.).

    1. Lisa*

      I convinced the same 65 yr old owner to go off the group plan to lower everyone else’s premiums. He paid his own, and saved a ton on everyone else. :)
      I live in Mass, we went through this once already. Being covered is horrible, because it isn’t good insurance. You pay a small premium that covers you when you are healthy. Basically, if you need a physical, have a baby, typical blood tests, and yearly preventative exams, then it all makes sense. If you need a specialist, you end up paying through the nose. When this whole Mass healthcare happened, it was torture trying to find a PCP that would take the new insurance and that was accepting new patients. Very few docs were available that did when this began, and if you cared about who were going to they weren’t the best. I was in charge of helping our 20 employees go thru this process and since most didn’t speak english, our boss wanted to make sure they each had PCPs set up so that they were taking advantage of having to pay this cost. Most opted out and paid a fine, which my boss made them write out that they understood that THEY were responsible to pay the fine not the company in their preferred language. He didn’t want anyone to misunderstand or just yes-yes the translator, which was always a problem when we had to go over OSHA rules. Turns out, having them copy any big news in their own handwriting made them actually read the info (it worked so well, that i eventually made it a requirement of all employees including native english speakers too) and they asked questions and some came back to ask for more help; ie, I was tracking down PCPs that spoke spanish and creole, took the new insurance plan and was accepting new patients. Everything was going fine, until one of the guys got hurt on the job and used the health insurance for ER, followups, but ended up with massive bills for specialists. My boss took the bills and paid out of pocket, which is what he did before the insurance requirements. It was a huge headache to go thru all this and the next year, everyone chose the fine and went back to handing over the healthcare bills to my boss, which he paid gladly. He was a yeller, but when it mattered he was a great boss. One employee’s baby had a heart defect, and he kept paying the employee when he was out (over a month), and about 25k in bills. The baby died, and the family chose to go back to El Salvador, poor thing.

      1. Erica B*

        I’m in Mass too, and one of the frustrating things about RomneyCare is that the insurance that they offer to those who are unable to get it through work, is crap. You pay like $700/month for the bare minimum plan, where co-pays and deductibles make you wonder why you are paying for health insurance at all. Of course there is a plan for low-income people, but it’s extremely hard to meet the crazy low poverty line requirement, so even if you earn $10/hr you make too much to qualify, not to mention not even earn enough money to pay basic no frills bills AND eat too. And I’m talking not the nicest place to live either-as in most people wouldn’t live there.
        For most people in this situation, it’s significantly cheaper to pay the fine and have no insurance than to pay the insurance and not be able to afford to eat or have a roof over there head.

        I feel like, but I’m not entirely sure, that the poverty line hasn’t moved up with the cost of living increases in this country- and it seriously needs to be readjusted. At the very least let the states set their own poverty level (it’s pretty expensive to live in Ma, even out in the western area where I do).

        Lisa is incredibly lucky that her employer is offering to pay the co-pays and such. I have never heard of that!

        1. Lisa*

          Yeah, I was so confused when guys would come up to me with ER bills, and I asked my boss, um whats going on. He was like, oh use this credit card for those bills and give it to my wife (she handled the money). She would call up the employee, and they would explain the reason for the bill and she would literally write down on the bill – broke arm, wife had baby “carlos”, heart attack, etc. and file it like it was nothing to spend thousands out of pocket on these things.

          1. khilde*

            Wow, I’m kind of fascinated by bosses like this. You said he was a yeller – was he a difficult boss in general? Or would he just blow his top every now and again? That’s a generous thing any boss would do, but more so if they were kind of a curmudgeon.

            Do you think it was a business reason he did or or a personal /warm fuzzy reason he did it?

              1. Jamie*

                If you’re out there Mike, I’d work for you any time.

                (Is he still alive? If so how are his IT needs being managed…)

                1. Jamie*

                  Thanks – I did google but not properly or long enough as I didn’t see that.

                  It’s so silly, but the fact that the tiger on his logo looks like it needs an orthodontist cracks me up to no end. How often do you see a tiger with an overbite?

              2. khilde*

                That’s who I was thinking of, but I wasn’t sure if Tiger Mike was the right name. But that is exactly who I was picturing, too!!

              3. khilde*

                I’m reading through these again and “enormously entertaining” doesn’t even begin to describe these.

                “Anyone who lets their hair grow below their ears to where I can’t see their ears means they don’t wash. If they don’t wash, they stink, and if they stink, I don’t want the son-of-a-bitch around me.”

                BWAHAHA! {wiping tears} do you think that any of his employees would have been tempted to write in with “Is this legal?” hahah.

            1. Lisa*

              Total curmudgeon that would argue for 4 hours about not using both sides of the printer paper or giving the delivery guy a $3 tip when the restaurant was next door and we should have picked it up, but would silently just pay thousands of dollars in medical bills without blinking.

              1. Chinook*

                I think your curmudgeonly boss is a great guy who realizes that, if you take care of the pennies, the dollars will follow. Andn with those dollars, you buy the loyalty of your employees by treating them well I a time of need.

                1. Lisa*

                  I don’t work there anymore, but a few years ago was contacted by an attorney who alerted me to 10k that was in a retirement fund for me from my old boss. We never had 401k there and had no idea that he did this. They had a new accountant that saw that he was still paying into my fund and some others of people that were deemed important to him over the years but no longer worked there. He wanted to still do it, but because we didn’t work there anymore the accountant insisted that he clean house and give the accounts to each person. He didn’t start doing this until about 15 years ago. One woman had been there for 40 years and got like $60k, another for 10 years and had 23k. I was there only 4 years, but got 10k. None of us knew. It was awesome, I cried. He was a good guy, and I loved it there but couldn’t stay for ever and the yelling eventually made me very anxious and it was only him and the son yelling at each other really.

        2. Bea W*

          The federal “poverty line” is ridiculously low even in cases where it has been adjusted for CoL by region for some local programs. The FPIG (Federal Poverty Income Guideline) for a family of 3 is currently $19,530. Since you live in MA, I presume you have just spit your coffee all over the screen. A family of 3 cannot provide themselves with safe shelter and enough food and basic needs like clothing, school supplies, and personal care items for $19,530 without being on every public assistance program out there. $19,530 might cover the base rent of an decent 2 bedroom apartment, but you’ll have nothing left over.

          I lived below FPIG for many years. It was too been abysmally too low for CoL in the northeast back then as well, but it has not kept pace with the cost of living.

          1992 income = $6,600 ($550/month)
          1992 FPIG, single person = $6,810
          1992 Rent = $6000 ($500/month) without heat or utilities. This was the real rent I paid for a small apt in a safe neighborhood near the city on public transit (no car of course!) $500 was actually on the low end of the rental market. If I did not manage to eventually get a Section 8 voucher, I would have had to find an alternative once my savings and my retro-active buffer of food stamps ran out.

          Let’s look at the same figures for 2013:
          2013 FPIG (single person) = $11,490
          2013 rent = $14,400+ ($1200+/month low end!) for the same size apartment in the same location.

          FPIG increased by 68.7% while market rents in the Boston area have increased by 140% or more in the same time period. So while the standard that is applied to public assistance and subsidies was bad 20 years ago, it’s catastrophically bad now and not anywhere near what it needs to be to reflect realistic circumstances compared to the CoL in the north east…assuming I did the math correctly.

          1. Natalie*

            Indeed. In fact, some programs have started using 200% of the federal poverty guideline as a standard, since the level is so low. No comment on the fact that many of these programs are more heavily used by the middle class (i.e. Public Service Loan Forgiveness).

            1. MousyNon*

              I think the ACA’s benchmark is something like 300% of the poverty guideline to start receiving subsidies.

              1. Broke Philosopher*

                At least in my state (not sure how much is dictated by the ACA itself here), you can get subsidies if your income is up to 400% FPL and cost-sharing reductions if it’s up to 250%. So if you’re at 250% or less, you can end up saving quite a bit of money on your health insurance.

        3. JoAnna*

          That’s fascinating to hear, because the media narrative I’m hearing is that RomneyCare has worked so fabulously in Mass. and 97% of Mass. residents have health insurance, so therefore the ACA is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

          1. Bea W*

            What they don’t tell you is how much premiums increased for a lot of people after that. It was great for a lot of people who previously could not get health insurance because their employer did not offer it and buying an individual plan was prohibitive before RomneyCare. There are however definitely people that fall into that gap where they make a moderate income that supports their family and current expenses well enough, but they can’t find an extra $700-$1000 or more a month in their budget to buy their own health insurance.

            I’d say overall it made health insurance more affordable (or less painful) and accessible to people who didn’t already have it, but it didn’t do so for everyone.

            1. Bea W*

              That was Romney’s defense of RomneyCare while opposing ObamaCare, but ObamaCare was modeled off RomneyCare plus includes many of the same provisions that existed in MA even before RomneyCare, such as the pre-existing condition portions. The exchanges? RomneyCare did that. Mandatory minimum acceptable coverage? RomneyCare did that. Penalties for not having insurance? Subsidies to help people afford insurance? RomneyCare again!

              1. Forrest*

                Yes, my comment did not disavow that ObamaCare was based on RomneyCare, it simply said that RomneyCare and ObamaCare are different. Which they are. (ACA in its current state is different from what President Obama wanted, which was something closer to RomneyCare.)

          2. Anonymous*

            I had a very good experience with Mass health care, post-mandatory coverage. When I wasn’t working or when I was only working part-time, I was able to easily get health insurance I could afford. It took a lot of worry off my mind (and when un/under-employed, you have enough to worry about…)

        4. urban adventurer*

          That’s an interesting perspective on Romneycare that I never heard before.

          On the poverty line, the interesting thing about that is the poverty levels are calculated based on the price of food–not the price of housing. If the cost of housing was factored in then the level would go way up and many more people would be considered living in poverty.

          1. Bea W*

            Yes, I was trying to remember the old term for it…which had something to do with “bread”.

            Unfortunately, the cost of food doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is tied to the cost of doing business, and part of the cost of doing business is the cost of real estate (plus taxes) in which you can do business. Maybe that wasn’t as big an issue back when they first came up with the calculation.

        5. Elizabeth West*

          …but it’s extremely hard to meet the crazy low poverty line requirement…

          Well of course; rich politicians and corporate goons have no clue what it’s like to try and live on $10 an hour. Depending on where you live, you can make more than that and still be hand-to-mouth.

      2. Brandy*

        My dad is the CEO of a small business. They offer a relatively low cost health plan. It has a $1500 deductible but something crazy high like a $25k annual out of pocket max. The company policy is that once an employee has already paid $5k OOP, the company will pay the rest up to the $25k. It apparently saved them thousands per year in the type of coverage they got, and in the 4 years they’ve had the policy in place, they’ve only spent about $10k in medical bills. This is is the sort of thing you can do when you only employ 15 or so people.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I wish they’d quit using BMI. It’s not all that accurate. Even the screener at our health thing said that (she didn’t get one off me because I refused to be weighed).

  19. Employment lawyer*

    Regarding #6:

    You can certainly negotiate. But over the long term you may find it more profitable to focus on establishing the concept that you will be paid more as you do more and as you produce more. You don’t need to ask for $60k/year if they worry you might produce at a $40k/year level. But you can do your best to get the CEO and your manager on track to establish that the job may well be worth $60k/year, and that if you accept it for $40k initially you will expect a review every 6 months with commensurate raises until you’re near the wage standard.

  20. Nodumbunny*

    #3 Boy I hope you’re not working in a hospital where I or any of my loved ones might end up (not that I think this is rare), because your management is just asking for medical errors with this zombie nursing staff it has created. No one can be at their best with shifts like that and no PTO, and nursing staff can be the difference between operating on the wrong leg or not, the difference between the right dosage of medicine or not, or the difference between a catastrophic fall in the patient bathroom or not. I’m so sorry for the situation you’re in, but I’m even sorrier for the patients of this hospital.

  21. Person in #1*

    To clarify the work situation in #1, we are a office of 23 people, all very close and actually have drinks and dinner after work. Boss in included in that.

    The conversation took place over lunch when we were all together and I wasn’t discussing it with the boss directly.
    I am not “emotional” or anything about this at work as it is my decision, so my work has in no way suffered. Quite the opposite in fact – I have worked harder. The request came to me on Friday while out sick by text message. I would not be able to take another day off (as someone asked) to compensate for working on the Sunday. And, there was no pressing deadline.

    1. Gjest*

      It’s a bad situation, but it sounds like your boss can’t handle this type of friendly relationship and also keep it professional. I think it’s normal to be friendly with people from work, and some of my best friends are people I met through work- but unfortunately in this situation, I think I would be extremely careful on how friendly you are when the boss is around. She has proven herself too unprofessional for friendliness.

    2. B*

      This will all sound harsh, but I have been in a similar situation. You opened yourself up to this. While you may have been meaning to only share it with coworkers your boss was included in that. And above you said you have now had several discussions with her over it. Your boss is not the person to be sharing any of this information with. When I was going through it only 2 coworkers knew and that is because they were also outside friends. This is the type of thing you need to keep private because then you open yourself up to other issues.

      And so what it is your anniversary. If you did not want to go in you should have stated that unfortunately, you already had plans. It being your anniversary is something personal that sounds like it is being used to cury a favor and/or sympathy.

      Like I said, this all sounds very harsh but it is the reality of what is happening.

    3. Susan*

      OP, I’d take this as a learning opportunity that sharing this info with your boss comes back to bite you in the ass. If it were me, I would stop sharing this level of detail about my personal life with my boss because when it comes down to it, you’ve got evidence that it’s interfering with the way your boss interacts with you.

  22. Jamie*

    Requiring HR (or whomever) to have to use their employers policies even if they have a better option is not too far a leap from taking into account spousal salaries when discussing compensation.

    I am not involved in the benefits at my work, so it doesn’t matter for me, but my husband has great insurance and a much better plan than I could get at my employer. By the logic being discussed if I were HR I should have to pay more money for less coverage because if I don’t have a personal stake I can’t properly evaluate benefit plans? That is factoring my husbands benefits (part of his compensation) into my benefits and compensation.

    They shouldn’t take his salary into account while evaluating mine, so I don’t know why this is much different.

    Besides, you don’t have to use something personally in order to vet things properly. I’m not an engineer and I don’t use SolidWorks, but I can properly vet a workstation build and speak with my engineers about what they need and what they don’t to find something that will serve their purposes without overspending.

    If someone would choose a different plan if they themselves had to use it then you don’t have someone unbiased enough in the role.

    1. Judy*

      My husband has much better health insurance. I can’t be on it unless I sign a paper that I’m not employed or my employer signs that they don’t offer me insurance.

      So I’m stuck paying approximately $160 per month for me, he pays $100 for him and the kids. And they have the minimum to be a HDHP deductible of $2500 for them, while I have a $3000 deductible for me. I could be added to his insurance if I were not working for $50 per month and share their deductible.

      I saw an article in my husband’s hometown paper that the local city government was contemplating not offering insurance to spouses period. It didn’t matter if they were employed or not. I think that’s what UPS is doing also.

  23. Mena*

    #5: Interesting thought and reminds me that while our Senators and Representatives voted for Affordable Care, they themselves are exempt from it while I am not. Hmm…

    1. VintageLydia*

      Katie the Fed explained above exactly how they are NOT exempt from the ACA. I suggest you read that.

    2. OP #5*

      The insurance in question was not medical insurance. One benefit was disability insurance, and I think that was the company that was slow pay. Maybe the HR head just thinks there won’t be a lot of claims.

      The other benefit was some other insurance product, but not medical — maybe vision or life insurance? I’m not sure.

      The business about Congress exempting itself from the Affordable Care Act is a misunderstanding, and as others have noted, is clarified higher in the comments. While I have strong feelings about health care (I prefer single payer, but at least ACA deals with pre-existing conditions, insurance access for all, and insurance for people in their early 20s), I don’t want to get into a huge discussion of medical insurance on this issue, since other benefits were involved.

      We could have a discussion about HR participating in benefits even if the benefit was a transit pass, and the head of HR reduced the reimbursement for a transit pass because her spouse’s benefits paid for a car service every day. For instance, if HR has not been told to cut the cost of benefits, is it appropriate to reduce the cost without feeling the pain? What if HR has not been told to decrease the cost, but the head of HR has seen that the people who get raises and bonuses at that level are doing so by cutting costs, so while there’s no requirement, there’s a personal incentive to decrease benefits (if they’re already cost efficient) to get a promotion or bonus?

      1. FSP*

        I’ve never worked for a company where the employees pay disability. I’ve always seen the employer pay for it. Similarly, there was always a push to cut cost in every area possible but not by worsening employee morale which increasing their cost while the employer saves money would most certainly do.

        Personally, it would not be worth it to me to save the employer money, regardless of promotion/bonus/incentive if it meant we were going to lose valuable employees because the benefits were so terrible. That is one of the reason I left my last employer – the benefits were terrible and the company’s views on them backwards. Not to mention, it is pretty costly to have a high turn-over rate and constantly losing employees because of your benefits being passed through would likely cost the company more in the long-term. Any Executive (HR or not) that is looking at the books from a big picture perspective should take such things into account.

      2. fposte*

        I definitely understand where you’re coming from, but I’m just not ending up at the same place. For one thing, I’m not sure why HR is being singled out–even assuming you’re talking a workplace where this is all in HR’s power, there are doubtless other decisions being made in higher offices that similarly have a deleterious effect on lower-paid workers but not on those making the decision. Work simply isn’t a “sauce for the goose is good for the gander” phenomenon, and benefits of all kinds are pretty unequally enjoyed regardless of where HR gets its health insurance. I don’t think that’s a problem that will be solved by putting extra requirements on how HR uses benefits.

  24. LCL*

    One thing that might work is to sit down with the director and ask them to explain and show you on the schedule what will happen when one of you gets sick. And somebody else is on PTO. Are vacations cancelled? What about the rest of the crew that won’t answer the phone? Is the director going to fire everyone who won’t come in for callouts? Making your short staffing worse? Don’t people in your field have a relatively high rate of injury/time loss claims because of the nature of the work? Your unit is one rotator cuff tear away from a staffing train wreck, with the holidays coming up.

    10s can be really hard to schedule reliefs for. If it was up to me, I would use agency people. Your director needs to come up with a better vacation policy. Decide how many people can be off at any one time on vac (10-20% is common) and go from there. The hard part is you will have to make nice with the director and appeal using costs and logic, while the director can be as crazy and controlling as they want.

    1. Erica B*

      I wonder if this policy is hospital wide- or just the department. If it’s just the department it might make sense to talk with other employees to see how their department handles time off, and bring those policies as suggestions for an alternative to handle the situation.

      side note: 80 hrs/wk?? That’s INSANE on it’s own, but to expect you guys to take additional time to work other peoples shifts, is an additional amount of crazy added on.

      on a math note, if you have 12 people working 80 hrs/week, your team is short 8-12 people. Ideally 12 new people should be added to everyone can work a 40 hr/week position. I understand that it’s likely possible. But even hiring 8 more people would allow the staff and the long shifts to relax a bit AND have coverage for PTO.

      I’m curious as to what happens when people call in sick too? Does the director step up and fill in these shifts at all or once in a while? I’m curious as to her reasoning for not hiring more staff. Thinks it unneeded or is it budgetary?

      1. LCL*

        80 hour weeks is probably a compressed schedule. They work their 80 hours in a 2 week (80 hour) pay period, so they get a lot of time off. So the director is looking at all this time off and saying “well, can’t one of the people on days off come in?”

        On paper it works, in reality people get sick of massive overtime, people get sick or long term injured, and with the longer shifts if someone is feeling borderline sick they are more likely to call in. Or somebody’s domestic partner gets irate and demands their partner stay home instead of working OT.

        Our experience with 12s showed that sick days went up, compared to 8 hour shifts. It takes less personnel to staff a unit with compressed shifts, but leave usage will go up, and you still have to have reliefs, or operate short-staffed depending on your business.

        1. txrph*

          Hello, I’m the OP in #3. LCL, that’s exactly right. It is 80 hours in two weeks. Which give us 6 days off every two weeks, most of it in a block of consecutive days. It is completely designed to use the least amount of people needed to staff the department. I am a pharmacist, so yes, we are in a high burn-out/high fatigue profession. I don’t think anyone wants me to be exhausted while reviewing and entering their medication orders, but management just doesn’t care. Patient safety is priority #1, unless it is a matter of budget or making your yearly bonus, then patient safety can take a big fat hike. I suspect, but cannot confirm, that the reason for not using agency help is that there is a financial incentive in the manager’s bonus set-up that would penalize them for tapping into the budget for using agency help. OT is time and a half, but agency is usually double, so they come out better off just getting us to do it. This director is the worst kind of manager; vengeful, holds grudges, and has completely forgotten what it was like to be staff. Unfortunately, this happens frequently when pharmacists move into management – they quickly get complete amnesia about having been treating like crap at the hands of management when they were a shift worker and do the EXACT same things to their staff that they bitched about as employees when it was done to them! She is also reactive, rather than proactive – instead of looking at permanent, logical solutions and taking a collaborative approach (like getting staff input and buy-in), she goes into last-minute panic mode and expects us to just all jump through hoops to save the day. If we get sick and call in, usually the others just have to hump it and extend their shifts or modify their start/end times to keep the department covered and shoulder the extra workload. So we don’t call in sick unless we’re flat-out near unconscious.

  25. Brett*

    #5 Our employer requires all employees to enroll in the group health plan (with religious exemptions only). There is no opting out, even if your spouse has coverage. The one exception is if you and your spouse are both employed; then you are allowed to get a family policy covering both of you instead of both of you getting individual policies.

    Is mandatory enrollment in group health plans is still that unusual? I think that could change in the next few years.

    1. KellyK*

      That seems really odd to me. Have they given a reason? If they’re a small company, maybe they need close to 100% participation to get a decent rate?

      1. Brett*

        Somewhere close to 5k employees. I really have no idea why participation is mandatory. I think it has something to do with our lowest level plan which is an unusual offering; I think they were able to negotiate that plan by guaranteeing 100% participation.

        It might also be because our lowest level plan is not very good, and this discourages employees from going to the state exchange and incurring an employer penalty?

        1. Jamie*

          The fines are a lot less than paying the employer share of premiums for full enrollment. I have never heard of this where an employer required benefit enrollment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Typically it’s because otherwise they’re more likely to have a situation where lower risk employees (young, healthy) don’t sign up, whereas if they do then the costs are spread out more evenly.

        1. Brett*

          That is probably it. We have a very bimodal distribution of ages. Lots of people over 50, but easily half of our employees are under 30 (in particular, we employ 1000+ police officers but have relatively low pay for the region, so lots of our officers leave as soon as they get 5+ years experience).

          Or on a smaller scale, in a unit of approx a dozen people, I am the only person between the ages of 30 and 50.

    2. Anna*

      Yes, that’s very, very unusual, in my experience. It would be a big disincentive for a lot of people who have various family benefit plans through a spouse’s employer, etc., to take a job at your company, because it could really screw up their healthcare.

      1. Brett*

        Most people start working here before they are married. As I mentioned above, we skew fairly young as an organization.

  26. Hidey for this one*

    1–boss rude about marriage

    Maybe at this point it’s too late, but if your boss brings it up in conversation, you can quite possibly say you really don’t want to discuss it any further. I think you answered right on the work-Sunday text, by just asking about the day and not acknowledging her remark. I think you should keep this stuff to yourself from now on, because this woman clearly has no boundaries.

    4–hiring in December

    I was hired at Exjob in December and I was there for six years. So yes, companies do hire then–in their case, it was a slow time of year (manufacturing) and ended up being the best time for the person I replaced to both train me and make the transition to her new role.

    5–HR using the benefits

    Well, maybe the HR person’s spouse has really good benefits–or maybe (s)he works for the gubmint and gets free healthcare or something. If it were me, and my spouse’s perks were better and I could get on them, I would totally go for it. But her bragging about it is stupid. She needs to shut up about that.

      1. Jamie*

        I knew that. You’re one of those people who has a distinct voice when you write, so if you ever really want to go anon you should disguise that…like post in Elizabethian English.

        Although, given your name you already post in “Elizabethian” English.

        I kill me! And now I will stop with the puns before my posting privileges are revoked.

        1. khilde*

          I think it was the use of “ExJob.” For some reason when I see that, it’s instantly synonomous in my mind with Elizabeth W. That was the first time I had ever heard anyone use that term and I have seen you use it often! haha.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Ha! I used to say Oldjob, but someone else started using that so I switched. Perhaps I should say Helljob instead, because it certainly became that toward the end.

            1. khilde*

              I like ExJob. Has a ring to it. And I do remember the horrible feelings you had about it. Glad you can say ExJob instead of CurrentJob!

              1. Jamie*

                I like ExJob because we have relationships with our jobs – and after a breakup that’s what it feels like.

        2. khilde*

          “And now I will stop with the puns before my posting privileges are revoked.”

          Along those lines – has Alison ever revoked someone’s posting privileges? I just got caught up on that post that was #3 on the Most Comments Generated (“Can I expose this terrible interviewer?”). I was sad to have missed that as it unfolded real time, but read through all 770 comments and was in awe when Alison cut the OP off. You know it was getting serious then…….

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I cut that guy off for a week. He has not returned since (that I know of).

            I’ve set a handful of others to always have their comments sent through moderation before they can posted if they’ve been especially abusive or hateful toward people.

            1. khilde*

              I was kind of hoping he’d come back after he cooled off and would turn out to be a success story. I posted this comment on the day the Top 3 posts question was asked, but it was already a few days old, so I’ll say it again here.

              There was only one other OP that I really remember being reletntless at replies to the feedback and just not getting it. I think she was back in the workforce after staying home with her children for several years. I think she was applying for office manager positions (I don’t remember the details like many of you do). Anyway, the exchange unfolded very similarly where people were offering up genuine (albeit tough to hear) feedback and she just kept firing back. But she was a success story because I think she came back after a few days and was really gracious and understanding. I think she ended up using the handle “JobSeeker” around here (correct me if i’m wrong!). Anyway, it was really nice to see the turnaround from her and I was really hoping we’d get it from the Vile Interviewer guy, too. :(

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Bwaa ha ha!

          Well the only reason I went anon on the other post was just in case the person in question ever looked at this (doubtful). She might recognize the situation, but she might not realize that it was me posting it. Especially since my sassy face is right out there.

        4. VintageLydia*

          I suspected that was you, too, though the use to ExJob has spread a bit around here as convenient shorthand.

    1. OP #5*

      Head of HR has a spouse with union benefits that are apparently amazing. The spouse isn’t a government worker as far as I know.

  27. Beth*

    #1 – My opinion is that the employee and boss have been overly-familiar with one another. Most employees don’t discuss the state of their marriage with their boss over lunch. Boundaries have already been crossed, and I think that has led the boss to feel comfortable sending such a text. Would the OP find it as rude if it were said in person over one of these lunches? And yes, it’s all legal.

    #5 – I highly doubt the head of HR is the one making the final decision about the health plan. Even if he/she is, it would be on a directive to save money. The HR person shouldn’t be required to use the plan anymore than anyone else is… I’m sure there are other people with spouses with better insurance who are not using the company’s plan. Such a requirement also seems to be questioning the HR person’s ethics… assuming he/she would make one decision if it affect him/her, and another if it doesn’t.

  28. Maraca*

    Sorry if this has already been said, as I haven’t read through all the comments yet. But, #5: HR Directors shouldn’t be required to use their company’s benefits, but your HR Director should be a little more professional and use some discretion.

    HR manages the process of reviewing, analyzing and negotiating benefits, but it’s the executive leadership that makes the ultimate decisions. There are tons of factors that affect which benefits a company can afford to provide, and I can assure you the HR Director (or VP, or whatever) is not the final word on that decision. Forcing a few certain individuals to take health insurance while the rest of the group doesn’t have that mandate simply is not feasible.

    1. OP #5*

      As I clarified above, this isn’t medical insurance benefits. One of the benefits is disability insurance, and the other is another benefit — maybe vision or life insurance?

      Early in the comments, Engineer Girl noted that a person who doesn’t have to use a benefit might not push as hard to improve the benefit. The HR decision to cut back on benefits or choose a provider who is more of a problem to deal with isn’t illegal, and it isn’t exactly unethical, but it gives the appearance of unfairness. It’s in that grey area where what is being done isn’t wrong, but it is not unequivocally, clearly Right.

      1. Jamie*

        But people in that position should be making decisions in the best interest of the business as a whole. They need to take into account costs, but also employee morale (you don’t want to save a dollar and drive your best people elsewhere). To assume someone would disregard what’s best for the business just because it doesn’t affect them personally isn’t logical…or if that person would do that they shouldn’t be in that position.

        IT can buy everyone bargain basement crappy computers. Heck, I’ll outfit all of my engineers with Vostros and let them try to run engineering software. My budget will look great – but my reputation will be in the toilet and our customers will be pissed because our engineers can’t do their job.

        1. fposte*

          Right. You could conversely offer a devil’s advocate argument that they shouldn’t be in the benefits pool because they won’t make the decision that’s good for the business if they’re blinded by self-interest.

          To be honest, I don’t actually think people are that straight out logical, and I do think probably people using a benefit might have a more visceral understanding idea of whether it’s worth the cost to the company and employee. But I don’t think that’s enough to make it unethical, and certainly not, as I said upthread, to make it uniquely unethical in a way that’s different from private jets, more vacation days, and bigger offices.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, the logic that HR has to use benefits to make good business decisions is flawed. If that were true, it would make sense for the person picking the plans to pick the one that is best for her, even if the demographics of the company meant that it would be worse for everyone else.

            1. Beth*

              Absolutely. The assumption should be that someone who has risen to that level is professional and is acting in the best interests of the company, not his/her own best interests. If that’s NOT the case, that’s a whole separate problem, and not one which will be fixed by forcing the employee to participate in the benefits plans.

  29. txrph*

    Hello to all – I’m the #3 OP. Thanks to AAM and all who have commented and offered advice and sympathy. AAM summed it up brilliantly with her last sentence and I pretty much knew in my heart that was going to be the answer, but I wanted to get an expert take on it as well as the input of others in the community. As someone said above, it’s about the best validation you can ask for to hear that your management sucks. It’s not ME – it’s THEM! Hurrah! But now what? I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t really want to leave my job. I like my co-workers, my workplace, and my manager (unfortunately, he reports to and is the puppet of the main director). If I could just work the 80 hrs/2 weeks that I was hired to do, I’d be content. I’m in Texas, which is right-to-work and employer-friendly, so a union isn’t going to happen. And AAM is right that there are many pitfalls and things to consider in pursuing that route. I actually worked for a company headquartered outside of the state that had a pharmacists union and so they had to offer it here, though it was not mandatory. Essentially, having a union in a right-to-work state is useless. The only way a union has teeth is when it is mandatory to be in it for the job and while I know they’ve done a lot of good things for workers, unions are not a panacea for labor problems (see: Detroit, downward slide of U.S. automakers due to union wage/benefits/pension obligations.) For the moment, I am plugging along. My 5 year anniversary is October 6. After that, I can take my company match 401(k) $$$ with me, which is about all I care about anymore. I keep hoping that things will get better, but I’m reaching the point where I may be abandoning the ship. There have been others before me, I’d say we turn over at least 2 pharmacists a year; but the director fails to see or admit that it is her sucky management style that drives them away. She has a reputation in the entire state according to one of my co-workers. That’s pretty bad, but pharmacy is a surprisingly small world. Oh, and last but not least, I’m giving up my weekend off to work this Sat/Sun because one of the pharmacists who works that weekend is out on medical leave post auto-accident. He has a medical eval on Monday. God help us if he doesn’t get cleared to come back.

    1. Erica B*

      I thoroughly enjoy my co-workers, and often if one of us needs something from a person outside of the “normal calls of duty” we will step up. (I have 2 other co-workers and then our boss). Thankfully when a person is out it doesn’t affect the rest of the group, but sometimes on a project additional help is needed.
      We don’t mind helping each other out as we ‘ask’ and not ‘tell’ the person, and we try and work around each’s schedule. When our boss tries to do something similar he is often rude about about it in his tone and wording and it just instantly makes us all grumpy and not wanting to help.

      Is it so hard to treat people like adults and with respect? It’s amazing how different people respond when this is the case!

  30. OP#6*

    Thanks for all the comments and advice. I did end up accepting the offer. I waited for them to give me the position title and job description. I also researched potential titles in that field beforehand to get an idea of what salary would be. Their offer based on the title and duties was initially 10-15K less than the median. I know I am both a new hire, a relatively young person, and recent graduate but that I was creating something that they didnt already have. I also know that their salary review is based on the annual performance review. So I politely asked the HR manager to go up another 5-10K and backed up my reasonings about creating something they don’t have but need at the organization and told them I would await their decision on the counteroffer before deciding to take the position. They called me back the following day and agreed to a 3K increase which I took since they do have paid time off, certain paid national holidays, and a decent benefits pkg if I stay on after a year

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