shady bosses, badly-received resignations, and more

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

1. Did my boss pass off someone else’s work as his own?

I have been in my position for a little under a year, as a science researcher in a small high tech start up. In a recent meeting, my boss asked if I was familiar with a specific technique, and I said I wasn’t. He said he would send me the details of the technique after the meeting was over, no big deal.

After the call, I did a quick google search and came across a write up in PDF form that was put together from a university (first hit on google). I thought that was perfect because I just needed a summary to familiarize myself. A couple hours later I get an email from my boss sending the specifics of the technique to me, and a couple other colleagues. It was the same document – again, that is no big deal (we weren’t citing it in a patent/paper, etc). But what I found bizarre was the fact that it was stripped of the university affiliations at the top, and also a brief acknowledgement at the bottom. I did a quick search to see if one of the higher search hits were the same document without the affiliations, but I can’t find it (not saying it doesn’t exist because Google creeps all of us like crazy, making different things pop up in different orders).

So, do I mention it? It appears he stripped the authors so that it looked like he spent the hours between the meeting and the email typing it up. I know not to assume malicious intent if it can be explained otherwise, but if it was actually intentional, that makes me feel very questionable about my bosses ethics. I don’t care that we sent the information to summarize the technique, but I do care if he was modifying the document to make it look like his work.

I am not really in a position to change positions at the moment, so I don’t really want to ruffle feathers. I just feel so uneasy about it. It was such a small thing to try to claim as his own that it makes me wonder where else this might be done. Thoughts?

I would let it go. You don’t actually know if your boss did what you suspect him of; it’s entirely possible that he had the same document already stored on his computer and it originally came to him that way, or that he found his version using different search words than you did, or something else also perfectly innocent. Given that the facts here are in no way conclusive about wrongdoing, this isn’t something it makes sense to bring up. (I’d go even further and say that you should stop worrying about it in your own head too, since that could end up being toxic to your relationship. If you see other signs of integrity problems, look into those — but I wouldn’t put this one on the list.)

2. My employer is handling my resignation terribly

I recently submitted my resignation notice to a job I’ve been at for 3 years. I’m currently the only person trained in my department and I know it’s a key job in the company. Along with my 2 weeks notice, I also added that I’d be happy training a new person in the evenings and weekends until the transition was complete.

The response was terrible. First, I was told no, that I couldn’t leave for at least two months. And then, when I told them two weeks was all I could offer, my boss said, “You can go, I’ll decide what to do with you later.” Then a few hours later, they told me I would have one week remaining to work with the company and to have 4 months worth of work done by the end of this week. Followed quickly by, “stay off your damn phone and get this work done for me” while she was walking away.

Do I stay and do it? I love this company and I loved working here, but I really expected better when I told them what a great opportunity I had been offered. I would also like to add that I was NOT looking for work. The new employer pursued me based on reputation.

Do you stay and do four months of work in less than a week? No, that doesn’t sound possible. You do what you’re able to do and you leave your work in as good of shape as you can with the amount of time you have left. You don’t do anything beyond that, because (a) it doesn’t sound like they’re paying you to do anything beyond that, and (b) they’re being horrid to you and so you don’t owe them special treatment beyond the normal things that are expected when you’re leaving (which is to work out your remaining time without slacking off and leave your area in good order).

If you find your resolve weakening, read this and this. ANd if they try to convince you to do more work after your last day there, read this and this.

3. Writing a grant to fund a job that I want

I’m looking at working for a new nonprofit. At an interview for a different position (which we agreed was not a good mutual fit), they shared that they desperately want to hire someone to do other work (which we agreed WAS a good fit), but they don’t currently have funding to create the position. I offered to help them write applications to secure grant funding, on the condition that they hire me – that is, I proposed to secure funding for myself. I have an emailed “of course” but no signed guarantees or anything. I also didn’t ask (and they didn’t offer) for them to pay me upfront for any of the time I’m spending writing the grant.

When I tell people about the situation, some are impressed that I may have found an “in,” and others are concerned that I’m currently working for free as a grant writer with no guarantee of being hired under the grants I might secure. And your recent answer about an interviewee performing 30 hours of work for free gave me pause. So I could use some additional perspective: are they taking advantage me unfairly? Should I take some additional steps to prevent them from taking advantage, e.g. ask for a signed guarantee that I’m the one they’d hire in the event of securing funding, ask them to pay me as an intern while working on grant applications?

I don’t think they’re  taking advantage of you — you offered to do it, it was your idea, and they seem to have agreed to your condition.

Frankly, they’d be unwise to give you an ironclad guarantee that they’ll hire you if the grant money comes through; after all, what if they learn more about you during this work and realize that you’d be a bad fit? That probably won’t happen, but it could and so they’re wise not to lock themselves in with a contract. If you want to pursue this, you pretty much just need to accept that you have an informal agreement on this but not a binding one.

I also wouldn’t ask to be paid for this — they’re a nonprofit, they made it clear that they don’t have a ton of available funding, and you’re the one who proposed doing the work. Going back now and asking to be paid for it (essentially changing the earlier terms) is likely to result in them simply deciding not to pursue the project with you.

4. My boss violated a non-disclosure agreement with a client

I work for a small company where I’ve been managing a large digital services project for about a year. My client has been mostly happy with our work, and has shown off some of the content at trade shows and to a few pilot users. However, we’re still bound by an NDA since the client hasn’t made the product publically available. I conformed the project’s confidential status with the client last week on behalf of some of my freelance team members, who would like to include this project in their portfolios, and was told in no uncertain terms to maintain confidentiality for the time being.

We’ve been pursuing some bigger clients over the past few months, including some direct competitors to the client I’m working with. Yesterday, my boss presented some of my project’s work to one of the client’s competitors, as part of a broader presentation of projects we’ve worked on this year. I found out what he’d shown after the presentation, and I’m fairly certain he violated the non-disclosure agreement in our contract. I alerted him to the problem this morning, since he left the office right after the presentation yesterday.

As far as I’m concerned, we’re both contractually and ethically bound to alert the client about what happened. My boss, as you might guess, thinks I’m overreacting. He believes that since the content has been shown to pilot users and at trade shows, it was fine for us to use in a presentation of our work, especially since we’re not making the product widely accessible to our potential clients (or anyone else). He firmly insisted I should not tell my client, to avoid causing any “undue concern.” Since my boss is one of the company’s owners, I can’t escalate my concerns about this to a higher level of management.

This whole situation makes me deeply uncomfortable. If my client finds out my company violated the NDA and covered it up, I’m worried my professional reputation will be damaged–but I also can’t alert them to the problem without defying my boss and hurting my company’s reputation. What are my ethical obligations here, to both my own company and my client?

I think this one is your company’s call. You did the right thing by bringing it to your boss’s attention, but from there it’s really up to him.

If you disagree and decide to tell the client, I’d think you’d need to be prepared to part ways with your company for directly ignoring your boss’s decision on this.

5. When teachers are required to pay to chaperone

I am a school teacher, and my school will be taking students on a field trip to a movie theater. Teachers are required to go to chaperone (as it is during school hours). I was informed today that teachers are also required to pay the $6 ticket price to attend the movie.

I have done some research on this, but have been unable to find any information regarding what employers can and cannot require. Is it legal for my employer to require me to pay to perform my duties?

I can’t think of any law this would violate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not horrible practice — it is. It’s pretty common for teachers to have to buy their own classroom supplies (which is also a huge problem), but this seems like a new level of wrongness. Any teachers out there have advice on this one?

{ 175 comments… read them below }

    1. The IT Manager*

      I agree, but if the teacher’s don’t pay, who pays for their tickets?

      Might be nice if the movie theater comped tickets for at least a few of the chaperones (the teachers not parents), but if the theater is not doing that where does the money come from? Don’t kids usually have to pay for their part of the cost of a field trip? I agree it sucks, but it seems like the logistics of who pays for the teachers might be a bit difficult.

      Side note: A movie as a field trip? I know its done, but shouldn’t field trips be educational? And if you want the kids to watch a movie as a treat just rent one and play it on a screen in their classrooms or the school auditorium. In addition to ticket costs, you have the costs of renting the busses of getting all those kids to the theater. (Assuming parents don’t drive, but in my experience that’s not done on a school sponsored field trip for safety and incurance concerns.)

      1. VintageLydia*

        I remember watching educational IMAX films at museum theaters on field trips so it could be something like that. Or it could be an indie theater that shows documentaries and other educational fare occasionally that aren’t otherwise legally obtainable. I doubt a teacher would get away with taking their students to the latest Tolkien film even if it *is* relevant to their class.

        1. Cat*

          Or it’s an Honors Roll reward trip; or an extracurricular trip to a particular movie; or part of a special event or any one of a million other things. (It also might well be walking distance from the school eliminating the need to pay for buses.)

        1. JoAnna*

          If they were charging admission to come and watch the movie, that would be a violation of copyright law, but if a film is shown to a class for educational purposes (and no one is charged admission, and no profit is derived from the showing), then I believe it’d be fair use.

          1. anon-2*

            WRONG – JoAnna… Colette is correct.

            If it’s copyrighted material – and shown to a class – or an audience in a school auditorium, it is a “public presentation” and rights fees are to be paid.

            This is why copy centers are supposed to refuse to copy material from textbooks or other sources. There is a concession to “fair use” – but it doesn’t cover renting a movie from the corner video shop and showing it to an audience. Doing it in a school auditorium and showing it is a public performance. It’s not like renting a film for the family or a private party. A school aud showing is not covered by “fair use”.

            There ARE educational bureaus who rent these things – but they also make the assumption that you pay accordingly for the rental.

            I might add – money has nothing to do with copyrights. Copyright penalties deal with unauthorized distribution of intellectual property. Whether you did it for money or not is irrelevant.

            If you make copies of anything that’s copyrighted and give them away, you can get into trouble. If you give a public display of a theatrical presentation and don’t charge, you STILL are violating copyrights. School teachers know this – particularly on school plays – you pay a fee for each performance, and you better the hell not put it on your local cable system – they’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks.

        2. Elysian*

          Schools and teachers have special rules governing how they can use copyrighted works for educational purposes.

      2. VintageLydia*

        Oh and as for the who pays if the teacher doesn’t–how many business expenses have you incurred personally? It’s normally your employer that picks up the tab, right? Why is teaching different? It’s not the way it is, it’s the way it should be IMO.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d think it should be treated like any other business expense, which you’d normally be reimbursed for by your employer. I get the sense that that rarely happens with teachers though.

      4. doreen*

        When my children went on trips with either day camp or school , the chaperones didn’t pay. Either the venue comped a certain number of chaperones, or the cost of the chaperones was built into the budget of the trip. For example, if you needed one chaperone for each 6 children, and the theatre charged $6 a person, each child would pay $7.

        1. anon-2*

          So the KIDS end up paying for the chaperone’s tickets? Sweet. They must have a phenomenal union contract. Or you’re in such a wealthy community — here in Massachusetts there are some hotsy-totsy towns where public school teachers can’t afford to live … I guess I could see it happening there.

          1. doreen*

            No, the kids’ parents or whoever else is funding the trip ends up paying for the chaperone’s (or camp counselor’s ) ticket. It’s a cost for the trip as much as the kids’ tickets or bus rental is. It’s got nothing to do with wealthy- I grew up working class at best and my parents and their peers would never have expected the teacher to pay for his or her own ticket. As far as they were concerned , if they couldn’t afford the few extra dollars for the chaperone, they couldn’t afford to send their kid on the trip. ( they were always optional, and there were always some kids who didn’t go for various reasons)

      5. OP 3*

        Also, sometimes if something out in the theaters is directly relevant to something you’re teaching about, you might want to seize the opportunity to show your kids instead of waiting for it to come out on DVD months after the lesson was over, especially if it’s going to be a hard-to-find indie or made-for-museums thing.

      6. iseeshiny*

        Ideally the schools should have enough funding that they can cover the tickets. People can argue all day long about where the funding should come from, but it is pretty lousy that so many schools can’t afford their own supplies.

        At least the teachers can deduct it off their taxes, I guess. Silver linings.

        1. The Clerk*

          Only if they itemize, and not a whole lot of teachers make enough (or own property/investments) to where they’re past taking the standard deduction.

      7. dangitmegan*

        I decided to go see Catching Fire on the morning of a school day the other day because I didn’t want to deal with a lot of preteens. Imagine my surprise at 10am on a Wednesday the entire theatre was packed with three middle school classes on a field trip. :(

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I always go to movies the second or third week, to the first show on Sunday. People around here are still in church and it’s damn quiet. The only time that didn’t happen was for Harry Potter movies.

      8. Ruffingit*

        When I was in school, we had a field trip to the local movie theater to see Schindler’s List. Incredibly educational in my view. So it is possible for movie trips to be educational.

        1. Harriet*

          We saw Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. Back then, cinema tickets were cheaper than theatre ones and it’s so much easier to grasp Shakespeare when you’ve seen it performed, especially if you can see a couple of interpretations of it.

        2. anon-2*

          Back in my day – “The Longest Day” was one of those for a field trip. But “A Hard Day’s Night” would not have qualified, unless it was part of a theatre or music appreciation course.

          I attended a Catholic school, where we occasionally had films in the school. But they came from a theatrical distributor, and most certainly, appropriate rights were paid as part of the rental fee.

        3. Anonymous*

          Our high school students have been given the option to watch Anchor Man 2 – your tax dollars hard at work! And, the ENTIRE school (granted, only 200 kids 6-12) is going, in 6 school buses – yet 25 teacher and 15 aides have to pay for their own tickets (A Teacher)

    2. Winston*

      I wonder how the student tickets are funded. Presumably they’re getting a group rate and making one payment for all the tickets?

      I have a problem with students being expected to pay directly for their own tickets as well. Assuming it’s a public school (because if you’re paying thousands of dollars tuition, then the issue is that it’s ridiculous that this $6 cost is being paid separately), you can’t assume that everyone can afford this. If it’s relevant to the curriculum and the school can’t pay for it, then you should fundraise for it (I actually have a big issue with school fundraising too, but that’s a separate rant — the point here is either be inclusive or don’t do the trip). You shouldn’t be thinking of individual tickets but rather we need $x for the whole class, including chaperones, to go on the trip. I think often you can say that you need to collect an average of $y per student, please contribute what you can afford. If that doesn’t get you enough then (a) it may be a sign that you’re asking for more than your school community can afford, and (b) maybe you need to have a bake sale or something to top it off (again, I actually dislike school bake sales, but if the trip is important enough to do, then you need to think of the admission cost as one lump sum for the whole group and seek funding for that entire amount — not impose upon each individual pay their own way).

      1. Cat*

        At least with the public schools I’m familiar with this, though, this would basically just mean they wouldn’t go on field trips (having a new fundraiser every time you wanted to take the class on a $6 per person field trip would be really burdensome and if you’re getting money donated for general school purposes it’s harder to allocate them to a particular class). Instead, what they do is try to set up reserves for individual needy families so they can cover kids who need to be covered on a case-by-case basis.

    3. Tchr*

      This blows my mind. Most teachers I know would think nothing of paying for a six dollar ticket. They would also gladly pay out of pocket to cover kids who couldn’t afford a ticket. What a difference in mentality between the social services and education.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I might be reading this wrong, but do you mean you’re surprised that many of us here think the teacher shouldn’t have to pay this expense herself and that the employer — the school — should cover it? If so, how come? Generally it seems pretty reasonable that people shouldn’t need to pay their employer’s costs of doing their work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          And I get that in this case the employer’s work is educating children, and that’s a worthy cause, but why should teachers have to spend more of their own money supporting that cause than other people, as a condition of employment? (Particularly when they’re often already underpaid.)

          1. Ruffingit*

            AMEN and thank you for saying that! Teachers are under paid as it is for what they do. Most teachers I know are already paying out quite a bit for classroom supplies, food for kids so they don’t go hungry, etc. This is on top of trying to pay their own expenses on a salary that doesn’t nearly match the effort they put in.

          2. Tchr*

            I agree that teachers shouldn’t have to pay for the cost of doing their own work. But most teachers have developed a self-sacrificing mentality that allows schools to operate like this. They are almost expected to be this way. I have seen teachers pay out for all sorts of stuff–water bottles for every student so they won’t have to leave the room to get a drink, supplies for classroom pets, daily snacks, student supplies, hats, gloves, popcorn poppers for Fun Friday. If you don’t do these things, you obviously don’t care enough about your students or your job. This year I have to renew my license and I will be $1000 of my own money to do it. And that’s on the cheap. It could have easily been double that.

            1. Tchr*

              Mostly I’m really surprised that there’s a teacher out there who would investigate the legality of a six dollar expense. Most teachers would simply accept that as normal, especially since state education budgets have been slashed to bits.

              1. anon-2*

                And they still have their jobs, tenure, benefits, bumping rights, pensions, collective bargaining, automatic raises (“that’s not a raise, it’s a STEP”) , often guaranteed COLAs, etc. — things most of the rest of us don’t have.

                1. Cat*

                  Uh, plenty don’t; and those who do are still getting paid way less than most of us in the private sector with similar education and experience levels.

                2. Anonymous*

                  except when our governor recently banned collected bargaining and all unions in general for public employees. We are no longer guaranteed anything, and teachers in Wisconsin have taken a pay cut several times – while politicians make 6 figures every year to take our money and funnel it into the prison system. Also taken away in the above-mentioned bill: our ability to bargain for anything related to working conditions at all.

      2. Ellie H.*

        I agree with others – it certainly says something wonderful about a person when he or she is willing to give up some of his or her own money to help the education of a child, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing for someone to actually have to do that!

      3. Tasha*

        I agree that teachers are often very generous, and those I know rarely hesitate to spend money to help their students when they have money to spare. But someone who supports a family on less than 30K a year and has already spent thousands of dollars on classroom supplies–a sadly common scenario–might find it difficult to come up with an extra six dollars on short notice. I’m not sure whether that’s the case here, but I’d hesitate before assuming that it’s “just” $6.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Totally agreed. That extra $6 might not seem like a lot, but when you’re already stretching a dollar like it’s an Olympic gymnast, it can mean a lot.

          1. Anonymous*

            (A Teacher here) – yes, and this being my first year in the district, I’m looking at AT LEAST one or two of these field trips at my own expense (required to keep my job, remember) every year for the next 15, 20 years. Add those expenses together…$12 a year for 20 years may not sound like a lot, but it’s $240 out of my pocket for the right to put food on the table.

        2. Anonymous*

          You bring up a good point…teachers CHOOSE to do what they do – paying for school supplies, treats, etc., putting in extra time with no extra pay. But being required to do so? Imagine if a school district told a teacher, “you have to use XXX book to teach your class, and you will have to buy those books out of your own pocket” – the movie ticket is no different, it still falls under the teacher’s duties and responsibilities, and the choice is taken away.

          1. Tchr*

            What I’m really trying to say is that your choices are taken away as soon as you enter the field. You will be asked to pay to do your own job in several ways. This is wrong, but if you protest, you will be regarded as uncaring, as non-teaching material, so you don’t complain. Your school will regard a movie as a break, as something you might do on your own, as time you’re not grading or planning, so you should definitely not be complaining about a movie, even if you are required to pay to see it.

            An ever growing number of teachers are at-will employees, but the self-sacrificing mentality is still expected. I’ve teachers teach with walking pneumonia so they can use their sick days for their own children’s illnesses. I saw a teacher pay ridiculous amounts of money on her own students because she really did care. Then the school turned around and fired her in the middle of summer school. But even this probably won’t stop the self-sacrifice –if she gets another job.

  1. Poncho Esq*

    To #5:

    Off the top of my head, this particular law came to mind, but I’m not a labor and employment dude, I have no idea how it might apply to public employees or school employees, and you likely aren’t in California anyway.


    Labor Code section 2802 —

    “(a) An employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all
    necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct
    consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her
    obedience to the directions of the employer, even though unlawful,
    unless the employee, at the time of obeying the directions, believed
    them to be unlawful.
    (b) All awards made by a court or by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for reimbursement of necessary expenditures under this section shall carry interest at the same rate as judgments in civil actions. Interest shall accrue from the date on which the employee incurred the necessary expenditure or loss.
    (c) For purposes of this section, the term “necessary expenditures or losses” shall include all reasonable costs, including, but not limited to, attorney’s fees incurred by the employee enforcing the rights granted by this section.”

  2. EngineerGirl*

    #4 – perhaps you can ask your boss to run it by legal just to make sure? Your company does have a contract with a legal person, right?

      1. badger_doc*

        In my experience, if a technology is shown at a trade show it is already publicly disclosed. Hopefully they/you had invention disclosures already filed before showing the technology to others. When we worked on confidential projects, we were not allowed to talk about the application of the technology or the company we were developing the technology for, but since it was our technology, we had the right to use results for presentation purposes. Take a look at the language of the NDA and see what is supposed to be kept confidential. You might be surprised at the amount of leeway you actually have.

  3. EngineerGirl*

    #2 – bothersome. You may want to wait a day until your boss calms down (although her behavior is inappropriate under any condition). You then need to have the conversation about which 40 hours of work that she wants as the top priority. If she demands all of it, then you’re going to have to choose which will get done.

    Do you have an HR department? Because you may want to contact them about what will be said after you leave.

    And once again, the failure to train a backup is the managers problem, not yours. A good company will have a deep bench.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I can’t get over some of the stories I read here. Employment at will is employment at will, not indentured servitude.

      When you staff thinly, which I have done in lean times, you run the risk of losing a critical piece and having problems to solve because of that. Hello, it’s not just the person getting another job – it’s health issues, accidents, spousal job transfers, pregnancies, etc. etc. etc. etc.

      You pays your money and you take your chances.

      If you don’t want to take the chance, staff redundantly and cross train religiously. If you don’t want to staff redundantly and cross train religiously, accept the risk.

      1. hamster*

        The graves are full of indispensable people. Really, illnesses occur . What would the manager do then? What if you win the lottery and don’t care about professional recommendations and quit without notice? What if a myriad other reasons to stop being able and willing to perform? that manager is clearly just throwing a temper tantrum

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          I’ve heard people refer to it as the Bus Rule: have a plan in case someone gets hit by a bus. Because for real, things happen. There is no iron-clad guarantee that each and every one of us will show up to work the following day. The role of management is to staff and train according to their best judgment, and if their best judgment is that nobody gets cross-trained and everybody is screwed if one person is out….that’s their prerogative. It’s a lousy way to run a business, but they’ve made that decision.

          1. Judy*

            It does happen. I remember opening the newspaper on a Monday morning, and on the obit page, catching a glimpse of the photo on the first person. Then thinking “Wow, wonder if Jim has a brother or cousin that looks like him or just a doppelganger?” Then reading the name, it was Jim, who I had been in a meeting with on Friday. He had a massive heart attack on Friday evening.

            I also had a teammate disappear once. He was having some health issues, went for some tests one day. The next day I spotted him in the office, but he apparently just came in long enough to talk to our boss & HR & benefits. Our boss sent out an email later that day. He had cancer surgery the next day, and was out of the office for 12 weeks or so.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              We had an employee at Exjob die unexpectedly over the weekend. He was the facility manager’s assistant. Everybody loved him. It didn’t affect us much in terms of our office work, but it was a real downer for a long time. :(

              Another employee quit abruptly due to a family member’s health crisis. That one was tough; we had to scramble to pick up the slack, but it was understandable. We did manage. We had to.

          2. LJL*

            I call it the Cancun rule: when someone hits the lottery and runs off to Cancun, operations need to carry on. In my mind, it’s more pleasant to imagine that than to imagine getting hit by a bus.

            1. SA*

              I always cringe a bit when someone says run over by a bus. I’ll start suggesting runs off to Cancun as an alternative.

              1. Ellie H.*

                My coworker used to say that all the time and it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I know it’s just a figure of speech but there’s just something about it that really bothers me. After a while she switched to “In case I win the lottery” which is a little better, but I don’t really get why any contingency needs to be established!

                1. PurpleChucks*

                  Establishing contingency plans BEFORE needing them is just good business sense–it floors me that more companies don’t do this.

                  I wish ALL companies were proactive rather than reactive and implemented appropriate cross-training and maintained documentation of processes and procedures!

                2. PurpleChucks*

                  But, I’ll agree the sentiment shouldn’t be “I have to do this just in case,” which is what both getting hit by a bus, winning the lottery, or going to Cancun are all about.

                  Instead, the sentiment should be “our standard operating procedure is be proactive and prepared for foreseeable events” and that comes from the employer!

                3. Lynn Whitehat*

                  Honestly, layoffs and firings are about a thousand times more likely than getting hit by a bus, and a million times more likely than winning the lottery. But if you start talking about terminations, people panic. And you need a back-up plan in case people stop coming to work for any reason, whether they got cancer, were fired, became Amish, or whatever.

                4. AB Normal*

                  (In reply to Lynn — the thread wouldn’t nest one more level)

                  That is funny!

                  “IN CASE I BECOME AMISH” is going to be my go-to phrase for contingency planning from now on :-).

            2. Cassie*

              This! I don’t like to use the phrase “get hit by a bus” either; winning the lottery is more pleasant :)

              But the fact is, everyone will leave at some point. Either because they retire, they found another job, they die (sadly, one of our employees died), or they just plain quit without notice. Organizations should have contingency plans to ensure that operations continue normally. It reminds me of that kids’ book – Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears – if one person isn’t around to do their job, there has to be a back-up (and the back-up should know they are the back-up!).

    2. Gjest*

      When I left my last position, I gave 3 months notice- 3 MONTHS. My boss said, “I guess that’s an okay notice.” Just okay, really? That gave them enough time to hire someone and I had 2 weeks overlap with that person for training, which I did. But that 3 months turned into a giant pain in the a**. We sat down at first and discussed which things were priority for me to finish, and agreed on what I could do in 3 months. Then a few weeks in she tried to assign more work to me and when I said no (or rather, told her I could do those new things but the other things wouldn’t be finished), she really freaked out.

      Even though I completed everything that was originally agreed upon, spent 2 weeks training the next person, and left everything in as good of shape as possible, I am fairly sure she is talking bad about me now that I am gone. But, I have realized that there’s nothing I can do about that other than do a good job at my new position.

      So, #2 OP, as Alison said, just work your remaining time, leave things in as good of shape as you feel they could be, and move on with your new position. And I would suggest not training the new person on nights and weekends. You’ll have enough to do with your new job that you’ll need your downtime to yourself. And the way your boss is handling it would not make me want to help her out. You could even tell her this if you could get the wording right. Something like, “With the way my notice period was handled, I think it’s best for both of us if I just move on and you train the new person how you see fit.” Or similar. I’m not great at figuring out diplomatic ways to say things.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I love ya, and you’ve done great work, but I really don’t want to look at you for *three more months* after you’ve given notice.

        Has to be an industry thing I’m not familiar with in my line of work.

        The only notice that I can think of that drug on was our assistant CFO who was paid on a contract basis to be available for questions for maybe as much as year after she left.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            Me too, and I know if one of my direct reports told me he wanted to go to grad school in a few months, I’d be hot-diggity-delighted to have that much time to plan ahead for workflow and warm up my contacts for a candidate search — yet I’d still get to draw on his skills for several more months.

            OP, your boss sucks. I say pick from his laundry list what you can actually do in a week, tell him that’s what you can do in a week, and do it. Practice using your brightest smile as you say it, and the Miss Manners favorite phrase, “That won’t be possible” for the inevitable pushback.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              I thought about it, and I realized we have very little voluntary turnover so I don’t think my opinion counts for much on the subject. :-)

              We’re not heavily higher education oriented in the industry, but the few times I’ve had somebody go to grad school, we’ve made arrangements so that they could continue working with us part time while they went to school.

              We usually retain new mothers this way also.

              I have one department with a moderately high turnover, but it is entry level without much prospect so expected to turn as they get experience and get jobs elsewhere. Anything longer than two weeks in that dept would be uncomfortable for everyone.

              Anyway, I think we’re the anomaly now although I firmly believe the OP’s boss is also rude and nuts.

      2. some1*

        “And I would suggest not training the new person on nights and weekends. You’ll have enough to do with your new job that you’ll need your downtime to yourself.”

        Totally. Lack of planning on your company’s part doesn’t constitute an emergency on yours. The only time I’d offer to help train a replacement is if it was an internal promotion or transfer.

    3. Brianna*

      Thank you for the response. They have made it very clear that the work needs to be finished and that it’s all a priority. There’s no HR department, unfortunately, but I live in a small community and have been bothered by this a lot.

      Thanks for your help! This has been making me very stressed, but luckily, I only have three days left :)

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        A rule I follow (and I consider it a good rule) is: do what you can do, do it as well as you can do, and don’t worry about the rest. Even if your boss is unreasonable, you’ve still done a good job, and that’s all you need to do. Let the rest go, since it can’t be done anyway.

      2. Amy*

        Please remember that you are paid to do a job. Once they are done paying you (in three days) your job there is finished. I would absolutely not train my replacement in this situation, small town or not. You could offer to hire on as a consultant to train the replacement and draft up an agreement. But do not give away what they have been purchasing from you for three years. You devalue your experience and expertise that way.

  4. A teacher*

    #5: That is a terrible policy, but I agree with Allison that it probably isn’t illegal. You can talk to your union about it (if this is a pattern I definitely would), but it likely is just another one of those annoying little things that comes with the job. In theory ALL costs should be included in the district’s funding when planning a field trip, but in the world of underfunded schools, this is often not the case. You can absolutely push back against it; however, it’s more likely to result in alterations/canceling of the field trip rather than getting your ticket price covered and could have a negative impact on your work relationships that might significantly outweigh the $6.

    Aother thought: if paying the money is an issue, you or the trip coordinator could try contacting the theater about it. In my experience chaperon fees are often comped. You might get them to do so in this case, especially if you are accompanying a large group of paying customers.

    1. Elysian*

      I agree that you should talk to your union. Even if labor protections in your state are weak, the union at least (probably) has a legal team that might be able to advise you about whether or not this is legal in your state.

    2. A Teacher*

      Okay, I’m not this A teacher–I posted below. Our union would tell us to deal with it because its part of the job. Crappy, but reality. I do agree that chaperon fees are waived and that is something I would check.

    3. Brett*

      “In my experience chaperon fees are often comped.”
      Though making the teacher pay is probably not illegal, getting the ticket comped could be. Gifts to public employees from vendors can be a much no-no, and tickets to events are among the most scrutinized gifts.

      1. a.c.*

        I’m in Mass., which has a very strict conflict of interest law.
        The rule here is no gifts over $50.00 for public employees.
        Also, it’s not really a gift if the person is required to go, and in fact, being paid to go.

        1. Chrissi*

          I work for the federal government, and our rule is no “gifts” of over $25.00 to employees from outside the agency. No gifts over $15.00 from workers to supervisors (which is obviously a no-no from the gifts only flow down perspective), and no gifts over $50 from supervisors to workers.

          Anyway, $6.00 is probably not going to raise any eyebrows.

        2. Ethyl*

          I read your first line and I was initially like “wow you should not be posting on AAM from church,” and then I realized I really really really need a break from my job (at a religious organization).

        3. anon-2*

          I sometimes had to entertain visitors / customers – and I have season tickets to the Red Sox. I could expense the customer’s ticket, as well as dinner and drinks for the both of us, but I usually wouldn’t put in *my own* ticket if I was going to the game, anyway.

          But I could NOT offer that perk to a visiting government employee…

      2. Anna*

        Right, but a ticket to an event is not the same as a ticket to chaperone children to a movie because you’re actually working, not enjoying a perk. It’s much like in my job I’m required to attend events that have costs associated with them, but it would be insane for me to buy those tickets because I’m there as an employee, not as member of the public.

        1. Anonymous*

          I have to say, reading the comments so far, that it’s nice to finally see at least one person who doesn’t just say: You’re a teacher – suck it up! If I had said, I’m a secretary at a big law firm, and I’m being required to attend a company function – where I will make copies, get coffee, hang clients’ coats, whatever – and that I had to pay $10 or something for going to the function – what would some of you people say then? How is it okay because I’m a teacher? My boss’s message, essentially, is this: Pay the $6 or face disciplinary action. As I am first year in the district, this could include up to firing! So, whether it’s $6 or $600, I’m being required to PAY to do my job – or risk losing it. Are you going to tell me that’s legal? If it were a factory in China charging workers to make Nike shoes, would you feel differently?

          Also, for those of you interested, we don’t really get to enjoy the movie. If a SPED student has a meltdown, we have to take them out of the theater and calm them. If a student gets out of hand, we have to take them out of the theater and deal with disciplinary issues. We have to chaperon – not watch the movie. And still pay $6.

          1. Anonymous*

            mmm… an afterthought to my post just now: I had several students tell me that they were called to the office today and told that they, too, are REQUIRED to go to the movie – they were made to call their parents and get them to bring money to the school to buy tickets. Even if parents were willing to sign them out at noon, the school essentially said NO, they have to go on the field trip or sit in study hall all afternoon. So, not just the teachers, but also the students, are forced to pay for this “privilege” against their will.

      3. doreen*

        Depends. I know in my case I can take advantage of any discounts offered to a portion of the general public such as a “one free ticket for every ten paid ” offer open to public schools, private schools ,camps , day care centers, Scout troops as well as various discounts open to a such a large group of public employees that there is not even the appearance of a conflict of interest ( for example, a cell phone discount given to all government employees regardless of agency and level of government)

      4. Brett*

        I really could not see an issue being raised over $6 either (particularly if the teacher has no say in where the field trips go), but you still have to be very careful because laws and organizational regulations can vary wildly in local government. Teachers and police officers tend to really get nailed because the public scrutinizes them so much. You have to assume that someone will notice the discount and report it as an ethics violation, even if it is not actually an ethics violation.

  5. anonn*

    4# – Put your issue in writing to the boss to cover your back. Email him and keep a copy of the email.

    Make sure you can access this outside of work.

    Then if anything does come to light you can mark that you have raised it and the boss has chosen not to listen.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I wouldn’t put it in writing unless I had reason to believe that I was personally liable and, in that case, I’d have to consult an attorney before I put anything in writing.

      NDAs cause lawsuits. Putting in writing that you believe the company is knowingly violating an NDA is forcing your boss’s hand and I can’t think of any good thing that happens next. Remember the boss is also the principal of the company. This isn’t like corporate CYA.

      1. Contessa*

        I have, in the past, written memos to myself and sent them to my personal email. I have a description of what happened/how the conversation went fresh in my mind, and a date and time in case I forget. That way, if someone were to say, “Hey, didn’t you do anything about this violation?” I could say (if this were me, which is isn’t, since I’m in a totally different field), “Well, I told Bob XYZ at 5 pm on December 17, and in response, he said ABC on December 18 at 9 am.” It’s not in anyone’s official file, but it’s documented to help my memory.

  6. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    This is a bad business practice. We often do work for competing teapot and coffee pot businesses and you have to tiptoe around what you can show to whom when, even without an NDA.

    We were doing a presentation for West Coast Teapots, Inc. the other month and wanted to show work we’d done for East Coast Teapots R Us. We asked East Coast, and they gave us parameters. When West Coast wanted to see more, we asked West Coast to pick up the phone and talk to East Coast so everyone had a comfort level.

    Nobody thought this was strange. What would have been strange is if let West Coast see everything we were doing for East Coast, because then West Coast would think we would show all work we did for them to Northern Teapot Supply who is trying to move into the west coast territory.

    All that said, it’s your boss’s call and you need to let the principals of the company decide how they want to run their business. I wouldn’t work longtime for people who operate that way though. Unprofessional, not sustainable.

    1. NumberFour*

      Thanks for this. I told my boss that while I disagree with his decision, I’m going to do as he asks. I’ve stated my position as strongly as I can without yelling or attacking his character, so I’m really out of options that don’t involve major insubordination.

      1. Contessa*

        Consider noting for yourself (not in the file) what he said when , so you have some cover if this blows up.

        It seems very shady to me–if the two companies are competitors and I were with the first company, I would be both paranoid and livid that my competitor may have gotten (even through extrapolation) any of my trade secrets. But also, check the NDA again, because some promotional uses may be allowed for certain aspects of the projects.

        1. NumberFour*

          The NDA doesn’t make exceptions for promotional uses (I checked), but thanks for that suggestion, and for your suggestion about writing up an account of the situation for my own records. That’s a great idea.

  7. Anne*

    AAM – I’m being nitpicky, but for #1 it looks like the italics cut out a paragraph early. Slightly confusing. :)

    1. The IT Manager*


      I totally thought that sentence would go: I am not really in a position to change positions at the moment, so I don’t to try mind-reading or something like that. I was very confused when that sentence went in a differrnt direction until I realized that that first unitalicized paragraph was not Alison talking.

  8. Marmite*

    I’m not a teacher, but I work with large groups of children and some of our residential programmes include cinema trips. The cinema chain we use offers one free adult ticket per x number of kids tickets, so staff are covered by free tickets (not that my company would charge us if we weren’t – your employer sucks for doing that!)

    I’d maybe see if the cinema you’re visiting is willing to offer a similar discount.

    1. PEBCAK*

      Yup. Ask the manager to comp the chaperones. This is SOP when I take groups of kids on youth group outings…go karts, mini golf, movie theaters, all kinds of places.

    2. Loose Seal*

      When I was in school, that’s how the teachers got their part of the school trip to Europe paid for. For every 10 students paying, a teacher could go free as chaperone.

  9. PEBCAK*

    #4: I am reading this as though nothing has been distributed in a permanent format, i.e. people may have seen something, but they don’t have any paper trail that they did, right? If there’s a paper trail or enough information disclosed that it could get back to the company, you need to press harder, IMO.

    But if not, eh…it’s not strictly ethical, but is there harm done by showing some work in a short demo? I tend to think not, if they’ve been showing it already.

    1. NumberFour*

      You’re correct, nothing was distributed in a permanent format, which is why my boss feels like it’s not a big deal. My feeling is that it’s up to the client, and not us, to decide who gets to view the work, but I think I’ve pushed the issue as far as I can. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    2. Jaimie*

      I really wouldn’t sweat this one. For starters, the client has already put the information into the public domain, and even if they told you separately not to blantantly disclose it, they’ve undertaken a casual approach. For seconds, while this is clearly a bad practice, it’s not earth shattering, and unfortunately people do this sort of stuff all.the.time (I am not condoning this by any means). It would be better if he didn’t identify the client by name and kept it general. But I wouldn’t start treating your boss as though he is unscrupulous. Let it go.

      1. NumberFour*

        Thanks for your comments on this. I came to this job after working for a company which placed great emphasis on securing clients’ proprietary information (as well as our own), so it’s something I’ve grown extremely attentive to. If something similar had happened there, we’d have already given the client a full report with details about how much information was revealed, exactly to whom, and what we were doing to ensure it would never happen again. And if any manager had tried to cover it up, s/he would have been reprimanded severely, or possibly even let go. (Not saying that’s the Only Correct Way to handle this type of situation; it’s just what I’m used to.) Hearing points of view from people who have dealt with this sort of thing in other industries has been really helpful for me, in terms of keeping it in perspective.

        1. Jaimie*

          Ah. Yes, agreed. I’ve been in that sort of environment as well, where the slightest thing (e.g. an email sent by accident to the wrong person) triggered an “Incident Respsonse” which was a “Big Deal”. But for better or worse, most people don’t take NDAs too seriously (which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t; just be aware of what a generally common response is).

          I’ve never seen anyone go to court over an NDA, either. Violating them is more of a relationship-buster than a real legal problem, and if your boss wants to risk one exisitng client for the sake of trying to bring in a new client, well, that is his cost-benefit analysis. Sometimes that will work, though he’s likely to burned eventually.

  10. Letter Writer #1*

    Thanks Alison. I was leaning that way because I don’t want to jump the gun. I just found it so bizarre.

    Also, please ignore my typos/grammar issues – I was typing quite quickly last night :)

  11. JFQ*


    Your boss, unless he composed the document you found online (and that he sent you), has definitely done something wrong, something that easily could have been avoided by one sentence in his email: “Here’s something I found that covers what we were talking about.”

    The motives and circumstances that led to his not giving credit to the author(s) are irrelevant and distracting: he passed off work, presumably not his own, without attribution.

    The real questions are how wrong you think his actions are and what level of wrong you can live with.

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      He didn’t compose it. I did exactly what you said when I sent it to my coworkers saying “oh, I found this online”. When he sent it to me, he did not.

      As a scientist I see it as “fairly wrong” since it is one of the first things we’re taught (academic integrity, don’t plagarize, give credit where credit is due, etc). I think my biggest problem is that I don’t want to cause a fuss because I really need the job. That being said, it makes me feel a bit sleazy.

      It might have been an oversight on his part (if he didn’t alter the document), but it just aligns with a few other previous issues I have had with him.

      1. JFQ*

        I’m work with a lot of scientists, so I get where you’re coming from.

        I don’t think you’re obligated to cause a fuss–people need jobs–but I’m glad that we agree that what he did was wrong. In this case, if he did actually alter the document, he did more work than just sending a link to you in his email, like when a student works harder to cheat than just doing the work.

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        In the future, I think you could respond with something like, “Oh, this is great! I found something else online that completely supports this, so now we’ve got verification from 2 places.”

        So this would do 2 things: it would show that you’re engaged enough in your job to do your own independent research, and also send the message to your boss that you’re onto him, but you’re doing it in a way that doesn’t accuse him of anything.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            And hopefully that unspoken message will make him think twice before doing something like that again.

            1. Emily K*

              I would actually recommend against this. It’s passive-aggressive, and people tend to respond one of two ways to passive aggression: 1) they’re oblivious to it and keep doing what they’re doing, or 2) they feel disrespected and annoyed that the problem wasn’t addressed directly. #1 doesn’t get the LW anywhere, and #2 isn’t a feeling you typically want to provoke in your boss.

              1. Jaimie*

                Yeah, agreed. This is a good way of getting your boss to not like you. The only thing is accomplishes is that it makes you look like a know-it-all who checks up on your boss. I vote for being professional and direct, or letting it slide.

                1. Ann Furthermore*

                  I think the plagiarism angle changes it though. If my boss sent me an article from a journal, or a link to something related to my job, I would respond in that manner. I’d just say, “Thanks, this was very informative,” and leave it at that. I wouldn’t go on and on about all the independent research I’d done on my own — too much of a brown-nosing vibe.

                  In this case though, the OP has good reason to suspect that her boss stole someone else’s work and is passing it off as his own. So that changes things, in my view. I don’t do scientific research for a living, and even I know that the first rule is to document, cite your sources, and so on. So certainly her boss should know better.

                  And honestly, in the OP’s shoes, it would piss me off if my boss thought so little of me that he figured he could pass of someone else’s work as his own with no one figuring out what he was up to, and I’m not sure I’d be able to let it slide. So the choices are to confront him head on, or subtly inform him that I know how to use Google too.

  12. Not So NewReader*

    OP 1. I really like Alison’s answer because it takes a load off of you. You keep pursuing that point and you could end up jobless. Nothing wrong with keeping your eyes open to see if there are other ethics issues going on. However, I would not move to a hyper-awareness level. I would use the same level of awareness that I do with any employer.
    As an aside, if you found it on Google then so will other people.

    OP 2. Depending on your situation this may or may not work for you: In the past I have just ignored the over-reaction by the boss. It could be that in a few days you will get a different response. Or it could be that she just leaves you alone to sort it out yourself. Once I was able to go in on a different day and say “I loved working here and I want to leave my position in the best shape possible. Please let me know what would be of the most value to you, so that I can do that for you.” I got a much calmer reaction and things went okay.
    Two things to keep in mind– a) you are leaving no matter how big a temper tantrum she throws and b) if she does narrow her list down don’t be surprised if she asks for things that seem silly to you. Her list may or may not match what you think needs to be done.

    OP 3. Regarding people who think you are working for free and shouldn’t be doing that. Don’t let what other people think throw you. It is fine to consider their opinions but you are the one in the situation not them. They might be missing key facts that you see. Worse case scenario you get a learning experience about how you want to handle a similar situation in the future. Frankly, I have seen people do some crazy stuff to get a job. My family member did procurement. The interviewer needed material X. In the middle of the interview my family member called a supplier and got material X for the interviewer. Impressive and risky all at the same time. Yeah, he got the job.

    OP4. I think that in some industries these NDAs are followed with a nod and a wink. Meaning that some of the info is revealed in the process of talking with other people/clients. I am not saying this is right. I am just saying it’s a norm. Perhaps this applies to your field?

    OP5. I love the idea that others have mentioned about calling the theater to see if they have a policy for teachers who chaperone. I think that might be a good route to try. At the same time you can still approach the union to see what can be done for preventing this situation in the future. I think teachers get nickeled and dimed to death- $20 bucks here, $5 bucks there, and whoops, $50 on something else. It’s awful. Use all the ways you can find to stop this from happening. It’s just wrong.

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      I am going to leave it, and just see how it goes in the future. If something else comes up (with my “regular level” of ethics screening, not hyper-aware) I will possibly do something then. Also, I am someone who is considered a worry-wart, so I do need to unload it, as you mentioned.

    2. Letter Writer #2*

      Thank you for your response! At first, people were telling me that I should try to give her some time because it’s likely her feelings were hurt. But after they’ve made mention of my interruption of my bosses vacation, I have a feeling that’s less of the issue than inconvenience. Now it’s three days later, and I’ve been weathering the silent treatment since I broke the news and gotten the bad attitude. I keep telling myself, only a few days!

      1. Mimi*

        Wow – if that behavior isn’t affirmation that you made the right decision in leaving, I don’t know what is!

  13. Rebecca*

    I’m looking for another job, and hope to find one in 2014. Given my manager’s response when I went on an interview a while back (pacing around her office, screaming, saying that we are a family, and family doesn’t abandon family), I will be fully prepared to walk out the door if she tosses another fit.

    The day I give my two week’s notice, my computer will be cleaned up, work caught up, basic documentation done, and I’ll skip car pool and drive myself. I’ve even started an emergency fund to tide me over until I get my first paycheck from my new job in case the company pulls the whole “we aren’t going to pay you” stunt.

    It’s puzzling to me why she feels this way, when the company can walk up to me at any time and tell me my services are no longer needed. It’s a job, nothing more.

    1. Yup*

      Yeah, your manager sounds like she’s completely left the station, reality-wise. “Pacing around her office, screaming, saying that we are a family, and family doesn’t abandon family”? Good lord.

      I think bosses with this mentality secretly want employment offers written as blood oaths allowing them to toss you off the battlements for any minor infraction.

      1. Rebecca*

        I was really afraid she was going to hit me or throw the coffee cup at me. Her face was red and she was really angry. I calmly reminded her that we work for a business, we do stuff and they pay us, nothing more, but it was like waving a red flag at a bull.

        Honestly, it’s like being in Kindergarten here.

    2. Graciosa*

      All of this except for the car pool item seems like it should be a goal for every day, not just resignation day.

      All right, the caveat would be long term projects which would be noted in a to do list so that someone else could find the material and pick it up with no expectation of completion on day 1. Still, there’s a lot in your note that is a good standard practice (clean computer, emergency fund, basic documentation in place). I’d like to recommend this type of thinking even to those who are not actively looking for a new position.

    3. some1*

      So much this. Can you imagine being let go and trying to demand that they have to let you work for two more months while you find another job, and then when your boss says no, stomping off and saying, “Fine. I’ll decide how long I’m staying later”? See how far that gets you.

    4. some1*

      & regarding the car pool, that’s a good plan. Most employers would call a cab for you or get someone to drive you home, however, when I was laid off, I know I just wanted to get the freak out of there and be by myself while I absorbed the shock.

  14. Chinook*

    Former teacher here. Looking at the price you are being charged, it sounds like the school got a deal on the tickets and didn’t think to negotiae one free adult for X kids, which is something that is common. When that has happened, it is usually because the business understands the value of having more adults.

    That being said, I often paid my own admission or cost to events even when “free adults” were included and gave the freebie to parent volunteers as I was being paid to be there and they weren’t. I always
    Chalked it up the professional cost of the job.

    Lastly, if you are unionized, check with your rep. They may have something about this in the contract.

      1. A Teacher*

        I think you’re missing the big picture – and I do actually have a call in to my union rep. I’m far and away NOT the only one angry about this policy, by the way – an aide in our school district makes roughly minimum wage with no paid time off, no benefits, little retirement contribution, nothing. So, the $6 is a big deal to some people – after taxes, it’s about an hour’s worth of work.

        What’s the threshold for a person to feel they have the right to stand up for themselves? $10? $20? $100?

  15. A Teacher*

    Fellow teacher here: crappy but sadly not uncommon. I can’t tell you the amount I know I put out in money for my classroom, team I coach, and for other “related” expenses. I’m sure you (and others) do the same–the $250 tax credit sadly doesn’t cover half of it.

  16. just laura*

    #3– In my mind, I would consider it volunteer work. If it ends up providing you a new, funded job, then great! If it doesn’t, then you offered up your free time to try to help an organization that you (presumably) care about. That frames it as a win/win to me.

  17. OP 3*

    Thanks guys – I wrote Alison after I’d been drafting an email to the nonprofit asking questions about what to do next, and I had to stop writing because I got really anxious over trying shoehorn in a paragraph asking for money/guarantees that felt weird. just laura, that’s how I was selling it to myself in the beginning! I’d actually already finished doing the same thing for a different org that I KNOW isn’t able to hire me, and felt great about it for the exact reasons you gave. I guess the uncertainty about the new place was bothering me, and a little naysaying became like a x100 botheringness multiplier.

    1. Bwmn*

      Oh #3 – this is such a bad idea!!

      I hate to join the naysayers, but if their grant writing is really this haphazard then this as a genuine paid job may not happen for 12-24 months. If at all. I work in nonprofits as a fundraiser/grant writer – and while I don’t know the cycle for every grant for every sector, the process can take quite a while. Without a prior relationship with a granting entity, I think the shortest time I’ve had between grant to funding (for new activity) was around 6 months? Secondly, lots of granting entities for projects like to see matching funds. As they won’t fund the entire project, you may not just be looking for grant #1, but perhaps grants #2 and #3.

      Also, do they have a staff member doing fundraising? Have they contracted outside for these purposes? If they have someone already doing the fundraising – they’re hopefully better situated to know about the funding possibilities and who might be interested in such a project. If the nonprofit is leaving this to a volunteer, it sounds to me like it’s in the “dream project” category and not “reasonable possibility”.

      On top of all of this, if this project is completely on hold until additional funding comes in, your job may then entirely become about continuing to secure funding for a job that could end at the end of the grant (now if this is a long term medical research grant – that may be no big deal, however if it’s a 12-24 month grant, that’s a lot more stressful).

      All of this screams to me of a nonprofit that’s not well structured and perhaps is very young. You may put yourself in a position to not be paid for months (or longer). Perhaps the field that you’re in, the grant situation is different from the fields where I’ve worked in the past (health care, human rights, legal) – but this does not sound like a solid way to get a job. And if you do, it doesn’t sound like a solid organization to have a job with. If you’re happy to volunteer of this organization, then by all means – do so. But that’s the attitude I think you have to have.

  18. Kristin*

    Yes, even if they win the grant but end up hiring another person you could still use that on your resume!

  19. Amanda*

    #3 – Definitely follow Allison’s advice, and don’t go back to them and change the terms now. However, you have essentially an extended chance to interview and prove yourself and guarantee that you get the job. It will be far easier to simply look to you when the grant money comes through if you’ve proven yourself reliable, communicative, and professional during the process. And honestly, grantwriting is good experience, and this is not entirely uncommon, both to get jobs and keep jobs. There’s a museum nearby us that’s advertising for an executive director (and sole staff member) that will be paid for 6 months and will need to raise his/her salary after that. That’s an extreme case, and one I would argue is not the smartest way to go about things, but the reality in nonprofits is that your job is often underpinned by funding that’s dependent on outside interests – not guaranteed by your own relevance and value.

  20. HR lady*

    #2 – As much as you can, take the high road and do not get bogged down in the drama from your boss. You want to leave knowing that you did everything you could, and you didn’t burn any bridges.

    Be polite, be cheerful but not celebratory, keep your nose down and get everything done that you can (and that they want you to do), and have things organized with good instructions. Keep that mindset so that you don’t get into an argument with your boss, and so that you don’t complain about your boss to any coworkers.

    People will remember you acting professionally in your last week – just like they’d remember it if you argued with your boss or badmouthed her.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Agreed. Try to remain professional and do as much as you can, and hopefully things will calm down once she gets used to the idea. However, if things should get abusive… I would consider walking early.

  21. AVP*

    I would be interested to hear AdAgencyChick’s take on #4, as O’ve been in a similar situation.

    I work for a production company that occasionally does ad work for major agencies, and one of them has asked us to keep our project completely under wraps, off our website, etc. It’s not sensitive information, and it’s on the web on their site, but they want to maintain the illusion that they produced in in-house instead of going outside. However, the convention in production has always been that a director’s showreel is sort of sacred, and they’re allowed to put anything on it (as long as, you know, they directed it). So far, we’ve gone with that and sent it out, but I’m just curious if this is an accepted line of thought at agencies, or if they would want to sue us if they found out (unlikely, but you never know…)

  22. anon-2*

    #2 – yes, quite often managers act unprofessionally when you deliver a two-week notice.

    – unless it’s traditional in your business to give MORE than 2 weeks, you’re covered. Don’t worry about “being dealt with later.” You have the 13th Amendment (if you’re in the US) on your side.

    – do offer to help out. Well, you did. Do not be surprised if they call you continually after you leave “uh how do I do this?” stuff.

    – above all – ACT PROFESSIONALLY. Do not lower yourself to your management’s level. I have walked out of hell-holes with my head held high — I KEPT MY DIGNITY. Don’t lose that. Your peers will remember how you acted in the notice period, that will follow you.

    1. Letter Writer #2*

      I’m definitely keeping to myself, I’ve never been the kind of person to engage in silly games. Thank you so much for your help!

  23. anonymous*

    #1 I work on a similar setting. My guess is he copy pasted the info and neglected to state something like this: Smith and Jones described the methods in this publically available article (attachment or link). In my experience people are just busy and don’t take the time to properly attribute credit, especially high level people. This person simply wanted to give the info and did so. Because it’s just internal communication, it is less of a concern than for example this was done in a formal report or someting public. It would be a good idea to keep in mind you may need to track down specific sources and cite them appropriately if you use any info from this person in a more formal document. They are probably too busy or sloppy to do the ideal thing. You can also role model the correct way to credit others in your communications.

    1. Sophia*

      Exactly. Unless he specifically said he put it together, never assume malice which could be attributed to ignorance, forgetfulness or being busy.

    2. olives*

      #1 – I’ve also had many people in a research environment (since you mentioned this was research at a tech startup) have copies of other people’s work from its draft / review state, where you intentionally leave off anything that might identify the author. Sometimes these get passed around even if the paper has gone on to be published and identifying information has been added.

  24. anon-2*

    #5 – I once agreed to chaperone a school trip to an amusement park. It was a 90+ degree day.

    So the two school buses arrive at the park, we’re sitting on the buses.
    Four of the teachers are in a circle, discussing something – while the rest of us are waiting.

    Myself – and another chaperone, jump off the bus, because this is going on too long , and we ask “what’s goin’ on, guys?”

    “Duh, we have a problem. There’s 46 of us, and we only have 45 tickets.” So they stood around and bickered — couldn’t figure out the problem.

    So I said “how much does it cost for one ticket?” $10 (this ain’t Disney).

    “OK why don’t each of us open our wallets – take out a buck or two, and buy the extra ticket and we can get moving?”

    Concept = foreign to the teachers. A DOLLAR out of their wallets. Better to let 40 kids swelter on a bus.

    Teacher – pay the six bucks. Enjoy the movie. OK?

    1. anon-2*

      I might add – if you work in the “dreaded private sector” – you often have to pay some of your own working expenses.

        1. anon-2*

          If it were a major expense – OR – it was habitual – then it would be an issue.

          If it’s a one-time $6 movie ticket – I’d let it slide.

          By contrast, I once worked in a place that picked my pocket – refused to pay routine expenses. When I left that company, I sent a nice note asking for the $500 – this was big money then – never got it — so I put it on my taxes as a “bad debt”, named the company.

          1. Former teacher*

            Apparently, you missed the other comment about teachers getting “nickeled and dimed to death.” This concept is absolutely not foreign to teachers, especially public school teachers, and in most places, it IS habitual. I used to buy pencils and get moving, paper and get moving, lab supplies and get moving. I knew others who bought bookshelves and filing cabinets because there weren’t enough to go around. When paper shipments came to the copy room, a lot of teachers would descend upon the boxes and take reams of paper in their rooms. The IRS allows teachers to claim only up to $250 of work expenses a year on federal taxes ($500 if joint/married), and only if itemizing all deductions – $500 is an average US teacher’s personal spending on supplies, and I personally spent $1k/yr. I have no doubt that other teachers spend more. And it wasn’t even the money that made me decide to change careers.

            There are more serious problems than “money-grubbing teachers,” and one of them is the sheer number of people who believe “money-grubbing teachers” are the biggest problem in US education. Believe me, if it were all about the money, no one would be signing up to teach in the first place!

            1. Former teacher*

              …sorry, avg=$485, not $500. So the average marrieds are just barely covered, the average singles are out $235/yr, and remember, that’s if they’re itemizing everything instead of taking the standard deduction. And of course, plenty are spending more than that. Also, this doesn’t take into the account the time spent on hustling to write grants, beg on, write letters to parents, borrow supplies from other schools, run fundraisers and supply drives…

      1. A Teacher*

        What working expenses have you paid for, if I might ask, in the “dreaded private sector”? Do you risk losing your job if you don’t pay for these expenses?

    2. Hapax Legomenon*

      I’ve got a strong feeling that you live in a place where the teachers make something close to a salary a person can live on, but that’s not the case here and it’s not the case in a lot of places.
      My mom(an elementary school para-educator) related this story to me once: the school had put up a chart showing what an average salary was for a high school dropout, for a high school graduate, two-year degree holder, and so on. They took it down after the teachers gathered in front of it and lamented the fact that they hadn’t dropped out of high school when they had the chance.

  25. 400boyz*

    Stuff like #2’s situation is really grating. As an employee, you have to metaphorically bend over, take your licks, and ask for more sir, please.

    Please leave a review of that company at a site like or glassdoor. It’s the closest one can get to leaving a bad reference about a bad manager and bad company.

  26. Threeohfive*

    OP #1 – Based on this: “He said he would send me the details of the technique after the meeting was over, no big deal.”

    At any time did he lead you to believe that the work was his? Did he specifically say he was the author? I do think it is weird that the university info and acknowledgment were removed, but that doesn’t mean he did it. And if he had and was trying to pass it off as his, I’d think he would have added his name to the document. You being a researcher and all, I would hope he would know better than to plagiarize something so easily googled. :)

  27. Ruffingit*

    #1 needs this part italicized: I am not really in a position to change positions at the moment, so I don’t really want to ruffle feathers. I just feel so uneasy about it. It was such a small thing to try to claim as his own that it makes me wonder where else this might be done. Thoughts?

  28. Ruffingit*

    Interesting to me that someone would offer to train the new person on nights and weekends after taking a new job. Only if they offered me a significant amount of money and I needed it badly would I do that. Sometimes I think people have way too much loyalty to their former jobs. My feeling is that once you start a new job, your focus and time needs to be given wholly to that new place. The responsibility to train new staff falls on the employer, not the employee who just departed. And yes, I’m sure there are exceptions to this, I’m just saying that on the whole, I wouldn’t do this. My time and energy would go to NewJob.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, this reminds me of that person who was doing work for her previous job for free and couldn’t do that and the work she was actually hired for.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I know, but once I started a new job and met with the outgoing person for some training on a Saturday. She was nice, and I was really, really grateful for it! I try to pay that forward if it’s possible.

      I guess it just depends on the relationship with the employer and how they treat you when you give notice.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep — I’ve seen a lot of people gladly come in on a weekend or evening to train their replacement, and it’s always when they’ve been treated well and care about their work being successful after they leave. In a case like the OP’s, I can’t imagine doing it.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Coming in on a weekend or an evening or two, sure. But doing it as an ongoing thing? No way. And that is the sense I’m getting when people say they offer to train on evenings and weekends. Plural. I just wouldn’t be willing to give that to a former company unless they paid me a significant amount of money to do it and I really needed that money. Again YMMV. For me, starting new jobs usually takes up all my time and focus. Having one foot in one job while trying to do another is just too difficult for me. One weekend or one evening to train at OldJob? Sure. Ongoing? No. I just couldn’t handle that.

  29. Mary*

    Contact the Fair Labor Division of your state Attorney General’s Office – they will know the legal answer.

    (If you can’t find a Fair Labor Division – ask for the Consumer Hotline or Consumer Protection Division.)

  30. Jeanne*

    #3 – Agree with the above. Grant writing is a terrific skill, especially if you actually have written grants that have resulted in funding. I’m in executive management at a nonprofit and just want to offer a word of caution about expecting a job – Unless you are the director of the project that a new grant is funding, the organization will pay the staff expected to fulfill the grant first, before hiring a general grant writer. Having someone focused on grant writing exclusively is a luxury in nonprofits, and it’s a position that isn’t secured until the nonprofit is much more viable. So, if someone comes to me with a cool project idea that they already have funded, we would offer them a job because we get someone who can fund raise AND fulfill the terms of the grant. But if a grant writer came to me and said they could bring more money into the organization, they would have to bring in several, multi-year grants, each of which covered a portion of their time adding up to 100% for several years, for us to be compelled to hire them.

    1. Bwmn*

      Coming from the position of being a fundraiser/grant writer I had a different take on #3 – in that she was interested in a project position that did not yet have funding and volunteered to the do the grant writing to fund the project and thus create the position.

      I think that a lot of this definitely depends on the nature of the organization. I read the question and immediately thought “horror story!” from my professional experiences. My concern about the letter was more about how if this is a dream project that they hope to do some day but haven’t yet put in any energy on getting it funded – then this project may not emerge for quite a while.

      Not to mention, the OP might put a lot of work into writing a grant, have the grant agreed to be funded – but at half the money the project costs. So then the nonprofit has to determine whether the project can be done with half of the funds and if so how. A situation that may leave all of the OP’s work resulting in someone already hired by the nonprofit taking on the project instead because as it turns out there now isn’t money to hire a new staff member and run the project.

      All of this depends on the sector, the nature of the project and the types of grants being sought – but this screams to me very bad idea unless the OP is ok with volunteering for potentially a very long time.

      1. OP 3*

        Thanks for your perspective, Bwmn. All the scenarios you outlined are exactly the kind of thing I’ve been worried about – knowing now that I’m not the only on who sees them as possible makes me feel a little bit better since if they did, they wouldn’t be a surprise.

        More info about the place:
        The org is an educational enrichment, and it’s only about 2 years old. It’s been doing what it’s supposed to do in those 2 years, they just want to do it in more places, thus the wish for more personnel. Currently, there is a director, 2 permanent PT staff, and interns – fewer than 15 people total. My role would be a so-far unfilled one that no one else there is particularly qualified to do, but it also wouldn’t be difficult for the org to find someone more experienced than me (though it could be difficult to find someone more experienced who wants to do it at NP rates).

        The grant writing is something I want/need more experience with, anyway, so I’m committing to it but will continue to look for other jobs. Even if the grants came through for a decent amount of money, and they did decide to hire me, it would probably wouldn’t happen until the middle of the year. And I do appreciate the work that they do.

  31. Rayner*

    Regarding the boss in #1, while I don’t think it’s something I’d bring up to his attention because it would be very difficult to put into words and there are any number of excuses he could give, I’d definitely be wary of anything else that came from him. If he’d submitted the document as it was, without crediting in the email, I’d consider that as lazy but not necessarily bad.

    By going through it and actively changing the text, removing things, all of that, it turns from being lazy to being plagiarism. And very poorly done as well.

    I’d definitely be less ready to accept things on face value from him in the future now.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I’m not ready to call this guy a plagiarist. It’s quite possible he received the document in that format himself and just sent it on as is. He may not be the one who stripped it of its credits so he may not even know it originally came from University X.

  32. Letter Writer #2*

    Well-just an update. I received an apology, a vast array of compliments, and some paid time off for sticking it out:) My boss was very apologetic of the way she treated me and said she was just really upset to be losing her best employee. So after all of that, I finished up everything they asked me to do and am leaving on a great note! Sometimes it really pays to weather the storm! Best of luck :)

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