I don’t like the restrictions on my severance, employer is changing pay rate every week, and more

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

1. My coworker won’t stop commenting on my clothes and shoes

I work in a very small office that also has a warehouse. Fewer than 10 people work for the company, and I come in contact with everyone every day. The dress code for the office is business casual (and for the warehouse, it’s VERY casual). There is someone in the warehouse who continually makes comments on my choice of clothing or shoes, which is always work-appropriate. They aren’t compliments and while they’re not direct insults, they definitely lean more in that direction. The comments usually happen at least once a week. Some examples: “Oh, you’re wearing your hooker shoes today” (just for regular high heels, not 6″ stilettos or anything), or she’ll burst out laughing at me and make a comment like, “You’re wearing witch shoes today!” if the toes are pointed.

While I don’t take them terribly personally, I would like the comments to stop. My current approach has just been to ignore it completely but that doesn’t work. She often has temper tantrums or over-reacts to things, so I’m not sure how to phrase my request for her to stop without making it into a huge issue. Do you have any suggestions, or should I just leave it alone and ignore it?

It sounds like you have to decide between (a) ignoring it but allowing the comments to continue and (b) telling her to cut it out and risking that she reacts poorly to it — which would be her fault, not yours. If you decide to say something, I’d just say, “I’d really prefer it if you didn’t comment on my clothes or shoes. Thank you.” If she wants to have a tantrum in response to that, let her — she’s going to look really absurd. (But it’s perfectly reasonable if you decide you don’t feeling like dealing with that and can instead just happily ignore her.)

Oh — one other option would be to simply say “Wow” or “That’s rude” when she says something that truly crosses a line, like the hooker shoes comment.

2. My severance offer requires that I keep working a certain amount of time

I received a request for a phone conference three months ago on Nov. 5. I and two of my fellow coordinators were notified at that time that our jobs were being eliminated and that our final day would be Jan. 21. The company we work for has been holding our severance package over our head – if we remain employees in good standing until the end of the time, we receive the package. Of course, we are not able to apply for other jobs because we can’t afford to leave money on the table. Is this legal for them to do this? Is there any recourse? It is now down to the wire and we are getting ready to sign seperation papers. I just still have questions about my rights being violated.

This is very normal and perfectly legal. They want you to work out that full period, through January 21, and they’re offering you a financial incentive to do it — if you stay the whole time, you’ll get a bonus in the form of severance when you leave.

But you’re not required to stay that whole time or to accept the severance. You should absolutely be job-searching during this time, and if you’re offered a job that starts before January 21, at that point you can decide whether to take it (and forego the severance) or to turn it down (or to try to negotiate a later start date). That’s 100% your choice; no one is going to force you to do anything, and no one is violating your rights. (No law requires employers to offer severance, and they can put conditions like this on it if they want to.)

Personally, unless the severance package is a huge one, I’d say that a secure job offer and giving up the severance is worth more than a small amount of severance, which will run out pretty quickly and leave you without a job.

3. How can I thank my boss for hiring my friend?

My boss had an available position to fill, so I suggested she speak to a friend of mine. He ended up hiring her recently, and I wanted to send an email to thank him, but didn’t know if this was necessary/appropriate or what even to say. Any suggestions?

Don’t thank him! You don’t want to imply that he did you or her a favor — that implies that she wasn’t the best person for the job, so it’s a little undermining to her and a little weird for him. In fact, you did him a favor, by connecting him with a good candidate. So instead of thanking him, I’d say something like, “I’m so glad that Jane ended up being the right person for the role. I’m looking forward to her starting.”

4. Applying for a promotion when my partner might be taking a job in another state

My partner was approached about a job in Tampa (we currently live in Atlanta). She is about to have her final round of interviews early next week. All feedback has been extremely positive and it is very likely that she will receive an offer, which is GREAT… For her. It is a huge opportunity with a great salary and benefit options. Also, we both have family in Tampa, so the plan was to relocate there, eventually. We weren’t expecting it to happen so soon, though.

I’ve recently (just yesterday) had an opportunity to apply for a position within my current company. The position is only being offered within my current team, and isn’t even being posted on our intranet. I have been in discussions with my boss for a couple of months now about this exact position, specifying that this is exactly what our team needs, and that this is exactly what I want to do. So, pretty much, I feel like the opportunity was created just for me. This position is one that could be done remotely, but, I struggle with how to approach my boss with that option. I know it is probably going to be a difficult argument for her to make to her boss, so I’m not sure how detailed I should get when I bring it up, to make the argument a valid one.

Do I just keep the question high level, asking is there a possibility that this position could be a remote position? Or do I get detailed and explain my circumstance? I don’t want to make her nervous and make her feel that I am a flight risk, but I also don’t want it to seem like I just want to move to Tampa for no significant reason.

This isn’t a deal breaker, as I want the job either way, but I don’t want to miss a potential opportunity for me to relocate with her by possibly not explaining the situation enough. As a manager, what are your thoughts? Keep it high level or explain my personal situation?

Apply for the job, now. Don’t mention Tampa. If, and only if, your partner is offered and accepts the Tampa job should you raise the question about whether doing the job remotely would be possible. You don’t want to raise concerns about you leaving the area before you know that you really need to.

5. Employer is changing my pay rate every week to avoid paying overtime

My employer changed me from salary to hourly because my job is non-exempt. I was told my pay would stay the same. Everything is cool!

I worked my week just as I normally would to get my job done and of course I had overtime. My employer reduced my hourly rate so my paycheck stayed the same. And the next week I worked less hours and my pay again changed so I got paid the same. Is this legal?

What! No. They cannot muck around with your pay rate in order to avoid paying you overtime. They cannot change your pay rate retroactively either. It sounds like they don’t quite understand what non-exempt means — or that they understand only half of it.

Go to your manager and say, “Hey, I looked into this, and we can’t change my pay rate each week to avoid paying overtime. Do you want me to just limit myself to 40 hours a week so that the company doesn’t end up needing to pay for overtime?”

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Furthermore

    #1 – Maybe she’s just trying to get a rise out of you. Warehouse environments are much more casual than offices, and it’s more common for people to tease or rib each other. She can probably sense that the comments bother you, which is why she keeps making them. Infantile, yes, but that’s how some people are.

    I would just give her deadpan responses and see how she reacts to them. So for the hooker shoes comment, I’d say something like, “Thanks, I picked ’em up at the Pretty Woman boutique!” For the witch shoes comment, I’d try something like, “Yep, they go with the broom I rode to work today,” and go on about my business. Once you stop giving her the reaction she’s looking for, she’ll stop.

    I wouldn’t make a big point of asking her to stop. She could tell the other people in the warehouse that you have no sense of humor, can’t take a joke, and so on, and then you’ll be known as “the uptight one.”

    1. Andrea Elizabeth

      Re: witch shoes – “Let me know if you ever want to borrow them!” Bright smile and then walk away.

      1. FRRibs

        Good comeback!

        I’ve been in manufacturing/warehousing forever, and blue collar workers engage in colorful ribaldery and even hazing to pass the time. I wouldn’t take it personally unless you are specifically the only person she does this to. On the other hand, some people that I’ve worked with see a great divide between “workers” and “office people”, and look with disdain upon them. You can address the behavior, but changing the perspective is pretty difficult.

        1. OP 1

          I am actually the only person she does it to, but as mentioned in another comment, I’m the only other NON-family member and English speaking person there.

      2. OP 1

        I love that! I never think of these type of comebacks quickly enough! Ha.

        Also, I don’t think she would say anything to the other people about me being uptight- the company is super small, and everyone else that works back there speaks Cantonese and minimal English. I’m the only non-family member, English speaking employee besides her.

        1. fposte

          Yeah, I think even if it isn’t meant as friendly jesting–and I think there’s some chance it is–you can treat it as if it is. That neutralizes the exchange to the point where it can actually turn into friendly banter even if it didn’t start that way. It turns into your and Jane’s thing: “Wore ’em for you, Jane!” “Check ’em out today, Jane!” “Thinking about rhinestones for tomorrow–you on board?”

          Obviously you don’t want to license comments that are really beyond the pale, so if she tends to comment on your actual body more than, say, shoes, going along with it is too permissive. But my private guess is that this is somebody who might actually like to wear stuff that feels nicer to her than what she usually has on, and you might actually be able to turn this into a bit of a bond.

        2. Not So NewReader

          The secret is that it takes planning. You know she will say something- use time away from work (drive time, shower time) to consider a couple possible scenarios and what your response would be.
          Definitely, put the comment in a neutral place where she cannot get upset with you. Keep it on the level of just banter.
          “Yes, witch’s shoes today, tomorrow I’m thinking maybe some ruby red slippers. Just for a change in pace, ya know?”

          If she genuinely likes your clothes maybe you can turn it into a conversation about clothes shopping and finding bargains etc.

    2. wesgerrr

      Ann- I used to work in an office above a warehouse and used this same approach when the warehouse workers would make silly comments. (Nothing sexual harrassment-ish, just like the “witch” comment above.). It had great results. In a weird way, it made them trust me more because I became “one of the guys.” Even in bright blue pumps!

      1. Chinook

        Even in bright blue pumps, being one of the guys is easy if you can lob back joking insults is often all it takes. Now that you know the types of comments she makes, you can head her off at the pass with self-deprecating comments (as long as you don’t do the same to her as she could take it the wrong way.)

      2. the gold digger

        In my first job out of college, I worked with insurance agents (almost all men – I can’t even remember one woman). I had to give presentations to them about a new product that HQ wanted them to sell. I was 22 years old with a plump, very young-looking face, and I didn’t really know how to dress – I am sure I looked kind of silly in my blue suit, unironed pink blouse (I didn’t know you were supposed to iron them with starch to get the wrinkles out), and stupid little bow tie.

        So they teased me and wouldn’t take me seriously. I asked my brother what to do. He told me to select one of the guys, pick on him (light teasing), and turn his friends against him.

        Which I did – and it was a roaring success. It doesn’t take much to make a pack turn on one of its own and suddenly, I was one of the guys. Not exactly my life’s ambition, but at least now I knew how to handle the situation.

        1. Gjest

          That’s kind of terrible to me…I mean, it’s terrible that they were picking on you, but then I don’t agree that the solution is to start picking on someone else.

      1. OP 1

        I like this actually. I’ll try to start using it. And it’s weird because there are other times where she’ll talk about how much she LOVES my clothes and how nice they always are.

        1. Elizabeth West

          She’s probably a little jealous. It’s hard to be at the bottom and see people who have everything you want walking around in your face all the time. She might think you make more money because you’re in the office (not necessarily true), and she can’t afford to dress nice or doesn’t have the chance to do it.

          I used to hang out with the guys at lunch at Exjob and I would get remarks about how I was making the big bucks because I wore business casual (“fancy”) clothes. But I was the receptionist, and they did custom assembly work and made more an hour than I did! And frankly, I would much rather have dressed more casually, because I always got dirty dealing with the samples I had to send out. I only wore those clothes because I had to. But the thing about returning banter is very true, at least for guys.

          1. the gold digger

            Plus if you don’t mind shopping consignment or eBay, you can dress very well on a budget. I dress way above my pay grade because it doesn’t bother me to buy used clothes and shoes. (Hello my lovely Ferragamos!)

  2. Josh S

    #5 WHAT?!?! That’s NOT cool. Not in the least.

    It’s likely that they either don’t understand the requirements properly, or they don’t want to deal with entering in a different amount on each paycheck, or they don’t understand the payroll software. But something is VERY wrong with that situation.

    You need to be paid for every hour you work, and you need OT pay for the time beyond 40 hours each week. And the pay rate needs to stay the same (or any changes need to be communicated in advance…and NOT a weekly change).

    OP, you should keep a written log of the days/times you actually work. If/when this goes to your state labor board (I hope it doesn’t, but there’s a chance your company is being skeezy), it will be a huge help to have an ongoing written log of the hours you actually worked so you can compare to the pay you received and get paid for the remainder.

    1. James M

      +1 Absolutely start documenting everything NOW! If (when?) the s**t hits the proverbial fan, you will need that evidence to secure what you’re owed.

      Also start looking for another job. An employer toying with payroll is a huge red flag (with a jolly roger painted on it)!

    2. ITPuffNStuff

      this feels like even if the pay issue is resolved, it’s only a remedy to a symptom of a larger underlying problem. a company that is willing to do something as dishonest as violate labor laws and change your pay rate retroactively is *always* going to cause problems. addressing the pay issue, if you can get a resolution at all, is only a short term fix at best. i feel like the only long term solution is to find a new job. i sympathize with the OP here as it seems like an absolutely horrible position to be in.
      -ITPuffNStuff

  3. Kerr

    #5: That’s ridiculous! Do you have your agreed-upon pay rate in writing? If I were you, I’d be tempted to get it in writing again, just in case there’s an issue with collecting wages/overtime later on. (“But we made a verbal agreement to pay her less…”)

    1. wesgerrr

      Kerr- this was my thought as well. If they are lying about OT, what else are they willing to be dishonest about? Shockingly terrible behavior…

  4. De

    “Of course, we are not able to apply for other jobs because we can’t afford to leave money on the table. ”

    I don’t understand this sentence. Why would you not be able to apply to jobs now? That last day in your old job is pretty soon and hiring usually takes weeks, so at the very least starting to apply right now is completely fine.

    1. Rayner

      Part of the severance agreement may be to not job search for X amount of time, or the OP may be misunderstanding something to that end.

      Because otherwise, it’s really bizarre.

        1. Elysian

          It may, but I don’t think such a provision would be found enforceable. It may have a non-compete clause? Maybe that’s what the OP is referring to? But I don’t think any court in the US would enforce a contract that stipulated “you may not look for another job of any kind.” (For the same reasons that non-compete clauses are found unenforceable when they are too broad.)

          Maybe they said you can’t job search on company time? That would be allowed, of course, but it doesn’t mean that the OP can’t start looking at all. Or maybe the severance is revoked if he takes another job while its being paid out? That might be ok, but it still doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be looking for another job now. I can’t imagine a legitimate situation where the employer could restrict his search altogether.

          1. NylaW

            Agreed. I find it unlikely it actually says they can’t job search at all, but I would believe there’s a non-compete clause (pretty standard) and possibly something that says the severance is only paid out while you aren’t employed anywhere else. That’s actually not a bad setup because, depending on how much money the severance is, it gives you more time to job search.

            1. Julie

              It doesn’t make sense to me that there would be a non-compete clause because the people are being laid off. If they were leaving voluntarily, that would make more sense (IMO). I think the OP may have misunderstood what s/he was told about the severance. In my experience, you would get the severance pay until the amount the company was offering ran out or the person got a new job.

              1. CC

                Non-competes in layoff situations make as much sense as in any other situation of an employee no longer working at a company. They have internal information. The company doesn’t want that information getting to their competitors.

                Some non-competes make more sense than others in terms of what they block and which employees they apply to, but that has nothing to do with why the employee is no longer working there.

                (The non-compete I’m currently bound by is a good one, I think; I’m not blocked from the industry, only from the direct competitors within a narrow specialty. And that’s fine.)

                1. EngineerGirl

                  No, no, no. A non disclosure clause yes. A non-compete, NO. If they are cutting you loose then you are a free agent.
                  Non competes are used when you initiate the change.

                2. Saturn9

                  @EngineerGirl Not true. My new-hire paperwork included a non-disclosure clause and a non-compete. The non-compete says I can’t work “in a similar industry” for two years after separation from the company (regardless of who initiates that separation).

                  Since the industry I work in self-identifies as “customer service” I’m taking a calculated risk that the company would never care about me enough to attempt to enforce that clause and/or the clause itself is too vague to be enforced.

                  Fwiw, I agree that your way is the logical way and my company is dumb as all hell.

        2. Sunflower

          That would be silly mostly because if laid-off employees found a job before the date the company wouldn’t have to pay out severance

      1. Rayner

        Of course, that came out wrong. I meant – it may be X or Y but it’s still bizarre to say no job searching at all, or for X period of time.

        You can’t stipulate something like that because it’s basically forbidding someone from working unless a job falls out of the sky, into their lap. It would never hold up in a court of law, put it that way.

        But yeah, it may be something other than that – no competition or whatever, but man it’s a bizarre stipulation if it’s real

        1. the gold digger

          Not to mention how would they even know if you are job searching? If you are not doing it from work on your work computer, they wouldn’t know. I say start looking now and if you find something, tell them you want a start date after the severance is paid out.

    2. fposte

      I think it’s a psychological block rather than a policy block–the OP feels like she can’t make a choice that would leave her missing out on severance.

      If that’s so, OP, I’d encourage you to think of severance more like unemployment insurance–it’s there as a bridge until you get a new job. If you get a new job, you don’t need the bridge. Don’t let severance drive the decision.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I had a friend that received $20K in his severance package. He took several months off from work. The economy was much better then. Unless we are talking some big numbers, OP, you should proceed with caution. The company’s perspective is they want everyone there until the last minute. Then they do not have to hire temps, cross train etc to get to the end.

        Try to turn it in to a math question: Severance pay divided by estimated weeks of unemployment. And you can plug in different estimates to see what your weekly pay would average out to. Don’t forget what benefits you would have had and do not have once separated.
        Then compare this to estimated income at New Job. Again, don’t forget your new benefits.

        Many times the knee-jerk reaction is to get every penny possible out of the company OR to feel it is important to help the company out in its time of need. These may not be the best reasons for standing still. (Although, I can see that there may be a company a person would stay with to the very end because of extraordinary reasons.)

    3. Lynn Whitehat

      Yeah, January 21 is this coming Tuesday. IME the absolute fastest the process ever moves from application to start date is 3 weeks, so …?

  5. NylaW

    OP #5 – That’s horrible and not right. I really hope you take this as far as you need to to get the money you are owed, all the way to your state labor department if necessary.

    In general I think more people need to speak up and contact their labor department or even make an EEOC claim. The laws we have to prevent this kind of crap are meaningless if no one ever tries to enforce them, and companies will keep thinking they can push around or intimidate employees.

    1. Kat

      I’ve seen this happen with what is known as an adjustable rate employee. Basically, they are hourly, but their pay structure is that of a salaried employee…XXX dollars per week, regardless of time worked that week. Because they do not qualify as an exempt employee, they are required to record hours, and an hourly pay rate, but that is adjusted to meet the salary for the week. (IE: if they worked 1 hour at 500 per week, their hourly rate would be 500/hr, but if they worked 40 hours per week at the same rate, their hourly would be 12.50) It is my understanding that as long as the hourly rate doesn’t fall below minimum wage, that this is completely legal. The employee agreed to a weekly salary, not an hourly salary, and this is reflected in the changing hourly rate. I hope this helps with clarification.

      To the OP…if you have not agreed to a weekly, monthly etc. pay rate, and have instead agreed to an hourly pay rate, your company cannot do this, and you need to report to your state wage and hour division. However, if you have agreed to a monthly/weekly/etc. pay rate, then this is the correct way of doing this.

      1. Payroll Lady

        Kat is correct with one small change, it you work 50 hours for that period, you take the $500/$50 = $10 per hour and the employee is owed 1/2 time for the 10 hours, so an additional $50 for that week (10/2*10) Under FSLA it is considered a Salaried Non-Exempt employee. This is a pay type HR departments love to use, however it is a nightmare for the payroll side.

        1. Anna

          Right, but from the sound of it that is NOT what’s happening here. It sounds like #5’s situation is the company is adjusting it depending on how they’ll save money each week.

  6. TCA

    #1, I feel your pain. I’ve been having my own co-worker commentary issues. She asks what I have for lunch and then says EWW or something similar and tries to convince me to grab lunch with her. I bring a protein bar from home to save time and money and because it’s what I like. A few days per week I use my lunch hour to lift heavy weights. My co-worker knows I do this, and she makes comments about how I must like becoming big and broad and bulky. I told her that’s actually not what weight lifting does to a woman’s body, but she keeps making odd comments. So odd. Why do people feel like they need to share their rude comments?

    1. Arbynka

      I don’t know. I had this a lot with my pregnancies. It was a) mostly my closest coworker and boss who would sometimes say “you look great” which was awesome or b) not so close coworkers and total strangers who at first would say “you are so tiny, are you sure baby is ok ?” and later on “you are so huge, how can anybody be so huge, you are so big…” I think with the hormones and all I deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for not strangling at least one of them. With my last pregnancy, I did get big, I was overdue (my son was born at almost 10 lbs.) and I had lot of amniotic fluid. So, I am tired, achy and this man walks into an elevator, looks at me and proclaims :”Oh my god, are you going to give birth to a pig ?” I finally cracked, threw politeness out of a window (elevator) and said :”Oh, do I look like YOUR mother ?” I had this happened before when people would ask if I am carrying an elephant but that “pig” was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

      1. JoAnna

        I can commiserate. When I was pregnant with my youngest son (9lbs 0oz at birth), I had people asking me if I was having twins, and when I’d say, “No, several ultrasounds have confirmed there’s only one in there,” they would INSIST that the ultrasounds were wrong and that I MUST be having twins, because I was just that huge. *sigh*

    2. Ella

      How sad. When I was a child my mother liked to exhort me this way: “If you have nothing nice&kind to say, just say nothing”.
      What a precious lesson!

    3. Ruffingit

      I’m going with jealousy on this one, honestly. Your co-worker is probably a person who wants to eat better and exercise more. She doesn’t have the motivation/desire/dedication/whatever to do it so she makes these little digs at you.

      I’ve seen this many times with friends and with myself who got healthy and fit. I had my share of comments about what I ate and the workout plan I had. It gets old.

      1. TCA

        Wow, I didn’t even think of that. I’m by no means tiny, but I’m a lot smaller than she is. She’s asked detailed questions about my workouts and then goes on to make faces when I answer.

        It all does get old. Thanks for the perspective.

        1. Ruffingit

          You’re welcome. I know how irritating those comments can be. I was sort of tipped off to the jealousy thing because your co-worker is trying to get you to have lunch with her. Classic sabotage behavior. She doesn’t want you working out or eating healthy, she wants you to spend time with her ordering calorie laden food so she can feel better about her own choices. That was something I learned when I got tired of being overweight and out of shape. People around you react negatively sometimes because, by you getting fit and healthy, it destroys their reasoning for not doing so. “Oh, I work so much, I’m so tired I just can’t go to the gym…” Uh yeah, yeah you can because I work as much as you do and I go on my lunch hour…

          Not that you would say that to her, but that is why people try to sabotage because once their built in excuse is destroyed right in front of them by someone doing exactly what they’ve been saying they can’t do, they have to face the fact that the truth is they’re just unwilling and unmotivated. Which would be fine if they left it at that and didn’t try to drag you down too.

          Depending on your co-worker’s personality, you can either ignore her entirely, be somewhat sarcastic as in “Yup, going for the Arnold Schwarzenegger look that is so in this season…” or you can say “I’m really happy with the changes I’m making in my health and fitness so I would appreciate it if you could change your commentary to something more supportive or just say nothing at all.”

          1. Annabella

            OMG, Ruffingit, that you SO much for that comment. It clarified a lot for me. Last year I lost 60lbs and like you, got fit and healthy, and to my delight, I’ve managed to keep the weight off. In my late forties, I’m fitter, leaner and stronger now that I’ve been since I was in my teens. However, the negative comments directed toward me, mainly from some (not all) co-workers has been a real eye-opener. I am well within my BMI range, but the amount of comments of “You’re too skinny/you look anorexic/you should gain at least 10lbs) has been incredible! I might add that my family doctor has been monitoring me on this journey and is fully supportive of my weight loss, as has my spouse (bless him!). My spouse had suggested to me that some of the negativity was due to jealousy, but I had kind of dismissed it, but upon reading your comment, I have to revisit what he said, and reluctantly acknowledge that he may well be right. Reluctantly because I can’t believe that people can be that small minded and self-centred, but aware enough now that I can see that’s probably the case. Again, thank you – it was very refreshing to read that.

            1. Ruffingit

              You are so welcome, I’m glad it helped. Congratulations on your weight loss, that is awesome!! One thing that has helped me in thinking about this in terms of the comments received from others is that they can be small minded and self-centered certainly, but I think it comes more from a sense of personal guilt and self-hatred in a way. As in, “If she can do it, why can’t I? She lost all that weight and is fit and healthy, why can’t I get off my butt and get motivated?” People feel badly about themselves and rather than turn that into motivation for good health, they turn it on the people who are doing the work. It’s easier for them to do that. If everyone around you is a turtle, then you don’t have to feel badly about moving slow so to speak. Once someone changes and becomes a bird who flies, you see that it can be done. A lot of people are too afraid they will never have the motivation or the self-control to do what you did. And again, they lash out at you instead of turning those feelings toward something good for themselves.

              1. the gold digger

                That’s it exactly. That kind of comment is almost always about the person making it, not you. It’s a variation of the Ugly Bridesmaid Theory – that a person can only look good if the people around her look bad.

                Last week, my entire office was invited out to lunch. Another woman and I both declined, as we both go to the gym at lunch. (And the restaurant of choice was a crummy chain that neither of us like. If it had actually been good food, I would have gone for the team building aspect!) I noticed that the people who did go out are overweight and out of shape. The other woman and I are the only ones in the office who are not. And several of these people complain that they want to lose weight.

                1. Ruffingit

                  The complaining is something that I can’t abide. If you want to lose weight, make the effort. If you don’t, that’s fine, but then don’t complain about it. There is also a sort of twist on this with people who start on diet/exercise plans and then talk of nothing else and that too is irritating. I had a friend who would do this. She was morbidly obese and would start on any number of diet plans and then talk in painstaking detail about what she ate that day, what she was going to eat, etc. It was maddening. The focus she put on it made it harder for her I think. She never did lose the weight she wanted to lose.

                  I have lost 56 pounds with another 54 to go now before I am at a healthy weight for myself, but I don’t discuss my food consumption in detail. I just eat what I eat and move on. I don’t make an issue of it.

            2. EntirelyOutThere

              I know what you mean! I am young, but due to some hospital stays when I was in my mid teens, I ended up in the overweight, not obsese zone. After another unfortunate stay in the hospital, unrelated to the weight, I just continued to lose weight and my diet adjusted itself.

              I am often called skinny, I am certainly skinnier than the average person but not as skinny as some of my collegemates. I still have a goal weight I want to hit! :)

              I generally hate when anyone comments on what I eat or what I do. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another person. I remember being that person, who couldn’t believe the skinny person would ZOMGZ eat a chocolate bar and not gain weight.

              We do what we need to do stay fit and healthy. I love my body and I love me. It is not about anyone else, it is not about their perception. It is entirely about how I feel about it and what makes me feel good.

  7. Betsy

    #3: I don’t think I’d even make it as formal as a note, since it’s your direct boss. (Though I might make a note to bring up in my performance review, if your friend works out well — things like recruiting friends show team spirit and enthusiasm which is work pointing out.) I’d just casually say, “I’m really glad that this opportunity opened up at the right time for both sides; I think this is going to work out really well.”

    #4: I totally sympathize with you here. It’s really hard when you know changes may be coming up in your life to move ahead as if you’ll be staying around. Does your manager know generally of your plans to move to Tampa eventually? I have seen people with good relationships with their management use that as an effective strategy.

    They don’t just show up one day and say, “Hi; I’m moving in 2 weeks. Do you want me to resign or go remote?” Instead, they note that their future plans will probably involve relocating, and say that they really like the company, and would like to try to continue on past that move if possible. That gives more time for people to weigh your value, figure out whether such a move is possible, etc, while not advertising that you’re taking off.

    I understand that it may be too late for that, and I will caution that some managers will take it badly, but I’ve seen the strategy used successfully.

    1. Kaci

      Thanks Alison and Betsy!

      My boss does not know about my plans to eventually relocate to Tampa, as I was expecting the opportunity to happen so soon for us. As mentioned in your comments, I will bring it up for planning purposes when the time is right, but until then, I’m not mentioning anything until everything is set in stone.

      Our company has many remote positions, so I know the opportunity is there. It is just a matter of whether or not it is a possibility for me.

      Thanks, again!

  8. anon-2

    #2 – a severance package can be a blessing, or a curse.

    One trick that is often done – especially if the company says “we’re going to send some of your jobs to India, but we need you to assist in your own sui-, uh, the training and transition. Some of you will be retained, the others will be given a generous severance.”

    In this instance – unless the severance is something really spectacular – get another job, NOW – don’t work toward the severance.

    You have a raison d’etre for leaving, and, your current management may opt to keep YOU , and commit to doing so in writing, if you were to say “I’m bailin’ out now.”

    Do not worry about protecting your management in such a situation; they were prepared to toss YOU in the street, right?

    And if you’re being called upon to stay — until thrown out, there must be some re-organization going on, and SOME of you will stay, right?

    Try to exploit that option if it applies.

    1. Anna

      When I was laid off it all happened very quickly, and none of us knew who was going so there was no dangling of the severance package. We came in on the Friday we knew we’d find out who was going, got the news, was told what our severance was, and then were left to pack up our boxes. The manager I worked for wasn’t great by any stretch, but she made the process as pain free as possible.

  9. sensible shoes

    #1, maybe she thinks you are silly for wearing shoes that damage your feet. Wearing pointy toed, high heel shoes every day is a recipe for foot pain and will permanently damage your feet. As a woman, I wear comfortable, flat shoes to work everyday because I believe in taking care of my health. I save heels for special occasions.

    1. Anonymous

      There are plenty of reasons to wear heels and plenty of reasons not to, and this question doesn’t ask whether the OP’s reasons are legitimate.

      Maybe she wears them only sometimes, and is at her desk throughout the day so there’s much less pressure on her feet than there would be standing all day. Or she’s significantly shorter than her male coworkers and wants to look closer to their “level” because that helps in being taken seriously. Or she just enjoys feeling fashionable within professional limits.

        1. The Clerk

          Strange, then. I would think you’d be too secure to need internet validation of your footwear choices.

        2. LM

          My mom’s smart and beautiful too. And opinionated. And preachy, in a well-meaning sort of way, but still too intrusive.

      1. hamster

        Oh , puh-leease, my mom is over 50 and happily wearing heels most days to work ( sandals in the summer , boots in the winter ) , and has done it most her adult life. She’s fine and sound ( knock on wood) . All her shoes are appropriate for work and conservative enough but never “sensible”. She’d never be so self righteous ;)

    2. Brooke

      Even if she thinks that, it’s not an acceptable comment. As long as OP is within dress code, who cares?

      I would feel unbelievably uncomfortable in flats at work and someone disapproving of my heels would do nothing other than get an eye roll from me.

      1. Emily K

        Seriously. “She thinks you’re silly” + she makes mean comments isn’t an excuse, it’s the description of a mean person.

    3. Lynn Whitehat

      She can think that all she wants. But it’s rude to say it out loud. What if we all chided our co-workers on any of their habits we believe to be unhealthy? “That burger has too much cholesterol.” “You’re digging your own grave with sleep deprivation.” “Too much typing causes carpal tunnel.” “Relieve stress with yoga and meditation, not wine!” That would be a terrible place to work!

      1. LM

        Exactly. It would be like working with my mother, who as she has aged has decided her years give her the leeway to comment this way on everything, to pretty much anyone. I love her dearly but it drives me mad.

    4. TL

      Eh, maybe we should let people weigh their own risks and rewards, especially when the pros and cons are widely known. (And almost everybody knows heels are bad for you.)

      There are a number of reasons for wearing and not wearing heels; some are health-related, some are social-cost-related-especially when it comes to people outside of the average height range-, and some are solely aesthetic. It just depends on what compromises you’re willing to make.

    5. OP1

      Maybe she thinks I’m silly but there are more effective ways to convey concern over my health than making comments like that. Not to mention, I almost always wear comfortable, flat shoes …. not that it’s relevant to this discussion.

  10. Jennifer M.

    Re OP #5, I don’t know how this impacts non exempt individuals, but is the employer using total time accounting (TTA)? In TTA the “billable” hourly cost of labor fluctuates on a weekly basis for exempt employees as it appears on invoices to the client. Government contractors often (though not always: my employer doesn’t because the main gov’t agency we work with doesn’t require it) use total time accounting on their invoices to the government. For example A makes $104,000/yr as an exempt employee at a government contractor. On a 40 hour work week that is $50/hr (under government contracts there are 2080 working hours per year or 260 working days). But say there was a huge deliverable due one week and A worked 50 hours to get the deliverable to the client. In TTA, for that week the contractor would bill A out at $40/hr ($104,000/yr divided by 2600 hours/yr on a 50 hr work week). I have no idea how this would show up on A’s paystub from the contractor though. And again, my example is based on exempt employees so may not apply to the OP at all.

    1. CAA

      I work on a CPAF (Cost Plus Award Fee) contract and we do total time reporting.

      For non-exempt employees, their check stubs show their actual hours worked with line items for holidays, vacation, overtime and regular time.

      For exempt employees, the hours shown on our check stubs have nothing to do with the hours recorded on timesheets or what’s billed to the government. I’m exempt and all of my check stubs show 86.67 hours (2080 hrs/24 pay periods) regardless of actual hours worked. I have line items for holiday hours, vacation hours, unpaid leave, and regular hours, where regular hours is calculated as 86.67 minus all the other time. The total amount I receive is the same for each pay period (assuming I didn’t take any unpaid leave.)

      Our invoices to the government show actual hours and rates for everyone. Non-exempt people have a regular rate and an overtime rate and those will stay the same from month to month. Exempt employees’ rates are calculated for each person as [monthly salary / hours worked for the month] then we multiply that by hours spent on the project (i.e. we don’t bill for holidays, vacation, recruiting, doing performance reviews, etc). So during months when I work a lot of overtime my hourly rate on our invoice is lower.

      I’m guessing it would not be illegal to put the actual hours worked and the resulting hourly rate on my check stub, and this might be what’s happening to the OP. However, if that’s what’s going on, then his employer needs to clearly explain that he’s exempt and what that means.

  11. Greg

    #2: First of all, I wouldn’t even use the word severance. What you’re getting is a retention bonus. Remember, most laid-off employees get escorted out the door the same day. The fact that you’re being asked to stay on is a point in your favor, so use that to your advantage.

    Also, depending on the situation, if you do get a new job you can use that money as leverage to get some sort of signing bonus: “If I start on the day you’re asking me to start, I will leave $XXX on the table in the form of forfeited bonus pay. Can you help make me whole?”

    1. anon-2

      That’s another way of looking at it, but few employers would be willing to give a sign-on bonus to an employee who’s going to be let go from his current firm. Remember, the new firm is doing the employee a favor – affording a continuation in employment. If you jump early – you may lose that severance — but it might be worth your while to forego it.

      If I were told “you’re being let go – train your replacement first, you’ll get four months severance” — I would probably JUMP at any comparable new job and tell my current employer “stuff your package, I’m gone” — because the presumption is, the new job will provide me with much more going forward than the old job is leaving me with.

      On the other hand – if you’re on a working notice, and you jump ship, and your efforts are paramount at training a replacement, you might convince your current employer to insure they’ll put you on their “critical to keep” list. Meaning “OK, ok, ok — if you stay, we will retain you.” I’ve seen that happen.

      1. Greg

        “Remember, the new firm is doing the employee a favor – affording a continuation in employment.”

        Assume you meant “old firm” here, but either way I disagree. It’s not clear from the OP why the laid off employees were given such a long lead time. Maybe it was a favor, maybe it wasn’t. But regardless, the OP certainly doesn’t need to present it that way to future employers. If you think “retention bonus” takes it too far, you can say, “My position was eliminated last year, but I’m staying through January to manage the transition.”

        I also disagree that a firm wouldn’t offer a signing bonus to an employee who’s being let go. Again, maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. But as a potential employee negotiating a compensation package, you should assume everything is on the table. And note that I phrased it as “What can you do to make me whole?” Could be a signing bonus, could be a bump in salary (which is better, since it’s not just a one-shot deal), could be something else. Let them come up with it. Either way, it certainly can’t hurt to ask.

        I do agree that the OP may need to leave money on the table if a great new job offer comes along, and that it’s most likely worth the trade-off to move to a more stable situation. But the point is, the period between when a company makes you an offer and you accept it is your moment of maximum leverage. I find it exasperating that people are so reticent to press their advantage in that situation. And again, these aren’t hardball negotiating tactics. It’s the easiest, most transparent thing in the world to say, “If I accept your offer/start date, it will cost me $X. What can we do to avoid that?”

        1. anon-2

          No, I *meant* the new firm.

          A long lead time is given to “manage the transition” (read- train your offshore , or lower-cost replacement.)

          When you’re being let go from firm A, you don’t have much leverage at firm B.

          Yes, it is almost always worth that trade-off to go to a new, more stable situation. And I have seen the “old” employers jump through hoops, even rescinding a layoff, if an employee decides to jump “before the wine reaches its time”.

          In other words – Billy and Betty are told their jobs are to be eliminated, but start training the two people from Outer Elbonia tomorrow. Billy says “NO – shove your severance, I’m outa here. You don’t want me around, I don’t want to be around you.”

          Pointy-haired manager … “but… but… but… ya HAFTA!”

          Billy pulls out the World Almanac, shows boss 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. Billy says, “now, where do we go from here? I’ll be at the house. The number there is 617-555-2368.”

          Pointy-hair manager gets on the phone – calls his boss, calls HR, etc. The next day Billy gets a call at home.

          “GOOD NEWS, Billy! We have found you another job within the company! We will extend you the letter. The only kicker is, you still have to train the guy from Elbonia to do your job. You up for it?”

          In the meantime, Betty just plods along and goes with the flow, then goes to unemployment. Unfortunately, someone else who was destined for the slot that Billy will be occupying will be joining Betty.

          Don’t laugh. It happens. As Groucho Marx would have said, “timing is everything”.

  12. not a stupid question

    #3.
    That’s an interesting response, and goes against pretty much any instinctive reaction I’d have (to say please, thank you, etc). Never really thought of it this way….
    are there any other situations where saying thank you would be weird or undermining?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Anything where it would be insulting to one or both parties to imply the action was a favor. “Thanks for taking my friend on a date” and “thanks for hiring my friend” are bad for similar reasons.

  13. marty

    “It sounds like they don’t quite understand what non-exempt means — or that they understand only half of it.”

    OR….they just might be Republicans…you know, those “job creators” we’re all supposed to worship despite their cheating, miserly ways.

Comments are closed.