my assistant keeps commenting on my appearance, I seem too shy in interviews, and more

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

1. My assistant keeps commenting on my appearance

How do I approach my administrative assistant about inappropriate comments she makes on my physical appearance? I am in my mid 20s, and she is in her mid 50s. She calls herself the mother of our unit and takes great care of us. However, with me, because I am the only single young female in the group, she makes lots of comments about my looks. She goes so far as to comment that my skin is breaking out after a particularly stressful week and that I should eat a salad instead of a cheeseburger for lunch to stay thin because I am single. How do I address this with her in a professional and explicit manner, and eliminate her “mothering” tendencies?

Be direct and straightforward. The next time she makes one of these comments, say, “Jane, I appreciate your concern, but I’d rather not discuss my appearance. Thank you!” If it continues after that, you can either continue repeat that as needed, or you can talk to her privately about the pattern. If you do the latter, I’d say something like, “I really appreciate how much easier you make my job. There’s something I’ve noticed, though, that you might not realize you’re doing. You’ve been commenting a lot on my appearance lately. I know it comes from a kind place, but I’d rather not discuss my appearance (or my diet) at work. I’m not comfortable with it, and I’d like to keep the focus on my work.”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I seem too shy in interviews

I am a recent graduate who has been getting experience at an internship in the field that I want to work in. I am a naturally quiet person, but not shy. On the job, I do speak up when needed and can get my points across, but I feel like my interviewers may be writing me off for poor communication because of that aspect of my personality (which is bad because all of the jobs in my field require high communication skills).

I have been to a handful of personality screenings and interviews, and at one the interviewer has pointed out that my “reserved” personality might not be the best fit for the position, and I think this may be a reason I am not getting any job offers. Is there a way for me to point out that my quietness isn’t a hindrance upon my job performance in the interview or in a follow-up email without it seeming out of place?

I’d look for a spot in the interview to raise it organically, such as when you’re asked about challenges you’ve overcome or how you work with others, and then I’d say something like this: “People often think I’m quiet and reserved when they first meet me, but I’m simply thoughtful. For instance, (insert story here about a time you used your communication skills to get something done — ideally a story about you that might surprise them if they’ve written you off as shy).”

However, you should also keep in mind that if your field requires strong communication skills and you’re being written off as not a strong communicator, it probably isn’t enough just to do the above. You also need to SHOW that you have sufficiently strong communication skills, by the way you communicate throughout the interview — so I’d really put some energy into practicing coming across as more engaged and at least a little less shy during interviews.

3. I don’t want to pay for Internet access to work from home

Six months ago, I began working for a Fortune 500 company; it’s a little out of my comfort zone (I have more experience in nonprofits and public agencies) but I am getting along okay. It seems that every few months there is a shift in our job roles at this company. We were told a few weeks ago that all revenue functions would be relocated to our office, which means my team of 7 will now take on the work of 25+ people who were working in another state and are being laid off. These new job duties are of course in addition to our current duties.

Good news: there has been mention of elevating our job titles, and I am hoping and praying that means a raise, too, since we will have much more work in this new role. Bad (?) news: I will be given a laptop, to work from home as needed. The main problem with this is that I don’t have internet access at home. The other problem is that, as a mom of two, I took this job with the main goal of not working from home (or on weekends, which I have done a few times) and having more time for my sons.

Would it be wise or in poor taste to politely ask my employer for a stipend to cover the expense of home internet service? There is only one internet provider in my neighborhood, and the cost will be about $65/month for just internet service. Without a raise, this is not an expense that I can afford for at least 6 months, when my youngest will start kindergarten and I can stop paying for preschool (yippeee!!).

You can certainly say, “I don’t currently have Internet access at home, in part because of the expense, and it’s not something I can put in my budget for the next six months. Is this an expense that I could submit for reimbursement?” If you feel odd about saying this, you can add, “I feel funny about asking.” Sometimes just adding that line can make something like this feel less awkward.

(Also, be aware that theoretically, they’d be within their rights to require home Internet access as a condition of the job. They’re pretty unlikely to do that, but it’s good to be aware of the possibility.)

4. Should I invite my coworkers to my graduation party?

I will be graduating with my masters at the end of this term. For the event, I have about 15 out-of-town guests coming in, and my parents are hosting a big party. My bosses have been more than accommodating with allowing me to leave early two days a week for class, and they are obviously aware graduation is coming soon and that we are expecting a big crowd. I am by far the youngest person in my office, so we don’t ever socialize outside of work. Should I invite my coworkers and supervisors to attend the party? I don’t want them to feel obligated to come, and I especially don’t want them to feel obligated to bring gifts. It will be a very mixed crowd, ranging from parents and older family friends to my friends and peers (all under 30). I have gotten mixed advice about this, and would very much appreciate your insight.

It’s totally your call. It would be fine to invite them, and it would fine not to. But they’re highly, highly unlikely to be offended or hurt if you don’t. I’d decide this one based on whether you’d genuinely like to see them there or not. (And whether you want to restrain your behavior — or your friends’ behavior — in the ways that you’d need to when people from work are around. Which might be irrelevant if your parents are there, but also might not be.)

5. My manager knows I’m job searching and asked me to set an end date

I am currently employed part-time, and I am finishing my master’s degree (in an unrelated field to my current job). I have been open about my intentions to find employment in a new field pertinent to my master’s, and during a recent performance review my boss has asked about submitting a termination date to HR in a few months’ time. I am ambivalent about what this means. I understand that my open intentions have prompted this, but am wondering why I’m being asked to commit to a date as opposed to being allowed to put my two weeks in when I have a job lined up. At this point in the game, I don’t have a job lined up for after graduation, although I’m in the midst of job searching. Is there a way to reapproach this issue with my manager?

It’s not unreasonable that your boss, knowing that you’re leaving sometime relatively soon, wants to be able to start planning for that — searching for a replacement, etc. You’ve sort of given notice already, just without a firm date attached to it, and now your boss wants to close that loop so that she’s not just at the mercy of your job hunt. (This, of course, is the potential downside of long notice periods, and why it’s important to have a sense of how your boss handles lengthy notice periods before entering into one. It’s also a downside of open-ended notice periods; at some point, someone is going to attach an end date to it, and it’s not always the employee.)

You could go back to your boss and try to work out something different — such as explaining that you don’t know how long your job search will take and asking if it’s possible to leave it open-ended for now … and perhaps even nicely pointing out that you were honest about your intentions out of loyalty to her and the organization (if that’s true) and that you’re hoping they’ll be able to give you some flexibility in return. But to some extent, this will depend on how valued you are (good managers will be flexible to keep a high performer in this situation happy, but might just want to wrap things up with others) and what your manager’s reasons are for wanting to move forward.

{ 329 comments… read them below }

  1. TheSnarkyB*

    I’m intrigued by the lack of “management” advice in the answer to #1. This response sounds a lot more like the “coworker advice” you’ve given to previous letter writers with similar issues. Was that intentional and did the age gap have anything to do with it? I sort of expected the response to say something like “after a gently correction, sit your assistant down and talk to her about appropriate workplace comments.”

    1. Ajax*

      Agreed, this is a question of boundaries and authority more than the OP’s comfort. I myself am 30 but look years younger, and receive similar comments from older female coworkers regularly. I’m sure it comes from a benign impulse to look after the younger members of the group. Though I’d prefer not to hear any personal comments at work, I’ve found there is really no stemming that tide. I respond with a smile or a “Thank you” and change the subject. Now, I work with very nice people and the comments I get are complimentary – if someone told me to go on a diet I would tell them to back off.

      OP’s situation is different. They say the assistant sees herself as a mother to the whole team. The assistant’s behavior isn’t wrong, even if it is annoying. I would approach this like any other unprofessional behavior – talk to the employee, explain what the problem is, explain why it’s a problem, and let them know it needs to stop. Above all, don’t make it personal when it’s really about the professional standards you require on your team.

      tl;dr – OP needs to set professional expectations for their assistant.

      1. MaggietheCat*

        I agree. When reading this I thought, surely her advice may be making other people uncomfortable as well? I would hope that LW would speak to her from more of a manager’s standpoint and let her know that her behavior needs to change.

      2. LoremIpsum*

        Personal remarks about appearance such as hair and dress irk me in the office. It is mostly between women, though guys might chide each other about a shirt color or something. I just say, thank you, no other reaction-shut it down and move on. It could be constructive for the OP to address it for the assistant and herself: after all, she is the manager.

        The woman who sits behind me at work does this all the time, remarking on what I am wearing, etc. I decided it is just her way of interacting and making conversation. But “mothering” people with diet tips as it relates to marital status, come on. This isn’t 1970.

        1. Jax*

          My office is big on the “Oooh! You look cute today!” commenting. It’s ongoing.

          It’s meant to be polite compliments, but I think it puts pressure on all of us to come to work in Pinterest worthy outfits. It makes me feel like just because I’m a woman, I have to come into work “pretty” as well as smart, efficient, and good at my job.

          Once I went to my boss with a serious work problem and he interrupted me to say, “First, I have to tell you that you look very nice today. I like this outfit!” It threw me off and I actually shook my head to get my thoughts back on track. He wasn’t being gross–it’s just so prevalent in my office that it’s practically like saying, “Hello! How are you?” He’s never done it to me again, so I think he realized I prefer to be more businesslike.

          1. Anonymous*

            This happens in my office too, but the situation is a little different. We’re growing up from our start-up days, and upper management is trying to encourage a more formal, professional environment. Some of that was accomplished with a dress code, but there’s still some general sloppiness in appearance. So management has started making a BFD whenever someone does look nice and put together. As someone who came from a very formal previous job with a wardrobe to match, I’m often the target of these compliment showers.

            So… yeah. I know why it’s happening, but it still makes me uncomfortable.

            1. Laura2*

              That just seems like a bad way to get the message across. If you have a dress code, but people are still dressing inappropriately, they’re not going to get hints like that.

              1. Mephyle*

                So right. It’s even demotivating for people who don’t like being the focus of a BFD. If they don’t dress up, they can avoid being fussed over, which they prefer anyway.

        2. FiveNine*

          A woman near my age (I would guess we’re both early 40s, it’s unclear who is older) seems strangely preoccupied with commenting on my appearance. Technically I’m senior to her, (with senior in my job title even) but not in a supervisory role. We work in a professional setting but one that has almost no dress code besides don’t wear flip flops and prides itself in advertising this benefit. I always am clean and neat, and like 99 percent of the people in the office wear jeans or casual pants. She wears heels every day, and skirts or dresses most of the time — and seems to think I should be too. She has even offered to accompany me shopping(!) for a work wardrobe and we’re not friends outside work and only professional at work. Also, for the past year I have been working on losing weight (having gained what seems like a ton with the double-whammy of quitting smoking and hitting 40), and she will not stop commenting on it. Usually, again, in connecting with clothing, telling me in no uncertain terms it’s now time for me to buy a smaller pair of jeans after going out of her way to stop, make me stop, LOOK AT MY REAR END, then come back to face to me). It’s weird — she’s so assertive about this, she won’t stop, it’s not exactly friendly but more mother-hennish in a way even though we’re close in age, and it’s 100 percent unsolicited. I don’t get it or know what to do about it.

          1. fposte*

            “You know, I’ve decided to stop talking about personal appearance at work–it was becoming an unproductive habit. How are the grandkids/expense reports?”

            1. Ruffingit*

              + 1 million. If you want this to stop, you need to say something very clear about it and I think fposte’s response is a good one. Keep in mind you may need to say it a few times after which you can get even stronger and more blunt if needed, but this is a good thing to begin with.

          2. KrisL*

            Have you told her you’re happy with your work wardrobe and don’t want to shop for a new one?

            “It makes me feel uncomfortable when you look at my rear end” might also help.

        3. Cassie*

          The few guys in our office (there’s 4 in an office of 25 staffers) also comment about clothes – if you dress up, if you wear a skirt, if you and another coworker are wearing similar colors, whatever. Some women will too, but the guys do it just as much. I find it very annoying, as though I have to justify why I’m wearing something different.

          I get that it’s not with bad intentions, but I just don’t like having to defend myself unnecessarily.

        4. Cath@VWXYNot?*

          I used to work in an (all-female) department where we had to start pretty much every day discussing everyone’s outfits for ten minutes. My boss’s boss would blatantly run her eyes over you at the start of each day – face to shoes and back up – to check your outfit out. It all came from management. There were a few people in the department who were really into clothes and seemed to genuinely enjoy it, but I’m one of those people who’d be happier if we could all wear a uniform like in Star Trek and not have to think about what to wear every day – it just made me really uncomfortable.

          Hooray for being back in academia where no-one really cares as long as you’re clean and decent! There’s still the occasional “ooh, nice shoes” comment, but nowhere near the amount of focus on it there was in my old job.

      1. LBK*

        Note that that’s only for the final private discussion, though. For the initial conversations, she does use a direct approach. And I didn’t get the sense that OP directly supervises this employee, but rather she might just be a department admin that assists OP but doesn’t report to her.

        1. OP #1*

          LBK- You are spot on. She supports our team, but reports to the same boss as I do. I have no supervisory power over her. She has also recently taken to the task of telling one of my coworkers all the wrong things, she feels, I do in my job that my coworker should gently suggest to me that I change. The problem is that no one has actually seen or felt any of the things she wants me to change, and my supervisor has only said good things about my work. It does often feel a lot like an undermining type relationship.

          1. fposte*

            Another problem is that it’s not her job to decide what you need to change, another is that if she did have a strong opinion there she should be sharing it with your supervisor, etc. There’s quite a string of wrongness here.

            1. Ethyl*

              Holy poop, no kidding. OP once you shut down the personal comments, the rest of this is something that really needs to be addressed. Gossip in the workplace is toxic. This might be a good place for one of those “approach your manager asking how to fix/for advice” kinds of conversations to get you both on the same page. You could even say you are concerned that there are problems with your performance to make sure there is nothing else going on. Gah, what a terrible, awkward situation!

            2. Ruffingit*

              No doubt, this string could stretch the Atlantic Ocean it seems. This woman clearly has some kind of problem with you, maybe she’s bitter because you’re younger and in a more senior role to her (though not her supervisor)? I don’t know, but whatever it is, she needs to back off from this behavior. Maybe it’s time you had a chat with your supervisor about this woman’s behavior and your need for it to stop, especially her speaking to your colleagues about what you need to change. That’s undermining you among the work team and putting them in an uncomfortable position as well. That really, really needs to stop.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’d take that on head-on — sit down with her, explain what you’ve noticed, ask what’s up, and explain that she should come to you if she has suggestions about your work, not your coworker.

            1. OP #1*

              That is great advice! Thank you so much! It’s the confirmation that I do need to address it head on. I have struggled to figure out how to address it because she tends to blow things up and make a big deal out of things. I admit I have been scared to address things head on with her simply I have seen her reactions in the past and have been admittedly avoiding it.

              1. LBK*

                As long as your points are valid and issued in a levelheaded manner, I’m sure they’ll stick in her head in the long run, even if her initial reaction is to be dramatic. I’d guess that people who react badly to negative feedback do it because they know it’s true, but they don’t want to admit to themselves that they’re wrong.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That’s a great point — don’t assume that her initial reaction in the moment is your measure of success. Your measure of success is what happens in the long run.

              2. PucksMuse*

                Please don’t allow fear of her reaction from putting her in her place. This is how “sensitive” people contra those around them. If she blows up and makes a big deal out of it, it reflects badly on her, not you.

          3. Cat*

            You’re not a lawyer, are you? For some reason, this dynamic seems to be incredibly common in law firms – senior administrative assistants often make it a point to try to assert power over young, female lawyers. Since the admin assistants have a long history at the firm and do a great job for the partners they support, nobody says anything to them about it. (I’m sure the same dynamic exists in other types of offices.)

            I don’t know if there’s a great way of nipping this in the bud (or, uh, fullly bloomed flower, as the case may be), but I think a combination of being very neutral and very business oriented can help. That or trying to get yourself assigned to a different admin if that’s a possibility.

            1. Anonymous*

              yesssssss. I had to deal with this as well, and it’s also common to hear “why do you want me to do it X way? I’ve always done it Y way.”

              that grates me to no end.

          4. KrisL*

            I wonder if she’s escalating because she feels like her comments to you about things that are none of her business aren’t having an impact.

            If I’m doing something wrong, I want the person who thinks so to come to me directly and ask about it, not gossip to my coworkers. Is this something you or your supervisor can talk to her about? This seems to be an attempt to undermine you.

    2. Kai*

      I dunno–I get the sense that it is kind of a coworker situation because this is the administrative assistant for the entire office, not just the OP.

      1. some1*

        I just want to point something out since this was brought up, unrelated to this specific AA (who sounds like a piece of work).

        I’m an admin so my job is to support people. It can be very easy for some of my coworkers, because they ask me to do tasks and I’m “their” admin, think that they have a say in my schedule, dress code, or the priority of assignments, even though I’m actually above them in the org chart.

        I was delighted to see LW #1 weigh in and realize the difference — I feel like Alison’s answer might be for a boss/direct report issue vs. coworkers.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the assistant is a coworker, not a direct report, so I approached it that way. (It sounds like she’s the assistant for the whole ground, not just the OP.) That said, if she were a direct report, I’d still recommend starting out this way. Then, if it continues, you’d switch into a more directive mode. But you don’t always need to start off like that; you can talk to someone just like a peer to begin with in many cases.

    4. Cecilia*

      OP isn’t the admin’s supervisor, and the admin isn’t just her assistant, but supports the whole team. A young, junior program staffer may be higher than an admin on the org chart but it probably doesn’t feel that way. If her workplace is like mine, they probably have a peer relationship, and it would be out of place to approach the admin from a managerial standpoint.

      That said, there are so many obnoxious assumptions in her comment about the salad especially:

      1. That OP values being thin over eating what she likes
      2. The possible implication that she needs to lose weight
      3. That OP is highly concerned with her single status
      4. That staying thin is required to attract someone
      5. That the primary objective of being thin is to snare a man, after which it’s all cheeseburgers from there on out

      I’d have to bite my tongue to keep myself from saying something more strongly worded!

  2. Nina*

    #2, I’m wondering if the shyness is really attributed to nerves. Even when I’m confident, there’s always some trepidation before an interview, which is why I appear to be reserved and shy. A lot of interviewers say that they want people to be aggressive and gung-ho, but I also know of people who have been rejected for being too excited for the job, so you can’t always win for losing. And if it’s an industry that I’m unfamiliar with, I’m definitely going to be reserved until I get the hang of things.

    1. OP #2*

      I’m a quiet person in general, even out with my friends, I’m usually the one sitting there not talking much. And I *think* I do well with nerves, I think they help me perform a little better most of the time, but maybe the nerves are hindering me more than I thought?

      1. KrisL*

        You may want to check out a group like Toastmasters, where you can get practice talking in front of others and also in “ad hoc” short speeches. I found it very helpful in a job interview.

  3. periwinkle*

    #1: Like TheSnarkyB, I’m puzzled by AAM’s suggestion. The OP’s admin may be the “mom” of the group, but she’s seems to have some boundary issues. Telling the OP to eat a salad so she’ll stay skinny enough to land a man? Seriously?

    #2: One of the people in my workgroup is, like you, quiet and reserved but not shy. He’s in a customer-facing role working closely with high-level management types, and he’s terrific at it. When he speaks with them he projects a quiet confidence and competence. Find and express your confidence; when you can do that, the right hiring managers aren’t going to care so much that you’re not cartwheeling around the room.

    1. Another Emily*

      Comments about diet I think could be answered with “Wow,” said in a flat, emotionless voice.

    2. Anon*

      She’s right though. A few less stress consumed cheeseburgers in my 20s would have made me not have a weight issue in my 30s.

  4. Is This Legal*


    I’m with you on this one. I struggle with this too and honestly I don’t think being reserved means you are shy. See, I come from a country where if you’re reserved you’ve wisdom. Comes from the notion, “empty noises make a lot of noise..”

    But I’ve come to accept that because I’m the one who needs a job so I play along.

  5. Susan*


    This might seem weird, but I recently watched this Ted Talk on body language, and OK summarizing her talk will sound a little funny (watch it! it’s great!) but basically she suggests that naturally our non-verbal communication affects how people perceive us, but also how we perceive ourselves. And she suggests, for instance, before an interview taking a few minutes in the bathroom making big, open gestures (I guess if you make yourself smaller, you feel less confident and vice versa) and that can help affect how you go into the interview. Her mantra is “fake it until you become it.” I had four interviews last week, and I just tried to be open to the idea that just because I think of myself as shy, doesn’t mean I am shy. For these moments I don’t have to be shy! I know you probably feel like you can’t fake it forever, but seriously, reminding myself of posture and whatnot in the interview really helped my confidence. I don’t know why!

    1. OP #2*

      I’ll definitely check out the video! That sounds like it could possibly help. Thank you.

    2. JenShines*

      Exactly what I was going to suggest! Watch it…then watch it again. I show it to my students and several report success in interview situations after Power Posing. :)

  6. programmerdude*

    #1, it seems to me that she’s focusing on things that are important to herself, and her comments on your clothes or breakouts are more about herself than you. She may be or may have been extremely appearance conscious throughout her life. She sees a younger version of herself in you. Sorry for playing armchair psychologist :) But I do sometimes think what people do or say is more about themselves than others.

    1. TychaBrahe*

      None of which changes the fact that the OP’s appearance, or anyone else’s, is none of the woman’s business. Even compliments on appearance don’t belong in the workplace.

      Also, frankly, comments on the “flaws” in a woman’s appearance are a classic way of controlling women. The intention is to throw off a woman by lowering her self-esteem. It’s generally seen in romantic relationships, in fact it’s a standard part of the program of the Pick-Up Artist, where it’s called “negging.” (

      There’s a power imbalance here. The younger woman is in the position with more authority. Whether it’s a part of her normal behavior with all women (my mother is like this) or whether it’s a specific response to a woman in a position of authority, the assistant is attempting to raise herself up and lower the OP. And it needs to stop.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But it’s also a classic form of bonding between (some) women, misguided or not. I wouldn’t assume the assistant is attempting to neg the OP.

  7. kas*

    #2. I’ve always been a quiet and reserved person but for some reason I’m the opposite during interviews. I really have no idea how I’m able to hide it, I wish I could in other environments. My biggest pet peeve though is being called shy, I hate it. There’s a big difference and I’m far from shy.

    1. Lyssa*

      I’m the same way. Some psychologists talk about something called an “arousal curve” (not *that* kind of arousal), where being more anxious/nervous/excited about something can improve your performance at it, up to a point, after which it detracts. (athletes and performers often can use this to their advantage) I’ve always felt that my pre-interview nerves were usually just enough to help, but not enough to hurt.

      1. Mints*

        Ooh, interesting, I feel like I do better in interviews I’m just kinda excited about. If it’s too prefect, I get too nervous, but if it’s just sort of interesting, I’m more likely to hit sweet spot of excited but still thinking clearly
        More reason to psyc myself up by pretending I don’t care

  8. Phyllis*

    #3: Do you have a smartphone? Mine will work as a mobile wi fi hotspot. Preferably it’s a phone & data plan paid for by your company.

    I have 4 gigs of data a month on my phone & that translates to a number of hours of Internet access. Just a suggestion.

    1. Sloop*

      You might also ask IT if they can give you a mobile hotspot for a few months until you can pay for Internet. My IT dept calls them “pucks” (not sure what they are really called) and we all have them so we can hook up to the Internet when at remote sites that might not have wifi, at airports instead of paying $8/day for wifi access, etc.

      1. Ethyl*

        I definitely think this is an ok thing to ask for as long as it is short term. I hate to say it, but there really is an expectation in the “professional” world that everyone has internet access, whether that is fair or not (hint: it is not fair!). It may be kind of weird for OP3’s boss to hear that they don’t have internet at home at all. It’s probably gonna be an awkward conversation, OP, but I think you will have to bite the bullet here. Let us know how it works out!

        1. Jamie*

          I feel for the OP because it stinks to face an additional expense when things are tight, and absolutely no harm in asking…but I do think home internet access is just something employers assume people have.

          Like a phone or electricity – you need those to work from home and it’s a reasonable assumption that people have those – it’s become such a common place thing it probably never occurred to them that this would be an issue.

          Depending on the company they may just take care of it, or given it’s a Fortune 500 they may be concerned about setting a precedent. If they pay for yours then what if other people want theirs subsides as well and in a big company that’s a lot of money.

          I know it doesn’t help at the moment, but if your work requires remote access and you pay your own internet bill it is a valid tax deduction.

        2. The IT Manager*

          I’m not so sure. My situation is not the same because people can choose to work from home and are not forced to, but its spelled out that employees pay for their own internet and phone to work from home. (LW check if your company has a policy in place already before asking.)

          In this case there is the assumption that all employees pay for this utility already. I’m not so sure if the company would want to set a precedent to pay for one employee’s home internet because then people who can afford to pay their own might come out of the woodwork. And does a company enforce “we pay only for people who wouldn’t have internet unless we pay for it”?

          I do not have a good answer, but I fear that the company may not support the employee. And I have another concern that this may be a case of it does hurt to ask because you end up marked as someone struggling to make ends meet which has a unfortunate sigma.

          1. Jamie*

            And does a company enforce “we pay only for people who wouldn’t have internet unless we pay for it”?

            That’s my concern as well. I don’t see how you enforce this without either an arbitrary pay grade cut off or getting far too invasive into an employees personal financial situation.

      2. Elysian*

        I second this as a possibility. My husband has a job that requires being on-call, and they have a mobile hotspot that passes through the on-call team. He brings him computer out to dinner and stuff just in case something comes up, and he’ll have net access even if we’re on the road or something.

        I think this might be a really viable solution, rather than having work pay for internet in your home. If your workplace already has a wireless plan, this is a pretty inexpensive add-on.

      3. Cara*

        She could also look into getting FreedomPop. You do have to pay for the device and for service if you exceed 500MB, but for occasional use it could work really well. It’d definitely be cheaper than $65/month. LW3, check the website to see if you can get service in your area.

    2. Phyllis*

      I would also add that due to this being accounting/revenue work, from a safety & risk management standpoint there is a need for a secure network. One reason I have a work-provided secure mobile network is because I travel a lot for my job, have to access student data from time to time while away, and definitely want that to be on a secured* network.

      *Secured as in ‘as secure as reasonably possible. Nothing can be 100% secure, but there is an expectation of due care with data.

      1. De Minimis*

        I would think a Fortune 500 company would have some kind of VPN you could access from home.

        1. fposte*

          That’s what I was thinking, but maybe that’s not enough? (I do think if there are specific security requirements that’s another reason on the side of “the company should pay.”)

      2. Jamie*

        When you remote in from home you’re always using your own broadband…the security comes into play when you access the network through a VPN or whathaveyou.

        It would be completely unworkable for IT to secure outside networks – and those set up for public end users? Can’t happen.

        (Although I would really appreciate if people also understood we can’t control the speed of your broadband and if you are having a hard time working because your local dsl is overloaded because all your neighbors are watching Full House marathons there is nothing we can do about that.)

        1. Heather*

          Glad you weighed in on this – that’s one of the things that’s driving me most nuts about the suggestions to just go to the library. My husband is an IT guy and I can imagine him breaking out in hives just at the thought :)

          1. Jamie*

            You bring up another point, because I was referring to securing dsl or cable (or dial-up!) for the public end users supplied to residential neighborhoods. You can’t police that so you just make the VPN as Fort Knox like as possible.

            But unsecured wi-fi is definitely itch inducing, not to mention those who don’t have a work computer like the OP there is no way a library will let you install the VPN gateway on their machines.

            1. Another Emily*

              Plus a lot of libraries restrict how much time you can use the computers, due to high demand for them. Our library gives you one hour per day, not very practical for work.

    3. Anon from Oz*

      Our company will supply data cards for situations like this. Maybe it’s worth seeing if they have something similar instead of asking them to pay for internet usage. The only requirement for those is there has to be mobile/cell coverage in the area, which can be problematic in Australia.

  9. Hugo*

    #3 – Here we go again, folks! Another great letter about the workings of today’s companies. Don’t be fooled when you hear how “efficient” corporate America is. The only way it gains “efficiency” is in cases like #3, where they fire 25 people and cover the work with 7. It’s not that their processes or methods are more efficient, it’s just that they leverage the crap economy that they caused and use it against the regular working folks to make them corporate zombies – cutting or stagnating their pay and benefits while raising their hours and workloads.

    We’re talking a Fortune 500 company in this case, so never mind that the company is already flush with do-nothing execs pulling in 6 or 7 figures to attend useless meetings and “business lunches.” I’m sure it also has a “six-sigma” department whose cost outweighs any so-called “improvements” that it ever comes up with – unless the improvement suggestion is “hey, let’s fire 25 people and have their workload taken over by 7!” while a room fool of cigar-chomping execs slaps him on the shoulder saying “Attaboy, attaboy!” But hey, that’s what the shareholders want. Man, if Wall Street catches wind of your department’s realignment, OP #3, I dare say your company’s stock price will trend up a wee bit.

    Do NOT feel the least bit bad, OP #3, about asking your company to PAY for your internet. Actually, I’d price out the top-tier internet speed and have them pay for that; don’t worry, the corporate office wastes thousands of dollars every day on perks for the exec offices – I guarantee that the COO’s chair costs so much that it could pay for your cable for three years.

    Please update us on how your situation turns out – if you get a raise or if they pay for your cable. Theoretically they should be saving on office lease costs with people working at home so there IS plenty of money left over, not to mention 20 or so less employees to pay who are now out on the street.

    1. Chinook*

      Whoa – having someone available to work from home is very different from insisting she work from home all the time and this won’t be saving the company money. I am not saying that I agree with the move, but it is probably being done so that employees can be available for emergencies on short notice or if they can’t come in.

      As for why they are centralizing these functions, we also don’t know why. I know my company is planning a program upgrade in A/P that would mean a decrease in their workload (we will finally be able to submit and code and approve invoices electronically) which, if done a certain way, would make certain positions irrelevant. This is common in large businesses – technology evolves which makes some roles obsolete.

      1. Celeste*

        It sounds like the extra workload will be in addition to her regular schedule, as she mentioned evenings and weekends. She also doesn’t know if there will be a raise, even though her title changed. It seems like if the mission is this important to them, they can make sure it succeeds. She wasn’t told when she was hired that internet/work from home was a condition, and what she is proposing sounds reasonable to me. In a perfect world they would cover it especially if she is doing it to stay employed, and not get a raise…but this is no perfect world.

        1. Anon*


          I am hoping and praying that means a raise, too, since we will have much more work in this new role.

          If her salary is such that she’s just able to cover her living expenses with zero flexibility in her budget for even internet and she’s looking at getting “much more work,” without a raise, I agree with everything Hugo said down to the bitter tone.

        2. LBK*

          As much as it sucks, though, job requirements and expectations do change in all industries and settings, not just corporate jobs.

          And knowing absolutely nothing about who the OP works for aside from it being a Fortune 500 company, the snarky comments about management are unfounded and not helpful at all. They’re just going to make the OP feel more negative about the situation, which is never productive. If you go to your job every day expecting to get screwed by TPTB, you’re going to be miserable, period.

          1. Jamie*

            I agree – a toxic attitude against business in general will only hurt the people holding those attitudes.

            And I certainly hope the OP gets a raise, but a promotion with more work and I am assuming more responsibility is how careers progress. And you don’t always see the dollars right away, but as you increase your skills, experience, and levels of responsibility you are putting yourself in the position to make more money.

    2. LBK*

      Yikes – working from home is very common, and the economy is still not great for a lot of companies. Downsizing happens. This is a whole lot of vitriol for a letter without much context around the layoffs. I’m guessing you’ve been laid off by a big corporation before?

      1. FWIW*

        Have you ever worked for a big corporation? Do you have any idea how much waste and inefficiency typically exists? It’s very hard to eliminate the waste, but very easy to fire people.

        Downsizing doesn’t just “happen.” Someone is responsible. And for well-run companies, the economy has been fantastic!

        1. LBK*

          Yes, I work for one now, and we just went through a huge re-org that started about 6 months ago and is just wrapping up now. And I worked for a large corporate retailer when my store was closed, so this is actually the second time I’ve experienced layoffs/downsizing. It does happen, whether for economic reasons or efficiency reasons – the exact inefficiency you’re discussing can actually be remedied by eliminating unnecessary job functions or layers of management.

          1. FWIW*

            Management bloat is one, but hardly the “exact,” cause of capital waste. Poor product decisions, unrealistic sales targets, misaligned executive compensation, failed M&A and de-skilling of the workforce are some others. Layoffs have unfortunately become the go-to response to failed business decisions. In any case they don’t just “happen.” Someone is responsible. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging this.

            1. LBK*

              Right, those situations occur…but the reality is that even if the company shot itself in the foot, if there’s no money at the moment to pay all the people that work there, what are they supposed to do? If your latest and greatest product flopped completely, how do you keep the same payroll afloat when you don’t have the revenue?

              Obviously I’m not saying that layoffs just appear out of the mist or something. I don’t quite get what your point is in trying to argue that there are causes of layoff. I’m aware, but that doesn’t make them stop happening.

              1. FWIW*

                My point is that Hugo’s “vitriol” toward senior management is not unwarranted. F500 layoffs are nearly always the result of poor management decisions. It’s appropriate to hold senior management accountable for them.

                1. LBK*

                  If this is something that just happened, then okay, I get being bitter towards that one company. But this feels like long-held resentment for all corporations based on a bad experience or experiences. Yes, getting laid off sucks, especially when bad senior management is the main reason. Carrying that negativity around with you for the rest of your life and assuming every big company is run by money-grubbing assholes bent on screwing you is a horrible idea.

                2. LBK*

                  And, as an added note, I work for a pretty large multinational company in an industry that’s not always known for having the most scrupulous execs, and I love our senior management team. There are good C-levels out there who aren’t set out to suck all the money out of their “corporate zombies” at the bottom while they sit back and watch their bank accounts grow. And I bet it’s more common than people assume.

        2. Lexie*

          It is also really easy to build up a lot of waste and excess when we encourage people to bill the company because “they can afford it”. A lot of companies have gotten themselves in trouble by allowing spending and excess at all levels – not just the highest. Developing an attitude of stick it to the company creates an endless cycle of waste. Well-run companies have to make difficult decisions too. I doubt there are very many well-run companies that have never made an unpopular decision.

          1. Laura2*

            A lot of companies have gotten themselves in trouble by allowing spending and excess at all levels – not just the highest.

            Yep. I think that kind of spending is also hard to rein in once you open the door to reimbursing every expense, having tons of expensive client events, expensive raffles etc.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Downsizing is not always the employer’s “fault.” Sometimes, yes, absolutely. But sometimes not. Sometimes the economy crashes, business dwindles, funders drop out. Sometimes Bernie Madoff takes all your money (loads of nonprofits were severely impacted by him because their funders were). Etc.

      2. Hugo*

        Nope, I’ve never been laid off. I worked in mid- to upper-level management for 2 F500 and one F1000 company over several years and then left for the public sector with a MUCH more rewarding job. I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy and incompetence of the private sector any more.

        My biggest problem with corporate America is that it perpetuates the myth that it is oh-so-efficient. But the truth is that those “efficiencies” are many times measured only by bottom line numbers, which are mostly improved by reducing their workforce while requiring existing employees to then work more hours with the same amount of pay. That is not efficiency but the illusion of such.

        A true efficiency gain is an improvement to a process whereby the same amount of workers are producing more product in the same amount of time; common sense then dictates more profit for the company without a reduction in workforce, or even the potential to grow the workforce. In OP #3’s case, the company can point to bottom line numbers which will appear to be an efficiency gain, but the reality is that less people are doing the same amount of work over longer, uncompensated hours. That is false efficiency.

        I understand the changing workplace, automation, the economy, etc. I get that.

        Without sounding too conspiratorial, over the last 30+ years or so corporate America has been taking on a Feudalistic structure where the top’s compensation has exponentially outpaced the average worker’s, who is now working more and producing more for LESS compensation. That is apparent to anyone.

        And, if there is one recurring theme in Alison’s responses to many questions, it is the fact that, legally, companies can require just about anything of employees; the only things they can’t do are 1) discriminate based on protected class categories and 2) violate pay mandates in certain states, e.g. overtime rules, exempt / non-exempt etc. That gives them a WIDE range of ideas on how to squeeze every last ounce of work from their employees. The rights of workers to have a real say in their workplace has been slowly stripped away.

        That’s it for now. Best of luck to OP #3, all those looking for a job, and all those looking for a better opportunity.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s a lot of vitriol here, and vitriol rarely leads anyone anywhere great in their careers/lives.

      Regarding this:

      Actually, I’d price out the top-tier internet speed and have them pay for that; don’t worry, the corporate office wastes thousands of dollars every day on perks for the exec offices – I guarantee that the COO’s chair costs so much that it could pay for your cable for three years.

      That’s obviously absurd, as it will make the OP look like a fool if she suggests it and would likely harm her standing.

      1. HR Lady*

        “…vitriol rarely leads anyone anywhere great in their careers/lives.”

        So true! I need to write it down so that I can use it when people in my life (coworkers, friends) get negative. Thanks, Alison!

      2. Heather*

        Although when you see the way some (emphasis on “some”!) companies treat their workers, the bitterness is understandable. Hugo does make some valid points among the hyperbole.

        But you’re 100% right that the tone won’t get him anywhere – if you want people to listen to what you have to say, don’t make it easy for them to write you off as just a sore loser with an ax to grind.

  10. Suze*

    #1 It seems like there is a self-designated mother hen at just about every workplace. Absolutely, this behavior is unprofessional and crosses boundaries, but for some weird reason, it’s deemed by some as harmless – usually the people who aren’t the targets of “motherly advice”. (“Oh, that’s just Jan being Jan.”) It amazes me how many women in the workplace essentially undermine others like this and get away with it.

    When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I was the target of many of these “mother hen” types and it was quite a nuisance. I tried every cue to get the message across, such as saying “Why do you ask?” or “Why would you say that?”, and even “That’s really not your concern.” Finally, I realized I had to sit down and have a conversation with the individual(s) (this happened with more than one person over the years) to let them know I found their “mothering” to be offensive and inappropriate in the work place, and to please stop.

    Now that I’m 50 (urk!), I clearly remember how I felt when I was in my 20’s/30’s and am very conscious of not offering unsolicited advice and falling into that “mother mode”. I love mentoring younger people, but it’s about the job, NOT their appearance or personal life.

    1. Trillian*

      I’m with you on that. It’s not benign behaviour; however intended, the effect is to undermine a younger person’s authority. You are not her child.

      You could air the question of undermining by pointing out that if other people see her making that kind of personal comment to you, they might feel free to do the same, and not be not so well intentioned.

      1. Trillian*

        Oops, pronoun fail, realized just as I hit submit. First you is directed to Suze. Subsequent yous to the OP.

      2. fposte*

        I like the way you note the effect regardless of intention. My guess is that this isn’t to cut the OP down, it’s to lift the co-worker up–she loves being the mom and feeling like she’s taking care of what she may even call her “girls,” heaven help us; that’s how she perceives herself as valuable.

        This reminds me a bit of the woman who hugged everybody. I think there both ways that some women are comfortable feeling like they’re contributing, and they’re both bad ideas in the workplace. But with both, it may be more effective if the office can find a way to tweak her behavior slightly–more emphasis on being the person who has the institutional history and knows the de facto TO, maybe?–rather than fighting the self-categorization, because she’s not likely to suddenly shift to finding joy in cool efficiency.

        1. OP #1*

          Unfortunately, her comments towards me are often very critical, whereas towards other members of the team she either rarely makes similar comments or they are purely positive comments, such as ” Oh you look so adorable today sweetie!” or ” Oh, you have had such a hard week, let me make you some tea” vs towards me it is often ” Oh sweetie, you look cute today, you might actually get hit on” or ” oh your skin is breaking out today”- said as soon as I walked in the office. I completely agree that she perceives herself as valuable by being the “Mom” and taking care of her team. I’ve had other coworkers be present for her comments and simply look at me in shock. If it was something that she did with the whole team, I think it would be easier for everyone to address, but as it is obviously pointed criticism at me, it’s been difficult for me to figure out how to best address it.

          1. fposte*

            But that doesn’t mean her intention is negative–I bet quite a few of us here could report loving parents who have the same interaction styles–and I’m not sure it makes much difference if it is or not. It does mean you may have some ground to shift her to by identifying the kinds of interactions that are (marginally) okay.

            Your goal is to shift her behavior; her feelings and opinions are her own lookout, and there’s no need for you to care particularly whether she actually thinks you’re doing poorly or not.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I would find these particular comments mean from a parent too, TBH, especially if contrasted with positive comments toward the more favored children.

              1. fposte*

                I agree that I would find them unpleasant, but you’re still talking recipient effect. I’m saying the person uttering those comments isn’t necessarily doing it to be mean or to undermine; we don’t actually *know* what motivates her.

          2. Laura2*

            Holy crap. I don’t think I’d be able to stop myself from saying “You are being rude. Please stop commenting on my appearance and personal life because it’s none of your business.”

          3. Lily in NYC*

            In that case, I would call her out every time she makes a comment, Carolyn Hax-style. Just look at her and say “wow”, or “that’s not very nice” – and if you say it in a bemused instead of angry tone, I bet she will get the hint and knock it off.

            1. Mimi*

              That works for me the best: a very calm, neutral “Wow, that was rude” or “How unkind.”

          4. Purr purr purr*

            Do you think she may be bullying you but in a subtle way? I’ve worked with ‘mother hens’ and it always seems to be an excuse for being rude and mean. Normally people who are rude and mean would get pulled up for bullying eventually but when they say they’re ‘mothering’ then all of a sudden their comments seem almost acceptable to others, like they’re only being rude to ‘help’ the receiver. In any case, I wish people would realise what is acceptable professional behaviour! I’m 30 but have been told I look like a university student in my early 20s and I get sooooo irritated with being babied.

          5. EmmBee*

            Have you considered keeping a list of the comments she makes to you? It might then be really helpful for you and eye-opening for her if, when you do sit down with her, you pull out that list and say “This is a sample of some of the comments you’ve said to me over the past year.” Maybe she doesn’t even realize she’s being so critical?

            (I’m not trying to give her the benefit of the doubt; it just sounds to me like she might not even realize that she’s got some kind of subconscious problem with you.)

          6. KrisL*

            Are you one of the few females in the group? What she’s doing sounds hostile,.

            For the “you might actually get hit on” kind of comment, you might say “Excuse me?” “Wow” is also sometimes good.

            As much as you can tell her that something’s a problem without sounding hostile yourself, that should help. If you act angry, she has an excuse to be angry (or “hurt”). Sounding puzzled, with a tone that indicates you feel a little confused because it’s hard to believe she just said that to a coworker might be good.

    2. Sunflower*

      We have someone like this in my office. Her youngest child started college this year and I also happen to have attended the same university as all of her daughters went to (we didn’t know each other) so I think I receive it a little more than others. She also recently told me about how she didn’t let her daughter go abroad one summer because she wanted her to spend time with her so she’s obviously a little over protective. She doesn’t go as far as any of OP 1’s remarks- in fact she tells me I should eat more which is just as uncomfortable. But I am often reaffirmed that don’t worry, I WILL find a boyfriend (I’m not worried but thanks for the encouragement)

      It’s funny too because I think it looks bad on the Mother Hen’s part. I talk about my personal life with my boss and other co-workers but because this woman insists of being like a mother figure to me, sometimes it makes work talk more unnatural than personal conversation. And sometimes makes it hard for me to look at her as a professional, working women

    3. tcookson*

      The mother hen dynamic seems to me like a ploy to disguise an ongoing power-grab as merely benign care-taking and an excuse to cross boundaries that have no business being crossed. I’ve seen to many cases where the “mothering” is more about undermining than being benign.

    4. skaylady*

      There was a woman I used to supervise who would make comments on my skin and occasional chapped lips. My skin is naturally flushed, and she’d say ” You need some cream”. I’d respond in a nice, non-commital way……..and then she would make another comment weeks later. I finally told her it was inappropriate to comment on my appearance & asked her to stop. She was about a decade older and I’m certain she was trying to be helpful…but she wasn’t.

  11. Fiona*

    #2 I’m not getting a clear picture of what is happening at your interviews that makes interviewers feel you’re “too reserved.” Are you soft spoken? Answer the questions posed but don’t really contribute to moving the conversation forward? Not giving strong enough examples to behavioral questions? A little moee detail about your interview experiences could help pinpoint what you need to do differently.

    1. fposte*

      Agreed. I’ve had staffers and have co-workers with quiet and reserved manners who have probably never been suspected of being too reserved to work with people. They speak with clarity, authority, and fluidity when they do speak, and they’re clearly very comfortable–they sit still without fidgeting but they’re relaxed, they’re engaging in eye contact, etc. Basically, they’re clearly confident and knowledgeable, not situationally intimidated.

      As Fiona says, without knowing how you present it’s hard to identify what is making interviewers uneasy, but a quieter manner probably does need some clear complementary indications of confidence and can less afford things like multiple “Uhms,” a nervous giggle, terse answers, sentences trailing off, too low a vocal volume, being largely reactive in the conversation, etc. Does that give you any ideas?

      1. H. Vane*

        But what about us situationally intimidated people? I’m pretty good at my job, I like my coworkers, I’m comfortable in my office, but when I try to string a sentence together where I’m actually trying to make a point, it comes out jumbled and rediculous sounding. It also invariably happens when I talk to my director – I end up sounding foolish. What can I do about that?

        1. Anon scientist*

          I’m a semi-reformed mumbler. Here’s what I do: breathe! Speak with intent. It’s ok to slow down. If you speak slowly, with intention, and have a plan for what to say, then you won’t get lost or trail off. I’ll actually stop mid-garbled mess, say “hold on” and regroup so I can be clear.

          1. H. Vane*

            That really helps, thanks! I think the main contributor to my problem is that I talk way too fast. Breathing and having a plan in place for what I actually want to say should help, in theory.

        2. fposte*

          I think “how to appear when I don’t feel” is an easier question to address than “how to appear when I do feel,” unfortunately. I run into that problem myself sometimes, and I’m trying to be more deliberate about mapping out my statements in advance in such situations–maybe try that?

    2. OP #2*

      I think it might be a combo of the latter two questions. Maybe I’m not answering questions to the extent I could be? I make sure that I speak up and speak clearly; I also try to make it a conversation and give examples when I can, but maybe it hasn’t been enough.

      This is definitely something for me to mull over as well, thank you!

  12. ExceptionToTheRule*

    #4 – I hosted an open house when I finished my graduate degree and invited just about everybody I knew: co-workers, family, friends, neighbors, etc, because I was damn proud of myself for finishing a graduate degree while working a full-time job and a part-time job.

    I had also recently purchased my home and the graduation party doubled as a house warming party as well. People came and went as it fit their schedules, chit-chatted with other people they knew, took a tour of the house, ate a sandwich, and a fun time was had by all.

  13. BCW*

    #3, I don’t know. I understand what you are saying, but at the same time, this is 2014. Even my 60 year old parents have internet at home. If they were requiring that you work from home all the time, that would be one thing, but because its an occasional thing to me you shouldn’t really ask about it. Go to starbucks. Or join the 21st century.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      That’s not really fair. I have a couple of employees who don’t have internet access at home because they can’t afford it. It doesn’t mean they aren’t a part of the 21st century; it means they’ve prioritized other needs over that.

      1. BCW*

        I think at this point in our society (assuming she is from America, Canada, the UK, or some other highly developed country) so much is done online, such as writing for work advice, that to me not having internet is like not having a phone. In fact, I’d argue that internet access is more valuable than a phone line this day and age. If she doesn’t want to have it, thats completely her choice, but my point stands that if her job will want her to work from home on occasion, then there are other options. Starbucks. Local library. Whatever. She shouldn’t expect her job to pay for that anymore than I would expect my job to pay for my phone bill because once in a while I use my cell phone for work. Again, if I didn’t have an office and I was completely home based, that would be different. But this is an occasional situation.

        1. Colette*

          If she needs to log in at 8 pm, it’s unlikely that she’s going to bundle up her preschool children and take them to Starbucks (where she’ll have to spend money on something) to use the internet.

          If the business requires it, they should pay for it. If they don’t (i.e. if she wants to work from home on occasion because it’s more convenient), then it’s her responsibility.

          1. BCW*

            “If the business requires it, they should pay for it”. I don’t necessarily agree with that. If I got a job where I had to wear a suit and tie everyday, should they pay for my wardrobe? Should my job pay for transportation costs? Again, if the company said “You are now home based” I would be in your corner. But if they are saying “On occasion we will need you to log in and do x,y,and z” then no, I don’t think they should have to do it. Or, as Alison said, they could just say “Its now a requirement of the job to have internet access at home”.

            1. Colette*

              If you’re traveling for work (not to work), the job should pay for the transportation.

              I agree that legally they could just require her to get internet – but I don’t think it’s right.

              IMO, if she’s working from home because it’s more convenient for her, then she should pay for internet. If she’s working from home because the business requires her to do so, then they should pay for internet.

                1. Colette*

                  When I was in technical support, my employer paid my internet bill (and those of all of my colleagues), because it was necessary for the business to have reliable internet access for anyone in that job.

                  When I was in development at the same company, they didn’t pay for it, because having internet access at home wasn’t part of the job.

                2. Joey*

                  That might be your experience, but the majority of companies that require occasional internet access away from the office aren’t going to pay employees an internet stipend or a reimbursement.

                3. Heather*

                  Hopefully the OP will come back and give more detail, but I didn’t get the impression that she’s just going to be able to occasionally work from home when it snows or she’s waiting for the plumber to show up. “As needed” implies that it will be when the company needs her to, not when she needs to. They’re not doing her a favor.

                  I use my own internet to access the VPN when I (rarely) work from home, because it’s for my convenience. That’s the difference. If my boss told me I’d need to start working from home at night and on weekends, damn straight I’d expect the company to kick in toward my Fios bill.

                  Convenient for the employee = employee pays. Convenient for the employer = employer pays.

              1. Jamie*

                If she’s working from home because the business requires her to do so, then they should pay for internet.

                I understand what you’re saying, but you could extend that logic to electricity and I don’t think anyone would argue that an employer should subsidize employees having their electric on so they can work from home.

                It really comes down to whether people see home internet access as something so basic that it’s reasonable to assume or an optional luxury.

                1. Heather*

                  I think your second paragraph nails it.

                  The problem is that many of the people who see it as being a basic necessity seem unwilling to acknowledge that to others it really is a luxury.

                  I’ve actually been noticing lately (IRL too, not just here) that a lot of people assume that everyone has the same options and should make the same choices as they do. Maybe it’s time for a nationwide refresher on “don’t judge until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” :)

                2. Colette*

                  Yeah, I see your point. I see it as an optional luxury (although I’d give up a lot of other stuff before I got rid of my internet at home).

                3. Laura*

                  I also think the line where something goes from a basic necessity to an optional luxury is blurry depending on where you live, when you were born and your personal priorities. At one point, electricity was considered an optional luxury – now in North America it’s considered a basic necessity, but in many countries, it’s still an optional luxury. At one point a home phone was considered a basic necessity by many in North America, and now, especially for young people it’s considered an optional luxury. While cable was never really a necessity, it was considered standard and now it’s considered more and more an optional luxury. I think particularly for many people under 25 who have never lived in a world without the internet, in privileged countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and much of Europe, the internet has become more of a necessity. You can’t go through even high school without internet access, and even less through post secondary education. Of course, post secondary education is a luxury too – but people who have that particular luxury generally view the internet as a necessity. And 80% of people in this country do have internet at home, so while I wish everyone could have it, and many of that 20% don’t have it, it’s also not some fringe luxury limited to a privileged few. I think it’s going to get far closer to 100% in the next few years. Of course, the world internet access is closer to like 40% and the digital divide is very real, but when we’re talking about privileged countries, home internet is the majority.

                4. Jamie*

                  The problem is that many of the people who see it as being a basic necessity seem unwilling to acknowledge that to others it really is a luxury.

                  I absolutely agree with this and it’s good to be reminded that what is basic or normal is really dependent on circumstances.

                  With one caveat – there are certain positions where it would be beyond naive to think you wouldn’t ever need to remote in. Executive positions, those where they make it clear before hire, and yes…IT. Anyone with a job in IT (with admin duties) who was taken aback by the requirement to be able to remote in from home would be as odd as one insisting that they only work a straight 40 – it would be as bizarre as applying to be a driver without a driver’s license.

                  This was a general statement about the assumptions, and not the OP. This is something arising now for her, and a totally different situation.

                  But maybe when it comes to work the driver’s license is a good analogy – or licenses in general. I don’t need a cosmetology license to do my job and the woman who cuts my hair doesn’t need to remote into her work computer. So maybe what an employer should consider basic things should depend on the nature of the job more than what we “should” have as a society.

                5. Heather*

                  So maybe what an employer should consider basic things should depend on the nature of the job more than what we “should” have as a society.

                  That makes sense. If the job is 95% in the office and 5% remote (urgent projects, snow days), then I would say an internet connection at home isn’t a key requirement to get the job done – it’s a convenience for the employee. But if the employee is expected to be available to work when the company tells her to, making sure that employee has internet access is just as much a business expense as a stapler.

                  Although I draw the line at the employer still having to buy staples for one red Swingline even after they’ve switched to Boston.

          2. fposte*

            I don’t know, I see BCW’s point here. “If the business requires it, it should pay for it” really isn’t an across the board rule–it evolves out of specific convention and operates along a spectrum. I think it’s fair to ask, especially in this particular situation where it was a change, it’s totally the employer’s idea, and the time constraints make it difficult to find alternatives. But as a general principle, I don’t think that really is the go-to rule.

            It might also be worth digging a little deeper on the price–I had a $15 a month plan until quite recently, and the internet was slow, but it was internet. Or approach a neighbor whose network is visible to offer to split the costs for use.

            1. TL*

              There are some places where there truly is only one option for Internet – I’m looking at you, Boston metropolitan area – and they tend to be pricey because of the lack of competition.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Mine is $59 for WiMax broadband & the only other option is satellite broadband, which costs more, is slower, and less reliable. Or a hotspot.

                It’s fast enough to play xbox and watch netflix, so I’m pretty happy with it as far as rural service goes.

                1. TL*

                  Ours is like $60/month for Broadband and it’s the only option unless we wanted to hotspot it, because of the way the city is wired.

              2. fposte*

                I know you said “metropolitan area,” but I just found Verizon DSL for $19.99 per month in the city of Boston (gave a friend’s address).

                I know there are areas where there isn’t competition, but I do think that most users automatically grab broadband and packages and don’t even know if they can get cheaper alternatives.

                1. LBK*

                  It depends where you are in Boston. I’ve lived in 2 neighborhoods here where there was literally only 1 option for internet – I checked probably 15 other providers because I hate Comcast and nothing else serviced my address.

                2. Jamie*

                  It’s hard to tell until you’re calling with an actual address – for instance my town appears to have 3 options if you look it up online…but my neighborhood had one option until very recently.

                  If you do have options I’d strongly recommend talking to neighbors to see what their experience is with different services. It’s common for companies to so overload their current infrastructure with users before beefing up. When we had dsl you couldn’t stream on the weekends because everyone else was and they had way too many users with too few resources.

                3. TL*

                  The suburb of Boston where I live is mapped out so most neighborhoods only have one Internet provider and that’s it. It’s not a major provider, it’s ridiculously overpriced, and they don’t offer many benefits to new customers.

                  Sorry, but I get really grumpy about this. In Austin, I had tons of options, lots of great “get one year at low, low prices!” deals, and Google fiber was on its way. Sigh.

                4. Hous*

                  Since graduating college, I’ve lived in two different parts of the Boston area and in a DC suburb, and I’ve been in a Comcast-monopoly area at all those addresses. I know there are parts of Boston where this isn’t true, but it’s true a lot of places, and it sucks.

                5. LPBB*

                  When I moved into my last apartment, I unwittingly moved into a house that fell outside of all the Verizon internet switching stations/hubs/whatever-they’re-called. People two doors down from me could get Verizon DSL, people diagonally across the street could get Verizon DSL, but my house, the house immediately to my right and the house directly across the street could not get it. I was on the phone with Verizon multiple times about this issue, but no dice.

                  This apartment was practically in the middle of Baltimore City! I was able to get Verizon DSL while I was living in a neighborhood that routinely showed up on The Wire, for God’s sake.

            2. Colette*

              I’d probably feel differently about it if the requirement had been made clear when she accepted the job in the first place, or if she were the one who wanted to work from home (instead of the employer driving it).

              1. LBK*

                I made this point below, though – is she actually being required to work from home? It doesn’t sound like it. It mostly sounds like they offered her a laptop and the option to WFM as something to help with the life/work balance of having to take on these new responsibilities, but I didn’t see anything that indicated she will not have the option to come into the office to get work done. She mentions that she’s worked extra hours or weekends before, so presumably she’s done it in the office. Can’t she just continue to do so if internet access is not in the budget?

                1. Colette*

                  I will be given a laptop, to work from home as needed.

                  I interpreted this to mean that the employer determines when it’s needed. If it’s about convenience for her (and going into the office is an option from the business’s perspective), then I agree that internet access is her responsibility.

                2. Sunflower*

                  Yea I don’t believe I saw anything that said if she needs to do additional work, the office won’t be available to her.

                3. LBK*

                  Even if the employer is going to require her to work at certain times, I don’t quite understand why they would require her to do it at home. It would be one thing if they were kicking everyone out of the office to save on real estate costs or completely closing the office once a week to save on utilities etc., but if her employer is going to ask her to work a few hours on Saturday, I’m not clear from the letter why they would object to her doing that in the office.

                  Most people would consider getting the option to WFH as a benefit, so I’m under the impression that the employer is just trying to give these people a nice perk to compensate for the additional work they’ll have to do. Hopefully the OP can chime in to clarify the expectations around this situation.

                4. Colette*

                  It depends. If the expectation is that she check her email twice an evening, then going in to the office isn’t really an option.

                  If it’s that she put in extra hours during crunch period, going in to the office might be a reasonable option.

                5. LBK*

                  I do agree with that. I think we need more context from the OP about what kind of work she’d be expected to do from home and how often. Even if it’s just being on call until 8 or 9PM once a month, that’s not totally unreasonable to do in the office, but a daily email check-in after hours obviously can’t be done from the office. At that point I think it would be a judgment call for the OP if having to be in the office late occasionally is worth saving the money for internet service at home.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Do remember that in a lot of places, cable providers have monopolies, and they can charge whatever the hell they want for their services because there is no competition. Also, if you just get internet without the cable bundle, the internet is often way more expensive on its own. This is why I’ve been stuck with horrid DSL for so long. It’s all I was able to afford, and even that is terribly overpriced. $45 a month for 2.5 mbps. >:(

      2. BCW*

        Also, if she is working for a fortune 500 company now that is giving her a lap top, I kind of feel like she could probably afford internet at home. Maybe not the fastest, but she could do something.

            1. VintageLydia USA*

              A public library with limited hours, and limited time on the machines (I’ve rarely been to a library where you got more than an hour on a machine at a time, and often less if there is a line.) Plus the connections are notoriously slow and if you need to upload anything, forget about it.

              1. TL*

                I just checked, and the public library closest to my hometown, in a poor and rural area of Texas, has free wifi and has had it for the last 8 years.

                There’s not a Starbucks in town and I’m pretty sure there’s not another coffee shop; there are 2 McDonald’s with free Wifi IIFC.

                Unless the OP lives somewhere like Middle of Nowhere, NM, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume she lives near a library with free Wifi which she can access on her work computer.

                Whether or not their hours work for her is a different story, but most libraries nowadays provide free WiFi.

                1. VintageLydia USA*

                  The hours and slow connection/lack of upload is the biggest issues. Not to mention the kids. If we are trying gto give OP3 constructive advice, taking the entire family to the library or McDonald’s for potentionally hours an evening ain’t it.

        1. Jamie*

          Giving her a laptop to use as needed doesn’t mean giving her a laptop – I give out loaners on an as needed basis.

          I do agree though, that most salaried jobs where you’re required to work from home should typically pay well enough where this isn’t an issue.

      3. Joey*

        Well it does sort of mean they aren’t in the 21st century. Its the equivalent of not having a cell phone.

            1. also anon*

              Thing is, from the OP’s post it sounds like she may be some sort of AR/AP clerk (“will *now* get a laptop, all revenue functions”) who’s probably not making a lot. She’s a single mom, paying for preschool/ daycare. Going to a public library at night with 2 kids, one being under 5, is not ideal.

              However, if she’s at the clerk level, she should be getting paid OT for the hours she’s working at home, which should offset the internet cost.

              If she’s at a higher level where she’s not getting paid OT, then I’d guess at an F500 company she earns enough to reasonably afford the cost herself. (Even if her bills say she can’t, it’s not unreasonable for a company to expect someone making a decent income to have internet. . .in the 21st century and all.)

            2. the gold digger*

              Not everyone is privileged. If someone is making $12/hour (which is what our customer service reps are paid – to go with the $2,500 deductible health insurance), $65 a month is a big deal.

              At $12/hour, without OT, someone takes home about $24K a year. Take out 8% for SS and another 15% for taxes and the net is about $18K, which is only $1,500 a month. $65 a month for internet is almost 5% of that person’s take-home pay. That’s a lot.

              1. Jamie*

                The salary cut off to be exempt is $23,600 which is $11.35 an hour. So yes, @ 12 per hour one could legally be exempt if they meet all the other criteria – but that’s cutting it really close and usually people who meet the criteria for exempt employees are making more than that.

                From the standard: “These FLSA exemptions are limited to employees who perform relatively high-level work.”

                ” To be exempt under the administrative exemption, the “staff” or “support” work must be office or nonmanual, and must be for matters of significance. Clerical employees perform office or nonmanual support work but are not administratively exempt. Nor is administrative work exempt just because it is financially important, in the sense that the employer would experience financial losses if the employee fails to perform competently. Administratively exempt work typically involves the exercise of discretion and judgment, with the authority to make independent decisions on matters which affect the business as a whole or a significant part of it.

                Questions to ask might include whether the employee has the authority to formulate or interpret company policies; how major the employee’s assignments are in relation to the overall business operations of the enterprise (buying paper clips versus buying a fleet of delivery vehicles, for example); whether the employee has the authority to commit the employer in matters which have significant financial impact; whether the employee has the authority to deviate from company policy without prior approval.

                Bolding mine.

                1. De Minimis*

                  That was a big point of contention in the Big 4 accounting overtime lawsuits for junior employees.

                2. Jamie*

                  Sorry – didn’t realize I hit submit before I left my desk.

                  I guess I’m just saying that if one has the authority to commit their business to contracts of significant financial importance and to deviate from policy without approval one shouldn’t be making $12 per hour. And if you don’t have that level of authority you should be non-exempt and making OT.

                  From my experience and reading on this over the years by far the most often misclassified category of professionals are administrative. Often just out of not understanding the requirements and not malice.

                  (and administrative isn’t referring to what we informally call admins or AAs. There are 4 categories of exempt employees:
                  1. Executive (Management – criteria is largely based on supervisory duties and input into the big decision making)
                  2. Professional (doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. requiring “advanced knowledge”)
                  3. Administrative (most office positions not covered by other categories in which the work is not manual and “a primary component of which involves the exercise of independent judgment and discretion about matters of significance.” It’s the hardest to categorize because while it spells out that ordering office supplies doesn’t meet the standard, it doesn’t tell you what does? And it covered everyone from marketing, HR, payroll, finance, accounting (except CPAs and CMAs who are professional), some IT…heck it’s every individual contributor in the office who meets the criteria.)
                  4. Computer Employees (their wording – makes it sound like our computers sign our checks.)

                  There are a LOT of people in administrative positions who are erroneously classified as exempt and it’s a shame. I’ve known people upset they weren’t exempt because they mistakenly think there is some prestige that goes along with it – when all it really means is giving up your legal right to be paid for OT.

                  And with that I’ll shut up – it’s just such a misunderstood issue and it bothers me when I think of people not getting the OT they are entitled to.

            3. Laura*

              I know in Canada 80% of people have internet at home – we just happen to be a privileged country.

              1. Laura*

                And I know a few people who make 12$/hour and have internet access…they just view it as a necessity above a phone or cable – don’t pay quite 65$ a month but not far from it.

                1. KarenT*

                  True, but of the 20% without internet, 20% of those people don’t have it because they can’t afford it. There are also a lot of access issues in remote, rural areas.

              2. De (Germany)*

                So that’s one fifth who don’t. I think that’s not a proportion that can just be ignored.

                1. Laura*

                  Out of the one fifth who don’t…the majority of them say it’s because they have no interest – it’s much less who say it’s because of cost. It is a big problem, sure, but when 4 fifths of people have internet, and that number is somewhat higher in urban areas with middle class educated people, it’s not unreasonable to assume that people who work for a fortune 500 company don’t fall into that one fifth. Not saying it never happens, but it’s not an unreasonable assumption that someone has internet access in that environment. If the OP worked in let’s say fast food, in a rural area, then the assumption would be less reasonable. And four fifths of people having something is still a big majority, here that translates to 28 million people.

          1. Us, Too*

            Perhaps, but it’s actually pretty accurate in the US. Check out these 2012 stats. And you can bet the numbers only have gone up since then.


            75% of US households have internet access and of those who don’t only 7.3% say it is because of cost. I’d hardly classify something as “privileged” when 93% of the country either have internet access or don’t think cost is a factor in getting it.

          2. LF*

            Sure, but it’s a baseline expectation for corporate America… which is run and staffed by privileged people.

          3. TL*

            She works in a Fortune 500 company, with a position high enough to be warranted given her own laptop for personal use. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a person in that situation to have Internet access at home.

            If this was a minimum wage position at McDonald’s or something low paying like that, then, yeah, I would say it’s a privileged point of view to expect your employees to have Internet access. But this is a professional job and regardless of her other expenses, I don’t think it’s unrealistic of her company to assume she leads a normal middle-class life, which includes Internet access at home.

            1. Anonymous*

              Yes but even if it’s a professional job, depending on where she lives that job may still have her living paycheck to paycheck. The cost of living in some urban areas is ridiculous, especially if you want to live in a neighborhood with good schools and access to activities for her children. She is right to prioritize those things over internet, if that’s the case. Although at some point her children will probably need internet access for schoolwork, so if our assumed hardship is really the case, this will become much more of an issue for her at some point.

              1. TL*

                Regardless of her financial situation, it is not unreasonable or privileged for the employer to expect her to have Internet access at home if she’s making a middle-class wage (for her area).

                And, yeah, she can choose not to have Internet and that’s fine – I didn’t for the first 6 months I worked – but I wouldn’t hold it against the employer if they said she had to have reliable access as part of her job, without paying for it.

            2. Elysian*

              I don’t want to pick, but I wouldn’t say “normal” middle-class life, because it implies the OP is abnormal. Maybe average? But she’s not some kind of personal oddity because she doesn’t have internet. She’s a struggling human being with bills who made choices. Even if she’s middle class, it might just not be a top priority, and that’s ok.

              1. TL*

                I’m not judging her for not having Internet; I’m saying it’s not unrealistic for the company to expect her to have it and/or to make it a job requirement without paying for it, assuming they’re paying her a decent wage.

                I tend to use normal/average interchangeably.

                1. Laura*

                  That’s what I was trying to say too in case my other comment wasn’t clear – it’s not an unrealistic/unreasonable expectation. . I read a study 2-3 years ago that said 80% of Canadian homes have internet…it’s probably slightly more now, but it’s not unreasonable to not realize some people don’t have internet access when most people do, especially in an urban/suburban middle class environment.

          4. FWIW*

            It’s not the custom for private sector employers to pay for employees’ home internet service, even for remote workers. It is the custom, however, to pay for employees’ mobile phone service (but not for the device).

            I don’t know how much longer mobile expense reimbursement will last though. The trend has been for employers to eliminate employee benefits. Many have done away with relocation packages, 401(k) matches, free parking and cost-of-living salary increases. Also, 55 to 60 hour workweeks are quickly becoming the standard for exempt employees, which is extremely risky to the employee as it leaves little opportunity to develop alternative sources of income. I’m not sure I could afford to be an employee these days.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Even OldJob paid for internet for the employees who worked from home a lot. I know; I saw the bills. They weren’t that much. It wasn’t a huge company, either. It might have been included on their business account, but I’m not sure.

        1. Zed*

          I don’t even know where to start.

          I work in an area that is often called the poorest city in the United States. Almost 50 percent of the residents live below the poverty line. You’d better believe they do not have the internet at home, and for that matter most of them don’t have cell phones either. And – in case I need to say it – there certainly isn’t a Starbucks.

          And you know what? They live in the 21st century. This is their 21st century. It doesn’t always look like yours.

          Saying “Well, why don’t you just go buy the internet?” to someone who can’t afford it is no more helpful than saying “Well, why don’t you just eat more fresh fruit and vegetables?” to someone who lives in a city without a supermarket.

            1. Hous*

              Yeah, but that’s often not reliable in the way that you’d want. Libraries (in my experience) have free internet in the sense that they have computers that you can use to access the internet, which is different from having reliable internet for work. It’s been a few years since I regularly used library internet, so it’s entirely possible this has changed and more places now offer wifi, but the library I used before my own internet had been set up after moving had a limited number of computers, high demand for them, and time limits on their use (one hour per person). They were fine for checking email and sending out existing job applications, but I can’t imagine trying to do serious, sustained work on one.

              1. Laura*

                Every library in my city , and in a couple of the smaller surrounding cities I’ve been to, has free wifi, and when I used to have to work from home, i’d go to the library instead. It wasn’t uncommon to see dozens of people there working on laptops. No idea where the OP lives, but I can’t imagine a major metro area without free wifi in the libraries. Of course you can’t bring the kids in that scenario

                1. AVP*

                  Yes, but we’re talking about the OP working after hours here. At least in NYC, when libraries have “late hours” that means they’re open until 7pm instead of 5, and barely on the weekends.

                  I’m not saying that the OP cannot find a solution, but access to internet in many places is not as easy as just joining the library or going to a Starbucks.

              2. Elsajeni*

                I think most libraries, at least in cities, do have wifi now; if the OP has a work-issued laptop, she should be able to connect at the library without worrying about waiting in line for the computer. The bigger issue with the “oh, just go to the public library” idea is the library hours — a lot of libraries are dealing with budget cuts, and a common way that they’re coping is to shorten their hours. Looking at my own local library’s outside-of-business-hours schedule, I see that they’re open two evenings per week and during the day on Saturday; I could maybe use them as a work-from-home location if I had enough warning to plan around those hours, but if something came up suddenly at 4:30 on a Saturday, I’d be out of luck.

                1. TL*

                  I just checked a couple of libraries around the very rural area where I grew up and in the 4 cities – within a 3 hr drive radius of my hometown – big enough to host a Fortune 500 company (and I am using a very liberal definition of “big enough”) all of the libraries had free wifi.

                  Many of the small towns don’t have a library at all, excluding the school library, but I would be flabbergasted to see a Fortune 500 company set up shop in one of them.

                2. aebhel*

                  TL, this issue isn’t whether or not the library has free wifi, it’s whether or not the library is going to be open outside of normal working hours. Even in a lot of major metropolitan areas, libraries frequently aren’t open all that much past 5. Fortune 500 companies aren’t the only ones who’ve been having to downsize recently. Public library budget cuts have been slashed over the past decade, and a lot of us–even in big cities–are barely treading water.

            2. Anonymous*

              In a library in a lower income area, good luck even getting a computer because everybody else has the same idea.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Oh yeah, I worked in one of those for a while. 1-hour limit and almost everybody there was using them for job applications. (Which could get me started on another rant about how much I hate about Taleo. Pretty hard to get through a whole Taleo mess in an hour, and some of the applicants weren’t all that computer-savvy to begin with so it was even harder for them, and on top of THAT, the computers didn’t work all that well.)

              2. fposte*

                She has a computer already, though. We’re just talking about using the WiFi at the library.

                1. Laura*

                  I’ve never used a library computer – but often use the free library wifi, especially when I didn’t have it at home for like 2 months.

                2. Laura*

                  Wifi at libraries is not a rich person thing – it’s a large city thing. There are plenty of extremely poor areas in this city that have wifi in their libraries.

                3. The IT Manager*

                  Wifi at libraries is a low income thing. Rich people have internet at home or hang out in Starbuck’s and Panera’s for free Wifi.

            3. thenoiseinspace*

              Or a fast food place – some of the ones near my house offer free wifi. It’s changed a lot in the last year or two – there are more places than you’d think!

              1. TL*

                McDonald’s almost always have free Wi-fi!!! And most poor places have McDonald’s! (And rich places, and middle class places, and mixed places, and a fair number of rural places…)

                And it’s generally good enough that you can sit in the parking lot and access it if you don’t want to buy anything.

            4. the gold digger*

              And what is she supposed to do with her kids while she is at the library? How much work is it to get there? Does she have a car or does she take the bus? In the winter, it’s a pain in the neck to get one person out of the house. Dressing two kids in the boots and coats and mittens and yourself, grabbing the computer, and schlepping to the library is not easy.

              1. BCW*

                This is going to sound cold, but her kids and what she does with them aren’t the responsibility of the employer. I can sympathize, but I mean so what. Again, if the new job requirements are something that she is no longer able to handle, then thats fine. But in this day and age, job requirements change sometimes, and you can either adapt or leave. But her kids really shouldn’t even come into the conversation with her employer. As we have said on here many times, Jane with kids shouldn’t get special privileges or Jim without kids just because there are kids.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I agree with you that the kids aren’t the company’s problem, but I also don’t see why she can’t ask if the company is going to provide the internet service also.

                2. Colette*

                  It’s not that the kids are the employer’s problems, it’s that the solutions people are suggesting here aren’t actually practical solutions for someone who has kids.

                3. fposte*

                  Though we haven’t talked about another factor–even if she does have internet, it’s tough to get work done at home with two little kids if you’re the sole adult.

                4. VintageLydia USA*

                  Eh, if the kids are in bed by 8 or 9, she might be able to get an hour or two of work in a night if she had internet at home.

              2. Anon*

                What does she do with her kids when she’s in the office? Why would there be any difference?

                1. Anon*

                  Just to clarify I don’t see were it’s stated in the letter that it would necessarily be outside of normal business hours.

            5. Heather*

              a) Libraries usually limit the amount of time one person can spend on their computers, so everyone can have a turn to use them. Ditto on coffee shops/Starbucks – they’ll let you use their Wi-Fi for awhile, but eventually they’re going to want your seat for a paying customer.

              b) I can’t imagine any IT department would want their company’s employees accessing confidential files through a public computer at a library or unsecured Wi-Fi at a Starbucks.

              c) You’re assuming that everyone has a nearby public library. Libraries are one of the first targets when municipalities start cutting costs. And if there’s no library nearby, not everyone has a car to get to a different one and public transportation in most American cities totally sucks.

              Before you say that none of this is likely to apply to the OP, let me point out that I’m responding to your comment “We are a privileged society and country,” which isn’t about the OP specifically.

              1. TL*

                I’ve pulled some marathon sessions at Starbucks for about $2-5, depending on what I’m drinking that day. Like, 3-5 hours. I’ve never had a problem.

                Most libraries have free wi-fi, at least urban ones. And so do most university campuses, come to think of it.

            6. Zed*

              There are two public libraries in the city. They do not offer free wifi, but you are correct that they offer free computer use–up to an hour an day, if you are willing to wait in line.

            7. Elizabeth West*

              Try to get in there when everyone else is trying to get in there too. You have to wait your turn, your turn is about a half hour in busy libraries, and you may wait for a long time and not get a chance.

            8. De (Germany)*

              And those are open in the evening and on Sundays in most regions in the US?

              (In Germany, most are closed after 7 p.m. and after 2 p.m. on Saturdays, and never open on Sundays)

              1. Laura*

                Here libraries are open 9 am to 9pm Tuesday – Friday, 9 am – 5pm on Saturday and 1pm to 5 pm on Sunday. Often closed on Mondays, if not some are 9 am -5 pm on Mondays. Of course, it varies (and i’m in a major Canadian city, not the US). I also spent a lot of my evening times in libraries until 9 pm

            9. Any Mouse*

              You definitly don’t have experience trying to use computers at a public library. The last city I lived in (around 200,000 pop) had several library branches, at the main branch I’d get off work and get there around 5 pm. The library closed at 9 pm.

              Routinely I’d over hear librarians telling people that internet sign ups were booked for the night. So the next 4 hours at I don’t know how many computers, maybe 2 dozen. All booked.

              If you had your own laptop you can use wi fi, but you’d have to find a cubby and go there. If you’re a mom with 2 kids you have to do your work, keep them entertained and supervised.

              Oh and on Sundays and Mondays only the main branch is open. I would go at Sundays around noon when they opened and there would be a line – for the internet.

              The small town I just moved from had 3 computers. THREE . AGain they had wifi but very very limited seating. And also, once again, you’d have to watch your kids while you do your work.

          1. BCW*

            I’m guessing those people aren’t working for a Fortune 500 company with a job that gives them a lap top computer though. Again, if this was a cashier at a grocery store, thats one thing, but I think based on what the job responsibilities sound like, she isn’t living below the poverty line.

            1. KatA*

              A few years ago, I worked for a Fortune 500 company that gave me a laptop. I was making $14/hour, which is about $29k/year before things like taxes. It’s better than what the grocery cashier is making and it’s above the poverty line (just barely, for a family of four), but it’s still not a ton to live off of, especially if you have kids. I wouldn’t assume that the OP is making a certain amount just becuase of the factors of Fortune 500 + laptop.

            2. esra*

              I had a job at a Fortune 500 company making a couple grand less than KatA. I also had a company-provided laptop. While, theoretically they have money to pay better, most of them don’t.

          2. Belinda Gomez-Maldonado*

            But the OP works for a Fortune 500 company, not in the poorest place in the country. She might also see if any of her neighbors might be willing to share their connection with her. Or split the cost. if she’s got two little kids, she’s going to need to get Internet access at home at some point.
            What cities don’t have supermarkets?

            1. Zed*

              I wasn’t referring to the OP specifically. Rather, I was responding to the general argument that people without the internet at home should “join the 21st century” – as if technology were not a luxury to many, many people in the United States.

              Besides, poor or not, there is a Fortune 500 company headquartered in the city where I work.

            2. Amy*

              Just so you know, sharing a connection with a neighbor is both against the terms of your internet contract and also, in many jurisdictions, a crime (fraud or theft of services).

              And while most towns and cities have a supermarket somewhere in the city, it’s a well-documented phenomenon that many, many people live in what are known as “food deserts” where there are few or no places to buy fresh food, particularly for people who rely on public transportation.

        2. plain jane*

          I have a cell phone because my company gave me one and pay the bill directly. My partner does not have a cell phone.

          We choose to spend our money elsewhere. If my partner’s company required a cell phone but wasn’t willing to pay for it, I’m not sure what our response would be.

      4. some1*

        I think the way BCW phrased his opinion was terse, but I actually agree with his overall point based on my experience. Wifi can be spotty and places with public terminals (i.e. the library) don’t always have enough computers for everyone or they have time limits.

    2. Colette*

      If the OP doesn’t need or want internet access at home, that’s completely valid. She’s being financially responsible to prioritize what she spends based on what is important to her.

      1. LBK*

        #3 – So are they going to be forcing you to work from home sometimes? It sounds like you’ve already worked some off hours, which I’m assuming you did by coming into the office. Can you just continue to come into the office for those times when you have to work outside of normal hours, or are they going to require that all that work be done at home now?

        This kind of sounds like my job where I have the option to work from home under certain circumstances if I prefer, but I’m never forced to do it. I can always come into the office instead if I choose.

        1. Sunflower*

          LBK- I just read what you said above and I have to agree this is a good point that needs to be taken into consideration.

          If the office is openly available to do work when work is needed to be done then the question of paying for internet is kind of moot. It sounds like they gave the laptops for convenience because most people have internet and would rather do work on a Saturday from home rather than go into the office. If this is the case, OP is going to either have to bite the bullet and get internet or look for a new job that doesn’t require doing work at off hours.

    3. also anon*

      I’m torn on this one. I agree it’s normal to have internet at home, and if this was a convenience to her, i.e. she can go home at 5:00 and work at home instead of working late at the office, I think the cost is on the OP. If this was a telecommuting position instead, I think the F500 company should pay, because businesses should not push their normal business costs onto employees. I can’t decide where this one fits. The company is providing internet – she just has to go to her office to use it. But on the other hand, the business is also sort of asking employees to take on their costs via cutting staff and asking employees to take on additional work that should be filled by more staff. It’s like she’s got an office for job one, and she has to go home and telecommute to job two.

        1. BCW*

          Thats life though. Sometimes job requirements change. If she doesn’t like the new terms, she can leave. However I still don’t think its the employers responsibility.

          1. Celeste*

            Yes, indeed, you are so right. That’s life, the employer can (and will) do anything it wants to, and a person’s only choice is to stay or go.

          2. Sunflower*

            Yea I feel bad but I kind of want to say ‘sorry that’s life’. Employment is a 2 way street. It’s just as much her choice to leave as it is their choice to change the requirements.

            1. Heather*

              Not really….unless she’s independently wealthy (which she obviously isn’t), leaving her job causes her to lose her livelihood. One worker bee leaving a Fortune 500 company, on the other hand, isn’t going to put the company at risk of bankruptcy.

              1. LBK*

                Right, but if internet is a dealbreaker and the company says no to paying for it, what other choice does OP have but looking for another job that won’t require expenses she can’t afford? If they’re truly going to require her to work from home sometimes and she can’t meet that requirement, she doesn’t have the option to just tell the employer “No, I’m not doing that.”

                1. Heather*

                  Oh, totally – I was just replying to Sunflower’s comment that employment is a 2-way street. It’s more of a 4-lane highway where the employer has 3 lanes and the employee gets 1 ;)

                1. LBK*

                  While there is definitely an imbalance of power here in that the employer can require things of the employee but not vice versa, it doesn’t necessarily mean the company is penny-pinching and just trying to avoid paying for anything they can get away with. Businesses do have expenses to balance and there are other considerations to take on besides just “It’s only $65 a month, we can afford that.”

    4. Phyllis*

      Also, while this is 2014, there are still lots of places where reliable Broadband isn’t available. Wi fi isn’t ‘in the air’ all around us. Yet.

      Also, contrary to popular opinion, there isn’t a Starbucks on every corner. And as I noted earlier, public wi fi systems are not secure.

      1. fposte*

        If the organization has specific demands for speed, then I agree that’s totally on them. But it doesn’t have to be wifi, and it doesn’t have to be broadband–it just has to be internet.

      2. Joey*

        If an employee asked me for 65/month to pay for internet I’d be thinking the following?

        1. Does this person really have absolutely no access to internet, no friends/family with internet, no access to free wifi spots around, no access to public libraries, etc? Or;

        2. Is this person just being combative about doing occasional work from home?

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          If they are downsizing work of 32 employees down to just 7 WITHOUT reducing the workload, I doubt that working from home would only be occasional.

        2. Tinker*

          I don’t know that this sort of hypothetical is as useful as it might seem. Yes, the OP could have a boss like this — I mean, the movie Office Space exists and is a classic for reasons — but that doesn’t mean that it’s useful to operate from the assumption that by default one’s boss has an obstinately uncharitable view of their employees. It rather drags down the party.

        3. Celeste*

          “Occasional work from home” doesn’t encompass the OP’s reality of “unpaid overtime without childcare and at currently unaffordable expense”.

          I’m sure that the OP would love to have internet access at home, but it’s a luxury she can’t afford until at least fall.

          I don’t see how any of these realities of her life make her “combative”. I also don’t see how giving 7 people the mandate to also cover the load of 25 people, without any extra pay, is benevolent.

      3. Windchime*

        re: Starbucks on every corner. There is if you live in Seattle! However, I met a work friend there this week so we could work together for a few hours and it was pretty much chaotic. Screaming babies and a guy who was going from table to table, spreading the Good Word. So even though there is free wifi, it’s not always conducive to productive work.

    5. Anonymous*

      I’m torn on this because while I agree with you that it’s a normal part of our society to have a smartphone and the internet and to be almost constantly connected in some way, it is still a privilege to be able to afford these things without some assistance. It’s common for businesses that require cell phone use to either supply them and pay for the plan, or to provide a stipend to offset the cost of the employee’s cell phone, so I don’t see why the same could not be done in this instance if they are require her to have internet at home.

      Additionally there are low cost ($20-30/month) internet plans available to those who have school age children and who are at or below a certain income level. There is also a program subsidized by states’ department of education and partnered with Comcast and TimeWarner to provide free internet at home for those same households. If the OP really cannot afford the internet, there are programs to help her if her company will not.

      1. fposte*

        Right, there’s a lot of space between “smartphone and constantly connected” and “no internet,” and sometimes people don’t remember to explore that middle ground.

        1. Anonymous*

          Agreed. She can also keep track of how often she uses it for work purposes and deduct part of the cost on her taxes.

          1. Elysian*

            I think she could only take that if she itemizes deductions, and not everyone does. Besides, then you just get the cost of the tax on that portion back, not the whole cost.

            I’m sympathetic to the OP. This isn’t what she signed up for.

        2. RJ*

          I agree. Up until about 5 years ago, I was using dial-up internet, and I’m still getting by with my stupid-phone today, so I’m living in that middle ground right now.

      2. Laura*

        I think it’s reasonable of the company to not consider the possibility that she didn’t have internet, because not having internet is unusual. I personally don’t know anyone who doesn’t have internet at home, and most people I know are working for barely more than minimum wage. But then this is Canada, they don’t have cable or a home phone, and we’re all under 30, so it’s expected. I guess what people consider a necessity has changed – it wasn’t that long ago that not having a home phone would be unusual, and now more and more people don’t have one. I have no smart phone and very slow internet….there’s a lot in between constantly instantly connected and nothing. I don’t think internet access is an unreasonable job requirement, but they should have told her before.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          In huge swaths of the US, there are many many rural areas where the only internet access is dial-up. Some the fastest you can get is DSL. others you can get a mobile hot spot–if you’re lucky enough to have faster than “edge” or “2g” data. Most of my in-laws have no access to broadband and their situation is not unusual.

          1. TL*

            Yes, absolutely. However, given that the OP works for a Fortune 500 company, in their offices, it is unlikely she’s located in the middle of nowhere with limited technology options. More likely, she lives in an older city with awful planning, so the neighborhoods are monopolized by companies.

            1. VintageLydia USA*

              My FIL lives within easy commuting distance (about 10 miles) of Fortune 500 companies and he has no home access to broadband internet and there are no plans to expand broadband to him. I know a lot of people who live in smaller towns and in the country who commute into bigger cities (less than an hour each way, which is typical for the area) for work who also have no access to home broadband.

              1. fposte*

                Are you using “broadband” to mean “internet,” though? It’s the majority of internet use, but it’s not the same thing, and the OP hasn’t been told that broadband is expected.

                1. VintageLydia USA*

                  I mean specifically broadband. I barely consider dial up “internet” for work because working on it is so slow and cumbersome that it’s barely worth more than checking email on. My FIL does try to find a McDonald’s or something to work out of when he has to do something taht requires more bandwidth than he can get from his mobile hotspot, and even though the internet is faster than what he has at home, it’s still very very slow and takes hours longer than if he had broadband at home (businesses both throttle their internet partly to prevent people from using it like is being suggested here, plus the number of people on it at once will severely limit the speeds that patrons do get.) And that is still technically at broadband speeds.

              2. TL*

                She doesn’t need broadband access, though; just internet access.
                Look, if the company was requiring X speed or X type of connection, sure, they should foot the bill or screen applicants very carefully. But just plain ol’ internet access is available to most of the country.

    6. Sunflower*

      I’m torn on this too. My guess is the company probably assumes OP has internet so they haven’t even considered this. But if I found out an employee was having their internet covered by the company, then I would sure as heck make sure mine was getting covered too. And at a Fortune 500 company that is one expensive, slippery slope.

      I think the hot spot would be the best in this case- and most company’s those hot spots are available to all employees anyway so that would alleviate the unfairness aspect.

      1. BCW*

        Thats what I’m thinking. If they pay hers, then they’d have to pay for internet for EVERYONE they gave a lap top to and expected to log in from home on occasion. That can add up very quickly.

        1. LBK*

          I don’t necessarily agree with that. If they’re going to require internet, I don’t think they should be obligated to pay for it for people who already have it for personal use, as long as they aren’t incurring extra cost on top of what they already had. I don’t expect my job to pay for me to watch Netflix and read this site when I’m at home just because I work from there sometimes, because I’d be paying for internet to do that anyway.

          It’s similar to the cell phone question Alison got – if you already have unlimited minutes/texting/data for personal use, your employer shouldn’t have to pay for your bill because using that phone for work stuff isn’t costing you anything. If you have a limited plan and you have to bump it up to meet your additional work needs, they should at least pay the difference.

          1. BCW*

            But then you are assuming that she will ONLY use her work sponsored internet for work. Thats not realistic thinking. I mean, its possible. But do you really think she wouldn’t do ANY personal things with that new internet connection? And once those personal things start happening, there is no difference from her and the person who already had it. I know if I found out my co-worker was getting internet paid for and I wasn’t, I’d be pissed.

            1. LBK*

              I agree completely, which is why I think something like this is a very slippery slope. It’s also a lot hardly to monitor this because internet service isn’t really tracked or charged in a way that you can verify it was all for business purposes. For cell phone usage you can at least see a list of calls or limit the amount of minutes given.

      2. Windchime*

        At OldJob, they paid for one employee’s internet because he (supposedly) didn’t have it and didn’t want to pay for it himself. Because he was a “rock star” programmer, they paid for it as well as his cell phone when we changed from pagers to cell phones for being on call.

        Nobody else on the team got it paid for–we asked but were refused. So we all paid for our own internet and phones, while the rock star (who was already making a lot more money) got his covered.

    7. thenoiseinspace*

      I have to say, I agree with BCW. There’s free internet access everywhere – Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, libraries, most cafes and coffee shops, even some fast food places (I’m pretty sure the Chick-fil-A by my house does). It’s not unreasonable to ask OP to use the internet when it IS something that most people have AND is freely provided in so many places. Plus, s/he said s/he didn’t want to be in his/her actual house while working – doesn’t going to a cafe with internet solve that problem, too?

      1. Colette*

        I think the “not working from home” isn’t about the physical location, it’s about being present with her children when she’s outside of work hours.

        Similarly, having to leave the house to get to internet access isn’t really a reasonable option if the employer expects her to, for example, check her email every evening or put in a couple of hours of extra time – she’d probably be better off to stay at the office.

      2. Heather*

        Our IT department would lose their shit if anyone suggested accessing work documents via unsecured public Wi-Fi, and they’d be right.

        There’s a difference between personal and business use. And even for personal use, you wouldn’t access private info like online banking on Wi-Fi. You might as well print out your banking info on flyers and toss them around like Regina George spreading the burn book pages in Mean Girls.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I do not understand this because if someone is logging into the company network shouldn’t they be using VPN for security? Using a VPN on a public wifi is secure because the VPN is doing the work of securing it. I cannot log into my company network without using the VPN from home or from hotels, airports, and other places with free wifi.

          1. Heather*

            Sorry, I was thinking of the smaller business I used to work for. You’re right that her company likely has a VPN.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I know my situation is unusual, as most of the US population doesn’t live where I live, but for me it is 7 miles in every direction to the nearest McDonalds. Barnes & Noble is about 15 miles. The nearest library is 8 miles, and as someone pointed out, this place is usually packed — it is in an older, downtown area where lower income people live within walking distance. Starbucks is 10 miles. Might as well go to my office, as it’s only 12 miles! If I made an extra drive to Starbucks every evening, it would be a huge time suck and the extra gas cost would probably get close to paid home internet anyway.

        Also, fwiw, I do work for an F500 company and I’m within 20 miles of a major metropolitan area, so we’re not talking about the middle of North Dakota here.

        Just get a little tired of the urbanism : )

      1. some1*

        And there’s no guarantee that Starbuck’s will be conducive to a work environment when she gets there.

    8. Anoners*

      The digital divide is a very real problem, even within western countries. Not everyone has the means to get connected (be it for price/geographical reasons).

    9. dahllaz*

      There is no decent internet (dial-up only) where I live, 2014 or not. Lines are laid, but no ports. The company used to tell us “it’ll be done in 2 years!” for about 8 or 10 years. Then Century Link took over and now they tell us “there’s not enough interest.”
      We are a mile and a half from where the DSL stops on our road. So. Damn. Close.

      No Comcast lines in our area and when I tried another cable provider that does a lot of rural service, they said it was Comcast’s area and they couldn’t lay any lines.

      I use my phone as a hot spot and a good day is if there is two bars of 3G some of the time. Usually it goes from one bar to no connection at all.

      Just telling someone to join the 21st Century isn’t all that helpful.
      And if money is tight, telling them to go to a coffee shop may not be either. At least, I wouldn’t want to go to one, use their Wi-Fi and not buy any product(s).

      1. Jessica*

        This happened to my parents for a long time, dahllaz, and it’s frustrating to deal with dial-up these days (particularly when so few websites are set up for it anymore). Thanks for raising this point! I don’t send my parents anything that isn’t text in an email, because it takes so long for anything to come up via dial-up. They now have to come up with funds to run newer lines, or they can’t upgrade to the (new! improved!) DSL that they recently were able to (maybe) gain access to. Unfortunately, they are both underemployed due to a long list of reasons, but the main one is that they are in a small area and their jobs moved out of the country a few years ago. They were both at major employers for many, many small towns in the area (and “the big one,” which isn’t really that big), so a large load of people have been looking for jobs all at the same time. The nearest public access Wi-Fi for either of them is an hour away (their local library doesn’t have it and it’s not open very much throughout the week anyway).

        I was never so glad as when I moved (and I lived in “the big town” that everyone talked about) and had access to something other than dial-up. (The big town did get DSL and cable several years ago, luckily, after I moved up here.) And now that I have a choice of this DSL company or that cable company? I’m in heaven. Choice?! Whodathunk? ;)

    10. KrisL*

      It sounds like OP3 is just barely getting by and has decided it’s better to not have internet if that means going into debt. I applaud that way of thinking. Living within your means should be part of the 21st century.

  14. Jessie*

    #3 – If the OP is working for any sort of high tech or software company, and/or living in any sort of major metro area like Boston, DC, NY/NJ SanFran/wherever metro – whining that you don’t have or want internet at home is going to make you look really stupid. Just shut up and get it.

    If you live in Kansas, ok fine – i get it.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        And again, people and urban elitism. . .

        2 million people in KS live in urban areas. 700,000 live in rural areas.

          1. De Minimis*

            It’s probably not a case of “I live too far out in the country to get internet,” though. I don’t even think that’s a big issue anymore, my parents live way, way out in a rural area and have high speed internet.

            1. VintageLydia USA*

              That’s cool. My in-laws don’t, and there are no plans to. Hell, my FIL lives within city limits, and there are no plans to expand broadband to his area.

          2. fposte*

            There’s better internet in some rural areas around here than in cities, actually.

            I also feel like there’s an undertone creeping into this conversation that doesn’t need to be there. “Privilege” is relative and it’s not the same thing as “income level”; it’s not elite to note that the vast majority of Americans have access to things like internet, telephone, electricity, and clean water.

            It’s also true that with a very large country “vast majority” still means the number of people who don’t is pretty significant, but it’s understandable that conventions for utility expectations are based on that vast majority.

            1. Elizabeth*

              The Kansas City that got Google Fiber is in Kansas.

              It also isn’t the largest city in Kansas. That is Wichita. They have significant residential sections of the city in which there is no broadband access. Anything built before about 1970 is questionable.

              The second largest city in Kansas, Overland Park, which is part of the Kansas City Metro Area, turned down Google Fiber, for reasons the city government hasn’t specified. That left residents at the mercy of a single franchise provider.

              The Digital Divide is very real, and it appears in some really surprising placed.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                My coworker is in KCMO (near Loose Park) and has Google Fiber (or will be getting it soon). Both KCs have it/are under construction in certain neighborhoods. I will be about a mile from where the installation ends in the Johnson County (Overland Park/Olathe) area. My old neighborhood, where I was prisoner to Comcast, will have it. Dang.

                There was something about the Google Fiber that my coworker didn’t like. Now I can’t recall what but I think it was related to the TV service. He was going to keep Time Warner, too.

    1. Elysian*

      She’s not whining, and she’s not saying she doesn’t want it. She’s saying she can’t afford it right now. That’s entirely different.

      Plus, its not like she signed up for a job that had a lot of telework at the outset. This is a change in her work responsibilities, in an unexpected and expensive way. She’s just trying to work out some middle ground while she gets her finances in order enough to pay for internet.

  15. Elizabeth West*

    #4–If you don’t socialize outside the office, I see no reason to invite your coworkers to your graduation party. It’s kind of personal, even if your studies relate to your job. I wouldn’t be expecting an invite, either, if I were them.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I worked in a very small bank and the company paid for my schooling. Even then, I opted to buy the CEO (my boss and they one who approved the payment for schooling) a nice bottle of scotch. I did, however, invite him to the graduation ceremony, not the party afterwards.

  16. Anonymous*

    I’m torn on #3 as well. Expecting employees to have internet access at home is becoming increasingly common and in most cases employers aren’t footing the bill.

    Still, the OP’s job is suddenly changing in a big, unpleasant way. Her responsibilities have multiplied, to the point that the company has given her a laptop for her frequent work from home during the nights and weekends. In addition to all the extra hours, the OP now has an extra monthly expense. If all these increased responsibilities do not come with an immediate raise, I guess I can’t blame the OP for wanting the company to cover the cost of the internet.

    1. Laura2*

      Yep. And sometimes in situations like this, even reasonable requests can suddenly seem unreasonable when management just keeps piling work on but still expects everything to be done.

  17. Artemesia*

    I think graduations are family occasions (or peer student occasions) and not general occasions for acquaintances to party. They have a slightly childish ring about them. This is a personal accomplishment and something for the family to be proud of, but it is not the sort of thing to be inviting co-workers to unless one or two of them are very close personal friends.

    It also depends on office norms. If you have been invited to several graduation parties of other workers that might be different. I say this as someone who has a couple of graduate degrees and would never have considered inviting acquaintances to a celebration of them.

    1. Anonymous*

      My feelings on this depend on whether it’s a gift-giving occasion. If gifts are expected, or there will be gift-opening or just a big pile at the party, I personally wouldn’t invite co-workers. But if it’s just a party, well, I feel like life needs more parties. As long as there’s no obligation to come, there’s no problem with issuing an invitation.

  18. De Minimis*

    I will say that internet can be more complicated and expensive to get than it would seem, depending on the location. The pressure to bundle services is a real headache, and one provider here requires you to bundle or pay a large setup fee. Even though the monthly charge isn’t that bad once it gets going, I could see the setup/installation fees being an issue if someone is on a tight budget.

    My previous employer did have a worldwide VPN that people could access as long as they at least had a phone connection, but it was more of a requirement due to the nature of the business–we had to have a secure connection since we were working with confidential client information, so you were required to use the VPN anytime you were working remotely.

    It depends on the level of job, too…if it’s a middle-incomeish job I think it’s a reasonable expectation that the employee has internet.
    If it’s something where it’s a lower level job like clerking, that becomes a little more questionable.

      1. Heather*

        It drives me nuts that we pay more for an internet/TV bundle than we would for an internet/TV/phone bundle. I’m always half tempted to get a landline that we won’t use just to get the cheeaper price.

        1. Mints*

          Me too, we said we didn’t need a phone, but they said it was cheaper for that option. The cable guy was like “well here’s your free phone. You don’t have to use it”

          1. AnotherAlison*

            The no-home-phone thing can be a PITA with kids. We just canceled ours and got an iphone for a 4th grader. With our other stuff (3 phones + tablet), it was cheaper to get an iphone with a data package than even a cheap no-contract flip phone or a landline. But, it’s so stupid because he just texts his one weird friend, plays games, and watches YouTube. But, I got tired of paying $45 for a landline that was never, ever used (no cable bundles in my area). We only had it in case he had to call 911.

            1. Anonymous*

              I’ve thankfully never had to test this, but from what I understand even a landline with no service will be able to dial 911 as long as the line’s still connected to the phone company.

  19. BadPlanning*

    On #3, I work for a Big Company and laptops are standard issue as your main (or only) computer. The company does not pay for home internet. As far as I know, they don’t even pay if you are a remote employee and don’t go to an office.

    1. the gold digger*

      Ironically, my husband’s job, where he works all the time from home and is saving his employer whatever it costs per square foot of office space in San Jose, does not get paid for his internet.

      My employer, who frowns on working from home, pays for mine.

      1. TL*

        It’s likely that the company is paying her enough, or a reasonable salary, and there are other reason why she can’t afford it. “I can’t afford it” is not a always an indicator of being underpaid.

    2. KrisL*

      I work from home and pay for my own internet, but then again, working from home was something I wanted to do, not something that was being pushed on me.

      Also, my company pays me enough that I can afford it.

  20. ZSD*

    #4 – I think I would find it odd to be invited to a co-worker’s graduate degree celebration party. Now, this could vary by the region you live in. For example, in the part of the US where I grew up, you throw a big party (200+ people) for your high school graduation but don’t throw parties for your college graduation, but I’ve heard that other parts of the country don’t do much for HS but then throw a big party for college graduation. So maybe there are parts of the country where it’s normal to throw a big party for your master’s?
    However, I think of celebrations for graduate degrees as being just for immediate family members normally, so I think it would be awkward if I got invited to a co-worker’s party. For my MA and PhD, I celebrated at the time with just family. However, about a month after my PhD graduation ceremony, a few of my co-workers threw *me* a little celebratory happy hour, and I thought that was really nice. So maybe you could skip inviting them to your own party, but see if maybe they do something nice for you voluntarily.
    (I haven’t read all the comments, so I apologize if I’m repeating something that’s already been said.)

    1. KG*

      I was going to say something similar to this OP: If she wants to celebrate with her coworkers she could always do something separate with just them if she feels it might be awkward to invite them to a purely social event outside of work. Bake muffins for them, or bring in a platter of bagels and spreads for breakfast one day, or go out somewhere after work. If they don’t socialize now I really doubt they’re going to care whether they get invited to this party with her family and friends.

      I definitely feel like high school graduation parties are really common, undergrad somewhat less so, and anything above that tends to be a very small celebration. Maybe because those graduations are less of a life-stage rite of passage and more a career decision? (Not that OP shouldn’t party if she wants to! It’s a big accomplishment, especially with working at the same time!)

  21. Gail L*

    OP #3 – I think we are right on the edge of considering internet a utility. It really is still a luxury for some people and they get by without it. But the workplace probably assumed everyone would happen, which is not unreasonable. Personally, I think they should contribute to a portion of the bill based on expected hours worked out of total home time. Because this is not yet the utility that it is becoming.

    The only viable comparison is the expectation of having a phone, I think. And haven’t most places provided work phones, until cell phones became (somewhat) ubiquitous and made them redundant? I don’t really see how this is different from an employer-provided phone, which historically would be paid for by the employer.

    But a nice middle ground would be to ask for a salary advance that would cover the cost of the bill for 6 months, and that would be paid back after that period.

  22. KG*

    OP #2 sounds like maybe they are a good communicator in the sense that they can listen to others and get their own point across clearly, but can come across as not engaged/energetic/enthusiastic. Not because they *aren’t* those things, but because their natural demeanor is more reserved so they aren’t as animated, or talk as much or with as much excitement. I can be the same way. I don’t think being reserved precludes being a good commuicator at all, but I can see where it could come off in an interview as not being very communicative. In interviews I try to turn it up just a notch or two. Be myself, but…more, if that makes sense. Try to project just a little bit more than you would usually. It’s a balancing act, because you don’t want to come across as fake or clownish. But ultimately, it’s much more effective to leave them with a different perception than to say, “I know you probably perceive me as X but here’s why that won’t affect my job performance.” That may be true, but they will trust what they see before they trust what you say.

    1. OP #2*

      This is great advice, I’ll definitely try projecting myself a little more than I have been (but not overdoing it) because maybe it hasn’t been enough and hopefully if I do get the chance to say “I know you perceive me…” my body language can reflect that.

  23. Jazzy Red*

    #5, this is why you need to learn to hold your cards close to your chest. Telling your boss that you’re planning to leave EVER (even in the far distant future) is a bad idea, because your boss will immediately start making plans to replace you. And that could come much sooner than you wish. Wait until you have a confirmed job offer, and then give 2 weeks notice.

    Alison’s answer might work for you (if you’re lucky), and if it does, that’s great, but don’t ever count on having another boss like yours in the future.

    Letting your employer know that you’re pursing a higher degree = good.

    Letting your employer know that you’ll be moving on before you have a confirmed job offer = bad.

  24. Brandy*

    OP3: do you have a neighbor you could strike a bargain with? Explain your situation and offer $x/month or some other kinds of service (snow shovelling/leaf raking etc) in exchange for their wifi password? Explaining, of course, that is for very limited work use only.

    If you happen to have a smart phone, you could also explore making it a hotspot, which is way less than $65/month.

  25. anonymous*

    Good to know that introverts are not valued in the job market…for crying out loud…just another excuse managers and HR people will use not to hire someone…even though introverts have their own skills and abilities like extroverts…

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