my office is moving to my boss’s house, difficult interns, and more

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

1. My office is moving inside my boss’s house

I work for a small company with 2 full-time employees, 2 part-time, and a weekly bookkeeper. My boss is wealthy, mercurial, and often out of the office or traveling. Recently, he announced that he has decided to move our office from our (already small) space (no kitchen, no conference room and we all share 2 long desks) into his duplex apartment, which is supposed to be quite luxurious. I am extremely wary of working out of his apartment and the lack of division this would create between personal and business space, not to mention that we are expected to work 9 hours (or more) a day and are discouraged from taking more than 20 minutes outside of the office to get lunch. But he wants to save the money and it seems like his mind is already made up. Not to mention his live-in partner just moved out following a split.

I really want to express my reservations about the move, and I’m already looking for other jobs. How do I frame my concerns so that they sound professional and not just personal – i.e., that I don’t want to be in his house all day? I’m dreading this move and I feel it will make our company look less legitimate.

If you have a good relationship with him and generally have a good rapport with him, you could say, “I’ve been thinking about the prospect of having our office be inside your house, and I’ll be honest — I’m a little wary. How are you envisioning this working so that you’re able to maintain a division between the work space and your personal space?” If you have specific concerns beyond that one, it’s reasonable to bring those up too and ask what his thoughts are for how to handle them.

But ultimately, I think you’re right to be looking at other jobs if this doesn’t appeal to you. This is a very specific type of set-up that wouldn’t be for everyone.

2. Can I use bereavement leave in this situation?

My father-in-law just passed away. My company has a three-day bereavement policy. He was local to where I live, the arrangements are already taken care off and the funeral will be simple and brief. Other than supporting my husband, I am fairly unnecessary to the process. I can’t honestly say that I am devastated by his passing. My children will be coming from out of town for the funeral and I would like to spend time with them. Is it wrong to take all three days when I don’t really need them to help with arrangements or travel and I am not personally experiencing significant grief? Taking the time away from work will not create an issue, at work, for anyone else. What do you think?

On one hand, bereavement leave is intended for situation where you’re truly bereaved or where it’s necessary for travel and other logistics. But on the other hand, your husband and children are presumably truly grieving and would appreciate your support — particularly your husband; losing a parent is a big deal. And really, it’s just three days. If you were going to use the time to, say, go shopping, I’d tell you it’s a misuse of the benefit. But assuming that’s not the case, I think it’s legitimate.

3. Should I have dealt with this intern any differently?

This is about a job I just left, but I’d like advice on how to handle similar situations in the future. I had an intern in my department who was around my age. In the beginning, I really took her under my wing and tried to motivate and get her to do interesting things. Our department wasn’t the best managed, and at first, I understood her complaints. After a while though, it became clear that she was incredibly negative, and was very unwilling to be corrected in any way. She also simply wouldn’t do her work, requiring extensive hand-holding and needing to be told several times what to do, or complaining about her tasks. Socially, she would get into arguments with people over minor disagreements. Yes, I get that we need to mentor interns a bit, but I wasn’t her supervisor, and the degree of mentoring required seemed to be more on the verge of parenting. She made the working environment a lot worse, for everybody.

So I regretted taking her under my wing, of course, and distanced myself from her while remaining cordial. At times, I’d feel bad for not wanting to be around her. As I left the job, I had a small get-together with only a few of the younger people I knew in our company, without telling or inviting her. Again, I felt bad, but reasoned that I had done my best, and that this wasn’t a gathering with everybody in the office – if it had been, I would’ve invited her, of course.

How do I handle situations like this in the future? Was I reasonable in my behaviour? While she was difficult, I didn’t want to turn this into a situation of complete social ostracism. What’s the balance, here?

When you start to mentor someone like you did, it’s appropriate to give direct feedback about things you see that are holding them back. Ideally, you would have done that here. I think it’s fine to distance yourself from a colleague when you realize they have the traits that she displayed, but it would have been kind to let her know why. Ideally you would have explained to her what you were observing and why it was problematic.

I don’t think you need to feel guilty about not inviting her to a social event outside of work, since it sounds like that was a small number of hand-picked people, not your entire team

4. Reference from the boss who owes me money

I was working in a contract position which my boss decided not to renew due to lack of work. I was there for 2 years (during which time I had a couple of contract extensions). My last few paycheques came late or bounced. It has been a month and since I left and I haven’t been paid my last two paycheques or my vacation pay. I have repeatedly been in contact with my boss who says he is having trouble with his account and needs to contact his bank manager, and then doesn’t get back to me. He owes me over $2500, which is a substantial amount of money to me.

Now I’m in the process of interviewing for new jobs and they have asked for my references. Should I list my former boss? I’m worried if I press him for the money or call the Labour Board, he’ll turn on me and give me a bad reference. I’m 27 and have had only 2 professional jobs, so I really do need a reference from him. However, I’m not in a position to ignore the money he owes me. It is a small company with 10 people and he is owner, finance, HR and everything else.

Unless you know him to be highly ethical about this kind of thing (which seems unlikely, given his behavior with your pay), I wouldn’t put him on the list of people you’re suggesting they call — you’re in the middle of a dispute with him and so there’s no knowing how that will go. I’d suggest other references instead … and if they ask about your most recent boss, explain that unfortunately you still haven’t received your last few paychecks from him, the relationship has become strained over that, and you’re not confident that it won’t have affected the reference he’ll give you. (And actually, if you get the sense they’re likely to contact off-list references, I’d explain this proactively.)

5. Explaining my higher-than-usual salary to interviewers

I work in nonprofits, and my current position pays extremely well. I’m looking for a new job, and I realize that this may mean taking a substantial pay cut. I’ve had a couple of interviews recently where interviewers asked for my current salary, and I’m afraid sharing it was what discounted me from the position. I currently earn in the $70k range, and the position (I found out later through a colleague) was paying in the $50k range. I would actually be totally comfortable taking a cut of that size for the right job if I had to, but I’m not sure how to communicate that in future interviews while also being clear that I’d really, really like them to match or beat my current salary if it’s possible.

Well, first, stop answering a question that’s none of their business anyway (what you currently make) and instead answer the question that they should be asking you, which is what salary range you’re seeking. Saying “I’m looking for something in the X range” will be enough to stop most interviewers from pressing further. If someone does press further, it’s up to you whether you want to share that info or not (more on this topic here), but if you decide to, you could frame it as, “I’ve known for a long time that I’m paid above market rates, and I don’t mind getting my salary back in line with market norms.”

Beyond that, you’ve got to get a really good handle on what a particular job is likely to pay. Right now it sounds like you’re going in blind about whether they might pay at your current level, or if you’d need to take a significant cut. That’s going to make it hard to negotiate well — it’s hard to say “I’d take a big pay cut” and “I’d like you to match or beat my unusually well-paying current job.” So salary research for the particular organizations you’re interviewing with is going to be essential. (Particularly in nonprofits, where salaries can vary widely. Guidestar, where you can see nonprofits’ financial statements and their most highly paid staff, will be your friend here.)

{ 134 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara M*

    It’s absolutely okay, and I’d even say necessary, to take those three days to support your husband and children as they grieve. That’s important to your family and you should take it–without guilt. Anything that helps them connect with their living family is a precious and wonderful thing. Take that time.

    1. annie*

      And, you may need to go shopping, legitimately! I know I never seem to have the right clothes (formal enough, or the right season, or shoes that work, or the right size) for funerals and seem to always end up at the mall panic-buying when I’m in this situation. There are a lot of little logistics like this that people don’t think about.

      1. Al Lo*

        Our house burned down when I was a kid, and we had many friends and neighbours who were very generous and donated many clothes, books, toys, etc. to us, but they were mainly for the kids — less so for my parents. One of the most touching gifts was from our church — the fire was on a Thursday, and sometime that weekend, before church on Sunday, someone had gotten sizes and gone out and bought my parents each a full Sunday outfit, right down to shoes, socks, and underwear. It was one of those things that they wouldn’t have had the time or wherewithal to do otherwise, and having it show up in time for them to wear the outfits to church on Sunday morning was priceless.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yes! I always think I am going to Be An Adult and have a go-to funeral outfit, but by the time the next funeral rolls around, as often as not I’ve changed sizes or the outfit is comically out of style even if it seemed classic at the time I bought it.

      3. Karyn*

        THIS. When my ex-fiancé’s father passed away after a long, LONG battle with cancer, we had to go to the mall to buy adequate clothing for a three-day wake and funeral. The only black dresses I owned at the time were… not appropriate for a funeral, let’s say. And my ex didn’t own a suit that fit him properly. It felt completely awful to be at Express the day after he died, but it was absolutely necessary.

        Obviously, I wasn’t married yet, but my company gave me the full three day bereavement anyway, because I had been at the hospital with my ex’s father every day for nine months at that point. Even if you aren’t “as” bereaved as your husband, you’re still more vital than you think – while he’s grieving, you can be strong for him. That means more than you might realize.

        And, I’m so sorry for his loss. <3

        1. Chinook*

          “Even if you aren’t “as” bereaved as your husband, you’re still more vital than you think – while he’s grieving, you can be strong for him. That means more than you might realize.”

          I can’t stress this enough. DH was able to take a day off to drive me (during a snowstorm we didn’t know was coming) to see my grandmother who died later that day. He wasn’t near as broken up as I was but was very much needed to be there to support me. I realized this when he couldn’t get the time off for the funeral (he was the only one available to host a long planned conference) and I had to hold it together until I got home safely. His presence when I was grieving made a huge difference.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I second (third?) the importance of not-as-bereaved family members. Someone always needs to be there to drive the car, buy the sandwiches, and keep track of who sent flowers.

    2. majigail*

      If you’re the local part of the family and have people coming in, this is completely reasonable. You are necessary to the funeral, you’re the behind the scenes, holding everything together person.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, funerals are big deals in terms of food prep, coordinating logistics, making sure everyone who is coming knows the locations and so on.

        There are all different kinds of deaths- some passings we are not connected to, then others knock our knees out from under us. I don’t think bereavement time is allocated based on an employee’s level of distress. (How do you measure that, anyway?) Your family needs you with them. That is everything you need to factor in right there.

        1. Lindrine*

          Absolutely agree with Not So NewReader. When my father passed away I was the one driving my mom to appointments with the pastor, the CPA and the hairdresser. Your family needs you.

    3. HM in Atlanta*

      My sister-in-law was invaluable when my father passed away. I don’t know what we would have done without her. Even if you’re not grieving, the support and help you provide to your family members is definitely worth using the bereavement leave.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        Definitely. When my dad passed away, it was actually really helpful to have some of the people around that were not as close, to help make rational decisions and support those of us who were just a mess.

        1. Jamie*

          This – this -this. I was so grateful to have people who were a little more removed from the personal grief to take some of the load off of my siblings and I who were absolutely a collective mess.

          There is more to helping than actual funeral planning and being the pall bearer. The person who runs interference and makes small talk with the great aunt for you – because they know one more and you’ll burst into flames, or who keeps refilling glasses, or makes sure there are napkins for the pizza at the end of the night and can locate the f’ing credit card. You can’t put a price on those people.

          The mourners have one job and that’s to deal with their grief – which will vary from person to person and minute to minute sometimes. Your job is to do everything else and sometimes that’s big – but often it’s just to listen if they want to talk, distract them with unrelated conversation if that’s what they want, make coffee, or just be there out of the way so you can step in if needed.

          1. Chinook*

            “The person who runs interference and makes small talk with the great aunt for you – because they know one more and you’ll burst into flames, or who keeps refilling glasses, or makes sure there are napkins for the pizza at the end of the night and can locate the f’ing credit card. You can’t put a price on those people. ”

            This reminds me of Robin in “How I Met Your Mother” with the magic purse. She wasn’t all warm and fuzzy but darn it, she was there with what they needed, when they needed it.

          2. Vancouver Reader*

            Oh I could’ve so used someone like that when my mom died. My dad was a wreck, my sister, her family, my husband and I were doing best we could, but I certainly could’ve used someone to keep me from biting the heads off of mom’s bossy friends.

            1. Jamie*

              It’s invaluable.

              At my mom’s funeral my former mother in law did such a beautiful job of running interference for me I credit her that I didn’t destroy all of my relationships with my extended family that day. (I did destroy a fair amount – she couldn’t be everywhere and there are a LOT of us.)

              Someone complained to my brother-in-law about our – let’s say lack of graciousness – and he said “just think of them all as underfed dobermans. Don’t make prolonged eye contact and if you have to approach do it from the front, keep your distance, and keep it short. They don’t attack unless provoked.”

              It’s one of those things that’s funny in retrospect.

              (And ftr we weren’t openly hostile to people, we were just keeping to ourselves and not particularly intent on either accepting or providing comfort outside of each other. Apparently this makes one a horrible family. Seriously, four people seriously high on the introvert scale and hundreds of people hugging and talking – strangers and family to whom we weren’t close were like using sandpaper for a loofah, and the fact that they meant well and my mom cared about them made it all the worse as we felt like we were failing her by not being friendly. People to whom we were close, like each other, we couldn’t even make eye contact because it was hard enough to deal with our own pain without seeing it reflected x3.

              What took the cake was the long term neighbor who happened to also be a real estate agent (imagine that) who handed us her card as we were walking into the sanctuary at church – because she was so sorry about our mom and she knew our mom would want the house listed with someone who cares about the neighborhood. My brother, the most awesome quiestest badass in hisotry, stared her down and without flinching crumpled her card in front of her – dropped it to the ground – and took my arm and led me into church without saying one word.

              I’m not usually an advocate of littering in church – but a statement was made that day.

              So since this is a work related blog – a PSA to all of those who work in real estate. DON’T DO THAT! We’d have given it away before letting her get that commission.

              1. Windchime*

                Wow, that takes a lot of nerve for the agent to do that. Good for your brother for being an awesome, quiet badass!

          3. Mints*

            I suddenly feel really helpful about the funerals I’ve attended and I volunteered for various baby watching and toddler hand holding. I’m realizing that it was probably more draining for parents than they let on, and I’m glad I could help out that way

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          When my next-door neighbor’s dad passed away at home, she called me in addition to her sisters who live nearby. I, obviously, got there first. I was able to call 911, deal with the police (who still needed to come out even though it was a 91 year old man who had just died), get in touch with the funeral home, and negotiate the least-expensive option for cremation. (The funeral home’s first course of action is to take the body to their most expensive location, versus the cold storage facility in a not-so-nice part of town). In subsequent days, I helped coordinate all the family who flew into town, got some minor repairs and a good cleaning done on her house ahead of that, and mediated / ran interference on some minor family squabbles that only seemed large in light of the death.

          I was so glad I could be there for her and her family. While his death wasn’t entirely unexpected, they needed to deal with grief and family, not negotiate with funeral homes or find a maid service.

  2. kas*

    1. I don’t think there’s much you could say or do but if you want to speak up, I’d mention the space issue and maybe the fact that the company might not look as legitimate (only if you often have visitors/clients visiting). I’d pose it as a question though, something like “How do you think others might … I’m worried that …”

    I had an interview at a small company operating out of the owners home. There was a space issue so two employees worked in the kitchen, a few others worked at one long table against a wall in the basement and the owner worked all the way upstairs. Company was great and the employees were awesome but the space was a deal breaker.

  3. MK*

    Alison, it sounds to me as if OP5 wants the same salary she makes now or more (even though she knows thew market rate is less and would be willing to accept much less for the right job). So, I am not sure how telling them how much she wants instead of how much she makes will help, since it’s basically the same thing.

      1. Dan*

        Well… If she were to “name a desired range” the quantitative response to your suggestion would be $50k-$80k. Which is really broad. Which in turn emphasizes your advice of “do your company specific homework.”

        Honestly though, I’d love to see someone give a wide range like that but caveat it and say the bottom number would be had only in the right circumstances, not unlike employers who advertise a nice range “for the right candidate.”

        Which all leads me back to wondering under what circumstances the op would really take that big of a pay cut. For me, it would be “I have no job and need one bad.”

        1. MK*

          Presumably there is a reason the OP is looking for a new job, despite having an unusually well-paying one.

          On the other hand, I understand the interviewers sceptisism. It’s not just that a candidate might refuse the offer that comes with a pay-cut; it’s that they might accept and then regret it. It’s human nature to make the most of the current hardship. A person who would be willing to take a pay-cut to leave a difficult workplace, thinking they would be comfortable with a lower salary, may well change their minds: the difficulties of the former job might seem less important now that they don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis and the lifestyle change made necessary by earning less might be harder in theory than in practice.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            Even if that’s true, it’s highly unlikely that the OP would have a job to go back to, though. (Or that seems uncommon to me), so even if they do regret it, it was far above market rate, so they’re not likely to get that again, so does the new employer actually have that much to worry about? (Yes dissatisfaction would be a problem, but in my eyes this isn’t a retention issue the same way it would be, say, with the ill-informed job relocations we’ve talked about recently where the company is worried they’re gonna lose the person after a few months bc. they’ll go back home.

            1. MK*

              I think it comes down to the pool of candidates. If they have other strongs ones, why risk it?

        2. Dave*

          Would it also be possible just to mention that you’re negotiable and ask what the pay range they had in mind is?

        3. Christine*

          “Which all leads me back to wondering under what circumstances the op would really take that big of a pay cut. For me, it would be “I have no job and need one bad.””

          For my dad, it was “I’ve just finished putting three kids through college and don’t need to make as much anymore, and I’m sick of 80% travel.”

          1. Lisa*

            This is true. A pay cut may be fine for someone that doesn’t want to be a manager anymore, wants less stress, better commute, work life balance to see your kids or be flexible to run and check on elderly parents, etc. Maybe they want a company where 40 hrs a week is truly the norm = my reason, but I actually ended up with a higher salary base, but no 401k match. Though I getting a 401k match in another month so it all works out!

            1. Dan*

              Yeah… but that’s not the message the OP is sending. There’s a difference between “I’ll take a pay cut if I have to, but I’d rather not” and “I’m ready to quit traveling, only want to work a 40 hour work week, not be a manager, and I realize appropriate compensation for fewer stresses and responsibilities requires a pay cut.”

  4. kacey*

    OP#5: I am not sure if this is a correct way to handle this, but I was recently asked this question for a super similar situation – I was making over 70k and was not sure the range of the job. It’s for an editor position at a website, and honestly I was not sure what the pay range would be at all, so I just assessed the work and responsibilities and came up with a number I felt was fair. It was at the lowest end, 14k less than what I currently make, but the job offers a lot of flexibility and is work I am vastly more interested in than my current job.

    Here is what I said, verbatim. This was after completing several writing assignments and developing a bit of rapport, and for reference the site has a kind of snarky, funny tone:

    “Currently, I make $75,000 annually. I like my team, but there are several reasons why I’m looking for a new opportunity. The primary reasons are: I have a long commute [I actually said from where to where but left it out for privacy, but it’s close to two hours], I am looking for greater flexibility and I have a stronger interest in other areas of teapot production than the one I am currently in.

    Also, I work in a highly regulated industry (diamond-crusted teapots) and the ability to be snarky is sorely lacking when you’re always talking about precious rare jewels and tea.

    This opportunity sounds like a great fit because of the location and type of work. I’m deeply interested in these topics and it would be really fun and satisfying for me to work on the casual laid-back teapot projects you have. I’ve truly enjoyed the assignments and love [more about the specific work that I would be doing].

    Long story longer, I had researched and assumed that given the industry and other perks, the salary may not be quite as high as what I currently make.

    I’d be thrilled to make close to what I make, of course. However, given my research I think a salary range of $63-68k seems fair for the role given the responsibilities it requires and the skillset and experience I would bring to the position. However, I’m open to discussing because truly, I look at the full package of benefits when it comes to employment. There are many factors besides money that go into a happy life, and I am very open to talking further.”

    This resulted in an email back that the range was too high unfortunately, but an invite to talk more about pay and what the flexibilities were and to see if I was still interested. I am, I spoke with them, and I am pursuing this. This might all be too verbose, but I think in this case explaining a bit about why I was willing to make less and what they were offering that appealed to me helped keep the conversation going, rather than having them dismiss me as someone who wouldn’t stick with it because of money. Because a lot of times I feel like companies think you are CRAZY if you want to make way less, but the quality of life this job would afford is way more important to me than a bigger paycheck, not to mention I’d be saving hundreds of dollars in gas etc. by not having to commute. (The job is work from home if I want, or I can take public transit).

    I hope this helps!

    1. Joey*

      I am always a little perplexed at the distance thing. I mean if you’re trying to sell yourself the distance thing brings up a whole host of questions. People tend to question why you’d accept it in the first place, if its really that bad, and if its significant enough to be significant. And it sort of makes people question how dedicated you are to work. That might not be reasonable, but most people like to think and want everyone to think they’re a team of “hard workers” and being vocal about wanting to spend more time at home (essentially) is contrary to that.

      1. Laura*

        Really? That would never occur to me. For example, I know people who have the following reasons, just off the top of my head (and among coworkers and friends, so not all the same company):

        * Several of us accepted the job before the office moved. We’d have to sell houses / give our spouses long commutes / leave a good school district / move away from family, so we deal with the commute. (My husband had a 5-minute commute, I had a 15-minute commute. Until they moved our office, now it averages 45-60 minutes. One way.)

        * It was the job the person could find that would hire them. Moving is not an option for any of the reasons given in the previous bullet point.

        * The job is super-awesome and the employee thought the commute was not a deal-breaker, and perhaps it wasn’t. Then things changed…the traffic got worse (the commute changed), or they had children, or their elderly parents began needing them to be more available, or they just flat discovered that what was manageable for a year or two or three no longer was.

        If you’re spending 2-4 hours a day commuting (since I’m unclear if that’s 2 hours one way), and 40 hours a week working, there’s no reason to doubt that you would be THRILLED to spend 40 hours a week working with a half-hour commute each day. I would – in similar situation – be happy to spend 45 hours a week working with the shorter commute…and the company that hired me would benefit.

        It’s unreasonable to assume that wanting a shorter commute means you don’t care about the work, IMO. There are all sorts of reasons that a longer commute might come into play, and either be initially acceptable, or initially unavoidable, while long-term presenting a problem.

        1. Joey*

          It’s pretty common knowledge among managers who’ve done extensive hiring that people who really left bc of a long commute and weren’t using it to try to hide other red flag type problems are the exception.

      2. NK*

        Eh, I don’t know that most employers would consider it a virtue to spend as little time at home as possible. I want my employees to work hard and produce while they’re at work, and go home, enjoy their families (or whatever they enjoy outside of work), and be recharged for the next day. Burned out employees, whether it’s because of work overload or commute time eating into too much of their day, is not ideal from my perspective. I realize all employers won’t agree with this, but I think many do.

        Also, I think many people are very sympathetic to long commutes. I took a job following a layoff in 2009 where I was commuting 50 miles each way per day and took a one-third pay cut. In both casual conversations with acquaintances and interviews with hiring managers for my next job, everyone was extremely understanding of the need for a shorter commute, more so than the need to get back to my previous level of pay! Luckily I accomplished both in the next job, but it was interesting to see how many people thought the commute was much worse than the pay cut.

        1. kacey*

          Where I live (Chicago) it’s a fairly common reason. Also I had already explained to them that I took the job because my former boss recruited me for it.

          I have had these conversations before when I switched from burbs to the city and was never met with anything but sympathy (and disbelief at the long commute).

          It probably depends on the company but I think most people understand that sometimes you just need a job, and the commute is fine. In my case, it is close to two hours each way, especially now because there is major construction on the only way to get and to and from.

          I definitely get what you’re saying but I think most employers would accept this as a valid reason and it’s also not a direct slam on the company. My company also just removed my flex option of working from home one day a week, which is also a factor.

          I guess also, I don’t want to work for a company who thinks that because I eventually grew weary of traveling nearly 2 hours each way, that I am not committed to work.

          1. Jamie*

            Yes, in Chicago also and I wouldn’t bat an eye at this.

            I do about 1.5 -2 each way and it only works for me because my hours are flexible – if I had to be in at a certain time and being a couple minutes late made a difference I’d be miserable since there is no way to know if I will be able to get in in an 1 hour 5 or 2+ hours due to traffic.

            Our commutes are long, but they are also variable which sucks.

            I don’t mind a long commute personally – it’s my only downtime – but there are days it kills me and I totally get why this is a huge issue. I know people who have to pick up kids from daycare and it’s crazy trying to predict if they will make it.

            I’ve had to pull over and log in from time to time on the way to work, and more than I’d like I have to (handfree) talk someone through something on my way in because of the time. If I lived closer I’d be okay with asking them to wait until I got in.

            I’d much rather have a conversation with someone who knows the commute they want than someone who is so gung ho that everything is fine – until it’s not fine.

            That 1.5 – 2.00 has turned into 6 during heavy snow. Chicago is the home of the inconsistent commute.

            1. kacey*

              This exactly Jamie! My hours used to be more flexible, now they are not so I am wasting time in the car at peak commute hours, and it is relentless. It still takes over an hour even if I leave in the evening at an off-peak time because of all the things going on in the city.

              I mean there’s a lot of other awful things about my job that I wouldn’t get into but none are red flags. Basically the industry I work for is highly regulated and the company itself is being sued in several class actions (for work of a completely different department) and I want OUT of this industry.

              The work I do is completely unrelated to all this but still, not the most stable of places.

              1. kacey*

                Sorry addendum: So the commute thing seems the more palatable of answers. I don’t want to offer proprietary info about the company and there’s already enough prejudice against my industry (for-profit ed) without me reminding them of it.

      3. TychaBrahe*

        I worked for a place where I had a three hour commute and loved it, but they moved, and now I had a three hour commute and I was ready to move house or quit.

        In the first place, I drove two miles to a train station and took the train in. I switched to a subway, and my office was right across the street from the subway. Commute time each way was 90 minutes, for a total of three hours. I slept a lot of the way, read on the train, crocheted or did needlework.

        Then our office moved, and suddenly I had to drive the entire distance. In the morning, I left early enough (5 am) that it only took me an hour to get to the office. But afternoon drive had started by the time I was heading home, and that took two hours. Same time spent commuting, but when I got home after the first day in the new location, I told my sister I was going to either be looking for a new job or a new apartment within a year.

    2. Dan*

      It may be slightly verbose, but given that you have mere seconds to convince the HM to not put your resume in the circular file, you really do have to make a compelling argument as to why a paycut is really ok.

      I operate under the assumption that anybody will say anything to get a job, and it’s the interviewer’s job to dig further to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you don’t make his job easy, then you’re fighting an uphill battle. Which you don’t want to fight.

      1. kacey*

        Yep, I am very qualified for this gig and I wanted to really convince them that it’s primarily the work that interests me (which is the truth) and the flexibility and shorter commute are the things that will make it easier to part with a larger salary.

        1. Jamie*

          I’ve worked for people wary of those wanting pay cuts and the safest answers are absolutely commute and schedule. Not just the flexibility, but non-variability. I knew people who moved to jobs which paid slightly lower because they needed to know that most days they could get out by a certain time and more money wasn’t worth never knowing if it would be an 8 or 16 hour day. Or even never knowing if they could count on leaving by 5:00 or whatever.

          There are a lot of excellent employees out there who just need a set schedule due to personal obligations. If it works for the job it’s not going to be a deal breaker.

          So if you’re going for a gig as the lone IT where you’re on call all the time and can’t leave if there are issues it’s a deal breaker. If you’re going for a job where they rarely need to alter your schedule and if they do there is notice it should be a non-issue.

          For the job I have now I spent more time convincing them I was okay with my commute than I did about my actual work related skills. It’s totally understandable here.

  5. hayling*

    I disagree with Alison about consulting Guidestar, unless you really are a super senior C-level type. I once looked at the 990 for the nonprofit where I used to work (after I left, fortunately), and I did a spit-take when I saw how much the CEO and senior execs were paid. The rest of the employees were paid horribly with teeny tiny raises and artificial pay-grade ceilings, and it was totally demoralizing looking at these huge 6-figure salaries. I wish I’d never seen it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It can be hugely helpful though, at least at certain levels. If you’re thinking of asking for $80K as the communications director and you see that their executive director makes $70K, you know you’re not getting 80. (And the reverse is true too.) The 990s generally only contain the salaries for the five highest paid people, so it might not give you exactly the info you need, but it’ll often given you enough of a sense to really help.

      (I will also say that I don’t know where in the 6 figures the salaries you saw were, but salaries in the 100-200K range are reasonable for senior executives at a high producing organization, particularly in major metro areas, since they generally could command significantly more somewhere else.)

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          But Alison isn’t talking about a tool that makes you feel nice, she’s talking about a useful reference for salary research.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Exactly. It’s a useful tool for a specific purpose; the fact that you might find it demoralizing doesn’t really change that. Are you really going to deliberately not make yourself more effective at salary negotiation because you might see info that you find demoralizing?

      1. BRR*

        I think it can be a great place to start. The current rule is top 5 employees if they’re earning over a $100k but sometimes you get extras thrown in. At my old job the executive assistant to the ED was included for some reason.

      2. hayling*

        Okay I see your point, it can give you at least some kind of barometer. However Anonsie is right, it doesn’t make it any less demoralizing. So is majigail – the 990 didn’t show the CEO’s company car!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Also, one more note about Guidestar: Be aware that if an organization has a c3 branch and a c4 branch, you need to look at the 990s for both. In many cases like that, some staffer’s salaries will be split between the two — and if you only look at the 990 for one, you might think they’re making half of what they’re actually earning.

    3. majigail*

      Don’t forget, that’s base pay, plus what the company pays into their retirement, plus what the company pays for their insurance and any other benefits. Those things can really inflate the number.

  6. Chris*

    #5 reminds me of one of my biggest annoyances… not listing salary. “Competitive” is completely irrelevant, especially in my field (public libraries) where pay varies wildly for the same position depending on the budget of the individual system. Also annoying is listing for salary “level 3” or “grade 4” as if anyone outside of HR will know what that means.

    1. Megan*

      I am used to government jobs where the salary is always listed, and just went through an interview process where the salary wasn’t listed. First they said it was up to the partners, but then after interview #4, when they offered me the job, I found out that all x employees made less per hour than I currently do with skimpy benefits and half the time off of my current employer. It was a big waste of my time. I wish they’d been up front with me from the beginning.

    2. Dan*

      Competitive = competitive amongst some extremely small subset of cherry picked competitors so they can make excuses as to why they won’t pay more.

      The interesting thing is, those places want to compare organizational mission, when they should be comparing applicant skill set. Want to hire someone in development who has experience at small nonprofits? Sure, compare against that base. Want to hire an accountant? You’re nuts if you think your “competition” is only small nonprofits.

      During my recent job hunt, I had an interview with a potential employer in “my field.” My field is quite small, there aren’t a ton of employers. This guy thought he had me over a barrel and really was an inappropriate interviewer. I finally looked at him and said, “Look. You may be the best at what you do, and I wouldn’t argue that. But in terms of the skill set that you are seeking and that I bring to the table, you aren’t the only game in town. In fact, I am only interviewing for jobs that are seeking my niche skill set.” The guy really looked taken aback, and said, “Well, it must be a small world.” My response: “It certainly is, but it doesn’t matter if you’re good at what you do.”

      A few years back, I ran into a “grade 4” type of thing. I was able to dig up that info, and told the interviewer that the top of his range was commensurate with the bottom end of mine. (It really was at the bottom end of “market”.) And then he says to me, “You really did your homework, but we’re not prepared to offer that much.” Sh!t. And that was a “dream job” too. So much for that.

  7. Kate*

    Is it 3 days per death or 3 days a year? I only ask because we are going through this right now. My husbands company has 3 a year and he used one for an uncle out of state a couple of months ago and since then 3 more family members have died out of state. He works for a small company who is flexible, and we are skipping one, but you never know what else the year holds.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      It’s usually per death. I’m really surprised your husband was allowed to use it for an uncle out of state – everywhere I’ve worked it’s supposed to be used only for an immediate family member (or spouse’s immediate family). I didn’t use it when my aunt or uncle died out of state. Honestly, I wouldn’t keep using it in these situations unless your office specifically says it’s ok. But if your workplace is cool with it then of course use it as you need it.

      1. Loose Seal*

        Well, some uncles you only see at the family reunion and some uncles are a second-father (or maybe cool older brother) to you. So I could see someone asking time off for funerals of relatives that don’t really fall under the traditionally covered time off benefit.

      2. Chinook*

        “everywhere I’ve worked it’s supposed to be used only for an immediate family member (or spouse’s immediate family). ”

        I have truly appreciated companies that have allowed for wiggle room when it comes to their definition of “immediate family.” My grandmothers may not be one tier away from me on my family tree but both my parents have needed me there to support the loss of their parents plus I also lived with one grandmother while I went to university. DH’s grandfather was also like a father to him after his father died and was able to use this arguement to get the time off with the military.

        As well, the time off needed may also need wiggle room. If you are lucky enough to live in the same town or time zone as your family member, then you need less time off then someone who needs to include travel time on top of everything else (which is so much more stressful when you are grieving). And before people start pointing out that it is a choice to live away from home, I should point out that the only choice I ever made was to marry military/national police members. After that, the government has chosen where we live (and, luckily, I have been a mere few hours drive from funerals). And, soemtimes, it is the family memebrs who choose to move away from where you live.

    2. A Teacher*

      We get one day per death for non-immediate family, for my uncle I has to take 1/2 sick day and had 1 day bereavement. 3 days each immediate family member including grandparents.

    3. Anonalicious*

      I think this varies by company. Where I work it’s 3 per death, and up to 5 if it’s a special circumstance, such as something that requires traveling long distance, or it’s loss of a spouse or child, something that would be considered “extra sad.” If that makes sense.

      1. Laura*

        Also remember that official policy and reality may not match! Official policy at my company is 3 days per death, period.

        The times I have used it, I’ve been given more. One involved my mother passing – then my father passing 9 days later (car accident). My boss told me, literally, to take as much time as I needed. The other involved my father-in-law passing – but we needed to travel out-of-state for the funeral, and I asked to take the two additional days from my vacation – I was told no way, take them as bereavement time.

        So there’s also always the chance that the company will be kinder than policy formally dictates. (And I devoutly hope to never need such kindness again, thankyouverymuch.)

    4. Liane*

      Three days is standard at MyJob, and I heard it can be longer if out of state travel is involved. In fact, the call-in phone line has an option for Bereavement, & when you pick it, asks if you want your next 3 shifts recorded as “Bereavement.” For any other type, you’d have to call in each day. It doesn’t have to be those shifts, either. When my mother-in-law passed away, I knew the funeral might not be for almost a week, so I took that day and next off, and spoke with management to okay taking the third one on the day of the funeral.
      ASFAIK, MyJob doesn’t have a max number of Bereavement leave days you can take in a year. I do know for certain, however that Bereavement days are among the categories of call-ins that can’t be counted for triggering Attendance discipline action. (Good thing, since “excessive” is more than 3 days in a rolling 6 month period and calling in sick IS counted.)

      1. Chinook*

        “ASFAIK, MyJob doesn’t have a max number of Bereavement leave days you can take in a year.”

        This makes sense as a policy. There are a finite number of bereavement days you will ever need (unlike sick days) and, while those may change from person to person, if you do 7 grandmother’s die within 12 months, you are either going to emotionally worn out or someone is going to start asking for proof (a.k.a. Klinger on M*A*S*H).

    5. ACA*

      Where I work, we get fairly generous bereavement leave: 1 day for a cousin/niece/nephew, 3 days for a grandparent/aunt/uncle, 5 days for a parent/spouse/sibling/child.

    6. AcademicAnon*

      Depends on my workplaces, where I work it depends on relationships, and they even include in-laws and step relationships. Starts with a week for parents/children down to a half day for cousins or in-laws of in-laws. The last time I had to take bereavement time off was actually on a holiday, so I didn’t have to explain it, but in the past I’ve just taken a vacation day because I just didn’t want to explain to HR is was bereavement leave. Also depends if you salary or hourly, at spouse’s workplace there is effectively no bereavement time an hourly employee can take, because while they can take it off, they won’t be paid for the time off (there was a situation at spouse’s workplace where an hourly employee’s child was literally dying and they couldn’t take any time off because they needed the paycheck and the insurance).

      1. AcademicAnon*

        Forgot to add the time off is per death, so if you have a really bad year you could take all the time available.

    7. ThursdaysGeek*

      My company offers a different amount, depending on how close the family member is. I took 2 days last fall when my father-in-law died, but he was local. My husband found out that the days he took (4 or 5) counted against his sick time, and he’s only allowed 7 days in any 12 month period. So now he doesn’t have time to go to doctor appointments or be sick, until the anniversary of his father’s death.

      1. doreen*

        My current job allows me to use up to three weeks of sick leave per year for bereavement in my or my spouse’s immediate family. The previous job allowed three days per death- but that was additional leave and wasn’t deducted from my accrued leave.

  8. Not So NewReader*

    OP #1. Your boss sounds like a guidebook for what NOT to do. I cannot picture this getting better in his own home. But you are already on to this part.

    A couple other things to consider:

    Do the zoning codes for his area allow a residence plus business?

    It could be that the work area itself has to be okayed by code enforcement before the business opens.

    What about insurance? He will have to change his policy from residential to residential and business. This can get really interesting when the insurance company sends out an appraiser.

    Is he required to have a fire inspector come?

    There’s other smaller issues, such as local laws regarding signage out front. This is a PITA type of thing, not a deal breaker thing, but it serves as an example of the many details he will have to consider.

    But, yeah, time to move on.

    1. LBK*

      Given the context of the letter I’m going to assume the boss isn’t taking any of that into consideration – as in, isn’t thinking about the fact that making people work out of his house qualifies it as a business and therefore means it must meet the laws for a business environment. Which means there’s even more potential for this plan to fail horribly and make the OP miserable – yep, time to move on.

    2. AVP*

      Agree that it’s time to move, on, and that the boss doesn’t seem to be taking the zoning/legal aspect into consideration.

      My boss lives in an apartment adjacent to our office and there are pros and cons, but I would say more negative aspects, particularly if there’s not a big division between “work space” and “home space.”

      Pro: if there’s not a lot going on for a day, he will disappear into his apartment and not emerge unless we need him. That’s nice.

      Con: he lives in the office, essentially. His work/life balance is nonexistent, and if he finds a new partner you might have to deal with them moving in. There won’t be a professional barrier between his everyday life and your work life, and you’ll learn more about his bathroom and kitchen habits than you’d like to. He will make annoying jokes about how you had to commute in the snow while his commute was to walk from one room to the other. You might see his pajamas or exercise clothes. If you have an office manager, that person will end up being his house manager, and will likely resent it.

      (Horror story: In my office, the cleaning person does his apartment once every other week after doing our office, and then packs up his laundry and leaves it for our office manager, who sends it out, pays for it with petty cash, and then the laundry delivery person leaves it at his door. He does not once touch his own dirty laundry.)

      1. AVP*

        (bolding added because that was the really big bone of convention for me when I started my job, years ago.)

        Oh, and you’ll have to sort his mail from the business mail, and thus learn quite a bit about his legal/financial dealings than you might want to.

      2. Betsy*

        I worked out of an apartment once, and there were days when I’d arrive at the typical start time and the CEO would still be in the shower.

        1. Jamie*

          Weirdly enough that was my first thought – the bathroom situation would squick me out.

          I don’t want to use a bathroom that is the personal bathroom of a boss – and it’s not a germ thing it’s a boundary thing. I don’t want to be in a place where people I know shower – but if it were a public locker room I’d be okay with it.

          Just like if you bring your lunch do you keep it in his personal fridge? That would bother me – this is way too boundary crossing for me and I don’t even know if my objections are valid – just real to me.

          I have a question about parking. I can get four cars in my driveway, but 2 will be blocked in. You have 5 employees at various times – assuming he has a garage to park in you guys either have to negotiate who parks where so you can get out or park on the street. In my residential neighborhood I’d be annoyed if my neighbors had people parking on the street every day if it was in front of my house. I don’t care when it’s visitors or a party or something – but for a business and the same ones every day taking the spots? Would bother me.

          How do you work if he’s not home – do you all get keys to his house? I would think this would be a last resort for him so Id be nervous about serious financial things.

          And I’m totally annoyed that you get a hard time for more than 20 minutes out of the office for lunch. Some people like lunch to recharge and this is ridiculous.

          1. AVP*

            My bathroom set-up is a bit different in that my boss has his own in his apartment, but I had to go in there once – the water meter for the suite is in there and the landlord came to check it while he was out of town. In the three minutes I was there I couldn’t help looking at all of his hygiene products and hair stuff and had to restrain myself from looking in his medicine cabinet. SO not appropriate!

            On the other hand, it does seem like a last financial resort to keep the company operating. It could be worth it to put with this, if you have an active search going and just need something to keep you going until a new job.

            1. Jamie*

              And this is why I can’t imagine any boss wanting this, so it makes me wonder if the OPs company is going under.

              I keep a reasonably clean home, but I can’t be the only one who doesn’t want people I work with judging me. Judging the left overs in my fridge, what kind of shampoo I use, if I didn’t get the baseboards last time I mopped, and some of our daily use towels aren’t meant to be seen by outsiders. As long as they don’t have holes and are still absorbent I’ll use a towel until the color is washed out and bleach stains form a map of Guam. This keeps the good towels nicer longer – because I will metaphorically smack people for busting out the guest towels if no one is coming over.

              I’d be so focused on my house being company ready all the time I’d be totally ineffective at work.

              And – to mention judginess – it’s not fair and people should judge their own salaries according to their work and the market (and business owners take the profit they don’t reinvest and if you don’t like their method or your salary you can look elsewhere – but their money/their business) – but if you’re told there is no money for raises and you see new expendy stuff around the house or a fridge full of rare truffles or whatever it will add to resentment. Fair or not not everyone is okay with being confronted point blank with the income discrepancies between owners and employees.

              I have a family member that has very expensive cars – but drives a reasonably priced vehicle to work because otherwise people give the side-eye – even though everything is 100% on the up and up.

              It can be an issue.

              1. AVP*

                Actually that inequality issue comes up all the time for my company – and it’s not fair, and we’re constantly reminding ourselves that it’s Owner’s money and his priorities are allowed to be his own.

                But when I’m holding back freelancers’ checks because I have to pay off his business Amex card first, and the Amex is so high because of his first-class plane tickets and other assorted life expenses that the company pays for, and those freelancers are in the office and have to look at all his stuff and hear about his trip and fancy lifestyle…it’s hard to blame them for looking around for new clients! Especially when he complains that he lives like “a grad student on a really high stipend.”

                1. Jamie*

                  Oh I totally agree with you when it’s mismanagement. If my check was late I’d be the most judgmental person on the planet.

                  And if I was told there was no money for a raise, but that I deserved one, and I saw what I felt were ridiculous expenditures I’d be looking for a new job.

                  But this happens in any company even without those things – there are people who just resent anyone making more than they do and will be judgmental.

      3. Kai*

        Of all the annoyances about that set-up, the jokes about commute times would make me lose my mind. Ugh.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I was coming here to say the same thing. It doesn’t sound like this is the type of business with commercial vehicles, but if it is, that’s a big problem in my former city. A friend had to move to an office park because she was not allowed to have commercial vehicles parked in her driveway (except of course the commercial vehicles that are coming to homes to do work – those are fine). My experience has been that our city doesn’t enforce that until the neighbors complain, though.

      We also lived in a neighborhood that didn’t allow on-street parking. Not sure what the parking situation is at the luxury duplex apartment, but my former residential driveway would not have allowed for 5 people to be coming and going without parking on the street. Even if the owner isn’t breaking the rules, the neighbors might not like this very much.

      1. Jamie*

        Yes – we have one side of the street parking only and I live on the parking side. This would be a huge issue for me as well.

        We have the same zoning thing for commercial vehicles – but the neighbors don’t have to complain because the village will site you even if no one does.

      2. Ezri*

        Our neighborhood has enough parking space for two cars per house, and you can’t park on the street without blocking someone. My parents dropped by for a few minutes and parked one house over, and our neighbor there went beserk (despite only having one car herself).

        So I guess this depends on the house / neighborhood situation, but I’d be concerned about potential confrontations with (justifiably) annoyed neighbors. Then again, OP, it seems like your boss is overall more concerned with his comfort than yours.

      3. AVP*

        Plus, she said it’s a “duplex apartment,” which doesn’t bode well for ample parking!

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ah, none of you are looking at the bright side: now they’ll have access to a kitchen! :)

    5. Trillian*

      He has to check the zoning law and the insurance. In one place I lived, I could run a small business out of my apartment, but I could not have employees or clients on the premises. Another (more posh) neighbourhood in the same city prohibited small business, and ever so often another businessperson would get shopped by the neighbours.

  9. M. in Austin!*

    Can someone explain bereavement to me? I know that it’s paid time off for when an immediate family member dies. I would get 3 days bereavement if someone in my immediate family died.

    Do people come back to work after only 3 days? I can’t imagine going back to work three days after burying my spouse. Do people use vacation days after bereavement? Can they take disability leave?

    1. M. in Austin!*

      To the OP: I think you should take the time off and not feel guilty at all. Your family needs you.

    2. danr*

      I’ve used vacation days after bereavement time is finished. My old company had 3 days for immediate family and one day for everything else, no limit on the number of days.

      1. ChiTown Lurker*

        Bereavement leave varies from company to company. We get 3 days for spouse, children and parents. We get 2 for siblings and grands and 1 for other family members. There is no limit to the number of days you take annually.

        When my mother passed, I told my company I was taking 5. I did and I used no vacation days. Many people don’t have an option and have to come back after 3 days. One of my coworkers took FMLA after the loss of her husband because she desperately needed therapy and treatment to cope. I also had a couple of coworkers who got personal leave approved to deal with bereavement and it’s aftermath.

    3. Joey*

      Different philosophies abound. It can be for the funeral and any funeral arrangements. It can be 3 days no questions asked. It can be 3 days for grieving. There’s no way to know unless you ask your company or read the policy.

      Disability doesn’t apply unless you get a healthcare provider to sign off that you’re medically unable to work.

      Lots of people use their own leave to take the rest of the week and sometimes the next week off.

    4. Anonalicious*

      It does vary from company to company, so you need to ask your HR department what their policy is. As I said above, at my company it’s 3 days paid for any covered death (has to be immediate family or spouse’s immediate family) but you can have it approved by your boss for other circumstances such as a close friend. In the event it’s a spouse or child, or it’s something sudden and unexpected (or just really awful in the circumstances) you can get up to 5 days just by asking for it. Beyond that we have to use PTO, or apply for a leave of absence. We’ve had several people apply for LOA after the death of a spouse or child (in one horrible case, both). These can be partially paid if a doctor determines there’s a disability, and depression/extreme grief counts.

      1. Jamie*

        This is how it works for us as well. Although I have never seen anyone turned down or docked PTO for going to a funeral and missing a day or less – for the uncovered deaths.

        I wouldn’t be back after 3 days from the loss of a close family member either – I’d be a basket case – but then I’d have to use my PTO.

        1. Dan*

          Just out of curiosity, would you include your parents in that grouping? I can certainly see spouse and children.

          1. Chinook*

            “Just out of curiosity, would you include your parents in that grouping? I can certainly see spouse and children.”

            I would but part of that is because I know how much work there would be in tieing up my mother’s business when she dies and I wouldn’t want to leave my dad alone to deal with it and I am the only child without her own children (meanign I don’t have to help someone deal with the loss of a grandparent). But, that is an exception.

            I think that different people deal with grief in different ways and, sometimes, going back to the routine of work is what they need. We had a colleague loose an adult son recently and he was back within the week but we all gave him leeway in being a bit spacey/off his game. A compassionate office environment that lets you get back to normal and have something else to focus on other than your grief can help a lot.

          2. Jamie*

            My parents passed long before I joined the work force but absolutely I would have needed more than a couple of days.

            I could probably have been up and working in a week or so – if people wouldn’t be on me to smile and chit chat.

            And on the practical side I’d have needed more time for my mom just for logistics. My siblings and I had to go through the house she had for 39 years and divide stuff up, arrange for charity pick ups, dumpsters, some tuck pointing and little home repair things that weren’t a priority while she was dying – but needed to be done to sell the house. My dad’s condo was done in a day because he was a minimalist – my mother had a set of encyclopedias they bought in the mid 1950’s and every set of ice skates, hockey sticks, baseball mitts, poms, batons, skis, tennis racquets, and basketballs we’ve ever owned.

            She wasn’t a hoarder and it was tidy – but and endless sea of boxes holding our past in vast storage areas.

            The best advice for those dealing with a loss is to wait a while before dispensing with things. We are a logical family who prides itself on not letting sticky emotion inconvenience us…so we buried her on a Wednesday and the following Friday we met up to empty the place.

            Four walking wounded and spouses/kids who were walking on egg shells because the one emotion we’re all comfortable with is anger and we’re impatient by nature. So made for a pleasant afternoon.

            Everything hurt – physically – I could feel the grief in my skin – so everything that meant something caused new pain. So if something causes you pain what do you do? Throw it out or give it to some random neighbor or acquaintance:

            Thrown away: My entire child-hood collection of Barbies, sets of 24 beer glasses with my grandfathers and fathers initials etched brought over from family in Germany, engraved silver baby spoons (ours and our dad’s), ALL Christmas ornaments including the ones she treasured because we made them as kids, everything we stitched or made for her, all old trophies from sports, all yearbooks, and her cutting board that was the symbol of childhood happiness with her in the kitchen. She used it to teach us to make kolachkis.

            Given to relative strangers or Good Will: Cross my mom wore every day of her life, family bible (?!), set of antique 15 copper pots worth over 1k, real butcher block with set of very expensive chef knives, sock monkeys and other stuffed animals she’d sewn over the years for us (she was a brilliant seamstress), antique wood buring stove worth 5k+, bunch of other antiquie things she loved and none of us likes, tons of baking accessories I’d kill to have now, a collection of over 50 Hummels inherited from Germany, the crucifix and box that held the candles used to give my grandparents last rites.

            The money stuff doesn’t bother me – I’d have spent it by now anyway…but I’d give my left arm for the cutting board, sock monkeys, and the other sentimental stuff.

            My long winded point is very rational intelligent people can be really irrational in the immediate throes of grief. Some people want to hold onto stuff forever and unfortunately others, like us, go on a collective and brutal purge. We got rid of so much more than I listed here – I’m sick thinking about it after 20 years. You’d think one of four would have put the brakes on – but every spouse who tried to stop us was quickly informed they needed to not have an opinion at all unless it agreed with ours.

            1. LeighTX*

              Jamie, this made my heart hurt. My husband and I made some similar grief-stricken decisions in the past, giving away or selling things that we now greatly regret. I hope that we’ll remember that regret during future times of grief, and not make the same mistakes again.

            2. HM in Atlanta*

              When my mom was trying to deal with getting rid of stuff and moving after my dad died, I kept squirreling stuff away to my basement. She’s been happy to come over and get stuff she thought she lost in the grief cloud.

          3. NylaW*

            Any member of my immediate family is in that grouping for me. Parents, brother, grandparents, uncles, aunt, in-laws. We’re a very close family, and losing any one of us would feel like a major blow. I really think this is something that varies personally, and your employer doesn’t have the right to question how you’re feeling, dealing with grief, funeral arrangements, and all that goes with it. Ideally they’d have a decent policy for bereavement days, that is flexible. In the case of a very close friend dying, I’d be a wreck just the same (because friends are really family in a lot of cases).

            I feel like the death of a spouse or child is an even more special circumstance than any other family member and I would hope employers and coworkers have a the decency to understand that. If they don’t, they aren’t worth working for.

            1. Jamie*

              I think the loss of a child is different because we’re never prepared for it. We know it happens, but it’s not something humans are good at wrapping our head around because it goes against the rules- parent’s don’t bury their children.

              Spouse is so complicated for emotional reasons (you just lost your partner in life and now have to deal with one of the hardest things without the person who helped you deal) but also the logistics.

              Not just the insurance and the final arrangements, but you lost an income. Can you keep the house? If small kids you’re not only dealing with their profound loss but childcare arrangements probably need to change unless that was 100% on you before hand. You have to change everything from your joint names to just you – redo all your beneficiaries.

              If you have a complicated relationship with your in-laws this is a minefield – because they loved them, too – so you’re all open wounds and if there isn’t a lot of love between you that can get weird.

              1. Dan*

                Yeah.. that’s why I was asking if you’d put your parents in the same “basket case” grouping as a spouse or child.

                Dealing with a parent’s passing certainly poses many logistical affairs that would necessitate time off, but that’s not quite the same as “such a mess I can’t work”.

                I was close to my grandparents (my parents are still alive) but their passing certainly didn’t turn me into a basket case.

                My grandparents were relatively healthy for most of their lives. When I was young, I thought they were going to live forever. As it was, I was in my 20’s when both of them passed.

                When my grandfather was in hospice, my dad already wanted to divvy up grandpa’s belongings. My brother wanted to let things actually run their course first.

                I kept grandpa’s cocktail shaker. The problem is, when it gets cold, the lid sticks, so it’s pretty useless. I still keep it for memory’s sake though.

                My uncle grew up in the same metro area that I currently reside in. His dad passed right as I was starting my first professional job. My apartment is still furnished with quite a few things from him, including my dining table and chairs. (My uncle took the flat screen TV.)

                1. Jamie*

                  I totally know what you mean. I loved my parents very much and still miss them – but as much as it hurt I was still functional.

                  A child? I would not be functional in any sense and I would have no idea how to even guess how long that would take where I was capable of leaving the house. I pray I never find out – but I do put that in a different category.

          4. AnotherAlison*

            I think parents depends on many things, but particularly age, health, and relationship.

            My parents are still young enough to be working & have never had any major health issues, so for them to pass, it would be as shocking as a child or spouse. Our relationship is strained, so that could either ease it some or make it worse, and you probably wouldn’t know until it happened.

            OTOH, my grandparents who passed were all in their 80s and had long illnesses before passing. My parents took about a week off for each of those, not including the time they were spending with them before in the final days.

            I only took a day for every funeral I’ve attended recently (7, plus a couple that I didn’t take off for), but there was one that I should have taken more for. Even though it was an uncle, it was very difficult circumstances. I think each situation is case-by-case.

            1. Dan*

              My maternal grandparents passed either before I was born or when I was very young.

              My paternal grandparents passed in my 20’s, both had drawn out illnesses that took the shock off the final passing. I was unemployed during grandma’s funeral, but took 3 day’s for grandpa’s funeral.

              I have a strained relationship with my mom, and I agree with you, I have no friggin’ clue how that’s going to go until it actually happens.

              My paternal aunt and uncle had no children (and a whopping two nephews) and I’m the closest of the two. So I think I know what you mean there.

        2. NylaW*

          Same. When my grandpa died, it was sudden and he was out of town on vacation with my grandma. It was a horrible ordeal and my boss let me take as much time as I needed, even though I didn’t have enough PTO to cover it. At a certain point it is nice to be able to come back to work and be normal, and have something to distract you from your grief.

          1. Jamie*

            Speaking of distracting from grief – that’s what I would find helpful as well…as soon as I was functional. I wouldn’t want to talk about it at work, unless I brought it up under controlled circumstances with specific people.

            I assume this is how most people feel, but when I say to co-workers who have lost someone that I’m sorry for their loss and then don’t bring it up again is that rude? Do some people think it’s insensitive if others stay away from the topic. I’ll certainly not be rude if they bring it up, and I am understanding of moods and performance issues following a death – but sometimes I wonder if I’m on the wrong side of this.

            In my career I’ve worked with 4 people who have taken bereavement time for loss of a child due to murder. None were people with whom I worked closely and in 3 instances I had never spoken to them prior – so I didn’t seek them out to express my sympathy. Admittedly I’m not great socially with strangers, but this is something really over my depth. I always wondered if I did the right thing by not bringing it up or if it was crappy of me.

            1. fposte*

              If you mean you’d have to seek out somebody you’d literally never talked to before in order to express your condolences, I think it’s appropriate rather than crappy to stay away. That’s not a time to be fielding strangers, no matter how sympathetic.

            2. Laura*

              I think that’s being considerate. If I saw them, if I needed to talk to them, I might offer condolences – once, and only once – but other than that I would purely wait for them to bring it up.

              When my parents passed, after a certain point I wanted to be able to think about other things at work. That’s never a guarantee, but having others bring it up was…not helpful. (The first time after my return, for people who interact with me, absolutely yes. But after that, not so much.)

              If I needed to talk, if I wanted to talk, and they didn’t mind – that would have been a kindness then. But mostly I wanted to keep it compartmentalized as much as I could.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              I have watched all kinds of people approach me after my husband’s passing. My suggestion to you is that if you do not have a message to say then don’t approach them. Everyone that approached me had something to say- yeah, some of them stuttered and stumbled and talked to their shoes. I was touched. Truly touched. It took a lot for them to put together a few words and approach me. I know how hard that is and I admired them. They felt they saw something that they could not let go by them.
              And that is my suggestion here: Sometimes things happen to people and we barely know them. But we feel,” I WANT to say/do something”. The feeling is overwhelming. With that comes the words we want to use, then yeah, go forward and say something.
              But never feel like you have to say something.

    5. ACA*

      At my office we get 5 bereavement days in the case of a death of a spouse, child, or sibling; I believe most people also add on additional vacation days, although some prefer to come back to work sooner just to get out of the house/away from the memories.

    6. Fabulously Anonymous*

      IME, bereavement is PAID leave. If you would like to still be paid after that, you would have to dip in to vacation or other paid time off. If you ran out of PTO, your employer may allow you to take unpaid time off. (Not saying any of this is right.)

    7. dahllaz*

      Bereavement at my company is not paid time – it just means the 3 days are out of the attendance policy loop. Of course, we also don’t get PTO or sick days, so not all that surprising the bereavement is unpaid.

      Just putting that out there so you know to check on the actual policy for each job.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Loss of a spouse: I think companies with half a soul or half a brain would make sure you were out of work for the week. Probably three-four weeks is the barest minimum someone would want. So a week is not asking much.
      I cannot picture being functional after that- it took me 3 months to collect up the pieces of my bent mind.

      The worst loss in my opinion is a child. From what I see the life just goes out of the surviving parents. Some do die, some go through life roboticly, as mere shell of a human being. You know they are thinking of their kid all. the. time.

      I have seen work places that were not very nice, put together large pockets of time off for someone who lost a spouse or a child. So if you have a nasty work place, there may be hope. They will just mix bereavement time with vacation time with personal time and get you out of there.
      Which is really the only good response there is to that situation.

  10. Mena*

    #1: this is a strong signal of this company’s poor health. Time to step up on the job search.

  11. Anon Accountant*

    Once I interviewed for a position that was based out of a rented house in a residential neighborhood. There was still an oven, refridgerator and the work area was in the living room area.

    I don’t know. The whole setup seemed okay for a secondary location for a 1-person owned business but for a business with employees it just didn’t feel professional to me but others may feel differently. Especially if you were going to have clients stopping by to drop off/pick up items or have meetings.

    OP1- trust your judgement on this. Has it been addressed if/when clients (if applicable) need to have meetings with staff or drop by? Will meetings be conducted at your boss’s apartment? If you feel uncomfortable then definitely continue to seek other jobs.

    1. Reader*

      Situation doesn’t really seem odd. This is not unusual with older areas as residential areas get converted to commercial areas. There are a lot of small businesses in converted houses where I live.

      1. bridget*

        Most of them in my area don’t actually have anyone living in them, however. Someone converts a house into a business space. I’ve seen some where the living room was turned into the waiting room/reception area, a couple of bedrooms turned into offices, and the dining room a conference table. Works great.

        The problem isn’t the use for which the space was originally designed, it’s the weird intersection of the business and the personal. Which can not only be uncomfortable and tricky for employees, but with clients as well. I don’t mind that the nearby day spa is a converted old house, but it would be odd if the owner’s personal life space was a few feet away.

  12. SouthernBelle*

    #1 – I’ve been in a similar position, where the owner of the company would announce that we were working from her house, especially when we were working on projects that took a lot of thought and we wanted to avoid being interrupted at the office. (We would also have those announcements if the kids were out of school, the plumber was due to come that day, the sun was shining brightly, you know…) It had its pros and its cons, but if it’s not managed carefully, the lines between work and “not work” gets blurred heavily. If you’re already uneasy, then it’s good that you keep the job search going, because unless there’s a dedicated work space that is completely separated from the rest of the property, your boss’s personal life will creep in and complicate the working relationship.

  13. Joey*

    #2. What does your policy say about bereavement leave? Companies have different philosophies on it. If it doesn’t say anything ask your manager, HR person or whomever has to approve the leave. The last thug you want to do is ASSUME your interpretation is the correct one. The correct one is the one the approver will use. You don’t want to be caught having to provide documentation that doesn’t match up with what you actually intend to use

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, I find this is one area where company policies and the level of strictness at which they’re enforced varies wildly. My company is otherwise pretty lenient with using personal time vs. vacation time vs. sick time vs. family time, but bereavement is one area that managers are asked to stick to the policy to the letter, particularly in regards to who it can be used for (ours only covers the death of immediate family members or a spouse’s immediate family member).

    2. Chinook*

      “You don’t want to be caught having to provide documentation that doesn’t match up with what you actually intend to use”

      This is very important. It is super easy to get documentation from the funeral home at the time of death but harder once you have already returned to work. It is also one of the rgeat reason for having a non-grieving family member there. My FIL actually asked at one meal after DH’s grandfather died how many of us were going to need death certificates vs. copies of the obits vs. funeral programs as proof. No one else thought of that.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t know if my experience is common, but I’ve never needed a death certificate for anything except official things on behalf of the deceased (closing bank accounts, insurance, creditors, etc.)

        Every place I’ve worked has been okay with the obit, holy card, program, or just a note from the funeral home if they even needed anything at all. And tbh the only person I have ever seen asked for proof couldn’t produce it and had used multiple bereavement periods in a short time span.

        This is one of those things usually done on the honor system ime, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some companies had strict guidelines for proof. Although I would balk at producing a death certificate because they aren’t free. My grandma had 24 grandchildren, most of whom had spouses/jobs, and nearly 40 some great grandchildren many of whom had spouses/jobs.

        We’d have financed a new copier at a Cook County courthouse if we had to pay for all of those official death certificates. Although, if they take a copy then my point is moot.

        1. Chinook*

          Our need for the death certificate was because half of the family were with the military (both military and civilian) and many not only got paid time off but expenses covered to fly there (because Canada is big and expensive to travel in on short notice – there are no more bereavement fares, the bases are often not in convinient locations and a lot of members are also from equally inconvinient locations). So, if your employer is goign to reimbursae you thousands of dollars for airfare, you are more than happy to get the legal document.

          For the record, the military is also the only place that ever required DH to show his marriage certificate on numerous occasions to allow him to collect various “married” perks (i.e. cover my moving expenses, allowed to live off base).

  14. Elizabeth*

    #2 pissed me off all over again. My grandfather died this past Thanksgiving Day. I e-mailed my boss, explaining the circumstances and, if it was all right with her, I wanted to request the next day off. She denied it, saying that too many people had already requested the day off, and that I’d have to come in.

    It was definitely not my most professional of days. I took a long lunch and got zero work done, not that I was trying particularly hard.

    1. Jamie*

      This is the kind of thing managers need to understand – being petty when it’s important hurts morale long term.

      Deny you a regular day off, maybe you remember it maybe you don’t. Deny you a day off to deal with a death – you don’t forget that.

      Same as with personal relationships. Get pissy with someone and cancel lunch and you can fix it. Same thing but skip their wedding – even with notice – and that’s a major thing most won’t ever get past.

      Managers who are jerks around life milestones needlessly hurt themselves for nothing.

  15. HR Girl*

    On #5 – Just sharing a practice I’ve used before. If our compensation department had established a range for a position, but the skills were highly specialized or we keep getting feedback/losing employees because of the pay being too low, we’d often ask candidates we’d phone screen what they were making or at the very least what they were looking to make. We used this information to establish a better, more current-market pay range. Compensation surveys can sometimes be out of date just depending on the swing of the market. We happened to do this a lot with IT positions or web-related positions — SEO Marketing positions and Programmer positions specifically come to mind.

  16. Another reader*

    With regards to question 3, what happens if you’re the intern?

    Reading the complaint made me do a double-take – I felt as if I might even know the person who wrote in for the situation. I’m a young graduate in a large department, and I find interpersonal relationships difficult to deal with. I worry constantly that I don’t fit in, and I’m a little socially awkward. I find that although people initially put a great deal of effort into being friendly with me, over time they begin to exclude me from conversations and invitations.

    I’m not sure how to deal with this situation. I don’t believe that I complain about my job, and I’m very competent at what I do – but building relationships in a team environment is extremely difficult for me. I’m aware that good interpersonal skills are essential to building a successful career, but I am at a complete loss as to how to improve.

    It doesn’t help that I started at the same time as a fellow graduate, who is unusually friendly and beloved by others. She is highly personable and has managed to make and maintain close personal relationships with both peers and mentors. She was thrown a big leaving party at the end of her rotation… whereas I left a few weeks later without anything more than a quiet ‘goodbye’.

    I’m painfully aware of my deficiencies. How do I improve?

    1. soitgoes*

      It’s so hard to do, especially when you’re young, but I’d try my best to quell the impulse to find BFFs at work. Just try to do the job well. People don’t automatically assume that office loners are losers. They generally assume that those employees have their own lives and friends outside of work.

  17. CorwinA*

    Regarding question #3 about the “difficult” intern…honestly, all I could think reading the OP’s query was “did the intern ASK you to mentor her?” If she didn’t, her (IMO) passive-aggressive behavior afterward could have been due to feeling uncomfortable with the situation but having no idea how to tell you to back off.

    I’m saying this only because I have been on the receiving end of unsolicited mentoring attempts, and it was both terribly unpleasant and not conducive to productivity on my part at all. E.g., at one point during my part-time programming job in college, they hired another software guy who, while older than me, was *not* my supervisor. For whatever reason, though, he “honed in” on me right away, insisted that I HAD to accept him as a ‘mentor’ (lest I “throw my life away by failing to meet my potential”).

    He started doing bizarre things like literally looking over my shoulder while I was trying to code and refusing to back off when I told him he was making it hard to concentrate. And then he would act like any trouble I was having couldn’t POSSIBLY be due to his interference in my attention to my actual work, but rather, due to my “negative attitude” and the fact that I “needed constant supervision”. In truth, his micro-managing was making me neurotic and unproductive and constantly mired in “analysis paralysis”. But he had zero awareness of this and seemed to genuinely believe he was “helping” me. It wasn’t until years later that I realized this guy had had absolutely *terrible* boundaries. But I digress.

    I’m NOT saying OP is doing anything remotely like what that guy did, but, just…regardless of whether this particular intern actually had a bad attitude or not, mentoring relationships absolutely cannot be forced, and even if you weren’t this person’s official superior, she nonetheless may not have felt like she could “reject” the mentoring without consequence. Now, if the situation was more of one where the “mentoring” relationship was established by the intern repeatedly asking the OP questions and going to them for guidance, that’s a different thing entirely, but in *either* case I don’t think OP should worry too much over “causing social ostracism”. It didn’t sound like that intern was particularly invested in the workplace, socially or otherwise, and I’d wager you’re spending a lot more energy dwelling on the situation now than she is.

    Going forward, all I would really suggest is to make sure any mentoring relationships you enter into are based on good communication chemistry between you and the “mentee”, and that good boundaries are always observed. Beyond that, there’s not a heck of a lot else you can do to assure a beneficial situation for all concerned.

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