handling abusive clients, do early job applicants have an advantage, and more

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

1. Speaking up when clients are hostile and abusive

I am wondering what your thought is on clients who are extremely rude to those working for them on a consulting basis. I work as a consultant in a technical field, so all our work is done for clients who are paying us to provide a technical service for them. Most of the time we work for pleasant people, but on occasion we get some really choice clients who are incredibly insulting, unprofessional, and childish in their interactions with us — the F word used repeatedly in person and via email, yelling, ridiculous or unreasonable requests (emails at 4 pm saying “I need this tomorrow” and when we indicate that’s not possible, a response to the effect of “I don’t care if you stay til 4 am to get it done, you will finish”), emails sent in 72 point font bolded capital red letters (I wish I was joking about that last one), the list goes on.

As consultants, I understand that part of our job is customer service and some of that is defusing situations where a client may be upset. However, in my view, some of this type of behavior really crosses the line and makes for a toxic work experience for me and for my coworkers. I feel sheepish admitting this, but some emails have been so bad that I’ve gone out and cried in my car so as to not lose it in the office. We even had a team member quit because the stress of working with one particular client who was very rude to him consistently was just too much. Do you think there is a point at which we have a right to speak up about such treatment from the client even though the client is the one paying us? If so, how would you go about doing that?

Absolutely. This comes down to a fundamental company philosophy: Is your company willing to tolerate abuse in order to keep clients’ business at any cost, or is it willing to draw the line and protect staff members from abuse, even if it might cost them business? You’ve got to know where your company stands on that in order to figure out what options you have for dealing with this. A good company (and I’d argue, a smart company) will refuse to accept this type of thing — and will be willing to lose clients over it, even though in reality you rarely lose clients by refusing to be treated poorly. (Most people know when they’re in the wrong on this kind of thing, and few are going to yank their business when they’re told that they can’t swear or yell at employees.)

So, where does your manager stand on all this? Does she know it’s happening? Does she know the extent of it? If not, go talk to her and ask for permission to start handling these situations differently. (For example, saying to clients, “I’m happy to help you, but I’ll need to hang up if you continue yelling/using abusive language” or saying, “We’d be glad to help, but we need 48 hours turnaround for this type of work.”) If your manager does does know and she’s not willing to do anything about it — or if the company has a whole has a philosophy of not caring about this — then you’ve got to decide if that’s a job you want. In that case, your salary isn’t just paying you for technical consulting; it’s also paying you to put up with this kind of unpleasantness. Is that a job you want, at that price? That’s the call you’d need to make.

2. Responding to coworkers’ jokes about the Ferguson riots

I live on the border of Ferguson, MO where riots have broken out. On Monday, there were some jokes in the office about how us “North County” folks all have new shoes and rims for our cars, or how we were in on the looting. It sounds harsh, but I can assure you that these were truly said as a joke and there were no racial intentions attached.

As I said, I live near the riots, not close enough to be in immediate danger, but we are still concerned. My husband and I have been staying up into the early morning to keep an eye on the situation. I am tired and strained, and these infrequent “little” jokes are starting to get on my nerves. My coworkers don’t grasp how scary it is. Saying something would make my coworkers feel awful, but if I snap at them, it could be worse. How should I handle this?

“I know we’re all tense, but this is a serious situation about serious issues and it doesn’t feel right to joke about it.”

3. Employer will pay for continuing education — at a highly religious institution with offensive anti-gay programs

My husband works at an organization that encourages and pays for continuing education. My husband is wanting to get his PhD and they are willing to pay for his education but they will only pay for him to go to one college, because they have an agreement with them for lower tuition. This would normally not be a big deal, but this institution is very religious and even has a program where they train counselors to “reform” gay people. We do not share their religious beliefs, and are extremely opposed to their values.

I know that this is probably not an issue of “is this legal,” but I am wondering how he might address this to his supervisors. He really would like to further his education, but does not want to attend this school, nor does he want it listed on his resume. He does not work for a religious organization, so I am not sure why they insist that he attends this school in order to get reimbursed, and there are many other universities near us that he could attend. What do you think the best way would be for him to approach his supervisors so he could possibly attend another university?

“X University is strongly religious and has some controversial programs that are contrary to my values, to the extent that enrolling there isn’t an option for me. Could we work out an arrangement where I could take advantage of the company’s education benefit at a different university?”

4. Is preference given to job applicants who apply earlier in the process?

When a job has an application deadline, is preference typically given to earlier applicants? I am concerned if I apply later, a rolling review has already begun and standout candidates become favorites, possibly overshadowing me. Then I wonder, wouldn’t I stand the same chance either way since those candidates would pop up at some point?

It depends on the employer. Some wait until the application deadline to start reviewing applications. Others review them and interview people on a rolling basis from the beginning. With the second group, if you’re well qualified, you might get an interview no matter when you apply, or you might only get interviewed if you’re clearly better than the candidates they’ve talked to so far. But there’s no way to know from the outside how a particular employer is handling things, so if you’re interested and qualified, it makes sense to apply regardless — but also to do it as soon as you can, rather than thinking it won’t matter if you wait until closer to the deadline.

5. Does this mean I didn’t get the job?

I called today to follow up after what I felt was a great round of interviews. They told me that they are interviewing more candidates and will get back with me. Is this a nice way of them telling me I am no longer in the running for the job? If so why can’t they just come out and say that?

No, that is them telling you that they are interviewing more candidates and will get back with you. It’s possible that they’ve already ruled you out but have a policy of not rejecting candidates until the end of the process (silly but not uncommon). It’s also possible that you’re still in the running but they’re not done interviewing. There’s no way to know. The best thing you can do is put it out of your mind and move on, and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do come back to you.

{ 288 comments… read them below }

  1. Levois*

    Questions 4 and 5 seems like perfect opportunities to follow-up on applications if possible. I know there are some nuances there that are not entirely forseeable but it seems like a good idea to ask about the application in question 4.

    I was in a situation similar to question 5. In my case I was interviewed and told that they were still interviewing candidates and told a recruiter would follow-up with me. Two days later I get an automated e-mail telling me I was no longer under consideration for the position. I attempted to follow-up with the manager after the e-mail but got no response. The only thing I asked is whether or not the position had been filled. I decided not to keep pushing so as to not hurt myself at this company but it was a quick blow and the manager never followed-up with me.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      Why would you expect the manager to follow up with you? They told you that you were no longer under consideration, so why does it matter if the position was filled or not?

    2. some1*

      Ditto Grumpy Boss. It doesn’t matter for your needs if the position has been filled or not — if they haven’t, you’re out of consideration anyway.

    3. fposte*

      It also sounds, from your statement about a followup as an “opportunity,” like you think it’s inherently advantageous to have another contact with the hiring manager, and it really isn’t.

    4. Daisygirl*

      The thing that frustrates me about #5 is when they say they will get back to you and you never hear anything again. Why can’t they take five seconds to call you and say you didn’t get it.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        This has been a problem for job seekers for many years now. Interviewers and HR folks don’t even have to call and talk to you – they can email. And if THAT’S too hard for them, they can assign their assistants to do it.

        Never believe that they will contact you. If it sounds like “no”, take it as “no” and keep your job search going. If it sounds like “maybe”, keep your job search going. If it sounds like “yes”, keep your job search going until you actually start working there (or somewhere else).

        1. Daisygirl*

          I don’t ever believe they will contact me. I just find it annoying and insulting that they can’t even be bothered to sent out a short rejection email. I don’t care if they use a generalized email for all rejections. Hearing something is better than hearing silence. If I took the time and effort to apply and go on multiple interviews, I feel that even if they don’t want to hire me they at least could take 5 seconds to send me a email.

          1. TrainerGirl*

            I think what’s worse than never getting a rejection is the lazy, all purpose rejection that doesn’t even fit. I got a rejection a couple of weeks ago thanking me for interviewing but I wasn’t selected. Which would’ve been fine…if only I’d interviewed for the job.

        2. Vicki*

          I would be delighted in many cases to get email. I neither need nor want a phone call to say “we decided not to choose you”, but the resounding silence of no response at all gets on my nerves.

  2. Stephanie*

    #2 – Joking about shoes and rims in regard to riots and a teenager’s death? “Ok, wow” is also an acceptable response, in my opinion.

    #3 – I’m guessing this is like a Bob Jones or Liberty University? The university must have offered a serious tuition discount. I’d definitely see if your husband can get tuition reimbursement from somewhere else–PhD from a disreputable institution won’t be very helpful.

    1. Stephanie*

      I am curious, however, what differentiates a Liberty University from a BYU/Pepperdine/Notre Dame. All have religious affiliations, but I don’t think most people would bat an eye at a degree from the latter group. Is it the level of religiosity and how it affects the school? Thoughts?

      1. KarenT*

        I suspect it has a lot to do with the school’s current practices and beliefs. I’m non-US so I’m not too familiar with the schools you mention but in my eyes there’s a big difference between a school that was historically tied to a religious group and a school that is training counsellors to reform gay people.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Except all of those schools will teach something like “gay counseling” for their pastoral care and counseling or other divinity degrees, as well as creationism (as well as evolution). A Catholic and most Protestant-affiliated universities will have at least some degree that is going to teach traditional religious precepts. Even schools like Southern Methodist University, University of Tulsa, Georgetown — which are otherwise pretty liberal. If you simply object to the idea that anyone is being taught something counter to a homosexual curriculum, a lot of schools will be objectionable.

            *** I say most Protestant-affiliated because a lot have drifted from the original charters (Harvard and Yale, especially). I think Princeton still has a fairly conservative divinity school, though.

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              BYU does not teach conversion therapy. It does not teach creationism. Both of my degrees were from BYU, and while many of my classes did have a religious component (usually discussing what was taught in the context of church doctrine), it was not to focus of the class or the university. We learned the facts and theories as they existed, and were expected to make up our own minds as to their validity. We were required to take religion classes (which I loved), but the secular classes were still very much secular classes, even if they did sometimes begin with a prayer.

            2. danr*

              If you’re thinking of the Princeton Theological Seminary, that school is not part of Princeton University.

            3. Tinker*

              “If you simply object to the idea that anyone is being taught something counter to a homosexual curriculum, a lot of schools will be objectionable.”

              I’m not sure what exactly you mean by “homosexual curriculum” — something like LGBT studies? There’s a distinct difference between not being heavily into the gritty details of queer identity, even between teaching anti-gay content in religious studies (although portraying that as a core Christian value manages to annoy me as both a queer and a cultural Methodist), and teaching people to practice a therapy technique that’s considered unethical by mainstream practitioners.

            4. Episkey*

              I don’t think this is accurate. I went to Loyola for undergrad and I can assure you I was not taught anything that bordered on creationism. We did have a theology requirement, but we could take any courses that fell under that umbrella — I took an Intro to Buddhism class.

      2. Dan*

        I think what Karen says is part of it. Georgetown has a Jesuit affiliation, and I think everybody has to take a class or two in religion in order to graduate, but the religious aspect is somewhat tangential to the overall student experience.

        Another issue is reputation. It takes time to establish one; Liberty and Bob Jones haven’t been around all that long. The more respected religious institutions have been around a lot longer. Let’s face it, if some religious dude starts a university tomorrow, are you going to say it’s a great school? Probably not. It takes many years to establish a rep.

        Finally, I’d have a go with accreditation as well. There’s six (I think) regional accreditation boards that are considered to be legit. Liberty actually is accredited by SACS, which is one of the legit ones. Bob Jones is accredited by some religious organization.

        1. Josh S*

          Bob Jones University has been around since 1927; Liberty University was established in 1971. While they certainly aren’t Princeton-, Oxford-, or Salamanca-esque in longevity, I’d hardly say they haven’t been around all that long.

          I think the larger issue with the perception of those schools is the stereotype of the intellectual rigor with which they educate their students. Whether or not that stereotype is justified, some strongly-religious institutions emphasize certain dogma over intellectual freedom or exploration of ideas.

          I went to a smallish, very religious, liberal arts college in the midwest that happens to have a strong reputation for academic rigor alongside its strong religious emphasis. Pepperdine/Notre Dame/Georgetown/etc tend to have a reputation based more on their academics or history than their religious affiliation. Liberty/Bob Jones/Cedarville/etc have a reputation based more on their religious atmosphere and instruction than their academic rigor.

          Any of those stereotypes/reputations may be very well grounded in reality, or entirely divorced from it. Did you know that Bob Jones has an excellent media department that produces a lot of folks who go on to film, direct, and produce Hollywood movies? Not what you’d expect from a college broadly perceived as a fundamentalist religious school (where not too long ago they weren’t even permitted to watch “R” movies), but nonetheless true.

          To return to the point OP was after….if you don’t agree with the beliefs of the school, you have a few options:
          -Suck it up because someone else is paying for it, and you might just end up with a decent educational experience that you didn’t expect. (Depends completely on the level of your revulsion with the beliefs of that school though.)
          -See if your employer would be willing to contribute the same amount of $ toward an education elsewhere, even if that means you’re footing more/most of the bill yourself instead of being reimbursed in full.
          -Pay for the PhD yourself at the school of your choice, unencumbered by the demands of a boss with a narrow view of higher education.

          1. Taz*

            I agree , OP should pay for the PhD or foot most of the bill his/herself. Honestly, I mean, there ARE so many great universities with historical religious affiliations, I have a hard time indulging this complaint when it’s not discrimination against the employee. I mean, would we be so tolerant of someone coming in complaining because their employer is willing to pay for education at Howard University and they would much prefer not to have a Black history background thrust on them?

            1. Elysian*

              I want to give the OP the benefit of the doubt on this one. I don’t think OP’s problem is that they’re a religious school, I think its that they’re a religious school with teachings really contrary to his values. For instance, I know Bob Jones refused to admit black students until the IRS started denying their tax-exempt status. Even then, they had a ban on interracial dating that they only just dropped in 2000.

              There is nothing in the world you could do that would make me want to enroll at Bob Jones. They may be the best media program in the county, but I find their history so abhorrent that I would never go. So I don’t think its just about taking religious classes.

              1. AVP*

                I’m with you on this – and I say this as someone who got my BA from a Jesuit university! The difference being that, while we did have to take a few classes on religion, and others were taught be priests (who were well qualified with PhD’s and a good research/scholastic track record in their fields), that was the extent of the Christian influence. They gladly welcomed people of all faith, and there was no pressure to convert or commit to any sort of lifestyle you didn’t want to be a part of. (In fact, one of the religion classes I took there made me into an atheist and they were fine with that. I also took Buddhist philosophy as an elective.)

                For me, the issue with places like Liberty and Bob Jones is that you have to take their “Pledge of Faith” agreements and agree to live by their lifestyle requirements in order to take classes there – which I would imagine is a deal breaker for most people who live in America. If thats the case, it seems perfectly reasonable to bring that up with the manager. Maybe OP can work something out where they pay the same amount that they would have paid toward their school of choice, but to a different institution, and OP would put in the rest?

                (TBF, though, I’m not sure how they work the lifestyle agreement out with their online program so there might be some wiggle room.)

            2. Zillah*

              So what you’re saying is that unless they’re personally discriminating against you, it’s ridiculous to have strong moral objections to something?

              I’m not LGBT, but there is no way in hell that I would attend a school with that kind of approach to sexual orientation. It may not be discrimination against me, but it’s discrimination that I object to on such strong moral grounds and which so adversely affects people that I love that there’s no way I would want to be part of an environment that saw that as okay.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Me either. I wouldn’t want to 1) give them one thin dime if I could find the same level of education elsewhere, and 2) I wouldn’t want that association attached to my degree. Or to me, by extension.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  Yes, but the OP is complaining because she wants her husbands employer to spend the money for them. Your money, your choice.

                  My office will pay for me to attend college classes in computer science / technology, but not in chemistry or English (where my degree is). Is that so unfair I need to complain to HR and DEMAND MY MONEY???? Or should I just shrug and pay for classes (or not) if it’s outside what they offer?

                2. Natalie*

                  The OP isn’t complaining, she’s asking for advice about how to approach the employer to request something different. There’s nothing wrong with that.

                3. Kelly L.*

                  I think it’s less about wanting the employer to spend the money differently, and more about wondering–now that this has come out–if the employer itself is prejudiced in this way. I know I’d be rethinking my employment if I realized my workplace was supporting that institution and only that institution. As the OP says, the employer is not a religious organization, so this is kind of out of the blue.

                  Though as someone mentioned below, this might be a case of the college pushing free education on employers to up their numbers.

            3. Tinker*

              Let it be said that being anti-gay is not the same as being Black, and moving on.

              What the OP has asked for is how their husband should approach his company regarding a policy that happens to not work well for him, and where some potential alternatives are visible. It’s not unreasonable for him to ask a fairly straightforward question rather than simply assuming he can’t be accommodated. If folks at the company were likely to speak of such a request, respectfully made (and we can probably assume the intent to do that given that they asked here), as “complaining” that is not to be “indulged”, I’d be strongly suspicious of a toxic environment.

              1. Artemesia*

                I love the idea that companies engage in noblesse oblige and that compensation should be something one is grateful for as a supplicant. Part of the benefits of this company is support for tuition. Restricting it to a morally objectionable institution is not particularly reasonable; asking that the same amount of money be applied to tuition at a different place is not whining that should not be ‘indulged’ but totally reasonable. This is entirely different from a policy that restricts payment to technical training associated with the business.

            4. QualityControlFreak*

              What if the employee happened to be gay? If the OP was male, his husband would be subject to direct discrimination on that basis at the university of his employers choice.

              And some of us have a problem with discrimination even when it is not directed at us specifically.

              I second the suggestion of offering to make up the difference out of pocket if necessary. No way would I attend such an institution.

            5. Melissa*

              Howard (a school with a black history) is not really directly comparable to Liberty or Bob Jones (which puts religious strictures and students and has discriminatory policies built into their student life).

              That said, I disagree primarily on principle – most PhD programs are fully-funded, and OP should not pay out of pocket for one. Then again, I also think OP should not attempt to work full-time and also pursue a PhD, with very few rare exceptions that I can’t think of off the top of my head.

          2. Liz*

            Even if they have one or two programs that some feel are reputable, I definitely work in a field and area of the country where if anyone were to apply having gone to one of those schools, they would almost certainly be thrown out of the pool instantly. In my field of science (and tangentially related social sciences that recognize a modern perspective on the basic rights of humans) the idea that someone would choose to go to a school that “preaches” creationism, xenophobia, homophobia, and other non-fact-based position is a serious reason to question not only their personal judgement, but also the rigor and unbiased perspective with which they would approach their work. It would also cause me to question their ability to fit into an office environment where their political/ethics positions would be a lone minority.
            I recognize that not everyone has the agency to choose an educational path that aligns with their moral and ethical principles, but if it is a PhD in the sciences, you have enough agency to make a better choice.

          3. Cucumber*

            As for their successful “media department,” and the supposed Hollywood movies directed, produced, and shot by Bob Jones graduates, please name five. If you can, in fact, name one.

            I have a degree in film. Several of my classmates work in Hollywood, including a friend who worked on “Mad Men” and “True Blood”, another who works behind the scenes at Telemundo, and a classmate who was a producing writer on “CSI”. One of the first people I ever worked with is now a AMPAS/Oscars voting member. I don’t discount that someone could graduate from a school like Bob Jones and start a career, and I would applaud that person’s tenacity and talent no matter what school they went to. But the department reputation you describe simply does not exist.

            Even Bob Jones’ own page lists graduates who have moved onto starting their own firms – which is a legitimate and decent thing. But they do not mention a single Hollywood movie or TV show credit. There is a single alumni who produces religious programming for a religious TV station; that’s it. And that’s not “Hollywood”. They also mention that their graduates have been accepted into MFA film programs, but none of the programs are top-flight (Columbia, USC, UCLA, AFI, NYU). There are some student editing and cinematography awards, most of which seem to be from religious organizations or festivals.

            There are numerous, solid media departments where someone can be taught the basics of cinematography and editing. Maybe Bob Jones has one, though if it were my child I’d encourage them to go for less money at their local state university. But unless you can provide proof other than what’s listed on Bob Jones’ own promotional website, it is not a school that can boast alumni who have produced, directed or filmed Hollywood product.

        2. Annie*

          Just to point out to be fair Bob Jones was founded in 1927 – Pepperdine (also mentioned) was founded in 1937- there are many colleges that were founded in the 20th century that are legitimate and have found solid footing- I don’t know many people (even the one person I know who went to Liberty) who would call either one of them a prestigious school.

        3. Kelly L.*

          I think your last paragraph is the most important one. Some religious schools have chosen to forgo accreditation so that they can teach particular subjects in a way that aligns with their beliefs. The result is that a degree from those schools carries a lot of weight in the circles of that particular religion but not a lot of weight in the rest of the world (and the schools are fine with that, because they’re really just aimed at people from that one religion anyway). So a degree from there is not particularly useful unless you’re seeking work as, say, a minister of that faith, or something else along those lines.

      3. Annie*

        Yes- religiosity and how it affects the school. Honestly Pepperdine isn’t on my radar for whatever reason, but because I went a Catholic college Notre Dame is not considered a school that shows its Catholic-osity that much- its very rare that they is commended by a Catholic organization for their actions as a school – they however have been condemned repeatedly for doing things like honoring the President, having speakers that are loudly pro-life, etc. (There’s a guide of Catholic colleges called the Newman Guide that is released every year- I can’t remember or find an issue when Notre Dame, Georgetown, or Boston College were listed as top Catholic universities.)
        Even BYU the first thing I think about is basketball before religion (though it came quickly after)- though the first ‘news item’ I thought of was the basketball player being suspended or expelled (maybe just kicked off the team?) for having sex with his girl friend- which yes is their religion coming out but no where that I can find (quick google search) that they don’t hire people who believe in evolution- which I did find for Liberty, repeatedly.
        Also I think BYU & Notre Dame have more prestige than Bob Jones and Liberty do- If I was told someone had a PhD from BYU I’d accept it my “In what?” follow up question would have a lot less snark and eyebrow knitting than if they said the same thing from Bob Jones or Liberty.

        My advice for #4? See if they will match the tuition up to what they would pay where they want him to go – and see (if applicable) if there’s an online or other local school that he can work through. Or hope they don’t have his program so it gives him an excuse to go else where.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          You’re thinking of Brandon Davies at BYU– he was suspended from the team right before the NCAA tournament for violating the Honor Code (he got his girlfriend pregnant; and it must be pointed out that he signed and agreed to the Honor Code before ever attending the school, so it’s not like it came as a surprise). He accepted his suspension, met the benchmarks set forth by the team and university, and returned to BYU to play his senior year.

      4. Monodon monoceros*

        My worry would be how much their religion influences the curriculum. An old boss of mine told me about an interview she had with a religious school for a biology faculty position. She was that religion, but she pulled her candidacy when they told her she would be required to teach intelligent design along with evolution.

      5. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The difference is academic rigor and the degree to which religion influences their academics. As Josh said, schools like Bob Jones emphasize religious dogma over intellectual freedom or exploration of ideas.

      6. Anonymous*

        Liberty/Bob Jones (and similar) universities really embrace their religious affiliation. They explicitly teach from a biblical point of view. They really enforce the religion in peoples lives, e.g. they require people to believe in/follow the particular faith, mandatory chapel, signed statements that everyone who goes their will follow religious rules at home as well as at school, etc. For example, students, even those over 21, might be required to not drink at all, including during the summer vacation. And if they do, they risk expulsion.

        Notre Dame/G’town/a huge number of universities with a religious affiliation are only loosely affiliated with the church. You aren’t required to be their religion, you aren’t required to follow religious rules off campus, and academics (except for the theology/religion/etc. departments) are usually very removed from religious influence. You might have some religious rules (e.g. birth control not available on campus, gender segregated housing, spring break that allways falls over holy week/easter, prayers at major events) but that’s about it.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, my sister attended a college with a religious affiliation, and they Strongly Encouraged everybody to show up for chapel once a week. That was the whole extent of the religiosity there.

          1. HM in Atlanta*

            I attended an undergraduate school like this. What I found interesting was, for all the complaining we all did, Chapel was mostly an assembly. Rarely was it religious in nature or activity.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yes! That’s how she described it too. And certainly I’ve seen secular schools that had a regular assembly everybody was supposed to go to. I think it’s mostly a small-school thing–everybody fits in one auditorium, and it’s a good way to get news out.

          2. De Minimis*

            I went to a slightly less strict Christian school that rqeuired chapel twice weekly, and did not allow students to drink or smoke [although many snuck around and did, as well as everything else that college students tend to do.] I think for the most part they kept religion out of the secular curriculum but everyone was required to take a certain amount of bible courses, and the one I had was definitely from a conservative theological perspective.

            Only attended a year…but there were a fairly wide variety of people there, and quite a few that were fairly progressive, although members of faculty tended to keep somewhat quiet about it.

            1. De Minimis*

              Oh, and the chapel services were actual church services. You had to fill out an attendance card each time, and got so many “skips” a semester. If you missed more than that you had to do community service to make up for it, or you’d have your grades held, etc, the same way you would if you had overdue library books or unpaid tuition.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              Hey, maybe we went to the same school!

              One thing I noticed, after not having enough money to finish there and ending up at a state school — the level of education I got from the religious school (in ALL areas) was vastly superior to the state school.

              I remember a highly popular Muslim student from another country, and always wondered why he’d want to attend a small protestant college in Idaho, and how he even heard of it. He too had to attend the chapels, take the theology classes, and seemed to do just fine.

              1. Chinook*

                “I remember a highly popular Muslim student from another country, and always wondered why he’d want to attend a small protestant college in Idaho, ”

                My classmates actuallly asked this question of a Muslim student at my Catholic high school (who also got the top marks in the religion class). he has to go and ask his parents and it turned out that they chose a religious school because they knew explicitly what the moral, ethical and religious teachings would be and then could supplement it at home to reflect their own beliefs. They weren’t confident on what was being taught at at the public school because there was no overarching moral/ethical train of thought (plus the public schools also had creches/manger scenes out at Christmas because the community was 95% of the people came froma Christian based cultural background), so the family suspected that some religious teaching would slip through.

                1. De Minimis*

                  Different school….the one I went to I believe actually required you to make a statement of faith, and you had to get a reference from a pastor or some other religious type person, so I don’t think a Muslim could be admitted [it was a private school so I guess they could do that.]

                  Actually, I should check to see what the rules are, I don’t remember much other than having to get my pastor to write something. Just checked, yeah, you basically have to state that you believe in X, Y, Z tenets of the Christian faith, but they aren’t really things that would keep out most people who had some type of affiliation with Christianity, even someone from a more liberal background. For a Christian school they were kind of loose, but not compared to a secular school.

          3. Mouse of Evil*

            Same here. Chapel was always religious and student-led; it was mandatory until 1985, but even after that, I often went for the music.

            And, as a matter of fact, I’ve been really happy to see my alma mater–which is affiliated with a mainstream Protestant denomination and even has a seminary–support and encourage a lot of interfaith student organizations, as well as a strong LGBT student group, political groups on both sides, and some pretty innovative environmental initiatives. Not really what you think of when you hear “small private church school in a red state,” but there it is.

        2. Liane*

          “They explicitly teach from a biblical point of view.”
          I’d put it, “They explicitly teach from *their interpretation of the Bible’s* point of view.” I am a Christian and I have a very different “biblical point of view” from Liberty, et al. :)

          And yes, since I disagree so strongly with some of their stances, I would be avoiding anything to do with them. Example: I dabble in music and several years ago was delighted to find that Bob Jones had sold their line of sheet music to a major music publisher. They offered arrangements that I very much wanted but didn’t want to buy from a company with values so different from mine.

          1. Chinook*

            I also agree – colleges that have a Catholic background have a very different perspective on biblical teaching, evolution and scientific research (Jesuit are renowned for their scientific findings). Comparing Notre Dame to Bob Jones just because they are religious based institutions is a false comparison because the religions are not the same (as most Christians who are not Catholic would be quick to point out because some Christians really do believe we are the devil’s religion).

          2. Meg Murry*

            And they also intersperse their religious view into a lot of their classes, not just ones that are specifically religion classes. For a few instances, from a friend that spent 1 semester at Liberty: biology and geology classes focused only on creationism and the “Young Earth” theory; in a psychology class lecture on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs the professor put up the typical pyramid of needs diagram, then overlaid it with “God” on between every layer.

            If it is a school like Liberty that emphasizes religion over academic rigor, I wouldn’t waste my time getting a PhD from there, even for free – I think it will close as many doors as it would open, or at least cause people to give your credentials a questioning look.

            1. De Minimis*

              There’s an interesting book called THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE about a young journalist who attended Liberty for a year, living “undercover” in the dorm.

              It’s a pretty even-handed book, it gives a good glimpse into what it’s like to attend there, both positive and negative.

        3. Mike C.*

          Those places go to some really unhealthy extremes. AJAM reported a few months back about how one student at Bob Jones University had to deal with the issue of rape:

          “He goes, ‘Well, there’s always a sin under other sin. There’s a root sin,’” Landry remembers. “And he said, ‘We have to find the sin in your life that caused your rape.’ And I just ran.”

          The article goes on from there. Seriously, there’s a wide, wide gulf between them and places like Pepperdine. (link in the next post).

      7. Allison*

        Perception, mostly. BYU/Pepperdine/Notre Dame are prestigious schools that are well known for their academics. Liberty isn’t that well known, this is actually the first time I heard of it, and when I think of Bob Jones I think of their archaic dress codes and rules about dating, not their business school.

        That said, I don’t think BYU attracts a lot of non-Mormon kids. But if it’s not the only Mormon university, it’s definitely considered the best.

        Schools with a light religious affiliation tend to attract a wide variety of people who attend because they’ll get a good education – and usually just tolerate the religious stuff, which is generally easy to do at most of these schools because it’s not shoved down your throat. Ultra-religious schools enforce such strict codes of conduct that many kids go there because they want to get an education in a place that reflects their values and feels safe for them, and the parents know their kids will stay within the confines of their lifestyle.

        1. De Minimis*

          BYU does have a very strong accounting/tax program, their students are recruited nationwide. I think most of the BYU grads I met though have been Mormon.

          I went to a private fundamentalist Christian school for part of high school. We had one Bob Jones grad on the staff. Most of the students were really leery of going there due to the strictness, because they were strict even for a Christian school. I think those schools are generally good options only if you plan on making a career with those particular type of schools that share that particular ideology. I’d guess even if you wanted to go into pastoral work you’d probably do better with some of the more established seminaries.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          BYU is a bit weird, in that it manages to be pretty academically rigorous and selective while still being very religious… They don’t bar admission to non-Mormons, but 98% of students are Mormon, and the school is actually owned by the church (rather than simply being affiliated).

          I believe you are free to attend if you’re not Mormon, but they have strict honor-codes that are based on the religion, so you’re probably going to be pretty unhappy there if you’re NOT Mormon.

          Fun fact: Over 3/4 of the student body at BYU at any given time are proficient in a foreign language. In part because of the missionary system, in part because they have a reasonably strong international student population (about 8% of undergrads) and in part because they just emphasize it a lot in their academics.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            It’s actually closer to 90% Mormon, and most of the non-Mormon students tend to be either athletes or international students (BYU’s ESL program is tops). I won’t say it’s not a tough place to go if you’re not LDS, because the culture is sometimes a bit shocking even to LDS students (not so much to those from Utah, because they’re used to a Mormon-dominated culture, but a couple of my roommates had a really hard time adjusting to be surrounded by other Mormon kids instead of being the only one in their high school), and you do have to agree to live by the Honor Code (no tobacco, alcohol, tea, coffee, sex outside of marriage, beards for men, long hair for men, shorts above the knee, sleeveless shirts or tank tops, etc.) whether you’re LDS or not. But many students who have Christian backgrounds, or who just don’t want to be distracted by the partying that goes on at other schools, have really thrived at BYU.

              1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                You can’t even get caffeinated sodas on campus! (Although that’s more of a culture thing than a doctrine thing– we’re counseled to avoid addictive substances of all kinds, but drinking Diet Coke won’t keep you out of the temple like a daily latte habit will.)

      8. De Minimis*

        I’ve heard that Liberty is pretty weak academically, especially in comparison to those schools.

      9. Lucy*

        As a native Virginian, I can tell you many of us in the state wouldn’t touch Liberty University or Regent University, because their founders (Jerry Falwell & Pat Robertson, respectively) have brought cringeworthy attention to the Commonwealth. As many posters have explained, institutions such as these are not often considered academic heavy hitters or taken very seriously by the outside world. I grew up hearing much about these men and their schools, and none of my peers ever considered them when we were looking at colleges. If you grew up in Va., they have an extra “ick” factor, just because we’d frequently hear about Falwell & Robertson in state and national news.

        1. S*

          Fellow Virginian, can’t agree enough. And it’s made even worse by the fact that *public* universities in VA (which are usually cheaper anyway) are so good – W&M, UVA, and VT are some of the best in the country, depending on what field you’re looking at, so if you choose to go to Liberty/Regent, it’s really obvious that you’re picking it *because* of that affiliation.

        2. Liz in a Library*

          I can confirm there is a similar reaction to Bob Jones many places in SC.

          I have a good friend who went to Bob Jones (she was offered a free ride by a family member), and I know it has caused some folks to look askance at her when she was interviewing. She doesn’t share the university’s social beliefs, but that’s not something that comes out on paper.

        3. VintageLydia USA*

          I grew up literally down the road from Regent and agree. They do have an excellent media/broadcast school but even my husband and his father who worked/work in broadcast TV in the area generally side eye Regent grads even for interns. Hubby also grew up with a lot of evangelical friends, though, so we know a few grads. None of them work outside of a church environment.

      10. Stephanie*

        Reading everyone’s responses now. Everyone’s echoing my thoughts. Thanks for the interesting discussion. I grew up in the Bible Belt, so I did know several people who attended loosely affiliated religious schools like Baylor/Southern Methodist/Oklahoma Christian/Texas Christian or church-owned schools like BYU. I knew there was something different between those and Liberty, I just couldn’t explicitly identify what.

        At my old jobs, where we hired mostly STEM folks, we’d definitely side eye a degree from a fundamentalist school as we’d worry if creationism was taught in science classes at the expense of theories. I wasn’t sure if this translated over from the sciences.

        1. De Minimis*

          Of those you mention I think Baylor is the only one that still has a religious affiiliation. With the others it’s more something from their history, but I’d guess today they are almost indistinguishable from public universities. I attended a private school in Texas that was technically affiliated with the United Methodist Church, but religion played zero role in the daily life of the school.

      11. AcademicAnon*

        I work for one of those, and while I can’t speak to what the theology department, I can say the STEM departments teach current science and technology and do not teach discrimination. There are in fact gay/lesbian faculty on staff, and while they don’t talk about it at work, it’s well known they are, and they (usually you still get bigots anywhere) don’t have problems. Also the majority of faculty would not support some of what is taught at Jones or Liberty university. And the former president has made statements that discrimination against LBGQT is wrong.

      12. ella*

        I think a big part of it is how the administration is structured, and who is on the board. I think the more “trusted” universities, while they may have been founded by and may still be run by people of a particular religious affiliation, they are also known to be independent of that religion in really particular ways. So while Notre Dame may be run by the Holy Cross order (whatever that is, I confess I don’t know), and half of the Board of Fellows are members of the order, half are laypeople. There’s also the Board of Trustees who, to my understanding, may or may not be Catholic. But even with its very active, Catholic identity, if the Pope called the President of Notre Dame and told him to, I don’t know, kick out all of the female students and turn it into a monstery, I’m pretty sure the President’s response would be, “You want me to do what now? Well, I’ll take it to the Board, but that doesn’t sound like something we can do.” And it’s not like the Pope could close down Notre Dame if he feels like it. Notre Dame has independence. It’s Catholic by choice. Lots of other universities (like Earlham and Haverford, which were both founded by Quakers) have a religious history, and some elements of the religion still float around in their culture and process, but are, for all intents and purposes, secular institutions.

        There’s also the identity of the student body, which both perpetuates and reinforces the notion of a university’s independence from its founding religion. Wikipedia tells me that 80% of the student body at Notre Dame is Catholic, which actually surprises me, because I don’t think of it as a school where the religious affiliation of the students is of particular concern, if I was thinking about going there. If I was thinking about Bob Jones University, honestly, the fact that I’d be a different religion from most of the student body would be more of a barrier of entry for me. I think of Notre Dame as a secular school, even though it isn’t; how Notre Dame has accomplished that reputation is actually a really interesting question.

      13. Melissa*

        Well one is the practices – as far as I know, Notre Dame and Pepperdine don’t place any serious lifestyle-altering strictures on their students (BYU does). And even BYU doesn’t necessarily place those strictures on faculty, meaning that they can attract a different caliber of faculty than Bob Jones or Liberty could. But more importantly, it’s reputation. The research and scholarship at BYU and Notre Dame is notable and respected, but that’s not the case from Bob Jones or Liberty. I also don’t think religion is as intertwined into BYU, Pepperdine, and Notre Dame’s curricula as it is at places like BJ or LU. I believe that Liberty’s biology department teaches creationism as scientific fact, for example – they teach young Earth creationism (that the Earth is 6,000 years old) and that creationism offers a better explanation of biological diversity than evolution. Their ads for professors explicitly state that they want faculty who can “demonstrate a personal faith commitment to its evangelical Christian purpose.” Regardless of a person’s individual beliefs, science is a conversation between scholars and there’s no scholarship that supports their teachings.

        That’s why OP wouldn’t want to get a PhD there.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      If they’re that hung up on the tuition discount, ask if the amount could be applied to another institution. It will mean that your husband will have to come up with the difference, but it might (I have no idea how much this benefit comes out to be) make the PhD more affordable.

      Most institutions I’m familiar with will require the candidate to apply and be formally accepted–in other words, not just signing up for courses 1-2 at a time and “backing in” to the degree. Another factor is that many institutions require full-time attendance for the PhD–obviously this is not true across the board. Both of these factors may mean that your husband would be responsible for annual tuition up front (assuming the program doesn’t grant him aid).

      1. Nikki T*

        I came here to say this. Offer to pay the difference (if any) and find out the attendance requirements, could he really work full time and pursue the PhD program? Elsewhere I mean, not at the ‘required’ school…

    3. Artemesia*

      Frankly except for vanity purposes a PhD from less than a well known and prestigious program is a dead end for the kind of employment a PhD prepares one for with the possible exception of education when you already have a job and are looking for education related pay bumps.

    4. Lola*

      I have a brother in the military and he got his master’s from a school like this precisely because the school purposely sets their tuition per credit hour at the exact rate of the military subsidy for graduate education. You *can* get a degree from another school and still get the subsidy, but it’s so low it won’t cover the full cost at any other school.

      His was an entirely online degree (he was stationed overseas while he earned it) and he has never cared at all about religion or followed right-wing religious issues, so all he cares about is he got a Master’s in an area he’d like to move into post-military for free.

      1. Shana*

        SO I just wanted to quickly way in as a Veteran who also attended classes while on active duty. Hopefully your brother has a better experience, but I have seen so many problems with schools like that targeting the military. I know A LOT of people who went the route your brother did for that very reason, and very few of them are seeing the payoff they should from those degrees. A masters earned entirely online from a religious back institution is simply not looked at as seriously. If anything, they got out of the military and struggled more to find a job. A few have taken to leaving their higher degree off their resume all together in order to get a job.

        1. De Minimis*

          My cousin is career military and I think he’s gotten two more or less worthless master’s degrees from online programs that target the military. Thankfully he’s just going to be able to retire so he won’t be under as big a pressure to find a job. I wish the government would crack down on some of these places.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Ugh, that sucks. It sounds like these and other schools are chasing veterans just so they can snarf up their college benefit, and then giving them substandard educations. Just sleazy.

        2. FRRibs*

          Consumerist has been posting a lot of articles about for-profit colleges lately, and they’re not painted in a good light.

          One interesting thing I learned from them; the reason schools push for military enrollees is to get around government rules about how much of their tuition can be federally funded; vet programs don’t count against that percentage.

      2. Artemesia*

        Having an online degree from an institution like that is not likely to help in career building. Employers tend to discount those institutions and degrees. I hired mostly PhDs and we didn’t even look at applications from on line schools, part time degrees or institutions with a weak reputation. These places tend to be viewed as diploma mills.

  3. Josh S*

    OP #1 – Abusive customers
    This is one benefit of freelance consulting–if you get the really abusive client, you can just include their idiocy in the price of your services. Without naming it as such, you’re basically charging them a “A$$hole premium”–find the amount of money that makes it worth it to put up with their crap, and tell them that’s your going rate.

    Most likely, they’ll agree that things aren’t working out and find some other poor soul to be a jerk to. Every once in a while though, they’ll agree to pay your remarkably high rate, and you get a nice bonus (though you still have to put up with the jerks).

    Part of a consulting firm, though, you don’t have this much of an option. I’d see if it’s possible to work with your management to enforce the boundaries of the contract/consulting role to establish and enforce things like expected working hours, email/phone response times, and project turnarounds. And see if “Urgent” request (meaning the kind that come from a$$hole clients) can be priced differently to lessen the frequency.

    1. Stephen*

      Further on #1 it was interesting to see a post from today over at Popehat (http://www.popehat.com/2014/08/14/think-that-employee-harassment-complaint-is-too-stupid-to-take-seriously-just-write-your-check-to-me-now/) referencing legal precedent about how companies are responsible for protecting their employees from abuse and harassment. The examples used are on the extreme side of racial and sexual harrasment, but if someone is upset enough to go cry in their car, then something is wrong…

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That referred specially to racial and sexual harassment issues though. Companies are only legally responsible for protecting their employees from harassment/hostility that’s connected to on a protected class (race, sex, religion, etc.). If it’s just run of the mill jerkiness, that’s legal.

        1. Sharon*

          If she’s crying in her car, though, doesn’t that constitute a hostile workplace? Do you have to be in a protected class for hostile workplace rules to apply?

          1. HM in Atlanta*

            Hostile workplace is only illegal it it’s hostile based on one of the protected classes. Some places have bullying laws, but those are sparse.

          2. Poster*

            It’s not about being in a protected class per se, but more about the treatment you’re receiving. The subject matter of the harassment needs to place you in a protected class. You’re being harassed because of your gender, religion, etc.

            1. Natalie*

              Sometimes I wish they had picked a different phrase. Really, everyone’s in a protected class as we all have a race, sex, religion (or lack of), etc.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sharon, “hostile workplace” means basically that you’re receiving hostile treatment because of your race, sex, religion, etc. If they’re just awful to you but it’s not because of one of those things, it’s not illegal.

            1. Jeanne*

              I know it’s not illegal. When I had a bullying problem with a manager, I went for help. I said I knew it wasn’t illegal but I was really disappointed that this was the culture they supported. That actually made one person stop and think and I got a little relief. You can ask for help without saying it’s illegal.

          4. TheSnarkyB*

            Sharon, another thing to remember is that you can’t make a decision about an environment based on the reaction to it. You have to know the environment itself. Some people would cry in their car at the drop of a hat, some people wouldn’t cry ever, no matter how terrible. So that general line of logic is rarely going to work out well.

    2. Lora*

      +1,000 on the Butthole Tax. Charged one of our clients a 50% markup because we KNEW it was going to be like that. Totally worth it. They should have to pay for the employee turnover they are causing to your company. And on the writing the working terms and conditions into the contract and then enforcing it. Mine says that if the client takes more than 3 days to approve drawings and reports, then all quoted and proposed fees will switch to a high hourly rate. Since they almost always take longer than that (but don’t anticipate human stupidity for whatever reason), I don’t really work for flat fee-for-service although technically on paper I do.

      Generally for abusive clients I go either up the ladder or to the Purchasing department who approved the PO, explain that this behavior is Not Acceptable, and Purchasing hands the situation to Legal to review the contracts in detail, and then Legal comes down on the abusive jerk and his/her entire department like a ton of bricks.

    1. Dan*

      I did check those dates before I posted. I should have said, “It takes a long time to establish a *good* reputation.” BYU, Notre Dame et al were all established the 1800’s. I don’t know of a “top tier” school that was established within the last 50 years.

      Pepperdine may have been established in 1937, but it certainly isn’t in the same league as the others.

      If I got a resume from a Bob Jones or a Liberty grad, I’d have a hard time taking it seriously. Especially when my company has no issue with liberal use of the f bomb, and I’d be wondering about fit. Considering my company is full of STEM majors, and has no shortage of applications from MIT, Purdue, Georgia Tech, and what not, we get to be picky about who we hire.

      1. Annie*

        I was just trying to bolster your point! Sorry if it came off another way! (Like I said above- this was my “I can’t sleep” postings of last night (researched but possibly not as nuanced or tactfully written as they could be).

        Also I agree- I had a friend who graduated from Liberty said he had to spend a lot of time explaining why he went there (full scholarship, grandparent-if I remember correctly- who was strongly affiliated with the school and (at 17) forced his hand on where he was applying, and then managed to get the school to hold his spot during his “gap year”) and also his degrees were in music & theatre with a minor in education. He said there was a lot of questions that lead to “I swear I’m not crazy” answers before he finally got a job as a tech director in a high school in South Carolina.

        1. De Minimis*

          This makes me think of University of California-Merced, started in 2005! Still having a tough time getting going, and during the recession a lot of people from the other schools in the UC system thought they should just pack it in.

      2. Mike C.*

        There are tons of places that are regionally well known. I went to a small place called Harvey Mudd, and plenty of folks on the west coast had heard of it.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Harvey Mudd is (typically) in the Top 100 Liberal Arts schools, so that’s pretty solid. I’ve heard of it for that reason. :)

        2. Cog*

          Mudders represent! I’m on the east coast now and am finding more and more people have heard of us, though I did spend a few seconds blinking rapidly the first time I got the “Harvard Med?” line as a not-joke.

        3. fposte*

          It’s also about what world you travel in. Everybody in academics will know the Claremonts. On the other hand, I’ve mentioned the University of Chicago to non-academics and had a few note that it must not be very good at basketball, because they haven’t heard of it. (They’re right–it’s not–but they think it sounds like a state school and it isn’t.)

        4. TheSnarkyB*

          Um, yeah that’s cuz Harvey Mudd is a great f-ing school. I’m in NYC, never been to Cali, and I’ve heard of it. It was definitely talked about during college applications time. Especially for people who were specifically looking at consortium schools.

      3. Mouse*

        “If I got a resume from a Bob Jones or a Liberty grad, I’d have a hard time taking it seriously.”

        That is, of course, your choice. I’ve known, worked with and managed a number of people who went to Bob Jones simply because of my location and found them to be well educated and well behaved. I think the people who run the school are eye-roll inducing, raving loons, but I would judge the students on their own merits.

        1. De Minimis*

          I’ve seen this to be the case a lot of places….I’ve known several Oral Roberts University grads, and most of them were pretty embarrassed by the conduct of the school’s leadership over the years.

        2. just a gentile*

          Yeah exactly what Mouse said.

          Read the resume as a whole.

          I look down on schools like Bob Jones and Liberty overall, but you have to look at individuals individually. If it’s entry level and not much job experience and Liberty University, then yes that’s weak. But if the resume is otherwise strong, so what?

          I’m an atheist (gentile by birth) super liberal and know a guy who went to Liberty for some strange reason. He’s super smart and competent.

  4. A Dispatcher*

    #3- Assuming the company is unable or unwilling to create the same type of tuition-lowering agreement with another school, would it be possible to see exactly how much the company does end up paying school X and offer to pay anything above and beyond that amount in order to attend school Y? Not ideal of course, but depending on how much the difference is, it still might be a pretty good deal for your husband, and certainly beats paying for the whole thing.

    1. MK*

      This seems to me to be the best option. OP, I don’t understand why you say “I am not sure why they insist that he attends this school in order to get reimbursed”, when you mentioned before “because they have an agreement with them for lower tuition”. If your husband’s company is not a religious organization, it’s probably just a matter of who gave them the better deal.

      I think your husband should try Alison’s approach, because, if the discount in tuition is not large (say a couple of thousand dollars a year) and your husband a valued employee, the company might be willing to pay for him to go to another school. But if it’s a significant difference or the company can’t or won’t cover even a small one, offering to pay the difference sounds reasonable (assuming your husband is able and willing to do that).

      The only problem I forsee is if there is a religious affiliation, just not an obvious one. Even if the company isn’t a religious organization, the owner(s) might be strong devotees of said religion/persuasion and the choise of this school was a deliberate one. I would be care of how I worder my disapproval.

  5. UK Anon*

    #3 – I was also going to throw in a vote for seeing if they’d pay what they would pay anyway and cover the difference of a different course – but I also think it’s possible they have the lower fee arrangement on the agreement that *all* employees go there as opposed to a different school. You may want to check – it wouldn’t surprise me if they went so far as to say that they can’t hire/employ anyone studying at a different university if that’s the case.

  6. Cari*

    #1 – the customer isn’t always right, and they certainly don’t have the right to treat people like crap no matter how much they are paying for a service. From the customer point of view, even seeing a simple sign or saying something to the effect of “our staff have the right to work in a safe environment and we will not tolerate abuse from customers,” endears me more to the company than one that doesn’t appear to care about their employees, and especially one that fails to stick by their employees when a customer is being abusive. I see that sort of thing all the time in the service and retail industries, and have worked for shops etc. that support their staff, even had a supervisor step in when a customer was getting aggressive over me ID-ing them. There’s no excuse for your employer not doin the same.

    Maybe your company has such a policy. Go digging first and see, because if there is one that will give you an idea of how to handle your abusive customers. If there isn’t, you could take the suggestion of implementing such a policy to your manager when asking how to deal with awful clients. Managers like solutions, not problems and all that ;)

    1. Mike C.*

      Spot on! I’d like to add that they certainly don’t have the right to treat people like crap no matter how little they are paying for the service either.

  7. The Little Mermaid*


    My company produces equipment and our service team has a lot of customer contact – either during the installation process, scheduled maintenance or the odd problem that needs attention (and that all over the world). Sometimes they encounter customers that are extremely rude, abusive and just generally horrible people. Previously, when the service technicians (who are the calmest, most patient people I’ve ever encountered – it needs a lot before they’ll say anything) felt that it was getting too much they’d consult with their manager about how to handle the situation. And it has happened that they just walked away from an installation. Then the manager would call the customer and let them know that if their behaviour doesn’t improve, then our team won’t be back. And usually that does the trick. The customer needs the equipment for their business, they’re not interested in having a non-functioning factory for longer than necessary. I haven’t heard about losing a contract over this.

    So, depending on your business and your manager, maybe that could be a way to do it?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This is great, and more companies need to do this. It’s okay to fire customers–why would you want to deal with someone like that anyway? Even if they’re paying big bucks, the aggravation isn’t worth it, nor is the possibility of losing good employees because they won’t put up with this kind of treatment.

    1. The Little Mermaid*

      If that’s for me, well yeah, happens. I’m not a native English speaker and I don’t always see them when I read the text before hitting the submit button. And as there isn’t an edit option it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it.

        1. De (Germany)*

          Pointing out errors in the main entry and misspelling my country’s English name in my username: Brilliant ;)

      1. Liane*

        If it makes you feel any better, I am a native English speaker & am good at editing/proofreading other people’s writing–but I can’t do my own writing. :) I don’t think anyone can.
        Heck, it’s so early here, I went right over whatever typos you had.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      Wouldn’t it have been nicer to email Alison about any typos instead of posting for everyone to see?

      1. Wasting Warren Buffett's Time*

        Haven’t we always pointed out typos here, though? I thought I saw something recently about Alison seeing them here, fixing the post, then deleting the reminders for a more streamlined comment section… Good way to do it, IMO — easy to see in the first place but saves clutter in the comments. :)

  8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    #1, hmmm, well, I may not enjoy firing employees but I’ve taken great pleasure in firing some customers.

    90% of our customers are nice. 9.8% of our customers difficult but bearable in relation to their business. .01% are difficult out of proportion to their business and .01% (or smaller) are abusive assholes. The last two need to be fired.

    Actual firing usually needs to be escalated to higher level than the person taking the brunt of the customer nasty. Even though my people all know that they are empowered at any time to tell someone abusive to pound sand (I trust every one of them), they still aren’t comfortable with it. I have scolded people for taking too much before escalating.

    Anyway! I think any business with people facing customers has to have a mechanism in place for abusive customer escalation. I hope these jerks run out of places to buy things and need to either learn manners or learn how to subsist off of the grid cooking road kill for food.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      I agree…. I have a customer right now that I have on double secret probation. One more BS outburst against my staff, and we will be having a very serious discussion.

      It saddens me that people in a professional setting feel that it is acceptable to behave this way.

      1. Mimmy*

        Ugh tell me about it! Years ago when I was a receptionist at a wholesale factory, I’d sometimes take a call from a store owner who was bordering on psychotic. (Wow, I’m actually tearing up thinking about that job–it was that toxic).

        1. Jazzy Red*

          It’s hard to deal with people who are not right in the head. I had a manager who was nutso and we all thought that he’d had a stroke that affected his reasoning. It still made it difficult to work for him.

          I’m glad you’re not still in that situation, Mimmy.

          1. Mimmy*

            Just now seeing your reply…thank you. I only lasted 2.5 weeks before they (mercifully!) let me go, but that period was h-e-double-hockey-sticks. I think I cried every. single. night.

      2. HarperC*

        And it’s not just that they feel it’s acceptable. Some of them, I am convinced, believe it’s the best, if not the only, way to get results.

        1. JessA*

          This is a great point. I also think as a business, we need to make sure that we are not rewarding bad behavior from customers in the name of “guest service.”

      3. AVP*

        My boss is this person. Somehow he feels like the whole world owes him something, and he’s out to collect. I am an incredibly nice person by nature, so whenever he goes Crazypants on one of our vendors I try to follow up and apologize but would not be surprised at all if we start getting fired by some of our contacts.

        The best was when someone built a website for one of our projects. My boss misunderstood “launch” as “soft launch,” went to yoga mid-afternoon, didn’t look at it until 10:00p on a Friday night, and then FLIPPED OUT because there was some minor issue with it – the scroll was missing an image at the very bottom of the page or something like that. The best part was, the problem had actually existed in the previous two tests, but it was so tiny we just hadn’t noticed it and had approved it the way it was.

        So he goes OFF in a string of probably 15 insane emails, written to both the coordinator at the web place (this poor 22-year-old girl who was in her first job and was probably out with friends for the evening), plus the account exec who had little kids and was already asleep. By midnight he was ready to call 911 on them for the negligence of them not responding to him. His emails were all caps with many F-words, and ended with him telling them to f the f off forever. By Monday morning his face was purple and I thought he was going to have an aneurysm or show up at their office and get violent.

        The only reason they didn’t fire us was because he was friends with the owner of the company (!) and I still really wish they had.

        1. just a gentile*

          “His emails were all caps with many F-words, and ended with him telling them to f the f off forever. ”
          Unless the client was super-important, the best response to a tirade like that would be one word: “Done.”

          Perhaps with “With best regards” before the signature.

          You’ll get better service and lower overall cost if you treat your vendors right. Long-term vendors will know if you’re difficult and factor that into quotes, or give you shoddy work initially since they know you’ll rag all over it no matter what.

      4. Pennalynn Lott*

        It saddens me that people in ANY setting feel that it is acceptable to behave this way.

        It has taken me over 10 years, but I have finally trained Boyfriend to not yell at / cuss at / become belligerent toward customer service people on the phone. Amazingly, he gets muuuuuch better results now. (Duh). The world would be a much better place if everyone applied Wheaton’s Law across the board.

        1. krisl*

          Glad you’ve trained your boyfriend. I probably would have run away from a guy who couldn’t treat people well.

    2. junipergreen*

      In client services, the “difficult client” philosophy of the company really drives general employee morale. Defending and supporting staff is tough when losing one or two clients can ruin a business (esp in an agency model… I remember this came up on AAM a while back with a “pushy” client) but ignoring these struggles can lead to burnout and expensive attrition.

      It also reminds me of my entry level position in an operations role when I encountered an abusive vendor… I was naive enough to think I was doing something wrong, but thankfully my manager cottoned on and ended the relationship. Client or vendor, nobody should be screaming obscenities on the phone.

    3. Mints*

      This is one of the best ways to get employees to love you. When I worked childcare I sometimes had parents yell at me in situations where I wasn’t sure if I should have been more accommodating. And when I told my boss and he assured me they were being unreasonable and he would sternly remind them of policy, it was seriously so gratifying. It’s really important that employees feel valued

  9. Chris C.*

    #3 – I’m an LU grad and I think lots of misinformation about LU is flowing around on this board. I can’t address it all but I’ve never heard of a LU program that trains counselors to “reform” gay people, maybe in the 70’s but I don’t know of anything currently. What I have heard is the current counselors at LU talk to gay students that come to them and talk to them on first loving/liking themselves. I’m not a counselor so I don’t really know the in’s and outs of counseling. Below this reply is a link to a article about a Gay LU student coming out and writing about his experience at LU.

    LU has undergone drastic changes since its founding and from when Jerry Fawell Sr. passed away. From what I’ve read and heard it was uber religious. Since JF Jr. took over its toned down quite a bit. It’s still Christian but isn’t the fire and brim stone kind like it use to be. Even in Christian circles it has gone too mainstream. A good example of that is in the link below, just read the comments. I can’t speak for everyone that has went to LU but all my LU friends and fellow Alumni swear, drink and party like anyone else there age. I don’t think this should be a requirement for employment nor should it be applicable during a interview but I just wanted to point out LU grads are just normal folk. My friends always joke about how on Sunday they go to church to pray their sins away from the day before…LOL. While on the LU campus as a student you do have to abide by their rules, their campus their rules. So no keggers or swinger parties….LOL.

    Now for tuition discounts LU give huge breaks. I am a Military Vet and all my credit hours for all level of courses including grad level were $250 per credit hour. I also got a $1500 a semester book voucher. I’m not sure if they would offer a similar discount for a business but they are pretty generous. Those kind of numbers are hard to beat in this day and age. Unless its free….you can’t beat free :P. It was mentioned briefly but I wanted to touch on this again. LU is a Regional Accredited (RA) school which is the gold standard for Schools. Bob Jones and a similar school named Pensacola Christian College are not Regionally Accredited (RA) and its doubtful with their extreme Christian curriculum they could ever be. I think they would have to go more mainstream to achieve RA status. Something I’m sure they aren’t aiming for right now or the foreseeable future. So to compare these types of schools to LU is pretty silly. If anyone has any question about LU I would be happy to answer them. LU isn’t perfect and sometimes I did get annoyed with the Jesus freaks but overall I love my school and think it was a good fit for me.


    1. Liz*

      “U is a Regional Accredited (RA) school which is the gold standard for Schools.”

      Yes and no. It isn’t enough for the school to be accredited – a specific program needs to be accredited. Perhaps studying accounting or videography is fine, but if you’re in a science or engineering program I wouldn’t touch a LU degree with a 100 foot pole.

      I also think you need to really look closer at the school’s perspective on gay students and counseling when within the last couple of months:
      “A House subcommittee held a Tuesday hearing on religious freedom and, among other witnesses, Liberty University dean and professor of law Mathew Staver was there to explain why it’s not fair that mental health professionals are barred in some states from trying to convert gay people into straight people.”

      1. Chris C.*

        LU is ABET Accredited so it’s Science and Engineering programs are also the gold standard, well known Universities are also ABET. LU does employ some nutty professors but so do many other schools.

        1. Liz*

          They’re not the ‘gold standard’. Accredited or not, any school that teaches creationism is a failure to the American public and its students – letting them go out into the workforce with false information that will be a detriment to their employment.

          1. Chris C.*

            They teach creationism in one required class at the very start of a students UG degree plan. LU also teaches evolution. ABET is the gold standard, its extremely hard to become a PE without a ABET degree. When I say extremely hard I mean almost impossible. I think you can do some sort of super long apprenticeship to become one but that might not be possible in modern times anymore.

            1. Stephanie*

              Depends on the state, but usually the rule of thumb is like twice the amount of work time if you don’t have a degree. With an ABET-accredited degree, it’s around four years’ experience. Without an ABET-accredited degree, it’s around eight years’ experience, typically in a technician role.

            2. Melissa*

              In LU’s science curricula (primarily biology and chemistry), they don’t teach creationism in one class – they teach creationism alongside evolution, and they teach young Earth creationism as a better explanation for biological diversity than evolution. They explicitly say on their website that every program in the natural sciences is taught with a “Biblical worldview.” Now how much each professor actually adheres to this and how they handle it – I don’t know – but they do require their professors to make a faith statement that they will uphold the faith of LU. Also their professors are primarily doing research on creationism issues.

              LU doesn’t seem to have reparative/conversion therapy courses as part of their counseling programs, probably because they want to maintain CACREP accreditation and so their students can be licensed to counsel. However, they do have several articles on their website defending reparative therapy.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t know a single hiring manager who doesn’t look askance at degrees from Liberty. They’re known for not offering rigorous education and allowing religious dogma to overly influence their teaching. Definitely not gold standard.

          1. Chris C.*

            Reputation and accreditation is not the same thing. LU’s rep isn’t stellar but it has all the proper accreditation and the foundation for a better rep they just have to get rid of LU’s old perception. Overtime LU’s rep might get better maybe it won’t I couldn’t say one way or the other. My LU degree has served me well. I’m doing fairly well and have no complains. Here is Texas LU degrees aren’t looked down on but I could see it having a stigma on the East Coast. East Coast does have some heavy hitting schools.

            1. Liz*

              Texas does too – Rice, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UT – lots of great science and engineering schools – it isn’t the competition that grays LU’s reputation, it’s LU’s fundamentalist Christian roots and its CURRENT activism against equal rights and recognition for people of all genders, sexual orientations, and religious persuasions.

              1. Chris C.*

                Aside from the nut job name Staver what activism that does LU endorse? Sure they aren’t pro gay for obvious reasons but they aren’t marching down the street with picket signs that say down with gays…LOL. Staver also doesn’t speak for LU he is just a professor that has some off the wall opinions. I don’t know why that house committee invited him. They must of really wanted to make the news…LOL

            2. JB*

              I’m in Texas. I don’t know if I would phrase it as “looked down upon,” but I would think twice before hiring anyone who went there, and so would most people I know in my field. With so many other decent schools in Texas, the assumption is that you go to LU or similar schools if (1) you can’t get in anywhere else or (2) you are very religious and conservative and are less interested in a rigorous academic education than you are in going somewhere to be around like-minded people.

              If that’s no longer true, than Liberty’s graduates have my sympathies because they are fighting a false reputation. But for now, I’d still put a resume with that school on it in the “no” pile unless there a lot of other entries on the resume that balance it out.

            3. Melissa*

              I think that was exactly Alison’s point, though. Regional accreditation isn’t really a gold standard; it’s the bare minimum.

              1. Chris C.*

                Yes a bare min of any ranked school or good school. Bob Jones isn’t Regionally Accredited but it seems to be part of the ongoing discussion off and on in the comments section. Like I said before there is a ton of bad info about LU floating around here. Lots of it is from when LU was a hardcore christian school. I completely understand where people are coming from. First impressions are hard to change and LU’s isn’t going to change overnight. Below my comment is a USA Today article written about LU 8 hours ago. So its as recent as you can get. It focues on LU’s ongoing campaign to move from the NCAA D1 FCS to D1 FBS in sports. But it touches on some of the misconceptions about LU and the changes that have happened on campus this last decade. Just to grab the readers attention in hopes of people actually reading this here is an interesting quote from it. For anyone not really interested in big time college sports just scroll down to the pic of LU’s new baseball stadium in the article and start reading three paragraphs above it.

                “But Falwell Jr. acknowledges the university is still battling an image problem attached to its early days and some of the political backlash that surrounded his father, particularly within the academic community given that school presidents ultimately decide who gets invited to their conferences.

                “The perception is that we’re primarily a small Bible school, and the reality is we’re a liberal arts university with engineering, medicine and nursing,” he said. “A lot of people think religion is our No. 1 major, and in reality it’s ninth.

                “One of the (Sun Belt) presidents made the comment, he said, ‘Yeah Jerry, all you have to do is show people Liberty’s not Oral Roberts, it’s Baylor.’ We’ve moved toward that goal much faster than anybody thought.””

                “But the environment has become less strict in recent years, with fewer conduct restrictions and what Falwell Jr. characterized as “a good balance” that students enjoy. And Gill said he is not required to recruit only Christians but rather players who are “willing to be engaged in Christian values” while they are on campus.

                “Some people define the college experience as getting drunk and hooking up,” said Dominique Davis, a senior defensive end on the football team. “If you come to Liberty and you’re looking for that, you can find it. But if you’re looking for great people to be around and get you to grow and be around and find the Lord, you’ll find that as well. That’s the predominant culture here, but it’s all about how the view the experience.””


    2. MK*

      Chris, you seem to have misunderstood a couple of things:

      a) the program that trains counselors to “reform” gay people was mentioned by the OP as something that is done at the unnamed college that her husband needs to go, so that his company will fund his PhD. Then a commenter mentioned LU as an example of a religious college. No one said that this program is done at LU.

      b) no one sugested that drinking, partying, etc., is a requirement for employment; you are confusing two different things. People have mentioned that some (not all) religious colleges place importance primarily on religion and their academic standards are not rigorous or the quality of the education they offer suffers by their need to comply with their religious dogma. As a result, some people, rightly or wrongly, don’t think much of candidates who went to those colleges, not becuase they don’t party, but because their degrees might not reflect essential knowledge. Another, separate issue is the fact that some of these colleges place restrictions on their students lifestyle, which would make the OP’s husband not want to attend there and he could use it as an argument when dealing with his employer.

      1. Chris C.*

        I understand, I just felt LU was being mentioned quite a bit in place of the unnamed university. To be fair Bob Jones mentioned but I didn’t attend BJU so I have no dog in that fight….LOL. It was briefly mentioned how religious grads might not fit into the work culture so I wanted to point out not all students that go to any unnamed religious school buy into the Christian aspect of it. Some go because it’s the only school their parents will pay for. Others because its local and more cost effective, the list goes on and on. LU does place restrictions only on the on campus UG students. If you live off campus or are in a grad program none of the on campus stuff applies anymore. You don’t even have to attend convocation if are you in either categories. LU is ranked by Forbes and U.S. News. Its just not highly ranked but it’s on the list. I’m sure most posters on this page live in a state with quite a few schools that haven’t been ranked at all. That is a indication that LU is legit and improving. Religion is a hot topic with most folks I doubt everyone will see eye to eye with schools like LU. I’m not trying to ruffle any feathers but most folks go off hearsay or old news articles which is fine and I understand why they do that. If I was going to look up things about USC I would google it. Whatever came up first is what I would click on which is what most people do. It is what it is at the end of the day.

    3. Stephanie*

      I was the commenter who brought up Liberty University. I didn’t necessarily mean it as a slight against LU, it was just one of the first strongly-Christian universities that came to mind. From what you say, it does sound like LU is becoming more mainstream. However, rightly or wrongly, the perception does seem to hurt it and I was curious as to why versus more mainstream religious institutions.

      1. Chris C.*

        No worries, I would of thought of the same thing if I never attended LU. I think LU has the negative perception because of a couple things. First it was founded in a time and age where things can be recorded and viewed over again and the now dead founder said some pretty awful things during his time at LU. I’m sure every school has had someone at the helm that said some things they shouldn’t but its not easy to find 100 year old news paper clippings that grab peoples attention. Nowadays anyone with a iPhone can be recording news. I’m simplifying it a tad but what I am saying is true. Give LU a few decades and I’m sure they will mature as will their reputation and perception.

  10. Amy B.*

    #2. Ferguson riots: Another simple response is to look at them with a serious face and say, “Too soon.” Most everyone knows that is ‘code’ to knock it off.

    1. TychaBrahe*

      How long is long enough before suggesting that one’s coworkers are thieves and participate in civil disorder?

      1. Amy B.*

        There is no set time limit; but people tend to use humor to be able to deal with some of the most serious situations. It is often not done with malice. It is a coping mechanism. When people don’t know what to say they sometimes try to be humorous. I am not saying it is the correct thing to do; it just is what is done.

      2. Raptor*

        Never. And it’s raciest (or classicist at least, assuming that if the joke wasn’t racial charged, then it probably was based on ‘poor people steal things’. – though as a side thought, ‘rims’? Seriously.. and it’s not racial charged? There’s a movie/tv stereotype that if you take your car into a poor, black neighborhood, your car will end up on cement bricks. And it’s always used as a joke.) Implying that a certain group of people have stolen things (because of race or income level), is wrong on so many levels. Not even getting to the insensitive part of it all.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          But the joke wasn’t based on people in OP’s office stealing things because of race or income level. It’s based on the fact that OP (and possibly others) live sort of near where stuff is happening.

          I’m not saying the jokes are in good taste, but if OP doesn’t think there is any malicious or racial intent behind them, I’m inclined to believe it. I’ve made tasteless jokes with co-workers before, and I could see making the kinds of jokes that OP is referencing. And if I were making said jokes, I wouldn’t be targeting co-workers whom I know to be poor or anything like that. It’s a joke. It’s OK to say “I don’t think that joke is appropriate, this is a serious situation and I’d prefer to not hear that kind of thing.” But there’s no indication that there’s anything racist or classist about the jokes.

          (And ‘rims’ is a common shorthand used by all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. It just means wheels. Usually fancy ones. Not a racial thing.)

          I think “too soon” is a great way to diffuse the situation if you’re looking to say “I don’t think this is appropriate” but don’t want to be too serious about it. If you do want to be more serious about it, sure, be that. But “too soon” is a great middle-ground option.

          1. Kelly L.*

            No, there is a racial stereotype that black people are obsessed with putting fancy “rims” on their cars, often either stolen or way more lavish than the car they’re going on or both. Trust me.

          2. Joey*

            Maybe its because you don’t see things through the lens of a minority. No kidding, I’ve had white friends that genuinely thought I must eat Mexican food instead of turkey at thanksgiving because I’m Mexican. And they thought I or my parents must have a green card. And they assume I speak Spanish fluently because obviously all Mexicans do. And they’re shocked I don’t like guacamole. And shocked I don’t have family in Mexico. And shocked my Mexican wife doesn’t know how to make tortillas. I once met a guy that told me out of the blue that he knew a Mexican. And she was his family’s housekeeper and she was so poor his family gave her kids his old toys so they could have presents for Xmas. One of those types of comments won’t make me paint someone as racially insensitive, but after a while its hard not to draw that conclusion.

            It’s just a whole lot harder to spot it when you’re not conscious of it and it doesn’t apply to you.

            1. Raptor*

              I’m sorry, but I just cannot imagine any sort of a joke involving, Ferguson, looting, and rims without it being racial charged somehow. Any joke about minorities stealing things, is raciest. And just because the people who are the subject are the joke aren’t part of the conversation, doesn’t make it any less raciest.

          3. just a gentile*

            “I’m not saying the jokes are in good taste, but if OP doesn’t think there is any malicious or racial intent behind them, I’m inclined to believe it. ”

            There’s all kinds of nasty jokes that aren’t consciously malicious but are part of the mindset that helps perpetuate racism and is a manifestation of racism.

            It’s why all sorts of nice white people think that because so few of them actually go around thinking consciously bad stuff about black people that they aren’t racist. But on some level they are because they are conditioned to view black people as worse (many American black people hold the same conditioning since it is pervasive in our society). Until people recognize that we’re swimming in these attitudes, even if our conscious and rational minds don’t agree with them, we wont’ get anywhere on overcoming racism.

            It’s not most people’s “fault” to have those subconscious beliefs. But I get quite mad when they deny those beliefs.

          4. Anon*

            I think there is a racial stereotype behind those jokes, but you’re right that we should go with OP’s judgment.

    2. LBK*

      Eh…I don’t know if that wording will have the desired impact. I almost always hear the phrase “too soon” used ironically when someone makes an untimely joke that you still find funny. Even with a serious tone I don’t think it would be read seriously.

      1. Cari*


        Pretty sure the parts of the Internet that love their memes and offensive humour use the phrase as such.

      2. Mints*

        I agree. I think it’s used as like “I’m taking this trivial thing too seriously”
        Like when I made a joke about Local Sports Team being knocked out of the playoffs. To me it sounds light hearted

  11. Allison*

    #3 – I don’t think the employer chose the school, I think the school is initiating these deals with employers to boost their numbers. When a school is as religious as Bob Jones, Liberty, King’s Crown, etc., you’re not gonna get a lot of interest from people outside the ultra-conservative lifestyle, so this may be a strategy to increase enrollment.

  12. Michael.*

    I think you’ll find that it depends strongly on the type of organisation you are applying for. In my experience (in Australia), universities and government positions wait until the deadline has passed before reviewing applications. (In one case, this meant the deadline was 9:00 on a Monday morning, giving maximum time…, but normally means 23:30 or 23:55 on a Sunday.) But, recruiters will often start reviewing immediately, and interview people they think are good, which means you need to get in quick … Alison’s advice seems pretty spot on.

    @OP1 I would be talking to your company bosses about getting a couple of clauses in the standard contract.
    1. Abusive language or behaviour by CLIENT towards COMPANY staff is not acceptable, and maybe grounds for a penalty payment ($X amount or percent) or cancellation of the contract, at the sole discretion of COMPANY. In the event of a cancellation, there will be no refunds and no further work to be completed, and as the contract was not completed, all copyrights and other rights remain with COMPANY and CLIENT has no further right to use those assets.
    2. Standard working hours are from 8:00-19:00, Monday to Friday. Any work that CLIENT requires to be done outside these hours will be charged at 2 times the normal hourly rate if before 21:00 on a weekday, or 3 times the normal hourly rate at any other time. Payment will be required before work commences. CLIENT may maintain an emergency balance with COMPANY, from which payment will be taken, to cover such cases.

    Then the company needs to ensure that the first clause is enforced, and bad clients dropped, and that staff are paid extra (two or three times normal) for overtime. Problem, almost, solved.

  13. ClaireS*

    Re: 3. Any chance you could frame this issue to your employer as to how it impacts their perception among employees and potential employees. If it’s widely known that an employer has close ties to an institution that upholds draconian values towards gay people, that may impact their ability to recruit.

    I know large employers with head offices in states that have banned gay marriage that have spoken out against it as it negatively impacts their ability to recruit from a diverse set of applicants.

    1. ClaireS*

      FWIW, I work in canada for a company with a head office in a state that banned gay marriage. I had this conversation with a few senior leaders “how will you manage advancements to the head office when good people can’t realistically live in that state.”

      It was an open and honest conversation that was take seriously.

    2. B*

      Fwiw my organisation is about to start asking questions about how suppliers ensure they treat LGBT people equally/positively. It’s to retain an accreditation from Stonewall. According to their lists we are one of the 100 best places to work in the uk for LGBT people :) won’t give away where i work by sharing the exact number!
      I did a session of outreach at our recent Pride locally which was great fun! My work does think it’s really important to be visible at and support things like that. The local multi cultural festival will have our stall too :)

  14. Aunt Vixen*

    #3 tuition reimbursement –

    It may be different when it’s part time, but it’s been my impression for a long time that universities only accept as many PhD students as they can fund with stipends, teaching assignments, and the like. That’s not to say that being a PhD student is a money-making proposition, because it’s really, really not – but I’m surprised that there is tuition to pay. This isn’t the same as – well, any other kind of degree.

    1. Mrs. Badcrumble*

      It is different when it’s part time. Full-time students work for the stipends, usually by teaching lower-level courses and doing research grunt work. Part-time students don’t, so they pay tuition.

    2. BRR*

      In addition to full vs part-time I think it also depends on the institution. I went to grad school at a lower-level state school. Due to the state decreasing funding every year the school would happily accept anything with a pulse if it meant they were paying tuition.

    3. Artemesia*

      I think the rule of thumb is ‘if you are not a strong enough candidate to get a full ride at a first rate school for your PhD you are not likely to get a tenure track position when you graduate.’ That is for a full time PhD which is a research oriented degree and yes, they are normally fully funded and have highly selective admissions.

      There are however plenty of weak ‘PhD’ programs which are not full time, or which are not really research oriented in a serious way because the institution is not a serious research institution. Students don’t work on deep well funded research as part of their studies because their professors don’t have those kinds of projects and grants. Many education programs give a ‘PhD’ for what is essentially practitioner work that should be an EdD. A really good EdD program rarely has a classic dissertation but substitutes really strong practitioner oriented projects to build professional skill. Weak programs have traditional dissertation requirements and generate laughably weak dissertations. Students are often school or college administrators who ‘need’ the degree to keep their jobs or enhance their pay. Such degrees don’t generally take people into new careers. Calling a program a PhD does not make it the same kind of experience or preparation as the top research driven PhD programs.

      1. fposte*

        And I’ll disagree with your first statement as a blanket about PhDs, because humanities top tens still don’t necessarily hand out full rides; I’ll agree with it when you’re talking fields that are more STEM-based and focused on research funding.

        1. YaelS*

          I fall somewhere in between Artemesia and fposte. Don’t start a PhD program in the humanities unless the school will cover your costs [meaning tuition-free plus a stipend] for at least 2-3 years, while you finish coursework and comprehensive exams.

          1. just a gentile*

            I was thinking the same thing – unless you’re independently wealthy and just getting the degree for the satisfaction of it.

        2. JB*

          Was going to say the same thing. Friends in humanities PhD programs at decent schools didn’t get full rides because the programs didn’t have the money for it.

        3. Melissa*

          Humanities top ten program do hand out full funding. Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Penn State, Michigan, Penn, Vanderbilt, Columbia, etc. all offer 5-6 year funding packages to their new admitted PhDs at least in English and history. I’m pretty sure the true is same in other top ten humanities programs in other fields, although there may be less in certain fields (modern foreign languages, for example).

  15. JenM*

    #3 – I suspect you have already considered this, but if the other schools provide funding for the PhD candidates they accept you may be able to instead negotiate other things like a reduced work schedule to help provide time for the PhD work.

  16. LBK*

    #2 I’m completely horrified by the situation in Ferguson and by no means do I think you should have to tolerate jokes that hit too close to home. However, you do note that you’re staying up late, presumably not getting much sleep. I know when I do that it puts me on edge and makes me extremely snappy, so before you respond to anything I would take a very deep breath and make sure your tone will come across appropriately, and that the joking is really as bad as you think. One person doing it twice a day can come across as hearing it constantly when you’re tired and easily provoked.

    (Again, if the jokes really are offending you, even hearing one or two might be worth saying something about. But just make sure your response isn’t disproportionate.)

    1. LBK*

      Also, someone making a joke doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t take the situation seriously or that they aren’t worried about it – humor’s a common coping mechanism, so trying to bring a bit of levity to what’s happening might be their way of trying to avoid getting panicked by it.

      1. Allison*

        True, humor is a coping mechanism for some people – but while it helps some people cope, it can simultaneously make others feel even worse, more upset, or more on edge. If your coping mechanism is upsetting people, keep it to yourself, or between yourself and those who will appreciate it. There’s a time and place for insensitive humor, and it’s not the office.

        1. Colette*

          I agree that the OP should say something since it is bothering her – but what is appropriate depends on the office and the specific people involved. People who are friendly and joke around on a regular basis may be OK with something that would be out of place in a more formal relationship. That doesn’t mean that you can’t say anything if something that would normally be OK is bothering you – you absolutely should say something – but it does mean that the person making the joke isn’t acting out inappropriately by default.

    2. Waiting Patiently*

      Yeah, I was thinking this too. Down thread, I posted about my friend’s sister who snapped at her about a text message she sent to her yesterday. I can see how the OP, here could be a lot more sensitive to the situation and her response might be disproportionate. I also see how the offenders could be trying to use a sense of humor to relieve tension. We don’t quite know the motive.

      The fact is she is being targeted with the comments because she lives relatively close to the “North County”. If these were just broad comments about what’s happening amongst themselves, which doesn’t make it any better, than maybe I would say yeah, she should examine her response. But it seems like she is being targeted with the comments–“oh you got new rims, and you’re participating in the looting..”

      1. fposte*

        I think screaming is probably out of line, but anything short of that seems pretty proportionate to me. It’s a comment that’s at best really, really stupid. Using humor to defuse tension isn’t for amateurs, and it’s not going to defuse tension when it’s racially based humor.

  17. anon-2*

    #2 – we had some insensitive comments about 9/11 from some in Europe … considering we’re in the Boston area, where two of the doomed flights originated – immediate disciplinary action was taken.

    You have to remember – if you are from the baby boomer generation (and you’re American) you spent part of your early life in a society where segregation was sanctioned. And – you saw the walls break down, legislation passed, an integrated society at last. You were also raised to be sensitive about such subjects. You didn’t have to be taught in formal education that “young black men are not ‘boys’ and are never to be addressed, nor referred to as such” — as did some in “the greatest generation”. You were raised to respect all, including cultural differences.

    Perhaps that has all been forgotten, beginning with Generation Y? In the last 10-15 years, I’ve seen some of these prejudices creep back into the workplace.

    1. De Minimis*

      I think it’s regional, I’ve always seen a lot of fairly open prejudice in the workplace, but my area is pretty backward.

    2. Jen RO*

      I had no idea the flights originated from Boston – why do you assume *your* European co-workers knew? Disciplinary action, really? Why couldn’t you may explain why it’s problematic and let them apologize? I hope I am missing something here.

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        I read that as the disciplinary action was taken because of remarks surrounding 9/11; not necessarily because they are located in Boston. I think by them being located in Boston, it just hit a little harder– adding insult to injury.

      2. Stephanie*

        Commercial flight info is public, so it’s pretty easy to see the intended path of the hijacked planes or look it up. I think most reporting about downed planes lists the planned flight path (like the recently downed Malaysian Air flights) as well. I knew about the Malaysian Air flight plans as an American.

        That being said, I think disciplinary action was a bit much as well.

        1. Jen RO*

          9/11 was all over the news here, obviously, but I never noticed if they discussed the planes’ departure points – it was probably mentioned, but most of the focus was on the location of the crash sites. (I also don’t know where Malaysian Air was flying.)

          1. Cari*

            European (UK) here, and 9/11 was covered constantly in the media for a while following the attacks, and I definitely don’t remember anything about where the planes started out. Don’t even remember that bit of information coming up when an ex got interested in all the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 many years later. Sounds like anon-2’s co-worker’s managers could have done with taking LBK’s advice upthread before deciding to take disciplinary action (without knowing what the actual comments were, mind).

    3. MK*

      I think Americans don’t know/understand that, while 9/11 was the beginning of terrorism as a fact of daily life, many European countries have been dealing with it (in a national or local level) for decades. We were mostly shocked by the scale of 9/11, not the very fact that it happened. And it’s a fact of life that familiarity breeds contempt; also, humor is sometimes a defence mechanism, not necessarily a sign of disrespect.

      “immediate disciplinary action” seems like an over-reaction to me, though of course it depends on what was said and in what context. By the way, I followed the news reports pretty closely, but didn’t know the flights originated from Boston. People an ocean and a continent away would be highly unlikely to know this detail.

      1. JB*

        I don’t know that I agree. Disciplinary action could just mean a talking-to. To me, it doesn’t matter that European countries had been dealing with it for decades–these coworkers should surely have been able to tell that, even if it wasn’t as big of a shock to them, it was to their coworkers. Context can make some statements insensitive or inappropriate when they would ok in other situations.

        I don’t know if I learned at the time that the flights originated in Boston, but knowing local news, I’d bet that in Boston, the local media talked about it a lot.

        1. MK*

          I think the difference in cultural outlook matters, because anon-2 refered to “insensitive” remarks, as opposed to the OP who mentioned “jokes”. Joking about a terrorist attack, especially to pr around people from the victimised country, is inappropriate no matter what. But “insensitive” could mean a range of things, from “completely imappropriate joking” to “not treating 9/11 as the earth-shattering event it was”. To many people who have had to deal with terrorism all their lives the American perception that 9/11 was the day the world changed is insensitive too.

          But, certainly comments that were deemed offensive should have been addressed. I assumed disciplinary action meant punishment of some sort, that’s why I said it might have been an exaggerated reaction.

        2. Cari*

          We lost people in the attacks too, mind. It’s no where near the same as the impact they had on the US or the losses, but I’ve noticed it seems to be another (MK’s point being the other) that gets overlooked when reactions gets discussed. That, and our governments also seem to have forgotten we’ve been dealing with terrorist attacks for a long time before 9/11, and have taken to scaremongering us and using it as an excuse to implement ridiculous laws that limit our freedom and privacy. Resistance to that can manifest as individuals downplaying the whole thing, using dark humour etc. Totally agree with you that audience and context matters though. It’s not appropriate at all to express that attitude in the place that was greatly affected unless one knows they’re in the company of folks that feel the same.

  18. Alano*

    #2 – I think some people handle tense or difficult situations with dark humor. While it can be offensive – esp. to those closer to the situation, such as OP – I think there are certainly worse ways of dealing with the world. I would say something along the lines of, “Oh, that’s funny. You know, though, living right in the area is actually pretty nerve wracking!” Given that you don’t believe the jokes were meant to be malicious, I would try to keep it light and let it roll off me.

    #3 – I’m gay, and I personally wouldn’t spend my own money to go to an anti-gay university, but if somebody is offering me a free education, that’s a whole different story. I wouldn’t lose sight of that. I would certainly ask the employer if they’re willing to pay the same amount for you to attend a differents school, but if they refuse, I wouldn’t dwell on it. There’s a point at which standing on principle turns into moral narcissism, and griping about a free doctorate becuase it’s from a school run by people who do not veiw the world exactly the way you do strikes me as bordering on the latter.

    Incidentally, I work at one of the largest law firms in the world, and I’m amazed at the frequency with which big law firms hire attorneys who went to undergrad at places like Liberty. My experience with people from Mormon and Christian evangelical backgrounds is that they tend to be extremely hardworking and intelligent, and even if they hold strange beliefs in the abstract they’re usually very nice to everyone around them in real life (which, if you ask me, is worth quite a bit). If everyone in the world raised their children to be as honest, hardworking, and polite as Mormons and evangelicals do, most of the world’s problems would be gone.

    #4 – I think everything else being equal, it’s best to apply ASAP. If they do interviews on a rolling basis, you’re more likely to get an interview early in the process than later in the process. I’ve seen this almost every time that I’ve been involved in a hiring decision. Early in the game, we interview a wider variety of folks, including applicants who may not look like a perfect fit on paper. Later in the game, though, we’ve already have a couple of top picks in mind, and we’re really only interviewing folks who look like they might have a chance of suprassing our top picks. I’ve seen folks who we interviewed early in the game and wound up hiring who we may not have even interviewed if they had submitted a resume towards the end.

    1. Natalie*

      Eh, it’s one thing to use dark humor when you yourself are experiencing something tense. It’s another entirely to be observing from the outside and make tasteless jokes. Not exactly comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

  19. Anon Accountant*

    Can you get management to support employees when these situations arise? I think when clients become abusive the management should step in. Or raise the cost of services prohibitively high for them and they’ll leave your company.

    If your managers won’t do anything and you choose to job search that’s understandable.

  20. hildi*

    #1: Hostile Customers.

    So I teach a class based on a book about defusing hostile customers (Robert Bacal). He has a chapter devoted to assertive limit setting, which I find really smart. His formula says that an effective statement drawing the line has to have a few components:
    1). you convey which specific behaviors are unacceptable. Don’t say something like, “Sir, please calm down or else I will have to end our conversation.” Because what’s the first reaction? “CALM DOWN?!? {screaming} I AM CALM.” Calm, civil, etc. are too vague of terms. Be very specific: “Sir, if you continue to swear at me; if you continue to yell at me….”

    2). A request to change the behavior (usually implied)
    3). An indication of the consequences that will happen if they don’t change their behvaior (“I will have to end the conversation; we will have to continue this another time, I will be unable to continue helping you, etc…..”
    4). {this is my favorite and I think key} – a question that gives the client a choice. “Would you prefer to continue or stop now?” “We can continue if you stop swearing, or you can call back some other time.” “It’s up to you whether you want to continue.”

    That’s just a nutshell – he has so much more good information. This isn’t the book I teach from, but I imagine this is the private sector equivalent. Check it out. http://www.amazon.com/Wasnt-Customers-Really-Like-This/dp/1452803803/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1408111307&sr=8-3&keywords=robert+bacal

    1. hayling*

      Great advice!

      Alison, this could be a good article topic – whether you’re dealing with obnoxious customers or coworkers.

  21. Anon Accountant*

    Speaking of #1 I have similar situation. I have a few clients that scream and swear at you also. So I told them I am hanging up this call and we can talk another time to resolve this. My boss was livid that I told a client that and hung up. His reaction is keep the client at all costs to the employees and “so what if they swear at you”.

    Even when I worked retail a supervisor stepped in when customers acted like that. Sorry for the tangent.

    1. Jeanne*

      There’s too much of the customer is always right. Customers are allowed to be horribly abusive and are coddled because they bought something. So the customer spends $50, your employee gets fed up and quits. How much does it cost to train someone? More than $50. I know that the money is usually bigger outside of retail but you still lose an employee with training and knowledge and probably don’t profit that much.

    2. Pennalynn Lott*

      Yep, the one time I have worked retail as a non-college-aged adult, I had an assistant manager vault himself over my customer service counter to stand between a raging, cussing, royally PO’d customer and me. He said, “*Sir*, you have two choices: Stop cussing and treat my employee with respect, or get the hell out of my store And Don’t Come Back. It’s entirely up to you.” The manager was 5’6″, and chubby from long hours of playing WoW. The raging customer was 6’4″ and very buff. Heck, the manager even performed a move worthy of a film super hero with the way he vaulted / slid over the counter top, then “stuck” the landing. :-)

      If he’d told me I had to put up with that crap from a customer, I’d have walked out then and there.

  22. Waiting Patiently*

    I would just respond by silence. I think that they are too insensitive and sound to childish to the situation to even try to address the nature of their little jokes. It just seems that people like that look for openings to voice their real opinions and you may find yourself in a full on heated debate with them.

    I never forget my first day at my first real job (seasonal employment at a big name super discount store–I was still in college) was Oct 3, 1995. I, along with other new hires, were being toured around the facility at literally the exact moment of OJ’s acquittal. The HR person had stopped us by electronics like at the exact moment of the verdict, more than likely so she could see it. To say how scary it was, is an understatement. There were customers and workers all standing around watching it unfold. I was 19 years old, just completed a year of college, and was happy to land my first real job for the upcoming Christmas season. But it seemed like we were being tossed into a pit of us vs them- as cheers and grunts erupted around us. Some people happy, some people were outraged. She quickly moved us from the area and continued the tour.

    1. Jen RO*

      What was scary about it? (I’m not American, so there’s probably some context I’m not getting.)

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        Well for me, it was scary situation, being that I was a 19. Maybe uncomfortable, more so than scary. But being around a crowd of people some of which were happy about the verdict and some of which was extremely upset. Tempers quickly flared as customers and workers voiced their own differing opinions about what should have happened and what did happen. Definitely not a situation, I wanted to be around on my first day on a job.

    2. Just Visiting*

      OT, but I was in high school when the OJ trial happened and they turned on the class televisions so we could watch it. I’ll never forget the divide: male students were whooping and hollering for the rest of the day, female students were subdued. Definitely a tense situation.

  23. MJ*

    #4 I wouldn’t turn in a last minute application as a strategy. The important thing is to turn in the best package you can as early as you can. Where I work, we start reviewing resumes as they come in, because if none are a possible match, we need to be prepared to shift directions or re-advertise in other places. As I cull through them I keep a pile of “possibles”, and as better resumes come in, poorer resumes are removed from the pile. It is not unusual for a stellar resume to arrive toward the end, and we are so relieved to see it! Sometimes the stellar one arrives first, and everything after it has to compare. Just be stellar!

  24. Waiting Patiently*

    On the other end of this, one of my friends sent her sister one of those “MCM”(man candy Monday) type’ text yesterday. Her sister responded, with “Do you know what’s going on in Ferguson? Can you please refrain from sending me useless text messages”. IMO, that was too much. It’s not like her sister lives in Ferguson or Missouri. It’s not like my friend is insensitive to the real concern over what’s going on there and how her sister maybe feeling because she has young boys.
    All she did was send a harmless text. My friend call me to ask how should she respond because she (my friend) was so pissed off. I told her to just say “I didn’t mean to offend you.” and leave it at that.

    1. fposte*

      And then maybe figure that person also generally isn’t interested in man candy Monday texts.

    2. Tris Prior*

      This vaguely reminds me of a blog post I ran across sometime in the last week about whether businesses should turn off their autoscheduled promotional tweets/FB posts/etc. when something major blows up on social media. I honestly don’t remember whether this was in response to Ferguson or Robin Williams. And the consensus was yes, businesses should not promote themselves during times like this.

      What do you guys think about that? I have friends in the St. Louis area (not near Ferguson) and the news hit me hard, as did Robin Williams’ death as I have close family members who have depression and have been suicidal. But… I also am self-employed and have a business to run, and yes, I’ve posted some promotional stuff on my business FB page. At what point is this sort of thing in poor taste?

      1. Natalie*

        IMO, I don’t have any issue with a business continuing to promote themselves during an unrelated media frenzy. But I think it would be prudent to turn off any automagical twitter accounts or what have you. Humans should be carefully vetting what goes out just in case.

        I feel like there have been some examples of why (basically, tweets that appeared insensitive) but I cannot for the life of me remember details right now.

      2. Elsajeni*

        If businesses aren’t supposed to make promotional posts at the same time that terrible or tragic events are being discussed, when will they ever be able to post them? There’s always something terrible going on somewhere in the world. I think it only becomes crass when businesses do things like try to tie their promotion into the news, use news-related tags on promotional posts to try and get more views, etc.

      3. Chinook*

        “This vaguely reminds me of a blog post I ran across sometime in the last week about whether businesses should turn off their autoscheduled promotional tweets/FB posts/etc. when something major blows up on social media”

        I think you just need to ensure that any promotion that you are doing hasn’t suddenly become inappropriate because of recent events. I remember when the avian flu hit, a national mobile phone company had to revamp their ad campaign that featured some parrots underneath something about “catch the fever” (this company is famous for its use of animals in its ads, so it makes sense). What was originally an innocent campaign became funny for all the wrong reasons.

        I also think they didn’t use pigs in their campaigns for a few years after the swine flu hit as well. Since they are currently using hippos, bunnies and flamingos, they should be safe for the moment.

      4. Tinker*

        I chewed out a local (Denver-based) chiropractor on Twitter, I think during the “lockdown” phase of the Boston Marathon events, because they were spewing out tweets to the effect of “Stressed out by #Boston? Come and get an adjustment!” I think that sort of thing is absolutely inappropriate.

        I also think it tends to go badly for folks or organizations who have strong general political opinions to throw around statements about how a developing event proves them or disproves those of their oppoments.

        It seems like a good idea to turn off automated tweets so as to avoid the “Our prices will blow you away” sort of unfortunate juxtaposition scenario. I think that’s more of a toilet-paper-on-shoe thing than a matter of true offense, but still.

        Beyond that, I’m usually not too bothered if a given business continues ordinary operation.

      5. Mouse of Evil*

        I follow a couple of St. Louis businesses on Twitter (I used to live there, but have no friends left there). One of them, right in the midst of everything, kept tweeting about its new location in the Central West End and how excited they were to be opening, talking about what a great day it was and what an awesome time could be had if you came out to their new place, etc. I thought that was completely inappropriate, and it didn’t seem to be scheduled; it really looked like someone was live-tweeting. Saturday night and Sunday, the #STL hashtag was about half “OMG what’s going on in Ferguson?” and half “OMG I’m having such a blast at this thing going on in U City!”

  25. Anonymous*

    #3 has a pretty simple solution. Ask if you can attend a college of your choice but only get reimbursed at the rate of the discount religious university. There’s no logical argument they can have against that unless they’re simply trying to push religious education on you.

  26. JMegan*

    #2, Gawker tells me that things have improved dramatically in Ferguson today. I’m glad to hear it, and hope you can get some time to relax over the weekend.

  27. Joey*

    #2. No racial intentions joking about new shoes, rims, and looting? Gimme a break. These are comments that are racially insensitive and offensive and people who deny it just don’t want to characterized as such.

      1. Joey*

        You’re right I misspoke. The point I was making was that intent doesn’t make the remarks any less offensive, especially when you’re doing it in the workplace where the standards are more obvious and when you’re mocking the racial stereotypes that people are already angry about.

    1. Artemesia*

      These are classics of racial innuendo — there are jokes about blacks and shoes for pete’s sake — and rims and looting? You can say that this is not racial but these are all classics of racism.

      1. Facilities&more*

        I’m actually in the St Louis area and live 6 miles from Ferguson. I can vouch that it is the talk of the water cooler but I guess since a majority of our staff resides in North County, we havnen’t been hearing any jokes about it, except that somewhere in St Louis a car is driving around with 3 normal sized rims and one 30″ one. Anyone that finds out that I live in North County asks me if I’m safe, and if now I would think about moving to South or West county. I try not to take offense to that. But to put my two cents in from someone actually living this situation too is that there really is no racial digs going on with their comments – the only things the news showed being stolen were rims, tennis shoes and hair weaves. In fact, the official police report on the 9 looters they apprehended stated that these specific items were found on their person.

        1. Chinook*

          “In fact, the official police report on the 9 looters they apprehended stated that these specific items were found on their person.”

          There is part of me wondering if someone can come up with a way to charge them with negatively perpetuating a stereotype. You just know there were groups of people watching the news going “of all the things you could steal, why did you have to take those!”

          1. madge*

            “There is part of me wondering if someone can come up with a way to charge them with negatively perpetuating a stereotype.”

            This would be awesome. I’m from the area (haven’t lived there in 10+ years but visit frequently) and I would love to shake the looters for diverting attention from the very real racial and community issues that peaceful protesters are attempting to address.

            OP, I think you’d be fine to tell your co-workers, “Hey, I’m actually pretty shaken by the situation, living so close. Could we cool the jokes?” I don’t know where you work, but I worked in West County for years and many people there really don’t have any idea about North County other than knowing that it’s a place they don’t go. I believe you that it isn’t intentionally malicious; many are truly clueless.

        2. Liz T*

          That’s the problem–9 looters. On one night. Compared to the crazy police response every night. If I lived near someone in that neighborhood, I’d be concerned about THAT.

        3. Rayner*

          Given their current response to releasing reports, which basically amount to lying and misdirection, I don’t trust much of what the police say right now.

          1. Artemesia*

            right – it turned out the thugs ‘throwing molotov cocktails’ was actually some kid picking up a gas grenade fired at him and throwing it back at police. In almost every highly inflamed incident like this much of the most outrageous news is always false — e.g. there were no babies taken out of incubators and left to die in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion — that was a story given by an ‘eyewitness’ who had been in the US the whole time and was a daughter of a diplomat from the middle east. Always doubt.

      2. Mints*

        +1 Artemisia

        I’ll try to take OP at her word, but I literally can’t imagine a situation where those specific things mentioned in the context of looting aren’t racist. It really strikes me as the kind of people who go “You know I’m not racist, I have two black friends, but (racist joke)”

  28. Waiting Patiently*

    I couldn’t even imagine working in an environment like that. Is that really a place you want to work, especially if you can’t get your company behind you?

    #5 I thought I would never, ever be able to put the interview process out of mind and move on like Alison has suggested. I think, we have to experience it before we believe it. smh
    I went to 2 rounds of interviews, nailed them, sent thank you notes, and followed up 3 times (no responses), wrote them off and put it behind me (not without resentment though), got a rejection letter in the mail after 2 months, then a week later they called with an offer. I couldn’t even take the offer.

    1. Daisygirl*

      I understand about #5 100%. I am in this situation right now and I am trying really hard to put it out of my mind but it is almost impossible.

  29. Amanda*

    I’d question the judgement of someone who chose to do a graduate program at a rabidly religious institution. I’d wonder if they had done the proper research and thoroughly considered how they might be perceived by employers and clients in the future. That’s not to say I wouldn’t hire them, but it would make me wonder a bit. However, I wouldn’t apply that same standard to applicants who had done their undergrad at such an institution since 16-18 year olds tend to not be great about considering the long term consequences of their decisions.

    This has brought up a question for me though. My husband grew up and did his schooling in a Muslim country. His university was not overly religious though – I’d liken it to a place like Pepperdine or ND. Will employers assume that he received an overly Islamic education anyway?

    1. Joey*

      Depends on the name of the university and his degree program. If he graduated in Muslim studies from Islamic University then probably. But if he graduated with an electrical engineering degree from Abu Dhabi University then most likely not.

  30. So Very Anonymous*

    #2: I live elsewhere now and have for a long time, but I grew up in Ferguson, and like you, I’ve been up late every night this week tracking what’s been going on. I like Allison’s suggestion for an answer — I can easily imagine feeling snappish right now, so having a script may help with defusing the jokes. I know I would not want to listen to jokes like that. I’m sending you good (if very tired) thoughts, along with hopes that we’ll see more of the relative peacefulness we saw yesterday.

  31. Kam26*

    Very helpful post. I’d be grateful for any replies on this flavor of the situation. We do a lot of free “pilots” with the hopes that at the end of 6 months they will sign a contract. I’m told by management to “keep them happy by any means necessary”. So I do… It starts off normal but the prospect quickly realizes they are getting a top tier consultant and proceed to run me into the ground. They are not abusive in terms of swearing/yelling… Just with insane deadlines and it’s never enough. They are only happy if I give them 15 hours of free consulting a day and a “thanks” is out of the question. Only “great where are the other 5 things?”

    My boss basically says suck it up until the deal is signed. But once we get the deal they continue to run me into the ground because that is the norm. Then the next pilot happens and I keep all the contracted monsters plus onboard the next. I’ve told my boss and she is no help because her bonus is tied to conversions.

    I’m trying to find a new job but in the meantime do I push back on the monsters? If yes what exactly should I say? I need verbatim so I can memorize it. Do I say yes and do what I can and deal with more blowback? Try to keep up the insane pace for a little longer? Do the minimum because I have no financial incentive/penalty if they don’t sign?

    Any advice is appreciated

    1. Joey*

      If you’ve already talked to your boss about it well….suck it up or leave.


      Present an alternative that obtains the objective.


      Push back against your boss and say something like “x client asked me to do x task and its physically impossible to make that deadline without impacting y task. My suggestion is to make x task the priority for a and b reasons meaning y task will need to be pushed back. Are you okay with that?”


      Push back against your boss and say something like “I’m finding myself consistently in a position where there is no light and the end of the tunnel. The workload is overwhelming to the point that I’m consistently working 15 hours a day and can’t sustain those type of hours long term. Is there something we can do to redistribute the workload or find a way to make the workload more sustainable?”

    2. Sharon*

      It sounds like your boss is rewarded for conversions and not profitability of the deals. If so, there’s not much you can do, it would be up to his manager to change the way he is motivated to work, i.e. his compensation.

      Otherwise, the way you fix this situation is by keeping careful accounting of all the hours you spend trying to keep the unruly customer happy before the deal is struck. Then you take the profit from the signed and completed deal, deduct the cost of labor spent to woo the customer plus any material costs and show that final number to the boss. In a nutshell, you have to demonstrate that while it was a million dollar contract, for example, you actually only made 3/4 million on it because of the before-deal-was-struck work.

      Even with that very precise project accounting, though, there are businesses who feel that’s just the cost of doing business.

  32. Becky*

    #1. I just want to say Bless you for using “defuse the situation” correctly.
    I feel for you. I don’t think it’s possible to let truly awful behavior roll off your back, especially when it’s ongoing and daily.

  33. Gene*

    For #4, I’ve worked in government since I got out of high school in the Nixon administration. I you’re applying for a government job, the applications won’t be looked at until after the closing date.

    Your goal should always to get the most complete, relevant set of application materials turned in. If you can do that early in the application period, that’s probably better in the private industry world.

    1. Joey*

      In most cases that’s my experience also. Although when I worked in government there were plenty of exceptions. I’ve asked my recruiter for apps/resumes halfway into the job advertisement so I could get a head start on screening them. I’ve also kept hard to fill jobs posted for a long time and and received resumes continually until I found the right person.

      Although I will admit this wasn’t the practice in the past.

  34. chump with a degree*

    Good Lord! I also graduated from high school when Nixon was president. I am old…..

  35. Brett*

    #2 Some of you might remember that I work for law enforcement in the St Louis area. My wife is actually a former school teacher from Ferguson. She cannot even watch the news right now because of how worried this makes her.

    I have worked over 60 hours since Sunday night. We have been asked to scrub all law enforcement affiliations from our clothing, cars, anything outside our homes, and our social media because of the number of death threats that have been received. We have had to evacuate over two dozen families because of credible threats against them.

    How does this relate to the jokes? Being near the site of the riots is dangerous. Small things are magnified very quickly. Unlike just a bad joke in the workplace, a bad joke here heard by the wrong person can escalate quickly into something much more violent. This is not just letting people vent with dark humor. Right now (even today with things calmed somewhat), that type of humor really should not be tolerated just because of the danger this poses. This is even more greatly magnified for my workplace, but it is true of every workplace near Ferguson right now.

    1. Natalie*

      Oo, sounds rough.

      Earlier today my boss and our security guard got in a fight about the Ukrainian situation (security guard is originally Russian). A timely reminder that you never know when something seemingly far away might be serious business to someone around you.

    2. Sawrs*

      Characterizing the activities in Ferguson as “riots” is a bit of a tell. (Unless you were suggesting that camouflaged police gassing dogs and children, assaulting journalists and stealing their gear, preventing residents from returning to their homes, and arresting any black person who makes eye contact, even if OOPs! he’s one of your city council members constitutes multiple “riots,” in which case, I’d agree. But I don’t know if police officers and their families are the ones being targeted with death threats. How many police officers were murdered this past week in Ferguson?)

      1. Brett*

        There are two separate things going on.
        There are protesters and there are rioters. They are two separate groups of people. The rioters are small in number but very dangerous. There have been severe mistakes made by the police.

        1. madge*


          I’m from the area and can’t tell you how enraged I become when I see “rioters” and “protesters” used interchangeably. Thank you for serving stl. Safe wishes to you.

  36. Jeanne*

    #1- 72 point font is funny. You have to look at that and know you’re dealing with children. Picture them as toddlers. Who in the business world uses 72 point?

    1. Bea W*

      Yes! That is the point at which I laugh instead of cry. Then I print it out and show it to my co-workers and internal team for a good laugh.

  37. Bea W*

    #1 One former employer came down on the wrong side of this fence, and for people who were small potatoes compared to some of our other contracts. It was a symptom of bigger, more toxic issues. What drove me nuts as well was while I had one really horrible f-bomb dropping a-hole client, my manager had a habit of complaining about my non-abusive clients being too demanding and too this and too that and terrible to work with. I personally wasn’t having the issues with those people. They were normal level demanding with an occasional spike, and not jackassy about it. Listening to that made me feel kind of horrible. Most of my clients did not deserve that attitude, and the ones who did, got away with murder. *facepalm*

  38. ella*

    OP #1–Some things I’ve learned from the land of retail and libraries–

    1. This may not be applicable, but it often helps me to remember that people who are being jerks are being jerks because they’re having a really bad day. I know that the general rule is to not take your bad mood out on innocent people around you, but when you’re (to use an example from my library) not very good on computers, but you need to use a computer to make a resume to apply for jobs because you just got laid off from the job you’ve had for 28 years, and Word is doing some auto-formatting thing you don’t understand and/or you’ve just discovered that the website that you spent an hour inputting your work history into won’t let you save or print out your automatically formatted resume until you give them $2, and you’re really hungry because you’re laid off so you’re only eating two meals a day to try and get your food budget to stretch, and you tried to fix it and couldn’t and the computer is making you feel stupid and so you struggle and struggle until there’s only 4 minutes left on your time when you finally go up to the librarian to ask for help–you’re probably going to sound angry, and you’re probably going to curse. Situations like that don’t make me totally okay with being cursed at, but they help me to not take it personally. And maybe it’s not applicable to your situation; and maybe clients are just jerkwads. But if it’s the sort of situation where they’re having to describe or oversee something that they don’t entirely understand, ignorance can lead to frustration can lead to angry outbursts. Try to not take it personally.

    That said! Treating employees like shit is totally unacceptable. Other strategies I’ve found useful:
    2. Redirect their attention to tasks, and (as a commenter above said) make your expectations of behavior clear. I’ve also found it useful to rephrase what I’m hearing them say in much nicer language. “Bill, I’m hearing you say you want (Task A) done by (date). I assure you that I’m working on that, however, for me to be able to continue helping you, I need you to not call me a nancypants.” “I’m finding it really hard to focus on (Task) while you are (spewing verbal diarrhea out of your mouth). If you don’t stop cursing, I’m afraid I’ll have to end the conversation.”
    3. Depending on how your work load is divided (or how awesome your boss is), this may not be practical, but switching people often helps a lot. “I can hear that you’re really angry. I’m going to connect you to my supervisor Jane, okay?” And then Bob says something like #2, above. (“So, Jane says you’re really frustrated and angry. I’m sorry to hear that. I assure you she’s the best person in the office to be doing (Task A), but for her to be able to do it, you need to not make insinuations about the lineage of her mother.”) And I hate doing this because of the sexism involved, but switching from a female coworkers to a male coworker–provided the male is going to back up his coworker and set clear boundaries–often works better than the other way around.

    1. krisl*

      When you think about people who are jerks, think about how often people spit in their food at restaurants :)

    2. Snork Maiden*

      I’m going to have “Yeeaaahhh…I’m gonna need you to stop calling me a nancypants” in the “TPS reports” voice all day now.

  39. Melissa*

    OP #3 – In addition to the comments made earlier wrt funding in PhD programs (in most fields the most reputable programs will offer some level of funding, usually full, to their admitted students), I also just want to caution your husband against going to a part-time PhD program. I’m not sure what field he’s in – if he’s in nursing or accounting or another shortage field (possibly business), and/or he doesn’t want to be an academic AT ALL, then 1) part-time programs may be more available and 2) graduating from a part-time program may not be as much of a stigma. But if your husband wants to work as a professor in an academic field, or in a research field that is like academia, attending a part-time PhD program may not be a great idea. None of the top or mid-ranked programs in most fields tend to offer their PhD curricula part-time, because for better or for worse it’s meant to be an immersive experience. Your professors expect you to be around and available, and they tend to look down on students who don’t make themselves as available to be research assistants or teaching assistants. Even something as simple as advising can be difficult, since no professors are going to want to meet with you after 6 pm (and many professors would avoid advising someone they knew was working full-time, because the programs are designed to help full-time workers be successful).

    If he’s required to TA – which is the case in many programs – most of those classes are going to be between 8 am and 5 pm. Most PhD programs schedule the majority of their courses during those hours, too, and there are usually lecture series, special speakers, colloquia, and brown bags that are designed to enrich the educational experience for PhD students that are also usually held during regular business hours. Not to mention that academia is a very insular field and a lot of the networking that’s necessary to land a job post-PhD is done in the department during the hours. A very simple thing is fellowship opportunities – when professors see you, they remember you, and they forward you things they think would be interesting to you or apply to you. If you’re not often in the department, you fall out of this loop.

    Now, many people do work full-time during the dissertation phase when your classes are still flexible. But I just finished my PhD and even if my department allowed me to go part-time (which they would not) I don’t see how it would be possible to work full-time during the coursework and exam phase of the program. And actual possibility aside, a lot of professors won’t want to support a student they know is working full-time – at times I even had to conceal my own part-time work from my professors because I knew it wouldn’t affect my work, but most academics are strange and perceive anything done outside of the program to feed and clothe yourself as evidence that you aren’t as committed to the enterprise. And even in the dissertation phase, working full-time drags out your progress, although it’s often necessary.

    1. Melissa*

      “Now, many people do work full-time during the dissertation phase when your classes are still flexible.” – what I meant was “many people do work full-time during the dissertation phase when your TIME is more flexible.”

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