my manager loves my coworker and hates me, choosing a girlfriend or a job, and more

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

1. My manager loves my coworker and hates me

My team consists of 10 people spread throughout two states. In my direct office, there is only me and another woman. My manager has an obvious favorite. She makes it obvious to the other people we share the office with. They call me the “unwanted stepchild.” Sometimes she says things like “No, you can’t leave get a new job yet, but you can” (referring to me). She also never includes me in our office meetings, but expects my equal-level colleague to tell me what the meeting was about. I am the only one on the team that has never received a raise and I am often left out of any conversations, personal and work-related. I do most of the work in the office and never get any recognition. She walks in the office and looks right over me, I pick up the phone she asks for my colleague, when its something pertaining to both of us. I just cannot take it anymore, I want to say something to her to let her know how I feel, but I do not know what to say.

Start looking for another job.

That might sound like an extreme solution, but these are very, very bad signs. Your manager cuts you out of the loop, won’t recognize or reward your work, and tells you directly that she wishes you’d leave. This is less about her having a favorite and more about her behaving horribly to you, and t’s a short step from here to actually pushing you out — but even if she doesn’t, you can never excel in these conditions.

In the interim, if you want to try addressing it head-on, I’d start by asking for feedback about your performance and what she’d like to see you doing differently … but really, I think the only way out of this is to get out.

2. Company docks our PTO in tiny increments even when we work long hours

I’ve been with my current company for over 5 years now and just recently they have changed the way we use our PTO. Up until a few weeks ago, we were able to use our PTO time in increments of either 4 hours or 8 hours. A majority of my company (primarily my department) puts in more than 40 hours a week while not being paid overtime. Although it’s not required to work more than 40 hours, our workloads for the most part require us to if we’re going to keep up with it and meet daily deadlines. However, they are now requiring us to take our PTO (40 hours given annually) in 2 hour increments, even if we’re only requesting an hour, whether it be coming in late, an extended lunch break while at an appointment, or to leave an hour early. If I only need to leave an hour early, for say a doctor’s appointment, they are refusing to give us the option of coming in early or working through our lunch break as an option to make up the time. When asked if overtime will be paid if and when we put in a 10-12 hour day, which is typically every week to prevent losing a customer, they are refusing that as well, stating that we are salary employees.

Can my employer deduct 2 hours from my PTO hours if I only left 60-90 minutes early one day but if by the end of the work week I have put in actually 46 hours, for example? I feel if I stop putting in over 40 hours a week that I’ve been working since employed with them that I’ll put my job on the line.

Yes, they can — although it’s a very crappy way for them to do things. It sounds like you’re exempt, which means that you’re expected to work as long as it takes to get the job done (without receiving overtime pay). But good companies make sure that this goes both ways — that they don’t nickel and dime you when you leave early or come in late but are working basically full-time hours (or more).

You and your coworkers might consider pushing back on this as a group — pointing out that there’s little incentive for you to work long hours if the company isn’t going to show you the same generosity of spirit. (I suppose that’s not literally true — the incentive is your continued employment, but those of you who have options might choose to exercise them somewhere that treats you more fairly.)

3. Girlfriend or job?

There’s a possible job offer that requires me to move and live in the city. The issue I’m having is that I live with my girlfriend and her children in different city — in a great suburb with great schools in a house she owns. She has already told me she plans on living there for good and doesn’t plan on moving. I love her very much and my plans are to marry her and grow our family. The issue, of course, is to show proof I live in the city. I can show prove of address on my license and my bills, but they will investigate further into it. Also, if I plan on marrying my girlfriend and have a child, that wouldn’t look smart having a wife and child in a suburb while I claim I live in the city. I’m torn between a once-in-a-lifetime career or possible family.

Which is more important to you: staying with / having a family with this person, or this job? Which will be more important to you in 10 years? 20? That’s all it really comes down to.

4. Passed a background check, then failed it

I was previously employed with a company for 2 years. I was offered a better job, with better pay and hours, so I proceeded to put in my 2 weeks notice, worked them completely, and moved on. The company I headed off to didn’t keep any of the job promises, so after 3 months I reapplied with the previous company for the same position. The first time around, I had no issues with the background check. This time, I was offered the position and was all ready to come back, only to receive word 2 days before my first return shift that I did not pass the background check. Is it common or normal to pass then fail a check for the same company? All the information provided was the same as the first time, and the issue on the background check is now 2 years older with no further issues.

No, that’s odd. You should point out that you passed previously and that there shouldn’t be anything problematic on and ask if they can take another look at it. Sometimes mistakes happen.

5. How to thank an awesome custodian when I leave my job

I’ve worked in the same university department for almost five years, and am now resigning to go to grad school. Our building has two custodial staff, and during my time here I’ve seen a handful of different people in these positions. One of our current custodians has been here for a few years, and does a significantly higher job than anyone else we’ve had in this building or in the other buildings on campus. When I first started working here, we had real issues with cleanliness, such as trash not being collected and toilet paper not being replaced, and the custodians were often MIA. Ever since this employee started, our building has looked great and we haven’t had any problems. I’ll see him doing extra little things like wiping down door handles or baseboards, and he’s always around in case you need him.

Having seen what happens when you have poor performers in that position, I am continually impressed by his quite dedication to his job and have always made a point to thank him for his work whenever it seemed appropriate. Around Christmas, the office does a collection for the custodians as a holiday bonus, and I’ve always contributed to this. Now that I’m leaving, I wanted some way to let him know how impressed and grateful I’ve been for his work. The custodial staff at the university are technically employees of a different department and just assigned to the different buildings. Since I’m not in a supervisory role to him (and only a midlevel employee in the department), it’s not like I could offer to provide a reference if he ever needed one. Is there an appropriate way I could show him that I’ve noticed and appreciated his hard work? Just a “thank you” card seems a bit hollow, but I’m afraid a gift card would be strange as I’m not in his chain of command. I thought about leaving an advanced donation with the person who arranges the Christmas collection, but that seems far off and a bit impersonal.

Talk to him! Tell him what you’ve noticed and how much you’ve appreciated his work. That’s generally more meaningful to people than any gift. (Think about the times you’ve received gifts at work, and times you’ve received heartfelt thanks and recognition. I’ll bet the latter has stayed with you far longer.)

And absolutely, offering to be a reference for him would be a very nice thing to offer — while it’s true that you’re not his manager, you’re someone who can speak glowingly about his work, and sometimes people need non-managers to do that (such as if a manager drops off the face of the earth, or they have a falling-out, or whatever).

{ 200 comments… read them below }

  1. Reader*

    #4 – You indicate there is an issue with the background check that existed when you went to work at company initially.
    -“the issue on the background check is now 2 years older with no further issues”. While there could be a mistake (and you should definitely find out) the problem could be that this issue is now a problem. Either way you should follow up to find out what the problem is and if there is any flexibility as you are a former employee.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yeah, that was my thinking – perhaps the company has changed its policies and now won’t hire people with a history of whatever it was. It’s still worth checking up on it, though. The worst that can happen is they tell you they can’t hire you – which is what will happen if OP doesn’t follow up anyway.

      1. Karowen*

        While it’s possible that they changed their policies, EEOC guidance dictates that they should only be screening for business necessity – so the question is has the job changed significantly in the last 2 years? If it has, there may be a reason for a change in grading. If it hasn’t, it may be worth pointing out that there is no business necessity and that they could get in hot water.

        More importantly, EEOC guidance also dictates that applicants should be given the chance to respond to a background check through individualized assessment. This is not part of the disputes process (where you say that the record is inaccurate), this is a separate process where you get to say “yes, I did that, but here’s why it doesn’t matter.” Having held the job successfully for years is a good reason why the record shouldn’t matter. Companies are required to carefully consider an individual’s response and make a new decision.

        The other possibility is that the employer switched background screening companies and that the previous screening company didn’t find the record where the current one did. Not all background screening companies are created equal!

    2. Artemesia*

      There is a trend towards less tolerance for background check issues. This applies in many areas. I know a kid who is now 40 and was involved in a one time stupid but felonious behavior when he was 19. He had been going to Canada for years since the and then suddenly a few years ago his record long since past barred his entry as they had stiffened border security standards.

      The business may have been willing to accept whatever it was two years ago but have more restrictive standards now. I’d still see if you can discuss the issue.

    3. AVP*

      One other suggestion – I occasionally use a background checking site to look for criminal records, and they occasionally send email updates about new county/local databases that they’ve added to their system. If you’ve had prior issues, maybe they weren’t a part of the system the first time the company ran your bg check, but are now listed as a red flag?

      I would definitely check up on it with them, if only to find out what it is so you know for the future.

      1. Judy*

        OP should also consider Identity Theft, perhaps someone else has used her identity inappropriately. It happens.

        1. Karowen*

          It sounds like she was aware of and takes ownership of the record, just that the record wasn’t an issue before. The company is legally obligated to provide her a copy of her report so that she can dispute any claims, so she would know if there are additional records (from her or from an identity thief) that are the problem.

    1. Graciosa*

      It’s not a question of it haunting a career, it’s a question of whether or not it will be effective. It won’t.

      I’m a big believer in pulling HR into certain situations where you need a professional who knows certain things many managers don’t (harassment issues, discriminatory hiring practices, rules on payment of overtime, any attempt to manage employees in the state of California, etc.). HR cannot help someone who has a boss who just doesn’t like them. The boss holds all the cards, and the employee is basically doomed.

      I agree with Alison that the only effective response is to get out as soon as possible. I wish there was another way to fix it, but this falls into the life-isn’t-fair category. Putting time and mental energy into trying to get the manager to change is futile.

      1. Stephanie*

        any attempt to manage employees in the state of California

        Haha. My dad’s friend used to do HR for a company in California and said it was tough. “Things were just different from everywhere else…”

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          The situation does sound pretty soul destroying. In an ideal world, the manager would have a damascene conversion, but the best solution for the OP, as Alison states, is to find a new position.

      2. Nina*

        Plus, once Evil Boss finds out their employee talked about her to HR, she’s probably going to act worse. Leaving really is the only option.

        1. Stephanie*

          Also, no guarantee HR will side with OP #1. Unfortunately, Evil Boss may be of more benefit to the company than OP #1 and that might influence a decision. I’m thinking of something like professional services (like legal or consulting) where Evil Boss could be a rainmaker and worth the effort to keep on staff.

          1. GrumpyBoss*

            One thing I’ve learned by having a very horrible boss myself: it is not against the law to be an a-hole. It is not against the law to play favorites. None of this fits the definition of a hostile work environment unless some form of discrimination is brought in.

            HR rarely acts on bad managers. They act on people breaking the law and putting their company at risk. As truly horrible as this situation sounds, I don’t think it is venturing into territory where HR will be able to, or even willing to, fix the situation to the OP’s satisfaction.

            This is probably the most clear cut example of “you need to find a better job” as I’ve seen on this blog.

            1. Rebecca*

              I wish this trend would reverse. Just once I’d like to see the poor manager get fired and replaced with someone competent. It doesn’t seem fair that it’s always the worker bee who has to try to find another job, especially in this economy and job market, when the problem lies with poor management.

              1. MK*

                OP did not mention that her boss is incompetent. The problem with bad managers is that it could mean either “a manager who is a bad person” or “a person who is bad at managing”; it could mean both, of course, but a company usually has an incentive to intervene only in the second case. An a-hole manager could still manage to produce good results and, also, managing may not be their chief responsibility.

                1. Jason*

                  When I think of an a-hole manager who produces results, I think of someone who is perhaps curt or abrupt, someone who is not overly friendly. Perhaps they even give you constructive feedback in an impolite manner.

                  Saying “You can leave at any time” is flat out rude and not constructive. The ability to interact with people is part of a manager’s job. If a person cannot interact with someone in a constructive manner, even if they are producing results in other areas (e.g., cost cutting a project effectively), then they are still doing poorly in a key aspect of managing. Apparently she has said “I hired you; I can fire you.” While that’s true, that doesn’t make for a motivated atmosphere. Apparently she has even fired a few people in this way – that sounds to me like there is high turnover with this manager. Never a good sign.

                  No one expects hand holding from their manager. A manager absolutely must be able to provide constructive feedback and doesn’t have to do so in a nice manner. However, that manager absolutely should not be rude. Say someone has two supervisors they work closely with. I cannot imagine a person saying “You can never, ever leave. I need you here as my supervisor. You, on the other hand,… eh, you can leave at any time.” I cannot imagine a comment like that (if meant seriously) ever EVER being tolerated by management (nor would I expect it to be), and neither should it be acceptable coming from a manager. I am not saying that this manager should be fired. I just think she should be talked to and the issue addressed.

                  Unfortunately I don’t think the OP can force the issue to be addressed, even with HR involved, so I think it’s best for OP to cut his/her losses and move on. Good luck, OP.

                  Also, I am in no way saying that you support the comments by the manager. It sounds like you’re just stating the (unfortunate) facts of the way things in the corporate world are. I’m only expressing my general frustration on behalf of the OP and how damaging situations like this can be.

                2. MK*

                  Ben, what I was trying to say is that “bad management” does not always translate into problems for the employer. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that being a bad manager does not always mean one is bad at their job, in the sense that it makes sense for the employer to fire them. If the department’s work is being done to the company’s satisfaction, a.k.a. the manager’s behavior doesn’ t stop the OP from doing her job, they just don’t have the incentive to deal with the situation. Especially when it seems to be an isolated matter, since the OP doesn’t mention if this person is treating anyone else this way. Even less so when the manager’s chief value to the company is not in managing; if the company lawyer or accountant are brilliant at their work, their behavior will have to be a lot worse than the OP describes before they suffer anu consequences.

                  The reality is that horrible people/managers are not by definition useless.

            2. Cindi*

              I agree. I’ve had bosses that were soul destroying, bitter, borderline sociopaths. HR knew all about them and didn’t (couldn’t?) do anything. When I was reading #1, my only thought was “you need to ask what you should do???” It’s amazing how much crap people will take, and for how long. Update your resume. Get the heck out of there. You don’t deserve to be treated that way. If you’re really the one doing most of the work, it will be fun to give your notice and watch them scramble to figure out how to do all the work you’ve been doing.

              1. GrumpyBoss*

                I once had a bad manager and I experienced Stockholm Syndrome after a period of time. I knew, fundamentally, that he was a sociopath and that it wasn’t a good situation. But as more time went on, I found myself defending his actions, especially to myself.

                Sometimes, we go with the devil we know.

                1. Janis*

                  GrumpyBoss — Please tell us more about how you experienced the Stockholm Syndrome. That is so interesting to me.

                2. GrumpyBoss*

                  Well, this particular guy I worked with on and off over 10 years. By the end of that tenure, I hated his guts. But at the beginning, I was trying to rationalize his behavior. I was always putting myself in his shoes, trying to see things through his eyes. I know now that there was nothing to see – he was simply a big old bully.

                  But what happened early on was that he would do 15 nasty things, then do 1 good thing and that would cancel things out. For instance, we had a work from home rotation on our team. If we were ever in a meeting, someone was always dialed in. He loved putting the phone on mute and making fun of whoever was on the other end. It was inappropriate for a number of reasons, but the worst of it was you knew it was happening to you too when you were gone. Lots of little jabs about you and your work. He was a very big man, and would get in your personal space to physically intimidate you. If I were to disagree with something, he would literally take one step closer to me and repeat himself. Towards the end, I called him out on it (what, am I supposed to feel physically threatened here?). He’d take credit for your ideas and never pass it on. He was, and still is, the biggest rumor monger I ever met, even if it meant flat out making crap up (“Jane has been late a lot recently. I’m pretty sure it is because she is pregnant and has morning sickness”). He gave preferential treatment to a very attractive woman in the office, who to her credit, had no idea that this guy was constantly coming on to her. When she dared to get married, he turned on a dime and came down on her harder than anyone else on the team. The poor girl had no idea what happened. All of this really wore you down. But I forgot all the daily crap when he’d do one exceptionally nice thing. He sent the kindest condolence card I ever received when I had a family member pass. Too bad he couldn’t be that nice face to face. But I got the card, I saved it, and I forgot about him being a jerk. I have 3 or 4 little incidents like this that would take center stage and erase years of bad behavior. Deep down, I think that was because this was the person I wanted him to be, and it was a coping mechanism.

                  This guy was not well liked in the company. He was smart enough to hitch his wagon to someone who was a rising star, and was basically untouchable. I was often left cleaning up his mess with other departments. I’d get all the time, “How is that guy still employed?”. I couldn’t help it – I’d picture the condolence card and rush to his defense. “He’s not so bad, you just have to get to know him” or “He’s actually a very strong leader, I’ve learned so much under him”. After awhile, I started actually believing those things.

              2. Artemesia*

                Occasionally a vital employee leaves and they are left scrambling, but most of us think we are more vital and do more work than is the case. I have observed dozens of very important people move on in my career and rarely did it take long to replace their efforts. Workers are extraordinarily replaceable.

                1. Cindi*

                  Everyone’s replacable. But sometimes the transition is pretty tough. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing about issues my old employer had after my position was eliminated. No, not everyone could do what I did. Yes, it mattered if you had a trained person in that position. Yes, there are consequences when you dump the only person who knows how to do those duties.

                  The schadenfreude was fun, I admit.

            3. Juli G.*

              I definitely have acted on bad managers. They normally aren’t fired but often they lose their people management responsibilities, making promotion difficult.

              OP, I’m wondering if you have any idea why this is happening. Are you a different race/gender/religion/ etc. from your boss or coworker? If yes and you think it’s contributing to boss’s behavior, give HR a heads up (even if you wait until your exit interview).

              1. J-nonymous*

                You are a rare exception, and I say that with no snark or sarcasm but a little sadness that more people don’t do the same.

    2. ProcReg*

      I’ve been in a situation like this. It was awful. The boss would say things to me like, “You’d better be interviewing”. Just an absolute terrible place; the standard by which badness is now measured for me.

      1. ProcReg*

        Also, we involved HR in the issue towards the end of (several people’s) tenures. It did not work; it probably made the situation worse.

      2. GrumpyBoss*

        I had a boss who used to say that. It is a credit to the number of horrific bosses I’ve had that I’ve forgotten all about him. After awhile, I just came to think of him as a blowhard and ignored his little jabs.

        He’s a C level now at a Fortune 100 company.

        1. ProcReg*

          I ended up being accepted to graduate school. After revealing that a month sooner than I’d hoped, the heat was turned up. She was awful as she tried to force me out. The day I turned in my notice was one of the top five of my life

          My exit phone interview was ugly. The end was this: four years later, I found out there was executive management change. They started reading exit interviews. She was removed from power and to this day doesn’t have people reporting to her. That was in 2010.
          They knew it was a problem, but we had theorized that she knew where the skeltons were buried.

          I’ve had bad bosses since then, but none have equaled her in nastiness and vindictivness.

      3. Bea W*

        Big Boss at a former employer would say, “Why are you still here?” which would leave me tempted to snark back, “Why do you still employ me?”

  2. Ann Furthermore*

    #2: This is probably some sort of cost cutting measure, which is really crappy. Companies do stuff like this all the time, and it just baffles me that they don’t see that any cost savings is more than offset by declining morale and increased turnover. Like the OP said,if you’re going to get nickel and dimed for every little thing, then where’s the incentive to put in any extra effort for anything?

    My company does some things that drive me nuts, but in this regard they’re great. In my group the work ebbs and flows, and the expectation is that your hours will too. When you’re approaching a big project milestone, then the hours go up. Once you’re through it, things slow down for a little while, and your hours drop off. And the general rule for exempt employees is if you have a personal obligation that will take less than 4 hours (doctor’s appointment, parent-teacher conference, etc) then you don’t need to use any PTO and you can make up your hours later in the week. It’s nice to be treated like an adult in the workplace.

    #5 I think it’s really nice that you want to recognize the custodian in your building. So often what they do is unappreciated — until of course there’s some kind of snafu. I think Alison is right — just taking the time to say thank you would mean more than any gift, because most people wouldn’t bother — or even notice. I think a genuine thank you to someone for doing a thankless job would be hugely appreciated.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      #2 My last job did the nickel & diming thing. I was exempt, but we had to track our hours on a timesheet. After working there for a few years, they suddenly started being really crappy about the hours. Even if I worked 16 hrs on Monday, and then came in late on Tues, they would dock PTO. Also sometimes we would have special projects with overnight shifts that needed covering, so I’d work a full day, then come back and work midnight to 4am. There was nowhere on the timesheet to record this, so I’d write it on the “notes” at the bottom. They routinely ignored this, and would dock PTO if I came in late the next day (usually because I was there from midnight to 4am!) I started highlighting, putting stickers, or sticking googly eyes on the notes section. They got really irritated when I put glitter on it one time- it got glitter everywhere (but it got their attention!) No real advice for the OP, except to say that if this is the only irritating thing about the job, then I’d just put up with it. In my case this was one in a long list of stupid management decisions by my previous employer, hence why they are my previous employer!

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          He he… the glitter elicited an “all-staff” email that read something like this: “STAFF, please do NOT put GLITTER on notes on your TIMESHEET. We read all TIMESHEETS CAREFULLY and will SEE notes THERE. THANK YOU, FINANCE Dept.”

          1. Natalie*

            Argh the insane caps. Someone should tell them too much emphasizing really limits the impact.

      1. a*

        If you were working from midnight to 4am on a specific day, that’s not the previous day. That’s the same day you supposedly came in late.

        Midnight to 4am + 11am to 6pm = 11 hours that day.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          Even more reason I shouldn’t have been docked any PTO. Especially if I worked at least 4 hrs after I came in late.

  3. Stephanie*

    #5 – Yes, tell him thank you! Also, if you know his manager (might be hard since custodial gets contracted out often), tell the manager what a good job he does. Only work gift I’ve gotten that I continually use is a coffee grinder. My coworker knew I disliked the Flavia machine coffee and brought in an extra coffee grinder for me. Aside from that, a “thanks” would have been the most meaningful.

    1. Lillie Lane*

      A physical thank-you note (in addition to the personal conversation) might also be nice so he can have an addition to his kudos file if he keeps one. It could be helpful for him at review/raise time, especially if he is supervised by a different department. I think it’s great you want to honor him in some way.

      There was a custodian at my old job (at a university, too) and I asked him to set up the auditorium in a special configuration. He was very concerned about doing everything correctly and did a great job. Luckily, I happened to have some thank-you cards in my car (I didn’t work at that particular location) and left him a note on his cart after he left for the day. You could tell he was very happy that his hard work was appreciated.

      1. Artemesia*

        People do this sort of thing so rarely i.e. sending notes, notifying the company or supervisor, that he will remember this for the rest of his career. This is a great thing to do and notifying his company or supervisor especially a great thing to do.

    2. ella*

      I was also going to suggest calling his manager, or sending a written note not just to him, but also to his supervisor, so that they know he’s doing a good job.

    3. Catherine*

      Same answer. On top of talking to the custodian directly, find out who his supervisor is and send an email on how impressed you’ve been with his job performance. Tell the custodian you are doing this, and cc: him or provide him with a printout. If you can’t figure out who his supervisor is, try sending it to HR (at the university if he’s employed there, or the HR office for the contractor he is employed by). I would probably buy him a small gift…I’m thinking a small, easy-to-maintain houseplant. But that’s me.

    4. Monodon monoceros*

      One of the custodians that I loved used to have a cup of coffee with him all the time on his cart. I bought him one of those Contigo travel mugs that are great because they are really leakproof. I think he really appreciated it- he always had it with him after that. I think if there’s something meaningful you could buy, you could do that, but otherwise just telling him (and his supervisor) how much you appreciate him is great.

    5. Natalie*

      If you rent your office space, let the property manager know, too. We hire the janitorial company so it’s good information for us, and we’ll likely pass it along to the supervisor also.

    6. OP5*

      OP 5 here. Thanks for all the suggestions. Emailing his supervisor is a great idea. I will definitely write a letter to his head custodian and the supervisor over the entire custodial staff. I’ll also write him a thank you note and include an offer to be a reference if he ever needs it (though I imagine he won’t, as he’ll probably retire from here). I’d like to give him a little gift of some sort, since as TotesMaGoats says below the custodial staff are so often overlooked and under-appreciated, and certainly the least paid employees. And I’ve always found gifts are a nice indication of how much my work is appreciated. I think a gift card would be most appreciated/helpful, but I’m concerned that the other custodian will find out and wonder why they didn’t get one. They have done fine work from what I have seen, but not on the same level of the person I want to acknowledge, though they’re assigned to a different floor than I work so I don’t know them as well or see them as often. Like I mentioned, the office does a Christmas collection and splits it evenly between the two custodians. Is it rude to just give a card/gift to one person when typically they’re acknowledged together?

      1. Trixie*

        I don’t think so since its a personal gift from a coworker; It would be a different story if you were the employer. The office will still present both of them with a gift, this is just in addition to that.

      2. Another J*

        I work for a university and they have a campus wide employee recognition department. Try sending something to HR as well about the excellent work. Our HR has a nice ceremony with small speeches and gifts for rewarding employees that go above and beyond.

  4. GrumpyBoss*

    #4: ask what portion you failed! I failed a background check and the reason why was volunteered by HR. In my case, they were unable to verify employment at a company I worked at that had been out of business for 15 years! The hiring company made a big stink about it and said they’d waive the failure if I could provide a paystub. When I pointed out that the IRS only requires 7 years of back receipts, so the expectation that I’d be holding a paystub twice as long was unrealistic, they paused. I was later called back and told that the hiring manager had authorized HR to overrule my failed background check. I declined the offer. I didn’t appreciate being made to feel like I was a common criminal due to their stringent background requirements.

    So takeaways for anyone who fails: sometimes you can fail for unbelievably minor things. Ask what that reason is and see if there is some way to discuss it.

    1. Sabrina*

      Yeah I nearly failed mine because for some reason my community college reported that I started school in August, 1996, not June 1995 as I had reported. I said there’s no way my dad would have let me sit around for a year doing nothing, and I had transcripts to back it up. They had a fit because the job titles at two jobs were slightly different than what I had reported. One being a temp firm that had placed me at their company to start with. THEN one job said I started on a Sunday because that was when their payroll started, and I reported it as the day after. I mean come on.

    2. Becca*

      My college roommate and I worked at a smoothie shop on campus from Freshman year to Senior year, and even during summers. She applied for a job, they called the smoothie place (who had since changed direct managers) and they told the hiring manager that she only worked there for 6 months. WTF!

      Roommate had her w2’s, but man am I glad I never needed them to verify my college job. Who knows what they would say! This was a university job, too, so you’d think they would have a bit better managing systems.

    3. sam*

      I almost failed the background check for my current job because the outside company they used couldn’t verify my employment at the legal staffing company that I was working for immediately prior to my job offer from current job. The kicker?

      I had been engaged at current employer for a year through said legal staffing company prior to being hired permanently. That’s how they found me in the first place. Needless to say, it got sorted. The really best part was that the background check company was able to verify my employment at the two jobs I held prior to that. Both of those law firms went bankrupt and don’t exist anymore.

  5. Just Visiting*

    I kinda think that if #3 is asking this question, they’ve already made their decision. If you’re even considering giving up a relationship for a job then you’re not really committed to your girlfriend. Which is okay! But call it for what it is.

    1. EE*

      I disagree. The truth is that we’re often not 100% committed to relationships, but we muddle through regardless. Things in life other than relationships matter. It might be unromantic to admit it, but it’s true.

      My partner’s job moves him around a lot. If he told me, “Hey, we’re moving to Riyadh – and it’s permanent!” I would end the relationship, because my commitment doesn’t go so far as to live in a compound in Saudi Arabia for the rest of my life. My commitment isn’t 100% but it’s plenty enough to get by.

      In short, because OP considered moving his girlfriend down from the No 1 spot it doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t going anywhere.

      1. Sarahnova*

        Fair point. I will say, though, that when I married my husband, I was making the decision that our marriage was more important than any other single factor in my life – and, explicitly, that it was more important than any given job. The OP says they plan to marry their girlfriend and have children, which will also involve becoming a step-parent to the GF’s existing children – this scale of commitment is no joke. It seems to me they should probably already have thought through and talked through how their career needs mesh with the children’s needs for stability etc, and they should certainly do so urgently now.

          1. EE*

            Entirely possible! I’ve never lived in a country with gay marriage so “plan on marrying” means I automatically assume a het relationship.

        1. TL*

          Yeah, I don’t know that most people make that decisions about their marriages (especially the younger ones, though it sounds like the OP is probably not very young.) I think a fair number of people get married with the assumption that it’ll all work out in the end, but not necessarily thinking through every scenario, or at some point have a shift in priorities. (Especially, I think, for women, who have a lot of pressure to prioritize their marriages over their careers.)

      2. Sabrina*

        Right plus it’s just city vs. suburbs. In some areas of the US if you want to work for the city or be a teacher at the public schools, you have to live within the city limits. So s/he can be committed but considering a job that would require a 15 mile move.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          It sounds like the GF might need to be a little more flexible here too, if it’s a great opportunity. It doesn’t have to be job or family for the OP, and house or OP for the girlfriend.

          1. TL*

            Maybe. But the gf might also have shared custody which would make moving very difficult or hard on the kids – especially if the kids are split equal time between their two parents.

            Most of the parents I know who are completely opposed to moving often are like that because of their custody agreements.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I wonder if LW#3 wants us to validate his desire to put his career first when his girlfriend has set up a never move/no compromise condition as part of the relationship. The couple should talk about this. In addition to what Alison answered LW#3 should consider he might never be able to leave the suburbs if he marries his girlfriend.

      I’ll be honest, I am a bit on the side of the LW because the likelyhood of someone never moving even for jobs, increasing family size, lifestyle changes seems slim. The girlfriend is putting her desire and preferces ahead of LW#3 without any discussion with him. That seems controlling and not a good way to have a relationship.

      1. Christy*

        I think she’s just saying “Take me as I am.” Staying in the suburbs in that house is a condition of staying with her. It’s not controlling, it’s just an honest assessment of her baseline requirement for a marriage. Either LW3 can accept that or not, but that doesn’t mean his girlfriend is controlling.

        My boss lived in a different city than her husband before they were married, and she told him in no uncertain terms that he could continue to live in his house or come to live with her, but she was not moving. And it was just a baseline condition for marrying her–she was going to live in her house. It’s not controlling, because he didn’t have to sign up for it.

        1. MK*

          I don’t think it’s controlling to state your dealbreakers, in this case “I am not prepared to live anywhere but in this town/house”, especially if they are non-negotiable. But it does state something about the other person’s level of commitment and their priorities. I am not sure how I would react if a partner told me that living in their house was more important to their happiness that being with me. Perhaps that’s what the IT Manager was trying to say, that the OP’s girlfriend may not be as commited to the relationship, if she refuses to even discuss moving.

          1. Christy*

            Yes, I agree that it speaks to priorities. And in the case of LW3, it makes sense that her kids not moving is a priority for her.

            My coworker on the other hand? She knew that she could very happily be single in her house, and she wasn’t going to give the house up for her husband. She would have been fine if he’d decided to leave her (in the take me or leave me). She was also mid-40s when she married, so she knew herself and what she wanted really, really well.

            1. the gold digger*

              I love my husband and am mostly happy, but I wish I had stood my ground and said that I was not leaving my city to move to his. He was not really vested in his city – rented, didn’t have that many friends – but I owned a house and had great friends. Now I am in a new city that I am not crazy about and I really miss my friends.

            2. Lynn Whitehat*

              I would guess that the not-moving thing has a lot to do with schools. She wants to keep her kids in a good school district, which makes perfect sense. Depending on how things are with her ex and their divorce decree, she may not even be able to move. So I don’t think it’s fair to her to say “obviously she’s not very committed if she won’t leave that suburb.”

              1. Nina*

                My thoughts exactly. If she lives in a clean, safe area with good schools, then I’m not surprised that she doesn’t want to uproot her children.

          2. A Teacher*

            The OP also states “with her kids,” so my guess is there are kids from a prior relationship. Sometimes custody agreements dictate where kids have to live by city or whatever. If I had kids, I also would not be willing to uproot their routine because they did come first.

            1. Artemesia*

              They are also not married. Part of our marriage agreement was that my husband would uproot himself from a great job he had and move to where I could get a job. I had a profession where location was not much of a choice; few jobs and always involving a move. The deal was I would accept a job in a place where he had a shot at making a career e.g. not a small town.

              No way he should have or I assume would have, made this kind of sacrifice for a ‘girlfriend’ who ‘might’ someday marry him or might not. If this guy wants to marry this woman (or this woman wants to marry this woman) then that should be part of the mix if s/he is asking her to uproot her kids. Maybe she would not move, but a real commitment means marriage when this sort of request is made.

              1. fposte*

                It’s also possible that there’s a non-custodial parent who’d have to give permission for the kids to move farther away, too.

          3. The IT Manager*

            Thanks, MK, you explained what I meant better than I did. You’re right in that GF is not trying to control LW#3, but her non-neogiable condition does let the LW know where he stands.

            BTW I get that the kids can play a big factor, but she didn’t say until the kids are a certain age or graduate or whatever. According to the LW, she said “for good.” That seems a bit unreasonable and unlikely to me, but LW#3 knows where the relationship ranks as compared to her home.

        2. Bea W*

          Also they are not married and he is not the father of her children. Whose to say she would have the same response if other factors were thrown in. She has her children to think about first and foremost and it could be she does not think uprooting them from where they are is a good idea. The OP mentions she lives in a neighborhood with good schools, and when you have children in school, this is a primary concern when choosing where to live.

          She owns the house. It’s a big risk to consider giving that up for a man she has no legal standing with.

          She may not feel ready to commit to the relationship at that level. It doesn’t mean it’s not working out or won’t workout or that she is controlling. She’s no more controlling than the OP would be if he decides to move for the job. It really a lot more complex than “either you are committed or not”.


      2. Monodon monoceros*

        I think the kids are a big factor here. I think its totally reasonable, and not controlling, to say that she doesn’t want to move.

        1. cv*

          Yeah, saying that you’re not willing to make your kids switch schools, and probably activities and friends, seems totally reasonable. The girlfriend is a single parent, so there may be some additional element (a breakup or divorce that involved a move for the kids already, a father with some sort of shared custody, family nearby that provides backup child care) that would lead her to place a premium on keeping her kids where they are.

          As for the OP, this really isn’t a decision that an advice columnist can make for you. It depends on your relationship, your career ambitions, your job options if you stay, etc. Sounds like a tough choice – good luck with your decision!

      3. Red Librarian*

        I wouldn’t call that controlling, she just has more of an investment in the current situation: HER kids and HER house. She and the OP aren’t married, so it’s a very, very big risk for her to uproot her life, and her children, pull them out of a good school district to put them into potentially a less than awesome school, to sell her house, etc., for a person she doesn’t have any legal standing with.

        If the gf and the OP were married, her feelings on the matter may be different. But right now it sounds like her priority is to her children and not her boyfriend and I’d actually be more concerned if it was reversed.

      4. alma*

        As a kid, I went through a period where I had to switch schools four times in four years due to my parents’ moving around. This was all within the same city/geographic area, and it still sucked to have to keep starting over. So I come down on this thinking the LW’s girlfriend is being extremely sensible not to want to uproot her kids. I think “controlling” is a really unfair way to characterize a decision that appears to be quite rational (given that owning the house is a big deal, and she has no legal ties to LW yet) and in her children’s best interest.

        That said, I also think LW is perfectly within rights to decide the situation is a dealbreaker for him. It would be unfortunate, but based on what’s given in the letter, I don’t see this as a situation where there’s a “bad guy,” just priorities that are incompatible.

        1. Adam*

          Agreed. I am of the mindset that when you marry and have kids keeping your relationship solid is priority #1 followed very closely by your children’s needs at priority #2. I order it that way because the relationship between you and your partner is one of THE most important things your child will learn and take cues from life about from.

          But should your relationship end you become a single parent, the kids’ needs move to priority #1. The ending of the relationship will affect them in some way, and having to deal with the new suitors that eventually come along is going to be very confusing for the kids. Uprooting them at this stage can be incredibly hard and in my opinion should be avoided unless circumstances pretty much demand it.

        2. Biff*

          I think it’s odd that he thinks it would be seen as odd to have family in the suburbs and an apartment in the city — this is not an uncommon arrangement!

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think it’s that the OP is worried that it’s odd–it’s that it’s likely to indicate a breach of the employment terms.

            1. Biff*

              I realized that later on. At first I had gotten the impression that he thought it was socially strange.

            2. De Minimis*

              How I read it too….usually cities that have these rules don’t allow that type of arrangement.

      5. Sarahnova*

        Maybe this is a cultural difference; in the UK it would be considered normal and acceptable to prioritise children’s need for stability over some career opportunities. “Never” doesn’t literally mean “never”, of course, but it generally means “until the children are close to independent”.

        Children can find changes of school/city rough, especially at certain key times.

        1. Judy*

          I know at least two families who have timed job moves because of their kids. Discussions that were basically “If we are still here in 2 years, we want to stay in this area for 6 more.” In the US, high school is 9th through 12th grades, and those families wanted both of their kids (who were 2 years apart in age) to stay at the same school for those years.

          I remember several friends from college whose parents moved once they were at college, so I’m assuming they also stayed in a job or location longer than they wanted based on letting the kids finish high school.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            My dad lived 6 years in an apartment in a different city about 2 hours away because my mom wanted my sister to finish middle and high school at her then-current school. They thought about moving at the end of middle school, the first two years after he’d moved up, but then it looked like the job wasn’t stable. She graduated high school and then he was laid off and moved home. The main reason was that my parents moved me in the middle of 8th grade and I was bullied remorselessly. They didn’t want her to go through what I went through.

      6. Anon*

        The girlfriend does have children, though. It’s fair, even admirable, to put your children above your boyfriend. There are situations where it might be warranted to put one parent’s career first for the long-term benefit of the entire family, but given that this guy sees it as an option to walk out, I don’t think this is a situation where it would be smart of her to start putting the boyfriend before the kids.

    3. fposte*

      I’m not sure the OP’s question is entirely about which to choose–it seems to me that there were several references to the possibility of claiming to work in the city for eligibility purposes while still living with the girlfriend in the nearby town. So if that was in the question–OP, don’t do that. You really do need to choose.

      1. MandyBabs*

        I’ve been that girlfriend. My big time ex had always been pressing for a move to Germany (government guy) – which not only would have given him a heck of a pay grade raise, but he wanted to travel hard core. We were barely 26 but had been together since college. I was still enjoying my city girl life, friends and hobbies – and my own career. Plus I kind of wanted to get married BEFORE I move with him across the world and that wasn’t looking like it was going to happen.

        The main kicker is I basically couldn’t work if I was over there (so potentially have a nice 3 yr gap on my resume at 26) – and honestly he started pushing like I shouldn’t go because I’d be so unhappy – which don’t do to someone on the fence. What I believe is he just didn’t want to be responsible for me and I was allegedly never 100% my love for you is eternal to you, damn my own needs – he pushed me out.

        My point is, it should be a team decision. Perhaps if we talked about it more, and he helped me with options of what I could do in Germany besides being a house frou OR deferred a bit more till I was ready (which I was interested in doing at say the age I currently I am), we could have worked something out. But to the OP – talk about what she is afraid of loosing and what she could have that is close to that in the new place. Is it a bigger house? Better schools? Higher income? Stable life there after? I’ve noticed most people are afraid of change, but if you help them embrace it and make it like it’s their decision too, then it all works out.

        Example – I have a close friend who was in the exact same situation as me, but she did move with her husband. They decided together, got married, and then moved. She is doing online grad school, taking German classes and then they travel – they are very happy, but they made the choice together.

    4. the gold digger*

      I can see not wanting to move from the suburbs to the city where I live (which has the same rule for city employees). The city schools are horrible – among the worst in the nation – and I would not put my children (if I had them) in those schools.

      1. Red Librarian*

        Here, too. Parents either 1) Move to the suburbs or 2) If they are able to, put their children in the plethora of private schools because the school system here is awful.

    5. Militant Intelligent*

      I don’t agree with this, either. A friend has the same predicament. Needs to live in a city because of the job, but has family in another city. Hey man, look. Do what you need to do. Because you take the job doesn’t mean you are any less committed to your family. Your girlfriend has made a decision, and you have made one to. You can have both job and gf, but you may need to get creative/flexible, and SACRIFICE will be needed to make it work. I hope you go for it! Let us know what happens. Good luck, mate.

  6. Christy*

    #3: Generally speaking, jobs aren’t once in a lifetime, and girlfriends aren’t the singular love of your life. There will be other jobs that are awesome for you, and there will be other women that are awesome for you. The thing that you aren’t going to be able to fill in behind will be her kids. Do you love your girlfriend’s kids, like as individuals? Do you coach the son’s baseball team, say, or always discuss Marvel movies with the daughter? Would you miss her kids, like the actual people they are, not the idea of them? I think that’s worth considering.

  7. Cari*

    #1 – IANAL but, I think over here in the UK, if you were to leave under those circumstances it could be considered constructive dismissal (which you can take action against them for). It’s hard to prove though, from my limited understanding…
    The same happened to my sister, to the point of developing health problems and she had to be signed off sick. She put in a grievance against her manager, but there were no actual policies in place or any kind of HR dept, and her manager was having an affair with *her* manager, so the grievance never went anywhere. She had to find a new job (she is much happier now though!).

    1. Observer*

      It might be considered constructive dismissal here, too. But, since in most cases employment is “at will” that’s not much good to the OP unless she winds up quitting before she finds a new job.

      1. Sarahnova*

        Yes, in the UK this would be actionable, because it is in fact illegal to make someone’s job so unpleasant and difficult that they have little/no option but to quit – although proving it is, as always, another matter. Knowing the US’s employment laws, I doubt the OP has anything she can use, but anyone with better knowledge should weigh in.

        1. fposte*

          The concept exists, but the laws are state by state, and generally it’s not going to be worth the suit. It might help you get UI if you quit, but that’s a crapshoot.

        2. LQ*

          In the US you likely wouldn’t even be eligible for unemployment in many states if you quit this job. It’s certainly not illegal (I don’t even think it’s illegal in CA, though ..CA).

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just to be clear, if it’s constructive dismissal in the U.S., it could help you be eligible for unemployment, but nothing beyond that. (And I suspect it wouldn’t even qualify for that here. It usually has to be worse than “my boss makes it clear she doesn’t like me.”) But constructive dismissal isn’t in and of itself illegal here.

      1. fposte*

        California (naturally) does have some possibility of constructive discharge as a legal action; it seems largely to be limited to acts that are in violation of public policy (so maybe it’s basically a rationale for private action in those cases) and I’m seeing it mostly as part of a list of claims rather than people suing just for that. But maybe there’s a California attorney/HR person who knows more.

  8. Brett*

    #2 I would also look into whether or not you are actually exempt. It is pretty clear the company assumes salaried=exempt. But if they are willing to keep strict clock hours like this and nickle and dime PTO, there is a good chance they went, “This unit will work lots of overtime, so let’s make them salaried,” and ignored whether or not the work is actually FLSA exempt work.

    1. Becca*

      My last job did this…..if I wanted to, I could totally sue them for allllll of the Saturdays and late nights they made me work. Unfortunately it’s probably more trouble that it’s worth…

      1. money lady*

        You wouldn’t have to sue. You can just contact your state’s DOL and put in a complaint. They will contact the employer and make them pay you (as long as you weren’t exempt.).

        1. Becca*

          They claimed I was exempt…but I do the exact job now at a different company and our legal department at my new company classified me as hourly due to the nature of my job. If it were completely anonymous I might, but I wouldn’t want to burn bridges. My co-worker probably had about 10 hours a week of over-time minimum and he was definitely not exempt…just doing the math he probably could be in for 30,000…but I know he would never file a complaint for the same reason. I’d be afraid that my old boss would try to physically harm me or find a way to sabatoge my current job.

    2. KJR*

      This is an excellent point. Many jobs are mis-classified. The Department of Labor has a great website, you could search for more specifics there.

  9. Carmella*

    Thank you all for responding to situation #1. The toughest part is that I love my job and my coworkers, but my boss makes it so that I am basically in tears everyday. She makes the office so tense, she is so unprofessional. I know I need to leave but I was just hoping I would be able to speak to her about this and maybe she would realize how she treats me. She is totally the type to be spiteful, so if I did confront her, she would find a way to get rid of me. She has the “I hired you, I can fire you” type mentality and has said this multiple times to others she ultimately let go. Also when I do leave I want to let her know that it is not OK for her to treat people like this.

    1. Sarahnova*

      Sorry you’re dealing with this horrible woman and I wish you speedy luck in finding a new job.

      That said, I think your last sentence may be a hope you have to let go of, for your own sanity. Evidently this woman sees nothing wrong in her behaviour, and if she does it to others, her company probably knows and doesn’t care (enough) either. It is rarely possible to teach these people a lesson – if they were able to listen to reason and cared about your feelings, they wouldn’t be acting like this in the first place.

      Get out fast, and take care of yourself as best you can in the meantime.

      1. Carmella*

        Thank you, really, I ask the people in my office for advice, and they just feel uncomfortable because I am the only one treated this way. I was going to ask her what I can do better, but after hearing what everyone has to say on here, it is really not worth it. You are right, if she cared about my feelings, she would not do this in the first place. I have a trip planned early next month and I am just going to stick it out until then.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      “I know I need to leave”. Absolutely. This situation isn’t likely to change and the best thing you can do is to leave.
      “Also when I do leave I want to let her know that it is not OK for her to treat people like this.” There’s not likely a way you can let her know this. It’s a further waste of your time and energy. The best thing to do in these situations is to get yourself out.

      I don’t intend to sound harsh on you OP1 but please realize you’ll only frustrate yourself further.

      1. Carmella*

        You are not harsh! I need to hear these things. I am new to the corporate world, this is my first “real” job out of college. I just hope all managers do not do this.

        1. Becca*

          THEY DON’T!!!

          I promise. I was in your situation 4 months ago. My boss would drive me to tears from her abusive language and just the general work load. I finally got out and my new boss is an absolute dream. She is so sweet and kind and I am learning so much from her. I just had my probationary period review on Friday and the only criticism she had was “Slow down! You aren’t at your old job anymore. No one will yell at you if you leave some work waiting for Monday morning.”

          I hope you find something soon. It’s definitely a learning experience, and you’ll appreciate your new job so much more! Good luck!

          1. Ben*

            OK- a lot do to some degree or another. I had a boss d0 what your did to a lesser degree. My boss now steals my ideas. I just was forwarded an email today proving as much,,,,Boss is a slime ball, but I always THINK- why are they there- because they mst have slime balls above them who want them there.

            My last boss DID NOTHING for years- drove us insane but did not slave drive or take ideas- did not want to do anything so no need to steal.

            LOOK for a new job- call in sick, take all the time you need. And if you are a minority and are being treated differently consider why that may be….

        2. Anon Accountant*

          They don’t. There really are good managers out there I promise. Managers that are great to learn from, they hire a great team that collaborates well and helps each other, and they give learning opportunities appropriate for your skill level and increase it as your grow in duties and skills.

        3. Graciosa*

          Remember when you look for a new job that you are interviewing your boss.

          I realize that a manager like this can make you feel worthless which makes it harder to remember that you do have some power in the situation, so make this a conscious effort. You have valuable skills that companies can use, and you need to find one that offers you a good working environment (and compensation etc.) in exchange.

          When you do leave, I understand that you want to go out with a self-righteous denunciation of the Evil Boss – maybe something that will either make her gasp and cry “I’m so sorry – I never realized – I repent my evil ways” or at least cringe a bit as everyone else regards her in her shame. This is normal – and human – and you should not try to do it. There is no upside and a lot of potential downside.

          If you really want to twist the knife, find a great job elsewhere, resign politely, and thank her publicly for all that she taught you (without saying it was mostly how to identify and avoid Evil Bosses). There is nothing more infuriating to a sadist or a bully than having no apparent impact on the targeted victim.

          Good luck.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Excellent advice, Graciosa. People like this can’t easily be shamed or they wouldn’t be so nasty in the first place. But the nicer you are, the crazier they look for being nasty, and the more other people will side with you. Emotional bullies like this get off on pushing your buttons, so the worst thing you can do to them is act as if you don’t care or you like them.

        4. John*

          This will surely be your worst experience. The bright side is that it will make you treasure your good bosses all the more.

          In my last company I worked for two bosses who were terrible to me (the difference was that they are terrible to everybody, which wasn’t that much of a comfort). I was miserable every day and nothing I tried worked to improve the situation (and I have a track record of getting along with everybody in whatever situation I’ve been in). I left for another job and it was like night and day; whereas I’d been made to feel I was a major screw-up at Old Job, at New Job they acted like I was the second coming.

          I wish you luck on finding a new position where they appreciate you.

      2. Jason*

        I would say perhaps the exit interview with HR is the place to bring this up, but… if you plan on ever using this company or this woman for a reference, I personally would hesitate to do so. It sounds like your boss may be potentially vindictive.

        Agreeing with all others – just get another job, get out and move on. Even if you were to report this, there is very little chance she will see the error of her ways.

        1. Frances*

          Yes, this. Ask around to coworkers (only if you know they can be discreet) and see if any of them would be willing to be a reference for you. That way even if a prospective employer does insist on calling your manager, you can also offer other people with less biased opinions as additional references.

          Also, practice a calm, polite explanation of why you might not get a great reference from this manager, that you can use in interviews if necessary. (I find “personality clash” covers things pretty nicely.)

    3. LQ*

      The best thing you can do here is leave. Honestly people like this nearly never* learn that it isn’t ok to treat someone like this. Insulate yourself as much as possible and spend your time looking for a new job. If you’ve been in this position for a while it will be like you suddenly realize the what it is like to not be in pain in life. Focus on you and a new job.

      *People like this have relationships and jobs and families crumble and never ever think they might be at fault, having on person she’s already decided is worthless at work tell her off will only reinforce her world view.

      1. Karowen*

        I had a manager that was almost identical to this and, while she made it clear that she was in power and she could fire you if she wanted, she was too passive aggressive to actually do so. Instead she just made your life hell, gossiped about you and your work habits behind your back (to your coworkers…who were your friends…who would tell you), belittle you, set you up to fail, knock you down and spit on you…God, I’m having awful flashbacks. And the worst part was that she really thought she was a fantastic boss and a fantastic person.

        Point is, some people should never be managers and like to pull rank without ever actually following through with it. Carmella – Good luck! I know you said you had a trip coming up, but you probably want to start putting in applications now. Don’t wait another second.

      2. Sunflower*

        She could be using it as a scare tactic and might not have an leeway to actually fire her though. Sure she might be able to fire whoever she wants but it’s possibly the company isn’t going to allow it. If OP is hitting her marks and there aren’t problems, it would be hard for the manager to justify firing a successful employee who gets along with coworkers to upper management.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        She can’t fire OP. She needs OP to terrorize the remaining workers. This is her big plan for keeping the crew in line. “Don’t make me hate you, I will treat you like I treat OP.”

        I can almost guarantee that when OP leaves there will be a new scapegoat.

        OP, it’s almost like a sickness with people like this. I don’t know, maybe her parents treated her crappy growing up. No clue. But what ever it is, it is so ingrained that there is nothing you can do or say that will have any impact on her. Your best bet it to take the high road as you are high tailing it out of there. Don’t make yourself into a mini her, she wins if you do.

        And, yes, OP, there a good bosses out there. And there are GREAT bosses out there, too. Someone out there is going to think you are the best thing that happened to their department in eons.

    4. Jennifer*

      “I want to let her know that it is not OK for her to treat people like this.”

      Uh…it IS okay for her to treat people like this. It’s absolutely okay. She can and will get away with it because she has the power over you and there is nothing you can do to stop her. That’s why a lot of people want to be in charge of others–so they can do whatever the hell they want. There’s only a tiny list of things a manager cannot do to you, really, and they will probably get away with it if they do it anyway. Welcome to the shitty real world.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        I get the point you are trying to make, but I disagree with the wording that it is OK. There’s a difference between what someone can get away with, or even what is legal, and what is actually OK. This situation is not OK.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I get a kick out of companies that don’t care what their management people do.

          They don’t track the costs involved in keeping a nasty manager. They ignore the constant training/hiring costs, the costly errors in work, the increased costs of insurance because everyone is sick all the time, and oh-yeah, sick time. There is no way to measure the PR damage that is done when the employee goes home and tells his family and friends “My boss did x and said y today.”

          In rural areas, everyone knows which employers are good and which ones are demons. Word travels fast.

    5. Anonie*

      I agree with everyone else it is time to find a new job but until that happens I would turn things around on her. When she calls don’t expect to speak with her just say Hi Cruella, let me get Drusilla for you. Throw her off and don’t let her think you care about how she is treating you. She is doing it because she knows she can. People do things like that because they can but you don’t have to let her steal your joy. She has got issues and has chosen to make you feel bad to make herself feel better.

    6. J-nonymous*

      Carmella (OP #1) – leave as soon as you can. Your boss is a bully and knows *exactly* what she’s doing and that it’s wrong. She just doesn’t care.

  10. Anonymint*

    Ugh, I feel for OP #1 – my last boss HATED me, for no apparent reason. I was her admin, and she hired me, but after a few weeks on the job something clicked and it was awful. She would go for days at a time without speaking to me, took coworkers (and people in other departments) out for fancy birthday/anniversary/holiday lunches and didn’t ever acknowledge mine (and sometimes didn’t even invite me to these celebrations until prompted by the rest of my department). She never gave me work to do – I started popping by her office in the morning to see what she needed for the day and she’d say “nothing” and tell me to “just look busy”. She never told me when she was going to be out of the office, and took away my calendar access when she heard that I’d emailed our HR assistant to find out if she was out that day or not (after she didn’t come in by lunchtime) because it was “inappropriate” that I was “checking up on her” (remember, I was her admin). I never received feedback (even after asking for it) and she would reprimand my coworkers for trying to give me things to do to help me stay busy when she was ignoring me. I could go on and on.

    When I finally gave notice after a year and a half of this (and a year of looking for a new job), she was so excited – she said “That’s GREAT news!” and then proceeded to tell me that I’d been a disappointment the entire time I’d been there and I’d misrepresented my skills (I still don’t understand what skills she was talking about – when she told me that I apologized and asked what I could have done better, and she couldn’t come up with any specific examples). My last day, she left the office at 11 and the rest of my coworkers took me out for a long lunch. She never acknowledged that it was my last day, but I found out later on that the next Monday she got into a huge fight with the rest of my department because she didn’t think I “deserved” a long lunch on my last day.

    Get out now! As soon as you can – it was a really scarring experience and I’m in a job I love now (where I’m appreciated!) and I still feel the effects of having a boss like that! I’m so sorry you’re experiencing that too…

    1. Carmella*

      Oh my goodness! That sounds terrible, but that sounds just like my manager! It is ridiculous! You are right, things are not going to get any better, I need to get out.

    2. Whippers*

      God, that is so horrible. I know obviously that people can just take dislikes against other people for no rational reason. However, it is never okay to show it in such an obvious way; and it’s especially terrible when you’re that person’s manager. People like this should never be managers, that is just bullying through and through.

          1. Tarte*

            Or Karen?

            Reading your original question, and the subsequent comments, brings back such shitty memories of my last job.

            It *was* very much constructive dismissal, but at the time (even if there was any recourse for me) I was having pretty severe issues in my home, and I only had the energy for one battle. I quit without another job lined up, and I’ve been “home with my kids” ever since—but that’s another story. I wish I had taken more action on my way out.

  11. NW Cat Lady*

    #3 – my only advice is to make absolutely sure you think it through and, whatever you choose, make sure you don’t end up resenting it. Don’t make your girlfriend pay down the line for you missing out on a job you wanted, or don’t make your co-workers/boss/clients pay for you choosing work over a relationship. Choose thoughtfully and let the other go gracefully and completely.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I moved approximately 200 miles for my husband. One of the test questions I asked myself was, “In years to come, if I was having a horrid day, would I catch myself regretting the move? Would I throw that in his face?” [Unfair, of course.]

      Part of my decision to move was a commitment to make it work no matter what. I gave up a lot but I gained so much more. It’s trade offs.

  12. MK*

    OP3, try to keep things into prespective. Right now you seem to think that you have to choose between love (and family) and your career, but the future is unpredictable: you might decline this job and find a better one where you leave soon after, you might take this job, but your relationship will survive anyway (is long-distance not an option at all?), you might take this job and loose your girlfriend and then fall in love at firts sight on your first day. Or, you might take the job, loose your girlfriend and then get fired soon afterwards or you might decline the job in favor of your relationship, only to have your girlfriend turn down your proposal or you falling out of love with her or your marriage breaking down a few years down the line.

    I realise this is not very helpful, but the point I am trying to make is that this kind of choise involves an element of risk no matter what. Think about what you want out of life right now and for the future and talk to your partner to make sure you are on the same page.

    1. Brett*

      I don’t think long distance is the issue here. Sounds like OP is applying for a public sector job that requires residency. So even though the distance might be only a few miles, if the GF wants to live in her house, then the OP can never ever live with the GF while holding this job.

      City of St Louis has this policy, and I have seen people try to live with the split households (wife lives outside the city, husband lives inside the city). Even just spending one night at the house outside the city is grounds for termination with loss of benefits and no unemployment. The city always eventually fires them for the arrangement, and they often lose retirement benefits as a result.

      1. MK*

        This sounds completely insane. I can understand that an employer might have valid reasons to want their workers to live in a certain area, but forbidding people to spend the night away? Are they never allowed to visit family? Care for a sick friend for one night? Take an overnight weekend-trip to the country?

        How is this enforced anyway? Do they have the police track their movements?

        1. Kelly L.*

          +1. I get the sense of these rules in general, but banning nights away is pretty extreme. Is it only if they think you’re visiting a romantic partner?

        2. Elsajeni*

          I imagine that requirement is specific to the situation where someone is known to be maintaining two households, one inside the city (to meet the residency requirement) and one outside. In that case, the one-night policy still strikes me as unduly strict, but I can understand why they’d need to have some bright-line policy — how many nights a week can you spend at the out-of-town house where your spouse lives before your situation switches from “I live in town, but my spouse lives in the suburbs” to “I live in the suburbs with my spouse, but I keep an empty apartment in town so that I have an address to give to get around the residency requirement”?

          1. De Minimis*

            Heh…I was wondering about the option of renting an apartment and rarely staying there.

            I would probably just try and find a job elsewhere, although I can see the conflict if it’s a job with superior benefits. What can be tough is when choosing family means choosing unemployment or underemployment.

        3. De Minimis*

          I’d guess they’d check your utility records or something else like that. Voter records too.

        4. Brett*

          Like Elsajeni said, it is specific to maintaining two households. And yes, often times they determine if you are maintaining two households by having the police follow you.

          1. doreen*

            Sometimes it’s not even the police – both the city and the state I’ve worked for have agencies dedicated to investigating matters involving employees. They investigate everything from ethics violations to violations of residency requirements to teachers who live outside the city using phony addresses to register their kids in city schools. ( Yes, there are terrible schools in NYC. There are also great schools and average schools and there are teachers from the suburbs get who get caught sending their kids to NYC schools ). In my experience, it really only becomes an issue if the non-compliant residence is close enough for commuting to be possible-people don’t get investigated when the spouse and kids live four hours away and the employee spends weekends there. They get investigated when the spouse and kids live just over the border within commuting distance, the car has out of state plates, resident tax returns aren’t filed for the city/state of employment, etc

  13. Lily in NYC*

    #3 – Have you checked to see if the new job will give you a waiver to live elsewhere? At my job, we are required to live in NYC within 90 days of our start date, but quite a few people live in Jersey or Westchester and get waivers.

  14. CH*

    #5 — Write a short letter of commendation to his manager (assuming you can find out who that is) and copy him on it (on paper if you can but an email could suffice). We did this for a teacher who went above and beyond for our child and she was very touched by it. Of course, custodial work is completely different, but outstanding work is outstanding work and I think anyone would feel good to have an unsolicited “great job” in their employee file.

    1. LQ*

      I agree with this idea. I had someone do this for me when I went way out of my way on a project for them and it came on a day when I was feeling really bad and totally made my day. It is such a nice gesture to put your appreciation into words and onto paper.

    2. Mints*

      Heh, I think my hr person saw this advice and confused it. Once I was helping her get something fixed that took a few weeks, and afterwards sent me an email about how great I had done and thank you. And the way it was worded struck me as odd, but I was like “Thanks!” And it turns out she BCCed my managers, so I didn’t know until one of them told me, that the email was actually for them, but weirdly done

  15. Bea W*

    #2 One of my former employers did this to non-hourly (salaried) employees, not as a rule. It was reserved for people the VP of Finance personally disliked. She would stand over her payroll person and direct her to dock hours from PTO. I knew someone whose PTO actually went into the neg digits.

    Docking PTO they way you describe for salaried workers is actually illegal in some states. If you are salaried and not hourly, check your state law regarding how salaried workers should be paid.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      That’s a good point. I live in a state that views PTO as earned compensation – it can’t expire and companies can’t take more than what you’ve actually used.

      What worries me is that the LW’s company wants to nickle and dime their employees, which is a quick way to lose the best and brightest. This is a bad sign. Good employees will leave to find a better employer and the remaining work will be piled on whoever is left.

  16. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Get out when you can. I wouldn’t even try and broach this with your boss. She’ll either get defensive and deny or (and this is based on what you’ve shared) she’ll get even worse! Keep your head down and eyes on the prize of finding another job.

    #3-Clearly there’s the question of your future with your GF and your family plans. Others have covered that. My question is: why is city living a job requirement? Why should your employer care where you live as long as you can get to work at the required time? Could this be negotiated? It’s worth exploring.

    #5-Say thanks and be a reference. But you know what, a Visa gift card isn’t going to hurt his feelings. Or at least I don’t think it would. I’ve found that janitorial staff are so often overlooked and under-appreciated.

    1. Carmella*

      Thank you, I agree, I don’t even think she would take it seriously, and she would make my life worse, also she would go telling all of my coworkers that I am a baby- she has done this in the past, she tells everyone, everyone’s business. Another one of classic sayings ” I probably shouldn’t tell you this” and then proceeds to say something that should have been kept private.

      1. Mimmy*

        You have a good head on your shoulders Carmella. Sure, it’s natural to want to know why your manager is targeting you specifically, but it’s just not worth your sanity. Please keep us posted…good luck!!

        1. Biff*

          I know that quite a few jobs in my area require you to live in the city to fill local tax requirements and get the full pay.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Living well is the best revenge. It’s not worth your time to tell her anything because she won’t listen.

        If it were me and she said “I probably shouldn’t tell you this,” I would be so tempted to say, “Then I don’t want to hear it.” But I’m bad, LOL.

    2. A Kate*

      Good question regarding #3. Now you have me speculating! Until the OP weighs in with the real answer, I’m going to theorize that it’s some kind of job with the city government that only residents of the city are eligible to hold. Since the OP has to provide proof, I imagine it’s more than just a job with long hours that necessitate a short commute time.

      1. Stephanie*

        Could also be a first responder job where OP is required to be within a certain radius of the service area.

        Family friend works for the City of Phoenix, which has a residency requirement. She said they got a grace period to relocate, so maybe OP’s desired employer has that? If so, perhaps he (or she) could work out something with the girlfriend.

    3. Brett*

      Many cities have a law that requires public employees to live inside the city limits. This is actually statewide law in New Jersey! When this is a law, it is almost never negotiable and strictly enforced. Breaking the law means not only termination, but often loss of earned benefits (e.g. sick pay payout and pension). The biggest reason for this is taxes, but also because cities have a rational basis in their employees living among the people they serve. In some states (Pennsylvania off the top of my head), residency laws have been thrown out in court and residency is a negotiable term of employment under collective bargaining (but not in individual contracts still).

      City of Chicago actually requires you to live inside city limits before applying. They technically have a waiver for the application process only (you still have to move into the city before starting the job), but you can only get the waiver if there are no applicants at all who live in the city. Our regional airport here in St Louis is owned by the city, which has a residency requirement. Even though the airport is 30 miles outside the city in another county, all airport employees are still required to live in the city and commute!

      1. Meg Murry*

        Residency requirements were thrown out in Ohio as well, although I have friends that work at the fire department where part of their “on call” requirements include being no more than X miles from the fire station, where X isn’t much more than a mile or 2 outside the city limits. This means that technically they can live outside the city, but they have to hang out in town or at the station for their on call days (which can be in blocks of 12 or 24 hours) so most choose to live in town so they can be at home.

        OP #3 – is this a job in your current field, or a new one? If this is the same type of job you’ve been doing and know you love but in a new city, that is very different than asking your girlfriend to uproot herself and her kids and sell her house than for a new career path that you’ve never done before. Have you discussed with your girlfriend the idea of you moving out and getting your own place but re-evaluating the situation in a year? I know several couples who have done a one year separation due to jobs or schooling. Its difficult, but not impossible. But if she’s 100% firm on not moving, that might not work.

      2. a*

        The statewide law in New Jersey requires public employees to live in the state. It does not require them to live inside city limits.

        1. Kelly L.*

          My current job requires me to live in my state. I live in a metro area that spans two states, and lots of people in my social group live on the other side–including my BF, who can’t currently move for a whole other set of valid reasons. So I know this will come up sometime if I stay here.

      3. Mints*

        I actually really like this policy for police officers. I think it’s good for the police to feel like they’re a part of the community they work in, and not like they live in the better suburbs, and work in the worse city. I realize residency isn’t the only way to do it, but generally it doesn’t seem unreasonable

      4. Lily in NYC*

        I think the strictness really depends on each place – where I work it’s pretty easy to get a waiver if you don’t live in NYC (I’m a municipal employee).

        1. doreen*

          Sometimes it depends on the actual job title- when I worked for NYC, I was not required to live in the city as my job title was considered “hard-to fill” (crazy turnover at the time- I was hired in a class of forty people and a year later only ten were left) . However, those who lived outside the city had 90 days to move if they were promoted – because those jobs weren’t “hard-to-fill”

    4. Artemesia*

      It is a good policy IMHO to require the people who provide public services in a city to live in that city. It is particularly important for police but all people who are paid by the city should have a stake in the quality of life in the city. I sure don’t want my police officers to be ‘occupiers’ but instead to be fellow citizens of my town.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’d say any city employee already has a stake in the quality of life, though….poor quality of life usually means population/business loss which means less revenue which can often mean some kind of layoff/job cuts.

  17. A Kate*


    I was in a similar position once, and it was just awful. I felt terribly guilty no matter which way I was leaning at a given time. It seemed selfish to put my career ahead of someone I love, but equally wrong that my significant other was asking me to give up a huge career opportunity to stay in an area where my career choices were seriously limited. Perhaps your girlfriend is more supportive, which could help your decision. Actually, I could see it tipping your decision either way, as it might mean your relationship is more likely to survive an unconventional set-up or that your girlfriend is so awesome you decide to stay where you are.

    As I was sorting through my problem, a mentor (who also happens to be a professional ethicist) pointed out that I was focusing on how wrong each choice was. But the fact that they were equally wrong meant they were also equally right. And that either choice was entirely justifiable for a number of reasons I already knew and more she added to the list on either side. This adjustment to my way of thinking about the problem took a million pounds off my shoulders and freed me to make either choice without guilt. Whereas I was completely torn before, taking guilt and obligation (to my S.O. and to my career) out of the equation also made it clear which choice would make me the happiest.

    This perspective has guided a lot of my decision-making processes since then. Even in instances when it doesn’t make the choice easier, it makes me feel so much less regret about the road not taken afterwards.

    Good luck with your decision, and all the best for your future, however it might look.

  18. matcha123*

    For #3, it sounds like the job is in the same state but in an big city a certain amount of travel time from the suburb where he is now.
    Maybe I’ve been in Japan too long, but I don’t see why he can’t take the job and still stay with the girlfriend. Either he can get up earlier and travel or he can get a smaller apartment closer to his workplace and spend his weekends with them. I guess I feel like if you two are pretty settled with each other, while it may suck for you to be away for long periods, if it’s going to help in the end, I feel like that is the better choice…

    1. Brett*

      It is almost certain a legal residency requirement rather than a commute issue (because of having to provide proof). The OP would be legally required to live in the city and only in the city, and living weekends outside the city would be illegal.

      1. De Minimis*

        That’s how I see it too…..happens a lot with city jobs. Sometimes there is a logical reason behind it, like with police/fire, sometimes it’s more a political thing. I know I lost out on a job in a nearby suburb a couple of years ago because they wanted local people even though they were maybe 10 miles from my house [and we intended to move…]

        1. matcha123*

          That’s interesting. I’ve honestly never heard of anything like that before (aside from school residency requirements).

  19. Laura2*

    #2 – If they dock you 2 hours anyway, just take those two hours instead of taking the one hour you would otherwise take.

    Would everyone in your department be open to only working 40 hours/week, even if the work isn’t finished, since that’s what you’re being paid for?

  20. Holly*


    You think that’s bad? At my company, we’re very frequently expected to work extended hours…and we get nickle-and-dimed on 15 minute increments. I’ve pushed back hard on HR in some cases and just didn’t tell them in many others; I would make sure my time out balanced my time in and made the time out, if possible, at the beginning or end of the day. But yeah, only terrible companies do this because it tanks employee morale and basically makes us feel like we shouldn’t stay a minute after 5pm.

  21. The LeGal*

    #5: Also tell his boss that the janitor does a fantastic job, and encourage your coworkers to do the same frequently too. This will help the janitor during performance review time and for potential promotional opportunities.

    1. The LeGal*

      Oh, and to the remaining coworkers – – – don’t forget to include the janitor in events like birthday parties, and that kind of thing. It will really make the janitor feel a part of the team.

  22. Elizabeth*

    OP #1: Adding my voice to the choir…get out now!

    I promise you, when you do, you’ll feel so much better. I’m starting my final week at a job in which I love my peer co-workers, but my manager is…not good. Not actively antagonistic like yours, but a bad manager of people all the same. It’s going to be extremely difficult to leave my small office and the colleagues who’ve come to be friends, but it’s nothing compared to the exhilaration I feel when I realize that I won’t have to deal with the manager anymore. I can meet my soon-to-be-former co-workers for lunch or drinks, AND have a manager that respects me and the values the work I do. Best of both worlds.

  23. Hiring Mgr*

    #5–while your heart is in the right place, just be cautious. From your description of the custodian, he’s incredibly thorough, and always available, hovering, lingering. There’s a good chance he’s a corporate spy for the competition. I’ve seen this many times before

      1. fposte*

        The notion got even funnier when I scrolled back up to realize this is in a university department.

      1. LQ*

        I agree. Even if the person is a spy (why is someone who is competent a spy? seriously that’s very odd) they are still doing their job well and unless your job is hunting down corp spies then it’s not your job to worry about them.

        Say thank you and great job.

  24. KM*

    #1 — Yeah, absolutely find another job, and don’t blame yourself or feel like it’s something you’re doing to invite this behaviour. The boss sounds totally awful, and there’s nothing you’re going to be able to say to make her understand why her behaviour is hurtful — if she cared about being hurtful, she wouldn’t be acting this way in the first place.

    I will add, though, for your peace of mind: Bide your time while you find another job and, once you’ve got one, and you’re leaving, write a letter to her manager and/or HR and tell them what happened, and that you didn’t say something sooner because you were afraid she’d retaliate against you. If the company has you do an exit interview with someone other than your boss, that’s a good time to mention it, too. You might say, “I don’t want to burn my bridges with her,” but there is no bridge at this point. Just be honest and professional/respectful in your letter and then rest content in the knowledge that you did everything you could by telling someone what the problem was. If nothing else, she’s wasting money by hiring people and refusing to let them do any work.

  25. Anx*


    I think simply making sure that his work is recognized is the best thing.

    I’d rather that than a gift. Plus, custodial staff are sometimes viewed as beneath white collar workers. I think a giving a gift could possibly be construed as patting yourself on the back for noticing the custodian doing a good job.

    Addressing the fact they are by far the best employee you have seen in that position and that their managers might not know that (based on the nature working all around campus) seems much more inline with treating them as equals.

  26. Lady Sybil*

    #1 I hope you can find another job soon. Nobody deserves that kind of garbage. I saw it happen all too often, one of my former managers treating some reports like crap. It is just soul destroying to see, even if you are not the target. I ended up reporting her and eventually the complaining from different folks added up and she was demoted. It took ages for that to happen and there is no indication it will work out that way for you, I’m very sorry to say. Life is too short to wait for advocacy, so hang in there until you find somewhere else. Work will be so much easier when you are treated with the respect you deserve.

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