is it demeaning to refer to “my team,” asking whether I’d have to work with a rude interviewer, and more

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

1. Is it demeaning to refer to “my team” or “my assistant”?

I’m a relatively new manager supervising a team of 20. Over the holidays, a cousin told me that one should never refer to people you supervise as “my team” or “my #1 salesman” (using the possessive). He said that you should only use a possessive vertically upward, such as “my boss” or “my company VP.” I’d never want to make my team (see, there I did it) uncomfortable, but also never imagined that this might be an issue. Can you weigh in?

Your cousin is overthinking things. It’s totally normal to refer to “my team,” “my staff,” “my assistant,” and so forth, just like you’d say “my company,” “my friend,” or “my kid.” It’s a way of expressing the relationship, not ownership or possession. How does your cousin refer to people who work for him — “the salesperson on my team”? That’s unnecessarily convoluted.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with taking the opportunity to say “we” instead of “my team” or “our salesperson” instead of “my salesperson” when you have the option. But not every sentence lends itself to that, and it’s fine if it doesn’t. What matters far more than any of this is how you treat people and how effectively you manage — do that well and no one will worry about this stuff; screw it up and your team is far more likely to bristle at wording choices.

2. Asking about whether I’d have to work with the rude person who interviewed me

I recently had an interview where I found out that I am one of two final candidates. In the interviews I have had with Jane, who would be my direct manager, I really enjoyed our conversations and thought that she seemed like an excellent manager. However, my last interview was with Lisa, the head of the department, who was incredibly rude, dismissive, and confrontational. In debriefing with a friend/colleague who has worked with Lisa, my impression of her was confirmed – she is really difficult to work with. If I am offered the job, is there a tactful way to ask how much contact I would actually have with Lisa (or how much her abrasive personality affects the entire department) before making my decision?

I’d say something like this to Jane: “I really enjoyed getting the chance to talk with both you and Lisa. Can you give me a sense of how my role interacts with Lisa? How closely would we be working together, if at all?” Your tone here matters — it should be neutral, not have an undercurrent of “I really don’t want to work with Lisa.” Jane will probably be able to figure out why you’re asking, but you’ll come across as much more professional if you handle it neutrally.

But also, regardless of Jane’s answer, give real thought to whether you want to take a job that ultimately reports up to someone you describe as” incredibly rude, dismissive, and confrontational.” Even if you don’t have regular interaction with her, those characteristics tend to really impact a team’s culture and how they operate.

3. Do I have to invite my coworkers to my wedding?

In September, I started a new job. The managers that hired me were very vocal about how happy they were to have me on board, and they believed in me from the start. Also, the people at my new job are very kind-however, no one really hangs out or communicates outside of work.

I recently became engaged over the holidays, and many people at work have been really sweet about it. I received cards and gifts, which I did not expect at all. The thing is, I’m not sure if I should invite them to my wedding. I wasn’t planning to, because I’m still kind of new (although my wedding is next January, so I’m sure I’ll get to know my co-workers better over the next year) and also as I said, no one really hangs out outside of work. I just don’t want to obligate them. Also, I am not sure if I should mix work with my personal life. It is also one of those things where I wouldn’t know where to draw the line… I could invite the three other people only in my department, but then I’m not sure if I have to invite my manager, too? I also am concerned that they now expect an invitation, considering they gave me gifts and cards. I was very surprised and touched over these gestures, because the people at my last job didn’t do things like that.

You don’t need to invite coworkers; it’s not expected, at least in most offices. The fact that your coworkers have already given you cards and gifts doesn’t change that; it’s very, very normal for coworkers to do that (and even potentially throw a shower!) and still not expect to be invited. If anyone asks, it’s fine to just say, “Oh, we’re keeping it small.” But polite people won’t ask or be upset that they’re not invited.

4. LinkedIn when you’re taking time out of the workforce to raise kids

I have just left the workforce to stay home with my children full-time. I have a 3-year-old and one due in a few weeks. I will return to work at some point, though I don’t know when. (I have some close contacts and a mentor in my professional network and I plan to keep my professional memberships current). What is the best way to update my status on LinkedIn to reflect this?

I wouldn’t. There’s no reason that your LinkedIn profile needs to explain that you’re taking time away. It can continue the way it always is, just without indicating a current job. Any other alternative just calls attention to the fact that you’re taking time out, without any real reason to need to highlight that. (And it’s not that you need to hide that, of course; it’s just that I don’t see any particular benefit from highlighting it.)

5. When family members of the owner are treated differently

My husband, who is a manager, is a salaried employee. His assistant manager is the wife of one of the owners of the business and is also a salaried employee. She is not an owner. Both are supposedly full-time employees. My husband is required to keep track of how many days off per year he uses – down to the hour. If he exceeds his allowed days off during the year, he is required to deduct an hourly wage from his pay for the days missed until the end of the year. The same is not the case for the assistant manager. She rarely works a full week, taking 2-3 hours off each day, not showing up whenever she wants, takes months off from work to travel, etc. and always gets her full wages. The owner states that it is a perk of being an owner, but she’s not an owner. She’s an employee. What can, if anything, he do about this inconsistency?

Probably nothing. It’s not unusual for family businesses to treat family employees differently than non-family employees. It’s often part of the package with family businesses, and it’s really up to the owner if he wants to hold his wife to a different standard. Your husband might find that too frustrating to want to deal with it (and I wouldn’t blame him), but then the solution would be to find a job somewhere else; it’s unlikely that the owner is going to be persuaded to manage his wife differently.

{ 211 comments… read them below }

  1. Joy*

    What #5 describes (being docked per hour for partial-day absences after he runs out of PTO) destroys his exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act if I’m interpreting the situation correctly.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Wait, can you explain that? I thought the employee had to be paid for the full week if they we’re exempt. Is it different if the employee is the one who chooses to be absent vs. the employer telling them not to work a certain day (like a snow day)?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Basically. The DOL says: “Deductions from salary may be made, however, when the employee is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons, other than sickness or disability. Thus, if an employee is absent for two full days to handle personal affairs, the employee’s salaried status will not be affected if deductions are made from the salary for two full-day absences. However, if an exempt employee is absent for one-and-a-half days for personal reasons, the employer can deduct only for the one full-day absence.”

          More here:

          1. 42*

            See, this is what I can never wrap my brain around. I’ve see you say that an exempt employee must be paid for a full week if he has worked any part of that week. How do these deductions fit in to that? I’m newly salaried after being hourly all my life, and never grasped this.

            1. fposte*

              The DOL website is a good place to go for explanations, but in general it’s good to be aware that any big legal rule that affects millions of people will have exceptions. If you Google “when can exempt employees be docked pay” you’ll likely find some good pages going over the exceptions, which include absences for vacation or sickness, first week/last week, disciplinary suspensions, etc. A lot of employers don’t dock anyway, especially not for absences, so I think many employees never encounter these possibilities.

              The basic notion is that exempt employees aren’t hourly; even the exceptions that allow you to dock exempt employees are about full day exceptions, not hourly exceptions, and that’s why Alison’s ears are pricking up with the OP’s statement that her husband is being docked by the hour.

          2. Oryx*

            Ah, then does that same rule explain why my company has us sign a paper acknowledging when we essentially get an “advance” our PTO and go into the negative they can later dock our pay (even salaried employees) if we don’t accrue it back? (Our PTO doesn’t roll over at the end of the fiscal year)

      2. Wife*

        My husband is exempt and the hours deduction is for ANY amount of hours that he uses over his allowed 21 days per year. For example, if he doesn’t work his required 9 hours per day, he is docked for whatever hours are missing at the end of the pay period.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, that’s not legal if he’s exempt. But that’s a piece of info we don’t have: Is he exempt or non-exempt? Or more to the point, if he works more than 40 hours in a week, is he paid overtime (time and a half) for the hours over 40? If not, then they’re treating him as exempt in that way but non-exempt with the pay docking, which is not legal.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Ha, yes, and I skimmed right over it. Okay, so that’s not legal and they’re compromising the exemption, which means he could be owed back pay for any overtime hours, plus penalties.

        2. MommaTRex*

          And the rules can be different for government workers (at least in my state). Because my wages are taxpayer funded, I cannot be paid for hours I did not work (that can’t be covered with accrued paid leave). So I do have to account for at least 40 hours each week, or be docked.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      FWIW, #5 says that her husband is salaried, but doesn’t specify whether he’s exempt or not.

        1. fposte*

          To expand on Felicia’s answer, they usually overlap, so most exempt people are salaried and vice versa. But when you’re talking about the legal issues, “salaried” doesn’t get you there and “exempt” does.

      1. BRR*

        I wish people would only use the terms exempt and non-exempt. At my last job I was non-exempt but I still thought of my pay as salary. They gave me my hourly rate in my offer but also said it was an annual salary of X amount, because that’s how most people value a job.

        1. jennie*

          As someone outside the US, it took me a while to grasp what exempt/non-exempt meant. Exempt from what? That word doesn’t stand on it’s own in non-US-labour-law usage :)

        2. LBK*

          Except they mean different things and aren’t always synonymous, so it wouldn’t make sense to just drop the term salaried/hourly. I’m salaried and non-exempt – I get the same amount of pay for 40 hours or less of work (my salary) and then overtime for anything over 40 hours at an overtime rate based on an “hourly” rate calculated from my salary.

  2. JAL*

    #1 – I see my boyfriend as my equal. I still call him my boyfriend. Not the guy that I am in a relationship with. There’s nothing possessive about it. It’s a common form of speech and to be honest, not many people are worried about semantics in conversational speech. Most people never think twice.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      #5 GAH. It is really too bad that this “anything goes for the boss’s family” attitude is so pervasive, because it really drags down all the good, fairly run family businesses out there.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The way to look at it and keep your sanity is that some family businesses have as part of their mission to provide jobs for family members, not just run at maximum profit and efficiency. If that’s part of their mission, and if they’re open about it to prospective hires and current employees, I think that’s their prerogative. The key is to be up-front with people about it and about what the ramifications are — for instance, will your career path be limited because leadership roles will always go to family members? Sometimes that’s the case and sometimes it’s isn’t. But if you’re up-front with people so they know what they’re getting into (and can decide if that’s not for them), that tends to make people less frustrated about otherwise unfair situations. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing to run your business that way as long as everyone is clear on that choice.

      1. Aknownymous*

        I agree, being upfront about it is key. I was once in a similar situation, and the frustration, stagnation and resentment eventually really did a number on me. It took me far too long to realize that I would never get anywhere on my own merits, because family members were prioritized and got special treatment. So instead I worked harder and longer and faster than anyone else, because I thought I could change things. I couldn’t. Had I known beforehand, I would never have taken the position. Your husband needs to think long and hard about his career goals and what he values in a workplace, because his professional growth and mental health are on the line.

          1. DJ*

            My husband’s in this situation too, and after a year of things getting increasingly worse, he’s started the search for another job.

      2. Wife*

        And, I’m not really sure you could classify it as a small, family owned business. It’s a franchised hotel with partners.

        1. AVP*

          Well, technically, some people see WalMart as a family business. Is it privately owned by the boss, or are there shareholders and a board?

      3. Lyssa*

        That’s a good way to think of it. I’d also point out that the wife may not officially be an owner, but she almost certainly has some ownership interest, both legally and just plain understood, by virtue of their marriage and partnership. I can understand that it would be frustrating to see that in someone that is supposed to be a peer, but perhaps it would help to think of her as an owner instead?

      4. anon for this*

        Yes, and some family businesses have as part of their mission to provide a lifestyle for their family members. I know someone who works for a company where family members are on the payroll and drawing a salary, even though they do no work for this company. The employees are stretched thin and burned out because the owner claims he cannot afford to hire anyone else. If the family members on the payroll would show up, things would be a lot better.

        Family businesses really need to be up-front. And prospective employees need to go in with their eyes wide open. I suspect what the owner of the company I described above is doing is not legal, because his putting them on payroll means he’s claiming them as a business expense and getting tax deductions. The legal way to provide the lifestyle would be to subsidize them out of his own salary, but where is the tax-advantaged benefit in that. Rant over, sorry.

  3. Artemesia*

    The only question the OP’s husband should have once he notices the way this family business is run is ‘I wonder what I need to do to find a better job.’ Of course the owner can treat family members differently and make their jobs into sinecures. And when promotions are in order, family members will get them. Working for a family business is full of these kinds of pitfalls. ‘Is it fair?’ is not a professional question — so much isn’t. He needs to put his energy into moving on not into bitterness about an unprofessional workplace.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Eh, I think the first question the OP’s husband needs to ask is “how does this other employee’s status affect my ability to do my job?” I don’t see anything in the OP’s letter about the owner’s wife’s frequent absences causing upsets in the workflow of the organization, only concern about “fairness” of PTO accountability.

  4. Renee*

    For #1 – I actually use the phrase “my team” and I’m not the manager. It just seems to be the easiest way to describe things. For example, I’ve said things like “it was so nice to get back from the holidays and have lunch with my team today!” It just seems overly complicated to say something like “it was so nice to have lunch with the team that I’m a member of!” Other people on “my team” say the same thing and I don’t think there’s been any confusion or anyone feeling uncomfortable.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I completely agree. I encourage everyone on my team to think of it as their team. I would not get hung up on if you say my, our, this group of people who I work with… What is important is how you treat the people you manage. Do you treat them as property or subjects? If not, I would not worry about your cousin’s advice.

    2. AVP*

      I think I understand where #1’s cousin is coming from, but used in this context and by a conscientious person it’s a fine phrase to use.

      I think the cousin is probably reacting to the small minority of managers out there who like to go around talking about their employees in the context of, “look at these people that I own! They all work for me! One of you, get me my tea now!” I have a client like that (literally announced, when our crew walked into a hotel, “Excuse me, take care of my reservation first! These people work for me so they can wait!”) But he is a rare person, and when most people talk about “their team” they just mean “these people that I work with and respect.”

    3. TheSnarkyB*

      Sure, but it’s not the same as referring to “my team” and meaning “the team that I manage.” I don’t think there’s any controversy about referring to “my team” when you’re just another member of the group. But once you become manager, I think it brings out the question of it sounding like “these are my peons” as opposed to “these are my coworkers.”
      I understand the OP’s question and the cousin’s statement, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using “my team” as a manager. I think you just have to own that it’s not the same as when you were the same in rank as those you now manage.

    4. NoPantsFridays*

      I use the phrase “my team” too and like you am not a manager. I am just talking about my peers (same level or more senior, but non-managers) that work on my team under the same manager. The managers here send out emails with the greeting “Hey Team,” although that is not “my team”, I think it’s fine. I also refer to my coworkers as, well, “my coworkers”, but I don’t think I own them or that they are my possessions…just like I don’t own my brother, my parents, my friends, my cousins, my aunts/uncles, etc. They aren’t really “mine” and shouldn’t be!

  5. Boo*

    #2 – another thing to consider is even if currently your role would not require interacting with Lisa, that could change. Or Jane might leave (something that happened to a friend of mine who then had to report to the awkward person). If you really don’t want to work with Lisa, then this job might not be right for you.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      Yes to all of this and also to this part of Alison’s response: “those characteristics tend to really impact a team’s culture and how they operate.”

      If she really is rude and horrible, and she’s the department head, it’s hard to imagine that not affecting the general work environment and the whole team’s happiness, at least a little. I’d think carefully about whether you want to be on her team.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Additionally, people are usually on their best behavior when they first meet. So, if this woman is nasty now, it will probably not get better.

      2. BRR*

        We’ve seen on this board what one toxic coworker can do. I tend to believe that in most cases the higher up they are the worse they can make it for everyone. Trickle down toxicity

    2. Another Job Seeker*

      I’d think very carefully about accepting the position because a very similar situation happened to me. I was hired by “Mark”, who was an excellent supervisor and is still one of my references. However, he left the company and I ended up reporting to a person who was extremely difficult to work with. She has since left the organization, but she did some damage to the division and my career. If you feel up to it, it might be a thoughtful idea for you to ask Jane how closely you would be working with Lisa. You never know – Jane and others might be trying to fire Lisa because of her behavior. If Jane gets the hint (I’m not suggesting you be specific with Jane), your question might help her to make a case to do so.

      1. C Average*

        Real question: Do people like Lisa get fired for their behavior?

        In my world, I’ve seen people get fired for dishonesty and incompetence, but I’ve never seen anyone get fired for being rude, unpleasant, tyrannical, dismissive, and otherwise Lisa-like. I think this kind of behavior only results in comeuppance in the movies.

        People like this kiss up and kick down, so when their reviews come around, it’s not from the people who suffer under them. And they do tend to get results, because they inspire terror, so on paper they can look pretty effective.

        Fortunately I don’t know a lot of people like this, but there are a couple departments in my company that are on my never-ever list because they contain Lisa-type personalities.

        1. Boo*

          Yeah I must say that when I read this, my first thought was that Jane may well already be job hunting herself, which seems far more likely to me than Lisa being fired for being unpleasant.

        2. Helka*

          They don’t necessarily get outright fired, but it can put their heads on the chopping block when layoffs roll around.

          My first manager in an office setting was like that — difficult to work with, unresponsive, dismissive of concerns. When it came time to condense the department into two units rather than three, she was the one who was laid off, and the new department head was actually pretty explicit that it was her poor behavior toward her reports that got her the boot.

          1. fposte*

            Agreed. I also think generally that being an asshat hurts you more at lower levels when whatever compensatory talents an employee has aren’t as valuable. The more value the person’s other skills bring, the more likely a company is to grit their teeth and deal with the horrible personality, and the more time they’ve invested in doing so. Consequences at a higher level are less likely to be an outright firing for behavior than marginalization, avoidance, and vulnerability during layoffs.

          2. AnonAnalyst*

            Yup. This happened in my last company. It was the only positive part of the layoff on employee morale.

        3. AdAgencyChick*

          “Kiss up and kick down” — I have never heard that expression before, but it’s awesome. Thank you.

        4. NK*

          They do, though I think more commonly at the lower levels. I once had a supervisor who was actually an awesome boss and really protected the people who worked for him, but he was a total a**hole to people outside our group. It was odd. He ended up getting kind of exiled on “special projects” and eventually fired because of it.

        5. Artemesia*

          The Germans have a word for it which in translation is ‘bicycle personality’ — above he bows below he kicks.

          I too have noticed that people are rarely fired for being azzhats —

        6. Parcae*

          A Lisa just got herself fired where I work, but I think the trigger was actually that she was rude and dismissive to our clients and within our industry network. No idea what would have happened if she had restricted her awfulness to coworkers.

        7. Jennifer*

          Generally speaking, no. I have heard of someone having massive whopping screaming at coworker outbursts, but that person is high enough in the managerial chain to be able to get away with it. Also, the screaming was at coworkers, not higher-ups or customers. If the person is careful about where they deploy their personalities, i.e. picking on equals and their lessers only, don’t get overheard by clients, they can be there forever.

          I also second that you might end up having to work with Lisa, especially if she was in the interview chain. Having someone in the line of fire between you and Lisa is great, but if that person goes….

        8. Another Job Seeker*

          Well, that’s a good point. The “Lisa” I knew made some moves within her career that were consistent with someone planning to stay around for a while. But she resigned instead. Long story short – some people who reported to her went to HR on her. Because of her not treating them well. And they spoke to her boss, also. I think her boss asked her to resign, but I’m not sure. I do know her boss took the complaints seriously. I should also mention that “Mark” shielded me from “Lisa” while he was there. However, when he left the company, “Lisa” caused a lot of problems for me and other people, too.

    3. La munieca*

      I came to contribute my own cautionary tale that echoes some of the concerns mentioned already. I went through five managers in a six months period last year for various reasons, but two of those transitions were due to my (awesome) managers moving away from THEIR manager, our team lead. As wonderful as both of those folks were, their hands were tied in various ways by our poor leadership. I also didn’t realize how much the two of them had been doing to buffer our team from her wrath/incompetence until, for one of those periods of transition, we all reported directly to her for awhile. This fiscal year has been a bit of a wash for my team – we’re hemorrhaging talent b/c of all the transitions and are running at less than 50% capacity, so those of us left are putting out fires, re-scoping our roles every few months and executing without a vision or a space to reflect or innovate. It’s a grind.

      1. C Average*

        Oh, man. I’ve been in this spot. So hard. I hope things improve and you can get some effective leadership and space to breathe.

  6. Jen S. 2.0*

    Re inviting coworkers to your wedding: I agree that you don’t need to do so. But that also means that the social guideline applies about not discussing an event at length in front of people who are not invited. If coworkers aren’t invited to your wedding, don’t talk a lot about your wedding at work.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      In the UK it’s quite common to have an evening party to which more people are invited, and so people you work with may very well just attend that part of the celebrations. However I am aware from reading on here how this is quite different to etiquette in America!

      1. Aussie Teacher*

        I think it’s the opposite in Australia! Here people often invite everyone they know to the ceremony, and then the reception is limited to family & close friends. I did that and even had two sets of invites – one set with ceremony & reception, and one set with just ceremony.

        1. Liane*

          Yes, in the USA it is considered rude to invite only to the ceremony, although, I also understand from Miss Manners’ column & books that it was once considered acceptable here.

          1. AmyNYC*

            One of my elementary school teachers did this when she got married – the class got all dressed up and a few parents took us to the church, then we went for pizza because it would be NUTS to invite your 5th grade class to the reception. It was fun, and a nice way to include her students, but I don’t think that would fly with co-workers.

          2. Erin*

            My understanding is that when everyone used to belong to the same church, a wedding was like any other church service so all members were free to attend. If the couple had a party or reception afterwards, if it was at a private residence of course they could limit the invited guests. If it was at the church afterward, the reception was often limited to just cake and punch.

      2. Cheesecake*

        Yes indeed, there is this part of the wedding before or after the dinner, where friends/acquaintances are invited. Yet, i wouldn’t invite colleagues there either because a) for example our dinner was small for mostly family, so friends come in the evening. in this set up newly acquired colleagues do not really belong there b) again, for new colleagues, it is all or none, because inviting one and not the other will raise eyebrows at this stage

        We always organize a gift for marrying colleague, but never expect to be invited. I would be truly surprised if i would.

      3. Artemesia*

        In the US this is considered rude — it creates A and B lists — the people good enough to go to the fancy reception and the people who are being harvested for gifts at a cheap party. Totally different traditions.

    2. Elkay*

      Of course some people like to talk about weddings even if they’re not invited so it’s a case of know your audience.

      1. Carrie*

        Hi! I wrote the letter about the wedding, and appreciate everyone’s feedback. I agree about not talking about he wedding at work…I’m trying to not talk about my wedding at work, but people keep asking me about the planning, etc! I’m trying to keep those conversations short and sweet : )

        1. BRR*

          First, CONGRADULATIONS!

          This just happened to me. I had a fairly small wedding and some people wanted to talk about it and some didn’t (or rather just didn’t ask). I found the key was never to initiate the topic but always sound excited since I also tried to keep it short. They still thew a work shower for me which I didn’t really expect and didn’t want in the sense that since they weren’t invited I didn’t expect anything from them. Don’t worry about not inviting them. My own philosophy was if we were close enough friends outside of work then you would be invited.

          1. the gold digger*

            The first time I met my husband’s stepdaughter (from his first marriage), she was five months away from her wedding. My husband and I were not married yet (although we were engaged). I kept asking her questions about the wedding because I like to talk about weddings.

            She was really reticent and I couldn’t figure it out.

            Finally, it hit me. I told her, “I have just met you. It would probably be easier for you not to have me at your wedding because that would make it easier for your mom.” (I did not meet my husband until after he had filed for divorce, but his ex-wife was not happy that he was getting married again.) “I don’t expect to be invited to your wedding and I promise I would not be offended, but I just really like talking about weddings, so I really want to hear what you have planned!”

            That was all I needed to do. She was very happy to talk after that.

            PS Rest of story: Ex wife pressured stepdaughter, who has asked my husband to walk her down the aisle, not to invite my husband to the wedding. (Ex pulled out the “I have cancer!” card.) Every time my husband starts to feel guilty about not giving the ex more money or whatever, I remind him that she kept him from the wedding of the woman he had raised since she was ten.

          2. Carrie*

            Thanks BRR! yea, it’s awkward when some people bring it up in front of other people who I know aren’t interested, lol, so yes I am definitely not initiating. Thanks for sharing your similar experience : )

        2. tt*


          I think if people are asking you about it, it’s perfectly fair to talk about it. Just don’t be the one bringing it up all the time.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Of if you prefer not to, you can do the “I need a break from all the wedding talk; give me the great gift of letting this be a wedding-free zone” thing.

          2. Jen S. 2.0*

            This is a better phrasing. I actually am one who LOVES wedding talk whether I’m invited or not. But the gist is, the one planning the party should avoid inserting the party into a lot of conversations if the other conversationalists are not invited.

        3. Danielle*

          Congrats on your engagement! I’m getting married in May and debated the same question. One of the wedding blogs I read (I think it was Offbeat Bride) said that you should ask yourself 2 questions about inviting coworkers:

          1) Do you spend time with these co-workers outside of work? and
          2) If you got a new job, would you still be friends with these co-workers?

          I answered “no” to both–realized I’m not very close with my co-workers, and while they’re happy for me, they don’t need to be invited.

        4. LizNYC*

          Congratulations! Planning can be exciting! When I was getting married, I’d been at my job for awhile and was unsure what to do. I ended up inviting a couple of coworkers I was close with, as well as my immediate manager (no one ended up coming for one reason or another). But as for talking about it at work, I made sure not to make vendor phone calls except outside on my break and didn’t really bring it up unless someone asked. Then I gave a short answer. If they had followup questions, I’d give more info. But after living through several wedding planning stages where I got to hear every.single.detail, I knew that something that might be important to me (ooo, the linens match the bridesmaids dresses!) would not be to the random inquisitive coworker.

      2. Jubilance*

        Exactly, it really depends on the audience. I moved to a new role a few months ago, so my new coworkers aren’t invited to my wedding. That hasn’t stopped them from asking about my wedding (and giving advice) and every chance they get. It’s exciting and a big deal so it’s natural that people will be curious about it. I think the advice of never talking about your wedding with people who aren’t invited is misguided. It’s often a “safe” topic for people especially when they don’t know you well and want to make small talk. I wouldn’t give every single detail, but if you’re coworkers ask how the planning is going or if you chose a dress, I don’t see why you can’t have conversation.

        1. Formica Dinette*

          “It’s often a ‘safe’ topic for people especially when they don’t know you well and want to make small talk.”

          Absolutely. And congratulations to you and your sweetie!

        2. NoPantsFridays*

          While I agree with your overall point, I’m surprised that people seem to discuss weddings at work, and that it’s considered a “safe” topic. I can see why, but on the other hand, the topic skirts so close to the topics of sexual orientation and religion which are “unsafe” topics, especially at work. For example, I’d have no idea how to answer if someone asked if I’d chosen a dress. I guess I would just lie. I also don’t ask much about other people’s weddings or other personal events because while it’s exciting and a big deal for them, it’s not of interest to me. But that’s just me, so I agree with your larger point.

    3. illini02*

      Really? I would have never thought that. I feel like there are social rules in general, but weddings kind of trump all of that. I think there is an expectation that not EVERYONE will be invited to your wedding, so if you did invite a couple people, I don’t think there is anything wrong with discussing it at work. This isn’t like “I invited most of the department to my birthday party at a bar, and not one person”.

      However, even aside from that, I was never big on not being able to discuss this stuff in front of others. Some people become friends outside of work, while others don’t. I think if 2 friends hang out of Saturday night, it shouldn’t be frowned upon to discuss what they did on Monday at lunch. I get that some people rub it in the fact that someone wasn’t invited, however thats not what I’m referring to. It seems people are just too thin skinned about these things, and pick and choose what to be upset about. If 2 co-workers with small children got together for a play date and they had some drinks, that is ok to mention around others, but 2 guys with interest in the same sports team who go out to watch together on a weekend or 2 women who go to brunch together, for some reason are expected to not discuss it for fear of hurting people’s feelings?

      1. fposte*

        I agree that we’ve moved beyond the grade school “don’t talk about a party in front of people who aren’t invited” thing. What I think needs to be considered: is an event forthcoming or has it passed? Does it involve lots of people in the group or only a few? You need to be tighter-lipped about forthcoming events, because that’s exactly what the rule was designed for–if you talk about something coming up with people, they’ve become included in a way that makes there non-invitation an unpleasant change. You need to be tighter-lipped about events that included twenty people in the office than those that included two, because the exclusion gets more personal. I don’t think that means you can’t ever refer to such social events, but those factors tend to make talking about them likelier and longer, and if anything it should go the other way–the upcoming wedding that includes half the office is a conversation that should get shut down fast, while a discussion about the great brunch you had at Ripoffina’s yesterday with Jane is less likely to be offensive at length than just really boring :-)

  7. SR*

    #4 – I could be wrong, but I think I disagree here – it seems like the benefit to indicating that she’s out of the workforce by choice is that it makes it clear that she’s not out of the workforce because she lost her job and hasn’t been able to find a new one. Fair or not, I think employers generally tend to assume that if someone’s been unemployed for a long time, there’s a good reason for it. So what if two or three years down the line she starts applying for jobs and a potential employer finds her on LinkedIn, sees that she’s been out of the workforce for several years, and assumes it’s because of something negative about the quality of her work instead of a personal choice? I’m not sure how likely that sort of scenario is (especially if she’s planning to use her network) but it seems likely enough that putting a short note in the “Summary” section or something would be worthwhile.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      My initial thoughts on how to deal with that would be to leave her Linkedin profile as is for now and update it when she starts job searching again. Those updates could include a mention of her reasons for taking time off but would ideally highlight anything she’s been doing to keep her skills current during that time (volunteer experience, classes, etc). That way when she does mention her time out of the workforce it’s in conjunction with “but here’s what I’ve been doing since my last job and why my skills are still relevant and valuable,” which I think is generally helpful – kind of like you might do in an interview. Then again, I haven’t been in this position before so it’s possible that’s not the best way to handle it. Curious to hear other thoughts!

    2. Tenley*

      I just do not find high-ranking people using LinkedIn in this way at all. Seriously. If anything, LinkedIn is going to alert them to this change (and ask them to congratulate OP on it, now and at every anniversary) that they really wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise

    3. Colette*

      I don’t think that’s the kind of thing she should add on LinkedIn. IMO, it’s like adding a position on your resume claiming that raising your kids is a job – which it is not. LinkedIn is for your professional life – it’s not for unrelated.

      Similarly, if she were taking two years off to travel the world, she shouldn’t mention it on LinkedIn, because it’s not a job.

      1. Amanda*

        I saw someone list herself as “CEO” of her family on Linkedin and included “stylist, chef, entrepreneur, counselor and chauffeur” as subtitles. It made me seriously cringe.

      2. Bailando!*

        I know what you meant, and I’m just being tongue in cheek here, but raising kids sure as hell is a job! :D

        1. fposte*

          The thing is, that’s the kind of thought that leads people to put it on their LinkedIn. In professional circles, what makes it a job isn’t its being hard, but your getting paid for it. There are really easy jobs and really hard things that aren’t jobs. Parenting is a hard thing and a big commitment, but unless you’ve found an arrangement that most people would dream of that gets you paid for it, it’s not, in professional terms, a job.

      3. Person of Interest*

        Agreed that she should not detail her employment break on LinkedIn. One thing I did use LI for when I was unemployed for a long stretch (laid off) was to post and comment on news items I came across that are relevant to my field, so even though I wasn’t doing work stuff, I was reminding people of my connections to the field and expertise on the issues. So that might be something more productive someone could do in her situation, if she were looking to have something useful on her profile and keep her network warm.

    1. Brenda*

      How else would you say it though? If you are in charge of the team, it is in fact “your team”. I agree with some of the other commenters that you don’t want to go overboard, and it could grate if you’ve got a bad manager, but in general I’m not sure what the problem is. Especially if you’re talking about them to other people – “my team have done a great job this year”, or “I’ll have someone from my team follow up with you about that.”

      1. sunny-dee*

        +1. Also, as someone else said, I say “my team” for the team I’m on, even though I don’t manage it. I say “my engineers” for the engineers I work closely with, even though we’re separate departments.

        1. LMN*

          Right, it’s the team your on, not the team you manage. You’e not implying any actual ownership because you’re not in a position to do so.

          But in a world where people casually use the term “poaching” to describe the scenario wherein Company A convinces an employee at Company B to move to Company A, managerial word choices can matter, though singular possessive pronouns can be perfectly reasonable in certain contexts.

          However, there’s also the school of thought that using plural possessive pronouns is actually distancing and a way to shift blame/responsibility.

        2. JB*

          Right? Sometimes “my” means ownership and sometimes “my” just indicates relationship. “My team” is the “team that I’m a member of” or “the team I lead.”

          I’m wondering if the people who object have had bad experiences with a boss who used that phrase, like a boss who felt the need to constantly remind their direct reports that they were lower down on the hierarchy? I’ve worked with some people who do this, and I can see how, coming from them, that phrasing would be irksome. But that is more down to tone than word choice. There’s nothing inherently bad about saying “my team.”

          Sometimes the use of possessives annoy me, but only in the context of, for example, a salesperson at a national department store chain telling me, “I don’t carry that brand” or something like that. Yeah, because *you* don’t carry anything; you have no say in what the company’s buyers choose for that store. I don’t know why that bothers me so much because I’ve felt like only a few of the people who used it around me were trying to make themselves sound important–like for some reason being “just” a salesperson* was something they couldn’t handle. But it always drives me crazy.
          *I will never understand that attitude. When I worked retail, I was more than happy to blame poor inventory decisions on the people who actually made them.

      2. John*

        “The team” or “our team.”

        I have to say, it really depends on the tone as to whether “my” is annoying. Some people deliver it in a way as to make it sound like they are lording their ownership over others. Hard to explain but I think it’s generally fine but some people can’t pull it off.

        1. sunny-dee*

          “The” team doesn’t make sense in a lot of contexts, though. It seems oddly distancing to me — like you’re not a part of it at all. Those people.

          This is a personal idiosyncrasy, but I hate “our” team (unless it’s actually appropriate). I have been in a couple of situations where someone was talking about all the work “we” needed to do for “our” team … and it was all work that she was planning to offload to me and then take credit for. People who say “our team” are usually trying to distance themselves from failure or ride someone else’s coattails, and both are off-putting to me. But, probably like the people who object to “my”, it’s probably more a reaction to pas experiences than anything real.

        2. Emme*

          +1 to using “our team”. My last boss did this and I always appreciated it. It set up common buy in and ownership of our team’s work– at least in my mind.

          1. Al Lo*

            Off-topic, is anyone else really excited for the Fug Girls’ new novel, “The Royal We”? I can’t wait!

        3. AVP*

          I wrote something about this above, but I think it’s fine when 99% of managers use that phrasing and then theres 1% who can induce cringing because they really sound like they’re referring to people that they believe they own. I would bet the cousin is intimately acquainted with one of those managers or has a client like that.

      3. abby*

        I think it might depend on the context. For me, sometimes it grates, sometimes it does not. An example of when it grates is when I receive an out-of-office email from, let’s say, the marketing director, advising people to contact “her” marketing manager. The director is in charge of the manager, yes, but it still grates. In general, I would rather see “our” than “my”.

        1. frequentflyer*

          I think it grates if your manager is a hands-off type who doesn’t do much managing (i.e. manager in name only) and has never stepped up to be in charge of the team, lead the team and be responsible for the team. But when they’re talking to important people or networking, suddenly they’re all like “My Team”…

    2. Hotstreak*

      This seems similar to the “works for me” vs “works with me” distinction, but not nearly as severe.

      Also whether it is an issue depends on how it is said, for example making the statement with particular emphasis on the “my” of “my team”, indicating strong ownership or control over the team, might be undermining the subordinate and making it more difficult for them to do their job (due to loss of face in front of clients, etc.). Folks will some times use language like that as a way to boost their own standing, particularly if they are insecure in their position or new, which is degrading to the entire team and may be what the Cousin is referring to.

  8. Not So NewReader*

    “My team”. I think more than one factor kicks in here. How often does the person use the term? Some people seem to enjoy saying “my team” or “my office” waaaaay to much. “My team” is a status symbol not much different than “my office” conveys some sort of status.
    Do they basically respect the people they work with or are they looking down on these people? There’s a difference between “my team is working hard on the problem” and “my team screwed up as usual”. People might be less apt to notice the use of “my team” in the first statement and more apt to notice it in the second statement.

    I have been hearing the word “minions” a lot lately. It grates on me more than it should. “My minions will take care of the mess and I can go home.” grrrr. They aren’t minions. They are real people with real names and real lives.

    In the past, I have used “our team” or “our group” in order to get away from the singular possessive “my”. I think it takes a while for people to notice but they do notice. I tend to believe any time you take an “us” and break it into a “me (we)” and a “they”, you can start to have problems. It’s can represent a lack of cohesion or even an adversarial situation.

    Not applicable to all settings. But if a workplace has numerous problems, I start thinking about these things. In healthy workplaces it’s a non-issue.

    1. Cheesecake*

      Minions, i have never heard this in a serious conversation. We use it in the office as a joke and i find it funny. But what i totally agree is we only pay attention to these things when there are problems in the company/in the team.

    2. BRR*

      I was wondering how often it’s said as well. I think i’ve heard my boss say it maybe once or twice and she’s great so it doesn’t bother me at all. It feels like the correct way to refer to us. I think it’s kind of like ending a sentence with a preposition. Both work if the phrasing feels like the best way to say the sentence. If she said the chocolate teapot team it would sound like she’s talking in third person.

      1. Koko*

        Interestingly, I’m realizing that although I’m not sure why, I would say, “our team is having lunch for our new hire today” when speaking to a coworker in a different part of the company, and “my team is having lunch for our new hire today” when speaking to friends and family outside of work. (I’m also not a manager – when I say “my team” I’m simply meaning the team I’m on.)

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I only use the word “minion” to refer to the one that is the fruit of my loins, but I think I am allowed to be a bit possessive of that one.

      Plus, it makes assigning chores and errands more fun. :D

    4. Ellie A.*

      Someone used the word “minions” in all seriousness to refer to their employees? Wow. That’s…wow.

      I wonder if they realize that, by characterizing their employees as minions, they are casting themselves as a supervillain?

      1. Another Ellie*

        I’ve been having this problem recently. We have a couple of high school interns in our office (who report directly to me), who everybody jokingly started referring to as “the minions” because they basically run around doing everybody’s grunt work. OK, fine, they’re 17-year-olds. They think it’s cute, I’ve been ambivalent toward it. I’ve resisted some of the suggestions to put a print-out of the Despicable Me minions over their shared desk.

        Then I hire an admin assistant. An actual grown up person who works 40 hours per week and who does some very important support work for me and the rest of the office. Even before her start date, she was being referred to as “the new minion.” “Don’t worry, you’ll have another minion next week!”

        I put a stop to that real fast.

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          “I put a stop to that real fast.”

          On behalf of everyone who has ever done admin work for a living, bless you!

          1. Another Ellie*

            Seriously. There was also jockeying over where her desk would be, with somebody trying to put her in a different room than *everybody else*. Just because she’s going to be ‘the secretary’ in some people’s eyes doesn’t mean that she’s not a full part of the team. And starting off before she even shows up by minimizing her role and separating her from everybody else is just going to make her destined to fail.

            1. Chinook*

              “There was also jockeying over where her desk would be, with somebody trying to put her in a different room than *everybody else*.’

              Wow. Just. wow.

              Not only is it dehumanizing and insulting, but it also hampers her ability to do the work if she can’t hear what is going on (I feel that part of being a good AA is to have super sonic hearing, eyes in the back of your head and a way to unconciously filter out all this input unless it pertains to something you may have to be involved with). As well, the other employees and you will have to take time out of their day and go to her when you need her.

              Then again, maybe you can congratulate your coworkers on being “enlightened” enough to give the AA her own office, something most AAs only dream about.

    5. Fabulously Anonymous*

      I once worked for a manager that referred to us as “the gang.” As in, “I’ll get the gang right on that.” Or “the gang put this together.” It really grated on me.

  9. Not So NewReader*

    #5. Entire books have been written on family run businesses. Some seem to have their own unique and special way of unraveling themselves. And, truly speaking if a family wants to destroy its business they have that right to do that.

    I worked for one family with problems in the cash drawer. The non-family workers knew the problem was Son how had found a way to subsidize his pot habit. Dad and Mom had no clue. Dad fired a lot of people in fits of rage. I walked out during one of his tirades, so am not clear on what happened next, except for the fact that another customer walked out right behind me. He told me he would never go back into that place. I took that as an omen. Less than two years later, the business was closed. It took all three family members to kill that business, but they did it.

    When family businesses are good, it can be great to work for them. But when family businesses are bad, it can get reeally bad. OP, tell your husband to assume nothing will ever change. And suggest that he make his own plans accordingly.

    1. the gold digger*

      My uncle and my cousins have a deer-processing/sausage-making business that has been successful for years. I think one of the reasons for that success is that they are willing to run it as a business – they fired one of my cousins a few years ago!

      (I don’t know why. I am dying to know, but one does not ask.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Not when it happened to me. But that does not mean the family did not move to Ohio! I lost track of them very shortly after I walked out.

  10. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 I think the intent of the statement is more important that the actual words used, the only time I have ever been annoyed to hear someone say “my team” is an old supervisor who constantly over step their mark and had ideas above their station.

    My annoyance wasn’t to do with the term, just the way it was being used by them to try and present themselves as a manager when they had very little power or authority over the team.

  11. Unrelated Comment*

    I’m giving notice at my job today. I’ve been dealing with non-stop harassment and bullying since I started there two years ago. It’s taken a huge toll on me emotionally and physically. My first attempt to do something about it backfired because my boss was one of the harassers, and he turned out to be good friends with the other two.

    This week, one of the people who has been harassing me was promoted and now reports to the other one. The latter recently mentioned that he was just over at ex-boss’s house for dinner and then gave me a threatening, predatory look. I think they think I got ex-boss fired for harassment because I stood up to him publicly, in front of his boss, once and asked him to please stop calling me the names he was calling me.

    I’m really scared of these people. They’re well connected in the industry and in the company. I can’t report their behavior because it would just lead to retaliation. I’m scared to resign because they’ll see it as a victory (“we forced her out”) and may take preemptive action to make me look bad in case I mention the harassment in an exit interview.

    Send some good thoughts my way. Hoping to make a safe escape.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just a reminder to please not post unrelated content here (or respond to it, which reinforces the problem). Thank you!

      (I wrote this after the 5 comments below but changed the time stamp so it would appear right up top and hopefully preempt any more.)

    2. Alien vs Predator*

      Just walk away. Save yourself and your sanity. Don’t worry about “fixing” this problem by reporting it in an exit interview. You may feel better temporarily, but it will likely accomplish nothing in terms of getting these two punished. Normally, I would advise being reasonably honest in an exit interview. But some places are just so toxic, that I think the best revenge is to just keep quiet and let the organization implode on itself. You don’t owe this organization anything.

      Best of luck. It will get a lot better once you leave. Be sure you have all personal files off your computer and have all your stuff packed before you give notice as they may fire you immediately. Don’t let this beat you down.

    3. HR Manager*

      Congrats on getting out of there. There is no reason to subject yourself to this. If they get their jollies by bullying others at work, because this is the only place that makes them feel like big, important people, then that is quite frankly very very sad.

      By the way, if you were so inclined, you could reach out to the local EEO office in your city/state. Especially with your being afraid of them, the EEO could help investigate the claim and not be tainted by what you describe as the insider’s boys club.

    4. Helen*

      I agree that you shouldn’t mention anything in the exit interview–in fact, I would advise that you skip the exit interview entirely.

      Best wishes to you. I quit my job without having a new job lined up around Christmas, and I am so glad I did. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but sometimes you just have to take care of yourself. Plus, I have so much more time, energy, and self-esteem to put into job applications now–and due to that and the job market getting better I’m getting plenty of call backs.

      I’m very sorry you had to deal with all that. Here’s to new beginnings.

    5. JustMe*

      You poor soul. I wish you much success in the future. People like the ones you’ve described won’t succeed outside their circle. Other people (managers/leaders) with more professionalism will shut that down and swiftly. I wouldn’t worry too much. You do need to move on though. Moving on is more for you and your mental health. Don’t focus on they would be winning because they wouldn’t have won anything. They win when you are demeaned to nothing. They lose when you keep your dignity, go to another job and be awesome. They lose when you drive your car into the garage of your house so you can be with your family.

      Additionally, so what if they ‘know’ people. My old boss knew the Director I interviewed with at a company I was interested in. I know for a fact she called Director seeking information, and he of course gave it to her. I spoke to a friend of mine at the company and he told me Director got booted out the company [FIRED]. Karma!

    6. Purple Jello*

      Congratulations for taking the steps to get out. Skip the exit interview, or just go and explain you’re “pursuing other opportunities” and “were glad to have the opportunity to work at Nonstop-Harassment Company because you learned so much” (like that you hate harassment). Then when you hand over your key card/laptop or other company property, ask for a receipt.

      Good luck.

      1. Unrelated Comment*

        Thanks, everyone! I’m not planning to say anything about what happened. My fear is that they anticipate that I’m going to and will take action to damage my reputation as a way of protecting themselves. They already seem to be doing that, and leaving could exacerbate the situation.

        My plan is to give a really vague reason – “more challenging opportunities” – and ask to work from home for the remainder of my time there. The idea being that keeping a relatively low profile will make it easier for me to be selective about who I stay in touch with, etc.

        1. Unrelated Comment*

          I should add that fortunately my current manager is nice! I can’t trust him enough to tell him about what I’ve been dealing with, but he hasn’t been a part of it and seems unaware that it’s been going on.

  12. Not an IT Guy*

    #3 – It sounds like based on the culture you don’t have to worry about inviting anybody. I had every intention of keeping my engagement a secret, until one person found out and started telling people. Now I feel that if certain people aren’t invited I’ll lose my job.

    1. C Average*


      I find stuff like this bizarre. Do people really and truly want to blow a perfectly good weekend and probably some money, too, attending the event of someone they know casually from work? Is that honestly their idea of fun to the extent that they’d be upset about missing out on it?

      I mean, yeah, plenty of weddings are lovely and even fun, but many more of them feel like a costly obligation, and I’m always a little relieved to be left off of the guest lists even of people I know well and like a lot.

    2. JustMe*

      Just tell them you’re having a small wedding with only a handful of family members and some very close friends. I wouldn’t think this hard over it.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do you have actual reason to fear you’d lose your job over it, like people have done things to make you feel that way? Because otherwise I’d say that’s really not something you should worry about.

  13. Chinook*

    #5 – can I point out that the wife of the boss IS an owner? Unlike any other type of family member, this business affects her in the same way it does the boss – it is a source of household income and affects household schedules and worries. She never goes home to a place where it won’t be discussed (if it is a small business) and she likely does things outside of her job description and outside of office hours. As well, in many places, legally assets like this are shared between a married couple.

    AAM’S advice is always to not worry about what others are doing or making unless it affects your job. In this case, this is the best advice for your husband.

    1. Elizling*

      This. We have a family business. My mom came to work here as an admin assistant a few years back. The dynamic here is very, very similar to the OP’s post. While her title is technically Admin Assistant, she is – in fact – an owner of the business. To me, it makes sense that she shares in the same perks as my dad. She spent the last 30 years by his side while he built this business, whether she was physically working here or not.

      1. NotMyRealName*

        This is an important thing. My husband and I own a small business. I also have an outside job. I have had problems with a couple of employees (even when I worked our business full-time) telling me that I wasn’t their boss, my husband was. Wrong answer! Especially since I do the payroll.

      2. AVP*

        Growing up in a family business environment, I can totally empathize with this. My dad owns a business and my mom has a full-time job and advanced degrees in a totally unrelated field. However, for all intents and purposes, my mom ends up doing basically another part-time job at my dad’s place because all of the little things need to get done – I can’t even think of what specifically her “job” would be but she’s there every other day, has to listen to every damn detail of what happens and advise, ran their billing at the beginning, let the business use her garage and basement when it was just getting started (not to mention paying the bills before they broke even….) She obviously doesn’t take any money for this, but she does recognize that the better the business runs, the better it is for her (and the rest of the family) overall.

        All in all, family businesses can be a weird dynamic but this place isn’t going to change anytime soon. It’s very much a “do you want the job as is or do you want to find a new one” situation.

        1. Chinook*

          “However, for all intents and purposes, my mom ends up doing basically another part-time job at my dad’s place because all of the little things need to get done – I can’t even think of what specifically her “job” would be but she’s there every other day, has to listen to every damn detail of what happens and advise”

          Sounds like my dad’s role in my mom’s business. I think for WCB purposes she listed him as “handyman” because he does clear the snow and wash the floors but he also runs the shop when she can’t get anyone else to do it and she has a meeting. He likes to joke that she would never hire him if he was off the street because he is known to call in on short notice for “snow days” whenever the local ski hill (200 km away) gets a fresh dump of snow.

          Trust me – only a family member who has dinner waiting for you when you get home can get away with that.

          1. Brett*

            That’s not actually how it works. The employed spouse of an owner of a partnership is not considered an owner. This makes a HUGE difference on how the business pays taxes on that spouse’s wages (especially FUTA).

          2. Chinook*

            Not just IRS. Also divorce courts and marriage laws (atleast up in Canada). Even if the “owner” has 1.4 of the shares in the business, if he started the business while he was married and then divorces, wife is able to sue for half of his shares.

        1. Just me*

          Because a marriage is a partnership. I have a car and so does my wife, but even though I rarely drive her car and she rarely drives mine we both own both vehicles. What’s mine is hers and what’s hers is mine, most marriages that don’t work that way don’t work (plus in most places that is the way the law works as well). It is possible that the incorporation documents state that if he dies his share goes to the other partners and not his wife, but unless that specific wording is in there, in most places his wife would get his shares. My father in law and his brother bought their dad’s farm, and ran it as a partnership for many years. My father in law passed away several years ago, but that doesn’t mean she has nothing, half the farm is hers. When they sell the land she gets half and her brother in law and his wife get the other half.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Great point. Any business should have a plan for what happens if one of the partners dies. If that is your partner that goes, you could end up owning a business with just about anyone if you do not have that piece planned out.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          Certainly she has the financial stake in the business’s success or failure that an owner does. And if they got divorced, the court might very well consider her husband’s share of the business to be a marital asset that she gets half of (depending what state they live in, whether the business was started before the marriage, etc). It’s probably not helpful for the OP’s husband to get hung up on whether her name is on the incorporation documents.

    2. annonymous*

      Just have to add my +1. Not one day goes by without a discussion of work when you are the business owner or are married to and working with them (in my home). Kudos to those who don’t!
      My sympathies to the OP’s spouse, who feels nickeled and dimed. I urge him to either embrace it (if they are otherwise good employers) and look for the positive or move on.

    3. abby*

      No, no, no. It’s not that simple. I don’t know how it works in other countries, but in the U.S. in some states one spouse can own a business and the other spouse has absolutely no ownership interests. It’s complicated and tricky, but please don’t assume the wife is an owner here. She might be, but simply being married does not guarantee it.

  14. Wacky Teapots*

    #5—I know this sucks but, the wife of the owner is always treated as another owner regardless of her employee status. Their money goes into the same house, car, boat, etc. There’s no doubt in her mind either, hence the early leaving and month long trips. It’s not fair but, tis life.

    1. abby*

      Yes, better way to describe it! Even if the wife has no ownership interest, more than likely the husband will treat her as if she did.

      I worked for a small family business where the husband and his brother were owners, not the wife. Yet she worked on occasion, when it suited her schedule. Came and went as she pleased. Pretty sure she received a regular salary regardless of when and how often she worked.

      But actual ownership interest? No way. It was the brothers’ business.

  15. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Your cousin is way overthinking this. If you are the manager then they are your team. Calling them “my team” is appropriate. I refer to my employees as “my team” “my staff” “my peeps”, depending on the group. When I’m in a meeting with them it’s “our team”. It’s more about tone and frequency of use than the actual words.

  16. Alien vs Predator*

    I do agree with AAM’s advice. However, I would ask the OP to really think about how likely it is they will actually get a truthful answer when you ask about this. If you do, and it confirms your suspicions about Lisa, then you’ll have to think about whether you really want to work there or not. If the person does not in any way acknowledge that Lisa is difficult, then you know you will be working with an asshole AND a liar. This also indicates a culture of sweeping bad behavior under the rug. As others have commented, I think it is unlikely (possible, but unlikely) that you would be interviewed by a person and then not have to work with them in some capacity. And, as is often stated, if people can’t be polite during the courtship period, how are they going to behave when that period is over?

    Also, I think there are certain “dog whistle” phrases you need to listen for in the interviewer’s response. Phrases like “big personality” or “brilliant but not emotionally intelligent”. These phrases = ASSHOLE

    One final note. It is common for interviewers to ask how you deal with difficult coworkers. I understand that this is often a standard interview question and not necessarily red flag. However, when I am asked about this more than once in an interview, or by more than one person in a series of interviews, I have started asking the interviewers how the organization deals with difficult employees. The response to this (and the look on the interviewer’s face) will speak volumes.

    OP, go pick up a copy of “The No Asshole Rule”. Read it. Enjoy it. Live it. Companies won’t stop hiring assholes until people stop putting up with it and they can see that it is directly hurting them.

    1. C Average*

      I’m with you on a lot of this. And a big +1 on “The No Asshole Rule.” Love that book!

      However, I don’t think Jane failing to be candid about Lisa makes Jane a liar. This is a tough spot to put Jane in. What if she’s honest and you get hired? Then she’s the person who said unflattering (even if true) things about the boss before you were even formally part of the team, and that’s permanently part of your dynamic.

      I coexist with my manager, but I have issues with some of her approaches to management and am looking hard for a new role in part to escape from that relationship. But if we were bringing on a new person and an interviewee asked me about her, I don’t think I’d be willing to tell any hard truths about her. While I believe some negative things about her based on my experience, I have shared those impressions only in AAM comments and with my husband. I may have problems with her, but talking about them at work to anyone, including a prospective hire, is only going to have the potential to further harm that relationship.

      For a prospective hire, the closest I’d come would be to speak in the broadest of generalities about what it’s like to be on the team.

      1. Alien vs Predator*

        I think that is a very fair point. What I said probably stemmed from my general frustration with the way organizations often cover for the horrible behavior of employees. I agree with what you’ve said. Sometimes there’s a lot you can’t say just to protect yourself.

  17. Lily in NYC*

    I’m an assistant who doesn’t care how people refer to me. However, I have some coworkers who can be prickly about it. My boss is sensitive to it even though I don’t care, and he refers to me in emails as “my colleague”. As in: “My colleague, Lily in NYC, cc’d here, will reach out to find time for us to meet”. I think that’s a good term that won’t offend the easily offended.

    1. fposte*

      Most of the time when I’m talking about my team I’m talking to my colleagues or superiors, so “my colleagues” is just going to confuse the heck out of people. Since I’m heading a named unit, sometimes I just say “the Spout team,” but since I’m heading two named units, that starts to gets ridiculous when I’m talking about everybody I work with.

      I think Cousin probably has had some concerns about her managers and is projecting them onto an innocent adjective.

    2. Calla*

      Colleague is a good one! My last job, I supported 3 VPs/Directors. One of them used “my colleague, Calla” frequently; one used “my assistant”; and the third would mix it up with things like “Calla, our admin extraordinaire” which was probably my favorite :) but all of them were fine.

      The only time I’ve ever found “my __” uncalled for was when, in same former job, my new boss used it to refer to a coworker. Said coworker was the head of a department (training & development) that technically fell under my VP, but really was corporate/for the whole company. My VP referred to her in an email exchange with outside folks as “my trainer.” That grated on her and I totally understood.

  18. CollegeAdmin*

    Re #1 – In general, I think “my assistant” is fine, but where appropriate, introduce names too. I much prefer being introduced by my supervisor as “my assistant, CollegeAdmin” versus just “my assistant,” both in emails and in person.

    The only one I didn’t like was “my #1 salesman.” I can’t quite pinpoint why, but I think it’s something to do with the fact that it’s not his title (it’s more of an accomplishment), and that he’s not the #1 salesman for you but rather for the company. I feel like saying, “Wakeen, our #1 salesman” is better.

    1. Naomi*

      That implies Wakeen is #1 in the company though–“my #1 salesman” could just mean #1 on the team.

  19. illini02*

    #5, this is another case where your husband either can suck it up and deal, or leave. Honestly, he is lucky that he is the manager and she is assistant, because in many family run businesses, no outsiders have rank above the family. Besides the “its not fair” issue (which its not, but thats life in a family run business), you have to look at is it affecting your work. If it is truly affecting your ability to do your job, because your assistant manager isn’t there on any type of reliable schedule, I think that is something that can be delicately brought up. Again, you need tangible evidence of hows its affecting your productivity, but I think you could at best ask for her to be there at certain peak times or something to at least know when she will or won’t be there. But its never going to be fair.

    I also want to echo what someone else said. She IS an owner. Maybe not on paper, but in just about every sense of the law, she owns 50% of his stake in the company, and the bottom line affects her day to day life as it does for any other owner.

  20. Seal*

    #1 – My staff = those people who report to me. Your staff = those people who report to you. This allows us to say things like “one of my staff members is out today” or “one of your staff members asked for clarification”. Much less stilted than saying “one of the staff members who reports to me is out today” or “one of the staff members who reports to you asked for clarification”.

  21. E.R*

    #5 I once worked in a family business where the CEO and President were wife and husband, respectively, and their son was our team’s director. They were pretty stingy about everything – time off, pay, benefits all sorts of stuff, but they were especially hard on their son. They didnt give him any time off when his *baby was being born*. Like, he had to go to the hospital after 5pm when the workday was done and his daughter had arrived hours earlier. That place was all kinds of bad, and I didnt stay long, but I think I can almost understand treating your employee like crap better than I can understand treating your child or a relative so badly.
    Anyways, the OP is obviously in a bad situation, I just wanted to share this opposing anecdote of horror.

    1. VintageLydia USA*

      My husband used to work for his dad and their dynamic was similar. FIL would let other people he employed get away with murder but if my husband screwed something minor up it was a Big Problem. It taught him a great work ethic, I guess, but their personal relationship was pretty bad until he got another job.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      My mum had her dad as a teacher for all of elementary school, and said he was intentionally much harder on her than on anyone else in the class, to make it clear that there was no favouritism. I wonder if your former employers were thinking along similar lines?

      (My mum became a teacher herself, and for a while she was working at the high school closest to our house. Even though she really loved that job, she found another one at a different school the year before I went to the local high school, because she’d had such a tough experience being taught by a parent that she was determined not to put us through that!)

  22. shep*

    #1 – Totally agree that the OP’s cousin is overthinking the wording of these expressed relationships.

    It does remind me of something tangential in my own experience that DID bother me. I was an assistant director at a small business, but my boss would refer to me as “my assistant” when we met with potential business partners or clients. I know she meant “my assistant director,” but how on earth was anyone else supposed to know that? She even brought it up one time, as in, “I can’t believe Lucy thought you were my assistant!”

    I just can’t even.

    We got along really well and had a really close working relationship, and in the grand scheme of things, people figured out really quickly what my role was there, so it was never a big issue, but oooh how it drove me bonkers.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, I was just thinking of that, because I’ve had to deal with a similar position, and I really tried to avoid the “my assistant” thing–that’s a genuine underrepresentation that would annoy me in that situation too. That’s one where I think you really need to give the full title, and really it would be best to drop the “my”–go for “our” if you have to have a possessive, or just “the.”

      1. shep*

        Right?? Although I occasionally wondered if it were more of a Freudian slip she realized needed correcting in the aftermath.

        Once, she asked me to watch her dog for the weekend and drive her family to the airport. She tried to pay me several hundred dollars to do it, but that made me feel squicky, particularly because at the point we’d established a camaraderie bordering on friendship. (Which, of course, is a separate Pandora’s box all by itself in the workplace.)

        Then one time her husband came into my office, let me know they were headed out (all of us were friendly, so I thought it was a standard, “See you later!”), gave me a key, and said thanks so much. I laughed and asked for what, and then the smile slide off my face, and I kind of furrowed my brow at the key.

        Her family was going on another trip, but she’d forgotten to get someone to watch her dog, and had sent me a frantic text just a few minutes before her husband came into my office (a text which I hadn’t seen yet because I was at work, WORKING) which basically read: “OMG forgot about Fido! Can you feed him this weekend??? THANKS SO MUCH.”

        Her husband was embarrassed when he realized I had no idea I was dog-sitting for the weekend.

        So…definitely maybe some Freudian slippage in the use of “my assistant.”

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, definitely sounds like she called you that because that’s how she thought of you. The key thing is priceless!

  23. Dasha*

    #1 What does everyone think of calling someone an assistant when assistant is not in their title? Just curious because the whole team thing was covered but not really the assistant thing.

    1. fposte*

      Depends what their title/actual job is. If they’re support staff, I don’t think this is a big deal. If you’re referring to the systems analyst who reports to you as your assistant, I think that’s off-base.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          Yeah, my title is “Program Specialist,” but I don’t have a problem at all when the people I support refer to me as their assistant. I like it better than “my secretary,” which is both old-fashioned and inaccurate (I provide some secretarial functions, but I’m a lot more autonomous than that implies) or “my support staff,” which is awkward and makes me sound like I’m more than one person. I also accept “my admin,” although Administrative Assistant is a whole other job title (and, like secretary, is inaccurate for what I actually do).

  24. Mena*

    #3: When I got married I invited some friends from work but I chose only those people that I socialized with outside of the office – people that I had developed a personal relationship with. These were people that I had invited to my home or had lunch or dinner with, whose children I had met, etc. Since you are new and don’t have these relationships (or don’t have them yet), I don’t think you are obligated to invited anyone from the office.

  25. Brigitte*

    I don’t get all the comments on how the situation in #5 isn’t fair. It’s not equal, sure, but neither are their roles in the business. I like to think of it this way: the perks of being an owner offset the risk and unique pressures they take on in running a business.

    As others have said, the wife is legally half owner of the husband’s share, so she’s definitely an owner. Even if she had no day-to-day role in the company, she’s directly affected by the pressures of running a business — pressures OP’s husband may not be able to relate to, unless he’s been in the same boat.

    I know there’s a lot of dysfunction in family owned businesses, but that’s not always the case, and what the OP shared isn’t enough to show that this company is otherwise being run badly.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s one of the pit falls of family businesses, when family members do not work a set schedule. Not everyone is bothered by it, but there are enough people who are bothered by it that guide books for family businesses mention “Do not do this!”. It does cause morale problems, it could cause workflow problems and other things.

      Planning partner succession, as mentioned above, is also another topic covered for planning/running a family business.

      There are numerous pit falls, that frequently occur in family run businesses. Many are preventable.

  26. hayling*

    #3: Just another anecdote than when my director got married at oldjob, we threw him and his fiancee a little shower in the office (she worked there too, not sure if that matters). He’d worked there forever and I imagine he invited a few close coworkers to his wedding but most of us weren’t invited and didn’t think twice about it.

  27. Brett*

    #5 According to posts up above the company is a partnership with four owners. We are discussing this like a family owned business (since it seems to be operated that way), but legally it is not because of the partners.

    This is _not_ something I think the OP’s husband should interject into, but the wife is not legally an owner because of the partnership; she is not even entitled to half of her husband’s share. That means she gets a W-2, not a K-1 like her husband. The company has to pay social security, medicare, and FUTA and she has to pay income tax on earned income. Basically, odds are the arrangement there is resulting in some shady tax dealing and maybe misclassification of the wife as an employee when she should be considered an officer or some other role.

    But the OP’s husband does not and should not have the information to figure that out. Let the company accountant worry about that, or the IRS/state DOL when they eventually come looking. (And with the way the OP’s husband is being treated, maybe the state DOL will come looking.)

    1. Brigitte*

      Or maybe the owner asked his wife to come work, because there was too much for OP’s husband to handle alone.

      We have no idea what’s going behind the scenes here. It could be shady. It could also be that the wife isn’t making much of a salary or has been asked to work in the business to help out, and the flexible schedule is her compensation.

      I can see how this is frustrating from the outside, but unless the manager is being affected directly, this is the kind of thing he should endeavor to put out of his mind.

      1. Wife*

        The wife/assistant manager takes home roughly $2,000/yr less than the general manager. I didn’t want to go too much into specific details because it’s obviously a very touchy subject, but there are definitely “shady” things happening. The manager should be able to rely on the assistant manager to help with employee matters (such as call-ins, room inspections, complaints, phone calls, reservations, day-to-day customer service, etc.), instead he’s left to ask one of the front-desk employees to help out or handle all matters on his own. Keep in mind, he’s been with this company since they opened almost 20 years ago. He is a loyal employee, maybe too much so as many people just say he needs to suck it up or leave.

        1. fposte*

          Those aren’t shady things, though, those are just expectations that aren’t being met here. She could make $40,000 more per year than him and only come in for parties and it would still be legal. Giving employees more money or perks and having no expectations for them is almost always legal.

          What’s not legal is making an exempt employee lose time in hourly increments, but solving that isn’t going to change the disparity between how your husband is treated and how family is treated; nothing is but the owners’ wanting to change that, and they don’t want to change that. So since that’s not going away, the question is whether he’s okay working with that or if that’s enough (along with other problems) to make him want to leave for work elsewhere.

        2. Brigitte*

          Ah, okay. That’s a different problem.

          I think it’d help if you separated out the issues you can control or reasonably ask to change versus the realities of the job you just might not like.

          For instance, the potentially illegal handling of time off is within your sphere of influence, and it’s definitely something your husband can and should address.

          Another problem that might be worth raising is how the assistant manager’s irregular schedule is preventing your husband’s department from meeting its objectives (if this is indeed the case). I think other regular commenters here might be able to recommend some neutral language for bringing that up. Something along the lines of, “I wanted to talk to you about the possibility of either getting some additional coverage in the teapot department or seeing if owner’s wife would be open to working a set schedule each week.” And then make the case for why there’s enough work (and things falling through the cracks) to justify the change to staffing.

          The issue of unequal vacation time is probably not going to be addressed, for a slightly different reason than we’ve already discussed. If my husband worked for my company, I’d insist he had the same amount of vacation as me, simply because I’d want to spend it with him. That’s another way to look at the “perk of being the owner” comment — it might actually be the partner’s perk to get to spend time off with his wife. No matter what the reason, her treatment is out of bounds — the best positioning for bringing up any issues is to put it in the context of business needs.

        3. Brett*

          Like fposte said, that’s not shady, just bad business.

          Shady would be issues like classifying the wife as a working spouse of a company owned solely by her husband (which means not paying FUTA) or as a family sole-owned company employee (no FICA or medicare too) or as a partner (no withholding taxes at all) when she is actually an employee of a partnership only partly owned by her family and not by her.
          And it is possible for her to have not been on the incorporation papers but still be an owner. Incorporation is just the status of the partnership at the time it is formed and can change over time (though I am not very familiar with how that works and I know that varies by state). All in all, not an issue worth dealing with when there are more important matters that directly affect your husband.

          1. Wife*

            I knew those items weren’t shady. What about this example, though. Assistant manager (owner’s wife) takes an employee of the business (while on the clock at company and being paid by company) to their personal residence to do personal errands, miscellaneous household items for the couple? I highly doubt the other 3 partners would be happy with this situation when employee should and could be doing things at the company. So many of the comments have been focused on the wife being an owner/not an owner so she can do as she pleases. My main goal was to find out what my husband (the GM) could do as far as his exempt, salaried position and the fact that the owner is taking money from his check after he has used his 21 days. Those 21 days includes all holidays. He is required to work 45 hours per week and if he doesn’t, once his 21 days are used, the owner will deduct anywhere from 1 hour to a full day’s pay from his check – depending on how many hours he’s short from the 45. I only pointed out the wife/assistant manager because the same isn’t the case for her even though they are supposedly considered “equals” in the eyes of the partners.

            1. Brigitte*

              I’m sorry you’re not getting the guidance you wanted. When you worded the question, “What can, if anything, he do about this inconsistency?” it felt like your objective was to make things equal between your husband and the assistant manager, which is what we’ve been responding to.

              Unfortunately I’m not able to help with this other part. I hope others can.

    2. NotMyRealName*

      How do you know that one of the shares isn’t jointly owned by the husband and wife? Also, depending on how the partnership is structured, she could be a W-2 employee as well.

      1. Brett*

        That’s actually stated by the poster above, that there are 4 partners and the wife is not one of them.

        1. fposte*

          Does the IRS/DOL care if the owner considers the wife to be a de facto owner? Because that seems to me to be what’s happening, and if the feds don’t care I’d go with “if the boss calls her an owner, she’s an owner.”

          1. Brett*

            They don’t care if they are still properly withholding income tax and paying FICA, Medicare, and FUTA and filing a W-2 as if she is not an owner.

        2. Notmyrealname*

          Why would an employee have access to the incorporation documents? That seems pretty odd to me.

  28. Elizabeth West*

    Also, the people at my new job are very kind-however, no one really hangs out or communicates outside of work.

    This is your answer right there. No, you don’t have to. It was nice of them to give you cards and gifts, but a reasonable person (and I assume all your coworkers are reasonable, because you haven’t indicated otherwise) would not expect to be invited. Especially if it’s not usual for coworkers to fraternize outside the office.

  29. Calgary Recruiter*

    #1 – just make sure that if you’re going to call them yours, they actually are. For example – the administrative assistant shared by the entire department is not “my assistant” unless their job duties state otherwise.

    One of our account managers caused some major animosity at this years holiday party by introducing her teams client administrator to her husband as “her assistant”, when really the role provides administrative support to a group of account managers and the account managers do not have authority to assign or oversee work given to the administrators. It came off as very condescending and upset a lot of the client admins who felt that the work they do was being downplayed.

  30. Jennifer*

    I don’t think the “my” is offensive for a manager, but I am privately irritated at being called “team.” But there’s nothing that can be done about that.

  31. On the Lower End of things...*

    #1 – I had a boss that constantly referred to EVERYTHING as “HIS”. It was so abnoxious. We work in a hotel and he was the Director of Banquets. He would constantly say “my department”, “my managers”, “my ballroom” when it was OURS. WE all worked together collectively and more importantly, he didn’t/doesn’t own the department, the managers, or the BALLROOM! The owners of the company own the ballroom. It made the rest of the managers feel like his property, which just plain sucked because he was an arrogant boss to begin with. I think using “OUR” shows more of a sense of teamwork as opposed to saying “MY”, implying that it’s yours and yours alone.

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