my boss keeps joking about me never leaving, I was hired to replace someone who doesn’t want to leave, and more

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

1. My boss keeps joking about me never leaving

My boss often makes comments–sometimes jokes, sometimes statements–about how I should never leave the company. I’ve reached the point where actually do want to leave…but I’m scared of how she’ll react when I tell her.

Two examples, in which we’ll say my name is Jane:
– After a phone call in which she gave a former colleague a reference for company A, she said to me, “and I told [company A’s boss], don’t you dare poach Jane!”
– When our retirement benefits rep spoke to our organization at our last all-staff meeting (60+ people) he gave an example of someone working for our company for 30 years. My boss pointed at me and said, “that’s what you’re going to do!”

I usually just smile and laugh off the comment. I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell her that I want to leave, but I also don’t want her to get the impression that staying long-term is my plan. Any advice?

I wouldn’t worry about this at all. Your boss is telling you in a lighthearted way that she appreciates you and hopes you stay, yes, but you’re not incurring any obligation whatsoever. If she wants to really lock you in for some specific period of time, that requires her having a real conversation with you. And it would be weird to respond to the jokes with a serious, “Hey, you know that I’m not going to stay forever, right?” It’s assumed that you’ll move on at some point, possibly even soon, unless there’s a specific (and serious) conversation to the contrary.

When you’re ready to leave (meaning that you have an offer that you’ve accepted), let her know that you’ve appreciated your time there and enjoyed working with her, but have decided to move on. That’s it.

2. My company dinner is at a Brazilian steak-house, although a third of us don’t eat meat

There are about 10 people considered “management” in the small, family-owned company I work for. The president of the company invited all of us to a year-end thank you dinner. His father just stepped back as the owner of the company in order for his son to properly take over as president, and this dinner is the first one he is hosting. My concern is the venue. He has chosen a Brazilian steak-house. It’s not just an order-whatever-off-the-menu place. They bring large quantities of various meats to your table, and continue to do so until you flip your little card over. This seemed like an odd choice, considering 2 other managers (the president’s father and sister) are vegan. I am only semi-vegetarian, but where the other 2 went vegan primarily for health reasons, I stopped eating red meat primarily for the animals.

I could easily find something to eat. That isn’t the problem. I really don’t think I can stomach the environment. I know your opinion on holiday parties in general, but what do you think about attendance in this situation?

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to point this out while there’s still time to change the plans (“any chance that we could go somewhere less meat-centric, since nearly a third of us don’t eat meat?”).

If that doesn’t change anything, then you need to decide whether it’s offensive enough to you to decline the invitation. If it were a social invitation, I’d push you toward declining (since you don’t eat meat for ethical reasons, and this type of restaurant is pretty unpleasant when you have a moral issue with the very thing they’re going to be actively pushing in front of your face throughout the meal). Since it’s a business event, the calculation is a little trickier and depends on how strongly the president wants people there (and how much capital you feel you have to spend on opting out).

3. Can I renegotiate after a salary agreement?

I feel like I lost a negotiation, and I’m trying to win back a fair deal. I recently had a conversation with my boss where I was offered a promotion to a new role with a modest raise but I’d have to give up my flexible schedule for a more rigid one. His offer was for 3 stepped increases over the next 3 years. A few days later, I requested to talk with him again. I asked to start at the salary at the top step. He countered with a complicated formula that started at the second step. At the time, it sounded reasonable and I said that sounded alright. We shook hands.

Then I went home and crunched some numbers. His new offer turns out to be about $900 more in total over the 3 years. I feel like I’ve been tricked. I’ll have to give up my flexible work arrangement. This was the last day before the holidays. I haven’t signed any papers yet and have been worrying about this over the break.

I go back to work January 5. Is there a way I can smoothly reopen the negotiations?

Ugh, this isn’t ideal because you already agreed — even shook on it. But it sounds like a terrible deal for you, so I do think you should see what can be done. I’d go back to him ASAP and say something like: “When we talked before the break, I made a big mistake. I shouldn’t have told you the salary sounded right before I’d had a chance to actually run the numbers in the formula you proposed. My mistake was in agreeing to a formula without seeing what the numbers would be, and I apologize for that! I ran the numbers over the holidays, and realized that that formula would come out to only a total of $900 more over three years. My current schedule flexibility is worth a lot more to me than that. To accept the position, I’d want to either retain my current schedule flexibility or talk about a salary in the range of $___. Is that possible?”

4. My boss made a rude and vulgar remark to me

My boss on Christmas day tried to give me a lottery ticket as a gift, and when I refused, he told me to stick it up my ass (no kidding). He was serious and angry. I am male, as is he. Is this a sexual harassment violation?

No, but it’s certainly rude.

To reach the legal standard for sexual harassment, the behavior must be “severe or pervasive.” It’s rare for a single remark to qualify.

But what’s up with this relationship? You’re refusing gifts, he’s making angry and rude remarks — something’s going on here, and I’d focus on how to address that.

5. I was hired to replace someone who doesn’t want to leave

I took a job four months ago as a bookkeeper for a small local retail store owned by a family friend. He reached out to me because his bookkeeper of 25 years needed to retire. He promised me a fair hourly wage after a 30-day training period. I had never worked in this kind of position, but he was primarily interested in hiring someone he could trust and he assured me that the bookkeeper would train me.

The problem is that this woman really doesn’t want to leave, even though she says her health does not allow her to work anymore. It turns out that she has had control over most of the financial decisions all these years and the owner defers to her on everything from certain passwords to profit numbers sent to the accountant. I have not been taught or shown anything but the basics of bookkeeping, which I accomplished after 30 days. I am still making the “training” level of pay and was told I will not get the higher agreed to pay until the bookkeeper not longer has to come in. I now realize that will never happen and can not afford to live on this level of pay. At this point, I am not sure what to do. Can you give me some advice?

Go back to the owner and say this: “I’ve repeatedly tried to get Jane to train me on X, Y, and Z, but she hasn’t been willing to. She’s shown me the basics of the bookkeeping but nothing else, and I’m getting the sense that she doesn’t plan to leave any time soon. I can’t continue on the training pay long-term, and I’m concerned that she isn’t leaving in the near future. How should we proceed?”

If he’s at a loss, suggest that the three of you meet and devise a training plan that lays out what you’ll be taught by when — and make sure that the owner is willing to hold her to that. It’s also not unreasonable to ask her point-blank what her plans are (“Can you give me a sense of your timeline for retiring, since it will affect my role here?”).

{ 301 comments… read them below }

  1. Brett*

    #2 I find it incredibly odd that the president of the company is choosing a Brazilian steakhouse when his own father and sister are the two vegan employees. He has to know they are vegan, yet chose this restaurant anyway. Could this be more than just an accidentally inappropriate choice? (For example, could it be the the president’s commentary on how he feels about his father’s and sister’s choice to be vegans?)

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes, that does seem very strange. It’s true that those steakhouses usually have vegetarian options (as they come with a salad bar/side dishes), but the whole point of the restaurant is to eat lots of meat. It’s not like a regular restaurant where it’s easy to ignore what’s on everyone else’s plate.

      1. MsM*

        I doubt this is true of all Brazilian steakhouses, but the salad bars at the ones I’ve been to have been pretty extensive. There could arguably be a lot more to choose from than some other restaurant in the same price range that only has one or two vegetarian options and some side dishes. Definitely worth asking, though.

        1. Zillah*

          Maybe, but as a vegetarian, it would make me feel really queasy to be there. I’d rather have fewer options and an easier time ignoring everyone’s plate.

          1. BRR*

            I think their salad bars are typically great but as a meat eater I will be the first to say the environment is more in your face carrying around huge swords of meat and slicing it at the table makes it really unfair for the OP.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, short of a pick-your-own-lobster deal it’s hard to think of anything more in-your-face about it, so I understand her discomfort.

            2. Katie the Fed*

              Some places in India are now segregating housing between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. I realize that adds absolutely nothing to this discussion but I find it interesting.

              1. Zillah*

                I love that idea. Unfortunately, my partner is a meat eater, but I fantasize about a day when he decides he just doesn’t like meat anymore and will stop eating it. (It will never happen.)

    2. polabear*

      Brazillian steakhouses typically have very large and fabulous salad bars. I’m pretty sure they are designed to get you to eat your fill of veggies before the meat ever arrives. He may be thinking that he’s made the perfect choice, not thinking about the whole “parade of meat” issue.

      1. AB Normal*

        I was coming to say exactly that! I’ve taken vegetarian business contacts to a Brazilian stakehouse precisely for that reason (it offered a much better selection of vegetarian food than other restaurants). As long as the guests aren’t disgusted by seeing meat, they should be very pleased with the options. Just make sure you say you are vegetarian to the waiter to ensure you get the standard discount, turn the card to “no”, and enjoy the delicious salad bar.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s the issue the OP is identifying, I think — that she’s vegetarian for ethical reasons and thus isn’t into seeing meat constantly in her face like that.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            It makes sense. These places are basically a celebration of carnivory, and if I was opposed to eating animals, I wouldn’t enjoy seeing that on parade. Personally I do eat meat so it doesn’t bother me, but there are enough restaurants in an average city to accommodate a vegetarian better than this.

          2. Lola*

            That’s part of living in a heterogenous society like USA: you’re going to see completely legal things that you morally disagree with. LW can certainly make the choice to forgo the function if she can’t stand even seeing the very common practice of consuming meat, but I don’t think it’s odd for a business owner to select a place that the majority of his employees will enjoy and that can amply accommodate the dietary needs of his remaining employees. [People given to outrage] gonna [get outraged].

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Eh, I think this is different. This is selecting a place that’s aggressively all about something that a third of the attendees don’t participate in.

          3. DJ*

            Is she really an ethical vegetarian though? She says she’s a semi-vegetarian who doesn’t eat *red* meat–so chicken (and pork?) is okay? How is that ethical? Either you’re an ethical vegetarian or you’re not, you can’t really be a semi-ethical, semi-vegetarian. It’s weird. The Brazilian steakhouse idea is a dumb one, but it sounds like she’s being overdramatic to make a point.

        2. Dorothy*

          I did not realize that some gave discounts for vegetarians. The one Brazilian steakhouse I’ve been to sure didn’t. I wasn’t crazy about having to guard my plate (the waiters paid little attention to my card) against having slabs of meat thrown on it. Not my thing – and way too expensive for a vegetarian — my date did NOT get his money’s worth!

          1. Judy*

            I’m not sure it’s a discount for vegetarians, but any of them I’ve been to have two prices, one for just the buffet and one for the buffet plus meat.

          2. YaH*

            And did your date get a second date after that lapse in judgement? (Reasonably, one would expect that you would find out about any food preferences or restrictions before deciding on a place to take a date.)

      2. Iro*

        That’s what I was thinking. Also, these restaraunts also have a reputation for using high quality, organic, and humanely raised meats (at least the one in our town does) so he may be thinking it’s the one place that will please the meat-eaters without offending those who don’t eat meat due to humane reasons.

            1. sunny-dee*

              The humane thing isn’t an issue for anyone but the OP, though. The OP clearly says that the father and sister are vegan for health reasons, not for animal rights. I have a friend who is vegan for health reasons, and being around meat doesn’t bother him at all — his only concern is the selection of vegan (or, in a pinch, vegetarian) options.

              If the Brazilian steakhouse has a large vegetarian selection, then the guy may be making the best choice for his non-meating family, because they have a better selection of food they can eat, more than just a salad bar, as some other commenters pointed out. The only person with a problem is the OP.

              1. Zillah*

                True, but I think it’s worth pointing out that the line between ethics and health can be pretty blurry. I never really ate much meat as a child because I didn’t like it, and cutting it out completely was more about that than any ethical concerns. However, the longer I’ve gone without eating any meat at all, the more grossed out and uncomfortable I am by it. I still wouldn’t describe my reasons as primarily ethical, but I could not deal with a steakhouse.

              2. NewishAnon*

                I agree that it might be a good choice for vegetarians who don’t have ethical issues with meat. I also find it odd that OP is “semi-vegetarian” for moral reasons, is so opposed to even seeing people eat red meat, and yet continues to eat chicken, fish, and possibly pork. They are also treated inhumanely. I don’t really understand how you can be morally opposed to eating red meat, but not other meat, and then want to take a stand on it about what restaurant to go to for a work function. If this was a places that served piles of chicken or seafood, would there still be a problem? Or not, since OP chooses to eat those things. I’m not trying to give the OP a hard time about his/her beliefs, but considering this, it really doesn’t seem like a hill to die on for them. To me, it just doesn’t seem like a serious moral issue here.

            2. Gene*

              Those people should visit a true family farm where every kid is raised with the full knowledge that, someday, Bossy is going to be dinner. I grew up on mainly game for meat, but regularly we got meat from the local farmers; and frequently personally knew the source.

              When the milk cow dries up, should they just let it slowly die?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                For what it’s worth, on modern large-scale farms, the cows used for dairy are totally different than the ones used for meat (for meat that’s intended for human consumption, at least). When they’re too old to produce milk (which, by the way, they is done by keeping them pretty much constantly pregnant — because cows, like humans, don’t just produce milk otherwise) they’re killed, but not for human consumption.

                1. Gene*

                  I was responding directly to this comment,

                  And that for aome folks, there is no way to humanely raise an animal destined to be food.

                  And most dairy cows do end up as hamburger; their musculature doesn’t suit them well for steaks and roasts (at least not for “modern” supermarkets where everything has to look the same.) And they don’t have much intramuscular marbling.

                2. fposte*

                  @Gene–yes, I’m having a hard time finding a cite that’s not unsourced, but the claim seems to be that human consumption is the primary end of dairy cow slaughter; I did see a number suggesting that dairy cows make up 19% of cattle for human consumption, and that’s roughly on a par with their population percentage, so that would make sense. As you note, dairy cattle are key elements in hamburgers, especially in fast food–my guess is that’s meant a more lucrative market than other uses, so it may have grown over time.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Huh. I am clearly remembering this wrong then. Maybe what I learned was that they’re just separate breeds for dairy vs meat and then extrapolated from there.

                4. Gene*

                  I wasn’t going from anything sourced either, just personal experience growing up in rural SD (lo, those many years ago…) and the cows I regularly see in the pens at slaughterhouses.

          1. jag*

            Worth noting that high quality and organic don’t usually mean “humanely raised.

            That’s presumably why Iro listed all three distinctly.

      3. Lola*

        A friend of mine is a vegetarian and used to work at a Brazilian steakhouse. She said that their establishment was frequented by vegetarians and vegans who loved their salad bar (and yes, they got discount since they didn’t eat the meat). If they all turn their cards to red, they won’t even be approached by the guys in gauchos pants going around with meats.

    3. Amber*

      I’m vegetarian and my family still chooses steakhouses for birthdays, they just don’t get it since they know there is a salad option. They don’t understand that having 1 option for dinner isn’t enjoyable. I wouldn’t read much into it.

      1. RobM*

        I’m not vegetarian but I would be quite put out to be constantly dragged to places where the salad bar was the only vegetarian option. It’s less of a real “vegetarian selection” and more an excuse.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I agree, I wish there were more vegetarian options at restaurants just because I often prefer a good vegetarian dish even though I eat meat, but I love the salad bar at Fogo de Chao as much as I do the meats. From their site:

          “Our gourmet salad and sides bar is a culinary experience not to be missed. Enjoy an extensive selection of over 30 items. It’s a virtual feast of gourmet salads, fresh vegetables, imported cheeses, artisan breads, cured meats and more.

          24 Month, Aged Parmesan
          Aged Manchego Cheese
          Brazilian Hearts of Palm
          Artichoke Bottoms
          Sun-Dried Tomatoes
          Fresh Mozzarella
          Smoked Salmon
          Italian Salami
          Jumbo Asparagus
          Shitake Mushrooms”

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Yes, and half are, which should be at least 15 items. Probably more, as I think they highlighted the meats and cheeses in their short list. And they’re all amazingly good, I’ve tried everything there.

              Also, since we’re being persnickety this morning, the comments to which I was responding were talking about vegetarian options, not vegan options.

              1. Green*

                If you’re being sensitive to the people you’re dining with, you don’t take vegetarians to places with only a salad or sides as an option. If I want to eat a salad, I am going to roll up to a salad place and get one with hearty, healthy toppings. (Also, Caesar salads usually aren’t even vegetarian.) Trying to eat vegetarian in a place like Ruth’s Chris just makes your dietary restrictions the focus of attention and conversation (and often other people feeling guilty about your options), so if you know someone’s a vegetarian be polite and invite them somewhere with real options.

            2. Tau*

              Not vegan? Hell, a good chunk of them aren’t even *vegetarian*.

              And I don’t know if this is just me, but I don’t really consider salad a meal in its own right, more of a side dish. If someone took me out to a place where the only thing on the menu I’d be able to eat was salad and they knew this in advance, I’d be a) making myself a “real” dinner when I got back home and b) hopping mad.

              1. Zillah*

                I think that salads certainly can be meals in their own right… but they often aren’t, particularly in places with limited vegetarian options in the first place. And regardless, there are so many cultural issues surrounding vegetarianism that even people who generally like salads (like me) can get really prickly if someone assumes for us that a salad is sufficient.

                It reminds me of touring colleges years ago, tbh, where in response to a question about vegetarian options, the tour guides would say, “Well, we have a nice salad bar…” Oh, so I’m supposed to live on salad for a year? Good to know.

              2. Helen*

                I agree. It annoys me when people think vegetarians are rabbits. I like salads–but when I go to a nice restaurant I like a salad as a starter, like anyone else. Vegetarian “real” meals are available at pretty much any other restaurant so if someone chose a restaurant where my only option would be the salad bar, that’d be pretty inconsiderate.

                1. jag*

                  We call it a salad bar. But if it has a big variety of cooked and uncooked vegetables, including not just greens and traditional salad stuff, but a large variety of beans plus breads, pasta, etc., — especially if some are warm – I don’t see the problem in terms of diet. I’m not commenting on the ethical issue. Those salad bars are not limited to salad. They’re buffets that can be instead of or to complement meat.

              3. Daphne*

                I am a vegetarian. I don’t want to go out to eat to have a salad only. I might be OK with a salad for a light lunch if I had a heavy breakfast. I don’t love salads…there is so much more to vegetarian food than salads.

                I went to a Brazilian steakhouse at the insistence of others. You could pay for the salad bar only. It was still $15 (10 years ago – in the relatively cheap midwest). I felt I was paying a lot of money for cold food. I did really like the pão de queijo (little cheese rolls).

        2. TL -*

          If it were friends and family, I would be annoyed, but for the occasional business dinner, it shouldn’t be too bad.
          (That being said, I can see how an ethical vegetarian would not want to eat at a Brazilian steakhouse regardless)

        3. Lola*

          Have you ever seen the salad bar at a Brazilian steakhouse? It’s definitely not a Ruby Tuesday kind of a thing. I’m not a vegetarian, but I could have a very enjoyable meal just from the selections of that salad bar. In fact, my recurrent problem at these places is getting too full and satisfied from the salad bar stuff by the time the meats come around.

    4. MK*

      I think that’s unlikely, especially since their choise is made for health reasons. I mean, I can see a person who thinks people boycoting red meat on moral grounds are stupid making a passive-agressive move like that, but to do it to people who, if they want to remain healthy, may not even have a choise?

      Also, if his relatives are vegans for health reasons, they may not have the OP’s problem with the presentation of meat, so it might not occur to him that it’s an issue. And, as others have noted, the restaurant may have extensive choises for vegans, or he could have made some special arrangement to have special dishes prepared.

      1. Wanda*

        This. My mother is vegan for health reasons and steak houses are actually the easiest places for her to get an appropriate meal. Many vegetarian or vegan options at resteraunts are actually not very healthy but someplace she can get a baked potato and a salad is great for her.

          1. Green*

            It can be delicious (or exhausting if you’ve had it a dozen times), but it’s usually not a healthy meal for vegetarians/vegans. Vegetarians and vegans want protein too. Rule of thumb: if there’s no actual source of protein for vegetarians, don’t take vegetarians there.

            1. fposte*

              Though this is the kind of discussion that leads people to say “Oh, the hell with it, I’ll bring in bagels and call it a day.” I can imagine calling a restaurant and asking if they have vegan or vegetarian options, but I’m not going to inquire as to their protein percentages.

              1. Green*

                Menus are usually available online, and it takes two seconds. But pretty safe options include Greek/Mediterranean/Italian, Mexican, Asian, Indian, and “local foods” restaurants. But the gist of it is, don’t expect people to cobble together a meal of side dishes and starches.

                1. fposte*

                  They’re really not around here, and if I’m taking people out on my dime, I am actually going to expect people to make do, just as I do when I’m a guest.

                  That doesn’t mean I relentlessly take my team out to rib shacks when I know there are vegans, but I think you’re requiring a level of research and accommodation for hosting that is unreasonable.

                2. TL -*

                  And I would have a hard time finding anything to eat at those cuisines – it would probably be a heavily modified entree or just sides with the server having to check ingredients. Accommodating dietary restrictions is hard.

                3. Green*

                  Everyone in biglaw usually managed to handle it proactively for me. (i.e., “How about X?” “Oh, that’s not great for Green. Let’s go to Y.”) The only times I had to really “make do” were when it was the client choosing the restaurant. If you’re taking people out on your own dime, then it’s your call to choose a place that suits you but not your guests (and their call to decline the invitation or not), but if it’s paid for by the business, if they’re expected to attend as part of their work duties, or if people are “supposed” to go but are paying their own way, then you really should make an effort to be considerate. And if it’s once or twice a year, most vegetarians will do the “meh, I’ll make do!”, but if it’s a routine thing, it would make sense to establish a few restaurants that work for everyone.

                4. TL -*

                  @Green: if it’s a regular, frequent thing, I agree with you – compile a list of restaurants from the attendees with restriction and see if you can find a good one. But this situation sounds like a one-off, not a commonly recurring thing.

      2. Laurel Gray*

        Good point. I find that high end steak houses usually will and can accommodate patrons including items that aren’t on the menu. From how they cook the a la carte sides, to even letting you pick ingredients from random entrees to create your own to suit your dietary needs. They are expensive, but definitely usually accommodating. I once had dinner at Cheesecake Factory with someone with a few food allergies and it was eye opening that so many of their sauces are pre made so if you have an allergy to onion or mushroom you were out of luck with that dish.

        1. TL -*

          Yup. I have tons of food allergies and, contrary to most people’s intuitions, vegetarian places and large-menu chains are some of the hardest restaurants to eat at, while steakhouses are hands down the easiest – the food is generally very simple with few ingredients and made in house. (I also eat meat.)

          1. Zillah*

            That’s not my experience at all. I have a lot of dietary restrictions, and I’ve found vegetarian places to often be far more aware and accommodating of them than anywhere else. And, for someone who is vegetarian, going to a place where everything is vegetarian means that you have to strike fewer things from the menu. It’s not shocking that you’d find steakhouses easiest – they are simple, and you eat meat. If you don’t eat meat, though, it’s a very different picture.

            1. TL -*

              Vegetarian places are often aware and accommodating, but I generally have to get something with lots of modifications or completely off the menu. It’s not that the places aren’t nice, it’s that it’s a hassle for everyone involved. (And I’ve eaten in some really “crunchy” cities; this isn’t a locality thing that I’ve noticed.)

              Whereas at steakhouses, (even if I’m not ordering meat), there are multiple items on the menu I can get with no modifications – just let them know I have allergies – and I’ve never had a reaction from cross-contamination – with vegetarian places, I have had cross-contamination issues more than once.

              It depends on your restrictions (and to your sensitivity level), but at least for me, steakhouses are the most consistently hassle-free type of restaurant.

              1. Zillah*

                Yeah, I think it probably depends a lot on what your restrictions are. My issue with what you said wasn’t that I doubted that this option is easiest for you, only that I disagreed with how broadly you seemed to me to be applying that concept:

                I have tons of food allergies and, contrary to most people’s intuitions, vegetarian places and large-menu chains are some of the hardest restaurants to eat at, while steakhouses are hands down the easiest – the food is generally very simple with few ingredients and made in house.

                There are many people with dietary restrictions for whom vegetarian places are some of the easiest places to eat. Mostly, they’re vegetarians or vegans. Steakhouses are generally not super vegetarian friendly, by definition.

                1. TL -*

                  Eh, I was referring specifically to having food allergies there (and even more specifically, to my food allergies), not to other dietary restrictions.

                  Maybe I should’ve included “for me to eat at” – I thought I was being pretty clear about what I was referring to.

                2. Zillah*

                  I get that – it just wasn’t super clear to me initially, especially given the context of the discussion. :)

                3. Jenna*

                  High end restaurants and places that make all their own food can and do adjust recipes for their customers.

                  Places that are part of a chain where dressings and some food is centrally manufactured tend to be far less flexible. Ranch dressing and Alfredo sauce made off site tends to have modified food starch as an ingredient, and modified food starch is annoying because you don’t know whether it is wheat, potato, corn, tapioca, or whatever else might have been cheapest that month.

                  The intersection of vegan food plus nut and wheat allergy is a difficult place to be, because so very many protein substitutions have wheat(the gluten in wheat is pretty much what seitan is made of) or nuts. Add in a nightshade plant family allergy and it is nearly impossible.

                  The reason that some people find steak houses simpler is because many of them are stand alone restaurants, not part of chains, and everything is made on site. Fewer things have unknown ingredients, more things are adjustable, especially since as a non-chain type place you might be a regular and they might make something just for you to keep you coming back. Those of us with allergies can be very loyal to the places that accomodate us, and also hold terrific grudges against places that get us sick.

                4. TL -*

                  Except for rolls, which steakhouses tend not to make on-site.

                  Which is wonderful, because flour is evil and gets everywhere. Even with places that make everything from scratch – if there’s flour flying everywhere, I can’t eat there without at least a minor reaction. It isn’t the end of the world, but it isn’t fun either. :(

                5. TL -*

                  I think it also depends on how common your restrictions are. A lot of places are really great about GF, and vegetarian/vegan because they’re relatively common or get a lot of attention. To the point where I’ve actually gone to places that will let me know if they have a separate GF fryer (and then served me regular bread, after I noted my allergy three times. Thanks.) or not.

                  But if you don’t have a super common restriction, it’s a lot harder to accommodate and places with simpler menus tend to be easier. Most of the vegetarian places I know have incredibly complex dishes with lots of ingredients – tasty but dangerous!

                6. Zillah*

                  @ Jenna – I’m not arguing that high end places aren’t good for people with allergies, nor am I arguing that chains aren’t generally horrible for people with allergies. I’m only arguing that a steakhouse is unlikely to be the most vegetarian-friendly place you can find, particularly if the issue is only vegetarianism/veganism – I’m not really sure how the conversation expanded to other food issues, because it’s so far from what the OP was asking about that IMO it’s a different conversation.

                  For the record, I’m vegetarian, GF, lactose-intolerant, and have nut and garlic allergies. I almost never eat out anymore, because it’s just too difficult to find foods that won’t make me sick if I’m not controlling what’s going into them. So yes, I do get it, and I’m right there with you in your frustration.

                  But I still don’t think a steakhouse is generally going to be the best option for a vegetarian or a vegan.

        2. BananaPants*

          Higher-end restaurants are usually far better for accommodating dietary preferences or allergies because they do much more scratch cooking than a mass market chain restaurant, where much of what is served is pre-prepared and simply thawed/heated to serve. We have a small list of high end restaurants and we usually take vendors and visitors to those establishments because they are able to make those accommodations even to the extent of creating off-menu dishes. We have several vegetarians and vegans in the group, at least one or two with food allergies and intolerances, etc. and you never really know what dietary concerns a guest may have.

          1. Mabel*

            “…and you never really know what dietary concerns a guest may have.”

            This is true, and those of us with food allergies don’t necessarily want to go through the whole list of what we can’t eat (because it’s boring and potentially embarrassing, and I usually wind up leaving something off the list that ends up on my plate). Now that I have to deal with a bunch of food allergies, I completely understand why my great aunt used to just bring her own food to family events. When I’m invited out to a restaurant, I check the menu online beforehand so I can see what will be available for me to eat. If there’s not much, I’ll know to eat a larger meal earlier in the day or to ask for a different restaurant (depending on my relationship to the host).

            1. TL -*


              I like places that I can either see everything (hello, Chipotle, you wonderful place) or that have super simple foods with no surprises, because everyone’s life is just that much easier.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I think, though, that there’s a huge difference between “steakhouse” (Ruth’s Chris, The Palm) and “Brazilian steakhouse”. The former indeed has excellent sides and great baked potatoes, but all the dishes come out plated and to order. The latter has people walking around with meat on swords which is delivered to a diner at his/her request. It’s like a playground of meat with a salad bar. Even those who are vegetarian or vegan for health reasons might find this a bit off-putting, to say the least. Hell, I love meat and those places scare me.

        1. MK*

          I dont care about this kind of restaurant either, but this boss presumably knows his own close relatives. It might even have influenced his choise, if the two vegans he knows like it, as it’s pretty common for people to make assumption about a category of people base on the few members of said category that they happen to know. I wouldn’t be surprised if the OP got a response along the lines of “But dad and sister are much more strict about not eating animal products than you and they love this restaurant”.

            1. Cat*

              Which, while not sensitive to all the nuances, is not actually that unreasonable – I think it makes perfect sense to a lot of people that they will ask the person with the most restrictive diet and go with that. So the OP’s calculation may be whether she more objects to being in the steakhouse or whether she more objects to the steakhoue being chosen and to proceed accordingly.

              1. fposte*

                Yes, I agree. Though of course one problem is that “most restrictive” isn’t linear these days–as noted elsewhere in comments, what’s good for the vegan isn’t good for the celiac, and so on.

                1. Zillah*

                  Yup. And cross your fingers that you’re not both, because if you are, you’re sunk. (I’m vegetarian and GF. It’s the worst.)

        2. Leah*

          Also, as a vegetarian, going out for a festive occasion and having no choice but salad if pretty depressing. Throw all the fancy bits on it that you want, having no choice and having that no choice be salad while everyone else is eating a nice meal still make salad seem…sad.

          That said, I have a strong bias against steak houses accommodating vegetarians. The one time I went to a steak house (invited by the family of my husband’s friend) they were out of all of the vegetarian appetizers at 6:30pm. I’d hoped to cobble together two of them as a meal but ended up with lettuce with a basic vinaigrette and fries.

          1. Judy*

            That sounds like a chain steakhouse that doesn’t prepare food, but just heats prepackaged meals or at least sauces, maybe just cooking the meat. Lots of the chain restaurants do that, as was said above.

            Most high end steakhouses would have an easy time getting you a plate with baked potato or baked sweet potato, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, rice and sauteed mushrooms. It’s the restaurants that the items are already prepped elsewhere that can be a problem, with things like bacon already in the sauce. (And it seems pretty rare that any restaurant doesn’t have mac n cheese or grilled cheese on the kids menu.)

              1. IDK*

                Actually, I’ve been to a restaurant and they had a “stir fry” type dish with some of the vegetables that Judy mentions. It was not a side dish, it was an entrée. And even if they were “sides” she could ask for them to be mixed together.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  She could. I will say, though, that it sucks, because as a vegetarian/vegan, you get awfully sick of the number of restaurants (and hosts) who think it’s okay to serve you a plate of vegetables and calling it “dinner.” It’s the most boring, least creative, least thoughtful way to serve vegetarians.

                2. Green*

                  Agree with AAM. If you just plain don’t know and serve vegetarians broccoli and potatoes for dinner, they usually won’t correct you and will eat it graciously (and then go home and eat “real dinner”). But an anonymous online forum is a great place for finding out little tips that people won’t tell you in person but that can help you be a more thoughtful colleague and/or host. If you don’t care, that’s also fine, but no need to argue with vegetarians that steamed veggie sides “mixed together” on a plate for $21 is lunch. It sucks more at work, because then you have to go back to your desk and eat a granola bar at what should have been an enjoyable lunch for everyone. And, as I said below, if it’s once or twice a year, I will suck it up and eat before (or after) or cobble something satisfying together from what’s available, but if dining out is a regular part of your business relationship with someone, you really need to identify a few restaurants that work for everybody.

                3. Zillah*

                  @ Alison – yep. And, while a true stir fry can be delicious, you’re rarely going to get that from a place that doesn’t make it regularly. Some vegetable sides mixed together on a plate =/= stir fry.

                4. Elysian*

                  ‘ I will say, though, that it sucks, because as a vegetarian/vegan, you get awfully sick of the number of restaurants (and hosts) who think it’s okay to serve you a plate of vegetables and calling it “dinner.” ‘

                  A million times yes. I was a vegetarian with a vegan friend and we were at a retreat where they had pre-prepared meals. They knew in advance that there were vegetarians/vegans attending, but on meatloaf night the omnivores got meatloaf, carrots and mashed potatos. I got carrots and mashed potatos. My vegan colleague got just a giant plate of carrots. A plate of carrots is not dinner to a vegan!

              2. TL -*

                Yes but if you have major dietary restrictions, then you’re going to have to make do at a lot of restaurants. Certainly, if it’s a meal celebrating you (like a birthday!), then it should be at a place with lots of options, but in most situations, you’re just going to have to deal.

                1. De Minimis*

                  My wife has been vegan for a couple of years and vegetarian for several years prior to that. Vegans are generally used to just making do at these type of events and venues, they find something they can eat and just move on.

                2. Green*

                  You only have to “deal” if the people you’re working with are rude. I ate pretty well in biglaw (literally hundreds of meals out), and they are a big steak crowd. Only had to go to Ruth’s Chris twice (because it was right next door) for work meals. Usually the thoughtful organizers would select restaurants with a number of different options for people with dietary restrictions, but if they picked somewhere I couldn’t eat anything, I’d suggest a different restaurant instead. My current departmental boss keeps Kosher (which means he often winds up eating vegetarian), and people here are culturally sensitive to the fact that many cultures and religions have dietary restrictions, so it has never been an issue here. If you work in a diverse workplace, that just comes with the territory.

                  If it’s your friend, you can choose not to go out to eat with them or to not be friends with vegetarians or to make them “just deal”. But if it is a professional relationship, it is absolutely the courteous and professional thing to do to accommodate the person with the most restrictive diet.

                3. Zillah*

                  I agree – but while I might agree that being vegan is a major dietary restriction, being vegetarian is not.

                4. TL -*

                  @ Green: it would be very, very hard to accommodate both my dietary restrictions and a vegan diet and have multiple entree options for both.
                  Not too mention location and budget restrictions, if they’re a factor. I imagine big law has more flexibility with budget and is generosity in better locations than most industries, as well.

                5. Green*

                  @TL – True on budget and options in biglaw being a helpful factor. :)

                  However, Zillah makes a good point. Conflating vegetarian and vegan as both major dietary restrictions really oversells the burden of finding somewhere that accommodates vegetarians. Basically any restaurant that serves Mexican, Greek/Mediterranean/Italian, Indian or Asian is going to have some appetizing options for vegetarians. Vegan is trickier.

                6. TL -*

                  @Green: That’s fair enough about vegans/vegetarians. I grew up in a rural area where being vegetarian would be a major dietary restriction, and even though I’ve lived in the big city with lots of easy vegetarian options for almost a decade now, I still tend to default to vegetarian being really restrictive. :) Good catch.

    5. Sabrina*

      Yeah the couple of times I’ve been to a Brazilian steakhouse (because why oh why is there not one in Omaha???) my thought was “Well you couldn’t take a vegetarian here.” But then again, I didn’t pay too much attention to the salad bar.

    6. Glorified Plumber*

      FYI, I found the Brazillian Steakhouses I have been to (especially the nice ones, Fogo De Chao and Texas De Brazil to have VERY robust non-meat options.

      The salad bar was… BEYOND huge, well stocked with all kinds of salad options, cheeses, etc. You do NOT need to eat Churrasco style there… and it will be very delicious. Especially if you are not paying, you will NOT go hungry at a Brazilian Steakhouse as a vegan.

      Is this particular Brazilian Steakhouse one of the super nice ones? Or, is it a “more local” style one, that may have reduced salad bar options compared to the fancy ones.

      If the smell of meat makes you quesy… then that is a risk. I don’t actually recall Fogo de Chao to be too “meat smelly” when I was at the DC one.

      So from a meat smell… yeah risk… going hungry though, probably not.

      I assume OP is not paying right?

      1. fposte*

        But if you’re opposed to meat on ethical grounds, it’s kind of like how many American meat-eaters would feel about a place that kept bringing roast puppy and kitten to the table and carving off slices. It’s not just a preference difference, it’s about being presented with something that’s really disturbing to you.

        Now I think about it, though, I know several observant Muslims and Jews who feel the same way about pork, and I don’t think any discussions here have suggested accommodations beyond ensuring suitable meals were available at the venue. It’s interesting how conversations develop.

      2. sunny-dee*

        OP is not paying and, ironically enough, the OP isn’t vegan or vegetarian. She’s semi-veg and just doesn’t eat red meat, but can eat other types of meat (including other things served at the steakhouse). The owner’s father and sister are vegan, and the OP is objecting because of that.

        1. Zillah*

          Actually, the OP is objecting because she has ethnical issues with red meat and doesn’t think she can stomach the celebration of meat:

          I am only semi-vegetarian, but where the other 2 went vegan primarily for health reasons, I stopped eating red meat primarily for the animals. I could easily find something to eat. That isn’t the problem. I really don’t think I can stomach the environment.

    7. Gene*

      This comment string could be an entire Portlandia episode. So happy the new season starts tonight!

    8. Deni*

      I think he is specifically talking about Fogo de Chao, and if he is, he is crazy for thinking that they don’t have other options. The salad bar gets 5 star reviews for the different options it offers, from cheeses and breads to vegetables. So there is a variety. And if his real complaint is just being near meat, than he is just being petty. 1/3 of an office should not dictate to everyone how to live. There are choices for all there, and he can enjoy it or not. Maybe just focus on enjoying the company of people who are happy to be out of the office.

  2. Suz*

    #1 – my managers and director at my previous job used to do that all the time, but ultimately, they were really supportive when I found a new job.
    No matter how many times they had joked that they were going to try to keep me forever and only lend me out, not give me away (to their credit, they actually did lend me out a few times to other sections- great experience), they were happy that I found a new challenge and just grateful I’d stayed as long as I had.
    It sounds like they appreciate you so assuming they’re reasonable people, I think you’ll probably have a similar experience when you find something new :)

    1. Noah*


      My manager used to always make comments like this. However, she was very supportive when I decided to leave the company. I still keep in contact today and we still have a good working relationship.

    2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Yeah, my manager makes comments like this all the time. It’s her way of letting me know how appreciated I am. But if I got an opportunity outside the company, she’d be the first person to cheer me on.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Definitely, OP, that is just an expression of appreciation. It’s not meant to be anything beyond that. One of my bosses tells me that a lot and later, mention a job opening I might be interested in. Think of it as a compliment, smile and nod, then let it go.

    4. Jane OP*

      Thank you all for chiming in! All of these comments have been reassuring. I should have included in my original email to Alison that both my boss and I knew that I would probably spend 1-2 years in this job before moving on (generally the model for this level and type of position in my organization), so I suppose she knows I’m leaving and I’m just being too sensitive.

      1. Suz*

        I think that, at the time, there were a few occasions I felt a bit uncomfortable, particularly when I was quietly jobsearching, and the director would say, “You know we’re never letting you go, right?”
        But it was always meant as a compliment and she was supportive and sad when I left so it’s all good now.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Am smiling. Perhaps there is a part of you that is a little sad about the thought of leaving?

        They sound like a fairly positive group of people to be with.

  3. Eric*

    #5: Would it be out of line to go into that meeting and give them a deadline for when you need to be moved from training pay to actual pay, or otherwise you wont be able to keep working for them?

    1. The IT Manager*

      Good idea, but not necessarily “them.” LW should meet with the owner who hired him and let the owner deal with the person who won’t leave. Owner has basically decided to fire the old bookkeeper when he hired the replacement since she can’t perform the job, but he actually have to literally fire her or tell her when her retirement starts to get her to leave. LW should not have to be in the room for those discussions.

    2. Colette*

      Ultimatums rarely make things better. I think the OP should decide for herself what her bottom line is, but if she threatens to quit, she may end up with no job at all.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        But since she can’t live on the training wage long-term, she in fact will quit if she can’t get the full bookkeeper pay in a certain time frame. It would be a lot simpler all the way around to tell the owner that and let the owner manage it (or not), rather than expecting the owner to read her mind and then turn in her resignation when he fails to. Ideally, he *should* realize on his own that of course the LW was only expecting to earn the training wage short-term, but he likely has a lot of other things on his mind and may not make this a priority if it isn’t brought to his attention.

        1. Colette*

          I don’t have a problem with her pointing out that she wants the higher wage – it’s the deadline that’s problematic. If she goes in and says “I want a higher wage by February 1 or I quit”, then what will the manager do if it is going to take until February 5, or 15, or March 1?

            1. fposte*

              I think an ultimatum is a conversation-killer, though. My issue is not so much with the firmness, which I think is totally justified, but the approach and the date. I think you’ll get better results by saying (pretty much as Alison suggests) that this situation isn’t tenable and you’re going to have to find something else if it doesn’t change, and to create a deadline for that change with the manager rather than pushing them to meet a date that isn’t likely to have any real leverage. I think it’s a mistake for the employee to bring up specific dates unless there’s another job in the offing or she genuinely would rather have no job than this one.

              That being said, I’d certainly start looking at other jobs, because management doesn’t seem to feel the need to solve this.

  4. Jeanne*

    I find #5 concerning. Tell me if I’m way off base. They have for many years trusted this woman with passwords and numbers and who knows what without checking her info. Now she won’t give that sensitive information to her replacement. Is she possibly robbing them? Embezzling, whatever. Something is fishy to me.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Entirely possible she’s embezzeling from the firm or she could just be having a problem accepting the idea of retirement

    2. MK*

      While this is not impossible, it doesn’t sound plausible to me. It sounds as if the retirement was her idea, or at least that she knew about it for some time; I would imagine she had plenty of time to cover her tracks before the OP got there. Also, there is an accountant involved, for whatever it’s worth.

      In any case, it’a much more likely that she is just terrified by the prospect of retirement; many people who don’t have plans for their life post-retirement get this way.

      1. Any Mouse*

        Going outside my personal experience I know it’s easy and a possibility. I have friends who live in Vermont and joke embezzlement is the unofficial state past time. There has been a ton of embezzlement cases all over the statelephone and some situations going on for decades. And it’s pretty much the same story one person had control of the accounts, didn’t take vacations, didn’t want to leave or train any one.

        I also worked with a proprofessional association that did a whole educational training g about embezzlement and red flags and everything the LW said is on that list.

        1. fposte*

          Well, there probably aren’t a lot of jokes in Vermont, so people desperate for humor are driven to joke embezzlement.

      2. grasshopper*

        We had a similar situation with someone in our finance team. Everything was on the up and up and fully legit, but it was a control issue. She didn’t want to change or give away the passwords because she couldn’t face retirement and having someone else do her job.

    3. BRR*

      It’s possible but some people just like feeling needed or in control. It might be something to consider but we don’t know enough to decide if it’s stealing or just wanting to be relied upon.

    4. Allison*

      It’s not way off base, obviously you’re not accusing anyone of anything, just raising a possibility and a reason to be concerned. The boss needs to step in and check out the situation.

    5. Jerry Vandesic*

      Embezzling was the first thing I thought of. Start looking at the books with a very critical eye.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I can’t believe no one else is looking at her work. Boy, I would want someone looking at mine- just to keep everything transparent/above board.

    6. Sabrina*

      That’s kind of what I thought too. One of the few things I learned in my accounting class was don’t have one person doing everything and force them to go on vacation now and then so you can catch these things. Or maybe she can’t really afford to retire. Could be that too.

  5. any mouse*

    Jeanne, it’s not just you. When I first heard those things my first thought was that she’s doing something or has done something she’s not supposed to.

    It’s really really bad practice for only one person to be in control of everything. My own experience was working in a small office where the previous secretary had been fired. The owner of the business went on vacation and the secretary was more Executive Assistant -s he could do anything and write checks and so forth. I don’t remember how it happened but she was telling clients they were booked up (to avoid doing work) and somehow that led the owner to start looking athte books and realizing she’d been embezzling money. He hired outside help for most things and when he’d take a long vacation – like over the holidays = he’d just shut the office down rather than leave anyone in control.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      Oh wow! And yes, I agree about giving one person so much power in a company, big or small. Another thing that bothers me is when there is on departmental cross training. I know it depends on the company and type of work, but there is nothing worse than someone taking a whole week off, has duties that has to be done daily, and only they know how to do them. I will never understand why some managers do not cross-train employees.

    2. Becky O.*

      I’m a forensic accountant / Certified Fraud Examiner. It’s never a good idea to give someone full control of all of the accounting functions. In my experience, this is a red flag that the bookkeeper could potentially be embezzling money from the company. Someone needs to step in immediately and look at the bank records and accounting records.

      1. Wonderlander*

        Ooooo this sounds like a really fascinating job! Are you a consultant that companies bring on-board when they have suspicions, or are you FT employed by one specific company? What kind of schooling do you need for this? Are there certifications for it? I won’t move off-topic as requested by Alison, but I’d be interested in hearing more about what you do. Maybe in the next open thread?

        1. Newsie*

          Seconded, Wonderlander – Alison, could you do a Q&A with Becky O. about her job? Becky O., would you be up for that? It would be fascinating to learn about!

          1. LBK*

            I work for a large multi-national financial institution and we had a few seminars run by the head of our fraud investigation division – absolutely fascinating. I would also love to read this Q&A!

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              One of my co-workers who is an accountant and former auditor talks about a guy who comes to their professional association meetings once in a while to do a speech about financial fraud. He’s one of those guys who used to con man himself and got a job catching others at the same thing (kind of like that movie “Catch Me if You Can”). In his speech, he tells about the cons he used to run, and how he did it, and then he talks about the cons he’s caught other people doing and how they were doing it. It all sounds really fascinating.

              I’d love to hear Becky O’s take on her job!

              1. Jessa*

                If it’s Frank Abagnale, he IS the guy in Catch Me if you Can. He wrote a bunch of books on catching fraud and goes around now as a consultant. And they did make a movie of his book

  6. Zillah*

    I agree with others about #5, and I’m also concerned by the “fair hourly wage after a 30-day training period.” That sounds to me like the OP might not be making minimum wage. Maybe it’s just me?

      1. Zillah*

        I hope so, but the phrasing does make me wonder whether the OP is getting a very extended version of the “work for free to prove yourself” nonsense. :/

    1. Liane*

      I don’t know if it is still in effect, but the (US) Small Business Jobs Protection Act of 1996 used to allow for a considerably lower Training Wage for the first 90 days, but only for employees under age 20 & only for businesses that, I assume, fit the federal definition of a small business. That’s all I found in 2 minutes of googling.

  7. Yogurt*

    I wonder if for the last question, the old bookkeeper’s refusal to teach the new hire because of a potential fraud cover-up. She seemed to have too many roles, an example will be the only employee in charge to obtaining profit figure details.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I don’t know, I keep picturing an older woman who just doesn’t know what she will do with herself in retirement. Both with time and money. Her health may be failing but as long as she comes to work, she gets a check. That beats staying home – however it sucks for OP because they were hired as her replacement.

      1. BRR*

        I pictured the same. It would be prudent to look into it but I have met a lot of people who just don’t want to retire. It’s a big lifestyle change.

      2. AVP*

        That’s how I saw it, admittedly because of my own experiences. My accountant has been “about to retire” for the last 5 tax seasons and every year, she just keeps coming back…

        1. Suz*

          That’s how I saw it too. My dad retired 5 times before he actually stayed retired. He’d go back to work because he was bored being home full time.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        That’s what I hope it is. I read where some people retire and their health goes down hill rapidly. Then there is the wake up call about income as a retiree. Maybe she is reading stuff like this, too.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      People may be surprised at how often we see this where one person has access to everything without independent checks on things. The accountant getting the profit numbers she provides may be just that- getting the info she provides.

      Hopefully this isn’t the case but you may be surprised how often this happens.

      1. De Minimis*

        I cannot understand why people continue to do this.

        At the very least do something like require an additional signature on checks.

        Of course, where I work it’s the opposite, almost to the point of absurdity.

  8. Jessa*

    I had the same thought about the bookkeeper, because there’s a reason why good companies require anyone who handles the money take at least a consecutive week off at least once a year if not twice. To catch things, because a lot of fraud only works if it’s continuously monitored. Also you separate out jobs. I had one small company I worked for tell me to issue a payment for work I did, and I absolutely refused and he didn’t understand until I explained that the one who writes the bill/purchases the product/does the work, should NEVER ever be the one to pay it. Because it’s way too easy to rob someone if there’s not a check or balance there.

  9. Apollo Warbucks*

    #4 Your boss is a jerk but there’s no law against that, it’s a really bad way for him to behave, for what it’s worth I can’t imagine that your boss is actually meaning what he said in a sexual manner, it’s a stupid and childish insult that certainly has no place in a professional setting, but I don’t think falls in to the category of sexual harassment, unless he he making a genuine and sincere request for you to follow his instructions and even then you’d need to show that doing so was made a condition of your continued employment.

    Maybe you could give some thought to what to say to him if he insults you like that again, something along the lines of telling him not to speak to you like, or you find his language unacceptable.

    1. MK*

      I must say that I agree with Alison that there seems to be a lot wrong with this relationship. Why is the boss agressively trying to give the OP a lottery ticket? Why does the OP refuse to accept it? Even if they don’t want it, it seems a very minor thing to make a fuss about. Why does the boss make such an offensive response to having a gift refused? Why is the OP willing to see a fairly common insult, no matter how vulgar, as sexual harassment?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes, the last thing I want to to is to blame the OP, but since the boss didn’t write in, I hope the OP considers that an abusive boss is like an abusive parent or spouse– sometimes you need to placate them a little until you can get away. And someone who reacts like that to what I can only assume was a polite “no thank you” is definitely emotionally abusive, maybe even threatening.

        You shouldn’t have to lie to an abuser but sometimes it’s better than taking the abuse; you certainly should redirect any challenges by them and stay as civil/neutral as possible. Just remember, abusers often provoke you in order to justify their abuse. If you frustrate them, even politely, sure, they may abuse you for that instead, but the end result is the same but without the justification that they dreamed up. To refuse a gift, even a bad one, is ungracious, and makes me think that the OP is letting previous issues with the boss color their ongoing reactions, which perpetuates the bad relationship.

        1. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

          I have a different take on it. Some people give gifts as a way of creating – or reinforcing – a power imbalance or engendering a feeling of ‘indebtedness’.

          IMO the boss’s inappropriate response to the refusal is an indication that refusing the gift was probably a good idea.

          I say that people should *always* feel free to refuse, and should trust their gut. If refusing causes workplace repercussions, it’s the wrong job.

      2. the_scientist*

        Those scratch-off lottery tickets seem to be pretty popular as inexpensive, gender-neutral gifts. Particularly when you need to buy a gift for someone you don’t know all that well (see: office secret santa or a boss giving a holiday gift to co-workers). So maybe that’s why the boss is giving the OP a lottery ticket? The OP could be refusing because of religious beliefs or a million other reasons- I think it’s worth thinking about accepting a gift from a boss graciously and then throwing it out/re-gifting it if it offends you to keep the peace- but why the boss’s rude response? The whole thing is strange.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          I’d like to think that if the OP had a religious or moral objection to gambling they could explain that to the boss without that leading to an argument or name calling.

        2. MK*

          That’s how it struck me. The only reasons I can think of for not taking the ticket with a token “thanks” and then giving or throwing it away is one is a recovering compulsive gambler or of a religion that forbids gambling in any way.

          1. fposte*

            Or a backstory of friction between the two, since the reaction from the boss is pretty extreme out of the blue.

        3. The IT Manager*

          I was thinking of the LW who recently write in that she was forced to work on christmas day and did not want any of the “holiday” treats she expected the PM and manager were going to provide.

          I can see being unhappy at working Christmas and not being excited about a lottery ticket.

          It’s ungracious to refuse. I’d have taken it, but I don’t find lottery tickets exciting and enjoyable at all. If it’s a non-winner I don’t get a thing out of it – no excitement or pleasure out of the scratching. If it’s a winner, I get the winnings and I’d appreciate the luck. But the boss had no way of knowing it was a winner, and I know the boss spent a buck (or whatever) on an unappreciated gift.

          FYI: All gambling is a losing proposition, but this kind of gambling is especially dumb – the house always wins and skill plays no part in the winnings.

          1. Cheesecake*

            Agree with “ungracious to refuse”. Lottery tickets together with a lot of personal or secret santa office presents are usually pretty meh. But it is a present. You accept and thank and then you can throw it away as soon as the person leaves. Or better, say “Thanks, hope you don’t mind i am going to give it to my friend Kate as my religion doesn’t allow or xyz”. I mean, boss’s response is extremely obnoxious, but refusing gifts is just a nogo.

            My friend’s colleague has once received a book “how to lose x kg in x months” from her boss. She once mentioned how she wants to get rid of extra kg, so it was not a purposeful bad intention sarcastic gift, yet…whyyyy??? Friend accepted and thanked. She gave the book to the boss when she announced engagement with a card “congrats! i guess, you need it more than me”. Lesson learnt.

            1. AnotherHRPro*

              Both the OP and the boss were rude. I can not imagine why you would refuse a gift from your boss unless it was inappropriate. You politely say thank you and then if you don’t want it, just throw it out/donate it/re-gift it/etc. And thinking that the bosses response (which was very rude and unprofessional) was a sexual comment seems ridiculous. I think the OP and boss have some sort of odd conflict going on and the OP is looking for ways to “get the boss in trouble”.

            2. SherryD*

              Personally, I’d be leery about telling my boss that my religion doesn’t allow gambling. I mean, share if you want, but it’s really none of his business.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              While I agree that refusing gifts is bad, I can see where someone might have so many issues with a boss that they might refuse a gift.

              I am not sure this is the hill to die on- I don’t think the boss understood why the OP is ticked off at him. In other words, OP’s point was lost because it became all about the gift.
              I can see discretely throwing the gift in the garbage or donating it- which we have had stories about here before,. I know I have donated a few things over the years. It could be that the boss saw an olive branch in the gesture. I had a boss, probably the worst boss in my working career, pick out a gift for me that I clearly could not use. I also saw that she had picked unique gifts for each one us. So, I thanked her. It seemed to be important to her that I liked the gift. Or maybe it wasn’t and she was just pretending- I have no clue. I just did not want to throw gasoline in the fire, because I knew that any thing less than “hey, thanks” would cause days if not weeks of misery.

  10. tango*

    It’s also possible for #5 is that the current bookkeeper doesn’t want to leave not due to fraud but maybe due to shorcuts or inaccuracies she’s afraid might be caught that will show her in a bad light. She might not be embezzeling but her paperwork could be a mess, not correct, etc, due to laziness or not knowing how to do something. After so many years, it’s easy to get into a pattern and then realize when a new person comes on how wrong you’ve been doing something.

    So yes, fear to retire and/or give up control, possible fraud or possible shoddy work could be the reasons for the bookkeepers reluctance to leave. But the Boss needs to establish a timeline to train and move the process along and correct sharing of information to find out for sure which of the above reasons are right. And it’s his business, doesn’t he want to know if he’s possibly being ripped off or something not done correctly that could come back and bite him in the butt come an IRS audit or something like that??

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Some people are so uncomfortable handing any sort of conflict that they would actually rather turn away than deal with it. I know we’ve seen a lot of letters/comments about bosses who don’t do anything when an employee misbehaves. Management might not be the best place for those people.

  11. Sophia*

    A note on the Brazilian steak-house as a Brazilian, the environment is meat-heavy but they generally don’t smell strongly and include a really well stocked buffet. We have one in my city in the UK and we go with vegetarians there all the time exactly because they have such a good salad bar. Warn the restaurant before hand, these establishments tend to be owned by Brazilians and we are super friendly people who would want to accommodate people as much as possible.

    1. JB*

      I’ve never been in one of those steakhouses, but I walk past one regularly, and it exudes the smell of meat. I don’t know if you are vegetarian, but once you stop eating something or having it in your home, its smell tends to be really noticeable. Some days I can barely stand to be near the meat section of my local grocery store because they have those rotisserie chickens, and to me the meat smell is very strong. So you may be right about them not smelling overly meat-y, but it may also be that you just don’t notice it.

      1. Allison*

        It’s possible that it exudes the smell so people who love meat will want to go. It’s also possible that Sophia, and most meat eaters really, are so used to the smell of meat that they don’t really notice it unless it’s very strong.

        1. Zillah*

          Yes – I have a really sensitive nose, and this is definitely my experience with a wide range of things, including meat.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        You’re right about that, JB. When I switched to natural cleaners and decided to avoid fragrances, I could not walk through the detergent aisle in the grocery store without sneezing and my eyes tearing up. I did not realize how strong the scents were. Unlike a restaurant, it only takes a few minutes to go down the detergent aisle, so it’s not a big deal to me. If I had to sit in the detergent aisle for 2-3 hours that might not be doable for me.

  12. Joolsey woolsey*

    #4 was there a reason you couldn’t accept the lottery ticket? If not then the best idea in that situation would have been to accept the gift, smile and say thank you, then throw it in the bin once you get home if you really don’t want it.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      I agree. I think it’s a bit rude to turn down a gift, actually. Like Joolsey woolsey says, just accept it gracefully and then toss it later.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        I wondered whether the OP has a strong reason for not even wanting to accept the gift – for instance, some religions prohibit gambling, so someone who is very observant might not want to even appear to accept a lottery ticket. Or someone who has had gambling problems in the past may need to completely steer clear of all kinds of gambling in order to not be tempted. In that case it might be helpful for the OP to say, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I don’t gamble.” so the boss will have some understanding of why he is refusing a gift.

        1. CH*

          I don’t do lotteries or raffles (although I have been known to make a donation to charity raffles and decline the ticket). It isn’t exactly against my religion but more against my personal ethic; I don’t do gambling in any form and I have a real problem with the government being involved in the gambling business. When the prize gets really high and my department at work all go in together, I just say no thank you and tell them I’ll run the department when they are all overnight millionaires. That said, I’ve never been offered a lottery ticket as a gift–I’d probably just say thanks and put it in the trash. No need to offend the giver, who had good intentions.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            “I have a real problem with the government being involved in the gambling business.”

            I just think of it as a tax on people who are terrible at math :)

            1. The IT Manager*

              I wouldn’t go quite as far to say that I have a “real problem” with this, but I am somewhat troubled by the fact that these people who play the lottery the most can often ill afford to throw away their money. Their ignorance of statictics is really being taken advantage of by the government. Still it’s not the worst thing the government does.

              1. CH*

                You have stated my problem better than I did myself. And I agree it isn’t the worst thing the government does.

              2. Helka*

                Honestly, I’m more comfortable with it when it’s the (state, usually) government running it — that money is at least being put toward programs that are good for society, as opposed to lining a private company’s pockets. In my state, the government’s share of gambling profits go to the schools. In other states, I’ve also heard about it funding things like free/low-cost health clinics, senior centers/elder care, things like that.

                1. Helka*

                  It took me less than a minute on Google to find my state’s percentage of distribution. No need to hope.

                2. Judy*

                  In my state, they said it would go to the schools, and it does. But the money from the regular state budget that goes to the schools was reduced. So it’s not ADDITIONAL money to the schools, it’s just a different source of money for the schools.

                3. Ann O'Nemity*

                  Yeah, but even then many of the social programs are actually distributing money to the middle and upper classes. Look at Georgia’s Hope Program; it’s like the reverse of Robin Hood.

                4. Al Lo*

                  In Alberta, the lotteries are a HUGE funder of the arts. I don’t know the percentage of lottery income that goes there, but I know that just about every provincial funded arts organization can count lottery dollars in their grant income.

                1. De Minimis*

                  I play for fun. Sure, it’s basically just blowing money, but it adds a little excitement to the week.

                  Having the lottery in our state has really improved things for the Indian tribes here, they were allowed to bring in full casino gaming [when you pass lottery in a state with Indian tribes you generally are required to bring in casino gaming on tribal land.] I don’t think our lottery is any better than other states, but the related casino gaming has put a lot of money into the tribal communities. My tribe has expanded a lot of their healthcare facilities through gaming funds.

                2. Cat*

                  I’m not opposed necessarily, in part for the tribal gaming reason, but as a source of state revenue, it is regressive (by which I mean that it does not burden people in proportion with their means/income).

                3. Stephen*

                  Exactly. Most lottery players are poor and working class people who a spending money they can’t afford for a chance to fantasize about having their problems solved by a stroke of luck.

                  It’s not about math. It’s a brutally regressive tax on hope.

        2. Fee*

          “someone who has had gambling problems in the past may need to completely steer clear of all kinds of gambling”

          Yeah this is what sprung to mind for me immediately, but really only because I know someone in recovery from gambling addiction. Most people probably wouldn’t realise that even seemingly innocuous things like buying charity raffle tickets are totally off limits for an addict (as advised by Gambler’s Anon, in any case).

          It’s like being an alcoholic and receiving a bottle of wine. It might be seen as rude to refuse, but some things are more important than politeness. It may not the be the issue here but it’s something to consider when gifting.

    2. Allison*

      I’m a little curious about this too. I can think of a few off the top of my head, but I’d like to know why the OP didn’t accept it. A gift is like an invitation, if you say “no” without giving a reason, it’s usually taken personally, and while the boss shouldn’t have reacted that way, he probably did take it as a personal insult.

      1. Whippers*

        Maybe cos a lottery ticket is a shit gift? That was the reason that came into my head first, don’t know why.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          Even if it’s a shit gift, it’s rude to not accept it. I’ve gotten my fair share of gifts that I didn’t want over the years, but I say thanks, and then take them home to regift them or bring them to goodwill. No need to make someone feel bad that they gave a shitty gift. Even my 3 year old niece was learning this year to say thanks to old Auntie so and so for the ugly clothes.

          1. fposte*

            Agreed. Gifts aren’t about gaining inventory, they’re about someone expressing affection or gratitude. If you don’t like the wine, just pass it on.

            (There are loopholes like refusing gifts when it’s clearly intended as a romantic pursuit that you’re not interested in, of course. But that’s about the statement, not about your distaste for the present.)

          2. Whippers*

            Yes, but even if it’s the thought that counts, I think that a lottery ticket shows precisely no thought or consideration whatsoever. In fact, considering the apparent relationship between the boss and the employee, it’s possible that it was given to irritate rather than as a genuine expression of goodwill.

            Of course I know I’m reading way too much into this. Probably because I was given a “giftcard” by my boss with great ceremony, in front of other employees, as a thanks for all the extra work I had done. I wasn’t expecting a gift or anything but because he made such a big performance out of it in front of everyone, saying that this presentation was only given to employees who had gone the extra mile etc etc, I thought that it was a card with maybe a voucher in it. However when I opened it, it was literally a card. Now, I have no problem whatsoever with being given a card to express gratitude, but don’t make out like you’re actually giving me something material when it’s clearly not.

            1. Monodon monoceros*

              Even in that situation (where I agree that your boss was a bit of an idiot), just accept the card, internalise the eye-roll, and move on. To compare to the lottery ticket, would you actually turn the card down because it was kind of dumb (or the presentation of it was anyway)? If you did, instead of the boss being a bit of an ass, you would end up looking like an ass.

              So the lottery ticket giving boss may have given a shitty gift, and maybe the boss didn’t even have the best intentions, but I think it is a bit rude and childish to refuse it.

  13. Helen*

    The boss in #1 seems like she knows the letter writer could do better. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      This. I think OP #1’s boss is doing what she can to make OP think she really can’t leave (been there, done that, can smell that tactic a mile off). OP, do NOT let your boss know that you’re even thinking about moving on until you have a signed job offer in your hand. Then, and only then, should you give your current boss 2 weeks notice.

      1. Jane OP*

        Thank you for the advice, Helen and Jazzy Red! I definitely will not say anything until a new job offer is signed and sealed.

  14. Joey*

    Forgive my ignorance but what’s a semi vegetarian? Is that like falling off the vegetarian train occassionally? Or making exceptions for things like thanksgiving?

          1. Green*

            “Free range” doesn’t mean what people think it means. But people often say “semi-vegetarian” when they mean that they eat some specific animal protein (chicken, fish, mussels) and not others. For example, some people eat mollusks (based on scientific and ethical theories of “pain” and suffering). Also, some people aren’t “strict” vegetarians (i.e., they may eat something cooked with meat and pick around it, or eat something in a meat based broth or stock, may drink beer that used fish scales to filter, items with gelatin) and don’t feel right calling themselves vegetarians.

            Rather than get into a long-winded discussion about my personal ethics and why I eat what I eat and why I draw the lines where I draw the lines, I often just tell people I’m vegetarian as a short hand. (Also, if you see someone who said they were vegetarian eating seafood or something not strictly vegetarian, don’t ask them about it. It leads to a big discussion, and vegetarians often don’t want to discuss the ethics of eating meat in front of business contacts who are currently engaged in the process of eating meat.)

            1. Katie the Fed*

              And people have different reasons for being vegetarian. My husband and I are trying to cut down our meat consumption for environmental reasons, not health or concerns about eating animals (although we try to buy humanely-raised meat when we do).

            2. Pennalynn Lott*

              I have four local farms I get my meat from, and have toured each at least twice. I know exactly how the cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and goats were raised. I’m satisfied that they live quite the life, right up until the time of death. Green, open pastures with the animals rotating through. So one set eats the high grass and stirs up the bugs in the soil; the next day the second sets eats some of the lower plants and the bugs; the next day the third set comes through and finishes cleaning up that part of the pasture. Around and around they go, with their shelters on skids or wheels so they can be protected from the elements if needed. Very sustainable, very healthy, very comfortable and relaxing for farm animals.

              1. Chinook*

                Add me as another person who has seen where her beef is raised. Around here, they share field space with deer. Ditto for the llamas and bison. And, having seen said cattle roaming their fields, there is no way they could ever be let loose in the wild – their natural intelligence has been bred out of them. The only rough part of their life is being transported by truck to the feed lot before butchering.

          2. Zillah*

            @ Green – Yes. Most people I know who are vegetarian-with-exceptions just stick to telling people they’re vegetarian, because as soon as you use the words “mostly” or “semi,” people make a lot of assumptions that often aren’t accurate.

            For example: I’m vegetarian, except that I like Caesar salads and I don’t get super tense about whether there are anchovies in the dressing. I am never in a million years going to tell anyone I’m mostly or semi-vegetarian rather than a strict vegetarian, because the minute I do, they will think that chicken stock and burgers are on the table, when they are not.

            1. Adonday Veeah*

              …and then you get the diet police. “You can’t eat that — you’re supposed to be a vegetarian!”

        1. Colette*

          I have an uncle who raises cows, chickens and pigs – my family members will eat that meat because they know how it has been raised, but they won’t eat a steak in a restaurant, for example.

    1. LBK*

      I know some people that specifically avoid red meat but are fine with occasional poultry and seafood.

    2. Formerly Bee*

      That’s it. It can also be someone who doesn’t eat red meat, or only eats seafood, or something like that where you don’t need to explain what a pescetarian is.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Semi vegetarian or flexitarian can mean different things to different people. Generally, it means a mostly plant-based diet with some exceptions. Those exceptions can be occasional meat eating, eating only certain types of meat (e.g. fish okay but no land meat, eating chicken but not red meat, eat what you kill but nothing store bought, etc), or eating meat only when it’s raised in certain circumstances (e.g. free-range, anti-biotic free).

    4. Zahra*

      I assume that it’s something like lacto-ovo-pesco vegetarian (i.e. you’ll eat milk by-products, eggs and fish, but not other meats). Or they may have given up on red meat and eat poultry, fish, etc.

    5. Episkey*

      I usually tell people I’m a vegetarian, but I do eat fish & seafood occasionally. Technically, I’m pescetarian, but it just sounds so pretentious. So I just go with vegetarian.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          Maybe people need to realise that all vegetarians are not the same — people have very different reasons for being vegetarians, and therefore have different practices in their vegetarianism.

          So maybe “undermining the understanding of ‘actual’ vegetarians” is a good thing. (What’s an “actual” vegetarian anyway?)

        2. Green*

          Except that in business relationships this discussion almost always comes up during a meal in which explaining your dietary preferences would be uncomfortable or could .

          And, again, there are many “actual vegetarians” who make small exceptions (i.e., almost all beer uses a substance made from fish scales as a filtering agent), but they shouldn’t feel obligated to tell everyone that they are “vegetarian-except-I-drink-craft-beer.” That leads to a whole discussion that unduly focuses attention on someone’s very personal dietary choices. So “actual vegetarians” (which I have been for many years at a time or periodically) can chill out. For purposes of business planning, it is easier to go with the more restrictive option that you can eat. I can always eat the vegetarian dish, so it’s simpler for everyone involved. I’ll note that I have not met anyone who says they are “vegan” when they mean vegan-with-exceptions, so if you want to be purist about it, you can feel free to go all the way. :)

          1. Green*

            I meant “or could be distracting from the business purpose (relationship building, etc.)” in the first line.

    6. Monodon monoceros*

      I try to stick to meat that has been raised on small family farms, or hunted in a well-managed population by an experienced hunter (so the kill is quick). I guess that makes me semi-vegetarian.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          Eh, I guess a lot of vegetarians and others would disagree. Because I rarely find meat that I am willing to eat, I just say I’m a vegetarian to avoid a discussion or to avoid being preachy. If someone asks about it, I’ll explain my reasons.

          Probably all depends on how you want to define semi-vegetarian.

    7. Gene*

      When I was getting addresses to send out Christmas fruitcakes, I replied back to one intended recipient, “Wait, you’re vegetarian and fruitcake has eggs and butter, sorry I asked” because I had completely forgotten and we’ve never met IRL. Her reply, “For homemade fruitcake, I’ll make an exception!”

      AFAIC, she’s still a vegetarian.

      1. Melissa*

        Vegetarians usually eat eggs and butter though; it’s vegans who don’t eat any animal products whatsoever. (Usually.)

      2. Green*

        Yes; common mistake with vegetarians. There are also some vegetarians that eat butter-but-not-eggs, but at restaurants vegetarian meals are made with the “It-was-not-specifically-required-that-something-die-to-make-the-things-on-this-plate” presumption.

  15. Illini02*

    Yeah ,#2 I don’t think is that bad. As many have pointed out, he knows his family members, and since they are fine with it, he probably just assumed you would be fine with it. I’d also agree about the amazing salad bar options they offer. Personally, I’d just let it go. I understand kind of understand your moral qualms (although really, if you just went someplace and others ordered steak, it would be in your face and you’d smell it anyway), but if the family is ok, and you the other 7 people are ok, I dont know that you should make a big deal about.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s actually more unsettling for an ethical vegetarian than a regular steakhouse, because your meal is being constantly interrupted by arrivals of more carcasses at the table. It’s not like a single time when people’s meals arrive; the whole experience there is about having one speared animal after another show up at your table, the whole time you’re dining there.

  16. Rae*

    #4 the boss is out of line. Years ago in a Yankee swap it was discovered lottery tickets and gift cards where among the items. This is strictly forbidden as anything with cash value given at work, from any party (boss, in a raffle, co-worker, subordinate) as that winnings would be declared income from our employer (and thus must be taxed and carry full SS and other deductions) or in a worse light seen as a bribe. In addition, verbal promises have tenuous legal ramifications so if a receiver wins big it can turn into a legal nightmare. Even my previous company did not allow any cash gifts from vendors or clients, we had to graciously refuse.

    Not to mention at a convenience store that I worked at you could not possess tickets while on work time, and you could not buy tickets from the store. (keeps people honest)

    While the Lottery commission would like you to believe tickets are gender neutral gifts for everyone, there are many, many legal implications in the workplace besides religion. Not only that, there are many people who are allergic to the “metal” filament they use to cover the scratch off portions and don’t desire to explain themselves.

    1. Joey*

      Give me a friggin break. There is probably not a safer gift to give at work than lottery tickets.

      1. Rae*

        Sorry, this just isn’t true. Anything with cash value cannot be given, period. It’s in my office and across several different industries. Granted, I’m in one segment of the country, but by the letter of the law, most large companies have rules that clearly prohibit lottery in spirit if not in law. Whether or not people follow this is another matter.

        1. Joey*

          I’m not sure where you work, but in the 25 years I’ve worked I’ve never heard of any companies large or small prohibiting giving lottery tickets bought with your own money. Besides in the ops case the boss bought them so your point is moot.

          1. Rae*

            It’s typically under the “gifts and reimbursement” clauses which outlines types of gifts and assigns a $ value to what is allowed from vendors, clients and between employees in the work setting.

              1. De Minimis*

                Yeah, even the feds allow it, the main restrictions are on the relationship between the giver and recipient and the amount.

                However, I think lottery tickets *might* be against the rules just because it is gambling, but if someone just gave someone a lottery ticket that would probably be okay. Soliciting for employees to put in for lottery tickets I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be allowed.

                I remember in one of my accounting classes we had a fun exercise–let’s say your company buys a lottery ticket. How would you record it on the books?

      2. Sharon*

        Generic (i.e. not store specific) gift cards would be better because at least the recipient can buy something with them. I think a gift of lottery tickets isn’t much better than someone gifting me with an empty cardboard box or last week’s newspaper. I’ve received them as gifts and they are SUCH a waste of money. One year when I was an older teenager, my mom gave me twenty lottery tickets for christmas. They were all losers except for two that were $2 winners. I felt bad that she’d wasted $20 in order to give me $4.

        1. Rae*

          Yeah, gift cards are better than lotto, but they are still not allowed. Gifts are really, really hard, and most people stick with generic foods.

          1. Cheesecake*

            I think you refer to employer giving gifts, as a company, not an individual to individual who happen to share an office (as was in OP’s letter). Corporate gifts are indeed slippery slope for many reasons, taxation being one of them. Example: our company gives store vouchers to purchase our alcoholic beverages. Now, in some countries this is taxed. Company can either bare this cost or make employees pay (they sign papers, all pretty formal and this lowers the paycheck a tiny bit). This is a hassle from money and/or org.standpoint, so i can understand why companies ban this in their policies. They don’t ban these gifts because law prohibits giving alcohol to employees as a present.

          2. Anna*

            Actually, it’s about the value of the gift. It can’t be over $25 without being taxed. So companies stick to a maximum of that amount to avoid having to fill out tax forms and to avoid the employee having to count it as income. So even if you gave food, if the value of the food was over $25 you’d be in trouble.

            1. fposte*

              You may be safe with non-cash equivalents under $25, but it looks like there’s no safe harbor for cash stuff–IRS says, “Cash or cash equivalent items provided by the employer are never excludable from income.” So even if it’s below $25, gift cards are taxable (save for the few exceptions the IRS describes).

              1. AnotherHRPro*

                I believe this is only the case if the gift is from the company. The employee does not get taxed on personal gifts – just company gifts.

          3. Zillah*

            Personally, I think that “generic foods” are generally a really, really poor idea – there are a lot of people out there with a wide variety of dietary restrictions, and what you see as generic may be problematic for a lot of people. I think it’s not a big deal if you’re just bringing cookies into the office, but gifts between individuals are a different story. (For example: most cookies will be a problem for vegans and people who are gluten-free.)

          4. Picky commentor*

            So people might be allergic to the silver on a lottery ticket but less likely to be allergic to generic food as gifts? I think of all the things people can get riled up about, this is slightly ‘out there’…just graciously accept and then do whatever you want with it, it’s just a decent gesture.

    2. Colette*

      Huh? I can see that the business can’t give out cash (i.e. gift cards) without it being taxable and accepting gifts from vendors or clients could be problematic, but I don’t understand why it would be an issue from a fellow employee. I also don’t understand your comment about verbal promises – most lottery tickets given as gifts don’t involve any sort of promise to share the winnings.

        1. Cheesecake*

          Which particular industry will prosecute a gift between employees and make legal dept draft a contract for verbal offer “dude, you buy me a drink if you win!”? I get it: you can’t make cash gifts as a company or accept mostly anything from vendors….but between coworkers? Really, seriously?

          1. Rae*

            I didn’t say it was, I said it could be seen as. It comes from the crazy office pools for lottery tickets. That’s why there’s rules.

            And yes, even between co-workers it’s not allowed. As a employee you represent the business, and gifts need to have no cash value, period. There’s too much chance for things to be seen as bribery or winning favor.

            1. fposte*

              You’re mixing different things here, from saying it’s illegal to it’s a problem in the industry to it’s not allowed because it’s inadvisable. The fact that your company has rules doesn’t mean it’s illegal.

              1. Rae*

                I never said it was illegal, I said their can be legal ramifications, which involve wages. And monetary has never been allowed in retail, education, higher education and convenience…all 3 (or 4 if you count higher ed and k12 different) of the industries I’ve worked for.

                1. TotesMaGoats*

                  Um, my public state institutions gives out a yearly monetary award to several people because of extraordinary service and what not.

                  I think most of us have had a very different experience regarding money/gifts and the workplace than you.

                2. fposte*

                  Saying it’s against “the letter of the law” is pretty clearly invoking the law.

                  I think it would be more accurate to say that some employers forbid giving lottery tickets, and there are possible tax ramifications as with any gifts with cash equivalencies.

                3. Rae*

                  Totes, whatever reason I cannot reply to you. Cash bonus given by the employer are properly taxed and accounted for. Totally different.

                4. Green*

                  FWIW, my law firm did gambling pools for March Madness, etc. It’s not that big of a legal risk, especially if it is not “officially” sanctioned by the organization. And good luck to the employer who tries to stop people from making verbal promises to each other. Rules and laws for *public* employees may be different (particularly with regard to people they serve or vendors), and companies may have a “no vendor gifts” policy or gift limit (so as not to influence contracts), but that’s not a law, and it usually doesn’t apply between co-workers.

              1. fposte*

                It’s not cash value, it’s cash *equivalency*–is it roughly akin to having $25, rather than having a turkey that’s possibly worth $25 but would be darn hard to liquidate. I post a link below that explains basically that the thought is accounting for cash and cash equivalencies is pretty much SOP for businesses so they have no excuse not to, whereas accounting for turkeys and potted plants is a little outside of the usual bookkeeping.

                1. LBK*

                  Oh my god. I just laughed so hard my coworker came over to ask if I was okay. The mental image of some poor IRS worker’s bewildered expression as they open up a box to discover a bag of beige mush is priceless.

        2. fposte*

          It almost certainly will not be, though, and that’s the kind of defensive shutdown that leads to people refusing to give references or firing poor performers for fear of litigation.

          1. Rae*

            Incidentally, in the retail and convenience store corporate policy was not to give references, just verify employment dates. As far as firing poor performers, it was a bit of a pain, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

            1. fposte*

              Right, and that’s chicken management because of scare-mongering, and it hurts good workers. It’s really not good management–or good anything else–to make avoiding any possible trouble a more important goal than being productive and succeeding.

              1. Cat*

                It always makes me think of the Mayor in Buffy who followed it up with “and I know that from personal experience.” (Then I smile because he was one of my favorite villains ever.)

      1. Rae*

        It’s face-cash-value. Meaning that it could be immediately turned in for cash. A potted plant has a value, but weather it’s a rare orchid worth $200 or an 50 cent bamboo and what it was purchased for is all up to the buyer. A $25 gift card was purchased for $25 and even though many say cannot be redeemed for cash can be easily sold for $25.

    3. LBK*

      I’m totally confused about how that would be considered income from the company if you won. It wasn’t given as a form of compensation, it was a gift that had nothing to do with work. I’m trying to google this and can’t find anything to support that statement.

      1. fposte*

        I think Rae’s talking about the notion that cash-equivalent gifts from the employer can count as wages from a tax standpoint because they’re generally “to reward for past performance or to provide an incentive for future performance.” They don’t fall under the de minimis rules of little stuff you can give employees without the IRS caring. (I think the IRS cares more about the employer than the employee in this situation, so I don’t think it means you’re ripe for an audit if you got a gift card and failed to declare it.)

        However, it’s not clear here if the lottery ticket was from the employer or personally bought by the manager with private funds, which would make a difference.

        1. LBK*

          Ah, I didn’t even think of that – I just assumed if it’s in the context of a Yankee swap that means everyone bought their gifts with private funds and nothing was company-sponsored.

          1. fposte*

            And I’m thinking that too–that a privately purchased item is not something the IRS cares about, because I’m not personally covering my colleague’s wages or giving it to her as compensation. But Rae may have worked for places where even private purchases of such items were forbidden.

            1. Elysian*

              So this is a sidetrack, but technically the IRS cares about “all income from whatever source derived,” with a ridiculously long list of exceptions. Technically, they care about the $20 you find on the sidewalk, though there are various gifting exceptions and whatnot. That kind of stuff is also small potatoes. But, I think, interesting to note.

              Either way, no one should prohibit gifts between coworkers because of anything having to do with the IRS.

              1. fposte*

                For a gift, though? I’ve always seen that it’s the giver, not the recipient, who’s responsible for gift tax on a financial gift (and of course that’s only over the gift threshold). Okay, the IRS may come after the recipient if the giver doesn’t pay, but that’s not going to apply for $20, which is something like $15k below the gift threshold.

                I’ll trust you on the finding $20–that’s more like a gift from the universe, and it’s hard to get the universe to file a gift return.

                1. Rae*

                  Well the whole problem of the gift in the workplace falls into:

                  The transferor must demonstrate a “detached and disinterested generosity” when giving the gift to actually exclude the value of the gift from the taxpayer’s gross income.

                  A superior, even if gifting from his own pocket, or even a co worker does not have “detached and disinterested generosity”

                2. Elysian*

                  Well, certain types of gifts fall under IRS exceptions. My point was just that the IRS cares about everything, and then excludes categories of things, like gifts. Overly technical, but I think interesting.

                  Rae, I don’t think anyone at the IRS is going to seriously question gifts between coworkers. This may have been a policy in your workplace, but no one is seriously going to tax Secret Santa.

        2. Mimmy*

          So a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks is okay? I got that from my supervisor at a temp job a few years ago–I think it was for Administrative Professionals Day.

          1. fposte*

            Technically, it’s okay if she paid for it personally but not if the company did. Just assume she paid for it and carry on.

          2. Rae*

            Yep, but this is where it gets fun and confusing, if you were the Admin for say, 6 lawyers and they each gave you a $10 gift card in some states you’re OK because it’s per individual, and then in some states/workplaces it’s not because the “cash value” is over $20.

            That said, with the way things are now anything monetary has the potential to look like impropriety, so our company policy is to do none of that.

  17. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Your boss might be going overboard in how often she says it but it’s a form of praise. I think you are probably just sensitive to it because you know you want to move on and it seems like it’s happening alot when in reality it’s not that often. Know you are valued and that you’ve probably got a really good reference in your boss.

    #4-Sexual harassment? Really? Your options were to A)graciously accept the lottery ticket and find out if you won B)graciously accept the ticket and quietly throw it away or C)very, very graciously refuse the ticket. My hunch is that there was very little graciousness involved when you had that run in with your boss.

    1. Cheesecake*

      I also rolled my eyes on “sexual harassment” claim. Maybe lottery ticket was in a..well..specific form or had a particular picture on it? You never know these days.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Does no one remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? Was the boss out of line in his response? Absolutely. But jumping to sexual harassment, come on.

        1. Cheesecake*

          I was exercising sarcasm ;) Alison’s answer is spot on; there is definitely something going on when OP rejects a gift and jumps on sexual harassment wagon. The boss was wrong, but i can’t imagine putting an effort to buy a gift and reacting with “ass” word out of nowhere. That is strange

    2. Jane OP*

      I’m the OP from #1–thank you, TotesMaGoats! I think I am being too sensitive to it and the feedback here has been very reassuring.

  18. Formerly Bee*

    #4: That was inappropriate, but I’m deferring to Alison on what’s technically sexual harassment.

    You could accept the lottery ticket and throw it out or give it away, btw.

  19. REO*

    I’m OP#2 and I just want to bring this back around to the one sentence: “I could easily find something to eat. That isn’t the problem. I really don’t think I can stomach the environment.” Some of you are right on point. These are very nice people in general. I’m sure the vegan dad and sister were stoked about the amazing salad bar and in no way want to inhibit the rest of the managers’ experience in what would generally be considered a really nice restaurant. So the president probably feels like it is fine. I, however, cannot handle the “parade of meat” as one of you called it. In any other instance, I would do the same thing. (I don’t like sushi, but if we were all going to a sushi place, I would attend and figure something out.) The problem is the idea of being surrounded by meat! I DID go online to see the menu ( . There are some pics of the salad bar (which I already had heard was phenomenal), but I can barely make it through the slide show because seeing all that meat is really disturbing to me. I want to participate, and I was thinking I could give it a go, but if the site is that upsetting to me, there’s no way I could just go and “mind my own”.

    1. illini02*

      Well, I’d say find a way to politely decline as opposed to trying to get them to change the venue. I understand it sucks to be left out. But if its already been decided and people are excited to go, I think forcing a change would make people mad. I know I rarely get the chance to go to places like this, so if my job said we were going, and they were paying, then changed the venue, I’d definitely be disappointed.

      1. Wanderer*

        Yep, as a meat lover i would be pretty mad. Especially if the replacement restaurant was to be a vegetarian or vegan one…

    2. A Non*

      Ah, yeah, if you’re in the “meat makes me nauseous” camp rather than “I’m a vegetarian, but not bothered by meat” as the two family members apparently are, that makes it harder. Your best course of action is probably to decline to go and explain why. The president’s probably assuming that all vegetarians are like his relatives and has forgotten or genuinely doesn’t know that it could be uncomfortable for some people. It’s one of those things where your tone will help determine theirs, if you can be matter-of-fact about it they are more likely to be so as well. If I were in the president’s shoes I’d want to know, so I could change the venue if possible or at least pick somewhere better next year. Hope it works out well!

  20. pucksmuse*

    Re #5

    Something else to consider. The BOSS may not want Bookeeper to leave and is not setting up her exit plan for success. A few years ago, I took over as office manager for a tiny company (less than ten people in the office.) My job consisted of running the office (minor HR issues, purchasing, maintaining office equipment, etc.) and serving as the boss’s administrative assistant. I was replacing Peggy, a lovely woman who had worked for the company since before the boss took over. She had reduced her workload to just the bookkeeping aspect of her duties, which I was not qualified for. The idea was that once I was trained (speculated at my hiring to be 2-3 months), we would look for a new bookkeeper and she would retire. Personally, I thought it was a testament to how awesome she was that it took two people to replace her.

    The problem?

    -The boss would not give me objectives in terms of daily and weekly duties. When I had questions about purchasing and scheduling, he would direct me to the very short job description and told me that I needed to anticipate his needs. When I failed to guess these needs, I was “not ready to take over for Peggy.” When I tried to work ahead and “anticipate,” I was over-stepping my bounds and needed to check with him before I did anything.

    -We set up times during the week where Peggy and I would sit down over coffee and discuss procedures, software, etc. After the first few sessions, whenever I told boss that I was going to sit down with Peggy for a training session, boss told me “not to bother her” and to do it later.

    -The boss refused to hire a replacement bookkeeper.

    After four months, boss still told me that he wasn’t comfortable with me operating the office, so Peggy was going to have to stay on to keep training me. I sat down with Peggy and asked, “What should I be doing in order to make boss more comfortable with me as office manager?”

    It was not a good conversation. Peggy had been trying to retire for YEARS, but boss had been putting her off. She was basically his security blanket. And because she was fond of him and loyal to the business, she stayed. He didn’t want her to leave, so he was finding fault with how I did things, so she wouldn’t be able to retire. The poor woman was exhausted. We did what we could to get me up to boss’s standards, but i never reached them. She lasted about four more months before she finally told boss she HAD to retire and ignored his protests. I hung on another six months, hoping that maybe with Peggy gone he would accept that I was now office manager. Nope.

    But I had a lot of fun with my exit interview.

    1. Whippers*

      Oh god, that sounds like a nightmare. And to make things worse, the boss prob didn’t even realise that he was doing this and his motivations behind finding fault with you. He probably genuinely thought that you weren’t up to the job and you can’t really reason with someone with a complete lack of self-awareness.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Wow, incredible that he handled that so poorly. Well, he really screwed himself over, because Peggy could have set you up to be the “next Peggy” to him and he did not see that. He lost twice on that one.

  21. Ed*

    A vendor recently took my team to a Brazilian steakhouse and it was my first time. All I can say is eating there (at least the one we went to) would be AWFUL for a vegan. I’m a hardcore carnivore and I never wanted to see another piece of meat by the time I left. Every time you looked up there was another server with a giant platter of meat. It would certainly be unpleasant for you even if you just stuck to the salad bar. Outside of a butcher shop, I would have a hard time imaging a worse place to be if I were vegan.

  22. REO*

    Thank-you dinner at Brazilian Steakhouse has been postponed due to multiple managers out sick. I took this opportunity to follow AAM’s advice. As expected, I was given rave reviews of the salad bar. Speaking to me across the office, he asked “What is it you are looking for with this dinner?” I asked that we not have this discussion across the office, at which point the conversation was dropped. I e-mailed him my concern, to which there has been no response.
    I appreciate everyone’s feedback, but I think we’re getting too wrapped up in labels. Vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian….what it all boils down to is this: I would not feel comfortable in this environment, however I feel my lack of attendance would be frowned upon.
    I absolutely do not think the entire thing should be changed around any one person’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, etc. That isn’t fair to anyone. I was seeking advice on the business end of it, as I am being put in a hard situation. I’ve expressed the concern to the appropriate people, and that’s all I can really do at this point. I won’t be distraught if the venue doesn’t change, but hopefully they will understand and accept my reason for not attending.

    1. fposte*

      I think you’ve rationally thought through the spectrum on this, REO, and you gave the reasonable thing the old college try–I hope it ends up being okay that you don’t go.

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