colleague is dressing down on charity dress-down day but refusing to pay, is this hiring process fair, and more

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

1. Colleague is dressing down on charity dress-down day but refusing to pay

I have a bit of an unusual situation. In my office, we’ve started having a “charity dress down day” at the end of every month. Each employee can donate £1 in order to dress down for the day, and a different department each month gets to choose which charity the donations go to. They usually organise games related to their charity as well to raise extra.

There is one guy who dresses down every single time, but refuses to donate the £1. He says that he was under the impression that the company would match all donations and as that hasn’t happened, he won’t donate till they do. The thing is, I send out the emails about these charity days and I remember that I told him it wouldn’t be matched the day before the first dress down day. So he knew in advance that it wouldn’t be matched and chose to dress down anyway – and has carried on doing so every month since.

Now other departments are getting more and more upset/angry about it every month that goes by. I have people coming up and asking whether this guy has donated. They feel like he’s getting away with something that no one else would be allowed to (which is true). His manager is a lovely guy but seems completely unable to force him to either stop dressing down, or start paying his £1.

What’s the solution here? Are people being too sensitive about a £1 donation, or should we push harder to make this be taken seriously by management? What can realistically be done even if they do look into it?

Someone in your company needs to decide how serious they are about this whole set-up. If they’re serious about it, then his manager needs to tell him, “Hey, what you’re doing isn’t cool and you need to either participate in the charity drive or quit dressing down.”

If you’re the person who’s organizing all this, or if you otherwise are in a role where you have standing to raise this, you should talk to his manager and point out that this guy is undermining the charity drives and needs to be talked to. Or you can talk to him directly yourself and say, “It’s fine that you don’t want to donate, but you’re continuing to dress down without donating, and it’s removing the incentive for other people to participate. If you don’t want to participate with a donation, can you please ignore the program entirely and stop dressing down on our dress-down days?”

For what it’s worth, I’m no fan of the whole concept, for the reasons here.

2. Should my cover letters extend sympathies to the company CEO, whose daughter just died?

I am working on a job application for a nonprofit organization of about 15 staff. The position reports to a vice president.

The organization has announced that among the victims of the train crash in Philadelphia was the daughter of the organization’s president and CEO. Would it be respectful or distasteful to mention that in the cover letter – i.e., “Please extend my sympathies to Ms. Jones” or something along those lines? Should I remain mute?

Do not mention it in your cover letter. It’s not the place for it, they’re not actually going to mention to the CEO that a job applicant she doesn’t know sends her sympathy, and it risks coming across as if you’re using her tragedy to create rapport (although I understand that’s not at all how you intend it).

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Is this hiring process fair?

There is currently a manager post open at my organisation which has been advertised externally and internally. Myself and several colleagues are applying for the role which will be a promotion. The interview process starts with an assessment day which I’m assuming will be group work on scenarios.

If you are successful at this stage you then move forward to the interview round. I have found out that one of my colleagues who is currently acting up as a temporary manager covering maternity leave has also applied but will skip the assessment round and go straight through to interview. The justification for this is that she is already operating at this level.

Is this fair? I feel it shows favouritism and am two minds whether to do something as I shouldn’t officially know this information.

Sure. If they’ve seen her actually doing the work that the assessment round is designed to assess, that’s far more useful in terms of evaluating her candidacy than even the best-designed assessment can ever be. Assessments are designed to see candidates in action; if they’ve already seen her doing that work, there’s no reason to spend her or their time making her jump through that hoop.

4. Do I have to give info to a skip tracer who’s looking for an employee?

This morning my voicemail had a message from someone claiming to be with “Verifax,” wanting to “confirm a payroll address.” I Googled the company and discovered they do skip tracing (locating people who can’t be easily tracked down). I assume they’re attempting to track down one of our current or former employees for debt collection.

If they call back, do I have to give them the employee’s address? What are my requirements and liabilities in this situation? I’m leery of giving out any kind of personal information about our employees; my preference would be to tell them nothing (how do I know they’re really legit, and not a crazy stalker ex?).

Nope, as far as I know, you have no legal obligation to assist them. If they had a court order, that would be different — but without one, as far as I know you’re free to say, “We don’t release personal information about employees so I’m unable to help you.”

5. My boss introduced me with a dramatically wrong title

I am currently employed as finance manager (which is the job I accepted), but during a major meeting I was introduced by my boss as an admin. Can a company change my job title so dramatically without informing me?

Sure, they can change your title. The bigger issue here isn’t whether or not they’re allowed to, but what’s actually going on. Is there any other reason to think that your role and title is so different from the one you accepted? Are you doing the work of a finance manager or of an admin? What’s your role been thus far?

Assuming that you’re doing the work you were hired to do, I’d say this to your boss: “I noticed you introduced me in the X meeting as an admin, and I wanted to make sure I’ve got my title right — we agreed on finance manager, right?”

{ 344 comments… read them below }

  1. Dan*


    In my line of work, it’s jeans day 5 days a week, and I don’t pay for the privilege. If I were the other guy in this letter, it would probably take my boss to get me to pay up. I’m with aam on this one – if jeans are OK once, then they are always OK. If they aren’t OK, then paying doesn’t change that.

    1. The IT Manager*

      -1 I absolutely agree with Alison’s reasons why this kind of thing is not a good idea, but the company is doing it.

      Rules are the rules, and you should follow and enforce the rules. There’s a dress code. The dress code must be followed unless you make the donation. He’s violating the dress code and should be dealt with like anyone else violating the dress code – presumably his manager would have to be involved. And this guy’s reason: I won’t donate until the company matches my donation sounds very much like an excuse to distract from the real issue. He wants the benefit of dressing down and is too cheap to make the 1 pound donation.

      Since you sent the first email and people ask you if he donated, it sounds like you’re the organizer or implementer of this company approved activity. If his manager won’t do anything, you need to go to his manager’s manager or ask your your own boss or the big sponsor of the event to go to his manager to get him in line. It sounds like this charitable activity is going to blow up with other employees becoming more and more annoyed each month.

      And if this guys problem with the rule was that the company dress code was overly formal, he should protest by wearing jeans everyday to make his point. Given that he limits his dressing down to the day everyone else does he really just sounds like a cheapskate.

      1. jjw*

        Essentially the company are saying that, if he chooses not to use his money in that way (which is his business after all), then he should be publicly shamed by wearing a special “uncharitable” uniform. Wow.

        Tell the other employees that they get to dress down AND have the pleasure of giving a donation, unlike the poor employees who only dress down. And for goodness sakes! Stop telling everyone who is donating and who isn’t! It’s not their business.

          1. jjw*

            But other people, who use their money in an approved way, don’t. So that’s the effect.

            1. MK*

              Conversely, why is it ok for this person to accept the kudos for being charitable, when he is not? Peopl who see him dressing down assume he donates, which, like it or not, elicits with a certain social approval. How is it ok for him to misrepresent himself, but if the company corrects this, they are “shaming” him?

              I don’t think there is anything wrong with refusing to participate (because you think the policy is cheesy, because you don’t agree with the cause, even because you don’t believe in charity). I would respect someone who made a stand on this. But this person wants to reap the benefits without the obligation.

            1. LBK*

              I suppose, but is it one that anyone should really be paying attention to in an office full of adults with jobs to do? Making judgments about a person based on whether they donate to a $1 jeans fundraiser at their office says more about the person making the judgment than the person wearing/not wearing the jeans.

              1. MK*

                A person is told that they can wear jeans instead of the usual dress code if they donate a trivial amount of money to charity. This person decides that they should be able to dress down without donating the money. I feel I am perfectly justified making the judgement that this person is a jerk . And I think the main think this says about me is that I do not buy the logic that anyone who flouts authority is to be admired.

                1. LBK*

                  We’re not talking about this one guy who’s bucking the rules, though – we’re talking broadly about “shaming” people or otherwise associating judgments to whether people donate or not, noted by whether they’re wearing jeans or not:

                  Essentially the company are saying that, if he chooses not to use his money in that way (which is his business after all), then he should be publicly shamed by wearing a special “uncharitable” uniform. Wow.

                  That’s the part I think is petty – that anyone would consider someone “shamed” by not donating $1.

                2. LBK*

                  And on the flipside, I think it’s silly to associate any kind of generous or positive thoughts towards someone who did donate. At least in my experience, the people who donate for jeans days are doing it for the jeans, not for the charity. That’s certainly why I do it.

                  Point being, for as nominal and inconsequential an action as donating $1 to wear jeans for a day, it’s asinine to make any kind of judgments about the people who do or don’t participate.

              2. LD*

                It appears that the judgment his coworkers are making is not about shaming him for not making a donation. He could wear his regular work attire and it would be assumed that he didn’t donate and no one would judge him on that or shame him for not donating. They are judging because he uses the charity dress-down day to dress down and doesn’t follow the generally accepted and expected practice of making a donation for the privilege of dressing down; he’s cheating. Again, from the little we know from the letter, it’s NOT because he doesn’t make a donation but because he dresses down and isn’t participating in the generally acceptable practice of the organization. I agree with MK that I am going to judge someone who creates a fake rule (that the organization will do matching funds) to justify his being a jerk. He’s like the sand pebble in your shoe that you can’t get rid of, an irritant, and others are reacting to that behavior. He’s not acting like an individual with a real and justifiable concern who is therefore protesting the company’s practice. He’s acting like someone who wants to rub everyone’s face in his flouting of the “rules” and saying they don’t apply to him. “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.” And I would judge him for that.

        1. Rene UK*

          I doubt if they are telling people he isn’t donating; someone probably noticed he never puts a coin in the bucket, and now people are annoyed. In my experience there usually isn’t full buy in on these sort of fundraisers anyway; people forget, or don’t feel like it, or whatever so he’s not likely to be the only one to dress normally on the day. To me, this is more like someone always taking coffee or tea without ever putting anything in the kitty. And-if he hasn’t asked for the company to match the donations, he’s just blowing smoke.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            In my experience there usually isn’t full buy in on these sort of fundraisers anyway…

            Really? I’d pay $1-2 every day for it to be acceptable to come to work in sweats or even jeans and a tee shirt. I’m not ungrateful that we’re business casual, and I can get away with khakis and a polo shirt, but it’s not what I’d choose to wear on my own time.

            And for everyone else saying this guy is doing the right thing, if they were selling red ribbons for $100 each to raise money for heart disease research and prevention, and this guy decided to pin his own red ribbon from home on his shirt that week without making a donation, is he still a hero? Because that’s pretty much what he’s doing, in addition to violating the dress code by not meeting the requirements for casual dress. They could be based on whether you’re customer facing, whether you’re in the warehouse or at reception, but they are the rules, and whether we think they’re fair or not, they’re not unreasonable and they’re very clearly defined.

            1. SO*

              At my old job we could donate money to charity to wear jeans on Fridays(They would give you a sticker to wear, $5 a sticker. )I would say a good amount of people chose not to participate. I chose not to because I thought $5 for every Friday was a bit much, plus they hit you up for yearly donations at the beginning of the campaign and then again in the form of a raffle.

              1. Karowen*

                Ours was $1/day but it still had the same effect – Only about 1/2 the people would participate, and it was always the same group. Not everyone cares that much about dressing down (especially when you get to dress down for free on Fridays anyway).

              2. DMented Kitty*

                Ugh. Those “Casual Day” stickers. A coworker of mine didn’t really take those seriously — and I saw a lot of people take those stickers and just stick them at the back of their ID jackets, and just flip them over to show the sticker when they decide to wear denim (IDs are required to be pinned).

                That was why I never took these things seriously. If I want to donate I will, jeans or no. I guess part of why I don’t care is because our company isn’t very strict with being very formal in their dress code, and my job is not client-facing anyway, so jeans are hardly an incentive for me. We once had those stickers here, but as of this year management has finally convinced the higher ups to allow casual day every day. If we still do have those stickers I think people will be fine donating either way, and it doesn’t seem like everyone else gives a damn if you paid to wear your jeans or not.

                I made it a point only donate to things I feel a personal connection to. I make a few exceptions now and then (e.g. bake sales because – baked goodies!), But I give more to charities that are close to my heart. While I appreciate raising funds for a lot of good causes, I have always thought caring for abandoned animals has always been my passion, so I make more regular contributions to those, incentive or none.

                I’d throw some money if someone organizes a “bring your cat to work” day, although I think no work would get done.

          2. Sunshine*

            Also, if he’s really hanging his hat on the principle that “he’ll donate when the company does”, chances are he’s being vocal about that. He’s probably the one telling people he’s not making donations.

          3. Stranger than Fiction*

            Exactly. So, why are they rewarding donation with the dress down to begin with? That is stupid, in my opinion. It makes it seem like whomever dreamed this up, was just looking for a way for employees to be allowed to dress down once a month! Why can’t the charitable giving be just that? Put a big poster up each month showing how much you raised and what impact that had, that should be enough. If the company needs a dress down day, advocate to management for it, but this doesn’t need to be tied together. The guy, however, is a jerk and taking advantage. But that’s what happens when you have dumb policies.

            1. Rene UK*

              This kind of thing is pretty common in the UK, the schools do it all the time and there is a lot of publicity for things like ‘eat in for charity’, where you make a meal for your friends and donate the difference between the meal and what you’d pay for a night out to your charity.
              I wonder if an employee suggested it as a way of supporting a charity, it caught peoples fancy and has become A Thing–but the company just allows it, doesn’t sponsor it.
              The guy is being a jerk.

          4. jjw*

            Except that the OP is being asked whether he has donated. So clearly OP knows and people expect to be told.

            I guess I feel prickly about this because, at least here in Australia, these fakey corporate events are becoming big targets for charities. In the case of OP’s company, they’re getting the benefit of a team building event and the appearance that they support charity – all without having to pay a cent of their own money. Now they’re annoyed because someone is drawing attention to the fact that the emperor has no clothes.

        2. MissLibby*

          Dressing down is an incentive for people who do donate. Saying that giving an incentive to those that give is “shaming” those who don’t is one of the most ridiculous things I have read in these comments.

          The company has decided to give the incentive and they have set the standard of who receives it. He is taking advantage of an incentive that he has not earned and his manager is not doing their job by allowing him to not comply with the dress code. I can understand if he thinks it is stupid incentive, but he doesn’t get to ignore the rules he doesn’t like and neither does his manager. It is not fair to the rest of the staff.

          1. jjw*

            You may not want to call it “shaming”, but the fact remains that it draws attention to people’s differences in a way that some people would find awkward.

            Example: I worked for a company that supported an openly homophobic charity, but you might not have been aware of their track record if you didn’t follow gay media. I didn’t want to give to this charity, but I didn’t (at that time, not being out at work) feel very comfortable about explaining why. EVERYONE else gave and there was a big lunch for the proceeds to be handed over with tins being passed around for us to put more money into.

            I’m sure if I’d said something, people would have understood. But I didn’t want to be put in that position. I’ve heard of other people whose teams decided to all go down and give blood. But of course, gay men can’t give blood (not here anyway). Makes it really awkward if you aren’t out.

            1. jjw*

              I’m sure people will say “but that’s different”, and maybe it is, but the company is tying an internal team-related celebration to people’s private business that they may not be comfortable sharing. It’s not just dressing down after all, it’s games and presumably other social activities.

              Maybe this guy is just a jerk, but why can’t he be given the benefit of the doubt?

              1. Musereader*

                Thing is, he wouldn’t be the only one not dressing down and it is optional, not mandatory so nobody would bat an eye, unlike your example where they would have noticed as you were the only one. You have to understand how not a big deal it is to participate or not in charity things in the UK.

                We had a guy like this in my last place who would go round declaring that he would not donate, he had other issues and was fired eventually but it was part of his general attitude that got him fired.

                1. Musereader*

                  And yes it literally would be just dressing down with no other activities, in (UK) civil service the dress code is set by central goverment at a national level with an exception for charity dress downs so i, in a call center where we have no face to face customers, have the same dress code as a jobcentre across the street and a processing center in the next town. While lines of business can apply for regular exceptions (the call centres do get dress down every Friday) the oly way to do one offs is call it a charity day.

        3. LD*

          I’m confused. What uncharitable uniform? I reread the posting and I don’t see anything about making somebody wear something different from their usual work attire?

          1. Rana*

            I believe the idea is that if everyone but a few people are wearing casual clothing on charity day, those people stand out as “uncharitable”. It’s not a literal uniform, but rather that the clothing people do or don’t wear on that day calls attention to their participation (or not) in a company charitable activity.

    2. The RO-Cat*

      if jeans are OK once, then they are always OK. If they aren’t OK, then paying doesn’t change that

      I tend to disagree here. I’m certain there are companies and situations where this is 100% true, but in my experience it’s far from being the norm. I had customer-facing positions all my life (at first sales, later training) and, while the dress code was usually business, there was very little to no problem to wear jeans once in a while, provided you kept occurrences at a minimum (that minimum varies between industries, locations and companies so one must know one’s turf). Most of the clients I talked to understood the need to dress down and lose the business armor sometimes.

      Even in banking I’ve delivered training in jeans-shirt-jacket (no tie) and it was OK (then again, in this particular case I might have got more leeway as an external trainer than the employees themselves).

      1. Stephanie*

        My last company had casual dress. We just got a heads up email like “Big Important Client is coming in. Look nicer.” It usually worked.

        Of course, I didn’t get a warning once and met another Big, Important Client wearing purple tights and a skirt with embroidered feathers.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Yeah, my last several jobs, including my current job, have been casual dress offices that only dressed up when clients or other stakeholders came in for meetings. But in all of them, we typically didn’t have anyone coming in to meet with us in person as most of our check-ins with clients were done over the phone or offsite. So jeans are fine when there aren’t any visitors to the office, but not fine when there are, and in my experience, people generally understand that and comply with the different dress code when needed.

        2. Sans*

          My job is never customer-facing, yet we are business casual. This is the first job I’ve had since the mid-nineties where anyone cared at all what you wore, providing you met basic standards of cleanliness and decency. At my last job, the CEO came in in gym shorts and old t-shirts. Yet, somehow (sarcasm inserted) he built up and ran a very successful company.

          My company now does the dress-down on Fridays for a $5 charitable contribution thing. I don’t do it because it irritates me that I should have to pay $5 for something I was doing for free for almost two decades. So I don’t wear jeans … but I can sympathize with this guy who thinks it’s dumb. Because it is.

          1. Darcy*

            I also worked for companies who let us wear whatever as long as it wasn’t overly revealing or unclean in the past. I MISS that. I personally don’t feel like I work as well when I feel “trussed up” in dress clothes. That’s going to be a very important factor to me the next time I’m looking for a job. Because I love my jeans and hiking pants!

          2. Stranger than Fiction*

            That seems reasonable, Stephanie, and I’ve heard of some Tech companies around here doing that. The only drawback is what you said, some people may miss the warning to dress up for a client, or just forget that morning out of habit. Can I just say, I hate the term Business Casual, though, because that’s been the dress code at most companies I’ve worked at and it’s just become so broad – some people interpret it as Casual Casual and seem to get away with it, so half the office looks like slobs and the other half looks nice. But they say to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, so I mirror Management. Not that’s it’s going to get me a promotion or anything, but I like to look act and sound professional when at work so as to be respected by management.

        3. Anonymosity*

          Ours does the same thing–we require business dress (not suits) for days when clients are on the premises. It doesn’t apply when the CEO comes in. They warn us in plenty of time. A lot of people choose to work from home that day. Lately, they’ve only been making the people who are involved in the client meetings dress up.

          We have a charity drive in summer where you can wear shorts and flip-flops if you pay for a sticker for the month. At certain times, we get a freebie and everyone can wear them. I don’t because I would freeze to death.

        4. I'm a Little Teapot*

          I once worked at a company that operated that way.

          One day when we had been told that lots of Big Important Clients were coming in for a meeting, one of my coworkers (who was well known for his eccentric dress) showed up in a T-shirt so old it had faded to an indistinct pinkish-gray and cut-off denim SHORT-SHORTS. Hot pants. Daisy Dukes.

          We all gave him the Glare of Doom as he walked in the door. He cringed and said “I’ll…go round the back.”

        5. Collarbone High*

          I just wanted to say that purple tights and a skirt with embroidered feathers is AMAZING and I would be so happy to see someone wearing that in a meeting!

      2. Snowglobe*

        I agree with this. When our company has the “dress down for charity days” we are told that if we have a client meeting we need to dress professionally for the meeting.

      3. LBK*

        Yeah, I agree – I don’t really follow the “if it’s ok today, it’s always ok” logic. If you’re business casual/business 98% of the time, it’s not a big deal to say “Oh, we’re having a charity jeans day” on the 2% of the time a fancier client may be in the office on a dress down day. And typically if you know you’re meeting with a big client or attending some other kind of event that requires more formal dress, you’re expected to do that even if it’s a jeans day. Both of those are completely different impressions from having a standard dress code of jeans and saying “Oh, this is just how we dress every day.”

        1. LBK*

          (That being said, I’ve never understood having a business casual or higher dress code for people that aren’t customer-facing, so in an ideal world this would never be an issue since you could wear jeans normally anyway. But I digress.)

          1. INTP*

            I think that’s basically the argument – that if employees can dress down without disrupting business, you have no justification for enforcing a more formal dress code on the other days.

            1. LBK*

              I think that’s a valid argument for changing the dress code overall, but for companies that choose to enforce a more formal dress code normally for whatever reason, I don’t have a problem with them occasionally doing a dress down day. The issue is with the overall dress code, not with the occasional exceptions to it.

        2. Helka*

          I agree with this. When I interviewed with my current company (though not for my current position) the hiring manager came to the interview in rumpled jeans and a plaid short-sleeved button-up shirt. It’s not at all the norm for my industry (finance!) but he explained to me that this was a one-off thing, and used that to lead into a discussion of some of the perks and company culture. I came away with a very different impression of the company culture than I would have if he either hadn’t said anything or if he’d indicated that it was normal attire.

      4. Artemesia*

        Plus this sort of thing is often done for PR so clients are made aware that it is a charity bit when they come in that day.

      5. themmases*

        Yeah, I worked for a non-profit children’s hospital that was always raising money for a specific program or board and jeans days were a popular part of that. Occasionally programs would also sell cute t-shirts for an event and on the day of that event, wearing that t-shirt would be OK even if it wasn’t normally. I personally only did it once (for the steering committee of my own job role, when I was on said steering committee, the summer before I left) because I felt that if I was giving all my time and effort to this one cause, I wanted to give my money to others. But they definitely seemed well-received by families and I think this was a context where it was good for people to see us as having a fun side that gets let out when we are supporting the cause we are all there for.

        Also, as someone who had a really misunderstood job role at that place, I think there was a lot of value in us setting up a table in the cafeteria with jeans tags and t-shirts as bait so people could get to know us and learn about what we do.

      6. Ask a Manager* Post author

        To be clear, I don’t mean if jeans are okay on one day, they’re okay on every day. Of course you might have meetings or visitors that require a more formal dress one day than on others. But unless those meetings never, ever happen on charity dress-down day (or on casual Fridays), then I don’t buy that you really need the formal dress at all. Either you need formal dress when those meetings/visitors happen, or you don’t. You don’t suddenly not need it just because it’s Friday or because someone paid $1.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          I’m in tech. I dress casually. Yesterday, I wound up meeting a VP several levels above me while wearing jeans and a tie-dye shirt. He was also wearing jeans, and has long hair. Sometimes the culture allows for individuality in the dress code. Personally, I wasn’t thrown; I feel my clothing is irrelevant and my work speaks for me.

          I also would not participate in this kind of “mandatory” giving. Reall, if people are asking about his donations and if he is contributing, that means the activity is no longer a fun optional thing, but a workplace expectation. I would absolutely be this guy (likely for the same reason), and I would likely perceive this as a personal thing about my beliefs and charitable cause based on others’ expectations for my beliefs and no longer a choice that is completely within my agency due to extensive peer pressure. I mean, to talk to his boss to get him to pay up to wear jeans? I’d start wearing shorts, honestly.

        2. LBK*

          What’s your take on companies that make everyone dress a certain way because it’s just part of the image of the industry? I work in finance, a notably stuffy industry. We were recently lucky enough to get the dress code relaxed from suits every day to business casual, but there’s no chance we’d ever get to wear jeans even though most of us will never, ever see a customer in person, because it’s just Not Done in the finance world.

          (I think it’s a load of hooey, hence why I’m happy for my occasional jeans days.)

        3. Tara*

          When I was working at a credit union, everyone knew that Fridays and Saturdays were jeans days. The customers would joke about it and say it was nice to see us looking so relaxed for once. But if we’d dressed like that all the time, a lot of people would have been put off– in fact, some people were put off by Fri/Sat wear, but they managed to get over it. Occasionally we would have a day where it was a toonie or someting to wear jeans during the week, and we would wear special buttons so it was easy to see what we were doing and why. No one ever had a problem with that!

    3. Mander*

      This kind of event is really common in the UK and most of the time if someone doesn’t want to participate they just don’t dress down, and it’s not a big deal. This guy is deliberately being a jerk about it, though.

      1. Zillah*

        Yeah, this to me is the real issue. Whether it’s a good idea overall is besides the point, IMO – the real issue is that from what the OP said, he’s lying about the information he received about the donations beforehand and, frankly, using a pretty poor excuse to dress down without donating even if he genuinely misunderstood. That’s pretty jerk-like behavior.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        Yeah, I think this is probably a much more ubiquitous concept in the UK than in the US/Canada, because almost all UK schools have a uniform. We therefore start the “pay a pound for non-uniform day!” charity drive thing when we’re young, which makes it seem like just a normal thing that people do.

        My Mum taught at a different high school to the one I attended, and most non-uniform days were coordinated across the whole country. She’d therefore borrow my uniform on those days, and wear it to work – the kids she taught thought it was hilarious! One time she forgot she was wearing it and stopped at the supermarket on the way home. Apparently she got some *very* strange looks.

      3. Collarbone High*

        Yeah, I feel like this is similar to those charity candy displays that ask you to pay 25 cents or whatever for a piece of candy. It’s honor system, so yes, you *can* take candy without paying, but it’s a jerk move.

  2. The IT Manager*

    LW#5 given what happened why do you think your job title has been changed without you knowing it rather than your boss making a mistake with your job title?

    Unless there’s something else like you being given admin and not finance work to do, your reaction “oh no, I have been demoted from finance manager to admin without being told” lacks confidence.

    Unusually I disagree with Alison’s suggested wording. It’s too timid, just very weird that you would have been given a new title (with entirely different job duties) without being told. That is the kind of mistake, I would have corrected in the moment – “Actually I’m the finance manager.” Since the moment has passed but (barring other info) I would assume that the boss made a mistake and now say, “Hey, you introduced me as an admin in the , but I just wanted to remind you that my job title is “Finance Manager.”

    1. Sophia in the DMV*

      Agreed. My first thought was the boss made a mistake in his introduction

      1. NJ anon*

        Ditto. This happened to me once. But it was an honest mistake. The person who did it was nervous. No big deal. At least to me.

      2. Lisa*

        Sometimes the boss doesn’t make a mistake. My boss would constantly refer to the Director of Accounts as a project manager. It was so insulting, but would then refer to himself as the overall account person. Essentially taking on the role himself even though he was only part of the sales process as President. Boss clearly had issues letting go of day-to-day work, but didn’t need to make his issues our issues by demoting an employee in front of clients essentially stripping our Director of Accounts of any authority and basically setting it up so the President would get the emergency calls vs. the person whose job it was.

    2. Dasha*

      I agree he probably got nervous or flustered. This sounds like one incident and not a pattern. I had a boss I had worked with for years introduce me as Sasha once because he was so nervous.

    3. HRChick*

      I agree – I used to be a project planner and my boss used to always introduce me as his “admin assistant”.

      I think there was some sexism involved there (just based on other behavior), so I just corrected him every single time. “Actually, I’m the project planner.”

      1. Not a receptionist*

        I have a coworker who introduces me as “our receptionist.”

        For me it’s not worth doing anything about, but I don’t know if it’s always an accident when people get your job title wrong.

            1. MaryMary*

              I have a client who refers to me as That Girl. “Tell That Girl to give me a call.” I’d be more upset if I didn’t think he’d call me That Guy if I was a man (I only work on his account for special projects).

    4. Not a receptionist*

      +1, if it happened once, it was probably an accident. Correct it like a mispronounced name or something.

    5. AnonymousaurusRex*

      At my company, “Finance/Admin” is one department. I can totally see our CFO saying “This is OP#5, he’s in Admin [with me]. And this is Bob, in Production.” Are you sure that the introduction was saying you are “an admin” rather than “in admin”?

      I tend to agree that this is more likely a mis-speaking rather than your boss actually thinking you are in a totally different role than the one you were hired for.

      1. Cheesecake*

        That is not very helpful when introducing new joiners. One must say “This is Jane, she is joining admin as Finance Manager”. Otherwise, why bother, i will see Bob in production anyway. But yes, i agree, this must be a mistake. OP has her title written in the contract

    6. Stranger than Fiction*

      Same here. I here managers say I do all sorts of things around here, because a lot of people have no clue what exactly it is I do.

  3. Ali*

    I feel bad typing this, but I cringed when I read #2. Just reeks of the OP trying to use the tragedy in Philly to her own advantage and like it wouldn’t come off as meaningful. Of course, I could be assuming a lot, but I didn’t get a savory vibe…

    1. Sherm*

      I dunno, this is a small nonprofit, and the tragedy has no doubt reverberated through the organization. Perhaps the OP was afraid that it would seem callous not to acknowledge the loss.

      1. Jeanne*

        Sherm, I read it more your way as well. With a small company and with the publicity surrounding who died, she might be worried she’d be seen as cold and unfeeling by just writing a standard cover letter. I understand the worry. But it’s just too awkward to address when you are just an applicant. If she gets the job, then condolences are appropriate.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        Yes, especially since the organization released a statement acknowledging it, which presumably would be pretty easy to come across if the OP was researching the organization by browsing its website.

        To be honest, I’m not sure how I would handle this situation if I were OP #2. I think I would lean toward not including anything about it in my cover letter, but it kind of seems like it could be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of thing. I didn’t really get the vibe that the OP is trying to be opportunistic about the situation here, though.

      3. Rex*

        I think the right time to mention it is in person, during an interview, though. I just don’t know how you address it in a cover letter without it seeming weird.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I wouldn’t mention it at all, unless the interviewer brings it up. Then it would be fine to say, “I’m so sorry to hear of CEO’s loss,” or whatever. But it’s doubtful people are going to be talking about it with an applicant. This is business; it’s not a personal meeting and personal matters likely won’t be discussed.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Totally agree. It shouldn’t be brought up at any point in the process; no one there is going to find it odd if you don’t, but there’s a good chance it will seem off if you do.

    2. LBK*

      If this is a well-known company in the area and/or a small organization where you’d be interacting with the CEO regularly, I can understand the impulse. I agree that it’s still 99% inappropriate, but if this were a death that everyone in the town knew about and was talking about (equivalent to the mayor’s daughter dying or something) then I can see why it might feel weird to not mention it when you’re applying to the company.

      1. Mander*

        If anything I’d mention it in the small talk part of the interview, but only if it comes up in the conversation. I think that work might be a place for the CEO to escape the pain of such a tragic loss, and they wouldn’t appreciate being reminded.

    3. Fabulously Anonymous*

      I live in the area where the mother is and the daughter’s death made all of the local news, so I can understand why the OP might think she should acknowledge it. However, I agree with Allison that OP should not do it. I wouldn’t even mention it in small talk unless someone else brings it up first.

    4. Christian Troy*

      It didn’t sit well with me either. Doing something like that would never even cross my mind honestly.

    5. Jazzy Red*

      The OP should just send a sympathy card to the CEO *without* mentioning that she’s applying for a job with them. These are two completely separate things. They shouldn’t be linked together at all.

      1. Fuzzy*

        Unless OP already has a relationship with the CEO, sending a note, no matter how good intentioned, could be seen as sucking up. I wouldn’t do it.

      2. RunDMC33*

        It seems strange to send a sympathy card to someone you don’t know whether or not you are applying for their company. I can see there are good intentions but it still feels inappropriate.

      3. Cheesecake*

        But OP will or have already applied for the job and it is easy to make a connection. In any case, sending a card to a person you don’t know is a weird thing to do.

    6. BananaPants*

      I didn’t either. I’ll choose to use Sherm’s more charitable reading of the letter, but it struck me as odd that an applicant would even mention it in a cover letter.

    7. Zillah*

      I didn’t read it that way, but I agree that it could very, very easily be taken that way, and she obviously wants to avoid that.

    8. 2horseygirls*

      I wouldn’t mention it. You are assuming your cover letter will be read in a time frame that puts your condolences in context. I’ve been on search committees, and while it may just be the glacial pace that academia moves at, it would seem odd to read the condolences in a cover letter weeks or even months after the fact. Plus, chances are your cover letter will be reviewed by multiple parties, which could lead to a torrent of condolences-from-a-stranger which would make the whole thing horribly awkward on top of the tragedy.

      Perhaps if you are in an interview, and someone says, “Mr. Smith would have normally been here today to participate, but his daughter recently died . . . . “, you could murmur, “I did read that. I’m so sorry for his family’s loss”, and move on.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    #4: Yep, just delete the call and move on. I just got a call like this at home. The caller used my maiden name, which was odd because I’ve been married for 10 years. Even odder was that the caller identified herself as “Mimi Chanel” and said she was looking for someone named Jeannie McCarthy, but at first it sounded like she said Jenny McCarthy. It was so weird. I Googled the company name and it was the same sort of deal – skip tracing.

    1. TheLazyB*

      I had a voicemail one day asking about a neighbour i’d never met or heard of before! I couldn’t tell them a thing but i still gave her a heads up that someone was looking for her. Forewarned is forearmed and all that.

      1. Liane*

        Even the legit companies do crazy-stupid things. Years ago in Florida, our mortgage company, Whiskey-Foxtrot, sent us a letter saying roughly, “We also hold a mortgage for your neighbors down the block at 123 Address Rd., but they’ve been ignoring us. Go tell them to get in touch & start paying us again.”

        1. Natalie*

          My student loan company did that to me when a) they had my current information and b) my loan wasn’t even due yet! Jags.

          1. Parcae*

            I don’t think so, because those debt collection laws only apply to collection agencies. The mortgage company can be as dickish as they want to their own customers.

            1. The Strand*

              Debt collectors is what it applies to, and Whiskey Foxtrot probably has a subsidiary doing the collecting – or an outside agency. Either way it would be illegal.

            2. A Minion*

              Those laws apply to anyone who collects a debt and that would include a mortgage company, a loan company, student loan companies, banks, etc. The term “debt collection” doesn’t just refer to the collection of past-due accounts. Mortgage companies are debt collectors and as such must adhere to the fair debt collections act.

              1. Melissa*

                But it doesn’t…the FDCPA only applies to third party collectors, except in states that have extended that law to original creditors.

                (6) The term “debt collector” means any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another…The term does not include — (A) any officer or employee of a creditor while, in the name of the creditor, collecting debts for such creditor;…(F) any person collecting or attempting to collect any debt owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another to the extent such activity… (ii) concerns a debt which was originated by such person.

                There are a couple of other exclusions that make it clear the law was meant to cover only third party debt collectors who buy debts from original creditors, not the original creditors themselves. Mortgage companies don’t qualify as debt collectors under this law (due to A and F). Neither do credit card companies or student loan companies, as long as they are the originators of the debt.

    2. TotheM*

      I did just delete the voicemail–but I also wanted to be prepared for if they do call back. (I hate talking on the phone, and I don’t want to be all flustered and uncertain when I tell them they aren’t getting anything from me.)

      1. Jazzy Red*

        It might even be against your employer’s rules to give out any information about their employees. At most companies I worked for, this was very strictly observed.

        Because you might be flustered when they call back, write out the response you want to give them and keep it handy. And this is the type of situation where it’s OK to lie and say that it’s against company policy to give out any information about their employees if your company does not have such a policy.

        Also, if you know this coworker, tell them that this company is calling about them.

    3. Dorothy*

      Since the company asked for a “payroll address,” I’d assume that they’re looking to verify the address of YOUR company, presumably to serve a garnishment — not personal information about an employee. I work for an attorney who does debt collection, and the only reason we call employers are 1) to verify employment so we don’t pay a court filing fee for a garnishment for nothing, and 2) so we know where to send a garnishment. Some larger companies (and I have no idea of knowing whether your company is a larger one or not, by just the name) will only accept service of garnishments at one location — so we’re trying to abide by your company’s rules.

      1. TotheM*

        True, if they just want the company mailing address I can give them that (heck, it’s on our web site). But I’d still hesitate to verify employment just because someone claimed to be calling on behalf of an attorney–people can say anything they want over the phone. I’d probably want to call the attorney’s office myself to verify they’re really an attorney’s office, not an ex-spouse or something.

    4. Artemesia*

      We had someone call us for over a year at home for someone named ‘Juana Husband’slastname’. We were the first owners of our home, so it wasn’t a matter of an old tenant and my husband’s last name is very very common — in fact there are probably thousands in the US with his complete name as compared to maybe a half dozen with mine.

      We had been bedeviled by debt collectors calling for someone with my husband’s name for a bad hospital debt at a hospital we had never had any involvement with. This went on for 10 years as the debt got passed on to new collection companies. They clearly just went to the phone book and called people of this name.

      We sort of enjoyed not responding to the calls for Juana hoping we were helping her out by not making clear they had an entirely wrong number. By this point we were letting all calls go to voice mail.

    5. Michele*

      I used to have a phone number that had previously been used by someone who did not apparently believe in paying bills. Collectors frequently insisted that I was hiding him.

      1. Anna*

        My business cell was apparently used by the person in my position before as a personal phone, too. For a while I was getting mildly threatening calls stating that Soandso was about to be served with papers for overdue debt, blah blah blah. I was getting them so frequently I started calling them back and telling them the phone they were calling was a business phone owned by the US Government (not that it mattered, but lent some weight) and that the person they were trying to reach no longer had the phone. I stopped receiving the calls entirely when I got a call from a company claiming to be preparing to serve her with a warrant and that if she didn’t accept the warrant, dire consequences would happen and I called them and told them, “This is a business cell phone owned by the US Government. The person you’re trying to reach no longer has this phone. If you are going to serve her a warrant that she could be arrested for not accepting, then I hope you keep in mind that you haven’t actually warned her that she’d be served and she will have no idea what is happening. Stop calling this number and use Google.” They called me back and apologized.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I actually had to fax a guy a small screenshot of my cellular account bill just showing my first name and number to get him to believe I wasn’t someone named Cynthia

  5. Blurgle*

    LW #4: do NOT even confirm the existence of your employee without a court order. Skip tracers can also be hired by stalkers and abusive exes.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      OMG. I never would have thought of that, but it totally makes sense. How creepy.

    2. Stephanie*

      That was a thought that ran across my mind. Do skip tracers have to say they’re seeking the information in an attempt to collect a debt if it’s for debt collection?

      But yeah, without a court order…say nothing.

      1. Blurgle*

        This differs from place to place. The law on (say) Alberta is likely different from that in Saskatchewan, let alone in another country.

      2. MK*

        That’s not much help. Do skip companies do background checks on their clients? If I call one and say I am working for a bank, will they verify or take my word fot it? Not to mention that there is no reason a stalker isn’t really working in a bank or something.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I don’t think they care. Sometimes they’re also private investigators

      3. TotheM*

        In my state, I believe it’s actually illegal for them to tell anyone they’re calling about a debt, or otherwise discuss the debt with someone other than the debt holder (or their attorney). So if they do try to push the issue by claiming it’s a debt-related call, I can file a report with the FTC.

        1. Dorothy*

          That’s correct – they can only request verification of employment (giving no reason) or they can verify YOUR BUSINESS’s payroll address for service of a garnishment (without identifying the employee).

          1. TotheM*

            I can give them OUR address, if that’s all they want. While neither confirming nor denying anyone’s employment here.

    3. TheLazyB*

      Or someone’s mum that they have deliberately fallen out of touch with. My DH received a letter from his (then-)estranged mother the day we left to travel to our wedding venue. It was freaky. And although i thought it was ok at the time…. it really wasn’t. He was out of touch for a reason, and it was manipulative to send a letter at all, especially with the content it contained.

      (End off topic aside)

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        My dad’s mother used to do stuff like this, and I was concerned for years she would resort to hiring someone like this to track me down after none of her horribly manipulative outreaches elicited a response. Some highlights:
        -Sending birthday cards every few years at random times of the year with cash enclosed and messages about how much she misses us, with no return address so we could send it back
        -Sending my brother a belated birthday card timed to arrive on my father’s birthday to tell him how much she loves him and wishes we would call (no mention about my dad)
        -Sending me a box of porcelain figurines where the head was cleanly broken off every single one of them along with a note that she knew I always liked them (I didn’t)

        She passed away last year so the threat of her hiring someone to track me down has passed, but I still worry that at some point my aunt will since her manipulative outreach is also failing to elicit a response…

          1. Artemesia*

            Wow. Me too. I had a personality disordered grandmother but nowhere near in that class.

          2. AnonAnalyst*

            That was her escalation after I did not respond to her many random cards. In addition to being incredibly manipulative, she was extremely smart and had a lot of time on her hands, so I suspect she sat around purposely thinking this stuff up to try to get a reaction (there are many other examples aimed at other family members, sadly). Like I said, I would not have been at all surprised if she hired someone to try to find me since I moved away a few years after I cut off contact with her and purposely kept a low online and public profile so that she or other family members that were still talking to her would have a harder time finding me.

        1. The Strand*

          I’m so sorry. Like Artemesia, my relative with a personality disorder never rose to that level. Still, I’m glad that there are more places on the Internet where people can talk about this behavior, and know they’re not alone in suffering through it, though.

    4. TotheM*

      LW here–that was one of my concerns. I wouldn’t want MY information given out to random callers, and I don’t want to give out employee info if I don’t have to. I suspected I didn’t, but it’s good to have AAM’s opinion as well.

    5. Dorothy*

      Confirmation of employment is used for many other purposes, though — do you want to be the reason that your employee’s mortgage re-fi is delayed (to the employee’s detriment), because you refused to verify employment with the mortgage company?

      1. Windchime*

        I am in the US, and whenever I’ve needed verification of employment, I just take my 2 or 3 most recent pay stubs in as proof.

      2. fposte*

        When I’ve refinanced, though, the bank is very clear about what it will do for employment verification and how I notify my employer of my permission; there’s no suggestion of randomly calling the main number and asking for info. That doesn’t seem like something any solid bank would do.

      3. TotheM*

        If they do ask for a specific employee, I can contact that person and let them know–then they can tell me if they do, in fact, want me to verify their employment. I just feel like it’s better to err on the side of caution. (And like Windchime said, they have pay stubs as well.)

      4. neverjaunty*

        Conversely, do you want to be the reason that an employee’s violent ex or psychotic abusive mother tracked them down?

        A legitimate business, like a bank, will identify themselves and why they are calling, so that you can confirm they are legitimate.

      5. Marcela*

        When recently we needed to confirm employment to rent our house, our landlord told us he was going to call our employers, so we could tell our bosses they were going to receive a call and from whom. It seems strange to be in any situation where it’s vital to confirm employment, but you forget to warn the person who will receive that call.

    6. KathyOffice*

      Was just gonna make this point. I would be livid if my employer gave out this info and put me in danger.

  6. Cari*

    #1 – or the company could not be so tight and match the donations. I can understand why everyone else is miffed at this guy, but to be honest, why aren’t they miffed at *paying* for what a lot of other companies allow their employees to do for free, even if it’s going to a good cause (or at least, allegedly going to a good cause)?

    1. Jeanne*

      I see no reason why the company needs to match the donations. That excuse is a smokescreen for the guy to be a jerk about this.

      1. Artemesia*

        The company is trying to get credit in the community for charity by not lifting a finger themselves but pushing their perhaps not all that well paid employees from actually making the donation. My father used to get ‘bills’ from the well known US workplace pressuring charity that indicated his ‘fair share’ expected to be donated by check deduction. I hate being bullied with this implicit threat to your livelihood if you don’t succumb to this. Personally we give rather large donations at years end to a handful of selected cultural and charitable organizations; giving a small amount as in the OP would not enrage me but having spent my worklife in an organization that put on a lot of pressure to be 100% for donations to this large charity the whole idea of workplace donation pressure POs me. The business is taking community credit by essentially bullying employees.

        1. Artemesia*

          I did make a very small donation each year to the giant octopus US charity that prospers through workplace bullying because there was so much pressure to do so; I always felt mildly abused but felt it was a small enough thing that making a fuss was counter productive.

        2. 2horseygirls*

          I get the push from the same Charity-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named at work. I use the standard “We’ve already made our decisions regarding our charitable donations for this year.”

          If pushed, then I ask them to donate $x to my favorite cause. “Why would I? I don’t care/know anything about that cause.”

          “Exactly. Thanks for understanding.”

        3. LD*

          I’m confused and a little saddened by your situation. I’m sorry you had bad experiences before. I’ve never been bullied into contributing, encouraged, but not bullied. And I’ve never participated even once in the “pay for the privilege” to dress down. And no one has ever mentioned it. In most of the places I have worked, the dress down days were organized by someone who was interested in dressing down or interested in the charity, and not by the organization/employer. Now my current employer does have that as an option. It’s pretty low key and sometimes I don’t even know that the dress-down day is happening until I see a few people wearing jeans and a sticker for the charity…and still they say nothing to me at all…not even a “look” that says they notice that I’m not “dressed-down”. But I’m sure if I had had the bad experiences you described, I’d be less “charitable” in my assessment of their motives, as well.

      2. Brandy*

        Correct. Hes just being an ass and that’s his excuse. He accepted the dress code when he did the job and he just wants to not have to follow the rules.

        1. Rene UK*

          Urk. I get the feeling that this is being misunderstood. If it’s like other fundraisers I’ve known, the *company* isn’t giving permission, exactly, for someone to dress casually. The pound is more…justification for dressing in a way that is not proper for work. Kinda a variation of wearing a pin or ribbon to say you donated. In this case it’s dressing down; sometimes it’s wearing spots, or red, or whatever.
          “why aren’t they miffed at *paying* for what a lot of other companies allow their employees to do for free”
          Well…because that’s not the point. The point is that people are donating a pound, doing something a little silly, and feeling good about it. If you don’t want to dress down(and many here would be embarrassed to), you can still donate a pound. Or not. This guy is giving two fingers to the whole thing and being a jerk.

    2. Tamsin*

      I think this is backward. If the company makes a change, it’s that it’ll revert back to the dress code 100 percent of the time.

    3. Sunflower*

      Charity dress down day has been around for ages- way before so many companies adapted relaxed dress codes

      1. Sans*

        Maybe that’s the problem. Back when everyone wore a suit and tie to work, dress down day WAS a perk, something special. Now that so many workplaces are casual all the time, it starts to seem ridiculous – oh boy, you’re making me pay for something that all my friends can do every day, for free, at their work place. Whoopee!

  7. TheLazyB*

    Old work did Christmas Jumper Day twice, and you could wear jeans with your christmas jumper. Reasoning was that as a one off it wouldn’t affect productivity, especially so near to christmas.

    1. Coach Devie*

      By jumper, do you mean sweatshirt/sweater? I’ve only recently learned, while researching some clothing brands from UK or AUS to source for an online retail venture, that what we call “sweaters/sweatshirts” in the states are referred to as jumpers elsewhere. Which makes me wonder what the articles of clothing here in the states that we do refer to as jumpers, are called elsewhere.

      1. Elkay*

        Yeah jumpers tend to be knitted in the UK. Sweater is a less used term but sweatshirt is a cotton/tracksuit type top.

        I believe jumpers in the US are pinnafores in the UK.

          1. Camellia*

            That’s it exactly. In the US, a jumper is a type of dress, sleeveless and usually with a scoop neckline. You wear a blouse or turtleneck under it. These were in fashion 30 or so years ago but I haven’t seen one in ages.

            1. Liane*

              US jumpers are still worn, but mostly as uniform pieces for girls in schools that require uniforms.
              A few times in the last couple decades I have seen them become fashionable again–but for such short times that it hardly registers.

              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                There are social/religious groups in the south where some women still wear jumpers and turtlenecks. It’s an intentionally conservative outfit. The dresses are always very long and loose.

                1. nona*

                  Yep, some dress modestly (their wording), and this is one of a few ways they do it. You’ll usually notice all the girls/women in a family wearing jumpers, or all the female children in a homeschool group.

              2. Delyssia*

                A couple of years ago, I saw a woman in my office building wearing a tweed jumper that was absolutely adorable. Afterward, I had the urge to find a cute jumper for myself, and a) there was no such thing to be had, and b) the country-specific differences in what constitutes a jumper made it a really hard thing to search for.

            2. MaryMary*

              My mom still wore jumpers to work until she retired a few years ago. She was an elementary school teacher and even had some “themed” jumpers for the holidays. Oh, mom.

                1. A Bug!*

                  A teacher could do worse than model her clothing style after Ms Frizzle. But not much better, I think!

        1. UKAnon*

          I would refer to anything worn over t-shirts to keep out the cold which is a one-piece garment as a jumper. If it does up in some way it’s probably a cardigan. If it has a hood, it’s a hoodie.

          Pinafores are like an apron; you wear them over nice dresses while working to keep the dress nice.

          I thought I understood the ‘sweater’ thing but now I’m confused…

          1. Rene UK*

            I moved to the UK 6 years ago so had to learn all this. (BTW, 8yr olds find adults saying ‘pants’ –to me the long garments worn on the legs but underwear to them–absolutely hilarious. Every time. ) According to the school dress code, ‘pinny/pinafore’ is a sleeveless dress worn over a shirt; called a ‘jumper’ in the ‘States. ‘Jumper’, on the other hand, means like UKAnon says any outer garment without a hood that pulls on over the head. In the ‘States it’s split into ‘sweatshirts’, which are fleece and can have a hood or not, and ‘sweaters’ are usually knitted from coarser yarn.

            1. UKAnon*

              So… more like a tank top jumper? I still think of pinafores in the Victorian way, as a longer dress to wear over good clothing, but it sounds like fashion has moved on since I last checked.

              Incidentally, for Christmas Jumper I would think of Colin Firth in Bridget Jones.

              1. Artemesia*

                No a tank top is not a jumper — a jumper is a dress designed to be worn with a shirt underneath. So the top is sort of like a tank in design but it has a full skirt as well.

                1. UKAnon*

                  Ah, now I’m with you! Thank you. I’d just call that a dress, so it never even crossed my mind.

                2. Mephyle*

                  The difference for us (in North America) between a jumper and a dress is that a jumper is specifically styled to be worn with a top underneath (whether a blouse, shirt or sweater). So it has a different fit than a dress.

            2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              We called cropped pants knickers when I was little (southern US, not sure if that is regional). British friends found this hilarious when spoken in public- “I just got these new striped knickers! What do you think?”

              Also, we used to have a cat called Muffin…Muff for short. British friend was mortified that we’d stand outdoors yelling “MuFF! MUFF?”

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                The funniest thing I think I’ve heard in American English is the term gang-banging which has a totally different meaning in the UK.

                1. jhhj*

                  Isn’t that what it means everywhere? It usually implies more guys than girls, though.

                2. fposte*

                  In my experience in the US, “gang banging” isn’t used that way, but “gangbangers” is used for the gangs shooting. (Google ngrams suggests the latter use isn’t dying away, but I agree that I don’t hear it as much as I used to).

                3. GOG11*

                  I think he means gang bang, which is a gang-related shooting or drive by shooting? When it’s used as a verb, though, it automatically makes me think of the sexual term.

                1. Windchime*

                  I’ve heard it used in that way, but not recently. Back in the 1990’s, I think.

                2. Artemesia*

                  It began with the UK meaning and still means that but has been extended to refer also to gang criminal activity. So both meanings are current and you take it from context. It doesn’t mean orgy however which is consensual but generally refers to a group rape.

                3. ExceptionToTheRule*

                  It’s also a term for a rape committed by multiple people on a single victim.

                4. Fact & Fiction*

                  In its most literal sense, gang-banging does mean that, but context matters because if you say someone WAS gang-banged it could mean the sexual connotation in the U.S.

              2. Artemesia*

                Little boys in the US south from wealthy or aspiring new riche families are still dressed in knickers (short for knickerbockers which were originally golf pants (US meaning of pants))

            3. Kelly L.*

              US here, and the only time I ever heard “pinny” was for those hideous, smelly sleeveless tank tops they’d give you in PE class to distinguish between teams (did they ever get washed?), and “pinafore” only when reading fiction set in the past. Sweaters and sweatshirts just like you describe. You can also call a sweatshirt “a fleece,” especially if it is square-shaped rather than gathered at the bottom (the latter is usually less stylish).

            4. JB (not in Houston)*

              Re the pants thing–Yes, I once read (a long time ago) a blog post by an English man talking about the pants thing and how once in a pub, the two young, attractive American women who came in were probably wondering why all the men were paying attention to them after one of them said it was really cold and she wished she’d worn pants.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                My favourite pants story is from a Dutch friend who moved to Canada. The Dutch word for panty-hose is panties, and when she heard Canadians talk about panties, she assumed it meant the same thing. So when she was invited to her first Canadian wedding, she asked another guest “do women wear panties to weddings in Canada? Really? ALL of them?! Even in summer?!”

                She then showed up to the wedding on a blazing hot day and proclaimed loudly to the same person “you said to wear panties, but I am the only woman here who is wearing panties! No you’re not, I can clearly see that you are not wearing panties!”

                Favourite linguistic confusion story EVAH.

                1. L Veen*

                  My favourite linguistic confusion ever is when I was in 9th grade and my school did an exchange with a school in Mexico. One night after dinner, one of my classmates was watching TV with her host family and wanted to ask if they minded her taking off her socks, but what she actually said was “Is it okay with you if I take off my underwear?” – she had mixed up “calzoncillos” with “calcetines.”

          2. really*

            In US a cardigan would be a type of sweater. Sweaters are knits that can either be pulled over your head or have openings in the fronts that button, have a belt, or just hang open.
            Sweatshirts are cotton/polyester material of various weights. The can go over the head, have pockets, have zippers part way down or all the way. Any that have hoods would be hoodies.

            1. BAS*

              When I lived in England, I got my one housemate to start saying ‘jeans’ instead of trousers (b/c I always said jeans) and one of our other housemates was UP IN ARMS about it. Soooo funny.

          3. Sparkly Librarian*

            I’m reading this thread late, but I wanted to chime in with an alternate word: the clothing item called a jumper in the US is similar to a gymslip in the UK. Popular in school uniforms and, as mentioned by others, also worn by girls or adult women in the style with long skirts.

        2. manomanon*

          Jumpers are the type of dress (usually a shift) that are worn over a blouse or shirt in the US. It was super popular in the 90s and the style still pops up occasionally today.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I picture a jumper as the little short pants outfit that has a bib and buckles over the shoulders.

          1. Kelly L.*

            If they buckle and have a shirt underneath, I call them overalls. If it’s one piece and stands alone, a romper.

        1. brightstar*

          That’s what I picture as well. And don’t forget about jumpsuits which seem to be trying to come back.

          The first time I went to England I lost my barrette on the plane. None of the flight crew knew what I was talking about. They brought by a bangle, which I told them “No, that’s a bracelet. I’m looking for something that goes in your hair and holds it back.” In a store in Oxford I came across some hair slides, which were barrettes.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I had this problem when looking for hair slides at Boots. I couldn’t remember the term for them and I was too embarrassed to ask, so I just had to wander up and down until I finally found some. Argh!

        2. Prefer not to say*

          In the midwest, we know those as “overalls.” Oh god, you could not pay me money to wear those!

          1. Stephanie*

            Oh, I think those are coming back in style. I remember the style at my middle school in the late 90s was to wear overalls with a super tight top. Yeah…

  8. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    I actually think #1 isn’t that bad. I mean, the concept of paying 1 pound to dress a certain way doesn’t strike me as all that weird. No one *has* to pay, but you just pay as a donation and then you can dress a certain way.

    Whil I re-read Alison’s reasons, it still doesn’t strike me as weird. If it’s not too often, that is. Because “either it’s forbiden all the time or allowed all the time” seems too black and white for me. I’m pretty sure customers can understand that, too (unless there are particularly stuffy or close minded customers).

    I hope something is done for that coworker. I mean, come on. I can understand not having disposable income (valid reason) , but then don’t ruin the whole thing by being a “rebel” and dress down without paying :/ .

    1. TheLazyB*

      Yeah, in our office it’s strongly encouraged to pay, but no one would know if you didn’t – unless there is literally only one person collecting. The honour system I guess.

      1. Oryx*

        At my old office we actually did have only one person collecting and then you got a sticker on top of that. It was a small college and faculty and staff were told to look out for students who didn’t have their sticker because it meant they probably hadn’t paid. Micromanaging? Probably, but I can understand getting a bit miffed if you paid to wear jeans and that guy is wearing jeans without paying.

    2. GigglyPuff*

      This is kind of what I was thinking. I understand why people are focusing on the whole pay to dress a certain way, but the question isn’t really about that, it’s about a guy not following work protocol, and possibly openly flaunting his disregard for something everyone else follows. I think that’s the more serious issue here and it definitely needs to be addressed in a straightforward, firm manner.

      If the OP is the contact person for this stuff, I’d would suggest e-mailing the guy reminding him about the rules & and that it is not matched, so there’s a record, and when it’s disregarded again, bring it to the guys’ manager. Because honestly it is a morale killer if other people know, and can be frustrating and garner ill-will.

      1. Zillah*

        This. It may not be a great policy, but it’s hardly an egregious one (IMO), and this guy is using a stupid excuse to refuse to follow the company dress code. To me, it’s kind of like if your boss tells you that you need to be at work by 9:00 – it may be stupid, but you still can’t just walk in fifteen minutes late every day just because you think it’s stupid.

    3. Hannah*

      I wondered that too, it seems like the LW is pretty out of line by creating major drama and distraction from work over $1. I would let it go without saying a word so that others don’t start copying his behavior. It isnt appropriate to police yoir coworkers’ clothes so the donation part should just be done in good faith, he shouldn’t have to be forced to donate or shamed for his attire. This whole thing sounds so juvenile.

  9. Jeanne*

    What disturbs me about #1 is that it is every month and there are often games to go with it. Really? Don’t they have work to do. Someone has to plan the day and collect donations. The department has to pick a charity. Someone has to prepare games. Numerous people play games. This is an awful lot of work hours spent on an activity that is now causing drama and division.

    My opinion is the whole dress down project needs to be canceled. It is not benefitting the company at all.

    1. Elkay*

      I’ve worked for a few (for profit) companies that have charitable giving as part of their mission statement, my old company gave us days off to volunteer and had a specific committee towards it. People volunteered for the committee and the company accepted that how part of their work time was spent. So saying that it’s not benefitting the company isn’t true if that’s how they’ve decided to define part of their company mission.

      1. Sunflower*

        This so much. I wanted to add this in with some of the comments yesterday about the non-profit requiring them to donate. While I thought the LW’s situation yesterday wasn’t cool, it’s not at all uncommon for charity to be a huge part of a companies mission. Lots of orgs have specific positions focused on building and coordinating charitable involvement

        1. Artemesia*

          My son used to be dispatched to judge robot competitions in schools or assist in some sort of tech day — on the company dime as he was working in tech. I think if charity is part of the mission then releasing employees to volunteer on occasion is the way it should be done, not claiming company PR credit by forcing employees to donate their own time and money. That is a personal thing that should be left to employees to decide on their own time.

    2. Spiky Plant*

      Except there’s a chunk of employees who are clearly enjoying it, and happy employees are a good reason to do many things.

      And from the looks of it, it’s not the activity that’s causing division, it’s one guy (who sounds like a jerk). Everyone else is either enjoying it, or opting out. They’re having fun or ignoring it. This guy is determined to suck the fun out of it for the people who ARE enjoying it.

      1. Zillah*

        Yeah, exactly. I think that people are getting bogged down in the specifics because they don’t agree with the concept, but we’ve talked many, many times on AAM about how if one person abusing certain privileges, the solution is to manage them, not suspend those privileges for everyone.

        I don’t see this as being any different. This guy is causing conflict because he’s being a jerk. From what we’ve been told, he’s the real issue here, not the policy – which, even if you dislike the principle, I would argue isn’t a huge deal, provided people aren’t being pressured to participate (which isn’t totally clear from the letter, but I don’t see any indication that they are).

    3. Not Today Satan*

      It’s also hypothetically a morale-boosting activity (which it would be if not for this jerk)–companies spend money and time on those sorts of things all the time.

    4. Oryx*

      The games are interesting, but I disagree with the dress down project needing to be cancelled. My old job did it once a month as well and I was able to use it one month to help raise money for a 5K I was doing. I ended up getting about $300 which was awesome.

    5. LBK*

      Geez, kind of a miserly comment, no? When I was part of my department’s social responsibility committee it took no more than an hour or two a month and it was considered part of work. Not everything you do in the office all day has to be In Service Of The Great Profit.

      1. Jeanne*

        Fine. I’m a miser. To many of us, this situation sounds like a nightmare. And if I had to stay late to finish extra work because they were busy with games, I’d be really pissed.

    6. Jazzy Red*

      Agree 100% with you, Jeanne! It sounds just like the home office of the world’s largest retailer, where they use employees’ charitable events/donations/work for publicity for themselves (the company, that is). When I worked there, I NEVER let them know what kind of charitable work I did.

      Frankly, I think work should be about work, and everything else is the employees’ private lives. I was soured on this way back when contributing to United Way was mandatory at my company. Even the amounts for the different classifications of workers were “suggested” by management, and anyone didn’t enthusiastically join in was called in to the VP’s office and hammered on by all the bosses.

      1. LBK*

        And yet we expect a certain amount of giving back to the community from most large companies. How do you think those kinds of things get done without people spending work hours on it?

        I suppose this is a particularly sour note for me since I work for a company that’s well known for and prides itself on its involvement in several charities, fundraisers, etc. and it’s really strange to me to see people reacting so negatively to that. If it’s obligatory or people are being pressured into it (like United Way) then I agree that’s wrong, but if there are people genuinely volunteering and who want to organize that through the company in the company’s name, I guess I can’t see the downside of people doing nice things for others.

        1. Zillah*

          I agree. Obligatory charity or pressure to donate are awful and wrong, but I don’t think that all charity drives and fundraisers in a workplace fall under those categories.

      2. Stephanie*

        Ha, you should have volunteered at a labor union while working at that company.

        “You don’t want to associate yourself with this group? But this is where I volunteered!”

  10. katamia*

    OP1, how are people finding out that he hasn’t donated? When coworkers ask, is someone actually telling them that he hasn’t donated? This feels like an issue that should be kept private (like many disciplinary issues should, IMO). If he’s telling people he didn’t donate and announcing it every single time, that’s one thing, but if you or someone else is actually telling people who ask that he didn’t, that might be making things worse.

    I’m also probably reading too much into what you wrote, but I wonder if there are other reasons he’s choosing not to donate and he’s digging in his heels about the company not matching donations because it’s “safer” than, for example, “I find this charity and everything it stands for repulsive.” It just seems weird to me to be so passionate and to make such a big deal over just a company not matching donations, but then I don’t know the guy.

    1. katamia*

      And, yes, I know there’s a different charity every month, but if multiple departments pick the same charity or if they pick similar charities, then there could be an issue there. Or I could just be reading too much into it, like I said before.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      Yeah, I’m not sure if I think this is the guy’s motivation, but I don’t like ever donating to the charities that an employer picks–they tend to choose really huge established ones, often orgs that pay their CEOs a million dollars.

      1. Cherry Scary*

        My employer does something similar to this (weekly small donation to wear jeans on Friday, charity rotates out monthly) and the one thing I do like is they focus on local charities that are usually employee-suggested ones.

    3. INTP*

      I had the same question about how people are finding out. If this guy is going around bragging that he hasn’t paid, then that’s a bigger problem than him not paying because he is deliberately trying to ruin the efforts of the charity committee. But if people know because OP or other members of the committee told people when they were annoyed at him, then they started drama over literal pocket change. It’s not like this guy’s withheld 1-pound is going to make a big impact on the charity drive, but the morale problem caused by everyone knowing about it might. It should have been kept between the collector of the money, the employee, and his supervisor if necessary.

      It sounds like management is not even involved at this point. OP should inform the employee’s manager of the issue and her concerns about it affecting the charity drives and stay out of it from here on. If other people ask about his donations, she should say that it’s been resolved. She doesn’t really have the authority to police adherence to the dress code.

      It might also be time to switch to another method of charity drives if this one is about to blow up. Maybe a less public one, or one with a higher buy-in so it won’t be so conspicuous when someone doesn’t donate. And IA that it’s weird for an employee to be so invested in getting a company to match $1 donations, but I’m guessing it isn’t just about the $1 donations. Maybe he feels screwed over by the company in general and this is just the incidence he’s chosen to make a big deal about.

    4. louise*

      When I worked somewhere with a charity donation = jeans day, we all got stickers when we paid. The stickers had the name of the charity on them and the point was that customers (well, it was government, so just the general public, I guess) would then know why we were dressed casually, and, theoretically, perhaps decide to make a donation themselves. So that’s how people would know if someone hadn’t donated.

    5. Colette*

      If he doesn’t like the charity, he could simply dress as he normally would. Since he’s dressing down without contributing, I doubt that’s his objection.

  11. jag*

    I read #1 and think “Who gives a sh1t about stuff like this”? There are far more important things to worry about, even far more important little things to worry about than.

    “Now other departments are getting more and more upset/angry about it every month that goes by” The guy “taking advantage” of this is perhaps rather lame. The people getting actually angry have serious issues if this makes them actually angry.

    1. MK*

      To begin with, you don’t get to decide what’s important for other people.

      Two, seeing a coworker violating a workplace rule with no consequences repeatedly is demoralising, no matter how insignificant the infraction.

      Three, usually when people complain about small things, there are bigger issues also. I doubt someone who behaves like an entitled jerk over a charity drive will be a model coworker in all other respects.

      1. jag*

        I don’t get to decide but I’m perfectly free to to look down on them. Which I do. You’re free to look down on me if you like. Feel free.

        “usually when people complain about small things, there are bigger issues also. I doubt someone who behaves like an entitled jerk over a charity drive will be a model coworker in all other respects.”

        That is certainly true sometimes, but in the absence of other info, it’s a great way to justify being petty.

        If he’s a problem in other areas, have at it. But he’s not paying £1 each month get someone angry? Whatever. LOL.

        1. Colette*

          The issue isn’t the money, it’s that he’s taking advantage of a benefit he isn’t entitled to. If a group of coworkers paid for a water cooler and he regularly used it without contributing, there’d be the same issue.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Totally different. Taking water without paying affects the other water fund members. Dressing down without donating affects nobody except the busybodies who are paying way too much attention to what other people are doing.

            1. Magda*

              It’s certainly not the hill I’d ever pick to die on, but I don’t think it makes someone a “busybody” to be annoyed by what the coworker is doing. If I’d paid for X benefit and then someone came along and did X without paying with no apparent consequences, I’d feel like “Well why did I bother paying then?”

              And yes, I realize it’s a donation to charity and people should want to give that anyway. I totally get that this is a small-potatoes issue at the end of the day. But the coworker’s still pulling kind of a jerk move.

              1. jag*

                Annoyed yes. I’d probably be annoyed, at least briefly, if I knew of this. But angry, which the OP mentions, is a bit much.

                Being a busybody would be checking up if the guy paid if that wasn’t your role in the office.

            2. Colette*

              Well, the reason anyone can dress down is because people are paying for the privilege – if no one contributed, the normal dress code would apply.

        2. Sunflower*

          It’s not really about the jeans though- It’s about him thinking he doesn’t have to follow company policy even though everyone else does which has huge affects on employee morale regardless of what polcy isn’t being followed.

          What should have happened here is once he said ‘i’m not donating til the company matches’, manager should have said ‘That’s absolutely fine but if you won’t be donating, you need to follow the regular dress code’. Not sure why the manager doesn’t think he has any leeway here.

          1. Blue_eyes*

            Exactly. It’s not really about the clothes, but about his attitude that he doesn’t have to follow the rules. At the very least a manager (or peer who has a good relationship with him) should let him know that his actions will cause tension with his coworkers. Coworkers who think you’re an entitled jerk are not going to work well with you.

            1. Zillah*

              Yes. I also suspect that he’s the one telling people he’s not donating, maybe along with his paltry excuse for dressing down anyway.

              I’ll be honest, and think of me as a busybody if you’d like – this sort of thing would bother me, not because of the dressing down but because of the principle. If you don’t like the policy or if you don’t want to donate if the employer doesn’t match, that’s fine, but then you should talk to someone about it and/or just not participate.

              I mean, I don’t think I’d go ask the OP about it, but it would definitely affect my opinion of the person.

          2. jjw*

            Why does the company have a policy about whether people donate to charity? I’m all for encouraging people to donate to charity, but treating them differently if they choose not to seems screwed up to me.

    2. Sunflower*

      I’m getting that this could be a bitch eating crackers scenario. Maybe this guy is doing other stuff that pisses people off but coworkers don’t have any real ground to complain that stuff on and this is a blatant ‘violation of the rules’ or whatever.

      That being said- yes it would annoy me too. I wouldn’t say I would be angry about it but I would be hella annoyed by the smugness of it.

      1. Ife*

        I disagree. If my workplace had this policy and I found out that someone was dressing down without paying while I had been paying every month for the same privilidge, I think that would be the end of me making donations at work. It jeopardizes the program if other employees are aware that he’s not donating but still taking advantage of the casual dress code.

        1. jag*

          If the only reason people are giving is the “benefit” of dressing down, that indicates either that there’s a lot of desire for more casual dress on the part of the staff and/or that people don’t care about the charity’s being supported much at all.

          Which is useful info for management.

          1. Zillah*

            But I’m not sure why you’re using the plural here. From what the OP said, this is one person.

  12. MsChnandlerBong*

    I personally hate dress-down days because of a bad experience I had when I was in college. At my retail job, it was $5 to wear jeans for ONE day (Friday). I was doing an unpaid internship at the time, and my paying job was about 25 minutes one way from my college (and only paid like $6.75/hour; this was a while ago). I honestly didn’t have $5 to spend. Unfortunately, EVERYONE else participated, so I stuck out like a sore thumb when I was the only one still wearing khakis and a dress shirt. I don’t know if people thought I was too stuck up to wear jeans, or if they realized I couldn’t afford it, but either way, it really made me uncomfortable.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yeah, I don’t like group activities that end up with one person feeling singled out or uncomfortable because of money, ability, whatever.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I know we have talked about this here before, but companies need to realize that even $1 can be a lot for an employee and cause them and their family stress. There are tons of people out there who truly have nothing extra. Maybe if everyone in your office is making 1000k it’s different, but that is really never the case.

    3. Afiendishthingy*

      FIVE dollars when they were paying you $6.75 an hour? That’s outrageous.

      1. Artemesia*

        No it was worse. They were paying her NOTHING as an intern. She was making 6.75 on her part time job.

        1. Zillah*

          I read it the same way as Afiendishthingy – it was at her retail job. Either way, though, it’s still pretty terrible.

    4. The Strand*

      Kinda makes me think less of the people you were working with that they never took any action.

    5. Grinch*

      Me too. I was temping this winter and didn’t take part in the “pay to wear a Xmas jumper” day, because I don’t own one and was not going to spend money on one, and it was all I heard about all day – inc comments about being a grinch and so on. Ugh

      1. TheLazyB*

        I had an hr advisor rant at me about this. Two kids, her and her husband all needing jumpers.

        I organised it. I do not own a Christmas jumper. I pinned baubles, Santa and Rudolph onto a plain black jumper. Job done.

  13. jag*

    Also, in regards to “usually when people complain about small things, there are bigger issues also. I doubt someone who behaves like an entitled jerk over a charity drive will be a model coworker in all other respects.”

    It’s worth thinking about the cognitive bias sometimes called the “halo effect” and at least being aware of how it can influence us.

    1. fposte*

      I’ve usually heard the negative version being called the horns effect–though around here “bitch eating crackers” mode is a more dominant reference to the same thing.

  14. Applegate Skinner*

    #4 – I respectfully disagree with Alison on this one. Delete the call. If they call back and you happen to pick up, either just hang up or say, “sorry, can’t help you” and then hang up. If you use Alison’s line: “We don’t release personal information about employees so I’m unable to help you.” then you’re confirming that the person in question is indeed an employee, or at least it sure sounds like you are and that might be all the information they need. And as others have mentioned, you don’t know that it’s about debt collection; it could be someone with more sinister intentions.

    1. TotheM*

      Good point–I don’t even want to confirm that the employee does (or once did) work here. None of their business without a court order.

        1. TotheM*

          Unfortunately we’re a little company, with no HR department. I’m the closest thing we’ve got (which is actually why I started reading AAM).

  15. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – I’m having a really hard time imaging an office paying this much attention to this one person and his dress down days. How does anyone even know enough to suspect? How many people are involved in this thing?

    The way I think about it is this – you personally aren’t going to compel him to cough up the money, so it’s on his manager to deal with as a dress code issue. And everyone else needs to get back to work and stop fixating on this.

    1. Sadsack*

      I agree with you. It seems that if OP is the person collecting the money, then it is likely OP who started telling others about the guy not paying, which I think is a bad thing to do. Tell his manager or whoever else can do something about it, but telling other random coworkers is a problem.

  16. Jessie*

    #1: I don’t like the concept because I feel like it guilts people into donating to a charity, especially if almost everyone participates. “Oh, look at that guy, he’s wearing a suit so he must not have donated”. I am also wary of things like this, especially when the charity is chosen by a different group of people every month, because there are a lot of bad and ineffective charities out there. I personally like to do a ton of research before I donate to charities and tend not to participate in charity drives like this, not because I’m feeling uncharitable, but because I often don’t have chance to do the research or I have done the research and don’t like what I found.

    My recommendation would be to have some sort of alternative. “Although we encourage you to donate to “Charity Such-and-such this month, as an alternative you can pledge to donate $1 to a charity of your own choosing instead.” Yeah, you might get people who pledge and then never donate, but at least this way they have an option.

    1. LBK*

      Do people really have time to worry about this kind of shit? Excuse my French, but we’ve done “donation for jeans” days in my office and no one wastes a second looking around seeing who’s still wearing khakis and thinking evil thoughts about them for not donating. Grow up. Yeesh.

      1. Cat*

        I mean, clearly they do given that everyone in the OP’s office is fixated on this one guy who everyone apparently knows didn’t donate.

        1. LBK*

          My impression is that he’s the one making a big stink about it and people are annoyed by his drama, not by his choice to donate or not donate.

        2. LBK*

          Oh, and I was responding specifically to Jessie’s statement that doing a donation day guilts people into donating because they think they’ll stick out if they’re not wearing jeans that day. I just don’t think adults should care about that kind of thing – it’s not your business whether everyone donates or not, and to attempt to draw any inferences about that person based on whether they donate $1 to a charity is petty.

          FWIW, when I’ve participated it’s purely because of the jeans aspect, not because I really care about contributing to the charity in question. I sure hope no one is looking at me thinking “Wow, that LBK sure is a generous and kind person for donating” – the only charity I’m concerned with on those days is the Comfort For LBK’s Legs Fund.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            Hahaha! I don’t mind dressing business casual most days, but there are also days like today when I would have gladly shelled out a couple bucks to the Comfort For Fiendishthingy’s Legs Fund.

          2. Sunflower*

            I’ve also been places where people just simply forget that it’s a charity dress down day

            1. fposte*

              I think I would give money and then dress up. I don’t like the system and that would be my polite way of messing with it.

                1. fposte*

                  Exactly! And if you’re doubly formal, doesn’t that mean you’re being formal for somebody else as well as yourself, same as you could put in a dollar for somebody else?

                2. LBK*

                  I think I’m going to talk to my manager about having Top Hat, Cane and Monocle Fridays. You have to donate a silver half-dollar to participate.

                  We did have Bowtie Thursdays on one of my old teams, but that was just for our own amusement.

    2. Nobody*

      I like to research charities before I make substantial donations, but in this case, it’s less than $2. Unless the charity is supporting something that is in opposition to my values, I would not be terribly upset about donating $2 to a charity that’s not my favorite. I certainly wouldn’t take a stand over it.

      1. Sarah*

        $2 x 52 Friday Jeans Days in a year = $104. Still not substantial, but more than I would want to donate to a charity that I don’t support.

      2. jjw*

        I think you could make a case that these sorts of events encourage people to be indiscriminate in their giving. My company has often sponsored fundraising for charities because they promote some fun event where everyone gets to dress up and eat cupcakes. But if I ask anyone what the charity does, they never know and they really don’t care. You could say that doesn’t matter, but it reduces their interest in finding a charity that actually does some good.

    3. Mander*

      My husband worked in an office that did this regularly and sometimes he objected to the charity in question (they were all selected by whoever volunteered to organize it). But in those cases he just didn’t dress down, and nobody cared. The one time someone harangued him about it he just said that he didn’t care for the charity and that shut the objections down pretty quickly.

      Here in the UK there are a *lot* more people asking for charity donations than I ever experienced back home in the US. You can’t walk around most shopping districts without being accosted by “chuggers” (charity muggers) wanting you to sign up for regular direct debit donations and it gets very tiresome. They come around to my house all the time, too, so I’ve gotten much better at saying no without guilt.

      1. Betty (the other Betty)*

        “chuggers” (charity muggers)
        That’s a great word!

        They are closely related to the “Clipboard Zombies” we have in my town, who walk around asking, “Do you have minute for the environment?” or “Are you a registered voter?” and want you to sign a petition of some sort. (Which sometimes I do, but being asked 6 times in 3 blocks is a bit much!)

        1. Delyssia*

          I have been known to say something like, “I support your cause, but I won’t [donate/sign petitions/whatnot] in the street, because I don’t support that.” The key is that I keep walking while I do so, so I can’t get sucked in.

          1. jjw*

            The best reason for not donating on the street is that the chuggers may well be taking a cut. They’re not always volunteers.

  17. Sticker Days*

    #1 – We have have Jeans Days Friday once a quarter for charity. You purchase a sticker that’s about 2″ in diameter. It’s big enough to be seen, but not obnoxious. When you wear your jeans, you must wear the sticker. If you don’t have both, it is a dress code violation, subject to warnings, etc. If you lose your sticker, too bad because they stop selling stickers the Thursday before. It’s the same sticker every time and I assume they buy then in bulk. (I guess if you’re a cheapskate, you could try to save it from quarter to quarter. Dating them with a marker could take care of that.) Perhaps your company could come up with something similar.

    1. Afiendishthingy*

      This just strikes me as really infantilizing. They want to do a little voluntary charitable donation drive, sounds fine to me, they want to have a casual day once in a while, I don’t have a problem with that. But I don’t think they should be linked and the don’t-lose-your-sticker thing just sounds like elementary school to me.

      1. Cat*

        Yeah, and then if your sticker falls off half-way through the day (and when do they not?), you get an official warning for a dress code violation? That seems like a recipe for problems.

      2. The Strand*

        I agree. If someone is repeatedly abusing the system, fine, but treat people like adults and with an assumption of good faith!

    2. Sunshine Brite*

      That’s the exact set-up my old job had too for a major charity. People liked it because although we were customer facing, our customers required direct care so our work clothes often ended up gross anyway and we were pretty casual on the side of business casual.

    3. Hlyssande*

      Mine does the same thing, but it’s once a month for the summer months. And it’s for United Way (ugh).

      There’s a ridiculous level of participation in our office because when we moved here three years ago, they abolished casual Fridays. I never do it.

    4. Cupcake*

      Yeah, I’ve had this as well in various workplaces. You have to purchase a $5 sticker to wear (and please note that it’s $5 per day, not for the whole week) and it’s large enough for people to read the slogan, “I’m dressed this way for United Way!”

      You couldn’t re-use the sticker either. They would leave horrible little sticky bits on your clothes when you removed them, but weren’t sticky enough to re-affix to a new piece of clothing.

  18. Camellia*

    Per #1: I worked for a company once that did this. Donations were made ahead of time and you received a sticker (think of the “I voted today” stickers) so when you wore your jeans you had to also wear the sticker. So no sticker, no jeans. To my knowledge no one “violated” this code.

    This was all handled very well overall. There was no pressure, and about a 30% participation rate so if you didn’t participate you didn’t stand out like a sore thumb.

    1. Camellia*

      Hah! Sticker Days and I were typing our stuff at the same time; weird to post and then see an almost identical comment directly above.

  19. The Cosmic Avenger*

    For #4, if you’re in the United States it’s very helpful to quickly read up on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). While most protections apply directly to the alleged debtor, there are provisions that are relevant to the employer, like:

    – debt collectors may not communicate with anyone more than once (unless the third party requests more contact or the information given the first time was not correct or complete)
    – debt collectors may not call the debtor’s place of work when they are not allowed to take personal calls
    – debt collectors may not use the debt collection agency’s name unless the third party requests it

    I’ll post some links about the FDCPA in a reply to this comment.

    1. TotheM*

      Thanks! I’ve been reading a bit about that as well since the voicemail (which I deleted). So even if they do call back, it sounds like they can only do it once.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Well, the whole reason the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act exists is because debt collectors can be pretty sketchy. I’m sure there are a few decent ones out there that adhere to the law, but the abusive ones can be very predatory, threatening to garnish wages, have people arrested, get them fired, etc.

  20. bkanon*

    Maybe I watch different TV shows than other commenters so far. My first thought on #4 wasn’t debt collector. It was bounty hunter!

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, that’s what I understood skip tracing to be. But I suppose there’s some overlap between that and debt collection, since they’re both just hunting people.

  21. Mimmy*

    #5 reminds me a little of a previous job where I was hired as a Teapot Coordinator, but my direct supervisor referred to us as Teapot Clerks. The job was data entry & verification.

  22. NickelandDime*

    Letter 1: My company does this. I don’t like it. I don’t pay. I don’t dress down, because that would be very unfair, and it wouldn’t support my spirit of boycotting this crap. They make me sign a piece of paper every year stating I won’t be paying. I defiantly sign it and hand it directly to the person in charge of the program. These kinds of programs cause the types of issues described in the letter, and they are distasteful for the reasons Allison outlined. Companies, stop this. Please and thank you.

    1. NickelandDime*

      Oh and our cash doesn’t go to charity. It goes into the pool to pay for office parties and stuff. Gah.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        So it’s not even for a “voluntary” charity donation, it’s to support an event that is supposed to be for ALL employees?? That’s called OVERHEAD. If your employer doesn’t want to throw an office party, then don’t throw one! Or is this organized like an after-hours happy hour, completely voluntarily and completely by and for the employees?

        1. Camellia*

          This! Sheesh!

          So if you don’t pay are you required to absent yourself from these activities?

    2. Sunflower*

      Wait your company makes you sign a paper that you won’t participate? I find that really really strange.

      1. Sunflower*

        What does the paper say/mean? You aren’t allowed at office parties where the fund collected from jeans day are put towards?

      2. LBK*

        Yeah, totally agreed – the donation part is kind odd but understandable, but signing off officially that you aren’t donating? Really, really weird.

        1. NickelandDime*

          Once a year we are asked to pay $20 to wear jeans once a week. The $20 goes toward a pot to pay for office parties, etc. There are 50 employees. They allegedly use this money to pay for activities for birthday parties, lunch and learns and employee appreciation activities. All of these activities take place during the work day.

          Yes, this is OVERHEAD. No, they don’t need to take money from employees to do any of this stuff for us, because it’s not necessary.

          I’ve tried to sneak out of stuff, but they come by and make us participate. So folks that don’t pay don’t wear jeans, but are more or less required to participate in the activities.

          The paper has some stupid clip art of jeans and it has a box, yes I will pay the $20 and participate and another box that says no, I won’t pay and I won’t wear jeans. You also have to sign it.

          I think it is very wrong and messed up and I refuse to do it. Throw the party or don’t. But don’t make me pay for it…Come on son! LOL

          1. Colette*

            I’m ambivalent on parties of that sort at work, but I know some people really like them, and some people really like wearing jeans to work. If the company is not willing to fund parties, this seems like a reasonable way to make two groups of people happy.

          2. LBK*

            Oh, okay, I guess it’s slightly less weird if both the donors and non-donors have to sign off. But yeah, they shouldn’t be collecting money for that anyway. If someone wants to chip in their own money to get something a little extra for a particular event or for their close office friend’s birthday, fine, but the basics that are shared by all should definitely be covered by the company.

            1. NickelandDime*

              I can take or leave the parties. I think the company should pay for those kinds of things though, and we shouldn’t be asked to fund them. If you won’t give people yearly COL pay raises, etc., and then ask for money to fund work parties, I think that’s a problem. I can take or leave wearing jeans on Fridays. I also think here, either it’s okay to wear jeans on Fridays or it isn’t. You shouldn’t have to pay to do that either. And there is some pressure. One year my manager called to ask me if I turned my form in, because they wanted to make sure people weren’t wearing jeans that didn’t pay. I got really heated with him, and asked him if he’d ever seen me wearing jeans on Fridays, knowing I don’t pay. He weakly admitted no, and then said he was just doing what he was asked to do. No, they were trying to apply the pressure to get me to pay. I refused to fall for it. I think the guy in the first letter is dead wrong. Don’t wear jeans if you aren’t going to pay. But the company set up this kind of drama in the first place with this silly policy!

  23. Allison*

    What I think about dress codes or “dress down for charity” days is irrelevant, the fact is that OP 1’s company *does* have a dress code, and people are only allowed to “dress down” if they donate a small amount to charity. He wasn’t being asked to give much, and he was told the employer wouldn’t be matching his donation, so his reasoning for purposefully breaking the rules to make a point is ridiculous. Someone does need to step in and tell him off, and if he still doesn’t comply, they need to do whatever they normally do for dress code violations, or people with bad attitudes.

  24. Blue_eyes*

    Re: #1. This guy is a jerk and he’s setting himself up for strained relationships with coworkers. The actual details here aren’t a big deal, but he’s showing that he thinks he’s above following the rules and policies of the office. That kind of attitude is a very quick way to lose the respect and good-will of your coworkers. I would guess he probably does other annoying things as well. If someone who was generally helpful, friendly, and did great work was acting this way, the coworkers would probably let it slide or write it off as “that’s just one of Joe’s quirks”. At the very least his manager should talk with him about how his actions are being perceived by coworkers, because he’s probably too clueless to figure it out on his own.

  25. illini02*

    #1 Seems pretty petty to me. I mean its a dollar (pound). Is it really worth getting up in arms about? And while I understand “the principle” of the thing, since he is getting an “unearned” perk, why are so many people monitoring what this guy is doing anyway? If he decides to donate a dollar, does he have to make some grand gesture so everyone is aware of it this time? It just seems like one of those instances that if everyone worries about themselves than things would be much smoother.

    #3 Yes its fair. It would be similar to if there was an external candidate applying and they made them do an interview first before even getting to the assessment stage. You are more proven to them, so they don’t need to interview you first.

    1. Mephyle*

      #1 The fact that it’s only £1 is a red herring. If there were no charity donations involved at all, but one guy was not following the dress code, and not being disciplined, while the code was being enforced for everyone else, people would still feel it unfair. It’s not the money, but the principle.

      1. illini02*

        I still say its better to focus on what you are doing that what other people aren’t doing. Life is much easier that way

  26. Blue_eyes*

    Re: #4. These calls are bizarre. I got one this year looking for someone I went to college with. They said he had listed me as a reference (huh? I barely knew the guy) and asked if I had any way to get in touch with him (if he applied for a job, or an apartment or something, wouldn’t you have his contact info?). I have no idea how they got my phone number since this guy was only an acquaintance of mine. I told them honestly that I had no way to get in touch with him. After I hung up I sort of wished I’d kept them on the line longer and asked more about who they were and why they were calling just to see what kind of lies they would spin.

  27. Wilton Businessman*

    #1. If the guy continues to be a jerk about it, then the one obvious solution has been overlooked…stop doing it.

    Over the course of the last year, we have raised $XXX for charities thorough our “dress down for charity” events. We appreciate everyone’s participation, in raising money for charity. As of next month, we will go back to our normal dress code and there will be no more “dress down for charity” days.

    1. fposte*

      Can you explain a little about why you decided to enact the program and why you decided to discontinue it? It’s interesting to hear from the side of the people who make these calls.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        It was never the intention to have the program go on forever. We raised a lot of money for charity, we may do it again in the future. We will be going back to normal dress code starting at the first of next month.

    2. LBK*

      I’m not a fan of caving in to one whiny baby’s demands, especially when the trade off is annoying employees who might like the program. I much prefer to Ferberize my employees.

      1. Mephyle*

        It gives the jerk a lot of power (even if he isn’t aware of it) to cancel the program because he won’t get with it. There are good reasons to give it up (detailed by many commenters above), but this would be a bad reason.

  28. Graciosa*

    For LW#3 – there are no requirements that hiring processes be fair, so it’s generally better not to worry about it and waste your energy on something you can’t change. The exceptions are violations of law (hiring based on prohibited categories for companies covered by the applicable statute), but outside of that you’re not going to have any recourse.

    A hiring manager can hire only people who wear navy suits to the interview, or have a visible piercing, or claim to be Packers fans, or are friends with the CEO. There is nothing you can do about it, even if none of these have anything to do with the job.

    It is perfectly natural to want to feel that you have a “fair” chance at any particular job, but you don’t.

    This is a race with one finish line, but everyone starts at a different point on the track. Your relative positioning may depend upon your education and experience – or alumni connections, professional network, attire, and whether you made a comment about the interviewer’s bag before you were seated.

    Do the best you can to get to the finish line (unless you decide not to bother part way through, which is also fine) but focus your attention on your own performance. Worrying about everyone else is a distraction that does nothing to move you forward.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I really like the way you’ve framed that, it such a good way of looking at the hiring process.

  29. MaryMary*

    I have a different twist on OP 5’s problem. Occasionally coworkers introduce me with an inflated title. It’s usually in a sales situation or when we’re giving the full court press to an existing client. I can’t say anything in front of the client, and whenI bring it up afterwards my concerns are swept aside. It’s so dumb, because my actual title is on my business cards and the company website. And it’s a perfectly fine title!

  30. C*

    OP #3, I think the problem is you are mixing up the definition of fair and equal. In this case, I would say that you are being treated fairly, everyone who’s applying for the job will be assessed. It just so happens that this other person was assessed in a slightly different way than most of the other candidates. Your question indicates that you want everyone treated the same. The problem is that, this is not an efficient way to do things, and it’s almost always impossible to treat people exactly the same in an interview process.

    For example, if you were to treat everyone equally, you’d have to ask everyone the exact same questions. And some companies do, and that is an awful way to interview. If you couldn’t ask good follow-ups based on the answers, then you aren’t going to get a good idea of the interviewee.

    So ignore what everyone else is doing and focus on doing the best you can do.

  31. Grey*

    #4: Please don’t take this advice for all inquiries, since some of them can be legitimate and beneficial to the employees. Simply ask the caller for a signed release form. If the employee needs something verified, they would have signed one.

    I usually say something like, “I’m unsure who that is, but if you send me a signed consent form, I can look up the information for you.” If it’s legit, they’ll be happy to send it to you. In fact, they’ll probably expect you to ask for it.

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