my job offer was pulled after I said the insurance wouldn’t meet my needs

A reader writes:

I received a job offer. I’d requested more money (I was lowballed pretty hard, and the manager at one point said that they often don’t pay market wages, and apparently there is even a regional joke based on the pay) and a certain schedule. At the time of the offer, the schedule wasn’t even refined yet or she didn’t know what it was, so I figured I could ask. I also asked about benefits information.

After a few email exchanges with HR about benefits, I realized their health insurance is one of the ones exploiting the ignorance of folks and claiming loopholes where there are none for my form of birth control. I would’ve had to pay $80/month just for birth control. I responded to the HR person to thank them for all their help and let them know the insurance would not meet my needs.

I had called the manager two days in a row and left messages. I had had no call back for several days so I called again. The manager said she thought I’d rescinded my application (!), saying she’d received my email to HR and thought I wasn’t interested. I was very confused, given that at no point did I say I didn’t want the job; I simply said the insurance did not meet my needs. She had offered the job to someone else and for a while didn’t want to admit the offer was no longer on the table for me. She said, “Do you want to work for somewhere that can’t pay you well and won’t give you the schedule you want?” I informed her at that point I didn’t even know what the schedule was and hadn’t been informed what the final offer was, given that no one actually communicated with me at all during this time. After asking “Is the offer rescinded for me then?” about twice, and after she danced around and didn’t say anything (I was honestly just confused by all of this and wanted a straight answer), she finally said that the offer was no longer available to me.

My partner was more angry about this than I was. I was upset about being poorly treated (I feel this was rude and unprofessional on their part) but I consider it a bullet dodged. My partner wants me to try to speak to their manager/supervisor and let them know what happened. I feel like it’s a lost cause at this point and see no reason to do so. Thoughts?

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked, “When you told them that the insurance wouldn’t meet your needs, what exactly did you say in that email? And what were you expecting to happen after that?”

The letter-writer responded:

I thanked them and then said the insurance wouldn’t meet my needs. I didn’t say “so I won’t take it”; there was no vague language like that at all.

I actually didn’t have all the details of the offer yet, like what days I would work or whether they wanted to pay me more. The email was sent to HR, not the manager, although I found out later it was forwarded to her.

So, here’s the thing: A flat statement that an element of an offer “won’t meet your needs” is potentially going to be interpreted as “this offer won’t work for me.”

Now, the employer handled this poorly in several ways: They should have responded to you and either told you that the offer was final, including the health insurance, or attempted to negotiate with you. Instead, they prematurely assumed you were turning down the offer and just moved on. They also should have responded to your phone calls after this happened.

So I’m not defending the employer here.

But you didn’t handle this beautifully either. If I made an offer to someone and after discussing an element of it, they flatly told me that it wouldn’t meet their needs, I’d be wondering why they didn’t follow that up with something else, like “So unfortunately I won’t be able to accept” or “Would you be able to go up on salary to make up for the hit on insurance?” If they didn’t do that and just told me it wouldn’t meet their needs, I’d be left pretty nonplussed.

It also sounds like you were assuming that your emails with HR weren’t part of the official discussion about the offer, since they weren’t going to the hiring manager, but during offer discussions, HR and managers are very much in communication and are sharing their discussions with the candidate with each other. What you say to HR is assumed to be as much a part of your response to the offer as what you say to the hiring manager.

The hiring manager explained her thinking when she she said, “Do you want to work for somewhere that can’t pay you well and won’t give you the schedule you want?” At that point, she’s thinking: “We already talked about the fact that the pay is below market. We’re not going to be able to give you the schedule you wanted. And now you’re saying that the health insurance doesn’t meet your needs. This isn’t the right match. I want to hire someone who’s going to be happy about the offer and not feel like working here is a hardship.”

Again, she should have closed the loop with you after you had your conversation with HR. She shouldn’t have ducked your calls. She should have been straight with you. But I can’t totally blame her for concluding that this wasn’t a great pairing for either of you.

As for your partner’s suggestion to go over the manager’s head and complain: That’s not going to get you anywhere. In the employer’s eyes, you’re going to be the candidate who said the offer wasn’t acceptable and then was upset when they moved on to someone else.

Going forward, I’d just make a particular point of being really clear when you’re negotiating. If you say an offer (or a piece of an offer) doesn’t work for you but you want to keep talking about ways to resolve that, you need to say that second part explicitly. Otherwise, people may assume you’re walking away.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 344 comments… read them below }

  1. HigherEd Admin*

    If I had received your email, as either HR or the HM, I would have read it as you being on your way to turning down the offer. I would have certainly replied for clarity, but I don’t think the employer was off-base in assuming that your email indicated that you were no longer interested in the role.

    Just curious, but what action(s) would the employer have to take in order for you to accept the job? You already said you didn’t like the pay, now you don’t like the benefits, and the schedule was still up in the air. Was there anything that would have made you accept the job, had it still been on the table? It sounds like you would have turned it down in the end anyway.

    1. LW*

      Well because the manager never got back to me, I didn’t know that the pay was going to remain the same and I didn’t even know the hours/schedule. If they had paid a bit more and given me what I wanted in terms of schedule I would’ve been able to take the position. After hearing about the benefits, I never heard back at all. Until I called them. If they had called me and said all those same things, it was likely I was going to turn it down.

      My partner was way more upset about me getting the job than I was. There were other red flags in the interview process that I was sort of minimizing (intense disorganization for example, but they were saying that they were low staffed and any place that doesn’t have enough staff can get disorganized pretty fast). I was way more upset that the manager dodged my calls and no one got back to me in anyway. There wasn’t even an email response from HR that said “Oh so it sounds like this won’t work for you.” Or “Unfortunately we cannot change that. Are you still interested despite that?” If they had paid more to make up for the 1,000/year pay cut with the insurance, I would’ve thought about it.

      1. Elysian*

        It sounds though like you didn’t ask for those things. When you say, “I didn’t know that the pay was going to remain the same,” did you make a counteroffer? Or did you just say “that sounds low to me” and expect them to come back with something higher. It sounds like in both of these cases you only did have of the negotiation – the best way to frame it is “X doesn’t sound like it will work for me because __, how about Y instead?” It sounds like you just told them things wouldn’t work for you, and didn’t offer alternative solutions. You can’t leave it up to the employer to counter-offer themselves – they never will. It’s a bit outside the norms of negotiating to expect the person who makes the first offer to come back and re-offer.

        1. LW*

          At that point the offer was on the table, so I didn’t really have the ability to counter offer? They offered me the position at X / hour. I said I was expecting closer to Y. I asked about the schedule, she said they didn’t know and were still figuring it out. I asked for a specific day off (this position was working every other weekend and “some week days” nothing more specific than that) so that I could have one day off a week with family, if it was possible. I asked her to get back to me about the schedule either way, I clearly stated I would consider the job even if they couldn’t accommodate those days off.

          I was told I couldn’t negotiate with HR. So I did not request things of HR. I had made requests to the manager who had not gotten back to me.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But … are you not hearing what people here are telling you about how what you said to HR sounded like you were turning down the offer?

            1. LW*

              I think I do hear it and won’t use that wording again. And I think your advice about being very explicit I’m still interested is something I’ll use in the future. I thought I was not allowed (given the manager’s instructions) to ask for things from the HR person, which is why I did not ask for something in return from her.

              1. Treena Kravm*

                You’re right about not negotiating with HR, but then your best bet would have been to thank HR for the information. Then you turn around and email the Hiring Manager and say that you’d like an extra $1k/year to compensate for the lack of health insurance coverage.

                1. 42*

                  Yes. The “thank you for all your help” comment, when I first read your email, signaled–to me–a pass on the offer. I know you didn’t outright state that, but that’s where your word in led me.

                  I’m sorry it didn’t work out, OP.

                2. LuvsALaugh*

                  Kinda makes me chuckle when people advise to bypass HR during hiring and negotations on offers. Had a proper counter offer been articulated to HR, HR would have communicated with the manager and if the LW had spoken to the manager the manager still would have to go to HR with the info. It’s a partnership.

                3. LW*

                  I couldn’t email the hiring manager at that point and had already called and left multiple voicemail messages. I felt that calling again and leaving another only a few hours after calling earlier that day would be way too pushy. Ideally, I would’ve done this and agree.

      2. Christian Troy*

        AAM has some pretty great posts about salary negotiation. I think it would help in the future to do some prep work so you are better prepared to have a conversation with HR.

      3. BRR*

        They handled this very poorly. They might have been confused by your wording, namely because insurance isn’t a typical part of an offer that’s negotiated.

        1. LW*

          It turns out they almost never negotiate offers with anyone apparently. So I was dealing with folks that almost never talk about this stuff with folks, it’s usually accept it as is or move on. And I think most people who are from that area know that and just accept the offer. I’d previously successfully negotiated with employers multiple times, I’ve never had it go this bad before.

      4. Ted Mosby*

        If someone emailed me telling me they weren’t interested in something, I wouldn’t bother emailing back to say “Oh it sounds like this won’t work for you.” It just seems redundant and silly. I wouldn’t bother asking to see if they were still interested. I would have assumed they would have said so if they were.

        It is really crappy of the manager to dodge your calls though.

  2. TotesMaGoats*

    I hate to say it but if your email had said “the insurance doesn’t work for me” I would assume that you meant you were turning down the offer. Now, what the employer did was crappy but I can see why they thought you were taking yourself out of the running.

    1. baseballfan*

      I can’t imagine why someone would have taken the time to say “This aspect of the package won’t work for me” if they weren’t, in fact, turning down the offer. Yes it sounds like additional clarifying questions could/should have been asked but if you are planning to take the job, what is the point of complaining about the insurance?

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Agreed. I can only see making this statement alone as a way of turning down the offer. It would be different if the OP had tried to use it as part of a negotiation, say, for more pay to offset the out-of-pocket cost she’ll now have to pay for prescriptions under the company’s health plan, but just that statement without any additional context would lead me to believe the OP was rejecting the offer so I can see why the employer interpreted it that way.

    2. LizzieB*

      I don’t even see how what they did was crappy. I too would have interpreted that as declining an offer, and if someone turns you down, it makes sense to move on to the next person. The only error here that I see is not responding and saying, “Thank you for letting us know that our offer does not work for you. Best of luck in your job search.”

      I really don’t understand why anyone would send an email that says “That part of the offer doesn’t work for me” without follow up if they’re not turning down the job.

      1. LW*

        I guess I thought I had followed up with the manager by leaving multiple voicemails. Lesson learned.

        1. Kelly O*

          I think what is getting lost here is that you’re talking about two separate people, and in your original letter you’d said you sent the message only to the HR person, so there was a communication gap. Even if you were following up with that, it might have been better to include both in your reply.

          And not to pile-on, but I do tend to agree with the others who’ve said I would have interpreted it as a “thanks but no thanks” too. “The insurance package won’t meet my needs, but I’m still interested in discussing salary and schedule.” Or even, “Perhaps we can discuss salary, and whether that could mitigate some of the insurance costs.”

          Because to a point, the insurance is the insurance. It’s negotiated at a higher level than just an individual location, so you really can’t do much about that. But a higher rate might make that easier to take, or a more flexible schedule… you’ve said you negotiated successfully before so you know the drill.

          To borrow a phrase, and not to sound too vulgar, but when you assume, it makes “an ass of you and me.” It may seem redundant in the moment, but it never hurts to clarify with all parties, particularly in a situation like this where you don’t really know anyone that well.

          1. LW*

            I do understand that the insurance plan itself isn’t negotiable, I had been hoping to discuss salary as I’d clearly stated in my requests to talk with the manager. And the advice that I should express interest at all times during the process is advice that I’ll be using in the future.

            1. Valerie*

              Having worked for small, medium, and large corporations throughout my work history of 28 years (yes, I am older!), and having worked in the health insurance market place for many of those, I will say that health insurance is getting harder and harder to come by. It’s getting more and more expensive for employers and is usually not negotiable at all. So, just some practical advice. It’s best to quietly weigh your options, and if you can’t say anything positive about it say, “Thanks for the information” and decide your next move (i.e. negotiate for higher salary etc.) . Also, having been in the hiring managers position, most times I had a range I could offer and I would meet with the HR person and suggest a salary.

      2. Sadsack*

        Yes, I think I would have waited to see what the salary would be before responding about the insurance, especially since LW writes that she would have considered it if they’d have upped the salary. Sorry, LW, but I think you should have not said anything until you could consider the entire offer. What you did say legit sounded Luke you were turning it down.

      3. TotesMaGoats*

        The crappiness was not responding to the emails/calls and based on what LW said about how they responded when she finally got them on the phone.

        1. LW*

          That was essentially the thing I was most frustrated by, especially because I was arguing with myself about whether to keep calling after calling two days in a row and leaving messages.

          I think I better understand why this happened and I’m reading through responses to process a bit better.

          1. ZafraD*

            You may have come to a conclusion sooner, but I think the way they handled it and the other red flags you said you picked up on (like disorganization) were giving you a way out. As someone who works for a perpetually understaffed (due to not paying market value, either) and disorganized small company, I can say with confidence you’ll be ok without the stress!

  3. illini02*

    Yeah, you kind of made your bed in this one. Saying “This doesn’t meet my needs” and leaving it at that is as close to “I’m passing” as you are going to get. This sounds like you essentially were passing, but wanted THEM to come back with a counter offer instead of you trying to do so. While I understand that desire, when you are that vague, you are leaving it up to someone’s interpretation, which in this case is a pretty fair one in my opinion.

    1. LW*

      I never actually said “This doesn’t meet my needs.” The email was very specific that the insurance didn’t meet my needs. I actually wondered if that was the case, that I had been careless with language and said something like “it/this” but I’d simply said the insurance wouldn’t meet my needs because it didn’t cover basics. And I was under the impression the manager still had to get back to me about every other aspect of the offer so I was still waiting to hear back about all of that. I had also assumed they would respond so we could continue to talk, instead of just radio silence. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

      1. Cat*

        I think I would have come to the same conclusion as the HR person here because my thought process would have been “the insurance doesn’t meet the candidate’s needs; I can’t change the insurance package this job offers; thus, we’re done.” To me, saying insurance doesn’t meet your needs isn’t saying it is something you can accept with more money and a better schedule to compensate for.

        1. Koko*

          Yes, if I were the HR person receiving that email, I would think that you wouldn’t have made the statement unless you expected me to do something with the information – and since there was no question or request, I would probably guess that either you were providing it as an explanation for turning down the offer, or you were expecting me to be able to change the benefits package/offer details, which I can’t. Otherwise, (not to use callous language) why do I care that the health insurance doesn’t meet your needs? Why did I as an HR rep need to know that you think the insurance sucks if I wasn’t expected to do anything with that knowledge?

        2. LW*

          You’re absolutely right that the insurance package can’t change. I was still waiting to hear back about pay at that point and planned to talk to the manager about it. But they never called me back after I left messages. And you’re right, other people may not accept the role no matter what else if the insurance sucks, but if they had been willing to pay more and given me a certain schedule I probably would’ve taken the position as I understood it at that time.

          It turns out though that it was about half the hours that they initially said it was. So the offer wouldn’t have worked anyway. The point of talking to someone about what happened wasn’t necessarily to get a job, as I don’t think I want a job there, but to let them know what happened I guess. My partner was way more angry about the situation than I was and really wanted me to do so but I thought it was pointless. Seems Alison agrees.

          1. Cat*

            Yeah, it sounds like they’re flaky and this was never going to work, so perhaps best to write off as a bullet dodged.

            1. LizNYC*

              +1 to that. Plus the other red flags you highlighted before. And the fact that everyone in your area knows they underpay isn’t a great sign either (it’s unlikely that you’d be able to get a higher pay, much less what you should be earning).

            2. Manders*

              Agreed, the lousy insurance was only one of many red flags. I don’t think that a company that pays so far below market rates that it’s a regional joke, doesn’t negotiate salaries, and blames flakiness on being understaffed would magically become a good place to work if LW was offered $80 more per month.

              1. LW*

                Very good point! Thankfully I figured this out before accepting the job and making a long distance move a few weeks sooner than I normally would have in order to accommodate the ASAP start date.

            3. Zillah*

              Agreed. I think the OP could have been clearer in her communication, but this sounds like an awful place to work on many levels.

            4. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, the whole thing sounds like a big bullet to me. How a company conducts themselves in the interview / negotiation process tells you a lot about how they operate. Flaky is not a place I’d want to work for–what if they flaked on my paycheck!?

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, I think you’re parsing the language a little too closely here. Even if you didn’t say “it” doesn’t meet my needs, you said “the insurance doesn’t meet my needs,” and you (apparently) did not add “so I would need an additional 1k/year to make up for that.” The statement you gave creates an impression that the offer isn’t good enough for you because the insurance isn’t good enough for you.

        Sometimes if you want a response, you have to ask for one. If you had said, as Alison suggested, “can we talk about what we could do to fix this?” then you may have gotten a response.

        1. LW*

          That makes sense. I thought I couldn’t ask the HR person to talk about the terms of the offer (given the manager’s instructions) and my voicemail messages to the manager was me asking to talk about the offer were my equivalent of “can we talk to fix this?” It ended up not working out that way.

          1. LBK*

            If you didn’t think you could talk about the offer to the HR person, what was the point of telling them that the insurance package wouldn’t work for you? Either A) you thought they could do something about it/that they would pass the info on to the hiring manager or B) you just felt like berating a random person who was providing info you needed. Either way, I don’t understand your reasoning. Were you just trying to tell that person that their company had a bad insurance plan?

          2. Parsec*

            Re JB’s advice, if you’re using “need” language in your negotiation, you should be prepared to walk if you don’t get that. If you “need” something, and don’t get it, then it won’t work out.

            If you’re negotiating on something you want whether or not you get the concessions, you phrase it as a question “Could you come up a bit?” or in terms of what you would “like.”

            You negotiate from the position you have. That said, there’s lots of advice (particularly to women) about negotiating for job offers related to the 80% pay stat and the “Lean In” culture. No idea if OP is a woman, but I know a lot of folks are trying to sound firm and take control of their careers and all that, which can be off-putting to someone who doesn’t expect that or if it’s not the norm in their industry. I personally don’t bother with negotiations, even though I’ve been hunting from a position of strength (i.e., I already have a job). I’m either happy with the offer or not, and I decline or accept based on the total package.

      3. Jady*

        The problem is that leaving it at that creates such an empty void that the default assumption is “goodbye”.

        When you’re communicating about a job, you need to tell them what you want. They will never take no answer as an answer.

        “This insurance package doesn’t meet my needs. Are there any other options for insurance? I will need to discuss the compensation with [Manager] further to see what we can work out.”

        Something akin to that is a lot more clear about your intentions.

        But regardless the entire situation seemed pretty doomed from the beginning. Even if this particular situation had happened, it doesn’t sound like they would have given enough for the job to be worth it.

      4. Ted Mosby*

        I think you’re kind of splitting hairs here. They come off as the same; one is just more specific. If you’re given an offer you don’t like, the onus is on you to suggest something that would work. You said you didn’t use vague language like “so I don’t want it,” but that’s not vague. It’s very direct. What you said was vague.

        I’m not saying this to bully you, but I do think it’s important that what you take out of this is not just that this company is annoying and disorganized (although they were), but also that you need to both be more clear and take more responsibility for negotiations, rather than just waiting for others to contact you.

  4. Kat*

    So did the OP respond to Alison with what she actually said in the email? Or was that dodge above the full reply?

    If she didnt share what exactly she said, I’d be willing to bet it was worse than how she made it sound.

    1. LW*

      I said “The insurance does not meet my needs because it doesn’t cover basics.” And then thanked them so much for helping me figure that out. That same day I called the manager asking to speak with her about the offer. I had a back and forth with Alison via email and I believe I was a bit more specific at the time but we exchanged quite a bit so I see why she didn’t include it all.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        We did have some back and forth! Looking at it, I don’t think I do have the actual wording you sent to them, but my bigger concern was that I was trying to understand what outcome you were hoping for when you told them the insurance didn’t meet your needs. I’m still not sure I do understand that :)

        1. LawBee*

          same. Since the insurance can’t change, and the salary was lowballed, I’m wondering why LW wanted the job to begin with. I say, bullet dodged, and this is a good reminder that we’re interviewing employers as much as they are interviewing us.

        2. LW*

          I think I was hoping to talk to the manager about that when she returned my call and explicitly ask for more money to cover the paycut. I had been given instructions by her to make asks to her and get info from HR. In hindsight, I probably could’ve just not mentioned anything, but they were really puzzled by me wanting to look up information on my meds. Part of the email was me thanking the HR boss because one of the women in benefits had walked me through looking something up on the phone, and I really appreciated her help because it helped me figure out that the insurance wouldn’t cover basics, which is sort of crucial. I was sort of explaining why I even bothered to look at the insurance (they were truly baffled by this) and didn’t think that it would be interpreted that way. Now I know it would be.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            I’m probably an over-thanker so I get the urge to want to thank people for their help. In this situation, I probably would have just gone with something like, “Thanks, this is really helpful!” or “Thanks for your help! This answers my questions.” Neutral, but still lets you close the loop with HR and thank them for helping you find what you needed.

            1. Kelly O*

              Totally agree with you.

              I tend to want to over-explain sometimes, and I have to make myself remember that sometimes, less information is better. (And trust me, I feel you on this one. It’s an area with which I struggle.)

              1. AnonAnalyst*

                Hindsight’s always 20/20…but if it’s any consolation, it sounds like this employer kind of sucks anyway, so you probably dodged a bullet. Now you’re more prepared for the future when you’re communicating with employers you actually want to work for!

          2. Alternative*

            Side note: It’s pretty lousy that we usually don’t know (in the US at least) what kind of insurance coverage we will have until after you have the job. The quality and cost difference between great insurance and crappy insurance can be HUGE, depending on your health needs and what is important for you to have covered.

            1. LW*

              As someone who is often burned by this to the tune of loads of money, I was trying to be proactive about this.

              1. Alternative*

                Yeah, I can totally understand why you did that. I wish employers treated it as more normal for people to inquire about their health plans. Not all insurance is equal.

                1. _ism_*

                  I’m glad to hear another voice validating an experience I had. My HR lady had an unexpectedly negative/unprofessional reaction when I came to her with tons of questions about taking the company insurance policy vs. keeping my Obamacare, when I became eligible for the company plan. At the time I was really shocked, I went in there expecting to have my health plan questions listened to and answered thoroughly, but apparently that’s not OK around here. You’re just supposed to take it or leave it, and be happy.

          3. Ted Mosby*

            This changes things, at least for me. I still think you should have been more clear, but if you were told not to negotiate with someone, you said you didn’t like an offer, and then you called the person you were supposed to negotiate with… the whole thing is just a mess. Did HR know you were told not to negotiate with them? If, not I could easily see them reading your email then telling the manager you had rejected the offer.

            The whole thing just sounds like a mess… bullet dodged.

            1. LW*

              The entire process was definitely very messy and threw me off a lot. I have no idea what HR knew/didn’t know. And I think I understand better why people read that as a rejection of the job (and not just mentioning an aspect of the offer not working).

              But agreed, it’s better to learn now that it wouldn’t work out for either of us than after just starting the job.

              1. Windchime*

                After reading all your posts about this employer, it doesn’t surprise me that they are understaffed. It sounds chaotic there, and as others have mentioned you probably dodged a bullet with this employer. Best of luck in your search!

          4. Zillah*

            Wow. They were puzzled by you wanting to look up information on your medication? What jerks. I wish I lived in the fantasy world they do where that is in no way a big deal. I can understand why you’d want to address it if the HR people were really that clueless.

            I do think you could have handled this a bit differently, OP, but at the same time, good for you for double checking on that stuff, and I really think you dodged a bullet.

            1. LW*

              Given that they rarely negotiate, I understand better why they were so puzzled. But yeah I bet I was the only person to really ask for that information. What I was first given was a one page sheet that explained how much the insurance would cost per month (there was an HMO/PPO break down of that) from my pay check. But no breakdown of say, what a doc visit would cost, what an ER visit would cost, the Rx formulary…nothing. I had to ask repeatedly for that info and I felt I had to explain myself.

              1. Zillah*

                But… even if they rarely negotiate, I just don’t understand how they don’t field requests for the basic information you were requesting (no co-pay information, seriously??). It sounds to me like either 1) they’re only taking people who are super desperate or 2) do that thing where they act confused deliberately to throw you off-balance.

                1. LW*

                  Huh, I never considered it as a strategy to manipulate my response. I certainly hope not. But who knows.

                2. Parsec*

                  A lot of folks just don’t ask for insurance information. I never have. Caveat: Those tend to be jobs that pay enough that it doesn’t really matter whether a particular medication is covered or not.

                  Also, it helps to know how the insurance industry works. Payers (insurers) change their formularies all the time and move things up and down tier status or “preferred”/”non-preferred”, etc. so the fact that a medication is covered at an $X copay (or $0 copay) when you accept a job doesn’t mean it will be covered the next quarter. So it’s also not neccessarily useful information.

        3. LW*

          I just re-read it, you totally put my email to you on there! Sorry for missing it earlier. I was skimming the parts that I wrote (well, because I wrote them) and was trying to get to the good stuff.

          I think I understand better what you were more concerned about. I think part of the confusion is that I am trying to convey having 2 separate conversations and to them (and I think to readers) it was much more 1 conversation, and therefore the level of confusion seems weird.

          I dunno, anyway thanks for publishing my letter! I feel justified in telling my partner that trying to “complain” to anyone about this isn’t going to work out.

      2. fposte*

        That sounds even more a rejection of the offer than in the original post, though.

        Look, maybe they sucked in other ways, but I think it was a reasonable assumption on their part to read this as a declining of the offer, and I’d let go of the indignation about that.

        1. Treena Kravm*

          +1. It really sounds like a flat-out rejection to me.

          If I were the hiring manager and after getting that email from HR, saw a call from you, I would have assumed you were formally declining without even checking it. If they were anxious to hire, they might have even called the next candidate before checking your vm.

      3. Kat*

        Ok, thanks for clarifying. That sounded like you were closing the door.

        I am pretty blunt in emails because I prefer to get to the point. I wonder if you are the same?

        1. LW*

          I am very blunt/straightforward. It has previously served me well but usually I negotiate via phone. This was something I spoke about when interviewing. I think it probably comes across differently when speaking versus email.

          1. Kat*

            It does. That’s why I prefer face to face or phone conversations, so tone does get conveyed and misunderstandings are less likely to happen.

    2. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

      I was also wondering why LW didn’t share the exact wording. Even if it was as straight forward as the letter says I can’t read “Thanks for the offer. The insurance won’t meet my needs.” as anything other than turning it down. It’s as closed ended as it could be without actually saying the words “I’m going to pass.”

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I read it as “The insurance doesn’t meet my needs; thanks for letting me know”, which also reads as turning down the offer.

        Also, I would assume that any of my conversations with anyone in the company, regardless of whether it’s the hiring manager or HR or an administrative assistant, is an official communication with the company. There are no private conversations, or conversations that won’t get relayed to others involved in the process.

      2. LW*

        Oh let me clarify a bit. I wasn’t thanking them for the offer, I was thanking them for all their help in letting me figure out the insurance. I think I understand that if it had been written that way it would seem like a rejection/declining offer but that isn’t what I said.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    Sorry OP, but I would have read it as a statement that you were no longer interested in the job. The way you phrased it sounds very finite.

  6. Kay*

    I agree with AAM. If I received an email with “such and such doesn’t meet my needs” and nothing more I would assume they were turning down the offer. More than anything it seems like an incomplete thought, either it was meant to be “this doesn’t meet my needs so I need XYZ” or “this doesn’t meet my needs so thanks but no thanks”.

  7. The IT Manager*

    I agree with Alison. “This insurance doesn’t meet my needs” really sounds like I can’t take this job to me because I assume that the company’s insurance can’t be changed for one person especially if you weren’t clear that the one part that didn’t meet your needs was the birth control which could maybe be offset by a slightly higher salary.

    And the manager dodging your calls wasn’t very polite, but imagine the confusion when someone who declined the job continued calling to discuss the job! She eventually figured out there was a screw-up on her company’s part, but by then she had two people who been offered the job. And to be fair, by this point, it was obvious that you were never going to be really happy with the compensation they could offer so the second choice was the best fit for them.

    This sucks for you and sucks for them, but in the end I think you both dodged a bullet.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Yeah, this kind of seems like the dating equivalent where you just can’t come up with a time/place to meet despite repeated efforts. There comes a point where you realize neither of you is that into the other, at least enough to make it work, so it’s just not going to happen. That’s how I read this.

  8. Us, Too*

    I would also interpret that as a declination of the offer since you didn’t immediately follow up with an alternative.

    “The insurance won’t work for me.” = rejection
    “The insurance won’t work for me, so I’m hoping that we can negotiate this other thing in its place.” = negotation.

    1. LW*

      I had called the manager multiple times to say that I was hoping to negotiate the offer and hear back about other aspects of it. So I thought I’d already communicated that.

      1. Us, Too*

        Right, but simply stating that the insurance won’t work for you sounds like you’re trying to stop the negotiation and reject the offer. A negotiation counter doesn’t have such a brief, blanket statement that it won’t work.

    2. grasshopper*

      Yes! Saying that something doesn’t work for you without giving an counter offer of what does, could be viewed as declining the offer. The company should have replied to confirm your “no” but the OP sent the wrong message. There have been other AAM about how people aren’t firm enough in saying no, but in the case of hiring HR wants to hear an enthusiastic yes in response to an offer, even if there is negotiation involved.

      Seeing the OP/LW’s responses to several comments, it seems like this isn’t the job for you. I also might be reading too much into OP/LW’s responses to other comments, but I’m guessing that your partner’s strong reaction has more to do with other financial concerns since you mention that $1000 salary difference represents a large pay-cut and that the time you already invested in the interview process probably meant that you lost other income.

    3. Parsec*

      One correction. If you would consider the job even if they didn’t come up on salary, don’t go with “won’t work for me.”

      “The insurance has a few gaps, so I’m hoping that we can negotiate this other thing to help bridge those.” = negotiation

  9. Mary*

    It just sounds confusing from all sides. The OP can not accept the job offer until she knows all the details, such as pay, insurance, working hours, but perhaps the company is in a position where people join and worry about these things later.

    I think it is good the challenge a company on insurance but is there possibilities of saying “I am on play x currently, and if you pay what you normally pay for insurance towards this plan and give me the difference in a higher salary then I will be willing to accept”.

    But overall the hiring manager sounds as if she has plenty of choice and is willing to go with someone who will take the lower package.

    1. LW*

      When I was speaking with HR I didn’t realize I was negotiating with them. The manager specifically said that HR would give me info but I would be negotiating with her. I was letting them know that I appreciated their help in letting me figure out that the insurance wouldn’t meet my needs because it didn’t cover basics.

      And that same day I had that email, I had a call to the manager and left a voicemail asking that she get back to me about the other aspects of the offer.

      I think in the future it will be helpful to use Alison’s advice that I’m still interested in the position in basically every email I send to everyone about the position. It turns out that this place is not only known for lowballing but they also almost never negotiate the terms of employment there.

      1. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

        Ah, OK, I can see what you were thinking here now. You were negotiating with the manager and asked a question about insurance. HM referred you to HR for more information. After receiving the information you emailed HR to say thanks for the help and noted that the insurance doesn’t really meet your needs. However, you were thinking that you were still in negotiations with the HM and now had all the information you needed to negotiate effectively. Your email to HR sounded like the end of a conversation because you thought it was the end of a conversation with HR.

        I can kind of understand that. Unfortunately, the closed-ended nature of the statement did sound like you weren’t up for further conversation. In the future just try to always include the next step and be explicit about what you are thinking.

        Sorry OP, that really blows.

        1. LW*

          Thanks and yes, you are understanding what I am meaning. I agree, the advice that I should reiterate interest as well as ask for further conversation is advice I will use in the future.

          And thanks for the sympathy. It probably blows less than working there though.

      2. Just Another Techie*

        I’m sorry LW but for negotiating purposes, at a lot of companies, there is no functional difference between HR and the hiring manager.

        Also, if you thought HR was only providing you more details/clarification about the insurance plan, it’s a little weird and overshare-y to tell them how you feel about the plan. Just “Thank you for the information!” is sufficient unless you’re going to use the information as a negotiating chip, or as an explanation for your actions.

        1. LW*

          I tend to do what people call oversharing when I’m anxious and feel people have extended themselves or gone out of their way for me. The woman who I spoke with over the phone was so helpful and walked me through all the steps to check the prescription coverage so I really did feel super obligated to thank her via her boss and explain why I was asking so much of them. But it’s noted that in the future, I shouldn’t do this!

          1. LizzieB*

            But then why tell her that it doesn’t meet your needs, if you’re not expecting her to do something about it or turning down the offer? Just to say “Your insurance sucks”?

  10. Adam*

    While the organization’s responses to the OP were weird along with the unnecessary runaround, in regards to the OP’s initial email was that intended to be a means of opening negotiations on the subject? Medical benefits are very rarely negotiable from what I’ve seen, but if you can make a case for it you might be able to bump up your salary a bit if changing positions means a reduction in coverage.

    The way I read it it feels like the OP thought her initial email put the onus on the employer to come back with a counter offer since the benefits didn’t meet her needs, but since she didn’t actually ask for anything the employer saw it as a withdrawal of interest.

    Negotiations are a strange dance indeed, but if something is not satisfactory I think you do need to speak up about what’s important to you if you hope to get anywhere near it.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I’m not clear what the OP is trying to accomplish with the response about the health care. Maybe she wanted to make a point about the nature of the health care, but, as you say, it’s not like they’re going to go to a different system based on an applicant’s nonspecific dislike of it. I definitely would assume that if there was something the OP wanted, she’d have asked for it, and I would assume that the absence of a request means that the job wasn’t going to work for her.

      I would, it’s true, have sent a followup close-the-loop email (“I’m sorry that we couldn’t make this position work; if you find another opportunity that might suit you here in future, we’d still be interested in your candidacy”). But if the applicant said “Oh, I didn’t mean to decline the offer” at that point, it’s not for certain that I’d reinstate the process; I might already have reached out to applicant #2 and filed papers indicating applicant #1 didn’t work out.

      1. LW*

        I had made multiple requests to the hiring manager, the person I was told I was negotiating with. I was still waiting to hear back about them. As far as I was concerned, I thought I was still negotiating with them.

        And I think all I wanted was a response. At that point the hiring manager had never sent me an email, so I couldn’t email her to let her know anything. I had called multiple times to leave messages so that is what I could do.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          But a response to say what? I’m really asking. What did you want HR to say to that, especially if the manager said you wouldn’t be negotiating with HR? “Yeah, that sucks”? I mean, were you just wanting someone to commiserate with you? I’m not trying to be a jerk, I’m genuinely curious about what you wanted from HR at that point, if you thought you weren’t negotiating with them.

          1. LW*

            They were sort of weirded out by me asking very specific questions about the insurance. I was sort of explaining why I was going through the trouble, because I found out that the insurance wouldn’t meet my needs and that is sort of important to me in terms of evaluating the offer. I figured she would tell the manager that the insurance didn’t meet my needs and when the manager called me about other aspects of the offer I would ask about compensation for that. What I didn’t know is that the manager would likely say “eh, the offer stands as is,” in which case I would’ve turned it down. We were both making incorrect assumptions about what the other would do/meant and it went badly because of that. In hindsight, it probably didn’t matter why I was looking into it and that the insurance didn’t meet my needs and I should’ve just thanked them and left them puzzled.

            1. LBK*

              I think you still could’ve made that point without also saying that it wouldn’t meet your needs. Something like “I have some specific medical needs that I’d prefer to have covered or that I would need to factor into my desired salary if they aren’t.” That would’ve wrapped it all together and made it clear about what your expectations were – as it stands now, if I were already confused by your behavior, I would see a flat denial of the insurance options as a sign to just throw in the towel and move to the next person who wasn’t taking issue with the offer on so many levels.

            2. fposte*

              They wouldn’t be puzzled, though, because asking about the benefits part of an offer is pretty standard.

              1. fposte*

                Ah, okay, sorry, I missed the part where you stated they were puzzled. Yeah, that seems weird on their part to me.

                1. Parsec*

                  Asking about specific medications is a little out-of-the-ordinary, since those can be dropped by the next quarter.

            3. Treena Kravm*

              So side question: Aside from what the LW did here, how appropriate is it to ask very specific questions about coverage? Would you do it through the employer or could you ask for the plan information and call the insurance company directly? I know the LW’s issue was birth control, but what if it was about another medical condition that you wouldn’t want the employer to know about?

              1. AnonAnalyst*

                When I’ve done this I’ve usually asked if I could take a look at more specific information about the plan, and have gotten either the pamphlet for new employees or a website outlining the details, and that’s usually answered my questions.

                I think if I wasn’t able to get my questions answered from the plan information provided I’d probably try to call the insurance company rather than ask the employer unless it was something I could ask without giving a lot of detail (like, in this case, asking for more details about prescription drug coverage which doesn’t point to a specific medical concern).

                1. LW*

                  At that point I didn’t even know what insurance company to call the details were that vague.

            4. AnonAnalyst*

              Hmm, I don’t think you have to explain why you’re looking at it. I have a chronic medical condition so with more recent job offers I’ve considered I’ve done a careful evaluation of health benefits, including asking specific questions about that part of the benefits package. People have been more surprised that I’ve asked questions about the health plan or sick time because I’m guessing it’s less common than asking about others, but I haven’t ever felt like I was required to explain myself. As fposte notes, evaluating the benefits part of the offer is totally standard.

            5. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              I’m not sure how helpful this is at this point, LW, but I want to add that, at least in my own situation, having less-than-stellar insurance is so out of the question, and the cost to me would be so large, that it would be a pretty massive request to ask an employer to make up for it (for example, the different between my current plan and a low-end, but ACA compliant plan, could easily leave me with $15,000/year in extra costs). I can understand how $80 a month is a lot of money, and can really mess with your budget – but it’s not an insurmountable problem to ask for a salary increase of what is basically 50 cents an hour to make up for it.

              In many cases were people don’t have adequate insurance, they are looking at many thousands of dollars in additional cost – more than most companies what to compensate for. That may be part of why they assumed you didn’t want to keep talking – I sounded like there might be a huge gap between what they had and what you needed.

              1. LW*

                Given that it was part time, it wasn’t 50 cents less on the dollar, it was about a 3 dollar paycut (working on the information they provided to me which again had holes). I consider that substantial.

                1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                  Ah. Yes. I didn’t realize it is part time. It was only 25 hours a month?

                2. LW*

                  Because I can’t reply to Ashley the Nonprofit Exec it seems the reply button disappears after awhile. I wasn’t sure. I was trying to guess how many hours a week at first until the manager got back to me, in the worst case scenario it was almost a 3 dollar an hour paycut. It turns out that what the people who interviewed me meant to say was 30 hours a *pay period* not 30 hours a week. Which is a big difference. What the manager had told me didn’t quite measure up to the 30 hours a week I’d been given previously, so trying to figure out what I would actually bring home was very very difficult and why I was anxiously waiting for the manager to get back to me.

                3. Valerie*

                  Please don’t take this wrong, but you were offered health insurance at a part-time job!??? I worked in health benefit industry for years, and that almost never happens. At my current managerial job (full time, salaried) I get no health insurance. I had to buy in through the health marketplace (Obamacare).

    2. LW*

      Well, I had asked for other things and said that the insurance would be a big piece of it for me so I wanted to review the benefits. I had already asked for more money and questions about the schedule and the manager had not gotten back to me about either of those things. That same day I sent the email to the benefits folks I had a second voicemail to the manager asking that she call me about those aspects of the offer. It wasn’t until I called much later and the manager basically said that she’d already offered the job to someone else that she even told me that she wasn’t able to get more money. I didn’t know that before, and wished she had called me to let me know that the offer stands.

      What I didn’t know at the time was that this place is known for never really negotiating. I did know that they tend to lowball, didn’t realize it would be that hard though.

      1. KT*

        I mean this gently, but it sounds like you over-negotiated. It’s important to have one end-goal–a higher salary or strong benefits, for instance.

        If that negotiation doesnt work, you can ask for a lesser value to sweeten the pot–such as an extra vacation day–but to go for a higher salary, different schedule, and insurance is just going to make you look difficult to most hiring managers.

        1. LW*

          I actually wasn’t requesting a different schedule…she couldn’t tell me what the schedule was. So I said if it’s possible to have a certain day off for self-care if they were still building the schedule I’d appreciate it but please let me know either way. I wasn’t asking for different insurance, I know that most of the time those are set for the entire employer, I was looking into it because most of them are avoiding the law and refuse to cover something I need every month and it’s a serious paycut (like 1,000 annually) that I wanted to address salary-wise.

          When speaking with me in the interview process they wanted a long-term commitment up front so I figured they were willing to pay to retain employees (especially since the manager complained about losing some people due to pay and really needing to keep employees, I thought that was a signal they had learned to pay more to retain people) I was wrong about that.

          1. Former Usher*

            Funny how employers with lower pay and poor benefits ask for a long-term commitment up front.

          2. Amy*

            I think it’s possible you came off as a little high-maintenance in this situation, and you might want to avoid that in the future — it can come off as a red flag for employers who may be concerned it would carry over to the workplace. By this I mean trying to negotiate all the terms at once in what sounds like a disorganized way, repeatedly trying to contact the hiring manager, apparently declining the offer (from their point of view) and then trying to continue negotiations, and using phrasing like “a day off for self-care” and “doesn’t cover the basics.” If I was the hiring manager I’d be wary. Of course there is nothing wrong with having a medical or psychological need to have an extra day off to recoup, but ideally you’d ask for this in a more professional way — categorizing this as “self-care” is nebulous and comes off as kind of over-sharey. It’s also important to realize that this may not be possible for most employers. Also, saying that the insurance doesn’t cover “the basics” may come off as over-dramatic to HR or the manager. I’d personally approach this more along the lines of “does not meet my specific needs” or “is not right for me.” I’m sure it covers a lot of other basics, and birth control (while I agree it should be free and covered for everyone) isn’t necessarily considered a basic– only half the population has any use for it in the first place, and many women don’t use it. It’s important, sure, but not generally what would be considered a “basic” in an insurance plan (vs preventative care, GP visits, emergency room coverage, an acceptable deductible, etc.)

            Just my thoughts on why this might have soured on you.

            1. LW*

              Self-care is a common term in my field and something that the other folks that interviewed me said the hospital valued highly, so I figured couching the schedule request with those terms was the ideal way to see if I could get what I wanted. It wasn’t asking for an extra day off, this was a part time position and they did not know what days I would be working. Given that they wanted me to work every other weekend, I wanted to at least have Fridays off to be with my partner, as he typically works Monday through Thursday. If they weren’t able to meet that, given our schedules there would be half the year where we wouldn’t have a day off together, which would’ve been frustrating.

              ACA says bc should be covered without copay because it is so basic and essential. I think we just disagree on how essential/basic that is. (And bc is preventative care….)

              1. Kt*

                Can I ask in what aspect of healthcare you work? Because I work in healthcare, and the term “self-care” has never been used in my hearing. People will say personal days, flex schedules, etc, but if someone said “self-care” I quite honestly would do a little special-snowflake eyeroll and assume you meant a day for massages and manicures.

                I really don’t mean to be mean or harsh, just trying to give a different perspective. What you may think is common may be out of place in a different hospital, and what they mean by “self-care” may have meant time off for medical procedures, not time to spend with your partner.

                And while I absolutely agree birth control should be covered, most places wouldn’t consider it a basic–“basics” include regular check-ups and not much else.

                1. LW*

                  I’m a social worker! And given that the interviewers themselves used this term it seems they were quite familiar with it. Everyone’s job is different and often there are different terms for different things.

                2. cali7*

                  Yeah I could have guessed social worker, just from the use of “self care” lol. Not trying to be annoying and hope it doesn’t come out as such, but just want to agree that maybe calling the coverage of your birth control basic exacerbated the issue. Now I’m not saying birth control shouldn’t be covered but from your email it doesn’t sound like they were refusing to cover all birth control, you said they wouldn’t cover yours. Most of the groups I know of who are trying to use a “loophole” cover some birth control but not all. To me that’s kind of like when my eye insurance only covered certain types of glasses. Glasses are a necessity for me, and certain types may be preferable or even beneficial to my health but I know if I want a type not covered I’m going to have to pay. It’s up to me then to decide if I like that plan or not. Many people using a loophole are doing it, right or wrong, for religious reasons, and so they may have assumed if what they didn’t believe was right to cover was basic to you, it wouldn’t be a good fit. Now they totally should have answered when you called and you have every right to decide that coverage of that is basic to you and someone who doesn’t cover it is an unacceptable workplace. Just trying to imagine how hr might have thought, as it’s probably how I would have taken it in her shoes.

            2. Zillah*

              On one hand, I sort of agree. The way the OP dealt with this did come across to me like turning the offer down.

              On the other, though, it sounds like the OP was basically trying to nail down a concrete and consistent schedule and negotiate a higher hourly rate, especially after reviewing their medical coverage (and I’d agree with her that birth control really is a basic, especially since that’s its legal status atm). If that’s too high maintenance, I’m not sure this is a great place to work.

              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                Yes – this phrasing is good. You want to have one predictable day per week when you can count on being off work. That makes sense to me. It might or might not work for the employer.

                Sympathy here – my husband used to work a (professional) job with totally unpredictable days off, and it was HARD. Especially because I worked a regular M-F 9 to 5, and a different schedule for me didn’t make sense at all for me. He eventually had enough seniority to (a) get a standard day off each week and (b) get his two days per week off back-to-back at least twice a month – but that took 5+ years of being a valued employee, because it was not How Things Were Done.

                1. LW*

                  (Hey, I couldn’t reply to your other question upthread, so I responded to myself. Probably should’ve found your name down here and responded. Oops!)

          3. Policy Wonk*

            Can’t recall the specific medication you mentioned, but just so you’re clear it doesn’t mean they are dodging the law if they don’t offer it necessarily.

            There are a lot of caveats to the law that make certain carveouts or exemptions for certain employers, certain grandfathered plans, or even certain drugs if an equivalent is offered in their plan.

            That being said it’s also very possible that they are not covering what they should be! But just want to point out that there are other possibilities.

            Good luck with your search!

      2. fposte*

        Can you clarify what you were hoping to happen as a result of saying the insurance wouldn’t work? I’m still puzzled about that.

        1. LW*

          I sent that to the benefits office. I was hoping that when the manager returned my calls I would mention that I would need a certain amount to make up for the paycut. The manager never called me to discuss some of the more basic aspects of the offer until I called her and the offer was essentially no longer available to me at that point.

            1. LW*

              I guess I shouldn’t have. Part of the message was telling the HR/Benefits boss person that the employee who helped me over the phone was super helpful. They were sort of bewildered by my looking into the insurance aspect at all and I thought I should also explain that. It sounds like I didn’t need to.

              1. some1*

                Nope, you can thank them for their help without giving your opinion on whether or not the insurance would work for you. In fact, since the insurance doesn’t work, it could be interpreted as rude to make a point to tell them.

                “Thanks for the bubble bath you gave me for my birthday. It gave me a rash.”

          1. fposte*

            Okay, I think I’m getting it–you were really just sending a thank-you to HR/benefits office (they’re the same place, right?) and the information about it not working for you was included more in a chatty way, maybe?

            I still think that you don’t ever want to send a flat comment about an aspect of the job not working to anybody at the prospective employer, because they’re all the prospective employer regardless of who’s negotiating with you, and the only thing that can come out of it is badness. But I get that you may have been confused about who was receiving what information from you.

            1. LW*

              It seemed to me like they were? But that’s from an outsider looking in. And yes, that was kind of what ended up happening. I didn’t think the language I used was going to be interpreted as me rejecting the offer and given that the one woman on the phone was very helpful and the entire office was very weirded out by my asking to get very detailed info about prescription coverage I was trying to explain why. I really didn’t need to do that and in hindsight, I shouldn’t have. I don’t think I would’ve ever thought the language I used would’ve been interpreted as me rejecting the offer so I’m glad lots of people are saying that’s how they would read that. I won’t use that language in the future.

              The entire thing was very confusing, most of the time when I asked questions people just didn’t know.

        2. Mpls*

          +1. HR gave you the Health Insurance information for information purposes. There was no reason for you to respond to HR, except to ask for clarification questions on the benefits. Your opinions on their insurance…just doesn’t matter to them.

      3. Adam*

        In light of that if this organization has such a bad reputation around negotiating and compensation your benefits email, while not phrased clearly, may have been just a small part of the whole picture. If you were already approaching them regarding salary and schedule when they had no interest in compromising they may have been much more ready to go with something who they didn’t perceive as “being pushy.”

        Not saying you were. As described this place doesn’t sound like it’s the greatest place to work for and they may have taken any assertive stance negatively no matter how well you phrased it. You probably lucked out here.

        1. LW*

          I think you’re spot on. They wanted someone who would just accept the offer presented to them. I don’t think I’ve ever done that, I’ve pretty much always negotiated (and successfully most of the time).

          When I spoke with the manager, I asked her why she thought my pointing out that the insurance would cost me money would be me turning down the offer. She said she didn’t know. She also said she felt that I was just trying to stick up for my needs but that they weren’t able to meet them.

          I feel that I lucked out too. It was interesting, they were very interested to know how I deal with conflict (way more questions than typical) and I said that I’m very blunt, try to understand the other person’s position and respond in a very direct fashion. I was very direct! And I admit that is my basic process. It seems that this was something that the unit struggles with, given that the manager never directly spoke to me about this and tried dodging my calls.

          My partner was super angry about this though, I think on my behalf. He felt they had been really rude (in context, while working a second shift job I had to travel 4 hours one way for each interview, so I had driven 16 hours round trip for this position as well as given notice at my current job etc, he kept saying “you were trying so hard to be available to them.”) In any case, I have to move soon anyway and left my last work place in decent standing (it was a temporary position anyway, it was going to end soon anyway).

          1. Jipsy's Mom*

            Totally unrelated to your initial letter, but… you have mentioned how upset your partner is multiple times. Maybe he is a little too invested in your job search. There’s being supportive, and there’s being overbearing and counterproductive. With the little information you’ve given us, it seems maybe your significant other needs to take a step back. In an earlier response, it seemed like he was getting you spun up about something you initially weren’t too concerned over. That’s probably not the most helpful response to a partner’s job search.

            1. LW*

              Thanks I’ll take it into consideration. I think I’ve learned a lot from submitting my letter to Alison beyond that though so I’m glad I asked and Alison responded.

              1. LW*

                It was his idea to reach out about it and essentially complain. He was the reason for writing in, so I guess that would be why. Just trying to relay information as it seems relevant given that people seem to think that’s what I wanted to do (I didn’t, wasn’t sure if it was reasonable, didn’t think it was so and thought to ask for advice). It gets mentioned a lot because people keep asking similar questions and I repeat myself (I’ve been repeating myself a lot, just as commenters here seem to be echoing each other it is the nature of how the forum works.)

          2. AntherHRPro*

            In this post you mention that you had given notice at our current job. I hope I am reading that incorrectly? Why did you give notice if you hadn’t fully negotiated and accepted the offer?

            1. LW*

              It was a temporary job working second shift. I’m a morning person and was having significant problems due to it. I was forgetting lots of things, feeling achy all over all the time from chronic sleep deprivation. The job was actually supposed to end weeks before I left but they asked if I could stay on because they’ve had several employees leave. Everyone except an individual on medical leave has given notice on that second shift.

              I’m moving several hours away and would’ve had to switch to the midnight shift to keep my crummy paying temp job for just a few more weeks. I had been encouraged by friends and family to quit sooner than that. So it’s not as terrible as it sounds, he just kept pointing it out to me. I kept pointing out that I really needed to quit anyway and just felt too guilty because of how short staffed the organization was.

  11. Anonymous Educator*

    Instead of tacking on a second part (“insurance won’t meet my needs, so…. [ 2nd part ]”), I think avoiding the phrasing altogether in the future (if you encounter a situation like this again) is the best way to go.

    Something more like “Since there isn’t any wiggle room on the salary, is there any way you can change the insurance terms to b X, Y, and Z?” That way you’re communicating the current insurance terms don’t meet your needs, but the focus is entirely on how it could meet your needs with some adjustment.

    1. the gold digger*

      If you are suggesting that an applicant ask the employer to change the insurance, I don’t think that approach will work. The plan is set.

      However, I could be mis-reading what you wrote. If you are suggesting that the employer somehow compensate the applicant – “It will cost me $X a month for a medication that is not covered on your insurance. Is there a way to increase the salary by $X?”

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Granted, I’ve never actually negotiated insurance terms before, so I’ll believe you on it probably not being negotiable. My point was more about just phrasing in general. Instead of saying “____ won’t meet my needs,” the best approach is focus more on what will meet your needs.

      2. jag*

        “If you are suggesting that an applicant ask the employer to change the insurance, I don’t think that approach will work. The plan is set.”

        The plan may be set but it’s possible for employers to kick in different amounts of money to cover different amounts of the plan.

        I also know employers who have eliminated or reduced waiting periods for someone to get on the plan.

    2. KT*

      I’ve successfully negotiated SOME terms of insurance–I’ve gotten companies to waive waiting periods, for instance, so my insurance kicked in on day 1 of employment versus 90 days, but not much else.

      1. the gold digger*

        Wow! How did you do that? When I worked for a group health insurance company, we could not make those exceptions – you cannot change the contract for one person. If you change it for one, you have to change the entire contract.

        1. KT*

          No idea how I pulled it off :)

          It was a very large corporation and I while their salary was what I was looking for, the benefit waiting period would be a significant issue, so I asked if the waiting period could be waived–if not, would they be willing to do a signing bonus to cover my COBRA costs for my current insurance.

          They said no problem, your benefits will kick in day 1.

          1. Windchime*

            I wasn’t able to negotiate a waiver of the waiting period, but I was able to get my current employer to pay my COBRA for 3 months. That was a significant win for me and I appreciated that they were willing to do that since they couldn’t (or wouldn’t ) waive the waiting period.

        2. jag*

          First step is asking.

          In KT’s case, I’d speculate it depends on where the waiting period requirement comes from – the employer or the insurance provider.

          1. AntherHRPro*

            And if the company is self-insured. When a company self-insures (still run by an insurance company) they have much more latitude to make exceptions.

        3. AVP*

          Sometimes the waiting periods are just company policy, not part of the benefits contract, no?

          1. Sloop*

            The employer sets the waiting period and the insurance company goes along with it (as long as it isn’t too long of a waiting period.) It may be stated somewhere sithin the benefits contract but generally can be changed 99.9% of the time.

            1. the gold digger*

              The only way I think it would have worked when I was in the business (keep in mind this was 20 years ago) was for the employer to classify the employee differently.

              For example, it used to be that salaried employees started on the insurance on day one. (None of this cheap-ass 30 and 90 day waiting that they have now.) Waiting periods were only for high-turnover positions. The intention was not to save the company money on benefits but to reduce the administrative hassle of adding and terminating employees who weren’t going to stick around.

              So if an employer said, “This person is not actually in the 30-day category but is really in the no waiting period category,” the insurance company was not going to question it.

              However – that was then. I really have no idea how it works now. And I think it is absolutely ridiculous for an employer to impose a waiting period for someone whom they expect to stick around just to save a few hundred dollars.

              1. AVP*

                Seriously – it makes no sense to lose people who can’t go without insurance for a month or more who would otherwise be great employees!

                1. sunny-dee*

                  Well, you get a lot of people (***cough***my cousin***cough***) who start a job knowing that they or their kids needs X procedure. They take the health insurance, get the procedure, and then quit, like, a month later.

                  This is bad for insurance companies, and they make employers pay for it.

                2. Zillah*

                  @ sunny-dee: are there really a lot of people who do that, though? While I don’t doubt that you know someone who did it, I’m having a hard time believing that it’s at all common.

    3. LW*

      Thanks I probably will. I have used that phrasing successfully when negotiating previously, which is why I was so confused. But I guess better safe than sorry and will work to avoid it later.

  12. YandO*

    My impression is that the OP really did not like the potential employer and could not really hide it well. I get that, when someone straight up tells you “we will underpay you, we will give not up to par insurance and we will not be flexible with schedule to make up for that” then it is no wonder you were not exactly thrilled with them.

    With that said, as a job seeker, the most important thing for us to do is to be as clear and transparent in our communication as possible. Your communication was not clear, so next time make sure it is.

    Reaching out to the company to complain will serve no purpose but attach a reputation of a whiner to you. You don’t want that.

    1. Leah*

      Yeah, I would do everything possible to avoid working somewhere that the salary is so pathetic it’s considered a joke…

      1. RVA Cat*

        No kidding. There is no point to complaining, though this may be a good case for posting on Glassdoor or the like to warn other other potential job seekers away…

      2. Fuzzyfuzz*

        For real. I’m sure that this affects all sorts of things about the work environment–from annual raises and benefits to the caliber of employees working there (those who feel like they have to accept laughably bad terms). I’d stay far away.

        1. RVA Cat*


          From here on out I’m thinking we should call these employers Pennywise, Inc. – not only are they pound-foolish, let’s agree they are Evil Clowns.

    2. LW*

      Thanks. I figured that reaching out wouldn’t work. My partner was sort of pushing for it.

      At the time of me working out negotiations, I was excited to work there. Again, I didn’t know the final terms of the offer at all until I called them and they told me they’d offered the job to someone else. I admit after that “really do not like them” as you say and my letter to Alison is written with that lense. If I had written a letter asking Alison “should I call back? I keep calling and leaving messages, I’m sort of nervous that the employer hasn’t gotten back to me” I don’t think I would give the impression I hate the place. Thanks for your input.

      1. YandO*

        Makes sense! You dodged a bullet.

        My partner tends to be a lot more optimistic about my job search because he thinks I am the best and everybody should want me and shower me with great offers. So, when I get rejections, he gets more upset/frustrated than I do.

        I think that’s natural. Does not make it a good idea to act on it though :)

        1. Zillah*

          My partner is the same way. It’s occasionally frustrating, because he doesn’t understand why this can take a long time.

    3. Jeanne*

      I am also confused why this job withdrawl is even an issue. Yes, it is odd that the hiring manager didn’t respond. But the rest of it is red flags. Salary you don’t want, insurance you don’t want, hours you don’t want. Unless you’re being abused at your current job or unemployed for a year, why on earth would you want the job?

      I’ve interviewed for jobs before and totally eliminated them in my mind because of the insurance. I have some health issues and I need good coverage. Often, interviews would start with HR. They would show me the basics of the insurance and my mind would say nope. I would then think of the rest of the interview as good practice. I don’t know if that was rude or not, like wasting their time, but I didn’t want to walk out either. Why burn a bridge?

  13. Leah*

    Sorry OP, I agree that you’re in the wrong here. From the manager’s perspective, someone who rejected a job is still calling her. She should have called you back, but I kind of get why she didn’t.

    1. LW*

      I’m actually not sure why she didn’t call me back? The email was addressed to benefits and I had multiple voicemails to her asking for her to get back to me on some other aspects of the offer. So what’s the thinking there? I’d like to understand better.

      1. KT*

        You’re really splitting a fine line between HR/benefits and the hiring manager. When applying for jobs and negotiating–there is no line! Consider them one int he same–they share information.

        When you said “insurance won’t meet my needs” HR took that to mean you were declining, which they likely shared with the hiring manager. The hiring manager went back to her desk, saw messages from you, and figured they were before you declined, and deleted them.

        1. Christian Troy*

          Yes, this. HR and manager for all intents and purposes during the interview process are the same entity.

        2. LW*

          The manager had explicitly told me I was to make asks for her during negotiations and HR/benefits would only give me information (I had directly asked who I should talk to, if it was both or just one/the other). I thought there was a line because I was told there was one, it’s why I didn’t say something like “would it be possible to get X because the insurance doesn’t pay for Y, which leaves me with 80/month more in expenses?”

          I think I understand your line of thinking and the order of events, that makes sense. I think in the future, even if I’m told otherwise, I’ll always indicate that I’d like to follow up/am still interested as Alison said.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Yeah, but it really reads like you assumed you were negotiating with HR, even if she told you she handled negotiations — they sent you information, and you turned it down saying it wouldn’t work for you. I know everyone is saying this, but it really makes no sense that you would mention anything to HR at all unless that were your intent. If I were the hiring manager, I’d assume you just shut down everything based on your response to HR and didn’t intend to pursue any more negotiations. I’d disregard almost all of the voicemails on the same day as the email, honestly, assuming that those were sent before you went through the benefits package.

            My guess is that when you left a voicemail saying that you didn’t want the insurance but were still interested in the job, the manager had kind of an oh-crap moment since she’d already hired someone else. It doesn’t make it okay that she avoided talking to you, but that’s probably why. She was really uncomfortable.

          2. Nobody*

            Look at it this way: what would you expect to happen if you had told HR, “Thanks, but I have decided to turn down the offer and withdraw my candidacy, as I have realized that I do not want this job and am not interested in working at your company”? Do you think HR would have kept it to themselves and not told the hiring manager that you withdrew your candidacy, just assuming that you would tell the hiring manager yourself in a separate conversation? I don’t think so, and in fact, I think it would be irresponsible for HR not to tell the hiring manager that a candidate has turned down an offer.

            Well, even though you didn’t clearly say you were withdrawing your candidacy, that is how HR interpreted your message. You made a blanket statement that the insurance they offer (which is likely the only insurance available to anyone working there) won’t work for you, and since there’s nothing they can do about that, they interpreted it as a statement that working there won’t work for you, so you were turning down the offer. If you had said something like, “That won’t cover a medication I need,” or “That will cost a lot more than my current insurance,” they probably wouldn’t have thought you were turning down the offer, but saying, “That won’t work for me,” strongly implies you weren’t open for negotiation.

          3. Policy Wonk*

            But there’s a difference between who you should be making *asks* to and who you can discuss employment terms with. You were discussing terms of employment with HR, told them it wouldn’t work for you, and thanked them for their time. I also would have taken that as the insurance wouldn’t meet your needs, the job wouldn’t work for you.

            Since it really seemed like you were brushing them off, the manager took that to mean you weren’t interested in the job which is a reasonable assumption in this situation.

            They are certainly no stellar company in how they handled this, but it could have been avoided. Onward!

      2. fposte*

        My guess is that once she heard the information that the benefits weren’t acceptable to you, that was the end of the discussion for her; which isn’t unreasonable, since there’s not much point in negotiating with somebody who’s turned the offer down, as far as they can tell. But it also sounds like she may not be a great communicator; she should have closed the loop by letting you know that she was sorry it didn’t work out, and when you did get her on the phone, she should have stated straight up that the job had been offered to somebody else and wasn’t available.

  14. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Once again I’m very glad that I’m a tariffed employee in a country with decent health care.

    My union (IGM) negotiated a good raise again this year.

    1. LW*

      I miss being in a union! This place doesn’t have a union and there is a big anti-union sentiment. I haven’t had decent insurance since leaving my last union job and I do sorely miss it. It was also the last time I was paid well.

  15. Anonymous Educator*

    A lot of times when I read letters in AaM, I think “Oh, she dodged a bullet.” In this case, I’d say they (candidate and potential employer) both dodged bullets. The OP would not be happy at that place. And that place would not be happy with that employee. Some awkwardness there, of course, but it all worked out for the best, as far as I can tell.

    1. LW*

      I think you’re right, I would not have been happy there. I have a hard time picturing the person that would be though. They complained about a recent loss of employees (after a “period of stability” and the manager admitted that people had left due to pay) and really wanted me to make a long-term commitment to them. I thought they had learned the lesson to retain employees by paying them…but I was wrong about that. So you’re right, it worked out well. I just wish that instead of not calling me at all they’d simply called me back to say “the offer stands, we can’t pay you more, this is the schedule and I know you’re unhappy with the insurance.” I would’ve turned it down and not felt that bad about it. I mostly felt bad about the radio silence, especially because it was making me so anxious!

      1. BRR*

        They probably take people who are desperate for a job. Many employers haven’t realized the benefits to attracting and retaining quality workers. I hope you didn’t desperately need this job but you likely dodged a bullet.

        I also think people are being a little hard on you here and I think part of it is because of your partners suggestion, not realizing that you don’t feel the same way.

        1. LW*

          I’m not desperate, though I have been in the past. I know what it’s like to really need work, I’ve taken some really crummy jobs due to it. Thankfully I have a year of savings and my partner is very successful, the job search is due to him getting a much better, much higher paying wage. It’s in an area that I might be able to open a private practice in.

          Eh, I’ve seen commenters be way harsher to letter writers so I don’t think people are being too hard. The whole situation is very confusing and at the time I was emailing Alison I was still working a second shift which meant I was constantly sleep deprived and having a lot of difficulty making myself clear. When I explain the situation verbally I think I’m better able to clearly describe what happened/how it happened and I think it sort of fell apart in the letter and responses to her questions.

          What people have said has been really helpful to me and I’ll definitely use it in the future.

  16. Ivy*

    I could see how the miscommunication happened. OP had a negotiation going with the hiring manager – requesting higher pay, waiting to confirm the schedule. And in parallel she was clarifying details on benefits with HR, presumably outside of the negotiations. I could see her sending a note to HR to confirm that she has now understood the benefits and they didn’t meet their needs – while expecting to continue her negotiations directly with the hiring manager, maybe using the new knowledge on the benefits insufficiency. I think she didn’t see the HR conversation as part of the negotiation.
    This said, lesson learned for her, and I agree that there is not much point in complaining further. Move on and find a job with better package.

    1. fposte*

      But I don’t see what the OP would be hoping for from HR either; in fact, it risks being kind of a pissy email in that case. “I don’t have a question, but I just wanted you to know that your health plan sucks.”

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, exactly, this is why I asked about what she was looking for in a response.

      2. Marcela*

        Well, after they told her about the insurance, I can see myself thinking “I need to reply with something”, mostly thanking them. The thing is that many times a simple “thanks” sounds so short and curt, so I add something else, a small comment about the email or the info I was given. In this case, a comment about how the insurance won’t cover my needs. It’s just noise, but I can’t help it.

        1. LW*

          Yeah essentially this is what I did. Especially because the person who walked me through checking the prescription coverage on the phone was SUPER helpful and I felt like I was making her go out of my way, I was trying to explain why I would do such a thing, and it’s because my meds/bc are frequently not covered due to insurance companies trying to use “loopholes” to not cover my script. And so I was basically like thank you so much! It was so helpful because it helped me figure out the insurance wouldn’t meet my needs. It seems terribly silly now and probably in a verbal conversation would not have sounded as harsh/cold/final as people hear it. I know that now and will avoid that wording in the future.

          1. AntherHRPro*

            Can you explain what you mean by companies using “loopholes” to not cover your prescription? You have mentioned this several times.

            1. LW*

              Sorry about that. ACA requires that a version/type of all forms of BC are covered. So you have to cover each type of pill (you can’t just cover one generic, there are multiple forms of pills and each one has to be covered), a type of IUD, a type of implant etc. Nuvaring is the only one of it’s kind and it’s very popular with women my age. Insurance companies say “Well we don’t have to cover brand names” and that’s true when there is a generic version that exists. There is no such generic version of Nuvaring. It doesn’t seem like an actual loophole to me, most people refer to it as though. It seems to me like they are exploiting ignorance of the law and the fact that those who do know they are ignoring it have very few resources to make them act any differently.

              There’s actually a petition being circulated by Planned Parenthood to try to get more enforcement on this issue and require insurance companies to stop exploiting these “loopholes” and follow the ACA laws.

              1. VioletFox*

                You are making me really happy to be in a union and in a country with a single payer system.

                That sounds like the insurance/employeers are basically making a “woman tax” for lack of a better term.

                1. LW*

                  That is essentially waht it is, and one women have been paying for decades.

                  Even at a passed *union* job, I was paying 60/month for bc at one point. It didn’t matter as much because I made 27/hour which is sort of high for my field. What was the copay for Viagra? Oh it was $10/month. Yup.

                2. Windchime*

                  Yeah, what’s with that? Birth control (a woman thing) costs 6 times more than medication to ensure that a guy can get a boner, thus making the birth control necessary?!?

                3. Zillah*

                  That’s exactly what it is – and it’s even more rich because so many men hate using condoms.

                  And they wonder why we’re angry.

    2. LW*

      This is essentially what happened. The hiring manager said I would negotiate with her, and *not* with HR but that they could give me info. I figured they would let her know what I said about the insurance. I also thought they would return my calls.

      It is indeed a lesson learned. I actually plan to hang out my own shingle as it’s a relatively underserved area given the type of skillset I have and the populations I’ve served.

      1. LBK*

        You still haven’t directly answered this question: even if HR just passed on that info and then negotiations continued with the hiring manager, what were you expecting or hoping to get out of telling the company that the insurance plan didn’t work for you? An increase in salary to compensate? I (and apparently everyone else) am very confused about what you thought would happen when you said you couldn’t accept a non-negotiable aspect of the offer. I don’t see any way to move forward at that point.

        I’m also unclear on how you were negotiating the salary. It sounds like they gave a number, you said that wouldn’t work…and then didn’t say anything else or give a different number back? It’s pretty standard to give a counter rather than just making the employer guess how much more you’re looking for. Combine that open-ended response with your open-ended response about the insurance and I don’t see any way the hiring manager could assume you wanted to continue with the process. At that point you’d turned down the salary and the benefits; what’s the point in continuing to speak?

        If the hiring manager is operating under the assumption that you’ve rejected the offer, I also don’t blame her for not jumping on responding to your voicemails. She’d probably already moved on and initiated the hiring process with the next person; the last thing you want to deal with when you’re trying to onboard people ASAP is a past candidate hounding you. Those people tend to get clingy and sometimes belligerent (like people who you provide post-interview feedback to).

        1. Marcela*

          As the LW, being told I wasn’t negotiating with HR but the HM, I would have made the same “mistake” to think that anything I told HR would be known by HM, but that I could not ask HR for anything, I had to continue talking to HM to get what I wanted. If my understanding was that HR was merely giving me info, I would have say “thanks, this is not enough”, thinking “they will tell HM, so when I call HM or email her, she’ll know that I’ll ask for more”. I would have never said anything such as “can we work on this?” in the email to HR because I was told I wasn’t negotiating with them.

          Of course, at this point I understand I’m mistaken, that there is no difference between HR and the HM, so I need to communicate to them as they are the same thing. But LW’s impression and behavior sounds so natural to me…

        2. LW*

          I was hoping to get a raise to cover the paycut caused by the insurance not really covering my birth control. I was hoping the manager would return my calls so we could discuss that.

          They said they were offering me X. I said “I was hoping for closer to Y.” She said she’d have to ask but might not be able to make that happen. After that conversation I did not hear from her at all. It was later when I called back that she told me they couldn’t raise the money/offer. So I hadn’t really turned down anything, at that point, because I thought I was still waiting to hear back. I told her I would call her back a specific day and all my voicemail messages were asking to hear back about the offer (specifically the schedule because at the time of the offer she didn’t know it). I called two days in a row, left messages and was waiting to hear back. I felt calling more would be too pushy so that is why I just waited through the radio silence. I called about a week after the initial offer to the manager, whom I’d had no contact with during that time. She picked up and that’s where the second conversation happened. I thought her questions about “Do you really want to take a job where you won’t be paid well and don’t have the schedule you want?” were weird because she was also admitting there was no offer for me to refuse at that point except without directly stating it. Which is why I asked if there was even an offer for me to consider?

          1. some1*

            But I think the disconnect here is that HR and the HM assumed you meant you were declining the offer altogether and looking for a job that had better insurance.

          2. LBK*

            Hmm…I think the timeline here helps make a little more sense, so thank you for clarifying. With the adding clarification about her unresponsiveness I can see why you got frustrated, but I can also see it as a “I’m not going to call you if I don’t have an answer yet” scenario if she was still working out whether she could the salary offer. I don’t personally like that technique and I would’ve at the very least sent you an email to say “Still working on it, hold tight, will let you know” rather than not responding at all (especially considering you’d provided a specific follow up timeline and she didn’t disagree or say that wouldn’t be enough time) but I know people do it.

            Where did the insurance discussion fall during this timeline? If it was in between the original salary offer but before you spoke to her again, I can also see her getting frustrated or giving up on trying to reel you in – to me, her “Do you really want this job?” response meant she didn’t think it would even be feasible since the salary AND the insurance weren’t up to your standards. Agreed that she should’ve let you know that was the case rather than silently proceeding, but that’s just unrelated rudeness – I still think she was perfectly justified in assuming you wouldn’t be able to proceed and moved on to the next person. I don’t quite understand your logic of thinking there wasn’t an actual offer – if she gave you a number for salary and asked if you would accept it, that was an offer. Do you mean you don’t know whether there was actually a counteroffer?

            Overall, I think the two main things to take away from this process are :

            1) Assume any communication with the company during the offer phase is part of negotiation, regardless of who it’s with, and

            2) Be explicit about what you want when you’re negotiating, particular when saying that a part of the offer won’t work for you – make sure you’re being clear about what the acceptable alternative would be.

            Not to beat you over the head with these messages since it seems from reading all the other comments you’ve already taken them to heart, but just want to affirm that even after reading the further details you provided I’m still holding that stance. I appreciate your patience, some LWs get very frustrated when they hear the same thing from 100 commenters so I applaud your grace in taking the feedback here :)

            1. LW*

              I guess when I say “there was no actual offer” was that because she hadn’t gotten back to me (and as I understand what you’re saying, I think you are right on the timeline) there were big aspects of the offer that were missing. For example, I did not even know what days I would be working or for how many hours in a week/pay period, which is sort of a big deal given that it would determine how much money I would be making as it was an hourly wage.

              And thanks, grace is not normally a word applied to myself so thank you very much for using that word.

  17. Juli G.*

    I wouldn’t waste even one more minute on this – in fact, I hope you aren’t reading this comment.

    Were you going to take this job? Probably not – even if they came back offering more, there’s not a lot or any room for raises.

    My guess is that HR felt you ultimately wouldn’t take the job and if you did, you would certainly be a short timer. They decided to cut their losses and move onto the next candidate.

    They clearly fumbled here but it would be silly for any of you to spend anymore time on this doomed relationship.

  18. Koko*

    This is one of those cases that illustrates why it’s not ideal to try to negotiate over email. In negotiation, the tactic of making a statement and then falling silent and waiting for the other party to suggest something in return can be extremely useful. But over email you have no guarantee that making a statement and falling silent won’t just terminate the conversation.

    1. Christian Troy*

      Completely agree. I recently did a salary negotiate and made sure to call everyone and speak directly. I spent a lot of time reading AAM to prepare and followed the script in one the early posts about calling people directly.

    2. LW*

      I was under a mistaken impression I was still negotiating with the manager via phone. Lesson learned that I should just assume all communication directed at anyone in the organization is part of the negotiation process (even if they don’t have the power to do most of the negotiating).

    3. LBK*

      Does that really work? It sounds very Jack Donaghy but if someone told me an offer didn’t work and then stopped speaking, my only response would be “Okay, what number did you have in mind?”

      1. Koko*

        While some (more composed) people will respond like you say, turning the question back on you, you might be surprised how uncomfortable a lot of (less composed) people are with silence, and the things they will rush to say to politely fill it with something accommodating.

        1. tesyaa*

          So the silence thing is to basically trick people into making an offer they wouldn’t have otherwise? I can see how that might work with an informal relationship, but since a job offer probably has to go through multiple layers of approval, something sputtered in an uncomfortable silence could surely be rescinded. Even in an informal setting, it just seems wrong to put people in an uncomfortable situation to get them to offer up something they don’t really intend.

          1. Koko*

            It’s not so much that they say something they wouldn’t have otherwise. In negotiation usually both parties have a range of options they would ultimately agree to. They’re each hoping to make a deal at the more favorable end of their respective ranges, but would still be willing to sign to a deal at the less favorable end if that’s what it took to make the deal happen. It’s very fuzzy and when you have a desirable candidate you’d like to hire, there’s a lot of fuzzy variables to consider: What are they making now? What would your competitor be likely or able to offer? Do you think they have other offers? How excited about this position do they seem to be? Do they seem like a lowball offer might cause them to walk, or are they willing to go back and forth until you have a deal?

            When you return with your counteroffer, it’s the result of guessing the answers to most of those questions and basing your counteroffer on what you think the answers were. If the candidate directly gives you a number or concrete request, there are still a lot of fuzzy variables to consider, but they’ve made the math problem a lot easier by providing a more concrete variable to anchor your counteroffer. When you’re doing this negotiation in person, a pregnant silence spurs most people to do the math problem that much quicker, and tends to signal that you’re a confident candidate with lots of options – because if you were desperate for a job, you wouldn’t be pausing and looking at me as if to say, “What can you do for me?” You’d be saying, “What can I do for you?” So they’re not going to blurt out something they never wanted to offer, but in their semi-panic they might make the shrewd, intentional decision to just offer you something from the higher end of the range just to make sure they don’t lose you. Most of this happens beneath the level of conscious thought.

            It’s definitely not the sort of cooperative consensus-building kumbayah approach to setting a salary – it’s a competition between your negotiating skills and theirs – but such competitions are also an accepted aspect of doing business most of the time.

            1. tesyaa*

              Thanks for the explanation and for noting that you’re specifically referring to an employment negotiation situation.

              More of an ethical question: is it fair to do this when one party already has significantly more power than another, say a wealthy couple and a teenage babysitter who needs money for his/her college fund? This is the kind of situation where I’d get bothered.

  19. CAinUK*

    OP, your tone is slightly bewildering.

    It seems like you are upset they low-balled you (despite the employer being upfront that they don’t pay market rates), and you are upset they didn’t negotiate with you (but you didn’t actually ASK for anything – or clarify what you were upset about).

    These points don’t seem particularly bad (though I agree none are great reflections on the employer, either):
    1. Sadly many non-profits and employers do not pay market rates – at least they were transparent about this;
    2. If they thought you had declined the offer, they would be hesitant to return a random batch of persistent phone call from you (although I agree they should have – but they could have thought: “why is this person hounding us days in a row after giving us a vague rejection?”); and
    3. When you went to HR and said the insurance wouldn’t “meet your needs” did you say WHY? Because I didn’t fully understand your point on birth control loopholes creating extra costs for you, so they might not know this impact and could have potentially been addressed.

    I would take the advice posted above (re: how to better phrase negotiations) to heart. I DO understand your frustrations, but it sounds like you wouldn’t have taken the job in the end and that some of your frustration is disproportionate.

    1. Allison*

      I dunno, if an employer decided not to offer an insurance plan that covers birth control, and utilized loopholes to do it, my guess is they wouldn’t want to hire someone who takes birth control – or, maybe taking it is fine but they don’t want to work with someone who wants their employer to help pay for it.

      1. CAinUK*

        Ah gotcha. I think this is probs more true (and even less excusable) given LW notes it’s a hospital. But I have worked places where the office just uses a broker to creat a health care plan and they might not know what the loopholes or caveats are until an employee says “Hey, what the hell?”

    2. Just Another Techie*

      I think the bit about insurance is that, even though in the US federal law mandates that all forms of birth control be free (no co-pay or co-insurance on the part of the employee, for bc pills, nuvaring, iud, norplant, or whatever other method of contraception you want) a bunch of employer-sponsored plans have found technical loopholes and refuse to cover anything that is not a generic-brand daily pill. So they charge women who can’t take the pill (the pill is actually contraindicated for a lot of women for valid medical reasons, when something like the ring or an IUD will work safely) huge sums of money for birth control.

      I don’t think it’s likely to assume the employer didn’t know about that either. Negotiating very minute details of the employer sponsored insurance plan is a huge deal, that can have implications of millions or tens of millions of dollars in expenses for the corporation. The corporate attorneys have probably gone over every letter in the insurance contract with a fine tooth comb, and the fact that they’re okay with screwing over women for some pretty minor savings, using a really sleazy and weasely loophole, says bad things about them. LW dodged a bullet here. I sure as hell wouldn’t work for someone who tried to control female employees’ medical decisions like that.

      1. LW*

        The form I use is almost always in one of these loopholes unless you actually happen to find an ethical insurance provider. I currently have one through Obama care but I’d been burned so much in the past it was part of why I was getting into the details of the insurance before even accepting the job.

      2. AntherHRPro*

        The law does not require all forms of birth control be provided for free, so it really is not a “loophole”. Laws are very specifically worded as well so if the government wanted every type and brand of birth control to be fully covered, the law would do so.

        1. LW*

          The law requires a version of each form of bc be covered. The fact that they do not cover a version of bc at all (because it is the only one of its kind) is a violation of the law.

          1. CA Admin*

            I had that problem with a past insurance provider. The NuvaRing was only provided at an increased copay and they wouldn’t pay for it at all if you wanted the OrthoEvra patch. Luckily, I found a daily pill that worked, but I was livid when I found out that they were violating the law with impunity.

            If there’s a generic available, you can require the $0 option be that generic. If there’s only the brand name available, they’re supposed to cover that, even if it’s more expensive.

            1. LW*

              See…I tried to find an alternative. I’ve been on bc for 11 years now. Alternatives don’t work, this is the form that I need. It feels so weird that I would somehow have to justify that to someone. And yes, they are supposed to cover it! Most do not. When I finally found an insurance provider who covered it (they literally said “Yes of course, that’s the law”) I almost cried with joy. I was unemployed, trying to switch providers on Obamacare and was at that point paying 100/month.

              1. Zillah*

                I have other alternatives – I’m on the patch right now, though I was on the ring for years and am looking to go back on it soon – but yeah, like you, pills are not an option for me. I don’t think it’s that uncommon – there are plenty of medications they interact with.

                1. LW*

                  I tried the patch for awhile. It did something messed up to my blood and give that my mom had a heart attack for no reason (docs were like *shrug* she’s healthy, we have no clue) only a few weeks after starting a new form of birth control, I have to be pretty careful. I’m glad the patch works for you!

        2. just another techie*

          Uh no. The intent was that all forms (pill, patch, ring, IUD, etc) should each have at least one zero cost option, with some leeway to allow insurance companies to, say, require a generic instead of brand name. But some insurers are refusing to cover any option for some methods (so no patches at all, or no hormone free IUD at all) and also denying any option for women older than a certain age cut off. This is blatantly illegal, as H&HS has repeatedly clarified. I’m very concerned for employees at your company since you seem willfully uninformed about what the law requires. It’s also really short sighted to ding female employees on contraception — it just makes your company look, correctly or not, like it’s run by sexists.

    3. LW*

      I actually had asked for multiple things from the manager and left her voicemails expecting a call back. She never called back. She specifically stated I would not be negotiating with HR but with her.

      This isn’t a non-profit. It’s a well known hospital. For my field, hospital jobs are the highest paying positions. When I worked in prison the only people making more than me were hospital social workers. I’m not sure why this hospital pays so low, but is so well known it is joked about apparently. I thought they would pay me the low end of most hospital social workers wages despite my experience. I didn’t think they would pay the same as a community mental health job (one of usually the lowest paying jobs in my field).

      I see your point that they didn’t call back after assuming I rejected them. I was worried about coming across as too pushy so I left two voicemail messages two days in a row and decided to wait after that. But at the same time, why didn’t they say “Sorry it couldn’t work out. Best of luck?” I think it is bizarre to not respond at all.

      I did say why! I said that it was because it wouldn’t cover basics. I also had a phone conversation with a second benefits officer and explained what I was trying to look up. She helped me do so online and that was part of why I wrote the email, I wanted to thank the person I assumed was her boss and explain how helpful she was (putting in a good word for her as I saw it). In that phone call I explained that I needed to look because a lot of insurance companies are exploiting loopholes that have burned me in the past and really wanted to double check. Most hospitals offer really great insurance but not this place, apparently.

      I wouldn’t have taken the job in the end (turns out it was half the hours they originally promised as well! Didn’t know that until I called back.) My partner was pushing for me to complain/respond in some way and I didn’t think it was useful. Just wish they’d responded so I could’ve found out about it sooner instead of anxiously waiting for them to call back.

      1. MsM*

        You do realize that a lot of hospitals are nonprofits in the tax classification sense, right? This particular one might not be, but if their pay scale is low and your insurance options are “take it or leave it,” it wouldn’t surprise me.

        1. fposte*

          The vast majority in the US, in fact; I just checked, and only about 18% are for-profits.

        2. KT*

          True! And many are religiously affiliated/run, so they have different insurance restrictions and exemptions.

        3. LW*

          I guess I didn’t realize that. In my field, most non-profits are shoe-string budget community orgs that cannot pay well. Hospitals, in my field, typically pay very well. This hospital is clearly the exception.

          It isn’t religiously affiliated and so doesn’t have the religion loophole some places have in the states. I think that it is a “take it or leave it” situation not because the hospital doesn’t make much money but because it essentially has a monopoly. It is the only hospital in the area for miles and it is also the owner of most of the outpatient clinics. For some types of jobs, their system is the only place you can work. That’s not really true in my field and why they have turnover issues in their department.

        4. CA Admin*

          Well, so are most universities, but we separate them out from other non-profits because they’re pretty distinct in organization structure and funding. Hospitals are much the same way.

  20. KT*

    So this is a really good lesson–you may think you will negotiate with one person and get info from another–but it often doesn’t work that way. Even if there is a designated negotiation person, what you say to HR ow whoever will get relayed.

    Honestly, if someone said to me “the insurance won’t meet my needs because it doesn’t cover the basics” with no alternatives suggested or follow-up question to it, I would assume it was your way of declining the offer.

    I’m sure HR read it that way and informed the manager you were passing.

    1. LW*

      I had actually been explicitly told by the manager, when I asked, that I would be negotiating with her and getting info from HR. Lesson learned I suppose. I was acting in good faith that what she was saying was true.

      I did think that what I said would be relayed. And I also assumed the manager would return my calls.

      I’m sure that’s what happened too…what I think is bizarre is that there was absolutely no follow up after that point. Even just “I’m so sorry to hear you’re declining the offer.” Just radio silence while I waited for days to get a call back and worried that if I called again too soon I would look pushy.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You’re focusing a lot on the idea that you were told you’d be negotiating with the hiring manager and not HR. But what you say to HR matters — and in this case, you said something that sounded like you were turning down an offer. I’m still confused about why you think they wouldn’t relay to the hiring manager that you’d decided the offer wouldn’t work for you (which is what you appeared to communicate to them)!

        1. KT*

          ^This. It’s not a matter of acting in bad faith or what they said wasn’t true. It’s a matter of communication. From HR’s point of view (and one I agree with) you declined the offer. So they let the hiring manager know. That’s not bad faith, that’s just HR trying to save the hiring manager time.

        2. Marcela*

          Coming from places where what HR says doesn’t have any relevance at all in the hiring process, because the professor is the one deciding everything, from maternity leave to salaries, I would have made the same mistake, telling HR that something would not work for me as in some comment to make my email longer and/or sound like I did think about what they said, but never asking them anything because I was told they were not part of the negotiation. I would have thought that the only consequence would be that they would tell it to the HM, so when I talked to her, she would know that I was going to ask for more.

          Now I know how wrong I am.

        3. LW*

          I think I understand better why people interpret it as me turning down the offer. I think I’m just trying to explain parts of why I did what I did. Normally I do assume I can negotiate with HR (which many many many people are pointing out) but I had been told I wasn’t and am pointing out why I did it differently. I don’t think I’m confused about the info being relayed to the manager, but at the time I didn’t think I was turning down the offer. Which is why I was very confused by the radio silence. I guess I’m just explaining my thought process but I suppose that’s not helpful.

      2. some1*

        If I was the hiring manager, reaching out to my 2nd choice to see if she is still available would take priority over returning calls to my first choice who turned me down.

      3. tesyaa*

        In a perfect workd, a return call saying “I’m so sorry to hear you’re declining the offer” would be nice, but in the real world, it sounds like too much to ask from a hiring manager who is now moving on to other candidates.

        1. fposte*

          Eh, I’m not letting the manager off that hook so readily. It wasn’t even said to her, after all. Now, admittedly, she may have interpreted the OP’s trying to reach her by phone as trying to decline the offer.

          But that’s why phone is no longer a good tool for communication with candidates, and I’m even going to say this is why you often don’t want to negotiate by telephone either. It sounds good in theory, but in practice you’re often playing confusing phone tag or leaving voice mails rather than talking synchronously.

        2. KT*

          And this too. People interview several times and never get a rejection, let alone someone who declined an offer (from their perspective).

      4. fposte*

        And you *were* negotiating only with the manager; that was true, and it didn’t change, so that’s another reason why your emphasis is a little off. That doesn’t mean only your communication with the manager counts.

        1. LW*

          Good point. I think the advice that I should reiterate my interest is something I’ll do in the future. Someone else pointed out I could’ve asked the HR person to have the manager call me back and I probably should’ve done that as well.

          1. fposte*

            Well, and I think you’re right downthread–these may be useful things to keep in mind for the future, but this wasn’t looking good already and this may be just what they hung it on. So I’m not sure you doing everything perfectly would really have changed the outcome–we’re just generally Monday morning quarterbacking, and it took a while for us to get all the pieces of the picture.

            1. LW*

              It took me a long time to get all the pieces too! Thanks for helping me figure this out.

  21. Retail Lifer*

    I’ve never worked anywhere where the insurance was negotiable, so if a candidate told me it didn’t meet their needs then I would assume they were passing. I’d get clarification, though, and NOT just go off that assumption.

    Low pay, disorganization, differing schedule, terrible benefits…is this a retail job? Not wanting to pay for birth control…is this Hobby Lobby?

    1. Retail Lifer*

      Also, I find that potential employers get really skittish when you ask them about insurance. I’m pretty sure I’ve been dismissed as a candidate several times for asking about it.

      1. KJR*

        I wonder why this is…the last thing I’d want is to hire someone than have them either quit or be unhappy with the benefits because they didn’t understand them. I give anyone who interviews a thorough summary of our benefits, especially medical. If they aren’t going to be happy with them, I’d rather know that before I extend an offer to them. I shake my head at a lot of the things I read here about HR and Hiring Managers. Seems like common sense to me.

        1. Retail Lifer*

          Every place I’ve worked at has either blatantly lied to me about or has at least tried to hide the negatives about the job, which often included the crappy insurance. I really don’t get why people can’t just be honest about work/life balance, schedule, bonuses, insurance, and other things up front. Yeah, you might lose some candidates up front by being honest, but it’s better than losing them later when you find out that nothing they sold you on was true. I ask a LOT of questions in interviews because I’ve been burned my ommission so many times before and employers in my field tend to hate that.

        2. Higher Ed Admin*

          Yes, this is a curious-I’d think you’d want prospective employees to know up front if this will be an issue, and would help address employee concerns without having to ask some of the “touchy” questions like how maternity leave works or if same-sex partners are covered. I just accepted a job (yay!) from a company that gave me a brief but clear face to face overview of the benefits and showed me where to find the full details online immediately after my interview. I had a chance to think about whether the benefit package would be acceptable before the job was ever offered. Of course, this company is (rightly) proud of their benefits, so I think this was as much a marketing tool to prospective employees as a courtesy to the interviewee- a little extra time spent on a perk of working there could tip the scales in their favor if a desirable interviewee is on the fence. I guess I can see how a company with crappy benefits would be reluctant to be so transparent with interviewees…which is kind of a problem in itself.

      2. Anon369*

        I think it’s a back door/legal “tell” that either you’re picky – which, depending on the salary, $80 a month or “illegal healthcare plan” may signal, or that you have health issues that could impact your work. (I say this as someone who does have health issues that could impact my work, and could cost me tens of thousands of dollars per year. Fair or not.

        1. LW*

          Well, this was a part-time position. I did the math at one point and it was two something per hour (rounded up easily to 3/hour) pay cut. They were offering the insurance to sweeten the deal otherwise you’d be working every other weekend for crummy wage. It just turns out their insurance doesn’t really sweeten the deal.

    2. LW*

      It actually isn’t. It’s a big hospital! In my field (Social work) these are usually the best paying jobs with the best insurance. The manager did say they weren’t competitive wages, so I thought I’d get the low end of hospital social worker pay despite my experience. I didn’t think I’d be paid the same as if I worked in community mental health (one of the lower paying types of jobs in my field). And I didn’t think I’d have a “pink paycut” of 1,000/year on top of it. I knew insurance wasn’t negotiable, but I was hoping they would try to make up for the substantial paycut with an increased wage.

      I think I was just upset that I didn’t get clarification. During this time I was anxiously waiting by the phone hoping they would call back with the rest of the offer (I’d asked about pay and schedule, but actually didn’t even know the full schedule and wanted to know that to evaluate the offer).

      1. tesyaa*

        Is “waiting by the phone” still done these days, or just a figure of speech? I do remember the days of anxiously waiting by the phone…

        1. LW*

          LOL it’s a figure of speech. But every time my cell rang I jumped and hoped it was them getting back to me.

          1. KJR*

            I can’t get my head around the whole “doesn’t offer birth control” part. I’ve had to sit through many a PPACA seminar, and I thought it had to be covered at no cost. I’m curious as to how this company got around it.. it’s a mandate I was happy to see. I remember when it wasn’t even covered at all as a prescription medication, so if you wanted it, you had to pay completely out of pocket for it. At least on the plan I was on 20 years ago! I always thought it was strange that they were willing to pay for a pregnancy and birth but not a $30/month prescription.

            1. LW*

              You’re right! The law says that insurance has to cover 1 type of each form of birth control. However, they are claiming that they don’t have to cover my BC because it’s “brand name” even though no generic exists. It is often put in the *highest tier*, the “non-preferred brand name” so instead of just paying 15/month, I end up paying much more. With the plan that was offered to me it would’ve been 80/month!

              1. KJR*

                That’s utterly ridiculous…talk about the letter vs. the intent of the law. This just sounds wrong, almost like they’re explaining away how they’re *NOT* covering it. So there still isn’t one of that type. They sound shady to me. Sounds like you’re better off!

                1. LW*

                  Essentially yes, this is shady as fuck. I finally found an ethical insurance company and asked several times if Nuvaring was covered and by covered I meant copay free. They were like “Well of course. It’s the law.” It didn’t register so I asked a second time and almost cried on the phone with joy. At that point I was paying 100/month and really needed the relief.

                1. CA Admin*

                  Seriously. I have had this exact problem in the past. Luckily, I’m on a daily pill now that covered by everyone, but I would be livid if I had to fight this battle again.

                  One thing that bothers me though–in CA, insurance is supposed to cover medically necessary transgender-related medical care at the same rate that they cover similar non-transgender-related care. My company’s insurance explicitly says that they don’t cover any trans healthcare. Which is complete bullshit. I don’t have a dog in the fight, though, so I don’t really have grounds to complain.

      2. Sunshine Brite*

        See, where I’m at hospital social workers get paid a lot but take on ridiculously more work than almost any other social work position and the insurance isn’t as good as county/state social workers which would cover the prisons here. Plus, the systems are big enough where there isn’t going to be a lot of negotiation in any direction.

        If you want to follow-up like you did again, just stop at thank you. It was definitely an unnecessary overshare. Thanking a person doesn’t mean you had to share the conclusion. You could’ve just said, thank you, I found the information I was looking for with so and so’s help.

  22. Sunflower*

    This whole things sounds like a mess. I get what you’re saying about you were simply stating the insurance didn’t meet your needs but since you didn’t include something after like ‘I would need X to offset the costs’ I would see it as a ‘no’. The employer should have followed up but I can see why they didn’t based off of all the things that happened in the interview process.

    I think when negotiating, it’s important to continue restating your interest up until you officially say yes or no. Avoid finite statements like ‘I would need’ or ‘I can’t do X’ without a followup statement- unless of course, those are truly deal breakers and you are going to turn a job offer down over it.

    No use in spending any more time on this. It sounds a little like my company- managers know they don’t pay well but there isn’t a lot they can do. We have high turnover in lower roles but the company just doesn’t care. They’d rather continue paying nothing and training a new person every couple months. Sounds like you dodged a major bullet

  23. Jwal*

    Being in the UK insurance is almost never a thing (unless it’s a perk that you get because of the level of the job, or if you maybe work in insurance itself). However substituting insurance for anything else that I might consider when applying for a job (“the pay/required hours/location/potential colleagues won’t work for me”) sounds like saying no. So unless in the US where it is a big deal people normally go back and forth about the insurance then I’m confused by OP’s reaction.

    I’d chalk it up to ultimately not being meant to be, and then in future remember that any communication with a potential employer (hiring manager/CEO/HR/secretary) is part of the job application, and could be that one things that wins or loses you the job.

  24. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    If you said = “the insurance won’t work for me” — they can’t rewrite their employee insurance package for you.

    They pay BELOW market rate and state that….

    And someone suggested that you counter – “if you up the pay by $1100 or so, that will cover the insurance differences and the taxes on it”… and if they say no, then that is that.

  25. NickelandDime*

    This is interesting. I’d like to see a post on the type of things people can typically negotiate on, in addition to salary, which is obvious. I’ve only heard of people negotiating start times for insurance. Not anything else that it covers, or cost, etc. Like if I start with a company and I find out the insurance only covers one physical per year (as a woman, I get two physicals per year), I wouldn’t think I could negotiate the company’s insurance covering both. I could be wrong.

    1. Mpls*

      If a health insurance plan is offered through an insurer (ie. Blue Cross/Blue Shield) you have zero chance of negotiating the coverage because the employer is not setting the terms of coverage, the insurance company is. The employer picks from one of a range of plans the insurer has, but then the employer is typically locked in under the contract the Eer signs with the insurance company.

      About the only thing an employer could do would be to offer more money to offset the costs an employee might incur under the plan.

      1. Sunflower*

        I had a really weird situation with my insurance. I was full time employed but stayed on my parents plan. When I turned 26, my insurance terminated that day. HR told me this was impossible as all insurance plans start/end at the beginning of the month. I’m not sure how but HR was able to get me on the plan mid-month. Of course, this was a clearly stated ‘qualifying life event’ so that might have been why it was able to happen.

        If that wasn’t going to happen, I would have requested they pay my COBRA for x days.

        1. Nerdling*

          Sounds like it. Qualifying life events get you around the normal restrictions on enrolling in/cancelling plans.

    2. Koko*

      Usually money is money, so if they can’t budge on salary, you negotiate working conditions/things that don’t directly cost money. So I wouldn’t try asking for gym fee reimbursement since that’s ultimately the same money the salary would have been, but you can negotiate around flexible/unusual hours, teleworking privileges, maybe things like a private/window office, maybe a parking permit that maybe doesn’t cost them to provide but they don’t have enough for the whole office, maybe the right to bring your little dog to work. You can also try to negotiate things like an early salary review to give you a chance to get a salary bump sooner than would normally be possible.

  26. Zelda*

    I’m clearly in the minority here, but I would not have taken the statement that the insurance did not meet the applicant’s needs as a refusal of the offer. I might have been slightly annoyed that the applicant (“offeree”?) hadn’t been 100% clear, but I would have seen it as something I needed to clarify with them.

  27. Lisa*

    First of all, I think it’s awesome of LW to be so engaged answering follow-up questions in the comments! I hate when LWs never show up when the comments bring up major questions… makes me wonder if they really wanted to figure out their situation or if they just like AAM and wanted the fun of being on the blog! And, kudos for doing social work and I’m so sorry that your really valuable work is not financially valued as it would be in a just society :(

    That said, yeah, I’d have rescinded the offer, too. I would have communicated about it, not left you hanging and then said “I thought you weren’t interested,” but it seems clear that the department is just not budgeted to compensate you any more than their initial offer, even as compensation for inadequate insurance. I’m also used to a candidate who wants a position reiterating their strong interest if they need to send an email that is negative about some aspects of the offer–hindsight is always 20/20, but if this comes up again, maybe the framing you could use is more like, “I’m really excited about aspects X, Y, and Z of the position. One of my personal goals as a social worker is N, and I think I’d be well on my way to achieving that through the work I’d have the opportunity to do here. I just have a few concerns still–in addition to the below-market pay that we already discussed, with the benefits being offered, I would be paying $1000/year out of pocket for expenses that most insurance plans cover at 100%. I’d like to have a follow-up conversation with the hiring manager to see if we can find a mutually beneficial way to resolve these concerns. I’m confident we’ll be able to get together on this.”

    1. LW*

      Oh, uh, thanks. I was a bit worried I was just annoying some folks. I have repeated myself a few times by responding to different folks in different places, so I was wondering about that. I am glad you appreciate it. And thank you for the kind words about my profession!

      It sounds like they never would’ve been able to meet any of my needs either, which I understand. And yes, in the future I will reiterate my interest at all times with everyone! It’s good advice from Alison and others, and I’ll heed it. Even if I thought I couldn’t ask for something from the HR person, I could’ve reiterated my interest and should’ve done so. And I could’ve asked the HR person to have the manager call me back to discuss the offer (I actually almost did that! But didn’t obviously), I thought that would be pushy but probably given what I said about the insurance it would’ve come across as interested.

  28. sally*

    You (and your parner) need to get over yourselves. Youre just angry that they said NO to you and didnt give you a chance to officially decline.

    1. fposte*

      I’m really not reading it that way at all, and I think that’s an overly harsh address to an OP who’s been a very good sport about answering our questions in the comments.

      1. LW*

        Thanks! I appreciate earning the title of good sport. Most of the feedback here has been helpful so I’m glad about that.

    2. LBK*

      Huh? It sounds like she actually wasn’t planning to decline as long as the salary could be increased to compensate for the insurance hit. Not sure where you get this impression.

  29. Three Thousand*

    I think it’s likely nothing would have changed even if you had been more explicit about saying you were still open to negotiating the offer. I think they decided they weren’t that crazy about the idea of hiring you after all and just didn’t want to tell you outright.

    1. LW*

      Yeah honestly I think that’s a fair assessment about what happened. I sort of found out later that they pretty much never negotiate which is why they weren’t going to change the offer at all, but I wasn’t told that till too late. But if I’d known that going in, I would’ve saved us all the trouble and declined. Or they could’ve saved me the anxious waiting and just rejected me. But c’est vie, that didn’t happen.

      In the future I will be way more explicit about my interest in the position, so that I know I did everything I could to be as clear as possible though.

  30. Jerry Vandesic*

    Sounds like you did dodge a bullet. They weren’t a viable option, but it’s hard to realize that when you are caught up in the moment. They couldn’t make a competitive offer, neither pay nor schedule nor benefits, so you should take this as a learning experience and move on. Keep looking and good luck.

  31. MsM*

    I don’t really have anything to add in terms of why your phrasing came across as a flat rejection, but it’s a little weird to me that you seem to be treating the email as a cursory acknowledgement you’d reviewed the offer and the phone calls as the part that really mattered. If anything, I’d think it would be the other way around. Yes, talking directly is the best way to hash out details, but one of the first rules of negotiating is to get everything – or at least everything critical – in writing. That includes next steps and a clear outline of what you hope to cover in your conversation. When you say something explicitly, make sure you’re saying it across all avenues of communication, with everyone you’re communicating with.

    1. LW*

      Next time I will ask for that and that’s a good point. I did not have the hiring manager’s email so I could not email her at all, which is why I pointed out that I’d left her two messages with requests to get back to me. If I could’ve emailed her about all this, I probably would have, especially to set up a time to talk instead of playing phone tag / anxiously waiting by the phone for a response that never came.

      1. MsM*

        See, I’d have tried to get the hiring manager’s contact information earlier in the process or done some Googling and seen if I could dig it up myself. But if you’ve only got one contact, you can always ask them if they can provide email addresses for the other people you need to talk to, or if they could please forward to/copy those people in any replies to make sure everyone’s on the same page. If they’ve gotten to the point of extending an offer and don’t want you to have that information, I’d see that as a bad sign.

        1. LW*

          Googled plenty couldn’t find anything. She had a unique last name I had never heard of before, which was much harder. I combed through the hospital website and got zip. I really did try to get her email! The only thing I didn’t try was “Hey, can you give me your email address in case I need anything?” She kept everything via phone call and I thought that it was intentional. I literally didn’t even get an interview confirmation via email (which is typical) from a clerk, nothing, all phone calls and voicemails.

          The only email I eventually did have was for the benefits office. And at that point, arranging for 2 rounds of interviews, initial job offer etc had all been done via phone.

          I see your point that I could’ve asked HR/benefits for her email or to copy her. They were being weird about me asking for what I consider to be basic information about the health plan and often when I asked half the questions to anyone I was told “I don’t know, I’m not sure” so at some point I started asking fewer and fewer direct questions.

  32. LW*

    Next time I will ask for that and that’s a good point. I did not have the hiring manager’s email so I could not email her at all, which is why I pointed out that I’d left her two messages with requests to get back to me. If I could’ve emailed her about all this, I probably would have, especially to set up a time to talk instead of playing phone tag / anxiously waiting by the phone for a response that never came.

  33. Abby*

    When I was looking for my first job out of grad school, my husband took it upon himself to coach me in all the ways of compensation negotiation. The main thing he kept repeating was “whatever you negotiate, make it clear that you would like to work there.” At the time, I didn’t really get why this was such a big deal– after all, I’m not outright rejecting the offer– but after reading this situation, I can see why you need to be 100% unambiguous when it comes to negotiations, even if it means reiterating something that seems obvious to you.

    Job offers and salary negotiations are definitely not the place where you should expect people to read between the lines, or expect them to follow-up with clarification.

  34. BC_is_not_health_care*

    Quite frankly, health care insurance plans shouldn’t even be paying anything for birth control. Birth Control, i.e. ‘the pill’ is basically tricking your body in an attempt to prevent pregnancy. It actually has a negative, not positive impact on your health. Therefore not ‘health care’.

    1. A Bug*

      Is that really a discussion that needs to happen in the comment section of a workplace advice blog? It’s not really relevant to the advice, which is applicable to anybody who’s in a position where they find an offered healthcare plan to be insufficient for their needs, regardless of the reason.

    2. BC is not just for birth control*

      There are reasons that some might use “the pill” that have nothing to do with birth control, and that can positively impact one’s negative health conditions.

      1. Tau*

        If I want to be slightly overdramatic, I’m currently taking the pill in order not to die.

        Slightly overdramatic in that I’m not 100% sure whether not being on it would actually kill me, but my health was definitely in a bad, bad place before I started taking it throughout and I dread to think what would happen to me if I went off it now.

        BC_is_not_healthcare, I hope for your sake you never have to deal with the fibroid from hell. :/

    3. Cinnamon Biscuit*

      Firstly, not all birth control tricks the body into believing it’s preganant — only hormonal ones. The copper IUD for example just kills the sperm that hits the cervix. Secondly loads of other medications do the same thing you are claiming aren’t’ health care. Pain meds trick the body into thinking it’s not feeling pain by binding to receptors, and have far more harmful effects than birth control (such as death in some cases) yet no one would claim it’s not “health care” and therefore not smeothing that should be covered.

      1. LW*

        This person is concern trolling and derailing the convo. I say we just ignore them. Thanks for pointing that out though!

    4. cardiganed librarian*

      Because history has shown that women having one pregnancy after another is the best thing for their health!

    5. CA Admin*

      That is a lie. Pregnancy is incredibly hard on a woman’s body and has a very high chance of complications. Not getting pregnant (or aborting if you do), even if it’s by “artificial” methods like hormones, is ALWAYS safer.

          1. CA Admin*

            It’s hard to tell the difference between sarcasm and social conservatives these days what with all the birth control and abortion restrictions coming down the pipeline.

  35. Sunshine Brite*

    Oh, and in social work, it’s not below market rate if you’re the only game in town. It sounds like that’s the only major hospital in the area so essentially they get to pay what they want.

    1. LW*

      Except there are plenty of other social work jobs. I get that some professions (likely nurses) are forced to work there because they are the only hospital and own most outpatient clinics. But there are plenty of other social work gigs and they complained about losing social workers for better paying jobs. I thought they had learned the lesson, apparently they hadn’t.

      So yes, they are the only hospital game in town. They are far from the only employer.

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        But a lot of social workers get in it specifically for hospital jobs or working with a specific population where in some areas you’re only in the hospitals. Me, I’m a mental health social worker so there’s plenty of options, my friends in other areas don’t have as much flexibility even in our city.

    1. ilovejoshlyman*

      Not every method is covered under the list of 18 (there is why there is a list); without knowing exactly which method the LW wants, it isn’t possible to determine that indeed the employer would be in the wrong.

      1. CA Admin*

        Except that if you read the comments, the LW mentions that she wanted the NuvaRing, which is one of the approved and guaranteed methods. If there was a generic ring (with similar hormone formulations), then she’d be required to get the generic or pay full price. Since there isn’t a generic, the insurance company has to cover it at 100%.

      2. LW*

        There’s actually a lot of discussion upthread that explains all of this if you’re interested. And yes, my version should be covered. It’s not what I want, it’s something that I need and regardless of my insurance I have to have it.

  36. ilovejoshlyman*

    I’m in the LW was in the wrong camp, myself. A response like that to HR is not only rude, but also signals they are no longer interested in the position. Regardless of whether they were told all negotiations would be conducted through the hiring manager, I think anyone with any work experience/common sense would recognize anything said to HR is going to be shared (and considered) by the hiring manager. A job offer wasn’t pulled – the LW rejected the offer.

    I also see the lack of sharing the exact wording of the e-mail (after Alison asked) as a red flag – I imagine the LW realizes they were the wrong, and was simply trying to deflect that blame. I get the impression the LW isn’t interested in taking ownership of what happened considering the constant ‘my partner wanted me to write Alison, is upset, etc and the LW’s response to almost every comment here that doesn’t blame the potential employer.

    1. LW*

      If you look at the comments I did share the wording I used. And I believe I tried to do so with Alison the first time around, I think my swype typing while still recovering from a second shift may have garbled some of what I said to her in the email.

      I think what I learned from this is that my wording wasn’t great and I’ll change it in the future. I can see how someone would think I blame the employer, I was pretty frustrated with the situation I admit that.

      Anyway, other commenters have been really helpful. I hope I can convey that Alison and others have helped me learn a bit in this situation.

      Take care.

      1. ilovejoshlyman*

        I hope one of the things you learn from the comments section here is to take responsibility for things and stop blaming it on anything/everything else (you tried to share the wording, but then you were tired and something prevented you – ie you swear it wasn’t your fault!). Take responsibility for your actions. It will help you loads in the future.

        1. CA Admin*

          Wow, rude. Read the comments before passing judgement–LW has been answering questions and clarifying all day long.

          1. LW*

            Thanks, I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. The original comment felt a bit harsh too but I thought I’d give the benefit of the doubt.

            1. CA Admin*

              Josh Lyman would be ashamed of that poster. As a West Wing lover, I feel confident in this.

              1. LW*

                You are seriously a solid advocate for playing nice today and I really appreciate it! Worse things have certainly been said to me but it’s nice to know that others are like “yo, not cool.” Josh Lyman would be proud of you!

        2. BRR*

          The lw has been great as seeing this as learning opportunity. They have accepted they should have handled it differently and it’s rare to see someone so open to feedback. I’m not quite sure why you’re being so hard on the lw. I think this is where excuses and explanations are really close. Reading just the letter I felt one way but reading all the comments shed a lot more light onto the situation.

          People make mistakes, it happens. The lw has been very receptive to people’s responses and I think any “excuses” are just trying to explain where they were coming from.

        3. Adonday Veeah*

          Wow, really? Not seeing anywhere where the LW failed to take responsibility, multiple times. Your comment was not only unhelpful, it was unkind, and in light of the entire conversation, irrelevant. Oh, yeah, and incorrect.

  37. asteramella*

    How timely–in the wake of a Kaiser Family Foundation study on this issue, the Depts of Labor, HHS, and the Treasury released an FAQ today sternly telling insurers and plan sponsors that ALL 18 forms of FDA-approved birth control must be covered with no cost-sharing (i.e. for free):

    1. CA Admin*

      You know the irony in this? Kaiser of Northern CA was the insurer that wouldn’t pay for my NuvaRing or OrthoEvra (patch).

    2. LW*

      Yes! Haha, I tried explaining this to the HR/benefits woman because she was under the impression “all birth control is covered!” Well legally yes, in practice no. She was actually very surprised! I was glad she helped me look through the formulary, if I had taken her at her word (a mistake I’ve made before) I would be upset my bc was again not covered and they were asking me to pay quite a bit for it.

  38. Have courage and be kind - Austin, TX*

    OP, the important takeaway here for you and others (and thankfully you learned this while dealing with a company that probably wasn’t a good fit for you anyway), is that you should never mention a problem you have with an offer unless you’re either declining it or offering a solution (asking whether they can change the terms or meet you in the middle / explaining you’re going to talk with the decision-maker about alternatives / etc.).

    Otherwise, it will always look like you’re saying, “sorry, that doesn’t work for me–thanks but no thanks”. Especially when the problem is something that many companies can’t be flexible on, such as health plans, which as others have said, often aren’t negotiable on an individual basis. I, too, would have read your message as saying no to the offer, even if it wasn’t sent to the person in charge of the negotiations.

    A much better alternative would have been to just send a thank-you note for the help received, mentioning that you’d be following up with the hiring manager to discuss, so it’s clear what the next step would be on your side.

    I understand that in this case you wanted to not only thank the person for the help but also explain why it was important for you to learn the details. I really don’t think this is necessary; the person who answered your questions was simply doing her job when she clarified the terms of the insurance, so it’s perfectly fine to thank her for the information and leave it at that. In fact, the way you talked about your need to offer an explanation gave me the impression that you were trying to say, “see? I knew that if I probed enough I’d find something wrong with your insurance! And I was right!”. But even if you decide to offer an explanation to justify the extra work someone went through for you, there’s a way to do so without giving the impression you are rejecting the offer. Something like this:

    Thank you so much for answering my questions. The information you provided has been very helpful for me to understand the restrictions of the plan I’d be placed on. Since Hiring Manager explained that any negotiations are to go through him, I’ll contact him next to discuss. Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to give me the detailed information I needed.”

    Now it’s clear that you’re not declining the offer, and any discussions about what you are and aren’t willing to accept will be held with the hiring manager. Very different than saying “this won’t work for me” and leaving the recipient to conclude on her own that you’ll reach out to the hiring manager to negotiate, which is unlikely to happen.

  39. .. and vinegar*

    Hi LW,

    I just want to say that it makes sense to me that you told the HR folks that the insurance package wouldn’t work for you because they were so surprised you had questions about it. Having had those questions answered, I understand the impulse to let them know the results of the research you’d done. You’ve already said that you see how your response to them could have been interpreted to mean that you were declining the job, I just wanted to be a voice for understanding why you’d want to follow up with the HR people on the insurance question. It does sound like a bullet dodged, in the long run. Good luck to you, in finding a position elsewhere and/or in hanging out your own shingle.

  40. newlyhr*

    i just re-read a lot of this post and comments. I think that a big problem here was trying to use email to negotiate. I don’t think email is a very good tool to do that. Email is useful to clarify information and summarize information, and maybe even answer an occasional question, but it falls really flat for a dialogue, and especially something as nuanced as a compensation package negotiation. My suggestion is that you do that over the phone (not voicemail, but an actual interactive phone call) or in person, then use email to summarize what you agreed on.

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