employee keeps bringing her son to our free lunch, I got the job my boss applied for, and more

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

1. Employee regularly brings her son to our free lunch

I work at a nonprofit organization that, among other services, provides five meals a day to various groups of homeless individuals and recovery clients. Our evening dinner is open to public and anyone in need (over 120 people come on a given night). Staff members are welcome to any of the food made during the day, but primarily only eat at lunch (a meal time for our clients in recovery and not open to the public). Occasionally volunteers, guests, or family members join for lunch as well.

One of the receptionists has her son join for lunch and on a regular basis she gets him food from our kitchen. In the past, guests have been so infrequent that there hasn’t been a need to set any guidelines or rules about who can join for lunch and how often they can eat.

This employee is wonderful and her son is in a challenging season of life, so I want to be sensitive. In addition, I do not want to make this a larger issue than it needs to be (when in reality the food he is eating is very cheap) and have to set a rigid boundary when we haven’t done so with other staff members. At the same time, I am concerned about the precedent it might set to allow him to join so frequently – both in her understanding of what is appropriate and the way other staff perceive the situation (it is not fair, it is not proper stewardship of donor money, they now have permission to bring guests frequently). As her manager, how would you recommend I best address this (if at all)?

Are you absolutely sure that he’s not joining her for lunch there because her family is actually in need of food assistance?

If you’re sure that’s not the case, I think you have to decide whether it really would be a problem if everyone on your staff had guests that frequently. I’m guessing that it would be (even if the food is very cheap, I’m guessing it adds up), but if for some reason it’s not, there’s your answer. But assuming that it’s not something you could allow everyone to do with that frequency, then it sounds like it’s time to create guidelines about how often people can bring guests for lunch. Share those guidelines with everyone so that you’re being fully transparent about what is and isn’t okay (and not leaving people to guess and possibly guess wrong) — but I might also talk with her privately first to give her a heads-up and say that you know she often has her son join her at lunch and so you wanted to explain why the new guidelines are being put in place.

2. My boss and I both applied for a new job, and I got it

I work at a large company where there is quite a bit of internal movement between teams and departments. I recently applied for, interviewed for, and got an offer to join a relatively new team in another department. It is a promotion to a more senior level position in addition to being on an exciting new team!

I recently found out that one of my two managers had also applied for the same position. She has less work experience and education than I do but has been at the company longer. The new position would have been a lateral move for her, not a promotion, but in a very different type of position. I don’t think she knows that I applied for the position or that I know that she applied.

I have been told specifically by my boss-to-be that other candidates have not yet been informed that they did not get the position and that I should only share my good news on a need-to-know basis. I have told my direct supervisor (my other manager) and my department’s operations team, so as to allow them to start making plans for my move to the other department. I feel terrible about keeping this manager in the dark, but I also don’t think I’m the one who should break the news that she didn’t get the position.

My dilemma is that she will be informed that she didn’t get the position within the next few days and she will also then need to know that I will be leaving the team. Out of respect, I think I should be the one to tell her that I will be moving off the team (this is standard practice in the company) but I’m worried about what that discussion would look like. I don’t want to put her on the spot with the news that I got the position she also applied for, I don’t want to make her feel bad, and, although I will not be working with her directly in my new position, she is still my manager until my official transition and we will continue to be coworkers. How do I navigate these waters without coming across as being the “bad guy”?

If you act as if you think you need to break it to her delicately, you’re likely to make it a lot more awkward; it could come across as condescending. So the best thing you can do is to be matter-of-fact — and I wouldn’t reference the fact that she applied at all, since it’s really not relevant. Just be direct: “Jane, I’ve been offered and accepted a job as X in the Y department. I’m sad to be leaving our team but excited for the new opportunity.”

But before you do that, she needs to be told that she didn’t get the job herself. And you are not the one who should tell her that; that needs to come from whoever was handling hiring for that position. You might need to nudge that person to tell her quickly; you can explain to them that you need to let her know you’re leaving her team, but that you don’t want that to be the way she learns she didn’t get the job herself. Ask them if they can do that in the next day or two so that you can share your own news with her and begin openly planning your transition.

3. I told my boss I’m unhappy and thinking of leaving, and he didn’t seem to care

I work in IT as a systems administrator for a big department within a large university and I’m unhappy with my job. I love the work but I feel I’m getting paid more in experience than in money. This was great for a while, but I’m doing my boss’s old job for barely more than half of the pay.

I’ve tried discussing the issue with my boss — I discussed being unhappy and that I was looking at other jobs (both within the university and outside of it as well) and his reaction really hurt. He said he understood, told me his story of how he got where he’s at today (which he’s told me a hundred times), and asked me if I’ve thought about moving. I have given thought to moving, but that wasn’t my point.

His response made me feel as though it didn’t matter if I left or not, as though I was worthless. Now instead of feeling simply underpaid, I feel completely undervalued and not taken seriously. Am I completely overreacting?

I’m of the belief that if something doesn’t make sense, it’s because you don’t have all of the information, so maybe I’m missing something here.

It’s possible that your boss didn’t try to convince you to stay because he doesn’t care if you leave. But it’s also possible that he knows that he’s not going to be able to pay you more or change the things that are making you unhappy, and he doesn’t want to blow smoke up your ass or string you along (like managers who make vague promises of raises and other changes and then never come through). He might also be someone who takes things at face value — you’re telling him you want to leave and he assumes your mind is made up, and he’s supporting you in figuring out what’s next.

Whichever of these possibilities it is, it doesn’t add up to “worthless.” At worst, it could add up to “not as valued as you’d like to be,” but even that isn’t worthless. So, yes, I do think you’re overreacting. Take your boss’s response as useful information — this isn’t someone who’s going to give you the things you’d like, for whatever reason — and make decisions accordingly. But don’t feel insulted; I don’t really see an insult here.

By the way, have you directly made the case for a raise? If you haven’t, that would probably have been the conversation I’d have with your boss, before you get to the “I’m unhappy and looking at other jobs” conversation.

4. Job searching through Facebook groups

I’m an active Facebook user and a member of a few local “buy/sell/trade” groups on the site. A recent trend I’ve noticed is for a group member to post an In Search Of message asking for job leads. These posts are usually not well-worded, often don’t have any description of the person’s skill set, and basically sound like desperate attempts to get a lead. I can understand putting feelers out in your own personal network, but some of these groups have 15k+ members in the local community, and while that does increase one’s chance of finding a potential lead, I don’t understand why people won’t take the time to make their posts sound professional.

Worse still are the people who are posting for a friend or family member (which eeks me out, regardless of the venue). Is this really becoming a thing? I’ve seen stories of hires made by outside-the-box social media pitches, but I thought they were an anomaly; I’m seeing these kinds of job requests posted weekly. Does anyone actually hire these people?

I don’t think it’s becoming a thing; I think there have always been people who do this kind of thing, and the internet has just made it easier. As for why they do it, I suspect it’s a combination of desperation and lack of understanding of what effective job searching looks like (and the latter almost certainly feeds the former).

Does anyone hire them? I can’t say for sure, but it’s hard to imagine someone seeing a poorly-written post from a stranger looking for a job, with no mention of their skills or professional background, and thinking, “Ah, you’re perfect for my team!” If they ARE getting connected with job leads this way, I have to think it’s more likely to be for shady stuff more than anything else.

5. How quickly should I respond to a prospective employer’s email?

Is it okay to reply to an employer a few days after they contact you? I have been applying for an internship at a few firms this term. So far, one company has replied a day after I sent the email and asked for sample of works (I’m an architecture student). Since I have been busy in school, I replied three days after and on a Sunday. Is it okay?

It’s probably no big deal in this case, since two of those three days were weekend days.

If you’re contacted about an interview, you want to respond quickly — within 24 hours, generally, because at that stage companies are usually trying to book things quickly and you’re likely to look uninterested if you wait longer than that. But when they’re asking for something like work samples (as was the case here), they’re usually going to allow some time for you to pull them together. In general, though, I’d strive to get back to employers within one business day from here on out.

{ 226 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Furthermore*

    #4 I have used Facebook to reach out to friends in a relevant field on behalf of a colleague a few times, but always via private message. Like a friend of mine was let go from the finance department at my company when her position was eliminated. Being a fellow accounting nerd myself, I PM’d a few friends who also work in the field to ask if they knew of any opportunities anywhere.

    But putting a message out in a public group sounds like the electronic equivalent of buying a billboard to advertise yourself.

    1. OP #4*

      I agree. I don’t see a problem with internal networking on social media sites, but the public blast of desperation doesn’t seem professional. A lot of the replies to these types of posts seem to be the MLM/pyramid scheme reps, especially to people who are asking for work-from-home or flexible jobs, so I guess that says something about the quality of this type of job searching.

      1. AnonForThisOne*

        I’ve seen a lot of that on local FB groups – people who seem truly desperate for work. And I’ve also seen the responses from the damned MLM reps shilling their stuff, which just seems predatory to me.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I’ve seen people do it in hopes of getting job leads – they’re not expecting hiring managers to see it, but they’re hoping community members are aware of job openings. And I’ve seen them get quite a lot of non-MLM replies (and a bunch of MLM replies, of course) about companies in the local community (ones I recognize: reputable ones) that have openings posted / are hiring.

        It reeks of desperation to me, but it also seems to work in some cases…and maybe they are desperate.

        1. Jeanne*

          I think they are desperate. I also don’t think these posts are seeking specific professional jobs. I think they’re looking for leads like the local grocery store is looking to hire three people.

      3. bridget*

        When I see those messages, I assume they are asking about jobs for which you don’t need to be super professional or have an established skill set that are usually filled with younger people starting out. Basically, I figure they are asking if anyone knows of entry-level jobs that don’t require a particular background. A couple of times I’ve responded to things from people I know with links to job postings I’ve seen recently for things like being a runner for a law firm, or a clerk at a local grocery store, and things like that. Jobs that most people can be competent at with a good attitude and minimal training.

        I’m a little more baffled at things like “my 40-year-old got laid off from vague professional job today! Let me know if you hear of anything!” How can I possibly be helpful with that little of information?

    2. Ad Astra*

      On the opposite side of this, kinda: I sometimes have Facebook friends who post a status like “Who needs a job in [City]? FT/pT! Hit me up!” I can’t imagine that’s a good way to find quality candidates. At least tell me what you’re looking for.

      1. OP #4*

        Agreed. It goes both ways.

        For an example, I just saw this message posted in one of these groups:

        “ISO need a full-time job excellent pay and health benefits.
        Thank you”

        Literally, that was it. I need a job and it needs to pay well. I can’t imagine that anything entry-level hat requires no skills would have ‘excellent pay and health benefits,’ so it really does baffle me that people try to job search like this.

    3. OP #4*

      Here’s another example of one I just saw:

      “Hello can someone please help me out my husband just recently loss his job and he needs to find one asap that doesn’t require a background check he can do a pee test and pass . He is a very hard worker and has skills in all trades. Please help we haven’t been able to pay rent this month and it’s getting to the bottom line of eviction. PLEASE HELP!!!!!”

      I get that they’re desperate, but they can’t actually expect to get a lead from something like this. The only comment on it so far is someone suggesting driving for Uber.

  2. Grey*

    #1: Worst case scenario: The receptionist is embarrassed by the implication her child is eating food not meant for him and doesn’t admit she needs help. The kid goes hungry.

    I think I’d leave this alone unless you notice other staff members taking advantage.

    1. Treena*

      I think OP laid it out pretty clearly with “her son is in a challenging season of life.” Unless that means something different? I think enough people would know that it’s not a free-for-all and it won’t be a problem. Because honestly, who has family come to their place of work with a bunch of clients in treatment to eat lunch? Inevitably, someone who feels they can’t afford food.

      1. Anonsie*

        I agree, it sounds like the LW is aware that he’s struggling somehow. Would this be a problem if were not a family member of a staffer, but just a member of the community looking for the organization’s assistance? If not, then it shouldn’t be a problem in this case either.

      2. UKAnon*

        And if it is the case that they can’t afford food, I think the OP needs to ask further about that (sensitively!) Similar to the letter recently, aside from anything else it looks bad when a charity’s causing its staff to use food banks, so if pay or conditions are a cause that should set off alarm bells.

        1. Not Today Satan*

          My impression (because of the “challenging season” comment) is that the son is an adult.

          1. ace*

            I took it to mean he was a troubled teen, so I think there’s a good deal of ambiguity in that phrase.

            1. AcidMeFlux*

              Yes, a teenager. And then I wondered that if so, the son might be having issues in school that would make him not want to eat lunch there, such as bullying.

      3. Monodon monoceros*

        Having the son eat lunch with his mom might be a really important part of keeping him out of trouble, spending time with his mom, and keeping them communicating, too. I think it could be a real shame if this situation is interrupted. If anything, as others mentioned, OP should just sensitively inquire whether everything is OK and see if they need assistance.

        1. UKAnon*

          +1 This is a really good point! Even if it turns out that there isn’t a financial reason which means that they rely on this service, for something like this maybe the OP could look at setting up a system whereby if you bring a guest you are asked to make a contribution covering the cost of the meal, so that employees can take advantage of the service in this way if they wish?

            1. Rose*

              Only if they had a need for him and he wanted to volunteer and had the time to volunteer and whatever season he is in wouldn’t stop him from being helpful or reliable. I don’t think its impossible, but a lot of things would have to line up correctly.

              I’ve worked mostly in the nonprofit sector, and we often have more helpful-ish kind of volunteers than we know what to do with.

        2. Sara*

          Yeah, this was my thought as well. It’s possible that the OP’s comment meant that the son (or the entire family) is struggling financially and thus needs food assistance, but for some reason my first thought was that the son might be having life troubles that aren’t money-specific and that this is providing the mother and son a way to connect. I like UKAnon’s idea above!

        3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Assuming there is not financial need, can’t they make a donation for his lunches? Would $2 a lunch cover costs? $3?

          As long as any interruption caused by the daily lunch isn’t an issue (and there was no mention of that), it makes sense to support the family part of the daily lunch and ask them to donate to cover costs.

          I’d think that would be a good policy for all staff members, a couple free friends/family lunches per month and then a requested donation.

        4. LQ*


          To the OP I think if you can stop looking at him as a family member and instead as a client it might help a lot. He’s just a client who happens to be related to someone who works there. Which lets him know that there are services and might help him access services he might not have otherwise (like the lunch rather than the dinner) and assume that this is a tremendous benefit to him, helping him to be fed twice a day even, as well as to his family, helping him stay out of trouble.

          This is also a benefit to you, it is keeping your employee able to focus on work because she knows her son has been fed, she knows he is ok, she knows where he is. She knows that the work that the organization does is benefiting people who really need it. That can help make a very good, loyal, hardworking employee.

          I don’t think this will set a precedent that other people with kids who are not in challenging seasons of life will be super eager to follow.

          1. The IT Manager*

            But the lunches are restricted to a very specific group of clients and not open to the public.

            1. LQ*

              Yes, which is the helping him access services him night not other wise be able to access. That’s the benefit.

              1. Rose*

                But this isn’t the employee’s personal kitchen. Donors fund nonprofits. Board members put tons of work into keeping them running. This is a service for recovering addicts. NOTHING in this letter implies that LW thinks this family is struggling financially or this man is a recovering addict.

                He isn’t a client. The clients for this lunch are a very specific group. Treating him like any other person would mean telling him to show up for dinner. If worrying about her son is keeping her from preforming her job duties that stinks, but it is not the job of her employer to help her with her family issues at the expense of donors or people who really need the food.

                1. Natalie*

                  The lunches are not strictly clients only: “Occasionally volunteers, guests, or family members join for lunch as well.”

                2. Meg Murry*

                  I think another thing that makes a huge difference in this equation is how different the lunches are from the dinners, and if they are paid for out of one budget line item and funding source (i.e., just “food”) or if the lunches are substantially more expensive than the dinners and/or paid for from a different funding source.

                  If the lunches are funded from some kind of donation specifically for recovering addicts or whatever the target population is – then yes, the son probably shouldn’t be eating them – but for that matter, neither should the volunteers or employees unless there is some kind of directed donation that calls out “for clients, staff and volunteers”.

                  If all the food is funded out of the same pool of money/donations and community members can eat dinner there, and if the lunches are similar in cost to the dinners (so not ok if lunches are steak and dinners are community soup kitchen) I don’t see how this would upset the donors.

                3. LQ*

                  They specifically say it is ok for volunteers, guests or family.

                  And yeah, I do think that the letter implies that the family is struggling. It doesn’t explicitly say recovery from abuse, but it does imply struggle.

                  And yes donors fund nonprofits. And nonprofits should be run in a way that is efficient and effective and part of that is having good employees and sometimes that means letting them leave 15 minutes early for a dentist appointment and sometimes that means letting them eat with their son. The OP doesn’t say “We can no longer justify to our donors/board/whatever the costs of this.” If they said that it might be different but that’s not the concern. They say they are worried that it might start a precedent but has been mentioned by several others that’s not generally an issue. Putting restrictions or earnings limits on is usually far more expensive than any possible money it saves and nearly always chases away the people who need it most because they can’t prove they make nothing.

                  It also may not be the eating with mom part that is important. It might be the eating with recovering folks that is important.

                4. Rose*

                  Right, it says other people come OCCASIONALLY, but this woman is bringing her son regularly enough that LW is concerned about it. Bringing up the fact that other people are allowed to eat there on occasion is irrelevant. If the amount this woman was doing it wasn’t a problem, LW wouldn’t have written in.

                  Maybe she’s not worried about the money from this one person right now (although, like Allison said, it’s going to start adding up at some point). But she’s worried that it might start a precedent where people regularly bring guests and feed them, and that would lead to the exact same issue: more money being spent on guests than is justifiable. There’s no reason she should wait until it is an actual financial issue to cut the behavior off. If it’s heading that way, it’s better to act before it’s a real problem.

                  Why does it matter that the letter implies struggle? This isn’s a blanket lunch for anyone struggling in any way. It is specifically made for clients of the center in recovery.

                  The other people who said there is no reason to worry it would start a precedent are grasping at straws. We have no reason to assume that this man is struggling to eat or with addiction issues. Furthermore, even if that is the truth, if no one else in the organization knows it it’s still going to create the same issues OP mentioned, such as creating resentment or making it unclear what is/isn’t acceptable behavior when it comes to guests. If it’s not a drop in program, it’s not a good idea to make it a sometimes drop in program for some people.

                  We have no reason to believe her son needs to be around other people in recovery. Everyone needs to stop with the internet diagnosis. If this woman wants her son to benefit from the resources they offer to people with addiction issues, she needs to go through official channels for the reasons stated above.

                5. LQ*

                  You are assuming he’s not struggling in these ways, why is your assumption more valid than others? Why is your assumption that he doesn’t need to be around people in recovery more valid that the assumption that he may? What is it about your assumption that makes it more valid?

                  And those who are saying that this will not lead to a slippery slope are not grasping at straws. There is a lot of studies that show that every barrier you put up to supporting struggling families (means testing, drug testing, id requirements, etc) all cut out large portions of the population that actually need/are able to/whatever the services because they won’t go. Not because they aren’t eligible. And part of that would absolutely include this. But it also shows that these kinds of services aren’t being wildly taken advantage of by people with money to throw around, and those people? Would just lie anyway. Excluding this person you might see as just excluding this one person, but when working with difficult to service populations cutting out one person often means others who need, simply don’t ask. Not that they no longer need. But that they don’t ask.

                6. Treena*

                  But the thing is, when you’re feeding disadvantaged people, you don’t want to alienate them and make them feel like they’re getting donated food. That’s why a lot of free lunch programs are starting to give free lunches to any student, even the ones who would never qualify (especially breakfasts). I worked at a clinic that had a snack area, and staff and volunteers were encouraged to openly eat from it to let clients know it was ok to do so and that it wasn’t just for the homeless teens (we would give them a bag or two of food to go).

                7. Natalie*

                  @ Rose, one of the arguments you’ve made in multiple comments is that these lunches are for clients only so the son is misappropriating donor funds. How, then, is it irrelevant to mention that these lunches are not actually for clients only at all irrelevant?

                8. Rose*

                  @Natalie: because the issue is that it is accepted in the company culture to OCCASIONALLY bring a guest, but this person is regularly bringing and feeding her son. She’s clearly saying in her letter that occasional visitors are not an issue but regular visitors are. Therefor, the fact that other people occasional have visitors isn’t really relevant.

        5. Rose*

          That’s all true, but it doesn’t really relate to him detracting resources from the organization. This is a lunch for recovering addicts. If they want to do a frequent family lunch, he can start bringing his own food. He doesn’t HAVE to be taking up company resources to spend time with his mom.

      4. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah – I feel like the slippery slope argument isn’t really a big one here. I can’t imagine THAT many other staff members thinking “ooh, I can invite my whole family for free food now!”

        I would let this one slide.

        1. Rose*

          totally agree! if this lunch is closed to the public, that means they probably don’t have the resources to feed anyone who wants lunch. It might seem like just one person, but it’s a slippery slope and the bottom line is you are detracting from the organization’s cause.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            I don’t think you read Katie the Fed’s comment closely enough. I don’t think you actually agree with her comment.

      5. Rose*

        I would respectfully disagree. I think that’s quite the leap. She said in the letter that other family members, volunteers, etc. eat there occasionally. There are plenty of ways to be in a challenging season without being a recovering addict unable to afford food. That is the population the lunch is served for. When donors give money, this is the population they expect to be helping. Not just anyone who is having a hard time.

    2. Florida*

      How is this lunch advertised? For example, some homeless shelters in my area say they offer lunch to anyone for any reason. If I walked in there is a business suit, they would give me free lunch. Others make you talk to a case worker or prove you need their services.
      If yours is the type that advertises that this open to the community, no questions asked, then don’t judge the parent or the son. Even if that’s not how you advertise it, I think the non-judgmental, empathetic approach is the best one.

      1. The IT Manager*

        The LW clearly states that lunches are for our clients in recovery and not open to the public.

          1. Anonsie*

            Plus they also do community-wide meals open to the public every day, so it’s not like any of this is outside their mission.

    3. Coffee, Please*

      I work at a local church that does free meals weekly for the community. We have received a grant from a local hospital to feed “people in need.”

      When I first started, I would not bring my family to the meal. We could afford groceries on our own, although money was tight. After a few months, people started asking if I would bring the family. I questioned if we were the appropriate people to be receiving free food, and was assured that it would be fine.

      Now, 2 years later, I am so grateful for that one meal a week. I factor it into our budget and meal planning and it helps our family of six significantly. We now have more margin to save, give, and spend.

    4. Rose*

      This is a private lunch for clients of the center. If that was the case, instead of going hungry, she could start having him come to dinner, which is open to everyone.

      1. voyager1*

        I was wondering the age too, my first thought was too young to be left at home and she is single Mom?!?! Lots of good points by others too.

        1. Elder Dog*

          It’s just as likely he’s forty and recently got divorced and mom is sixty, took early retirement and working to put a few more credits in the social security account. I know three mother-son duos in such circumstances. There’s no reason to think they can’t afford enough food.

    5. _ism_*

      Speaking from childhood memories, I am pretty sure my mom did things like this occasionally. She didn’t work at an organization like OP’s but she was too proud to admit we needed financial help and would not mention the reason she would bring us to partake in the various church benefits our church hosted for the needy of the community. (She was a church volunteer, and to my knowledge nobody cared/already knew we were poor). I second the comments that perhaps this should be sensitively asked to the woman before putting a general guideline in place (or build it into the guidelines!)

  3. Three Thousand*

    I’ve definitely seen posts in the nature of my high-school son is looking for a summer job, I just got laid off and am looking for admin work, and so on, and people do seem to respond positively with job leads. Whether those are shady or not I can’t tell, but some of the Facebook groups are for fairly small, insular communities where a lot of people seem to know each other anyway.

    People also sometimes post that they’re looking to hire temporary workers and get lots of positive responses, but I guess that’s expected.

    1. Blurgle*

      This. People aren’t looking for some one to be part of their team on Facebook; they’re looking for someone to cut the grass or do filing. This “team” stuff doesn’t even exist in smaller businesses.

      1. OP #4*

        Oh, I’ve seen those types of posts too. Those weren’t the kind I was referring too. I know there are plenty of small business owners who look for people to fill entry-level positions. What I’ve been seeing lately though are on groups with 15k+ members (I live in a metro area, so our buy/sell/trade groups can be fairly large) saying things like: “ISO job. I can work Mondays, Thurdays, and Fridays from 9-2. PM me if you’re hiring.” … “We moved here a year ago and my wife is now looking for a job. She can work evenings and weekends.” … “My son is looking for a part time job that works with his school schedule. Anyone have any openings?”
        No skills listed, no industry mentioned, no job history, nothing. Some of the posts get leads, some don’t. I can’t tell if the jobs are shady or not, because often the reply will be a tagged person’s name, someone I assume is looking for employees.

        1. Three Thousand*

          Whenever I see those, the responses are almost always leads for low-skilled work. Sometimes people will ask for more information about the poster’s background, education, or experience, but the leads are never for anything very specialized.

        2. Angela*

          I’m in a much smaller area, but when I see these, it’s pretty much exclusively for minimum wage (or just barely above minimum) type jobs. Just yesterday I saw one and the manager of a gas station responded telling the person to come in and apply. I doubt very few people would think they are actually going to find a professional job this way. Also, fb groups are a great way here to learn which factories are hiring, as most people in this area work blue-collar jobs that rarely need to post that they are hiring.

    2. Uyulala*

      I see a lot of looking-for-work posts that are successful too. The most common requests are for low-skilled, entry level or odd-job type work. Laid off, looking for a second job, teen summer work, all kinds of things.

      Basically: I need a job. Any job.

      People also post when those sort of jobs become available. It saves the business the trouble of running an ad and the applicants are “known” entities, at least within the online forum.

  4. AcademiaNut*

    For LW #3 – this sounds like a very common situation when it comes to IT jobs at universities. The pay rate tends to be fixed on a university level, which makes negotiating for pay impossible. And the pay is nowhere near what you could get for similar skills and duties in industry.

    So what happens is that we get fairly young and inexperienced people who work for a few years polishing their skills, then move on to higher paying positions. Occasionally we get someone who simply likes the academic environment and the type of work, and when they’re good, they’re really valued (if not in a financial way). But I suspect that your boss might simply be accepting that you’ve gotten what you can from this job, and are ready to move on to something else.

    1. Daisy*

      Yes I was going to say this- I doubt the boss has much say over the job’s pay grade at a university. And presumably the way up would be the boss’s job, and he’d know if he’s not going anywhere. I don’t really see what the OP expected or wants- it does sound like time to move on if he’s unhappy, and the boss sounds very understanding.

    2. John Vinall*

      Absolutely true.

      I’ve been in the manager’s position and I’ve done exactly this before. Sometimes you get someone within your department who’s really good and you push for a regraded position but it’s never going to happen so they’re stuck in place with no upwards movement available.

      That being the case you need to go “You are an excellent employee. You are too good for this job. Go and find another job elsewhere!”

      …and he did. Went from a helpdesk person / desktop engineer to managing a team of helpdesk people and by all accounts is doing extremely well.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Yeah, I only read #3 as a supportive boss.

      While that reaction can mean “oh good, I was hoping you were going to move on soon because I want to hire somebody who isn’t you for this job”, the context seems to be a boss who is supporting the OP in the next phase of her career.

      It’s a good thing. And sounds like a good, positive reference.

      1. Graciosa*

        I also read this as supportive – but I was a bit turned off by the OP’s reaction to the boss sharing his story of how he got where he is today (the derogatory comment about hearing it a hundred times before).

        Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication. Yes, they do get repeated (especially among family and friends) but there is a ritual sharing element that is more important than the fact that the audience has heard it all before.

        It sounded to me like the boss was communicating his understanding and support, in part by sharing similar experiences of his own. It could have been along the lines of yes, I too left a job where my growth was limited and it all worked out for me, or it could have been a slightly cautionary tale about making proper preparations for a transition (based on the later question about moving).

        We’ll never know because the OP apparently tuned it out completely.

        OP, I’m not entirely sure what scenario you had in mind that you would have interpreted as supportive, but you will probably be happier if you leave yourself to accepting positive communication in forms other than what you expected. I think you missed this one.

        1. The Strand*

          Well, sometimes people do share, literally, the same story repeatedly, forgetting that they’ve told it over and over again. And it can be frustrating if the story is brought out every time regardless of relevance. Big difference between one of twenty stories about the boss’s experience working in Great Britain, and the same story told ten times about meeting Terry Pratchett on a bus. I love stories but I do not want to be told the same one ten times, ritualistically, by my boss.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Probably, but I think the Op was just hoping he’d cushion it with a direct, reassuring phrase like “well, we’ll miss you here. you’ve been great” or something like that.

    4. Kelly*

      There isn’t much #3’s boss can to help them get a raise. If they work for the same institution as I do, they may have had that flexibility within the last couple years when there was money for merit raises for employees. That isn’t in the current budget and I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, the merit raises, at least in my department, mostly went to staff within 5 years of retirement. I don’t think any of the invaluable hardworking technology staff got raises.

      We’re still working out the bugs from switching to a new cloud based system. Our IT staff has been essential with the switch. They seem to be the few that have been open with the rest of the staff about the changes.

    5. Lia*

      I work in academia, and this is exactly the situation here. We have a lot of turnover in IT because of it, yet no one seems to think it’s a problem. There’s little opportunity for advancement and the pay is about 30-40% lower than in private industry. The good managers DO encourage the good staffers to move on after a few years, because it is a dead end, sad to say, for most staff.

    6. Meg Murry*

      I agree with others that the boss is responding as sympathetic and helpful, not as insulting. I would interpret what the boss isn’t saying directly as “Yes, your pay sucks – you know it, I know it, but I can’t do anything about that so let’s try to find you a better position.” What does OP want the boss to do, whine about how valuable she is and then give her a guilt trip about leaving like we see in so many letters? Especially if the boss has been there a while, boss probably understands that the position only has a few years “shelf life” before people move on, and has gotten used to the fact that s/he will be training a new person every 2-5 years. Heck, it sounds like the boss is willing to be helpful and put in a good word for you, so if he can use his connections to help you to another position within the university at a higher pay scale – use the connections! Or if he can’t pay you more directly, he may be able to help you figure out what is required for the next level positions, and possibly even pay for you to take training classes out of his budget for the required certifications or training on various software programs

      One thing for OP to consider though when evaluating leaving is that while universities often have lower pay than the private sector, in some areas the benefits are really outstanding. At the university near me, the employees get all the college holidays (10-15 days per year) plus an additional 20-25 vacation days, and super cheap health insurance with really low deductibles – my friend’s insurance plan that all the other employees are griping about “having to pay so much” has the same type of deductible, out-of-pocket and employee contribution requirements that I had in the private sector almost 15 years ago – under $100 a month for a $500 deductible family plan, while I’ve been paying almost triple that for a $5000 deductible plan in the private sector. So if OP does leave the university, be sure to evaluate the whole package, not just to jump when there is the offer of higher pay. If OP is at a state university, s/he may benefit from applying to another state school, as the years of service generally transfers within the state system – that may be why the boss is asking if OP is willing to move, maybe he has connections at another school?

      1. The Strand*

        Great point about state service. It can really add up to weeks or months of vacation.

  5. Kate*

    “I’m unhappy and looking for jobs” means, to me, that you already decided to leave, and it sounds like your boss interpreted it like that too.

    It sounds like what you meant to say was “I’m unhappy with X and Y, and looking for other jobs that are different in X and Y respects. Can we make a plan to change X and Y or should I continue looking?”

    1. No Longer Passing By*

      You’re probably right, Katie. OP, is your disappointment based on a n the fact that your boss didn’t offer solutions?

  6. Elder Dog*

    #1 I wouldn’t make a rule for “everybody” when the problem is with one person.

    If the receptionist isn’t making enough money to feed her family, that’s a different problem, but again, not one I would address by making rules for everybody.
    Other people seem to understand the company culture around the free food. If the receptionist either doesn’t, or is ignoring it, her manager should ask her about it. It’s not a comfortable conversation, but it is the manager’s job.

    1. LBK*

      I think it’s fine to make a rule for everyone as long as it’s not banning reasonable behavior. I take issue with things like banning cell phones because of one slacker, since that punishes the people who weren’t abusing it. If the new rule is generally in line with what most people were doing anyway, the only person impacted will be the receptionist.

  7. AnnieNonymous*

    #1: If the son is in school, he’s eating 2 lunches a week. That raises no red flags with me (though things may change now that school is out). If he is joining his mother for lunch during the week, that suggests an unconventional school or home situation that is worth investigating before setting new rules. How is the son getting to this facility while his mom is working? If this is an adult son, he’s the one who needs to be questioned, not his mother, since he might actually need some of the services that this organization provides.

    Does the organization hire through outreach or hire from among their own “success” stories? Because unless I was actually in need myself, I would never, ever eat food that was earmarked for homeless people. My friend’s dad used to show up for lunch at the local soup kitchen whenever he didn’t feel like cooking, and his whole family was embarrassed. People with any sort of means simply do not eat at soup kitchens. I’m curious as to why the meals are open to employee guests at all, unless it’s known that many employees have friends and family members who need the help. Otherwise, I’d be completely appalled that this place allows any old yahoo to walk in and eat food that is supposed to go to people who have no other options. Does the board even know that this is going on? This is not what the donations and funding are for.

      1. No Longer Passing By*

        I thought adult because he would be in school plus he’s coming on his own

      2. Kelly L.*

        I pictured a minor, though I’m not sure why.

        As I understand “season of life,” it’s common in some circles as an idiom for “period in somebody’s life when particular stuff happens,” not necessarily a specific age. So you might say you’re in a challenging season of life if you’re going through financial hardship, or illness, or emotional struggles; it’s not exactly equivalent to “puberty” or “midlife crisis” or anything linked specifically to chronological age.

        1. teclagwig*

          Yeah, I read that phrase as adult son going through joblessness, divorce, and/or other setbacks that would be temporary, and was very confused by people mentioning school. I can see teenager, I suppose,but the logistics baffle me.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


      I’d be completely appalled that this place allows any old yahoo to walk in and eat food that is supposed to go to people who have no other options. Does the board even know that this is going on? This is not what the donations and funding are for.

      Doesn’t sound like what is going on. It sounds as if the people who work there are eating with clients in a family atmosphere during the day, the closed meals that are for recovery clients.

      I’ve never worked in the non-profit world, but this sounds like a positive to me, as does including occasional extended family members of the staff. It seems inclusive and warm and, I don’t know, leveling? It’s not food that is only good enough for Poor People.

      I think the OP is right to be concerned about the over usage of the son in this case because it is going past an occasional inclusion experience/exposure and into feeding him daily, but the original policy seems a positive to me.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I agree that this could be seen as a warm and inclusive family option, instead of a negative. I’m wondering if based on the “challenging season” part the mother is inviting him to have lunch with her so he’s not sitting at home all day alone – by coming to lunch he is interacting with other people at some point during his day. Or if he is a child home from school for the summer it could be his mother’s way of checking up on him, and making sure he eats something other than junk food all day and sees the light of day. Somehow, in my mind I’m imagining someone who would otherwise spend the whole day cooped up at home playing video games in a dark room.

        OP mentions that sometimes the volunteers eat there too. If the son is coming because he has nowhere else to be/nothing else to do, could he volunteer to help cook, serve or cleanup lunch? Would OP feel better if the son was a regular volunteer and not just someone who ate lunch their regularly? Even if he is young, he could probably sweep floors, clear tables, wash silverware or collect cups. Or maybe he could volunteer at his mother’s work area – stuffing envelopes, making photocopies, etc.

        As for AnnieNonymous’s comment about the man who ate at soup kitchens – the soup kitchens in our area are purposely open to all not just those in a food crisis, to be leveling like Wakeen’s Teapots mentioned. A decent amount of the business is actually not people who are without food but rather people who are lonely. There are discreet donation buckets there, and it is understood that if you can afford to, you drop a couple dollars in the bucket – which pays for your lunch and then some.

        I think as long as the son eating there doesn’t compromise the ability to feed the population (it would not be ok for him to take a meal specifically meant for someone else) or cause them to have to make extra food in order to not run out I think OP probably should just leave it alone. What happens to any food that is left over at the end of the lunch? Does it get worked into the supper somehow, or saved for the next day’s lunch or just thrown out? I would definitely think it was ok for the receptionist to get her son a plate after the clients have been served if the food was otherwise going to be thrown out.

        One last note – if the son is school aged and OP has any concern about him otherwise going without lunch, she could see if there are any summer lunch programs in her area. Our local elementary school gives out bagged lunch daily during the week to any child, no questions asked or eligibility required. The camp my son goes to is mixed-income and the lunch there is part of the program. Parents are asked if their children will all participate in the bagged lunch so their is no stigma attached to kids receiving the free bagged lunch, and we are asked (but not required) to make a donation toward the program if we can afford it. I’ll post a link to the USDA site where you can find free summer lunch programs in the next comment that will probably get caught in moderation, but it is the first result if you google “summer food rocks”

          1. BananaPants*

            This is the USDA-funded initiative that our library is using for the free lunches (posted about it below). Kids from 2-18 years can come and get a free box lunch at the library every weekday. There is no eligibility check and it’s open to all kids. The same program has sites for breakfast and lunch at the Boys & Girls club and at some of the elementary schools – again, open to any child in the community. I think it’s a great program and makes a huge difference for families in need.

            We did feel weird at the prospect of taking the kids to the library for story time and then staying for lunch – like we’d be taking food from a child who would otherwise go hungry. While we’re a single income family right now and funds are tight we’re able to feed out kids. But then we learned that having the summer food program be open to any child lessens the stigma and more participation helps ensure the program will continue; if they don’t have enough kids coming to eat, then it may not be a summer lunch site next year. The library has tied it into their summer reading program so kids “get credit” for the program by going to lunch at the library. Something else I didn’t consider is that the box lunches for the sites are prepared by a local cafeteria/food service vendor, which helps keep their workers gainfully employed during the summer break from school.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Summer free lunch programs make a HUGE difference to families who need them. I’ve heard of some areas instituting mobile lunch vans so they can drive out to the high-need areas, where kids might not have transportation to the free lunch locations.

          1. the_scientist*

            I recently heard/ read about this initiative! I think it was a This American Life podcast, potentially??

            I hadn’t realized until hearing about this just how important school lunches are in the US. In Canada, school lunch is not A Thing at public schools, and it’s also not a thing at any municipal day camps (the expensive private day camps do have it, but parents have to pay extra). If a significant proportion of your school population is relying on the free or heavily subsidized school lunch, there must be real stress in those households during the summer.

            1. Ad Astra*

              Yes, I think I heard it somewhere on NPR. Interesting that school lunches aren’t so big in Canada.

              Sorry to derail the discussion, but many American school districts also run into problems when the weather is bad and administrators have to decide whether to call off classes. On the one hand, they have to consider everyone’s safety traveling to work; on the other hand, canceling class often means some children won’t eat that day. It’s a real balancing act.

              1. Natalie*

                The city next to me handled that last year by having optional school, basically. Staff members who could make it in did so, and the schools were open to any students who needed somewhere to go (and probably also something to eat), but students who didn’t show up weren’t penalized with an absence. I thought it sounded like a pretty good compromise.

              2. No Longer Passing By*

                I’ve never thought about that point!! That’s right; some kids only eat by going to school so no school means no food. *slaps forehead *

            2. Elsajeni*

              Schools in my city now do summer breakfast as well, and they’ve done the same thing as Meg Murry described — no questions asked, no eligibility test, anyone under 18 who shows up and asks for a meal can have one. Some of the news stories about it took on a kind of shocked tone like, “But people who don’t need it will take advantage!”, but the school district spokespeople made the excellent point that they would much rather give a meal to someone who doesn’t need it than have someone who does need it stay away because they’re not sure they need it enough.

        2. Colorado*

          Meg Murray – I think this is such a sincere and well thought out comment. What harm can come of this? Who knows her and her son’s story. And as far as people coming in “looking like they don’t need free food”, how do we know, who are we to judge? As someone who has never gone hungry, this whole post makes feel sad.

        3. Anonsie*

          My mother worked for a nonprofit that provided support services to some specific client groups when I was a kid. My dad normally negotiated time off when I was out of school (since he did shift work) but there were quite a few times where that wasn’t possible and my mom took me to her office with her. She would send me over to the print shop down the hall and the people who worked there would put me on volunteer duties like adding the spiral bindings to notebooks or running huge stacks of paper through these huge industrial hole punch machines or flattening boxes or whatever. They regularly had volunteers coming through (though usually not under 10 years old) so they already had a setup for giving people tasks and keeping an eye on them throughout the day, so just went ahead and went that route with it.

          They could have told my mom to figure out different childcare and not let her bring me in, and that would have been totally reasonable too. But my mom was a good employee and this was an easy option for them to both give her a boost and get some volunteer hours, so they went this way instead. I think the print shop people thought it was fun to teach me how to do things sometimes, too, because if I didn’t go down to see them when my mom brought me in they’d come bug her to send me over, and if I didn’t go in for a long time they would start asking my mom when my next day was going to be.

          Winding back around to my point: I think sometimes taking a somewhat unconventional tack can be really nice for everyone involved. It’s simpler to say no kids at work or every day is too much, and that’s fair, but there are ways to turn this into something positive for everyone too.

      2. BananaPants*

        My kids are occasionally participating in a free summer lunch program at the local library, which our city is eligible for because of the percentage of school children receiving free and reduced cost lunches. I felt weird about it but they open it to every child in the community and link it with the library’s summer reading program specifically because of the inclusion/leveling aspect. If there’s a broad cross-section of families attending and participating, then it isn’t perceived as being just a thing for poor kids; it becomes more of a community event and it lessens any stigma that a family may feel.

        I agree that the receptionist’s son may be over-using the privilege of participating in the closed lunch, but I don’t see anything crazy about an organization having this policy.

      3. the gold digger*

        It’s not food that is only good enough for Poor People.

        That’s a big part of the meal programs where my church helps out. Volunteers don’t just prepare food. They eat with the guests. It is about community.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m wondering if “challenging season” means he has/had drug problems? And if that’s the case, then the time with his mom and the other recovering individuals is a good thing?

        1. Dana*

          I am really not understanding that phrase, but all of this reads as a good thing for the son to me. He could be recovering from something, but wasn’t involved with this organization. I think I’d be more concerned if the receptionist was bringing her son, daughter, niece, friend, cousin, and cat. Somehow I’m reading that this isn’t an exploitation of the free lunch.

          1. Kelly L.*

            It’s jargon of a sort; it mostly just means “having a rough time lately” and could mean a lot of things.

      5. Chinook*

        “I’d be completely appalled that this place allows any old yahoo to walk in and eat food that is supposed to go to people who have no other options. ”

        I am the opposite – I would have no problem with this policy because it respects the dignity of everyone who walks in and allows them to have a meal without having to prove they are needy. Are there those who will abuse it? Probably (but there is also nothing stopping an abuser from lying either). Maybe it is because I live in an area where having a f/t job doesn’t equal being able to find or afford decent housing or where millionaires wear jeans and t-shirts to work, but being able to prove whether or not you are “worthy” of free food just strikes me as doing harm to someone’s dignity.

    2. GOG11*

      I worked at a community center that provided free lunches throughout the week. We did not require proof of income of any sort and it was sort of on the honor system. To be honest, there is already enough stigma around free food/food pantries, I think the organization wanted to reduce barriers to receiving the food. Additionally, that same stigma made the program unappealing to people who didn’t actually need the food (and, in some cases, to those who do need the food). It’s unfortunate that shame comes into play in this way, but it does.

      1. fposte*

        Right, the alternative would be to means-test people somehow, which would be horrible (and would also cost the org more than the additional meal).

    3. Natalie*

      FWIW, a lot of organizations in my area that provide help with homelessness offer free meals to whomever shows up. They, frankly, would be thrilled if more people who didn’t capital-N need the food came, as part of the purpose is to get everyone connected regardless of their personal familiarity with homelessness.

      1. JMegan*

        Absolutely. The connection is so important. If the receptionist’s son comes to lunch regularly and gets to know Frank and Susan and Michelle who also come to lunch, he’s less likely to think of them as “those poor homeless people” and more likely to start thinking of them as individuals.

        Also, as he gets to know the program, he will be better able to refer people to it; or even to someday donate money or time to helping people out. As long as he’s not taking food that is specifically meant for someone else, I see only positives in including him here.

    4. Rose*

      Many high school students can leave campus for lunch. We’re really just making things up at this point.

      1. AnnieNonymous*

        My point was that if the manager is starting to see a problem with employees using something that they have been told is a perk, it might not actually be an “on the books” perk. It might be a “well, everyone grabs some food during long shifts thing” even though really they’re not even supposed to do that. Because if it was a legit perk that everyone was always allowed to use, this would not be a question.

  8. Anx*


    I must admit, there’s something about these messages that I find grating. I’m guilty of poor grammar, awkward syntax, and typos, so I don’t think it’s just the text speak.

    I think it’s the tone. Maybe I perceive them to be demanding. Maybe it’s that resent them for being so much more efficient and pragmatic about their job search, cutting through the pleasantries and search engines and reaching out to complete strangers to tell them where the job fairs are.

    1. Raine*

      It’s desperation. When I was out of work for 18 months I was ready to beg in my own Facebook feed for literally Any. Job. At. All. (I was starting to despair and consider ending everything, actually.) It can get really dark for anyone. I don’t wish it on anyone.

      1. Anx*

        Oh I know how desperate you can get. I was unemployed for over 4 years, and I applied to many different jobs (which was tough because employers want you to want THEIR job and not just any job but I also could not be picky).

        I am sorry you went through those thoughts! I never considered it, but I started to understand why people do. I also felt like I was being ushered into that direction. I think people underestimate how powerful external factors can be to mental health crises.

    2. LBK*

      I think it’s because the way many of them are written comes off as lazy. I think you could write one that’s meant like a networking request to see if anyone you know can connect you with the right people to give you a job, but usually they’re more like “You should all know what I do and how amazing I am and therefore be throwing job offers at my feet.”

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Now that you mention it, it feels akin to when folks my parents’ age tell young people to just go door to door, walking into businesses, asking if they’re hiring and handing them their resume. This is a new medium of out of touch.

  9. In labyrinths of coral caves*

    #2: I usually don’t mind confrontation, but this situation is strange enough that I’d let HR and the corporate bureaucracy do all of the heavy lifting (ie, informing the boss she didn’t get the job, informing the boss that you got the job)(basically what Alison said) and stop by afterwards to talk to her. She may end up seeking *you* out – when they tell her she didn’t get the job, she’ll likely ask who did. My guess is that if you could find out she was trying out for the job, then she’ll get at least an informal tip that you got the position.

    In any event, if she’s a professional, this might be a little awkward but no big thing. The “problem” scenario is if she’s kind’ve a psycho and has trouble with you beating her out of a position she wanted. Based on the fact that you didn’t see fit to bring this up, I’m going to cross my fingers and assume it’s not an issue, and wish you the best on your cool new job.

    1. UKAnon*

      I think that she might be immature about it – and OP will need to factor that in to how they approach this if they think it is the case – but I dislike saying psycho, not least because of its unfortunate history of use being applied pejoratively to those with mental health problems.

    2. Daisy*

      Well, anything *might* be a problem *if* someone’s a psycho. Seems a bit of a leap. In any case it wouldn’t be a problem long, since OP’s moving department anyway.

      1. In labyrinths of coral caves*

        > Seems a bit of a leap

        Well … a) there’s been a fair amount of press in the past several years about “psychopaths in the boardroom” (a lot of it stemming from books by Dr. Robert Hare and Jon Ronson and others) and

        b) sadly, you don’t really have to search real hard here in AAM to find examples of management behavior ranging from ‘odd’ to ‘psychopathic’.

        > … it wouldn’t be a problem long

        Yeah. Like Norman Bates was only a ‘problem’ for Marion Crane for a few hours.

  10. teclagwig*

    I am surprised at the advice to make a policy for all when one person is overstepping. Everybody will know it is aimed at one person, which is honestly a lot more embarrassing thanks being pulled in to the manager’s office for a delicate, concerned inquiry into son’s welfare and/or explanation that family are not included in this perq.

    My bias is towards letting it continue, but if you have to address it, AAM’s usual advice is on point for this.

    1. Coach Devie*

      Yes!! I didn’t even think of this. Implementing a policy when only one staff member has been bending things this way, will definitely come across as very targeted, when it might already have been a bit humbling for the staff member to utilize this for her son, depending on circumstances.

    2. Elder Dog*

      This. Thank you for saying it better than I seem to have above.
      There’s no reason to make a general policy to apply to everybody when there’s only one person that policy could apply to and everybody knows it.

    1. I am anonymous*

      Why do you think the issue is pay? I read the post and thought the receptionist is trying to keep her son from running with a bad crowd.

        1. Dasha*

          I was thinking this too (even though we don’t anything for sure). I agree with with the others who are saying let it go.

          1. I am Anonymous*

            I also agree that the OP should let it go. I just think the issue could be something other than the mother’s salary.

            1. Coach Devie*

              I think, if the son is a youth in her care still, that it could be a combination of both salary and other issues (the challenging season bit)

      1. Artemesia*

        I thought so too. I think the value of this teen (which I assumed) having lunch with his mother instead of what else he might be up to at that time of day is a positive thing for that family and more about the time with mom than the free food. I’d let it go for now.

        1. Sadsack*

          Is he even a teen? There’s nothing in the letter to indicate his age, just that he is in a “challenging season,” whatever that means. He could be out of school and struggling as a young adult. If that’s the case, maybe he would be entitled to the food as a member of the community. Who knows what is going on with him? Maybe the employee doesn’t want to support him financially, even if she can. I think OP left out some details here that would have helped the commenters offer more specific advice.

        1. I am Anonymous*

          What’s a common issue? I’m sorry, but nowhere in the original letter due I see any indication that the issue is pay, but instead that the son is going through a “challenging season.” That does not say to me the mother makes too little money but rather the son is having some type of problem. My first thought is bullying, gangs or neighborhood violence. Pay may be an underlying issue, but increasing the mother’s salary will not solve the son’s immediate problems.

          1. I am Anonymous*

            I’d like to add that I agree with the others that this is a non-issue and the son should be allowed to continue to see his mother at lunch time. My only objection is to the assumption that the issue can only be the mother’s salary, and raising her salary will solve it.

            1. LQ*

              Agree completely. I think it’s fine to look at the salary and see if it is reasonable or if it should be raised.

              But saying that is the issue ignores the fact that plenty of people who don’t have financial troubles may need to take advantage of something like this for other reasons. Like being able to touch base with a troubled family member during the day. That can happen to people at any income bracket.

              (It also assumes the son is a kid and not an adult who is not being supported by family, and that may be an intentional decision, not a financial one.)

        2. LBK*

          It’s common but I don’t know that it could be assumed, especially since the OP makes no mention of it.

    2. Rae*

      That dosn’t necessarily help. There are SO many factors that can add into food insecurity. Sometimes it’s as simple as never being taught how to cook. Other times it is monetary, but nothing would be enough, like debt from a divorce, college/education, healthcare, high living expenses or even personal preferences. Sometimes it’s from making financial mistakes that are no one’s fault but your own.

      If this child (teen or adult) is able to get to and from his mom’s workplace on his own, as a manager, my first thought would be to say, “It’s really great Johnny can join you for lunch, could he stay to clean up/bag more food/make a poster”

      This would allow both the employee and her child to save potential embarrassment, as well as quell any co-workers objections if Johnny volunteers. (even if it’s just a bit)

      1. Coach Devie*

        I like the wording of this, as far as asking for him to donate his time to help the org in some way.

  11. Blue Anne*

    #4, I think it’s just something that a small group of people do, rather than a Thing. I’m planning on going independent as a bookeeper/small business accountant at some point, so I keep an eye on the local gumtree/craigslist…. recently there was one guy who wrote a bookeeper ad for his girlfriend. “My girlfriend has done some bookeeping and is looking for clients…” etc. I felt so bad for this woman that I sent a quick reply saying you know, I’m in this business too, and it would probably be better if she wrote the ad herself… Dude answered on her behalf and was not pleased.

    I just have no idea why this stuff ever seems like a good plan. But for some small sliver of the population it does, apparently.

    1. No Longer Passing By*

      She probably isn’t a bookkeeper but an administrative assistant who was given bookkeeping tasks in the past. I’ve seen that time and time again.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, it happened a lot after the recession, when jobs were consolidated. Made it hard for me to find a straight admin position because I can’t math well enough to keep anybody’s books.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh yeah, I ran into this too. Sometimes it led to people wanting their AA to be a CPA, which ruled me straight out.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            I got let go from a receptionist job at a small CPA firm because they decided they needed someone who could do more than just enter transactions in Quickbooks. It sucked. (Not that I liked the job– it was a horrible environment. But a paycheck is a paycheck, and I’d been laid off the previous year, had run out of unemployment, and hadn’t been in the CPA job long enough to reset unemployment. It took nearly a year for me to get my current position, and I had to live on the generosity of my parents. SUUUUCKED.)

            1. Kelly L.*

              Oh, and mostly irrelevant to the CPA thing, but speaking of job consolidation, when i was job searching, I interviewed for one that was combination AA/waitress. :D I had myself talked into thinking I wanted it, too, but in retrospect I’m glad I didn’t get it. It was going to be ridiculous hours for low pay.

              1. The Strand*

                AA Waitress combo?

                I’m going to have nightmares about that. I can’t imagine a scarier, more unpleasant job, except maybe if you were also required to sing.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Aw, you most likely can Math way better than you think. I’ve never Mathed so much than I do in my current Admin position, and am often surprised how much better I’ve become!

  12. AdAgencyChick*

    #2 begs the question for me: Is it common practice in other companies to allow someone to apply for an internal transfer without first notifying her current manager? My company’s policy is that you have to tell your boss and have your boss’s approval to apply. Which isn’t 100% perfect, as in OP’s situation it could have resulted in the boss saying, “No, you may not apply, I need you on my team” when in fact the boss was thinking, “No, that’s one less person I have to compete against.”

    It seems like with a decent manager, the conversation of “I saw Fergus has a Teapot Manager slot open in his group and I think it would be a really good move for me. How do you feel about me throwing my hat in the ring?” is a lot less awkward than the conversation of, “Hey Lucinda, I’m going to be joining Fergus’s team next Wednesday. Nice working with ya!” (Never mind the extra awkwardness of “I got the job YOU wanted!”)

    I’ve never worked at a company where telling your manager first has NOT been the policy, but I’m curious as to whether the OP’s setup or the tell-your-manager setup is more common overall.

    1. UKAnon*

      I had read it as being that this isn’t the OP’s direct manager (who seems to know about the situation) but somebody with management authority – so if I’m not misreading anything, it might be that they told their direct manager but not the other manager? (I agree it leads to supreme awkwardness otherwise when you come to announce it!)

    2. Christy*

      How would you ever advance if you had a terrible or vindictive boss? You’d be stuck in your old team forever if they wanted to keep you.

      My government agency generally tells, but there’s no overarching policy.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yeah, that’s where the system fails. It has never been a problem for me personally, and internal moves are common at my company — I think it’s because, at least for junior people, it is very easy to jump ship to another agency once you have a year or so of experience under your belt. So bosses know that they need to be open to internal moves unless there’s a very compelling reason not to be — otherwise you’ll just end up losing the employee altogether.

        The worst I’ve heard with such moves is that the manager asks that the employee not transfer immediately, but wait for another similar opening (and there almost always is one) in a couple of months. This is especially common if the team the employee is currently on is launching a product, which requires a lot of crazy hours and is not a good time to train a replacement.

    3. Chocolate lover*

      My university does not require we inform our managers that we are applying to other internal positions, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. No way would I have given my last boss a heads up that I was applying for other jobs, internally or externally. She would have turned on me on a heartbeat and used me for target practice. That was her MO.

      I know she’s not the normal manager by any stretch of the imagination, however I’ve also seen even well meaning managers start treating staff differently, changing their work assignments, not including them in things, etc. From the employee standpoint, I think it’s better to wait until you have actual offers, rather than just telling them you’re applying to other things. Especially since you don’t know how long you’ll actually be there.

    4. Raine*

      No, I’ve never worked anywhere where you had to tell your manager. In fact, what a way to lose great employees who love the company and work but either not the manager or something about the team’s dynamics.

      1. Judy*

        Most places I’ve worked required you to tell your manager, but the manager had no ability to stop it if you had been in the position for longer than a year, some places 2 years. The manager only had a way to say no if you had been in the position for a short time.

    5. LBK*

      At my company you have to tell your manager and get approval to apply if you’ve been in your current role less than a year. After that it’s not required.

    6. JustMe*

      At my last company, major fortune 500, you had to let your manager know you were applying internally. IMO, that is such a bad policy. The other manager of the team with whom you were applying could call and speak to the current manager for any ‘issues’. While this is normal in the grand scheme of things, imagine having a total loser for a manager and have he/she try to block your every move for growth opportunities simply because they could. Not good.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, but wouldn’t that be obvious after a while if all of Lucinda’s reports were getting bad reviews and never moving up??

        1. Mike C.*

          In the long term, sure. Maybe. If someone cared to look.

          In the long term, we’re all dead.

        2. Nerdling*

          You would think, but it would also require that the folks above Lucinda cared. I had a boss like this, and even after something like 60% of my Lucinda’s reports were able to get their performance reviews overturned, she remained in charge. Why? Because her boss liked her.

      2. Lamington*

        I have been in that situation before with a manager blocking several job opportunities because I was “too valuable” to loose and would tell that to the other manager. So they could never make me an offer. Thank God I moved to a new company.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      This is such a good point (duh, me, for not thinking of it sooner). Also, wouldn’t they have asked her current manager/s about her work?

  13. Vadigor*


    The obvious solution in the LW’s case, and one that I expected to have already been brought up is to send a simple reply confirming their request and letting them know you’ll send the samples within the next few days. In this case it’s even simpler: “I’ll get them to you by Monday.”

    Thar way you’re reaffirming your interest in the position and don’t have to worry that they might think you unresponsive.

    Note to everyone working in an office: this is also great practice for replies to colleague’s emails when you’re swamped and their request will be in the low priority queue for a few hours/days/weeks. It also (usually) prevents them from walking over in person to check on their request.

  14. Amy*

    #1 – this isn’t really a problem, since they can afford to feed this kid and other people aren’t piling on. There are a million good reasons for her to bring her son and no good reasons for you to deny him a meal. I disagree that you need to do something now. If everybody brings their kids and the employees start to eat too much, only then will you have a problem that needs fixing.

    I grew up with a single mom subsisting on crap pay and she took us to free meals because life was really really tough for us!

    1. moss*

      Another child of a single mother here; another vote for compassion.

      It’s not a problem NOW, and you’re imagining some dire escalation where everyone’s kids come in and grub all the grub and that…probably won’t happen.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        And considering how picky kids and teens are about food, any kid who eats up whatever gratefully probably needs the food. (And if he’s a male teen, well, some kids have such a growth spurt that they just need to eat a lot, which can tax a family’s budget a lot.)

  15. No Longer Passing By*

    OP #1, I’m trying to figure out what is the issue that bothers you. Do you think the employee is taking advantage? Her son? Are you concerned that the board will see it as someone taking advantage? I want to know the thought process because it may dictate how you should address the situation.

    My initial impression is that the son probably a potential target for your services and you wouldn’t want to exclude him merely because his mother works there.

    At the same time, I understand that it may not send the right impression and that you wouldn’t want to violate your employee’s privacy by announcing that she and her family are in need of food assistance. But I definitely can see where it can be a slippery slope.

  16. Sunshine Brite*

    #1: It’s good you’re thinking this through before it’s a problem since it doesn’t sound like anyone else has voiced their perception of the situation. I worked somewhere where staff ate free, residents it was included in the costs, not open to the public, but guests of the residents and staff could pay I think it was $5 lunch $10 supper to join. Staff didn’t really have guests because of confidentiality concerns.

    Moving forward, I think you should talk to her and see what’s going on before you decide anything. Maybe she can’t afford to get him something as nutritious as you offer. Maybe she’s normalizing your client’s situation for him to build empathy during this “challenging season of life” (teenage?) which could have a profound effect on the direction he chooses to go in life. Depending on which direction it is, I’m not sure that changing policy yet is the way to go. But I would consider developing one in the meantime, contact the kitchen for their food costs to make sure that you’re covering the expenses vs just coming up with a fee, but not necessarily putting it into place if it’s just one employee you’re concerned about.

    1. Kelly L.*

      This is also a possibility–that he’s paying. My BF was in a rehab hospital for a month last year after major surgery, and sometimes I’d go in and have lunch with him. His was included on his general bill for his stay. I paid cash and it was about $5. (And it was horrible–I felt so bad for him, a foodie, being stuck with such flavorless food!–but that’s another story, lol.)

    2. Evan Þ*

      I completely agree with this. My church sometimes has lunches with a “suggested donation” of $5 or so. Anyone can come, and there’s a basket at the start of the serving table with a sign essentially saying “Please put $5 here if you feel you can pay it.” But no one even looks askance at you if you can’t.

  17. No Longer Passing By*

    OP#2: I would just pretend that I didn’t know that she applied for the position. No good can come from demonstrating that you know, no matter how delicately you try to handle it. Plus you need to read the code. You were told to defer telling anyone as no one knows yet. That meant that management will break the news to her that (1) she didn’t get the job, (2) an indirect report did get the job, and (3) their expectations of her now that she knows. For that reason, I don’t know that I would have told my direct manager right away either because they certainly will tell her in preparing for your transition. You need to confirm when TPTB intend to break the news to the people who didn’t get the position and then tell her that you’re transitioning to another team without even mentioning that she applied. If she brings it up, act surprised.

    1. Sadsack*

      I agree with you on saying nothing to the manager who also applied, but I think OP was right to tell her direct manager since she was told to only tell those who need to know. I’d say her manager needs to know and it would be weird for her to not hear it from the employee. In some places, the manager of a person is told that an offer is going to be made to the employee, so the direct manager may have already had notice before the employee said anything.

      1. No Longer Passing By*

        That was the tough part for me. She could have delayed a few days. If there wasn’t this indirect manager involved, there probably wouldn’t even be an issue

  18. Tech product manager*

    “Is it okay to reply to an employer a few days after they contact you?”

    OP #5, I agree with AAM that it’s probably OK in the situation you describe, but what I do if I need more time to create a sample is to send a quick email acknowledging the request and explaining I’d be reserving some time over the weekend to prepare the material. This way you signal to the potential employer that you are interested, and give them a timeline to fulfill the request.

    In my line of work this is considered a better approach than waiting until you’re ready to provide the material, because in my line of work, prompt response (even when you don’t yet have an answer for a question) is treated as a sign you are a good communicator and being attentive to your stakeholders’ needs. And, of course, then you do have to follow through so you show reliability.

    Good luck with your job / internship search!

  19. In labyrinths of coral caves*

    #4: Laugh if you want to, but I’m convinced that these kinds of messages (along with the less intelligible SPAM email that I still sometimes get) are some kind of code or signal. It could be spies, it could be kids playing a game, it could be a cheating couple who are *very* paranoid about getting caught.

    1. Brightwanderer*

      I am going to adopt this as my new favourite theory about the weirdly targeted-yet-utterly-meaningless emails we get at my workplace!

  20. Merry and Bright*

    On #2, this highlights the problem of employers not following up with unsuccessful interviewees. Once they have the acceptance from the successful person, there is no good reason not to update the other candidates straightaway. This is especially important for an internal role. Being so slow has now put the OP in this difficult position as we see. There is also the chance that the OP’s manager will find out from a third party, offices being offices, and we know the OP has had to tell coworkers in readiness of the move. Even if they don’t have full details yet, someone might put two and two together. If the OP ends up having to feign ignorance about her manager’s own application this creates more awkwardness.

    1. Coach Devie*

      Yeah, it seems strange that one of the managers knows and wouldn’t say something to the other manager about it. So she could reasonably assume that if she waits too much longer to just say she will be moving on, that the manager in the dark is going to find out from the other staff as they prepare for the move. Just tell the manager, the same as you did the other staff!

  21. TotesMaGoats*

    #5-What’s the point in waiting? I assume your portfolio of work is already put together. I get not replying on a weekend but otherwise, why wouldn’t you. And if it’s something you want badly, why not just go ahead and respond? If you don’t have access to email for a couple days, I would understand but just waiting a few days…not so much.

  22. Allison*

    #4. If I found myself in need of a new job, I can think of a Facebook group where I’d post, asking if anyone’s hiring for someone who does what I do. But it’s an industry board and it’s not uncommon for people to post that they’re hiring, or looking for a job for themselves or someone else they know. To me, that’s the kind of FB group you use, not just a buy/sell/trade group, that seems desperate.

  23. Newbie in Canada*

    You get back to them as soon as you can – it helps to keep the communication open. Otherwise you don’t seem very eager.

    I hire summer staff from a technical college and it really irks me when I call them to offer them a job and they don’t call me back for two or three days. We receive over 100 applications for very few positions and if you don’t want the job (or are waiting for a better offer), ignoring my call isn’t the way to go. You’re a student and you’re busy. I get it. But we’re busy too and will move on to the next person who seems like they want the job.

  24. Mike C.*

    Re #2:

    Why are you so concerned about this issue if movement around the company is really common?

    1. LBK*

      Even if movement is common, this particular move could still have implications for the OP’s relationship with her manager; it’s not the moving that’s the issue, it’s where she’s moving and who else applied.

  25. B*

    #1 – From someone who works in a non-profit, leave this alone. You state her son is in a challenging season of life so obviously you know he is in need of something. And while you think the mom is fine, you don’t really know because she might not want to discuss certain things in her personal life at work. If there is a concern ask if the son would like to volunteer for a couple of hours, perhaps he can help get the lunch ready and then eat. I would think of other solutions, especially since no one else is “taking advantage” of this.
    Remember – you never truly now what someone else is going through. I always like to remember that when it comes to office dynamics, even at a non-profit that helps people because there is something different about employees needing the help.

  26. TootsNYC*


    Is there a reason a manager can’t just say this sort of thing, specifically?
    ” both in her understanding of what is appropriate and the way other staff perceive the situation (it is not fair, it is not proper stewardship of donor money, they now have permission to bring guests frequently).”

    1. TootsNYC*

      Came back to say–an early part of that conversation would be information-gathering: “Is there a specific reason you have your son come eat here so frequently?”

  27. TootsNYC*

    #3: “not caring whether you leave” does NOT equal “thinks you’re worthless.”

    I have two people who work for me right now. they’re very good at their jobs; I tell them frequently that I’m glad they’re on my team.
    But if they came and said, “I’m unhappy; I don’t think I get paid enough and I feel taken advantage of, I’m thinking of job hunting,” I wouldn’t be saying, “Oh, please stay!”
    I may be a little politically incorrect, but in my field, I prefer for people to move up by moving out. I’d be much more likely, in most instances, to hire from outside than to promote from within. I see great value in having people bring fresh idea and an outside perspective/experience.

    So I’d be saying, “Have you thought about where you’d go?”

    Now, of course I’ll also say, “Well, I’ll be sad to see you go.”
    And I’d also say: “I’m sorry I can’t do anything to fix those things that are making you unhappy.”
    Because, well, I can’t–and #3’s boss may not be able to as well.

    I can’t get more money to pay them; the budget is set, and there is trimming all the time. In my own situation, those people are paid quite well; in fact, if they left, I’d probably be saying, “I’ll hire someone with a little less experience so I can save some money.”
    And in fact, that’s a common tactic–lay off the more senior, more highly paid people, and hire those with less experience and a lower price tag.

    As for giving them more responsibility, or more autonomy, or greater support from outside our department–there’s really nothing left to do. I can’t give away my own responsibilities, and there aren’t any extra projects floating around. And I can’t pay them more for that anyway.

    So, if they were looking, I’d say, “I wish you well, and if you need a reference, or someone to give you a pep talk as you look, or a spare brain to talk things over, I’m here. I’ll miss you when you go.”

    Not at all “don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” but also “I’m not going to do anything to try to keep you. And I’m not going to get upset about it! Good luck.”

  28. TootsNYC*

    #5: If a person is job hunting in a field that would at all be likely to ask for samples, try to get those ready at the very, very beginning–be aggressively proactive in putting it together, with the same urgency as typing up your résumé or filling out their application form.

    Then you can just zing it out right away. And you’ll also have the benefit of pulling it together under *productive* pressure, and not *OMG they need it now!! it’s the middle of the night* pressure.

  29. Coach Devie*

    I haven’t read prior comments yet, but for LW1, it stood out to me that it was stated:
    her son is in a challenging season of life
    and also that the meals are open to anyone. So I guess I am confused here as to what the issue is as a whole. Is LW just annoyed that she is utilizing this daily when other staff are not? I’d have to assume/think there is an actual need if someone is coming for a meal daily. I just don’t see someone who doesn’t need the help making the trip/effort and for some, humbling themselves in that manner, to come ever day for food.

    I wanted to make that statement, but am now going to scroll up and read the conversation.

    1. Coach Devie*

      Okay I misread, the dinners are open to anyone and the lunches are designated specifically to clients. However, because of the other wording I think I would leave this one alone, to be honest. Some of the other comments upthread are also in my line of thought (if he is an older child or an adult)

    2. Kelly L.*

      I think the lunches are for clients only and the dinners are public, and he’s eating the lunches.

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      I’d have to assume/think there is an actual need if someone is coming for a meal daily. I just don’t see someone who doesn’t need the help making the trip/effort and for some, humbling themselves in that manner, to come ever day for food.

      This is my exact thought on #1. I just don’t see the slippery slope here some of the other comments have noted. I suppose it’s possible that more staff members will have their family members come in more frequently after noticing this person’s frequent attendance, but I’m having a hard time believing that everyone else’s family members are bummed that they can’t eat there more often. Perhaps this is colored by my own experience of knowing a few people during the Great Recession that actually needed food pantries/other types of food assistance and refused to use them out of pride…but I just don’t see everyone clamoring for more free meals at this place.

      I would let this one go. If it really does become a problem with other staff members bringing their family members in all the time, then think about creating a policy to address it. But my guess is that this is more out of need, either the need for the meal itself or a need to bring the son in for other social reasons, than out of this employee trying to game the system.

      1. AnnieNonymous*

        I generally agree with you. For better or worse, there’s a bit of classism involved here, and there’s a huge taboo against eating charity food. You don’t do it unless you have to.

        That said, I think that if OP is starting to anticipate a problem, that’s a problem with the broader rules of the organization. A perk is a perk and employees are entitled to use it…until someone finally notices that mayyyybe they weren’t supposed to be eating that food to begin with and the money needs to be spent more wisely.

        The letter is couched in some language that makes me think that employees aren’t supposed to be broadcasting that they help themselves to the food.

  30. Erin*

    #1 – Given that you A) don’t know her home situation, B) it’s not financially costing the organization (yet), and C) no one else has complained or started taking advantage (yet), I would recommend giving her the benefit of the doubt. Do watch the situation like a hawk to see if a problem does arise, but at present, I think you should let it go.

    #2 – I would definitely phrase it the way Alison did, “I was offered the position.” Don’t mention that you even applied, and obviously don’t mention you know she applied.

    #3 – You might be right, but try to turn this into a positive. He knows your job-seeking, so maybe he’d be willing to be a reference for you. In the meantime, to keep that good reference, maybe you’ll be more motivated to kick ass at your current job.

    1. Sadsack*

      For #2, why not mention that she applied? I am not sure what difference that makes. I think anyone would assume that she did apply. I think OP should say nothing until she knows that the hiring manager has informed the other manager the status of the position, but then still don’t mention that she knows that the manager also applied, because it is really irrelevant and may cause some sting for the manager.

      1. Erin*

        Yeah, I’m sure the manager will assume that she did apply. I just think it looks better to leave it open-ended like that, allowing for the possibility that the OP was sought out/approached by the upper management for this position. If there’s a chance that happened, and that she didn’t apply, that might alleviate some of the tension. Of course you don’t want to blatantly lie about it, though.

        1. Sadsack*

          Really not sure how this alleviates tension. I think it would be quite the opposite. Manager had to apply for a job, but they just gave it to someone subordinate who didn’t even have to apply? What gives? That’s what I’d be thinking as the manager in that scenario. The fact that the OP applied for the job like everyone else is really irrelevant.

  31. Lurker*


    I’m sure this will be an unpopular opinion but I think it’s tacky and inappropriate for the staff member to do this. They are taking resources away from others who may need them. If the son is in need of the services then the staff member should have spoken with the organization and asked permission/explained the situation. If I was a donor I would not expect my contributions to go towards feeding the staff and their families. Regardless of how minute the cost of the meal, it could be misappropriation of (granted) funds. Would you feel the same if she helped herself to the supply closet for school supplies for her son? This really isn’t that different.

    1. Coach Devie*

      Eh… If there was a need for school supplies (some families really do struggle with this every school year) I would feel the same as I do for the food. Just because they’re a staff member, they may still have a need. Non-profits are funded by grants and donations, and often the staff are paid humble wages (especially in this particular area of focus). There may in fact be a need for this staffer / or her son (who may be an adult and independent of his parents finances.)

      The dinners are open to anyone, the lunches apparently aren’t. There could have been a miscommunication as to which meal he was to attend or as others suggested, he may be a youth in trouble. If it’s such a big issue, LW needs to address it, with tact, instead of making assumptions as to why its being utilized.

      1. Lurker*

        I’m not disputing there may be a legitimate need from the staffer or her son’s side, but if that’s the case, she should have gone through the proper channels. Just because I have a need for something doesn’t mean I should help myself to it – especially from my place of business. Stealing (because that’s what this is) from the company is unethical and it costs the company money to replace food, supplies, diverted staff time etc. Those funds may have been earmarked for something else – like raises or bonuses, etc. Also getting paid a low wage is not a good excuse. One box of pens is $3, but if every staff member helps themselves it adds up. One meal may not be much but over the course of a year, it adds up; especially if more than one staff member starts doing it.

        1. Natalie*

          It doesn’t sound like it’s strictly not allowed to have non-clients at lunch: “Occasionally volunteers, guests, or family members join for lunch as well.” The OP is just concerned about the frequency.

    2. LQ*

      Honestly it’s probably way cheaper to do this than to pay the mother more money. If you really want to be as stingy as possible with your funding dollars you should actually demand that all family members of the place eat their for all meals and then not pay them enough to feed themselves. Part of a non-profit’s job should be not creating more of the population it serves in a situation like this. So just call it “benefits” and yeah, I’d be thrilled if the nonprofit I was donating to did this as a perk for family.

  32. Coach Devie*

    #2 I would treat it the same as you told the others who needed-to-know. She doesn’t know that you know she applied, and she doesn’t need to know you know. Wait until she’s been informed, but then just treat the same as you did for anyone else. It’s not your burden to bear to make her not feel badly about it. You didn’t willfully go in for the position just to compete against her, you also didn’t know she was applying and you didn’t cost her anything by being offered the position. There’s nothing to feel badly about here!! Congrats on the new job!

  33. Ad Astra*

    I interpreted #1’s “difficult season in life” to mean a young adult son was having issues with drugs or maybe the law. But I’m not sure my guess is better than anyone else’s.

    It sounds like the son eating free meals isn’t causing a problem, but that the OP is anticipating more employees bringing frequent guests to meals, which would cause a problem. If that’s the case, I say let this one slide.

    1. Ad Astra*

      Or a “challenging season of life,” if you’re into accuracy and correctness and stuff.

  34. lonepear*

    #1: OP is the receptionist’s manager but doesn’t say where s/he is in the organizational strcture overall–maybe this is something that ought to be discussed among the leadership in general before saying anything to the employee? (I do fall on the side of assuming that people don’t go to have lunch at a charity unless they are somehow in need and the mother/son are probably struggling.) If the concern is only about perception rather than strain on resources it would be good to have a common understanding of what is acceptable and when it is and isn’t a problem, rather than having individual managers make the call for their employees.

    Also, is there a possibility that she may have already had a quiet word about the son with someone else in the organization (HR, a higher-up manager, someone in charge of the lunch program)? I can imagine someone privately okaying this to her and not wanting to broadcast her personal circumstances to the whole office.

  35. Newbie*

    #4 I’ve seen posts like that in Facebook groups for my university. I’ve always seen them as looking for responses like “Starbucks is hiring” or “I’ve heard Walmart is looking for cashiers.” I don’t think it’s really meant to be a pitch for hiring managers. It’s the social media equivalent of asking friends and family if they know of anyone that’s hiring.

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