former boss keeps trying to pull me into drama, interviewer told me that I was “misleading” him, and more

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

1. My former boss keeps trying to pull me into drama at my old job

I left a job where I had a horrible micromanaging boss who created a toxic environment. I left on good terms, feeling like it was better not to say anything to upper management. I was the seventh person in four years to hold that position, and I lasted a year and a half.

Over the course of the past year, my former boss has contacted me through my work email asking for my input on projects where he works. For example, if they finished a document, he would send it my way for my thoughts. I gave my opinion the first time because I felt like I wanted to stay on good terms in case I ever needed him as a reference. But after that, I ignored his emails, saying I didn’t get them or that they may have been caught by my company’s spam filter. (I know it probably wasn’t a good idea and I should have been honest and said I didn’t have time.)

He recently called me at my current job about a situation involving himself and his new employee, who replaced me. Apparently, the two of them are having interpersonal issues, which is typical for my former boss and anyone who’s been in my former position. Upper management moved my old position from under him to another person to supervise. My former boss is upset over that and told me about it in detail. I told him I wasn’t the right person for him to talk to and maybe he should be talking to his boss. He then stopped talking about that and said he wanted to talk about a work issue involving a policy that blocks him from doing certain tasks associated with my old position. It’s a tentative document that hasn’t been approved. He ended up forwarding me the documents for my review and thoughts. I think he wants ammo to use to tell his boss why this policy shouldn’t be adopted. I told him I was very busy with work, hoping that he wouldn’t send me the documents but he did anyway.

Also, throughout my conversation with him he put me down several times calling me a job hopper and saying that I don’t have as good of skills as the new person who replaced me but he does miss me.

How can I tell him to leave me alone and that I don’t want to get caught up in his interpersonal battle with the person in my former position and the big boss at that company? I’m worried if I ignore his email or don’t give him my input on those documents, he may not give me a good reference. I have my written reviews from that job, which are all glowing, but if a future employer calls this person, I’m worried he may lie and say I was a bad worker if I don’t help him out.

Several options:
“I don’t feel comfortable looking at this now that I’m no longer an employee — I’m sorry and hope you understand.”
“I’m sorry, I’m swamped at work right now and on a big deadline. I hope this all works out though!”
“I can’t really talk. I’m not supposed to take phone calls at work — my manager doesn’t like it.”

These are all far nicer than he deserves, of course. What he’s doing is outrageous, but you care about preserving the relationship, so these responses are about doing that. In fact, if you really want to go in that direction, you can add in something like, “I really liked working with you and will always appreciate everything I learned from you, but…” It’s BS, obviously, but it’s BS that may get you what you want.

Also, do not take his calls. Not ever again. From this point on, they go to voicemail. If you choose to respond at all, do it in email, where it’s easier to end the conversation quickly. In your email response, you will be warm and friendly, but distinctly unhelpful.

2. My interviewer told me that I was “misleading” him with my last job title

My last job was a short-term, contract position which involved general office support for the HR department — mostly HRIS data entry, filing, answering phones, etc. My employer listed the title on my paperwork and my ID badge as “HR assistant,” which is the title I use on my resume.

I recently had an interview for a similar position that I thought was going pretty well–until one of the hiring managers took exception to the job title I used. He was pretty insistent that the work I did for my previous employer did not fit his definition of an HR assistant, even after I explained that it was the title my previous employer gave me. He made a comment along the lines of me “misleading” prospective employers by using this title.

Should I just write this off as a bad experience, or should I change my job title to something like “office assistant”?

That guy was a jerk. You’re not misleading anyone by using the actual title your employer gave you, assuming that your resume accurately described what you did in that role. It’s true that if your resume isn’t clear about what you did in that role, you should make it more clear — but you would do that by rewriting the bullet points that you have describing that job, not by changing your title to something it wasn’t.

Don’t give too much credence to the comments of jerks.

3. My employer is pressuring me to donate money back to our organization

Each year, my nonprofit employer runs an employee giving campaign. I was out of the office during one of the final weeks of the campaign. When I returned, my coworkers made me aware that my name was on “the list” of people who haven’t yet donated, which goes straight to the CEO. My manager also brought the issue to a department meeting, stating that my coworkers should turn the lights on in my office until I donate (I work with the lights off because of chronic migraines). Additionally, my manager asked my work buddy why I don’t donate to the campaign, and members of the campaign committee continually stopped by my office while I was gone to try to nail me down into donating.

I’ve given a significant amount of money in the past, especially considering my low salary. Last year, I lowered that amount for several reasons. A close family member was laid off along with several others, there’s a horrifying amount of conflict of interest and harassment at the organization, I don’t trust leadership to do good work with my money, and I’ve been taken advantage of with my workload (generally working 60-70 hour weeks with very little pay). When my family member was laid off, that meant me struggling more than usual to help them (which I’m very happy to do but has cut down on my own budget).

How can I remedy this situation without forgoing my own beliefs on it? I don’t think it’s fair to pressure employees this much, especially when they don’t know our financial situations. Am I off base? Should I suck it up and give?

No, you’re in no way off-base. Employees should not be pressured to give to any cause, let alone to their own employer; it’s inappropriate, oblivious to the power dynamic that occurs when your employer is pressuring you to do something “voluntarily,” and generally gross.

In any case, you have two options:

(1) Say directly that you’re not going to give and don’t want to discuss it further. (“I’m not able to give this year. Please don’t ask me again.” Feel free to add, “I’m really uncomfortable with the amount of pressure I’m receiving over this. I don’t want to discuss my budget at work.”)

(2) If they’re just trying to get to 100% participation, donate a dollar and be done with it (this really will satisfy most of those 100% participation campaigns). It’s annoying on principle, but sometimes the best way to go.

Your manager really, really sucks re: the lights thing, and you might consider saying something to her like, “I’m guessing that when you suggested that people turn my lights on, you didn’t think about the fact that I have them off because of migraines. Please don’t do that. I don’t want my physical well-being used to pressure me to spend my money the way others think I should.”

4. Changing email font color to blue

I’m considering changing the font color on my business email to blue. Would you consider this unprofessional?


Anything you do to change the standard presentation of your email tends to come across badly (changing the color or font, adding in that horrible email “stationery,” etc.).

5. Can I make up a day off over the weekend and avoid using my PTO?

As a salaried employee, do I have the right to make up for an absent day of work without having my PTO or pay docked?

I want to take a personal day on a weekday and make up for those hours on a weekend day without having to take PTO or lose pay. What rights do I and my employer have regarding this issue?

Your employer can put whatever restrictions they want on PTO, and it’s pretty common for employers to require people to use PTO if they’re taking off a full weekday. You can certainly ask to make it up over the weekend, but they’re not legally obligated to agree.

But if you’re exempt, they can’t dock your pay.

what the hell is all this talk of exempt and non-exempt about?

{ 471 comments… read them below }

  1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

    Oh, ugh, I hope I’m reading too much into this but it sounds like LW#1’s former boss has a “thing” for him/her. The inability to let go, the “negging”…something about this reads as creepy to me in a way that transcends work-related boorishness. Maybe that thought, off-putting as it is, can help the LW maintain stricter boundaries to keep this (possible) creeper from eating up any more of his/her time and energy than he already is.

    1. Sherm*

      I can see that. His criticisms come off like a schoolboy hitting a schoolgirl because the boy has a crush and is desperate for some attention. OP1, try to be as brief and boring with him as you can. I wouldn’t worry too much about the reference. If he says that you’re a job hopper, well, your potential employers know your work history and can judge for themselves. If he says that the new person is better, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t good.

    2. Beezus*

      He seems pretty warped. It could be a weird crush thing, but it’s also pretty likely that the former boss has alienated most of the rest of the office, and he sees the OP as an ally simply because she has responded to him kindly and has done a good job of maintaining a positive relationship with him despite his terrible management skills.

      1. OP1*

        Thanks everyone for your comments. My former boss has alienated people at his job. When I was there, he had a certain group of followers while others in the office had people on their side. It felt very much like us versus them, which is another reason why I left. Whenever I would try to work with someone on the “other side” they would be nice to me but not as helpful saying that can’t get over who I work for.

        I know some of the people on my former boss’ side have since left and he’s pretty much by himself. It’s possible that he has reached out to me this much because he feels I’m the only one he’s got.

        But I’m going to establish better boundaries with him. I know I’m going to need to either tell him by phone or email that I just don’t have time for this. I think Alison is 100 percent right by what she said to say and I have to do that. If it gets worse and he can’t back off I might even contact the director or the HR manager there. I had good relationships with both. The HR manager heard through the grapevine why I was leaving and kept asking me why. I never told him the truth because I was too afraid of the consequences. But if it continues I may get together with him to see if he could intervene and get my former boss to stop.

      2. OP1*

        Hi Beezus and everyone. Sorry if this is a repeat. When I clicked submit my comments didn’t get posted. I know it’s operator error! :)

        I agree about him alienating everyone. He doesn’t have anyone left there, I think. When I worked there it was an us versus them situation. A part of the office was on my former boss’ side while the other was on the side of this other person, who has since left. I know a bunch of people who were on my former boss’ side have left, too.

        I never wanted to be on sides and wanted to work with everyone, but I was met with resistance from those on the “other side,” which is another reason I left.

        I mentioned in my earlier post that if this continues and he ignores my emails telling him to stop I may contact the HR manager or the director. The HR manager had an idea of why I left when I gave my two weeks notice. I never told him my former boss was the reason because I wanted to ensure that I could use my former boss as a reference but I realize that’s not an option now.

        1. Artemesia*

          I don’t understand why you would escalate the drama. Alison’s advice was perfect. Don’t answer his calls; give bland non informative response to Emails and not quickly. Prime this with ‘I am really covered up with work, can’t discuss this’ and move to just ignore.

          1. LBK*

            Agreed, I wouldn’t try to go around him – you don’t need to go that route anymore because he doesn’t have any power over you anymore. You hold all the cards; you don’t have to see him in the office or deal with him at work, so there’s no harm in just ignoring him and repeating “I can’t do work for you anymore since I’m no longer your employee.”

          2. OP1*

            I wasn’t going to escalate the drama. I said I would contact the HR manager if it continues after my email.

            1. LBK*

              That *is* escalating the drama, though. It’s feeding into the perception of you still being an employee there, because that’s something an employee would do when they were having a workplace issue. You shouldn’t be giving credence to the idea that you’re still tied to this company in any way.

              1. Bond*

                I disagree. This person sent OP1 confidential internal documents. If it doesn’t stop, they need to contact that person’s boss and let them know, just in case it gets out. OP1 might be responsible for any breech of confidentiality if they don’t say anything.

                1. LBK*

                  Nope. Not even remotely OP’s responsibility – she doesn’t work there, she has nothing to do with this company now.

              2. RG*

                Well if that’s escalating the drama then I’m all for it if it comes to that. I mean, you have a supervisor that is sending work documents to a former employee. Documents that probably aren’t supposed to be seen outside of the company, or at least in that form. If he doesn’t take a hint, I’m all for going to HR and saying “this guy keeps trying to pull me into your workplace discussions, which I could deal with on my own, but it’s gotten to the point where he is sending me work documents and asking for advice.”

                1. LBK*

                  But if you were a complete outsider that had never worked with the company, would you go to that company’s HR? I seriously doubt it – you probably wouldn’t even have a way to contact them. That’s how the OP should act if she wants to draw a line in the sand.

                2. Jessa*

                  If I got documents once, I’d delete em and go on, but if it kept happening, I would notify, and have done but more as a “Hey you’ve got the wrong contact info for someone, and I’m getting your confidential business stuff, this has to stop.”

                  Now if their employee was harassing me, I darned well would report that. It’s stalking and if I were the boss there I’d want to know. Companies are responsible if their employees keep harassing someone. Especially a former employee. I’d expect them to shut him down for me.

                  Especially sending me confidential stuff. I could just see it now “she’s been asking me for stuff, well I like her so I gave it to her, of course I’ll testify AGAINST her in a corporate espionage suit. I was soooooo wrong to send that stuff to her, lower sentence for me yes?” Yes I’m a paranoid type. But if I keep accepting those documents, I’m in as much trouble as he is for sending them.

              3. NJ Anon*

                I disagree as well. It is old boss who is causing the drama. Frankly, I wouldn’t answer his emails or phone calls. Put a block on his number. He obviously can’t take “no” for an answer.

            2. John*

              Just stop taking his calls and returning his emails. He will likely move on pretty quickly.

            3. Jazzy Red*

              OP1, you need to talk to your old boss, not his HR Manager! Tell him that you can’t help him with anything because you have a new job and you need to concentrate on that. DO NOT read any email attachments he sends; in fact, just block him so you don’t even see his emails. Don’t talk to him on the phone any more, after you let him know that you’re no longer available to help him out with anything from Old Job.

              You said that you’ve been in your new job for about a year. IMO, you don’t need to continue any type of relationship with your former boss after this length of time. Your new boss would be able to give you a good reference when and if you change jobs again.

              Woman up! Don’t continue to let people take advantage of you because you’re a nice person. You *CAN* say “no” and still be nice.

        2. Menacia*

          You need to stop any type of communication with him, don’t send him emails, don’t call him, don’t give him your number (how did he even get your new work number)? You are giving him too many avenues by which to keep the lines of communication (harassment) open. Don’t answer his calls, don’t respond to his emails. I don’t think that keeping this relationship going is beneficial, is his reference really that important?

    3. beauty at a distance*

      I dunno if I agree that the ex-boss has a “thing”, but – they’re pretty obviously attempting some ham-fisted manipulation of the OP.

      I’ve “experienced” people like this before, and the funny thing is that they usually don’t take great offense at a “no”. It’s like, over the course of their life they’ve evolved this habit of pushing boundaries and making outrageous requests of people – because it often works. But I think that it often only works for some variable amount of time, depending on the person they’re imposing upon. When a person reaches their limit and begins to say “no”, it’s something they’ve been expecting, sooner or later. They’ll probably discard you, because you aren’t useful to them anymore. But from your POV, this is a bonus.

      1. Stranger than Fiction*

        I totally agree with Beauty, and have experienced these types too. Narcissistic and/or big ego types that like to prey on “nice” people that go along and put up with it because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do, play nice, especially when that person’s signing their paycheck. I’m torn on the going to HR thing, because I think one possible benefit to the Op might be that they make an attempt to block future prospective employers from speaking with that awful boss. (Unless, of course, the company has a dial by name type set up) Maybe HR can arrange for a different manager to pose as the reference for her? Like, his boss, then she can put his/her name on her resume in the future. Besides, if she has numerous other positive references, like assuming she will from her current boss, this one louse is likely to not be taken too seriously.

    4. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I read him not so much as a creeper but as trying to get as much support for his side in a work feud as he could, even if he does so in totally unprofessional and inappropriate ways (badgering a former employee for work and sending her confidential documents?!)

      The “negging” bit, though, is a good point.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t necessarily agree–if they got on well while at the job, this boss could have become dependent on the OP without any romantic crap entering into it. It struck me as being like an unpopular kid at school who latches onto the new kid just because she’s nice to him.

      1. OhNo*

        That’s more the impression I got, as well. I wonder if the boss is under the (clearly mistaken) impression that he and the OP are friends? It could also just be that since the position was taken from under him and given to a new supervisor, that he is bored with not having anyone to pester who is required for the sake of their job to listen to him, so he’s annoying the OP because they’re the last one they had control over.

        Either way, the answer is the same: don’t take his calls, don’t answer his emails. Make sure he doesn’t have any personal contact info for you, too, just in case.

  2. Morgan*

    With regards to #3, giving is extremely important to all nonprofit organizations. In contemporary nonprofit organizational thinking there is a saying that if one doesn’t give to the organization at which they work then they should not work there.

    While the bullying is certainly lame, employees not giving is bad for a nonprofit organization’s culture. Why can’t you give $10? If an organization is not worth your money then it’s not worth your time. I hope that you are looking for a new job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What?! I totally disagree. This is such a troubling stance!

      I’ve spent my entire career in nonprofits and it’s absolutely not a universal best practice to expect, let alone pressure, your staff to donate. Plenty of highly effective, well respected nonprofits do not operate like that.

      People who work at nonprofits are often already donating significant amounts of money in the form of forfeited income — the money that they could be making working at a for-profit. They don’t need their employers rifling through their wallets on top of that.

      As for it being “just” $10, is it worth $10 to piss off and alienate good employees? It is not.

      It’s totally inappropriate to pressure people to spend their money in any circumstances, but especially when you are their employer. If I found a manager who I oversaw doing this, we’d have a serious talk about power dynamics and appropriate behavior, and then I’d watch them like a hawk for a while to see what other troubling beliefs they might be inflicting on their staff.

      1. Dan*

        Not to mention that “non profit” casts a pretty wide net. I work for one that generates $1 billion a year in annual revenue, and I couldn’t give to them even if I wanted to.

      2. beauty at a distance*

        Grrr: “Just” $10. A longstanding pet peeve of mine. “It’s just $10!” Fuck you. Give me $10, right now. Hand it over. Or: if it’s just $10, why are you making such a gawdawful fuss over it?

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          As anyone who’s ever had a crappy low paid job can tell you:
          ‘Just 10$’ can be entire week’s food budget!
          In my case it was 10€, but still. If you’re struggling to make ends meet giving even 1€ to charity is often impossible.

          1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

            Yeah, at my most recent (nonprofit) job, $10 would have been over 78% of what I made in an hour. And they DID pressure us to give, indirectly, by pressuring us to “volunteer” our time in kind-of-iffy capacities that they really probably should have been paying for. And of course they’re still struggling; they just laid me off. To be honest, it makes me look back on all the times I did write a check or buy stuff at our auction because I Believe In The Cause and feel a little less great about it.

            1. SnowWhite*

              When I was an apprentice at a non-profit $10 was the equivalent to an hour and a half’s work… (UK – £4 per hour is a well paid apprentice)

              1. Observer*

                And that’s why poor people are so “stupid” about buying healthy food – they can’t afford it! Instead they buy white bread and American cheese.

              2. Pill Helmet*

                Ramen is $1. The supermarket sells 2 person frozen vegetable meals for under $1.50. Condensed soup is $1. Banana’s are 78 cents a pound. Pasta is $1 a box. Oatmeal costs very little and only requires water to make. Put a variety of things like that together and you get breakfast, lunch and dinner for 7 days for about $10-15.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Don’t forget; poverty is generational. If your parents and their parents never learned how to do more than cover the basics, you won’t either. They don’t really teach this stuff in school, either. Just a basic overview, “veg is good, blah blah.” Not how to buy it on practically no money.

            1. Kerry*

              Rice, dried beans, frozen veg, being creative with what you find in the near-expiry discount bin. Poor people do exist! For specific recipes/examples, A Girl Called Jack has lots of really good cheap recipes by serving cost – she recently did a Live Below The Line week where she spent £5 total on six days of food.

              1. Marzipan*

                I did Live Below The Line a few weeks ago. My colleagues thought it’d be hard when they thought I was talking about £1 a day for lunch for 5 days, and then were baffled when I explained that no, it was *all* my food and drink. It was possible, but incredibly limiting and took a lot of planning – like, I could afford yellow split peas but not dried beans; carrots but not peas; that sort of thing. It basically ended up loads of carbs – I was eating bread, spaghetti (but not other pasta shapes, couldn’t afford them!), and biscuits at every turn, just to keep myself full.

                And yeah, in the past I’ve had to have a super-tight budget (like, I remember going for a walk one day because it was a free activity, and then being boiling hot because it was a really sunny day, and really wanting a drink, but not being able to justify spending 30p), and back then £10 would have been a significant amount; no ‘just’ about it.

              2. jag*

                I don’t disbelieve that people live on, say, $30 maybe even $20 a week long-term.

                But not $10. You’ll eventually be ill and unable to work.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Long-term, it really sucks (and this is part of why poor people have more health problems!).

                  I’ve definitely done it. Pasta, with some olive oil I already happened to own (which was a stroke of luck). Ramen. PB&J. Rice. More ramen.

                2. Partly Cloudy*

                  That’s not the point. The point is that it’s my $10 (or the OP’s) and I’ll spend it however the hell I want. Maybe it’s my lunch budget. Maybe it’s going toward my grandmother’s birthday present. Maybe I’m hitting the 7-11 for beer and cigarettes. MY money, my business, not my employer’s.

                3. jag*

                  @Partly Cloudy

                  My point was a point fact on a specific statement I found hard to believe.

                  “The point is that it’s my $10 (or the OP’s) and I’ll spend it however the hell I want. ” I think zero people here have said anything to dispute that.

                4. Windchime*

                  Yeah. People who say, “it’s just $10!” are the people who have never had to make the choice between putting enough gas in the car to get to work or buying a gallon of milk.

                  $10 will buy a pack of chicken thighs, a bag of noodles and a can or two of condensed cream of celery soup. With that, I can make a crock-pot of chicken and noodles that will last several days.

                5. Ad Astra*

                  What’s more common, in my experience, is living the last week of the month on $10 because you spent $20 or $30 the other weeks or you had to register your car this month or it was your kid’s birthday so you sprung for cake and ice cream. Plus some weeks the food pantries have good stuff, and other weeks it’s just pumpkin pie filling.

                6. Partly Cloudy*

                  Deviating from my own original point, $10 goes a lot further in rural Alabama than it does in NYC, for example. So COL/geography is a major factor of the impact of “just $10.”

                7. Pill Helmet*

                  @Ad Astra

                  Yup. This is exactly what it used to be like for me. The last week of the month was tough. All money had evaporated and I barely had anything left for gas to get to work or food for the week. No matter how well I planned there was always something that ended up costing more money than I expected and when you’re paycheck to paycheck every penny counts.

                8. jag*


                  No, I don’t believe it for working people that their food budget can be $10/week long-term. I just don’t. Oh and BTW, I live in a neighborhood with high poverty and extensive use of food stamps all around me. There is a food pantry around the corner from me with long lines weekdays, and food pantry in the other direciton that runs once a week.

                  Now, if we’re saying $10/week supplemented by the food pantry or food stamps or donations, then yes I believe it.

                  But the whole budget? $25 or $30, yes. $10, no. And yes I am quibbling or being quite specific – $30 is very different from $10 when that’s all you have to spend. For example, Windchime’s recipe is not a week – it’s half a week at most. With $30 she/he might eat for the whole week with that. With $10 she/he can’t. BIG difference.

                  “What’s more common, in my experience, is living the last week of the month on $10 because you spent $20 or $30 the other weeks”


                9. Kelly L.*

                  If you’re not going to believe us no matter what, there’s no point in having a discussion. This is our experience. Take it or leave it.

                10. jag*


                  I’ll change my mind if someone posts evidence/reasoning on why it is so rather than simply saying it is. Windchime tried, but the example is flawed – it was half a week. Others have said they almost did this (low amounts, but not $10) but that is not the same.

                  “This is our experience. ”

                  Your example doesn’t seem to apply because you were relying on something you already had – the olive oil. And it’s not clear to that you meant long-term.

                  Did you do it, long-term, $10/week, not including stuff you stocked up on what you had more money or food from other sources (pantry, WIC, etc) ? I’ can certainly change my mind if that was the case.

                11. Jeaneane*

                  You do get sick, and unable to work. And then people complain about how you’re not working and a terrible freeloader.

                  I’ve done it – as a child, when my parents went hungry so I could eat, and as an adult, when I was in school and had to decide between graduating or having a job. It sucks, and it’s miserable, and no one should have to live that way.

                12. Jeaneane*

                  What proof do you want, jag? Grocery receipts? And why do you want people to provide evidence – when you don’t have any for your own claims?

                  Seriously, you can get a loaf of bread for $3, a package of cheese slices for $2, and a 12-count of chicken ramen for $2. It will keep you going for a long time, before the malnutrition catches up. It’s slightly better if you can cook – rice and beans with an onion and hot dogs is better – but that’s not always possible.

                  You’re right that people will become ill and unable to work, but people still do it – because we have to. because hunger and poverty are real.

                13. Elizabeth West*

                  Read Nickeled and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. She worked for Merry Maids with people who worked a whole day on practically no food.

                  I have done the same thing, when I lived in Delaware, and let me tell you, starving f*cking SUCKS. All I ate all day was what a dollar would buy in the food court at the mall where I worked–a corn muffin, a piece of scrapple, etc. That was it. I did that for several months before I moved back home. This is why 1) I could never be anorexic, because I could not voluntarily starve myself, and 2) I have a little bit of a food hoarding issue. I have to force myself not to run to the grocery when I get paid, even though I have plenty of food at home.

                14. Lindsay J*

                  I’ve done it some weeks.

                  A pound of black beans is $.99
                  A pound of rice is $.99 cents
                  A pound of lentils is between $.99 and $1.10
                  Ramen is $.20
                  A bag of potatos is about $3.
                  Margarin is $.99 (can’t afford butter).
                  Six eggs is $.99
                  Salsa you can get little cans of for about $.70
                  Sour cream is $.99
                  spaghetti noodles are $.99 for a pound
                  pasta sauce is about $2, give or take.

                  Usually I’ll get
                  six eggs
                  a pound of rice
                  a pound of black beans
                  sour cream
                  a bag of potatos
                  and some ramen

                  It’s a lot of carbs.

                  But the margarine, sour cream, and salsa can be used on both the rice and beans and the potatoes.

                  The potatos are quick to heat up in the microwave (as is the ramen).

                  The eggs can be used with the rice and beans as like a deconstructed breakfast burrito, or in the ramen to add something to it, or I can kind of turn the potatoes into a hash brown for breakfast.

                  The black beans and eggs provide protein. The salsa gives me a little bit of veggies. Sour cream, margarine, and eggs give some fat.

                  Some weeks I have more to spend. Sometimes we get free food at work. I will not say this is all I spend for weeks on end, but sometimes it is all I spend.

                  And sometimes I mix it up and get some pasta and sauce if I still have potatoes left over from last week. Or I’ll get an avocado if I can afford it for a little more fat etc.

              3. Ad Astra*

                A big thing of off-brand oatmeal is, what, $2? And a bunch of bananas is maybe $1? Throw in a loaf of bread ($2), a $1.50 jar of peanut butter, a dozen eggs ($1.50) and a half-gallon of milk ($2) and you’re set.

                Not to mention, most people don’t go through an entire jar of peanut butter or box of oatmeal or whatever each week, so even if your budget is $10 a week, you’re not usually starting with a completely empty pantry.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  This is another good point–it’s not like gremlins come in and abscond with whatever you already had before the crisis struck.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  (And this is part of why people don’t believe you’re really poor if you’re dressed semi-nicely, for example. Never mind that you might have already had those clothes, and you need to keep them so you can keep going to work clothed, and the resale value of clothes is pretty pathetic unless you have something unique.)

                3. Turanga Leela*

                  Kelly–YES on the clothes. Also, if you live in a place with a lot of wealthy people, you get very expensive clothes in donations and secondhand stores. In New York City, there are people on food stamps wearing almost-new North Face jackets because that’s what rich people give away.

              4. Kelly L.*

                @jag, if I hadn’t already had anything to put on regular pasta, I would have eaten more ramen. This happened more than once, and the olive oil is just something I remembered from the most recent time.

                I’m pretty sure I had a budget like this for a stretch of a few months at various times. Sadly, I didn’t record it all for posterity in case some rando on the internet thought I was lying years later. And I was lucky. Others have had to deal with worse, and for longer.

              5. Cath in Canada*

                When I was a grad student and was paid monthly, the last week of each month involved mostly rice, onions, carrots, dried beans, and soy sauce. It’s not fun, but it can be done.

                1. Tomato Frog*

                  Oh yeah, I did all those things, too. And I forgot about onions… delicious onion stir fry on rice.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  I’ve done “whatever the hell I have in the fridge” stir-fry. Eggs are pretty cheap, rice is pretty cheap, I usually have soy sauce, anything else I can find laying around is a bonus!

                3. Jillian*

                  19 cent Kost Kutter brand mac & cheese. My kids had to eat that crap 3 nights a week the week before payday.

              1. LCL*

                When it was me, I was doing restaurant work. I lived on the meals provided. Some items were free and some were at cost. The pizza only diet is really very filling…

                1. Rebecca*

                  Yep, when I was in food service they provided a free meal every shift we worked. I definitely would eat half of my provided meal and pack the rest up to go when money was tight! (I also figured out pretty fast that nobody cared it we ate more than one meal or took some extra home. )

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  We got half off any meals at the CA cafe. It added up after a while. Though I ate pretty healthy then–lots of salads, apples, peanuts (a bag of unshelled peanuts was super cheap at the grocery–they’re not anymore!), and sandwiches on wheat pita. I need to start eating like that again!

            2. Amethyst*

              You buy very cheap, filling food (as others have said, rice, pasta, beans, peanut butter). If there is free food at all, you probably take it (ex. my job has leftover bagels from weekend things every week, so I rarely spend money on breakfast).

              Or you go hungry. Which is a problem for people on limited budgets. For a year in college my food budget was small (more than $10 a week, but not much more) and I just got used to being kind of hungry all the time.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yup, scrounge free food from work if there’s any there, if anybody’s giving out samples anywhere take them, go over to your mom’s because you know she feeds anybody who shows up…

            3. AnonyMe*

              When I was on minimum wage, I’d make huge pots of bean chili and eat that for dinner every night. Lunch would be a peanut butter sandwich. If frozen dinners were on sale for a dollar apiece, I’d stock up on those for a week.

              As someone else said, there’s a reason lower income individuals make poor food “choices”.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Yes, if you learn how. It’s hard for people who never learned that because their families never did either. They really need to teach it in schools–not just the nutrition info, but how to eat better with no money. How to grow veg in pots. How to make a community garden. I could go on and on and on. It would benefit all the students to learn these things, not just in low-income schools, because a lot of people go through lean times. I did, and I grew up middle-class.

                /rant over

        2. BananaPants*

          YES. “Just $10” is a birthday cake for one of our kids, or the family being able to go to the drive-in movie this month, or a charitable donation to whatever the heck I want to donate to. I make what many would consider a decent salary, but we’ve spent almost the last 2 years living paycheck to paycheck because of job loss/my spouse working for maniacs/another job loss. $10 lets us have something beyond the bare necessities. We’re fortunate that our needs are met without needing to spend that $10 on food or housing. I’ve had well-off coworkers and at least one manager simply not comprehend that maybe I don’t have a spare chunk of money sitting around to spend however I’d like (an incredulous attitude that we can’t just install a $3000 fireplace insert, or that we haven’t taken our kids to Disney World, things like that), along with the pressure to “just give $50” to the stupid United Way campaign.

          1. Hlyssande*

            I hate the United Way campaigns so much. At my office they’ll pay us for 8 hours of volunteering as perk, which sounds awesome, but it has to be for one of the United Way events.

            1. Stranger than Fiction*

              I do like the idea, however, of having the option to donate your time, a day or whatever, volunteering for the charity. That makes sense, and gives the employee an option. I also completely agree with everything Alison said.

        3. INTP*

          And it’s NEVER “just $10.” It’s $10 this week for employee donations. Then it’s $10 next week to have lunch with your coworkers so as not to seem anti-social or “not a team player.” Then it’s $10 for Linda’s retirement present. Then it’s $10 at a department happy hour. And at each one of those events, if you use money as your reason for declining, you look petty and cheap because it’s “just $10.” And god forbid you buy a new dress or mention a nice dinner or otherwise reveal that the $10 wasn’t a matter of homelessness or starvation for you.

          I am not cavalier with purchases for myself just because they’re $10 or less. I don’t throw a $2 chocolate bar into my cart at the checkout at Trader Joe’s without thinking carefully about how much I’ve spent on groceries that week. I don’t buy a bottled water if I get thirsty while I’m out. I only buy coffee shop drinks if I’m working/studying in the place. Why should I have to feel so free with small amounts for OTHER people’s benefit and not even my own?

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            Your last paragraph is so true!

            I still feel super-wealthy any time I can blow $2 on an impulse purchase, or put *anything I want* into my cart at the grocery store.

        4. MashaKasha*

          This *1000!

          Back in my church days, every year we had one specific parish council member give us the annual pep talk about pledging next year’s stewardships. He and his family were pretty well off financially. So I guess he was rather far removed from most people that he was trying to talk into handing over more cash next year.

          He’d usually start with the numbers: we have this many families in our church, who have a total income of this much (now I kind of wonder where he got those numbers from). Average income is this much per family. Meaning that on average, you guys can afford to give this much per months, so hop to it.

          One year, he tried something new – “I’ve had people tell me – ‘but I cannot give this much’. Oh yes you can. Take me for example. If I stopped getting Starbucks every day, I’d save $7 to $10 per day, which is $200-$300 per month yada yada yada”

          I looked at the woman next to me and asked her, “do you ever drink Starbucks?” – “nope” – “I don’t either”. Because we both could not afford to spend an extra $7-10 per day on overrated, overpriced coffee to begin with! It just cracks me up when people assume everybody else enjoys their level of income and required family expenses… everyone brings home six figures, no one has kids in college, no one has high medical bills etc etc.

          1. OhNo*

            There’s a line I saw on the internet some time ago that I always think of when people say things like this. It was in response to one of those “Ways to save money” articles that shows up periodically, which had a line in it about not wasting money on Starbucks. The response was something like:

            “If you start off assuming I spend a few dollars a day on fancy coffee, you already think I have more money than I actually do.”

            Sometimes I wish I could just tell people to wake up and notice their privilege, because comments like the one you mention irk the hell out of me.

      3. neverjaunty*

        THANK YOU. The preceding comment made me boggle and I knew you’d have something good to say about it.

        If the nonprofit has employees who can’t afford to or choose to donate $10 to a good cause, maybe they ought to think about why that is. Like, maybe they don’t pay a living wage! Or, maybe people don’t like being bullied and threatened with physical harm!


          1. jamlady*

            That’s the main thing I can’t get over. I’ve had amazing luck with past employers so I fully expect understanding in my workplace when it comes to my chronic migraine issues. Having just come down off of a 6 day aura, during which my supervisor demanded I stay home and rest, I read OP3’s letter and immediately thought “RUN LIKE THE WIND, BULLSEYE!” – because this problem sucks enough and you don’t need crappy people in your life actively promoting others worsen it. How dare she.

      4. De (Germany)*

        I wonder, do people also apply this for for-profits? As in, do people think you should be willing to buy the product you make? I work in IT in the automotive industry, and I am not sure I’d spend my money on one of our cars, as are quite a few of my coworkers…

        (That has less to do with the quality than with the price tag, but still…)

        1. Cheesecake*

          If anything, all my for-profit employers actually gave employees products for free or sold for manufacturing value price. I hope yours will start gifting free cars once in a while! Btw, we had a hard core colleague once in a while who would e.g. only eat company’s chocolate no matter where he was :)

          Anyway , great point, what if for-profit said “employees who buy competitor’s cars pack your stuff” or “we are missing annual sales target, employees go buy the cars”? Non-profit employees already donate enough by sitting there long hours with minimal pay. Outrageous.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Exactly. As a for profit you try to make it as attractive for employees to own and use your products as possible.

            Ford doesn’t want a parking lot full of Toyotas and Nissans, Microsoft doesn’t want a building full of people carrying iPhones. Make as cheap or free as possible so that doesn’t happen.

            (Re chocolate: there’s a strong argument for always being open to trying competitors products periodically, although a lifetime Coke employee saying “no thanks” to “No Coke is Pepsi okay?” is sweet.)

            1. De (Germany)*

              “Ford doesn’t want a parking lot full of Toyotas and Nissans. (…) Make as cheap or free as possible so that doesn’t happen.”

              Well, that’s pretty much not an option with, for example, Jaguar or Bentley.

              1. Worker Bee (Germany)*

                Well but thats not their goal either.. Those brands dont want to be mainstream. They dont target everyone. They want to be perceived as special and luxury.. So those brand wouldnt want a parking lot full of Jaguar and Bentley..

            2. beauty at a distance*

              Heh, back in the late 1980s a co-worker and I had to take a redeye flight into Detroit to handle a problem at the Ford plant. We arrived at like 1:30am and the only rental car they had was a Subaru compact of some kind. We had no choice but to take it, we drive out to the Dearborn plant and park and go in and work the night away.

              Next morning, we’ve fixed the issue, we walk out to the parking lot and from horizon to horizon it is Ford automobiles everywhere and as far as the eye can see. With maybe an occasional Dodge or Chevy. I’m like “shit, Martin, they probably disassembled our car with a chainsaw and all we’re gonna see is a pile of parts surrounded by shiny V8 Mustangs. And why the hell does Hertz in freaking Detroit rent anything but American cars?” Seriously, we thought we were gonna get our asses kicked. But it turned out okay, not even a scratch on the car so far as we could tell. I’m sure there were employee price incentives, but based on the people I worked with: they drove Fords because they *liked* Fords.

              1. Sigrid*

                I live in Southeast Michigan, and judging by the local ads, the car manufacturers all offer a pretty substantial employee discount. From what I’ve heard, employees are usually allowed to use their employee discount once a year, and it doesn’t have to be on a vehicle for themselves, with the end result that friends and family members all get discounted cars too.

                I drive a Honda. The scarcity of Japanese cars in Southeast Michigan actually means my car is far less likely to get stolen, because there isn’t a, um, “second-hand” market for non-American cars. A very interesting side-effect of the local automotive industry.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  The Big Three allow their employees and retirees to purchase a car at inventory cost – basically what the dealer pays to buy from the factory. This is allowed a certain number of times per year and can be extended to immediate family.

                  This makes dealing with auto dealerships WAY easier, btw.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  That’s amazing, considering Hondas are one of the most stolen cars out there. My most recent ex (who happens to be a federal LEO) got his stolen right out of the parking lot at his former apartment complex. They found it later, stripped and burned. Poor little Honda–that was a great car. :(

              2. Summer*

                There are absolutely price incentives! I live in Detroit, and I’d say about 75% of people around here drive cars made by one of the big 3. That’s partially because we all grew up in a culture of American cars, but also because everybody has somebody in their family who works/worked for one of the car companies, and therefore gets employee-plan pricing. My family has always driven Fords because my grandfather worked for Ford, and so we got a discount. My husband’s family has always driven GM cars because of an uncle who worked for GM.

                Regarding your story about the Subaru at a Ford plant – you are lucky it was the mid 80s, not the mid 70s. Back then, a lot of the factories (and even some other businesses) would only allow American made (and back then they actually were American made) cars in parking lots, or have a small space for foreign cars in the back.

                Detroit is an weird place.

                1. Dana*

                  I live right by a Ford plant in Southeast Michigan and they have foreign vehicle lots for the employees. I walk past every day and I don’t remember seeing any cars in the lot, but I have also never seen a foreign car in the regular lot. The UAW buildings always have “NO FOREIGN CARS” signs and I heartily believe they would be towed. I drive a Volkswagen and have only gotten crap about it twice–once from my uncle and once from a customer when I delivered pizza. I told both of them that if Ford made a diesel car, I would have bought that over my Jetta. But they don’t/didn’t.

                2. Beancounter in Texas*

                  Ditto Dana – if anyone other than Volkswagen made a diesel sedan, I’d consider it.

                3. PhyllisB*

                  My husband is a retired GM employee. When he first started working for them (in the late seventies) he drove a Ford pick-up. He was required to park in the back of the parking lot. My last car (not the one I drive now) was a Nissan Altima. My husband acted like he was gut-shot!! Told me I was undermining his livelihood, ect. But I really, really wanted this car. (I must say did look at GM’s but at that time (2005) they really didn’t have anything I wanted. That Nissan was one of the best cars I ever drove. When I got a new vehicle (GM this time) I gave my old one to my son….who promptly totaled it. :(

              3. Career Counselorette*

                Wow, in a previous job we were doing an assignment in Detroit and our rental Toyota got keyed. That was fun to explain on an expense report.

            3. Moto*

              I used to work for Motorola and they offered iPhones (and Samsung, etc.) as a choice to employees for their business phones.

              1. SG*

                There’s always the offer, but my sister works on ad campaign for a phone company and all of their work gear is free and the brand they advertise.

                It’s actually gotten me to consider switching from iPhone…her work phone is SHINY.

              1. Melissa*

                LOL, I’m from Atlanta and you never hear that question at home. Everybody serves Coke products.

            4. Lindsay J*

              An ex-boyfriend’s brother worked for Pepsi. At every restaurant he had to specifically ask for a Pepsi instead of a Coke. I don’t know if this was company policy or what.

            5. Pennalynn Lott*

              Ha. I can tell from experience that Microsoft also doesn’t want you to “Google” anything. Or look up stuff using Chrome or Safari. :-)

        2. BRR*

          This is such a good point. There’s Henry Ford paying his employees enough to afford a Ford which good will might have gone a long way (along with less competition). If I worked at Smuckers I would probably still buy the generic peanut butter. Examples like that.

          1. Judy*

            But if you worked at Smuckers, the name brand peanut butter would be cheaper than any generic you could buy in the store.

            There’s a company locally that is part of a corporation that has a name brand baby formula. I had several people offer to buy baby formula for me, the name brand was less than 50% of the MSRP at the company store.

        3. BananaPants*

          My grandfather was an engineer for GM – heaven help you if you bought a Ford and he found out about it! If you worked in a factory for one of the Big Three a couple of decades ago you DID own one of your employer’s vehicles, especially if you were a union autoworker. An import wouldn’t last long in an employee parking lot without abuse and damage. Of course, they had very attractive employee purchase programs/discounts back in the day; they wanted their parking lots full of their cars. My grandparents bought a new car every year in the 60s and 70s, and usually sold the previous vehicle at a profit since it was only a year or two old (and meticulously maintained). As of the early ’00s, I could have used his retiree discount to buy my own first car – I opted for a VW, which mildly scandalized the family.

          I know it’s all different now, of course, but I assume that the automakers in the US still offer attractive employee pricing in an attempt to have their parking lots full of their makes rather than others. I get a supplier discount with certain automakers through my employer and that was awesome when I bought my current vehicle, so I can imagine the actual employee discounts are probably better.

          1. Meg Murry*

            The big automakers still offer employee discounts, and have a “friends and family” discount as well. My father worked for one, and one of the incentives they put in place was that the closest parking lot was supposed to be only for their vehicles (or family of vehicles – so at that time Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and maybe Volvo Jaguar and Mazda) and if you drove something else you had to park further back. At a factory that size that employed thousands of people, the difference between the 2 lots was a sizable hike.

          2. the_scientist*

            My boyfriend’s grandmother spent most of her life working for Volkswagon and they do have excellent employee and friends & family deals. Even though she’s been retired for more than a decade, my boyfriend was able to buy a new 4-door jetta at an unbelievable price through this program. His family *only* drives VWs; it would be a scandal if you showed up to a family event in a different brand!

            I also know someone who works for Ford Canada and basically gets a new car every quarter-he’s currently driving an extremely tricked out mustang.

          3. baseballfan*

            I work for one of the Big 3 (well, one of its subsidiaries) and I drive a competing make of vehicle. But I’m not very high up in the food chain.

            Employee discounts are decent and many do take advantage of them, but I always buy used cars, so even a great deal on a new car is more than I want to spend.

            1. Allstonian*

              My father used to sell one brand of cars and everyone in the extended family drove that brand. When he switched to selling a different brand, there was a lot of changeover in the next year or two. It’s a way to show support for the family member, in addition to the family incentives.

        4. INTP*

          Well, when I worked at a telecom technology company and the iPhone came out, the company would not pay for cell phone plans on iPhones because they did not have our technology. I don’t think you would have been shunned for purchasing one on your own dime, but they clearly didn’t want to encourage it. (Later makes of the iPhone do have the company’s technology so they pay for the plans now.)

          When I worked retail they clearly wanted us to wear the clothes and buy into the brand’s whole lifestyle, and you’d stay in the stockroom if you clearly didn’t fit in (which is a good thing btw, customers aren’t fun). But they didn’t require us to wear the clothes except that during a promotion we had to wear the jeans. (I think this might be a California thing as to require us to wear the clothes, they would have had to give us the clothes for free. I guess they decided it was worth it for the jeans but not in general.)

          1. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

            When I worked retail as a part-time gig for a ladies clothing chain, they would indeed not only give us a nice discount (I think 40%) but they would also give us free pieces of clothing and undergarments if they were doing a big launch. It was a really nice perk and they did it so you can tell the customers what you liked about the item from a knowledge base.

        5. Judy*

          Having worked in two different industries that sold consumer goods, I can say that there’s a fairly strong expectation that you buy and use their products. Especially when it’s visually apparent like cars. Yes, they do usually give employee discounts.

          I remember hearing about a team holiday party at a manager’s house, newly built. The manager had been with the company for at least 3 years. It was obvious that he chose items that were not our products. There was quite a lot of talk about that.

          1. De (Germany)*

            I understand that maybe being an issue that for a manager, but I don’t get that for regular employees, especially those that don’t directly work in manufacturing. I’m quite surprised by the replies here. But IT is also rather far removed from the “product” in the automotive industry, so that might be a factor.

          2. the gold digger*

            My uncle used to work for Menards (a midwest hardware store). He was fired when he didn’t buy a house from John Menard, the owner. But then Menard has a reputation of being a real jerk.

            1. Sualah*

              Menards is terrible! My cousin works for them, as a casual part-time employer, but the only way he can use his discount is if he buys something and they deduct it from his paycheck. I don’t know how that would work if wanted to buy something that was more than his paycheck (which almost anything that he would want to buy would be) but having the deduction is the only way they will allow him to pay for something if he’s using his discount. Just terrible.

          3. Beancounter in Texas*

            I think one would get tired of “eating from the same trough every day.”

          4. Cheesecake*

            i have also worked in different FMCGs and i must say there was no pressure to buy and use the products. it was actually the other way round: you get free products you can share with friends and family or we used to have an employee shop with special prices. i personally support the brand(s) and buy/order those if i can but just because i like them.

      5. JenGray*

        I agree with Alison that most nonprofits do not operate this way. I spent 7 years working for two different different nonprofits and never once was I pressured to give any money to the organization. The pay at nonprofits is below what someone could make at a for profit. For example, I took a new job this past October which is essentially the same job I had a the last nonprofit I worked at- I make $3 more an hour at my current job. People don’t work at nonprofits because they want to get rich- they work there because they believe in the work that that nonprofit is doing. I would have stayed at my old job if it weren’t for the new supervisor I got who was/is horrible.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          If I moved to the same place my spouse works, a non-profit, I would get a pay raise. It’s possibly the largest employer in the area, and pays very well. People work at this particular non-profit because it’s a good job with good pay and benefits.

      6. John*

        Bingo. I’m on a nonprofit board, and actually hate when our staff takes it upon themselves to reach into their pockets to pay for things. Their contributions are gold; I don’t want/expect them to provide any funds. It is up to the board to raise the funds to keep the org strong.

        1. Jesse*

          The most ridiculous situation I’ve been in was at a small nonprofit where they asked the staff to give to provide a good example to the board!

      7. AMD*

        Do you feel like this differs at the management level? Or any higher up level (director etc.)?

      8. Mimmy*

        Alison – What about nonprofits that ask you to join a membership? A few years ago, I was employed at Teapot Association of (my state), and employees could pay $5 to become a member of this Association. I don’t think I was pressured and I willingly joined up. I just want to make sure, for future reference, that things like that are okay as long as you don’t feel coerced.

      9. Elizabeth West*

        Hell to the yes on this. No. Just NO. I would have been out of there by now, given all the crap the OP enumerates. The donation pressure is bad enough, but the lights-on thing? Straw that breaks the camel’s back.

      10. Morgan*

        If people want to make more money by working at for profit companies then they should get those jobs. But for profit jobs are hard to get so many people working at nonprofits are probably not forfeiting income actually. They are getting paid what they are worth.

        Nonprofits solicit people for gifts as part of their operations. It’s poor form to solicit people without first having made a gift yourself. Employees, through being employed and getting paid, are any organizations most important beneficiaries. They should give. Also, it is a HUGE privilege to get paid at all by a nonprofit. Lots of people volunteer. The right thing to do is give back to the nonprofit for everything they gave you: employement, meaningful work, and being paid for service.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That shows a real lack of understanding of how nonprofits work and why people work for them. There are loads of prestigious nonprofits that are enormously competitive in their hiring, and loads of people who willingly accept lower pay than they could make elsewhere because they want to do work that’s important to them. You’re insulting the people who work in an entire sector. Why?

          1. Morgan*

            Yes, I know that a college football coach can make more than an NFL football coach but that is a huge governance problem and a disgrace. There are lots of commenters that say that this is evidence that the IRS should take nonprofit status away from colleges with big time sports. We as tax payers should not be subsidizing income for sports coaches.

            Anyway, the president of the big ten research university in the town that I live in makes $600K which is less than the $1M that the CEO of a nonprofit children’s hospital makes and that is less than a CEO of a for profit hospital will make. But the difference in pay between the nonprofit and for profit CEO is probably variable and based on firm performance. I bet the base is the same.

            Both the university president and nonprofit CEO will be big givers to their organizations. Maybe $50K and up a year. Of course everyone else working in those organizations makes less and should give less but they should still give because giving is so extremely important to all nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are nonprofits because their activities are not fully supported by the marketplace.

            Now, can the nonprofit CEO get the for profit CEO’s job? And make more money? Yes, maybe, but then her work will be entirely market driven. It is a privledge to work in a social impact environment as opposed to a market driven one. A privledge that one should be grateful for and support, with monetary gifts.

            1. jamlady*

              Your argument is backed by personal belief. Your beliefs regarding what “should” be done and the reality of the situation don’t mesh – people are not required to donate and it is unethical of employers to pressure them into doing so.

              1. Morgan*

                I agree. I never said that giving should be a condition of employment. But every development of director worth their salt will make sure that staff knows about the importance of employee giving. And that DoD will have the backing of leadership. If one does not give, and then becomes unpopular, she shouldn’t be surprised.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The thing is, you’re presenting this as if this is just the way it is. But tons of highly effective and respected nonprofits don’t operate that way.

                  My tone is a response to the fact that you’re insulting loads of people, and wrongly.

            2. SG*

              So, what you’re saying is only at the upper management level your opinion applies? Because I assure you, someone making 400 a month on a stipend in NYC doesn’t exactly have the 50k cash you’re citing. That’s over double my communications assistant salary that I had when working at a nonprofit.

        2. Well*

          I’ve worked in nonprofit fundraising my entire career, and your view of this is simply the precise opposite of every single organization I’ve ever worked at.

          In my experience, nonprofit employees at well-run nonprofit organizations are paid the same way that for-profit employees at well run companies are paid: based on the value they deliver to the organization, and the resources the organization has available.

          On a side note, over my entire career, I’ve had one prospective donor ask me if I’d made my own gift to the organization. It was my aunt. She was making a joke, because she knew our annual gala was the night before.

          As it happens, I’ve always donated to the organizations I’ve worked at…because I try to work at awesome places, and I have disposable income, and I like to use it to support awesome causes. But I’d never pressure or look down on or think less of a colleague who didn’t give, because to be honest my $ gift is pretty much nothing in comparison to the value I create for the organization every single day anyway, and – if they’re a good colleague – so is theirs.

        3. catsAreCool*

          Morgan, you said “But for profit jobs are hard to get so many people working at nonprofits are probably not forfeiting income actually. They are getting paid what they are worth.”

          Sounds like you don’t think much of people who work at nonprofits. That seemed condescending to me.

          1. Morgan*

            No. Nonprofit people are fine. I have worked at nonprofits and probably will again in my career. But, in general, nonprofit employment does not require the skill of for profit employment. Whether is be engineering, brand marketing, or being a chef. People working in a for profit environment must be very good at what they do. Sure, there are highly talented researchers and surgeons working at nonprofits, but thank God the nonprofits exist so that they don’t have to do something else in the market economy. They can put their skills to use for social good because of nonprofits. That’s worthy of giving!
            But the researchers and surgeons aren’t the ones making peanuts. They don’t get paid as well as they would in the private sector though.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s just … not true. I’m wondering what type of nonprofits you worked at, because there are many prestigious, rigorous nonprofits that are far harder to get hired at than many nonprofits businesses. Certainly not all of them, but you’re painting with a very broad (and frankly, insulting) brush, and you don’t sound like you realize that the generalizations you’re making aren’t accurate about many organizations that you’re lumping together.

              1. Morgan*

                I don’t know who I am insulting. The labor market is like any other market and it uses the price mechanism to clear. People do basically earn what they are worth. I know it’s tough but it’s true.

                Sure, people make uneconomic decisions with regards to employment and that is because they need to be happy with what they do everyday with their lives. The people that have the skills and abilities to be able to make this decision are not the people that are complaining about the salaries that nonprofits pay. The people on this thread complaining about low nonprofit salaries are people that could not earn more at the time. But it seems like many people did get jobs that pay better and they are more happy with that. Good for them.
                Now, for the college professors that you are using as an example, because it is very hard to get a job as a college professor, it is hard to get a job as a college professor because there is not a business model that supports the function. Thanks to philanthropy, those people that were competitive enough to get those few college professor jobs have a job in their passion area and don’t have to be elementary school teachers or copy writers at ad firms.
                Giving matters. It matters to the well being of employees. Employees should give. It’s not 1970 anymore, grants are scare for everyone, giving matters more than ever and organizations know it.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s pretty well established that many fields pay less when you’re doing it in a nonprofit than the same work at a for-profit. The fact that people may choose a nonprofit job over a for-profit job doesn’t indicate they couldn’t earn more doing the same work somewhere else; in many cases it indicates they’re choosing to work at a nonprofit because they care about the mission. It’s widely understood that many people at nonprofits are forfeiting pay in return for job satisfaction. I’ve never encountered someone arguing what you’re arguing; it’s really out of sync with the reality of how this works.

                  (And do you really not see that it’s insulting to say that people working at nonprofits don’t have the skills to be hired at higher salaries elsewhere? It also happens to fly in the face of many people’s direct personal experience, as well as actual data on this question.)

                2. SG*

                  You are broadly insulting all nonprofit workers.

                  “But, in general, nonprofit employment does not require the skill of for profit employment.”

                  You are calling nonprofit workers less skilled.

                  I don’t think you understand the concept of overhead, which nonprofits work incredibly hard to keep low which is why salaries are low so that donors feel their donations go as directly to the mission as possible. You’re flat out wrong about your estimation of nonprofits and their employees.

                  “The people on this thread complaining about low nonprofit salaries are people that could not earn more at the time.”

                  That’s genuinely untrue. Very often people choose to take lower salaries and work in the nonprofit sector because they believe in the mission of the organization they work for. Any of my friends that have transferred out of nonprofit into for-profit have made agonizing decisions as the higher pay would be nice, but they believe in their organization’s mission. Often they will stay for years or even their entire work lifetime in the nonprofit sphere because they believe in working to better the world, even if they do not become rich off of it. I think you don’t understand the non-profit sector.

                  Also, you very clearly seem to value people more highly than others based on their job descriptions. I strongly recommend that you reconsider that outlook as it is insulting and sad to see. My elementary school teachers meant the world to me- some of them taught me far more than some professors I had.

        4. ancolie*

          Employees, through being employed and getting paid, are any organizations most important beneficiaries.

          Nope. Nope nope nope nopenopenopenopenope.

          Employees are NOT “beneficiaries”. They work for the organization — an organization that has indicated it has a need for their labor and skills.

          Saying that employees are “beneficiaries” because they are employees

          1- ignores that the organization needs and directly benefits from them/their work;

          2- implicitly states that hiring is charity;

          3- insultingly and dangerously undervalues employees, their skills and their work.

          This mindset is one of many that may seem like no big deal by itself, but together contribute to a societal attitude that workers are a drain on their employers (non-profit or for-profit), which is absolutely ridiculous. It says that employees should be grateful that their employer has deigned to hire them and take whatever scraps are thrown to them.

          Employers hire people because the company or organization has a need that a person can fill. Heck, why not turn it around 180° — employers directly and immediately benefit from employees’ work, so they’re beneficiaries relying on the employees’ willingness to work for them.

        5. SG*

          I don’t totally understand why you seem to think of non-profit and for-profit jobs as totally different animals? Also, it’s as hard to get a non-profit job as it is a for-profit. When people discuss the job market, both sections fall into the job market.

          It’s not a privilege…it’s overhead. Volunteers do whatever they want when they want it. Some organizes have more devoted structured volunteer opportunities, some don’t. Why do you conflate paid workers with volunteers? I’m a little confused as to your logic.

      11. catsAreCool*

        I was thinking that maybe LW should look for another job because LW clearly works with a lot of jerks. Threatening to giver her migraines? Bugging her constantly? Unless this is an unusual thing for this company, this doesn’t sound worth dealing with.

    2. Mike C.*

      It sounds like the people who come up with “contemporary nonprofit organizational thinking” need to have their heads surgically removed from their collective posteriors.

      You do realize that even non profit employees need money to pay for rent and food and the like, right?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I just want to state clearly, in case it was not sufficiently clear from my outraged comment above, that this really is not “contemporary nonprofit organizational thinking.”

        Nonprofits take some abuse from the comments section here sometimes (although as I’ve argued before, I think those complaints are about small employers and get wrongly pinned on nonprofits in general) and it would be unfair to let that claim stand.

    3. MsM*

      Even if you grant the “if an organization isn’t worth your money, it’s not worth your time” premise (which is clearly arguable, especially when your time *does* translate to valuable service), I think that should be a reason for the organization to examine why people aren’t feeling inspired, not to pressure everyone into meeting the metric. Besides, it goes against all fundraising best practices – contemporary or otherwise – to get the money at the expense of a longstanding positive relationship with the donor.

    4. Something Professional*

      No nonprofit organization should be so dependent on employee giving that they harass and intimidate employees who can’t donate. That’s ridiculous. And $10 might not sound like that much to you, but it can be a lot of money to someone who is already earning a relatively low salary and has high expenses.

      The bottom line is that the OP is being paid a salary to do a job. Once the salary is paid to the OP, his or her employer does not get to require that he or she give any portion of it back in the form of a “charitable” donation.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. I think that if the donation is required, it’s not really a donation, it’s essentially a secret pay cut. “Here, we’ll pay you $x, but you have to give $y back to us, so your salary is really $x-y.”

        And threatening to put the OP through physical agony for it just made my eyes go all saucery. That’s….that’s incredibly disturbing.

        1. Jeanne*

          The OP works with horrible, horrible people if they would seriously give her migraines until she donates. The whole story is disturbing, beyond the forced donation part. Even as a “joke”, it’s not funny.

    5. Gene*

      Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady) had a post a couple of weeks ago about “turning your employees into fans”. This thinking is along the same lines, but more egregious.

      I don’t need to be a fan of my employer, and this type of pressure is totally uncalled for. It reminds me of Navy Boot Camp where if a company got 75% participation in United Way got one diamond on their guidance, 100% got two. I can only remember one or two I saw without 2.

    6. Panda Bandit*

      Haha, nope. Employees give their time and skills to the organization. They don’t have to donate any portion of their paycheck if they don’t want to.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        They don’t even have to believe in the cause to work there. A lot of people do work at nonprofits for just that reason (and a motivation for accepting a smaller salary than they might get elsewhere), but there’s nothing wrong with working for a non profit purely because you need a salary.

        1. Felicia*

          Exactly. And not all non-profits are “cause based”. I have worked at a non profit that was a membership association for a certain profession, and I work at a non profit where I don’t not believe in teh cause, I just don’t particularly care about it enough to choose to donate. Think like “horrible diseases are horrible” as the cause. Well yes, but i can donate minimal amounts if at all, and I chose to do so elsewhere. I just like the environment i’ve found in small non profits, I’m not necessarily passionate about the mission

    7. Jader*

      Yeah… no.
      My Husband has worked nonprofit his entire career and as a result makes significantly less than his skills are worth. I’m talking almost 30 percent less. It would be an incredible insult for his organization to both under pay him and demand a donation. You should not be pressured to pay for the “privilege” of working.

    8. Marcela*

      Why can’t I give $10? Because the nonprofit is NOT paying me at market rate, and the $10 is one third of my monthly water bill, for example. If you want to pretend you have a right to anything other than my best work, then pay properly. Otherwise, the nonprofit and everybody who think I need to donate to it, have no shame (I had a better word to describe what I think, but it would make my mother wanting to wash my mouth with soap :D), considering the employee IS giving to the nonprofit his/her work and the reduction in salary. Sinvergüenzas…

    9. Merry and Bright*

      The non-profit I currently work for is a government agency and I already ‘donate to the cause’ through my taxes.

      Besides, nobody should ever feel coerced or guilt-tripped into donating anything whether they work for the organisation or not.

    10. NJ anon*

      Sorry. I call b.s. I have worked for two nonprofits. Yes, we used to do the stupid 100% things for united way but everyone would give a dollar and be done with it. When they dropped us as an agency, we stopped. After that, we were not pressured to give. At all.

    11. BRR*

      No. I donate by working hard and being a good employee. An employer seeing an employee as a source a revenue is a terrible plan.

      This reminds me of the LW who’s bosses said they should work free illegal overtime which would mean quitting their second job and then go to a soup kitchen. The entire concept of supporting a nonprofit’s mission to such an extreme degree is absolutely ridiculous and to suggest that if I wouldn’t give then I should be job hunting is wrong.

      I worker in higher ed fundraising for a university that I did not go to and have no connection to. I believe in what they do. There are some awesome programs and outstanding financial aid. But why would I donate their with no connection? I prefer to donate my money to arts organizations. So there’s the concept of working at one type and preferring to donate to another.

        1. Nashira*

          And there is the crux of the problem. Why should you? It’s illogical and gross to be expected to.

      1. BRR*

        And more thoughts. This type of thinking is actually harmful to nonprofits. It drives away potentially great employees because they’re worried they’ll need to eat, breath, and sleep Chocolate Teapots, Inc. It also might lead to hiring based on passion over skills.

        1. Sunflower*

          I totally agree. As an event planner, about half the job listings I see are for non-profits. I’m extremely wary of them. Most of the time I see the salary and immediately know it’s not gonna work but I see horror stories like this and they turn me off so much.

          1. BRR*

            I will say even those with employee campaigns are usually just looking for 100% participation to tell donors that their mission is so great all the employees donate.

            But honestly as someone who will likely always work at a nonprofit, no matter how much I care for the specific organization I don’t think I would ever donate to my employer.

      1. LQ*

        Just for the record not all non-profits are horrible manipulative places like this. Plenty are very good places with good benefits, even good pay, and good missions. Just like some for-profits are horrible manipulative places and some are good places with good benefits, good pay and even good missions. Focus on the facts of the business rather than the LLC/501(c)3/etc.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yup. Alison has said before that it’s confirmation bias. We only hear about the bad ones because when your job rocks, you don’t need to write in about it.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s too bad, because there are plenty of great ones. There are good and bad ones, just as there are good and bad for-profits.

        Avoid small employers of all stripes if you want to up your chances of avoiding the crazy.

        1. SG*

          I feel like working for a for-profit that was horrible would be even worse. Even at my terrible non-profit I knew I was doing good work and really making a difference in many people’s lives and that meant a lot to me. I was sure happy to get out though. My friends who work at non-profits that they love get to love their organization AND the mission!

    12. Sunflower*

      The only thing on point in this comment is that the OP should be looking for a new job. In fact, I believe a culture where employees do give $$ creates resentment within the organization. I’d have to believe that any employee who truly cares about the mission that much has MANY other ways to give back and improve besides forgoing part of their salary.

      I’m usually not a fan of calling out orgs on this page(or any) but I would LOVE to see a list of organizations who think their employees should donate so I can 1. Tell people so they are aware before interviewing/accepting a job there and 2. Not donate to them.

      1. Jesse*

        My only job where there was pressure to give to the United Way campaign was when I worked for the United Way!

    13. MsChanandlerBong*

      I am drowning in medical bills, and until my husband got paid this morning, our checking account had $3.83 in it. I’m glad I’m self-employed and don’t work with people who have this attitude. It already causes problems in my personal life (e.g. when you go to a friend’s house and they want you to bring $10 to play some silly gambling game).

      1. Jeanne*

        Medical bills can be awful. There would be no way for the company to know if, for ex., OP’s husband had large medical bills right now. It’s inappropriate to assume she has a ton of money extra. Helping a family member, like she said, is a great way to use your charity dollars.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I’m actually lucky because I have decent insurance, but I ended up hitting my out-of-pocket max ($6,000) this year, and I also have some things that aren’t covered by insurance.

          I use certain medical supplies daily, but insurance won’t cover them unless I hit my deductible (which was $3K for 2014-2015 and is $4K for the 2015-2016 plan year, which started on June 1). I’m supposed to use a new package every time I need one, but if I did, it would cost me nearly $600/month. I just do the best I can to sterilize with boiling water so I can re-use things.

    14. Observer*

      I don’t know where you see this kind of thinking, but that is actually NOT the thinking at many – HEALTHY – non-profits. Donating back to the non-profit you work at presents so many issues that many organizations simply don’t want to know about it.

      The bullying is more than lame – it’s an abuse of power. And your question “why can’t you just?” is both disrespectful and oblivious. It’s disrespectful, because it makes all sorts of assumptions that you have no basis to make. It’s oblivious because the OP actually gave a good reason for not wanting to do that.

      I agree though – she should probably be looking for a new job. A boss who encourages someone’s co-workers to bully her is beyond being a jerk. By the same token, suggesting actually physically hurting someone is insanity.

      The particular suggestion shows a level of creepiness that’s off the charts – he’s clearly aware that he technically can’t do that, so he’s choosing something that looks like it’s ok. Perhaps the OP can use the ADA to protect herself till she finds a better place.

    15. NonPro Pro*

      There is a large gap in thinking on this issue, depending on the part of the nonprofit sector you are working in and who your constituents are. I’ve worked at organizations where suggesting an employee giving campaign would have resulted in the WTF responses you see here, and I’ve also worked in places where it’s seen as very important, mostly for external audiences of OTHER funders. There are re-granting organizations like United Way that do actually judge charities based on this kind of stuff, so it can be important in specific contexts.

      However it should be said that employee giving is almost never about the amount the organization ultimately receives from its employees. An organization that is financially reliant on its employee’s monetary contributions is indeed in trouble. Rather, employee giving campaigns are almost always about a % giving goal, where the objective is to show to some outside audience that “over 60% of our employees give back to the organization!” or “100% of our senior management give back to the organization!” or some other such target. That’s why in most cases the NPO is entirely satisfied if their employees are giving just $1. It’s not amount the money, it’s about the participation rate.

    16. Jessa*

      Why can’t I give $10 right now, I’ve got 20 bucks in the bank.

      Non profits pay less than for profits. The OP may not have it. There have been in my past, weeks where I was lucky, I could get $1 bologna and a loaf of bread, and St. Vincent dePaul provided the rest. Even when I was working full time (medical expenses even with insurance were crazy, I had medication copays of more than $200 a month even NOT taking all the meds the family was supposed to.)

      People do not always have even $1 in this economy. They should not be forced to support their company. And in fact that’d be my answer, my donation to you is $x per year, the difference in what I make from you and what I’d make doing the same work for a for profit company. I do not owe you any more than that. You want to pay me regular for profit wages, we can maybe talk.

    17. Mr. Don't Bug Me to Give PLEASE!*

      Ask me once and I will tell you no very politely, ask me again, and I will tell you that my budget is pretty tight, and I am already giving to a charity of my choice, ask me AGAIN, and I will ignore you, ask me AGAIN, and I am speaking to my supervisor to ask you to stop. Ask me AGAIN, AFTER MY SUPERVISOR has asked you to cease and decease, I will go to human resources and state my case and give them YOUR NAME.

      Then in the unlikely event that you, or one of your cronies asks me again, because they get some sort of crazy rush out of harassing someone, then I will go to EEOC and file a complaint due to a hostile environment having been created by money grubbing, self serving, self centered, who wants the spotlight YOU!!!!!!!

    18. SG*

      I worked for a non-profit that was super abusive to its staff. It was a HORRIFIC environment, curses aimed at literally everyone, departments at war with each other, terrible leadership and no clear goals for communications other than to be “thought leaders.”

      Sounds like a tiny place about to fail right? Wrong. Huge place. Supported the entire region it was in. Great mission, great programs, SHAMEFUL work environment.

      A lot of people look at nonprofits with rose colored glasses, but most non-profit workers (including my former self) are paid barely enough to make rent and eat in the cities they work in. So, no, if they feel they can’t afford it, it’s probably because they genuinely can’t.

  3. neverjaunty*

    OP #3, your employer doesn’t just suck: your manager was encouraging your co-workers to physically harm you in order to pressure you to give up some of your salary.

    I mean I’m assuming from your letter that they didn’t go along with this plan, but: W.T.F.

    And the fact that they have managed to gaslight you into thinking for even a second that maybe you should give back what little money they pay you? That is the sign of a workplace that is incredibly toxic. Nobody who is used to a healthy work environment would take one look at this place without turning and running away screaming. CUBICLE OF EVIL BEES.

    OP, I hope you are looking veryveryhard for a new job, and also, I think you should talk to a lawyer ASAP. (In the US, employment lawyers generally work on contingency meaning you can get an initial meeting for free or very cheap.) At worst, you’ll get some peace of mind knowing what your rights are and that your workplace is way, way off base. You might also be able to get some assistance in dealing with your workplace’s toxic behavior – for example, if they are not just underpaying you but actually stealing your wages if you are misclassified.

    1. misspiggy*

      Agree! Torture as a fundraising strategy – that really is cutting-edge thinking.

      1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

        Give till it really, really hurts and you can’t move for hours or days.

      2. Jessa*

        Yeh and the thing about turning lights on? That’s a violation of the ADA at minimum. Actual torture at maximum (migraines can go on for hours/days if they’re really bad.) Some people cannot work, and if the company is that poor OP may not have sick days. That is a bigger issue than the giving thing, which is bad. The OP needs to shut down that line of talk immediately and specifically explain why it is a VERY bad thing to even be pretending to threaten about. Needs to ADA up on the lights thing as a required accommodation (if they have not already documented this and had the discussion,) if this is an informal accommodation, it needs to be papered up damned fast.

        1. jamlady*

          I agree. Unfortunately not everyone has protection for migraines under the ADA (it’s situational), but considering that the OP regularly works with his lights off, he does need accommodation and likely meets the standards. I do (because I’m that person that averages at about 3 days per migraine), but I also work for normal and understanding human beings who wouldn’t try to trigger an aura by telling my coworkers to throw strobe lighting into my office (whyyyyyyy), so I’ve never had to do anything with the ADA. I prefer to deal in-house with the crazies, but with this situation I would be running out the door for a different job.

    2. UKAnon*

      Actually, I was also thinking of a different legal issue. I don’t know whether it would be the same in America, but I know the basic premise of disability equality laws is the same, and in the UK it’s certainly strongly arguable (and I would say almost definite) that chronic migraines (as opposed to, say, one or two a month*) fall under the definition of disability. Keeping the lights off in your own office is definitely a reasonable adjustment absent specific, exceptional workplace factors, so turning the lights on might fall foul of that, too?

      (Indeed, the devil on my shoulder points out that stress is also a well known trigger/accelerator for migraines, so you might be able to find a doctor prepared to say that they have to take all steps to reduce stress not integral to your job to help you manage them – like not being constantly pressured over donations, for example…)

      *I get migraines once or twice a week and they debilitate me more or less for about 80% of the time, so please don’t think I am minimising their effects – just making a legal distinction

      1. INTP*

        Migraines would qualify under our ADA law as long as they severely limit a life/work activity (which I am almost certain they would, as you can’t really work through a migraine).

        The company would be obligated to accommodate it in any way that doesn’t constitute an “undue hardship.” So, say, if you’re in a cubicle farm with one unified lighting system, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to force them to turn off the lights in the entire room, because other employees would hate it and might leave, it might be a liability issue if people fall over things in the dark, etc. But I have a hard time seeing how a company could argue that it’s an undue hardship to let you keep the lights off in your own office. Especially when their argument for making you turn them on is that they need to torture you so you’ll give some money.

        1. UKAnon*

          Thanks for confirming! It’s a small point in the grand scheme of what they’re putting the OP through, but it might be worth bearing in mind if they come up with something similar again.

        2. fposte*

          To expand a little, migraines could qualify under ADA, but there’s no ADA guarantee for anything save HIV, so we don’t know for sure that the OP’s specific migraines would be covered. Most workplace dealings operate on the assumption that something is likely to be covered without testing it with legal action, because it would be goofy to do anything else.

          1. jamlady*


            My boss never makes me drive to work when I can’t see out of my left eye and I don’t think my company would appreciate it if she did.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        While this may be a reasonable accommodation, in many workplaces you have to go through a formal process to get it designated as such. It’s not a huge problem usually, but you have to work with HR or another office to have it formally designated, and then there’s some protection. I can’t just say “oh, I have this standing desk as a reasonable accommodation” unless I’ve worked with our EEO office to get it designated as such.

        1. UKAnon*

          I understand it’s likely to be a small side point for the OP (although thanks also for more info =) From my knowledge of when reasonable accomm. questions have been raised in my/friend’s/family’s workplaces in the UK the procedure’s slightly different) but particularly if this sort of threat gets made again it might be useful for her to have to hand. It’s a *really* horrible thing to do to someone, so any response that fortresses you against that might help.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Oh yeha, I would definitely get it designated as an accommodation so the boss realizes this is actually a medical condition. This is like taking someone’s crutches away. What an ass!

        2. Jessa*

          Yeh that’s why above, I suggested, well kinda ordered, that the OP right now if it hasn’t already been done, turn that (if it is an) informal accommodation into an official one. And truthfully the company cannot say it is an unreasonable accommodation, since she already has it. I can see the lawsuit now “for x time the employee has been permitted to leave these lights out, they threatened that, so she made the request officially instead of informally, they THEN said “no.” I can hear the judge laughing after ten minutes of discovery when they tell the OP she’s won.

          There is no way bar some kind of physical changes in the building (and making them after she makes that request, would be very iffy,) that they can now deny her the accommodation. Even pulling her out of the office AFTER she complains could look like retaliation. At this point she’s in the space, and the space is accommodating.

          The main issue is that the threat even if joking (and they probably are, nobody is really stupid enough to actually do this right? If I’m wrong don’t tell me, I still want to have a teensy bit of faith here.) the OP needs to shut that down.

    3. Marissa*

      I fid it completely disgusting that someone would even suggest triggering the OP’s migraines until (s)he donates money. I suffer from migraines, and they are truly debilitating. I can’t sit up without vertigo; I get feverish; I’m constantly nauseous. Threatening to bring on these symptoms is equivalent to taking away someone’s wheelchair until they cough up some money. Migraines might not be a daily-occuring disability, but I consider them a disability all the same.

      1. KJR*

        This was my reaction too! I got so freaking angry when I read it. I also suffer from migraines and they are just hell on earth. I can’t imagine doing this to someone on purpose. If I could line up another job, I would do so quickly just based on this alone! Terrible.

        1. KJR*

          And vertigo is the worst thing physically I’ve ever experienced, including childbirth. At least at the end of that I got a baby out of the deal. All I got from vertigo was 2 days of missed work! >:(

          1. jamlady*

            This is oddly comforting. I have chronic migraine and often worry about the pain and discomfort of pregnancy and labor I plan to face in a few years. But if I can go 6 days with no vision and constant pain and throwing up and scratching myself up because my meds turn me into an overly active and aggressive coma patient, then I think I can deal.

        2. Vanishing Girl*

          I felt the same way when I read it! I have had to negotiate over fluorescent lighting in my workplace because of my migraines, and I can’t imagine people threatening me with that to get me to donate. My anger level would go from 0-10 in a second.

          What is wrong with people!?!? You just don’t do this.

        1. jamlady*

          I did that to my sister (the lone individual in my family that’s migraine-free) when I was about 15. She was yelling in my ear about something (she’s crazy, and it’s never anything important), and I just turned my head and blegh. *shrug*

      2. Jessa*

        I don’t get regular migraines, I get hemiplegic migraines, which are kinda like mini strokes without the blood clots. A week in hospital and when I get out I have deficits (I now have trouble swallowing for instance.) Someone threatens me with triggering one of those, part of me wants to call the cops on em. I wish I got the other kind and those are torture. Those are hell. My sister gets em and she’s basically in her lounge chair for two days trying to not sick up when she *HAS* to get out of it to go to the loo.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Can’t take credit, it’s just a work-related port of the House of Evil Bees from Captain Awkward.

  4. Purple Dragon*

    3. My employer is pressuring me to donate money back to our organization
    I’d love to know what non-profit this was to ensure I never ever gave them a single cent ! I know it doesn’t qualify for the legal definition of harassment but it qualifies for mine.

    I’m so sorry OP – If I were you I’d be looking for another job and perhaps finding another way to support the cause.

  5. fond of jam*

    Ooh, #3 touches a nerve. The independent school where I teach has decided that nothing short of 100% community participation is necessary for the annual fundraising drive. The development director knows who hasn’t given, and she will (kindly, earnestly, politely) hound you until you do.
    They honestly don’t care if you only give a dollar, so long as you give, but it still irks me every year.

    1. misspiggy*

      This makes me think the OP should present a cheque for one dollar to the fundraising department. If it’s just participation they’re after, surely they won’t mind the cost of cashing the cheque?

      (And then the OP should run like her hair is on fire, if at all possible.)

      1. Lily*

        Off topic: never run when your hair is on fire! it’s a receipt for disaster. You have to roll on the floor or take something to stop it, but NEVER RUN. That makes it worse.

        1. AW*

          Unless your bank account’s terms specify that you can’t, you can write a check for $0 if you want.

          Occasionally, people will get $0 checks from a company they closed an account with. The customer closed the account at the end of the billing cycle so they don’t actually need a refund but the company’s system requires that a refund check be sent to clear out the account. (Sometimes the opposite happens and the customer gets a final bill for $0. )

          I once got a refund of less than a dollar. It was less than the cost of a stamp at the time. Writing a check for 1 cent is likely entirely possible.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            My former accountant got a refund check from the IRS once for four cents. He laughed and threw it in a drawer. Six months later, they sent him a letter asking him to cash it so they could balance their books.

    2. Liz*

      They sometimes do that here, too. Some people – particularly the hourly, lower-paid employees – give 25c so their department/division has 100% participation and then everything’s fine. I wish people making these 100% participation goals would consider *all* the people affected, not just those who are salaried or work in the main offices (and it costs them way more than 25c to enter, track and receipt the gifts too).

      1. Anonymouss*

        That’s the kind of reasoning I think that goes into how we do that here.

        We’re leading into a huge capital campaign so there was a huge push for us to have a high participation rate.

        But they emphasized that while it was highly encouraged, it was optional and really any donation amount would count, and the goal was only 60% or something because we know we have people here who are only making minimum wage etc and that it wouldn’t be fair.

        So while I didn’t usually donate to these calls since I have other causes closer to my heart, I threw 5 bucks at them this time around and was done with it.

        The closest they got to pestering anyone was putting up those fundraising thermometers around and having them represent percentage participation.

        I think it’s a vastly more appropriate way to approach having employees give back.

      2. Jessa*

        If they have to give, why doesn’t richer management just hand out a bunch of quarters then. I mean it gets stupid at some point.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      Yeah, when I read these things, I keep having a flashback to my sister’s high school graduation, where the headmaster bragged that they had 100% participation from their teachers (while soliciting donations from parents). At the time I thought, “That’s sweet but strange that they donate to their employer, especially since teachers generally don’t make that much.” When I first read one of these AAM posts about nonprofits companies that hounded their employees for donations, a lightbulb went off.

    4. Lia*

      I work for a university, and while we are not extorted to give to the university, we are very strongly encouraged to give to the United Way campaign. I have a lot of issues with UW, but I avoid confrontation and write a check for $1 (yes, $1) — that is enough to get them off my back and get our area the participation goal.

      1. mdv*

        I am feeling SO LUCKY that my university does not have a 100% participation goal, and does not hound us for money. They basically send out the form/brochure once per year, with a letter from the chancellor saying how important UW is to our community, blah blah blah. Then, at a different time of year, we get our once annual solicitation to donate to the university endowment, also a form letter, and a card to fill out IF you want to do so.

        That said, I am in the state of Kansas, where yesterday’s news included this:

        However, under this kind of pressure, this morning the state legislature has passed a bill to increase sales tax to fill the gap.

  6. MsM*

    #1: I don’t think you can trust this guy to give you a good reference even if you do everything he wants. He might just be in a mood that day and decide he likes the other guy’s skills better and badmouth you anyway. You set yourself free of him when you left. Finish the job and tell him you’re no longer available. For anything.

    1. OP1*

      Thanks MsM. I know I need to do that. I also have my write reviews to fall back on in case a potential employer ever wants to know my performance. I think if I end up leaving my job and am in the interview process, I may have to mention that I have my written reviews from that job to show them how I performed.

      Honestly and I hope I don’t sound like an idiot saying this but his last contact with me by phone really impacted me. It brought back all the feelings I felt when I worked there. I thought I was finally free of him but then he goes and does this. The difference this time is all of his contact has been by email rather than phone.

      So I’m going to have to do what Alison said and not take any of his calls.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I thought I was finally free of him but then he goes and does this.

        You are free of him, it’s just that neither of you has realized it yet. This is like some random person coming up to you on the street, shoving a pile of papers in your hand, and saying “I want these reviewed by 10am”. Why the heck would you care what they want you to do if THEY ARE NOT SIGNING YOUR PAYCHECKS? This former boss is so crazy you have no guarantee they’ll give you a good review just because you’re going along with their unreasonable demands anyway.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I had a nightmare once where one of my former employers guilted me into coming in to work and doing a bunch of aggravating tasks, and when I woke up, it felt so amazing to realize that I did not work there anymore, and if they did call me up and ask for something, I could just say “NOPE!” OP, this is you. You don’t have to do anything he wants.

        2. MashaKasha*

          “This is like some random person coming up to you on the street, shoving a pile of papers in your hand, and saying “I want these reviewed by 10am”. Why the heck would you care what they want you to do if THEY ARE NOT SIGNING YOUR PAYCHECKS?”

          lol, this is beatifully put.

      2. LizNYC*

        Though this advice was originally given after breaking up with someone, it holds true here: Label ANY phone number this former boss calls you from on your cell phone as “DO NOT ANSWER.” Yes, you could keep his name, but then it would dredge up memories of him. By changing it to DNA, it’ll remind you that you don’t need to bother with the person on the other end. Because you don’t. That job isn’t paying you anymore. You owe this guy nothing.

    2. MashaKasha*

      I came here to write exactly that – if there’s a way to NOT use this guy as a reference, that’s the best route for OP1 to take. An unstable, toxic, dramatic person cannot be a reliable reference, so I would not use him as one.

      1. UK Nerd*

        Here’s another one, as recommended by Emily Post: “I’m afraid that won’t be possible.”

          1. Jessa*

            I like Emily better on this, the OP does not want (and I say it that way because it always gives the guy a way back,) to ever apologise to this guy. You say “I’m sorry,” and he thinks “okay she can’t do this now, but I’ll keep hounding her and she’ll do something for me later cause she’s sorry she can’t.”

      2. neverjaunty*

        There’s no need to hint and hope he gets it. You politely give a hard no (since he’s made it clear he will ignore a soft no like “I’m really busy”), you don’t take his calls, you delete his emails unread.

        1. Jessa*

          exactly, anything other than “No.” which I think it’s Captain Awkward who always says “is a full sentence.” Is going to give him a hook for his lever to try and get back in.

  7. beauty at a distance*

    #3: I’ve worked in a for-profit, large corporation environment for my entire adult life. But it seems like up to half of the letters to AAM seem to come from people who work for a “non-profit” organization. I’m not sure how best to express it as a question, but maybe someday Alison will write a column and “explain non-profit organizations to me?” (I’m sure there’s a better way to phrase this). I gather there are a whole shit-ton of them out there. And if the letters to AAM are any indication, they’re mostly small, and run poorly, and pay badly, and I kinda get the sense that they’re a kind of “hobby” for rich people ala Claire Underwood in House of Cards. My apologies if I’m maligning any worthwhile, efficient organizations that are indeed Doing Good in this sad world of ours.

    On a related note: maybe I should retire early and look into start one of my own?


      1. beauty at a distance*

        Thank you, Alison, that was most illuminating.

        But – am I wrong in thinking that some of them are “hobbies”? A pattern I see again and again in letters to AAM is that someone works for a non-profit, and there’s a Director who runs the place, but they are often out of the office doing fund-raising tasks? (which I tend to interpret as attending fancy cocktail parties and putting the squeeze on rich friends to write them a check)(yes, this is quite uncharitable of me). I guess I need to do some independent research on this.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          One of the biggest responsibilities of many heads of nonprofits is fundraising — that’s what makes it possible for the organization to exist. Sometimes it’s cocktail parties but more often it’s meetings with major donors and foundations and not particularly glamorous. It’s often hard and exhausting work, in fact — major donors and grant-makers can be tricky to deal with, and the emotional pressure to raise money can be pretty intense, since the continued existence of the organization (and many people’s jobs) is riding on your ability to do it.

          1. beauty at a distance*

            I see your point. I long ago decided I would not want an executive position where a bunch of people (and their families) are depending on me to keep the company afloat. I’d never get any sleep! So yeah, I’ll try to put aside my natural tendency to snark at rich people and view this as a necessary and surprisingly tough job. And one that I would almost certainly perform badly.

            Although, seriously: I hear that cat juggling is once again on the rise in lands south of the border.

          2. SG*

            I have a friend who worked in one of the most respected nonprofits in our city and has now moved on to another, both times in fundraising. The major gifts person at the first place was a POWERHOUSE. Sure, she could schmooze with the best of them- but she was also one of the most analytical, fair and political people you will ever meet. Being able to secure a major gift, or a major recurring gift? It’s a skill that VERY few people have. So much more than just a solid schmooze. It’s very, very rarely your “rich friends.”

        2. BRR*

          The head of a nonprofit has a large responsibility to help fundraise. This is seldomly an event and usually individual meetings. A large amount of donations received is from a fairly small number of donors. 100 donors give $10 each or 1 donor gives $1,000, it’s less effort to ask that one donor.

          The board of directors might be populated with affluent individuals asking other affluent individuals for a donation but that’s part of their job as being on the board of nonprofit and serving the organization. Plus these people can afford it. It’s not like saying hey it’s only $10. It’s, hey you make $400,000 a year, can you give us $X. There’s a saying, “Who’s job is it to fundraise at nonprofit? Everybody’s” because fundraising is so important to the ongoing operations of a nonprofit.

          I would also say they’re not hobbies but passions. Or even if it’s not your primary passion you can still get behind it. I love the arts. I just applied for a job at human service organization because I think it’s a good mission, I just prefer to donate to the arts. Doesn’t mean I can’t get behind other types of organizations.

        3. MsM*

          Some, yes. Just like some start-ups are a couple of frat buddies looking to get rich off venture capital, or some family businesses would go under tomorrow if the family decided they were tired of sinking their personal investments into the place to avoid breaking Grandpa’s heart, or Office Space might as well be a documentary at some corporations. Remember, the people who are happy with their work situations generally don’t write into AAM with questions. (And if there is any kind of bias toward nonprofit questions, that’s because there aren’t as many career advice resources out there, so we latch on to the good ones.)

        4. The IT Manager*

          I do not work for a non-profit. My vision is that it is not so much a hobby, but the Director or Head of Fundraising is often wealthy or at least hob knobs with the wealthy and must appear wealthy because that’s the kind of people with the deep pocketbooks. It’s who you know when it comes to getting donations so the people hired may be part of the donor base or at least friendly with them. That’s how I imagine it.

          And most people who write (for or non profit) to Alison work for crazy bosses, small and badly run organizations, and are paid poorly so Alison letters to do not give an adequate representation of a cross section of any type of org.

          1. BRR*

            I would like to address how it usually is just in the way that people can’t know every profession and I hope this doesn’t come off as being an ass.

            Fundraisers who meet with wealthy donors usually present themselves well in order to represent the organization in a good light. Most are not that wealthy. VPs for development or chief development officers at the largest of organizations will make mid six figures but that’s at the extremely high end and they are responsible for bringing in millions annually or possibly a multi billion dollar campaign.

            Many fundraisers do make connections with wealthy residents of a city as they move from position to position but not as a who you know, more so you just tend to pick up connections. John Smith may donate to A and B so when you work at A and B then move to C you can approach him even if he isn’t familiar with C.

            However, you also start fresh at an organization with a new set of donors. A lot of fundraising is taking somebody who donates and asking for a larger gift for two reasons: it’s much easier to increase a donation from a person who already gives to (and likes) an organization over starting fresh and people give more when asked/you have to sell them on what your organization does, that their help is needed, and follow up with how their donation helped.

            For board members it might be more about who you know.

            1. MsM*

              And not all fundraisers do meet directly with donors, or the funders they deal with are foundations and corporations that expect clear metrics of success and evidence of responsible spending in exchange for their support. (So do an increasing number of individual donors, for that matter.) Of course it never hurts to have a personal connection, but that connection’s not always built on wealth. One of my previous employers had a major donor we’d send the more junior policy staffers out to socialize with because he wanted to give them career advice.

      2. Al Lo*

        I think the other big category that your article doesn’t list are arts organizations. Virtually every symphony, theatre company (both community and professional theatre), opera, children’s arts organization, etc is a nonprofit organization. In those cases the “passion quotient” can be expected to be quite high, because the arts as a whole is an industry where there’s an expectation that you do it because you love it. Broadway, the film industry (although there are nonprofit film organizations and associations), many private galleries, and things like dance schools and private music lessons run on a for-profit model, but the majority of arts organizations, in North America, at least, are nonprofits.

        1. manybellsdown*

          Yep! I’m currently volunteering at a non-profit museum. They do have paid staff members, but I have the luxury of “vetting” them as possible employers by working right now as a volunteer.

    1. Not Today Satan*

      I work for a nonprofit, and it’s the most organized/professional/non-toxic place I’ve worked. And while I don’t get paid a lot, I actually get paid almost a third more than I did at my last job (which was a for-profit).

      I don’t get the “hobby for rich people” comment–as far as I know every single person at my current job (and at a previous nonprofit I worked at) needs their salary to pay bills. Wealthy people are more likely to be involved as donors or board members.

      1. Career Counselorette*

        Agreed fully- I find the “hobby for rich people” comment off-putting, as I work for a non-profit that was founded by people living in the community we serve out of dire need for the resources. The bad rap non-profits get is frustrating, because for every Operation Smile or place like this there’s at least 100 more small non-profits that get on the ground and do the work and don’t treat their employees like shit.

        1. NJ anon*

          So much this! We always say “you won’t get rich working at a nonprofit!” My lower-than-for-profit salary is my donation to the organization.

        2. Kelly L.*

          And I’ve seen for-profit companies that were hobbies for rich people. A relative of mine worked for one. Small startup, lots of partying, lots of forgetting to actually pay people.

      2. jag*

        I work in a non-profit organization, and I used to think it wasn’t that well run till I started reading stories here about both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. We’re very high-performing in comparison, which isn’t surprising given that people write in about problems. But I’m frequently surprised by the ruefulness of some comments here about work environments. Not judging the commenters but instead their poor work environments.

        Oh, and on the “hobby for rich people” statement – nonprofit organizations are an essential part of the US economy and society, accounting for between 8% and 12% of all economic activity. There’s a gap between what government and business in this country can and are willing to do, and good nonprofits play an essential role.

    2. KT*

      Whoah there nelly.

      Most non-profits are not awful, poorly run, and include nothing but cocktail parties. Many are made up of incredibly dedicated people who live and breathe the mission, providing meals to the hungry, homes to the homeless, education for people who could never get one otherwise, and healthcare for people who can’t afford a trip to the ER, let alone cancer treatments.

      A shoutout to my own: We are dedicated to prevention rather than intervention. We’ll get people stabilized (a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs) but then we try to get to the root issues of how they ended up in dire circumstances. Do they have no skills, so all they can do is minimum wage? Then we get them job training so they can get a better job. Can they not afford to work because they’re a single parent and daycare is staggeringly expensive? We’ll get them a subsidized program. A veteran coping with PTSD and can’t return to civilian life? We get them treatment and a mentor.

      I came here after working for a large mind-numbing corporation. I took a 50% paycut to do it, but this is no hobby. I had to make a huge lifestyle change–I moved to a tiny apartment, sold my car, and now live on an excruciatingly tight food budget. But it’s worth it for me in order to go to work and feel like I’m actually doing something that literally helps people.

      I get to meet people who are forgotten and lost, and over time, watch them do awesome things. One case was a single mom who husband had been killed–he had been the sole breadwinner, and she had no employable skills. We got her in our culinary training program (we live in a very hospitality-industry area) and after 6 months,s he’s now working at a top resort as a line cook and making enough money to support her and her child in a home of her own.

      1. Evey Hammond*

        Just wanted to say that that story made me tear up a little. Keep fighting the good fight!

      2. Mimmy*

        Ditto what Evey said. The people and families you work with are blessed to have you and your agency in their corner.

      3. KT*

        Thank you all, you’re very kind–I am very lucky to be part of Heart of Florida United Way, which does amazing, hands-on work with real people and funds other organizations that do awesome work. I seriously love my job. I get to meet with people who have benefited directly from what we do (job training, domestic abuse assistance, suicide prevention, AIDS/HIV help, etc) and it is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

        I’ve seen United Way get beat up a bit in this thread, but please keep in mind, United Way is made up of many individual councils. Some are awesome, some are not. Some pressure employees to give, some don’t. Mine is a group of hardcore employees who want to make this community better, and literally would give their own money and clothes if it’d make life easier for someone else going hungry.

        1. SG*

          Keep fighting the good fight!!! I will let my FL family know about your organization to keep in mind for donations :)

      4. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

        Huzzah! I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for 19 years and while I could write and entire novel about the ridiculousness that I’ve experienced, there’s very little of what I see so often here on AAM. Sure, there’s always a few organizations that are the old “noblesse oblige” sort of thing but they tend to die once the founders disappear.

        So I’d like to give a shout out to my brothers and sisters who are working in the real nonprofit world – you are making a difference. You are changing lives. You are important as is the work that you do. Now stop reading AAM and go review those OMB Circulars because the audit is coming up and we have to be accountable for every dollar we raise and spend.

    3. Tagg*

      I work for the largest health care organization in my county (over 8,000 employees), and we’re non-profit.

    4. fposte*

      Remember also that letters to AAM are by nature skewed. She’s likely to draw a disproportionate amount of non-profit readers because that’s her experience, and the letters are going to be a disproportionate amount of problem workplaces because it’s a problem-solving blog.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Also that, as Alison has pointed out before in response to this type of question, we don’t usually describe for-profit companies as “for-profit” in contexts like “I work for a small for-profit and…”. So as readers, we see lots of letters that say “I work at a nonprofit…” and naturally group them together, but letters about for-profit companies are either unmarked (no description of the company) or split into multiple smaller categories (“I work at a start-up…” vs. “I work at a Fortune 500 company…” vs. “I work in retail…” etc.), which makes us less likely to perceive them as a unified group.

    5. LizB*

      Seriously? You’ve never encountered the concept of a nonprofit organization outside of letters to AAM? I find that hard to believe. If you were ever a girl scout or boy scout, you’ve been involved with a nonprofit. Ever worked out at a YMCA or YWCA? Both organizations are nonprofits! Donated old clothes to Goodwill? Also a nonprofit. Seen a play a community theatre? Those theatre companies are often nonprofits. Even if you’ve been lucky enough never to need help from a nonprofit organization that provides food, shelter, clothes, job training, medical care, education, or other essential services to people in need, you’ve probably encountered nonprofits at some point in your life. Writing them off as rich people’s hobbies, or as universally terrible, is absurd. People don’t generally write into AAM because their job is sunshine and rainbows; using the letters here as your sole source of information about a huge, diverse group of organizations is going to give you a very inaccurate impression.

      1. Judy*

        59% of US hospitals are nonprofit. Credit unions are nonprofit. Most private universities are nonprofit. Most local arts organizations are nonprofit.

    6. Jenna Maroney*

      For what it’s worth, I am currently at my first ever job at a for-profit company, and it’s very small, run poorly, and pays badly, with zero benefits other than 15 days PTO. Furthermore, the thing our company sells is something I think basically only exists by taking advantage of people’s anxiety (this is obviously not true of all for-profits but it is of mine). I do think there are some issues more specific to the nonprofit world I would be much happier having the same job but dedicated to a mission I can believe in.

      Also, for a lot of types of work that people may want to do, non-profits are the only (or, IMO, the only ethical) option – my work has been mostly youthwork in underserved neighborhoods, and I would never work for a company that was seeking to turn a profit by providing those types of services.

    7. Jean*

      Quickly (because I’m about to run off to work at my own nonprofit employer):
      Nonprofits, ideally, should be organizations that care about and work towards making a positive difference in the world. Thus any surplus funds get plowed back into the cause instead of getting handed to shareholders.
      Years ago I learned about a library reference book called “The Encyclopedia of Associations.” It listed everything you could imagine and many things I could not. In the U.S. there are organizations for every possible reason that people might get together: professional associations (many of whose members may work in for-profit settings, by the way); groups fighting to cure or ease the life of people suffering from innumerable diseases, conditions, and life experiences; all-purpose do-gooder organizations that feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and otherwise relieve human suffering; religious or ethnic organizations that do everything from maintaining cultural heritage to political lobbying; and, of course groups that represent every imaginable position along the political spectrum.

      Sure, some of these are professional workplaces only in the dreams of their organizer, but most of them are serious professional workplaces requiring the same blend of talents that propel well-run for-profit enterprises: administrative assistants, IT professionals, subject/issue specialists who can analyze and strategize, managers with a broader overview, and people who can interact with outside groups & individuals whether as political advocates, lobbyists, or fundraisers. And they usually hire both passionate believers and people who may have less passion for the particular cause but still care deeply about being serious professional adminsitrators, IT folks, etc etc.

      OK, off to work now! (And I am so thankful to have held this job for more than a year now after searching for much more than one year.)

        1. Jean*

          It’s fine with me if
          – it’s fine with Alison
          – you give the link & blog name & date of where you found this. Based on my recollection of APA5 the reference would be as displayed below. (Alison and others, feel free to tweak this! Not only is this Alison’s blog, not mine, but my work no longer requires me to be fluent in APA style, and about 4 years ago APA5 was superseded by the 6th edition aka APA6. APA = American Psychological Association, if anyone’s not familiar with this particular abbreviation. Their style manual is used by many in fields of psychology, education, & other social sciences.)

          Green, Alison, Ask A Manager, June 12, 2015: “My former boss keeps trying to pull me into drama, interviewer told me that I was misleading him, and more.” Comment by Jean at 10:37 a.m. Information retrieved on June 12, 2015 from

          Final note: If you retrieve the info on another date, put that date into the reference after “Information retrieved on” instead of “June 12, 2015” as shown in the example above.

    8. ThursdaysGeek*

      My spouse works for a non-profit, and I think it’s the largest employer in our area, it pays very good wages, and it has a contract as a national lab for the federal government. It does R&D for all sorts of scientific endeavors, turning ideas into patents, patents into for-profit companies: with Xerox being an example.

      And for-profit businesses can be a small, a hobby, or run poorly as well.

    9. Verde*

      Understanding the non-profit financial model can go a long ways towards helping understand things, too. Non-profits are ideally supposed to put a minimum of 60% of their funds into their programs (more is better), and run around 20% for fundraising and 10% for Management/General. That gets very difficult as your bookkeeping, payroll, and other financial management all counts as M/G and non-profit accounting is incredibly complex. Essentially, we have to do everything a for-profit company does, but still comply with IRS regs, complete an annual fiscal/administrative audit by an outside CPA, comply with GAAP, follow state and local tax rules (you’re not exempt from those), track grant funds, manage cash and in-kind contributions, complete financial reports for your board, manage budgets, make sure benefits and all related compliance filings are correct, be completely transparent, and so on and so on.

      It’s a *lot* of work to do everything properly to keep the organization above board and in compliance with everything. And you’re usually doing it short-staffed, as your donors want there dollars only going to the programs, so budgeting is skin tight. It’s also hard to afford highly qualified staff as you’re paying barely at market rate (or less) and usually asking the person to do two or more actual jobs. (Try hiring a software developer in this market – ha!) Anyhow, fail your audit and you can kiss fundraising goodbye, but man, it’s a haul to deal with it all each year. the non-profit model is both wonderful and difficult. But I’d do it any day over for-profit.

    10. Nerdling*

      Loads of for-profit businesses are a “hobby” for rich people. We closed our small business because we couldn’t compete with one – he could throw money at it all day long and just do it for fun, where we were unwilling to go into debt for a fickle audience.

    11. The Strand*

      There are some nonprofits in the arts world (as Alison pointed out, she does not work with actors by design), which were created as a vehicle to pursue some small group or even a single person’s goals. It could be a dance troupe, a community theatre, a puppetry group. Many of these groups do this in hopes of getting funding, grant monies, etc. so they can pursue their art.

      They often don’t realize how much more will be expected of them in terms of managing their money properly and “keeping house” than if, say, they were doing a gig as an sole proprietorship or opening a LLC. They, as individuals, could also qualify to request monies under a sponsoring organization.

      A close friend and I met at an art conference sponsored by one of these types of nonprofits. I had no idea at the time how small it really was. I paid almost $500 to participate. My friend later left this particular nonprofit, but continues to work in regional ones. (She has led one in the gay community that actually gets shit done.) I learned later on that the director of the nonprofit considered the payment from those of us who participated, as their money to cover flights, hotels, per diem. This nonprofit, you see, paid only a stipend to the director and one administrator – a tiny one. About $10,000 in all.

      I also had the misfortune of living with a white woman (not the Spokane lady you might have read about in the news recently) who was the leader of a regional nonprofit supposedly for people of color. There were two people in the nonprofit: her and her boyfriend. She applied for a $10 or $12,000 grant. Then it fell through. Cue her “losing” the checks for rent for our apartment and an eviction notice being placed on our door.

      Now, this is the kind of shoddy behavior that unfortunately stands in for the nonprofit world at large. But as Alison says, if you avoid smaller companies and groups you’ll avoid more of the crazy. These unprofessional idiots have nothing to do with the likes of the stars of Charity Navigator.

  8. anonymous daisy*

    Letter 3 – This happens a lot in academia. I have a full time job at a university and a part time job in order to make ends meet. They do a lot of similar things. We all had to either donate money or sign a form listing our reasons why we were not giving. Those forms were turned over to a committee whose primary function was to waste your time and patience until you changed your mind. There are a lot of horror stories about fundraising at my university. One holiday season, we were all assigned underprivileged children to buy certain gifts for to show the community that we cared. One of my co-workers husband had been laid off and she was having trouble paying for utilities and groceries and she was told she had to spend thirty dollars on a toy for a child she had never met before and she couldn’t even afford toys for her own kids. I love my job but I hate the constant begging for money from employees.

    1. neverjaunty*

      “I’m not giving because you extort money from people who are having trouble making ends meet.”

    2. catsAreCool*

      That’s terrible! Where I work, sometimes the company “adopts” a needy family for Christmas, and people sign up to give stuff based mostly on what the family said they want, but there’s no pressure. Some people do it and some don’t.

  9. Marcela*

    #4 Please do not format emails. It’s true that since Gmail appeared most email clients read HTML emails (i.e. with formatting), but some dinosaurs like me still read email with plain text clients or configure the fancy client to completely ignore or convert the formatted text to plain text. On the other hand, PLEASE consider the usability of written text, that recommends to always use maximum contrast between background and font letter, being black on white the best. Not everybody have great eyes, you know?

    If everything fails, I have to tell you: dinosaurs like me. Will. Curse. You. When. Reading. Your. Email. XD

    1. Rebecca*

      I agree up to a certain point – in my job, I use a lot of charts, like I’ll need to send a quick chart of inventory for a widget, showing the widget #, color, size, and quantity available. Many times, I copy and paste directly from Excel. I can tell you I’m not going to save a separate file and attach it for one or two items, and I’m not going to hand type the information into a text format when a quick ctrl C and cntrl V will do the trick. So, I think there are times where even dinosaurs need to bend a little.

      1. Natalie*

        I think Outlook, at least, converts inline pictures and charts to an attachment if you have it set to html-mode, so that’s not a big deal. Keep doing what you do.

      2. Marcela*

        I do not know what happens when you copy from Excel and paste to email. But I can tell you that in my computer, with Linux, that probably means that if I need to use the information (not simply read it) I’ll have to copy that and paste it to Gnumeric or LibreOffice, hoping there is nothing wrong and the importing works. I can bend when it’s necessary, I’m not saying my circumstances are universal, but in this particular case, what you don’t want to do (save to a new file), I’ll have to. I feel very, very lucky not to have to work with Windows and Office…

        1. Observer*

          Then you need to find a different client. There are plenty of decent clients for Linux that read HTML formatting.

          Using black text on a white background is one thing – as you said keeping the contrast high really helps readability. But, so does most basic formatting. I’m not talking about 46 different fonts, emoticons all over the place and dancing bananas. But, bold, italics, bullet points and tables make a HUGE difference.

          1. Marcela*

            The problem is not really one of Linux or the mail client: it is that I just don’t like format in email. I don’t want to see bold or italics in email, period (you can do bullet points with *: there is no need for fancy characters to do them) and I will remove them. You should aim to write beautiful texts were bold or italics are not needed: they are actually the equivalent of crutches, making us believe we are improving readability but without touching the text. Novels or scientific papers rarely use them, and they are perfectly readable.

            1. LizB*

              I think you’re probably in the minority there — most people I know occasionally use bullets, bold, and/or italics in email, and I’ve never heard anybody else object to their use for any reason, especially not because emails need to be “beautiful texts.” When I write an email, my goal is to communicate my message quickly and clearly. I have co-workers who are seriously terrible at reading comprehension (not because of disabilities, they just like to skim) — if I need to them to pay special attention to a certain line of an email, darn right I’m using bold. If I have a multi-step process to explain, I’m going to use bullets, because they’re never going to get through a paragraph. My emails aren’t literary masterpieces, but they do what they need to do.

            2. Observer*

              So, the issue is not that basic formatting presents a problem in the usability of what is being sent, but that you want people to conform to your personal style.

              The reality is that asking people to write messages that never need things like bold is a non-starter. Your claim that scientific papers and novels don’t use them and therefor nothing else should makes little sense. Emails are not novels or scientific papers, and the expectations for them are, and SHOULD be different. Also when doing relatively short format writing, which emails generally are, finding ways to clearly express something while avoiding the kind of formatting one would normally use is a good deal of extra effort, for little or no payback. Sometimes, it’s not practical or even possible.

              If you want to operate that way, that’s up to you. But claiming that this is the “one right way” and that people who don’t conform to your personal idiosyncrasies are being inconsiderate, lazy and / or unprofessional simply is not credible.

    2. jhhj*

      Actually, on screen, black on white is not the most readable because it causes eyestrain — black on light grey and dark grey on white are preferred. (Most places and people don’t bother because black on white is traditional.)

      1. jag*

        When you take into account the anti-aliasing of text on screen, even “black” text is actually dark gray overall.

        1. Marcela*

          I made once an informal experiment. I wanted to use very dark gray instead of black in a website. I thought it looked better. So I tried several different grays and asked my coworkers which color they saw and which one they preferred. My office has about 30 persons, and for 14, black and the darkest gray were indistinguishable.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I hate hate hate hate websites and emails that are in lighter grey on white. It’s completely unreadable to me. I have to actually highlight the text to see it properly.

    3. Gandalf the Nude*

      I received an email the other day with a yellow and brown teddy bear background and an orange and green signature. Clearly I wandered into your personal circle of hell!

      1. LQ*

        Please tell me it was at least from a vaguely child care related thing? Maybe? Oh! Or sent by children?

        Even so, why?

      2. Marcela*

        Yesterday, I thought my idea of hell was that, colorful backgrounds and fonts in pink XD. But that’s because my aunt wrote an email last week with that, only the font was in royal blue and all email was capitalized. The. Horror.

        Today, I remembered what my true hell looks like: being told I need to embrace the conventions of other people using other systems. I’ve never used windows, starting from my first computer in 1995. So all my life I’ve experienced trying to be convinced that what I like and use is wrong, even if in my environment all of us use the exactly the same thing, Linux, without a single hiccup. I remember once, more than 10 years ago, when a friend sent a 4mb mp3 to all the group of friends. It seriously clogged my tiny mail server and it stopped all emails for a couple of hours, while being processed (this very same server, after being retired and given to me as I loved it, took one hour to open OpenOffice and another to close it: you can imagine how old it was). When I told him “please do not send something so big to me”, omg, you’d think I insulted his mother. The nicest thing he told me was that I needed to find a different mail server. Grrr. Couldn’t he think perhaps there was I reason I loved my server?

    4. beauty at a distance*

      There’s a lot involved in this. The ambient room lighting, plus also the kind of display, plus a whole bunch of other stuff. We assume that black on white would be best, because that’s how ink on paper books do it – but also ink on paper works by means of light reflecting off of the page and into your eyes. Whereas the pixels in an LED display actually generate light at certain wavelengths (this is why the primary colors for paints are red, yellow, blue, while the primary colors in a paint program are red, green, blue).

      All that said: people’s eyes can fatigue somewhat more quickly reading pixels.

    5. JenGray*

      I understand the professionalism of not formatting your emails but I just wanted to say that not every organization uses the black on white for their emails. The standard at my current office to use a dark dark blue. It is a very subtle difference that I hardly noticed when I first started working here. I do agree that you should not use wallpaper or any of the other things but keep it simple.

      1. Emily*

        Same here – a very dark blue is loaded in as the default setting for all replies and forwards via Outlook for all employees at my org. It doesn’t look garish like Geocities/MS Paint royal blue or anything – very professional and you barely notice it’s not black on white.

        In fact, the main time I notice it is when someone is forwarding back an old email and makes edits to it – because a new email that you compose, unlike a reply or forward, uses black by default. Some people who send essentially the same “the June teapot report is now available on the server” email once a month will just hit forward on the last month’s email and only change the name of the month to save time, and will end up with every word black except for the name of the month, which will be in dark blue. Even then, it’s a dark enough blue that it’s barely noticeable aside from the slight contrast.

    6. catsAreCool*

      Some people change their font to a light color that doesn’t show up well against white. I’ve sometimes had to copy the person’s text to another file so I can read it!

  10. De(F)*

    Just wondering – what would happen if OP#1 were to forward the company confidential emails and documents to his ex-bosses boss with a note that he is not comfortable receiving requests to help out or having visibility to internal documents of his old company?

    May be add in a note as being willing to consult with them for an hourly rate (if the current job permits that).

    I mean, this guy is not going to give you a good reference OP, so don’t feel held hostage by that.

    1. Cheesecake*

      Interesting idea! I think the boss might get fired over this – sending company’s docs to an outsider is dismissal on the spot thing. So OP’s problems would be gone. :) Anyways, i’d ask to pay hourly rate, but doubt OP would get this

      1. catsAreCool*

        If the boss gets fired, he’ll have even more time to bother OP, and he might. He also might be pretty angry.

    2. Colette*

      That might be necessary, but the first step is to tell the boss she can’t help.

      How would you feel if someone went to your boss about something you didn’t know was a problem?

        1. Colette*

          Why not? The former boss is out of line based, but he hasn’t been told that. Escalating will not preserve that relationship (which the OP wants to do) and will make the OP look like she can’t handle conflicts herself ( because she wouldn’t be handling what is really a minor issue).

          1. jag*

            It we accept the the premise that De(F) wrote, which I do: “this guy is not going to give you a good reference OP” then there is no value to the OP in protecting this guy and the guy is a bad guy so he should get the consequences of his actions.

            Why do you think his feelings are important?

            1. Colette*

              It’s not about protecting his feelings – it’s about the OP’s reputation with him and with everyone else who is aware of the issue (including the person she’d escalate to). Does she want to be known as someone who can’t set and enforce boundaries? Does she want to be known as someone who escalates instead of being direct about what she needs?

              I’ve had someone go to my manager about a minor issue she’d never mentioned to me, and it affected my view of her (and means I would never recommend her to an employer). If she’d mentioned it directly, I would have changed what I was doing and it would have been over in less than a minute.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Sending confidential information outside of the business is kinda of a big deal depending on company policy and legal requirements.

        I’m sure the ex-bosses boss would want to know about it.

        1. Colette*

          If the issue is the confidential information, I agree. But if the concern iS that the former boss keeps asking the OP to help, she should decline before escalating.

          1. Cheesecake*

            In our company we have fired employee over similar issue. He was not sharing sensitive info, but he was sharing. I believe it is a huge deal on a lot of levels. But i am torn if OP needs to stir this. I’d go to management if the guy is exceptionally annoying and if i knew mgmt would handle this appropriately.

            1. Colette*

              Yes, if she’s going to go to the company and say “Boss has been sharing internal documents with me, I thought you’d like to know”, that’s fine. If she’s going to say “Boss keeps asking me for help, make him stop”, that’s something she should deal with herself.

    3. OP1*

      Hi everyone. I thought about doing just that. I’m going to first email my former boss saying that I’m too busy to help and I’m also going to mention hat I’m not comfortable getting internal documents that aren’t finalized. If he continues, I’m going to contact the director or the HR manager about it.

      I mentioned in a previous post above that the HR manager knew there was a reason I wasn’t telling him as to why I was leaving. When I left I said it was because my new job was focused on a particular area of my career that I wanted to pursue more. But the HR manager heard through the grapevine that I was leaving because of my former boss.

      He kept asking me to please tell him the reason so he could make the situation better there. I regret not telling him but I was also scared because it would have been my word against my former boss’ word.

      I still remember one time I went into my former boss’ office to go over a document that was written by a third party. I had said, “We need to rewrite this because there are a lot of grammatical errors that company B added.” My boss then looked at me and said “why did you just say I’m a bad writer.” My boss never worked for company B or had anything to do with that document before I brought it to him. The document was totally new to him and he never even knew of its existence. I said to him I didn’t call you a bad writer and he just looked at me weirdly. It was kind of creepy because of the way he acted.

      Anyway, live and learn. Next time someone is abusive I will think about telling to make the situation better.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        No, the next time someone is abusive you….consult with trusted friends and experts (like AAM, for example) and take some sort of action. Document problems, reflect on what happened and confirm, verbally or by mail, what bizarre action CrazyPantsBoss wanted you to take. Or take other action according to advice of trusted friends, or your own instinct. BUT. You don’t have to take abuse. Believe me, I’ve suffered through some awful work situations (and yes, usually in non-profit) because I couldn’t afford to quit, but that doesn’t mean you lie down and wait to be kicked.

  11. Ben Around*

    #3: Your manager suggested turning up the lights on a chronic migraine sufferer?

    Wow. That’s just flat-out sadistic. What a loathsome worm.

    I hope you can find a way out of that place. It sounds like about 99 percent of managers would be better to work for.

  12. Raine*

    He’s already on the ropes. They’ve removed the OP’s position from under his supervision. Let him hang himself. OP already is trying to extract him/herself from this drama as it is.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yes, I think he’s reaching out to OP because he’s knows things aren’t going well for him at work, and she’s been easy for him to talk to. He probably considers her an ally in his time of trouble, although if that is the car, why is he simultaneously insulting her. Because he’s stupid?

      1. Sadsack*

        Right, and OP seems to be worried about losing him as a reference! I wonder really how secure a reference he is even if she helps him, based on what she described in her letter. He calls her for help and tells her she’s not as good as her replacement. What is he going to tell people who call for references? I say drop this guy now.

  13. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    PTO systems exist so that employees are provided an easy, clear cut way to take days off, and so that management doesn’t have to spend their time approving, problem solving or supervising creative “out of the box” or patchwork trading of days and hours here and there.

    If you can get a job where your employer doesn’t care which days in 7 days you work your 40 hours, terrific. I can see how convenient that could be for an employee. If you have a job that is worked within the weekdays, and there’s a PTO system, just use the dang PTO system for the love of god. People trying to do creative re-writes of trading of days and patchwork hour make ups are such a pet peeve of mine. Suck of management time, distraction, say yes a few times and then everybody is writing their own hours however pleases their personal life vs I don’t know, the job they are being paid to do.

    Now, please get off of my lawn. :)

    1. Sunshine*

      Ha! Yes! Someone actually told me last week they didn’t think it was fair that they have to burn PTO instead of just switching days. What do they think the PTO is for?

      1. Jessa*

        Something you need because you have medical problems and will need to be out in the future and cannot afford to nickle and dime it when you’re allowed to make it up. In that case you make up every hour they let you.

      2. Cam*

        Well, lots of places combine PTO, vacation days, and sick days all into one. So if you get sick or need to take time off for an appointment, that’s less vacation you get.

    2. FJ*

      #5 – Just ask your boss, depending on how your workplace is.
      At my job, all my managers have been very flexible on vacation time and it’s one of the perks of the job. We work long hours and sometimes weekends at deadlines… having flexible vacation time is very helpful. I have worked two holidays in exchange for two long weekends at other times. And, i’ve been way more productive working on those holidays than a regular day in the office.

      Appears Wakeen’s Teapots has a bit of a different culture… but for us, I doubt anyone would care.

      1. Ty*

        Yep, this is more the way it works in my office, too. It’s kind of a morale thing (I know Wakeen says from her management perspective it’s a peeve, but really, it can be a morale-killer to require someone to take maybe precious PTO, especially if it’s the kind of job where there is some flexibility and employees can and do put in hours over the weekend, for example).

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I think that when employers ask you to be flexible with your personal time (working weekends to meet deadlines is perfect example), expecting them to be flexible with which days in a week count as a work day is fair.

        We don’t do that. Salaried people who are expected to work a 40 hour week, work a 40 hour week. They aren’t even expected to answer mail out of their normal hours.

        So use the dang PTO system. And watch the tulips!

      3. GigglyPuff*

        Yes just ask.
        Last few places I’ve worked, if we didn’t necessarily want to use our PTO or have any because of being new, my boss would be flexible, like letting work an extra hour every day of the week I wanted to use it, that way didn’t have to use a full 8 hours PTO. But most of the places I’ve worked, standard 40/hr weeks, depending on what your level was and how long you had been working there, you couldn’t come in on the weekends because there would be no supervisor/manager present.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          just so I don’t cement a Grinch of PTO rep here ;), we do things like this:

          Last few places I’ve worked, if we didn’t necessarily want to use our PTO or have any because of being new, my boss would be flexible, like letting work an extra hour every day of the week I wanted to use it, that way didn’t have to use a full 8 hours PTO.

          Sliding hours in the same week, on normal workdays, is NBD.

        2. Judy*

          In the US, if you require a supervisor or manager to be there to work, how would you be classified as exempt?

          “consistent exercise of discretion and judgment” has been in my experience been interpreted to mean working independently.

          1. Elysian*

            I think you are confusing exempt status with being an independent contractor. You can always require your employees to be there to work, or to do certain work, etc without losing exempt status. “Discretion and judgment” is about the type of work you do (deciding what supplier to order from, for example), not the means for doing it (you can still be required to work Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm, if those are your employers’ hours).

    3. Usually lurking*

      I don’t understand PTO!

      Like, literally, I am so confused. I am in my first exempt position. I have also unfortunately run into some medical problems and have had to take personal leave often for appointments. We only have one “pot” of PTO, so I use it for every appointment and vacation day. Sometimes I go over and end up with “leave without pay.” For example, on one paycheck I had to take 3 full days off and some part days off for a small surgery and various appointments. I incurred 8.41 hours of LWOP. Which is .91 more hours than a work day for me (which is 7.5 hours).

      Is this right? I asked my supervisor if I could make up some time by working later hours and she pointed out that I’m exempt, so I don’t get credit for working more. But I definitely get docked for working less. I don’t understand!

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Hrm. That is a really confusing.

        Leave without pay is a pain in the ass so we try never go get into it + I don’t like people ending up with less in their paychecks. What we would do is let you borrow ahead on the PTO. I’d also let you make up bits of time, or pretty much anything else necessary so both parties are whole, you get to take the med time you need and there isn’t confusing paperwork to figure out.

        What I do know is that it’s said here often that exempt workers can’t have their pay for the week docked. I’m not sure if what your company is doing is kosher or not.

        Sorry for your troubles! It’s bad enough you’ve had the medical issues but the extra stress of trying to figure this out is an extra pain.

    4. Clever Name*

      I think this really depends on the workplace. I work for a consulting firm, and our timekeeping system allows people to put time in on any day of the week. I have coworker’s who put in time on the weekend so they can nip out early on Friday in the summertime. This obviously wouldn’t work for a receptionist, but I think allowing some flexibility for good performers is a good way to keep your good performers.

  14. Duncan - Vetter*

    #1: I understand that you do not want to become enemies with this type of person, but this does not mean that you have to relive the drama of your previous work over and over again. Furthermore, it is completely rude to interrupt you while you are working, especially as you have responsibilities and tasks to fulfill. This is a thing that needs to be pointed out clearly, through an e-mail. Provide short answers and keep a friendly, yet official tone. It is the most decent way to get out of such an unpleasant situation.

    1. OP1*

      Thanks Duncan – Vetter. When I was talking to him on the phone I said I was super busy and that I didn’t think I would have time. I know I should have used stronger language and created better boundaries. I should have just said, “no I’m busy, sorry.”

      When I told him it was a busy time he just said “oh Ok but I’ll send you the documents anyway.” I really thought he wouldn’t but at the end of the day there they were. I’m going to email him back and reiterate that I’m just too busy.

      And as Alison said I’m not going to take any more of his calls!

      1. Sadsack*

        Maybe instead of telling him that you are too busy, you should tell him that you cannot do it. You are uncomfortable receiving the documents and other information because you are no longer an employee. You wish him luck with whatever he is trying to accomplish and end it there. Telling him you are too busy right now is obviously not getting the point across to this guy.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, busy is a temporary state so that’s not going to stop him from trying again next week.

        2. Dana*

          I agree. He could easily read “I’m busy” as “I’d really like to help you out and do this but not now, maybe later” and continue to bug. Direct language, shut this down, leave nothing ambiguous.

  15. Lily*

    #3: “Hey! Let’s give terrible pain to a coworker until they give us money!”
    WHUT. I strongly hope that boss gets fired.

    1. Betina*

      Couldn’t you potentially sue people for doing that? That’s just horrible. Definitely hit a nerve with me.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        You could theoretically maaaaaaaybe make a claim on hostile work environment due to disability, but a lot of the time it’s just easier to tell people to stop.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Deliberately harming an employee is one of the few things that usually falls outside of workers’ compensation law.

          If the manager had said “Let’s break OP’s fingers if she doesn’t give” if would be the same thing.

  16. Rebecca*

    #4 – We use Outlook, formatted in HTML, and I use a plain Ariel font, but not black. I use a white background and the font is a shade of purple. It’s easy to read, and when there are a lot of back and forth issues, which happens most of the time, I can quickly see my text vs other replies in the message. When I reply and add notes to text below, it’s also purple, and stands out so when I say “please see my notes and answers below” they’re easy to spot.

    For clarification, I work in a casual environment, and the customers I deal with also use various backgrounds, fonts, etc.

    There is one thing I wish could happen – IT should remove Comic Sans, Handwriting, Papyrus, and those other weird fonts from email font choices! Plain fonts are best!

    1. FD*

      I think there are times when this is helpful. It’s common for me to send a list of proposed terms to my boss, and put my comments in one color, inline. Then, he responds back, adding his comments in another color. This makes it easy to make sure we’ve addressed all points, and also makes it faster to scan through and see the history of a particular discussion.

      1. jag*

        I assume you two have good eyesight or the colors work for you.

        I’d urge you not to rely on this use of color with people for whom you are not familiar with their eyesight. If can be an “extra” to distinguish text but not the sole means. Plus, if someone prints something on a b/w printer, many colors are hard to distinguish.

        I sometimes get emails from colleagues saying they’ve put comments in blue interspersed with text from another source – and it’s very hard for me to see the difference between that blue and black.

  17. Not an IT Guy*

    #2 – This is exactly the reason that I feel that I can’t start a new job search, I feel that I will be misleading interviewers with the three years I spent in my company’s IT department. Except unlike the OP, I was never given a job title and my duties never included anything that people traditionally associate with IT workers.

    1. Ty*

      In a situation like this, I wonder if it’s possible to think of this as freeing you instead of restricting you.? Is it possible that whatever you do — whether it’s clerical work, or research assistance, or more like scheduling for the IT group — could translate into an almost unlimited amount of other careers? There’s no reason you have to indicate in bold on a resume that you’re in the IT department — instead you could highlight whatever it traditionally is considered (Executive Assistant? Research? Conference Planning?) and then provide the bullet points. And of course that’s where you highlight that all of this work was for or in the IT department, but that it could translate to work in a medical office, or in a public relations office, or wherever.

    2. fposte*

      Or it could go completely fine–you don’t know because you haven’t started looking. Don’t let your fears about what might happen limit you in advance of encountering any actual adversity.

      1. Not an IT Guy*

        But if you were thumbing through resumes, wouldn’t you consider it a huge red flag if you saw someone had no accomplishments for three years while working in a field where you’re expected to accomplish something? Everything I’ve read here since I started following this blog is saying that will get your resume tossed.

        1. Colette*

          The issue there isn’t your job title – it’s that you have no accomplishments. (And you must have some – you should record what you did and not worry about how it matches your job title.)

        2. fposte*

          And in addition to what Colette says, applying and getting your resume tossed isn’t going to hurt you; that’s just part of job-hunting, and there’s no resume that can keep that from ever happening. The possibility of getting your resume tossed aside isn’t a reason not to look if it’s time for you to find someplace else.

    3. Girasol*

      I’m not a software guy but my title was “Software Developer 5.” The reason was that HR wasn’t sure what our team did but our pay (when the titling system was revised) was equivalent. After layoff we were told by a career advice service that we must put on our applications and resumes the exact title the company gave us. If a potential employer did reference checks and found that the title we claimed and the one ex-employer reported didn’t match, it could be considered lying – a deal breaker and a firing offense – even if the intention was to be clear and honest. It wasn’t hard to be up-front about the fact that my accurate title was misleading and tell the interviewer what I really did.

  18. Sarah*

    I don’t know how professional it looks, but I personally appreciate it when people use slightly different colors and fonts in emails. It makes long email chains a lot easier to follow.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I don’t mind if the colors are kind of muted and a little on the darker side, versus light and bright, which hurts my eyes. One professor uses a light, bright green, and every time I get an email from him (if it is very long at all) is select his text and convert it to black so I can read it without irritation. He’s been using that same shade of green for at least eight years (the whole time I worked there and he’s still doing it).

    2. jag*

      It can help, but it’s not good to rely on this for clarity unless you are certain about the eyesight of the readers (I don’t think you were saying it should be the only method – just a bonus).

      Note also that if one person is reading the message on a device that does not render HTML, the distinctions will be lost to that person. And even to everyone if they then write back.

    3. HB*

      I swear sometimes Gmail changes my font to purple – not when I’m writing but if someone responds I see my text below theirs in purple and worry that I look a little incompetent.

  19. KT*

    So, I’ve worked for several non-profits in my time. Employees are always encouraged to give what they can afford (encouraged is the key here, not hounded, threatened, etc).

    I know it sounds ridiculous, but during my career I worked in the development office pursuing major gifts (in the six figures from corporations)-and one of the first questions I was often asked was “What percentage of employees give to the organization?”–seriously, I was asked that 9 out of 10 times I had a sit-down with the giving organizations. If the answer was less than 100%, for them, that was an issue. You can disagree or not, but many companies view that % as an indicator of the employees’ belief in the mission, and in their mind, if the employees don’t believe in it, why should they?

    I am in no way saying this is correct thinking–far from it–but it DOES happen, and that’s why so many non-profits encourage employee giving. It can literally be $1–it’s the percentage of employees who give, not the amount they give.

    In my last job with a tiny non-profit, there were several employees where a $10 donation once a year was the difference between them getting groceries or affording their copay and not. But this was an organization where 100% participation was necessary. So the employees confided in their boss–the CEO came by quietly and discretely handed each employee $20. They could do whatever they wanted with that $20, but at least $1 had to go to the organization. We always had 100% participation.

    My career has spanned 6 non-profits-going for 100% is pretty normal, but bullying/coercing/threatening to turn off lights is not, and that’s pretty despicable.

    1. Macedon*

      If meeting a ‘giving quota’ is a concern for the non-profit, it can exercise an informal agreement by which management hands out $100 to each employee and tasks them with formally donating a fraction of that sum over the course of the year (and returning whatever money goes unused). Meeting quotas is the non-profit’s problem, not the employee’s – when you’ve got a problem, you handle it, you don’t pass it on.

      I sincerely dislike this attitude that a lot of people (not you!) display, according to which non-profits exercise a moral mandate and should be made a myriad of allowances by their employees.

    2. Yep*

      Wow, thank you for commenting. This is very insightful.

      I’d be worried that giving just $1 would be the equivalent of giving pennies to a waitress as a tip. But in this case for the OP who the hell cares?

      Give that $1 with a big-ass smile on your face as you walk back to your nice, dark office.

      1. KT*

        It certainly isn’t the equivalent of giving pennies to the tip–by working at a non-profit, you’re already giving back by taking a smaller salary than you could earn for a for-profit corporation. GOOD non-profits and management understand that and $1, if that’s what you can afford, is much appreciated.

        I know last year when we announced 100% participation, my CEO started crying openly because he knew a lot of the employees didn’t have much money, they’re just THAT gung-ho about what we do. We definitely drink the kool-aid :)

      2. Sunshine Brite*

        My college has always encouraged at least a $1 for the percents. I give both my alma maters a $1 at the beginning of the fiscal year and then I get about a 1/4 of the mailings the rest of the year.

        1. Sunshine Brite*

          I’ll give more once I get done with the student loans and hit some more of my own personal financial goals :) so like when I’m in my 90s or so.

    3. Jenna Maroney*

      That’s a great story, although a bummer that it was necessary.

      The idea of corporations judging nonprofits for having less than 100% employee participation for donations reminds me of the commonly held belief that it’s bad for nonprofits or charities to spend significant amounts of money on, you know, paying the people who work there – it ignores the reality of the lives of people who choose to go into that kind of work and is ultimately harmful overall.

      1. esra*

        It’s one of those things that makes sense to people’s “guts,” but not to actual, logical business practices. It’s definitely a tight line to walk, but talented and adequately paid staff generally get a lot more done.

        I worked at a non-profit for a few years, and while the pay was decent, when they asked us to donate they wouldn’t answer questions about where the money would be going. For all we knew, it was going to the “Board and President have sushi and chat weekly” fund, when we really could’ve used the money elsewhere.

    4. NJ Anon*

      “What percent of employees give to the organization?” Tell them 100%. They give by working there. Most people are paid below market rates and often volunteer at special events that the organization runs.

      1. KT*

        This is absolutely accurate, but not at all what these companies are asking. Non-profits have to compete pretty severely with other non-profits for corporate donations, and the 100% question is one of those things that sets you apart. All non-profits could say “they give by working here” and that is why it’s not considered a differentiator.

        Again, I am in no way defending this line of thinking, but as someone who had to petition big-ticket donors, this was the common arguments I got and why 100% participation in annual campaigns was so important.

        1. Editor*

          Some metrics are poisonous. There’s been a lot of debate about the U.S. News & World Report ratings for colleges, for instance, because some of the metrics have created problems or exacerbated problems.

          If there’s a code of ethics for nonprofits, disclosing rates of giving for employees should be unethical. Disclosing rates of giving for board members, not so much. While that might provide good guidance, some donors are still going to want the rate of employee participation in funding — so people in the nonprofit world need to come up with a different metric that will satisfy those donors.

          For me, employee engagement would be a suitable substitute metric. Gallup does some general surveys on employee engagement, but I don’t know if providing those metrics at every nonprofit is feasible, since a survey done by an outside agency would cost money, whereas strong-arming employees for funds has hidden costs but few or no direct costs. I don’t know if Pew or some other large nonprofit could provide some metrics at no cost to the nonprofit seeking funding, but that might be an improvement. I would also think that measuring employee engagement (in a completely confidential survey) would necessarily result in some toxic nonprofits receiving lower rankings than their top managers expect, which might be a good reality check.

          1. Editor*

            Also, has anyone been candid with prospective funders and said, “Our participation rate is 91 percent. This means a few employees have not given, and I would hope you understand that not everyone can always give. Our lower participation rate — less than 100 percent — means we’re not faking the donation rate or coercing employees into giving.”

            It seems to me that a high percentage that’s not 100 percent is actually more informative than a 100 percent giving rate because of the likelihood that manipulation was required to achieve it.

    5. Future Analyst*

      In the event that the CEO is making sure that giving is not inflicting hardship on the employees, I feel very differently about a non-profit expecting 100% employee participation. But in other situations, there should be the very explicit understanding that giving $0.01 technically constitutes participation, so that no-one feels obligated to give what could be a major chunk of their weekly/monthly budget.

      That being said, I still think it’s strange for a company to ask for money from its employees: isn’t the usually-way-more-than-40-hours-a-week enough?

    6. UKAnon*

      I’m sort of sad that nobody had noticed that that was how low wages were if they were going to require this, but at the same time hurrah for such a lovely and practical solution!

      1. KT*

        We weren’t grossly underpaid-the pay for non-profit was actually fairly generous. But in these cases, they had undue hardship. Single parents, medical bills, etc.

  20. TL17*

    #4 – I kid you not. I used to have professional contact with a woman whose email stationery background was tan with dark pawprints. Her font was 14 point bold comic sans. In purple. It made me want to scream. Loudly.

    1. Dawn*

      I worked for a company where the *ahem* “Executive Assistant to the President of the North Americas” used the notepaper stationary with light blue italic comic sans. On every email.

    2. RR*

      I know you’re not kidding, because I have had professional contact with this same woman. Or, more likely, and even scarier, it’s probably not even the same person :-0

    3. Brandy*

      Lord Gawd…Is she still your contact and is she based in Nashville, TN, because I sooo did that. I love animals so I choose the tan with paw print background and I love purple and comic sans script. That was several jobs ago, here we have the professional look, but I did so have that exact stationary.

  21. BananaPants*

    #1 – he’s sending you company private information and expecting you to work for free. I would forward his emailed documents to HIS boss with a note stating that you’re a bit concerned that Bob gave you access to these documents and asked you to review and comment, as you’re no longer employed there. You can throw in an offer to consult for $X/hour if necessary, but I would firmly but politely state that barring a formal contracting agreement you will be unable to review the documents for Bob/FormerJob.

    Another poster said that “No” is a complete sentence, and I agree with it.

    1. Windchime*

      I would honestly just stop responding. Set up an email filter so his emails go into the spam (or another) folder. Let the phone calls go to voicemail. He will soon move on when the OP stops responding.

  22. KittenLittle*

    My employer wants 100% participation, so they are going to donate $1 in the name of each employee who doesn’t donate to the organization. I am one who does not want to donate as I feel they are not responsible with the funds, we are in quite a bit of financial trouble and many employees are going to be laid off. Also, policy states that no employee shall be required or coerced in any manner to donate to the organization.

  23. NickelandDime*

    I guess this is a general question about the first letter: Do you think sometimes we as employees worry too much about “preserving the relationship” and “burning bridges?” Because all of the jerks I’ve ever come across at work didn’t give one darn about burning bridges or preserving anything with me. I have references and former managers and colleagues I have great relationships with. And there are those I simply don’t think very highly of. I don’t connect on LinkedIn, I don’t reach out, I just don’t engage. I mean, does OP#1 really trust him to give her a good reference? Does she not think that maybe other people probably dislike him as well, and his word won’t hold any weight because they don’t respect him? With jerks, don’t take it personally. They’re jerks with everybody.

    1. OP1*

      Hi NickelandDime. I agree that we can put too much of an emphasis on preserving the relationship however it’s a fact that some employers would want to reference check a place you recently worked at. I can give a potential employer another person at that place where I worked but they could come back and ask for my direct supervisor.

      Plus if they called the company I worked for and went off my reference list they could talk to my former boss and he could say things about me that aren’t nice. He could be in a good mood and say nice things or he can be in a bad mood and say mean things. I can also not put anyone from that company on my list of references but a potential employer may ask me for someone I recently worked for. Maybe I’m over thinking it though.

      The fact is he’s not a stable person and I should have realized that from the start. I should have shut him down immediately after I left. I shouldn’t have engaged him in any way and I realize that now. If you have a person you work for who isn’t right mentally no matter what you do you will never be able to please him or her.

      The lesson I learned from all of this is to not engage, create stronger boundaries and make sure you get your reviews in writing. Like I mentioned before, my reviews were always excellent and he signed them so I have proof.

      1. LBK*

        If his varying moods could give you an unreliable reference either way, what’s the point of stressing yourself out to preserve it? Do you really plan to allow this to go on for years until you start your next job search? There’s no way that’s better for your quality of life then just biting the bullet and taking the bad reference if you have to (see yesterday’s short answer post for many suggestions on how to get around people asking for a reference that you know will be bad).

        1. NickelandDime*

          I agree. Dealing with unstable people is exhausting. And if a potential employer calls four folks for references, three give great ones and one person goes off the rails, who do you think they’ll believe?

          1. LBK*

            Exactly. As with yesterday’s discussion, one wild outlier in a series of otherwise great references will usually say more about the person giving the reference than you.

          2. Dana*

            This has come up before too, but hiring managers are not robots and will weigh his reference with the others and come up with their own assessment of you. I don’t think one bad apple spoils the bunch in this case, and it’s possible the person calling him can glean from their own conversation that he is cuckoo.

            1. RVA Cat*

              Plus, they’ll way the fact that you worked there for a year and a half so obviously either A) you were good enough to keep around or B) if you were *that* horrible, he’s not much of a manager to have kept you that long. And really, 7 people in your role in 4 years…? That speaks for itself. They can’t all be “job hoppers.”

      2. Sigrid*

        OP1, this gets mentioned in the comment section not infrequently, but I think it’s relevant again: have you read Gavin deBecker’s “Gift of Fear”? It’s a really good book, and it has a chapter on stalkers and how to deal with them. One point he makes, and reinforces with examples, is that stalkers are not always romantic/sexual, which is what we default to when we think of “stalker”. Your ex-boss is exhibiting classic stalking behavior, and I think Gift of Fear might be a useful read for you. (Frankly I think it’s a useful read for *everyone*, but that’s beside the point.)

  24. Lily in NYC*

    Re: blue font. I thought this was par for the course with Outlook: our original emails are in black, but when we reply they turn blue. Is that really unprofessional? I don’t event think twice about it. Or was OP referring to something else and I misunderstood?

    1. Elysian*

      I think you’re talking about the Outlook default, which I don’t think is unprofessional. It’s the default – I use that, too. I think part of the problem comes when you start making affirmative choices to be different than the default – then those choices need to be in line with professional standards.

      1. A Jane*

        Agreed here on the default settings. For my own sake, I scanned through a few reply emails from my coworkers, and everyone has the standard default blue for their replies except when responding via mobile.

  25. Treena Kravm*

    Re #4 HAH because our “standard” is blue font. It makes me nauseous looking at it.

  26. Dasha*

    #4 I thought in Outlook replies are in some sort of blue color with the default setting? I think it’s calibri in dark blue. :-/

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I just asked the same thing upthread. I guess OP wants to make all of his/her emails blue? This is not something I would even notice unless it was a rarely used color like pink or green or used those silly stationery templates.

  27. Junior Arch*

    #2 – Ugh, job titles are so subjective. Technically, you cannot call yourself an architect until you pass a bunch of exams, work a certain amount of hours doing specific tasks, have the right degree and jump through a hoop on fire. OldJob called everyone architect regardless so when I was looking for work I used “Junior Architect” on my resume – because that was my job title. NO WHERE on my resume did I say I was licensed, yet I had an interviewer call me out on it and wasn’t as bad as your scenario but it was really awkward. (PS – now I say “Architectural Designer” to skirt the issue)

    1. bo bessi*

      Be careful with “Architectural Designer” too, actually. Essentially you’re an “Intern Architect” until you complete the ARE (and jump through that hoop of fire). I can see that confusing hiring managers and making them think you’re more experienced than you are.

    2. jamlady*

      I ran into a similar issue once. My industry has similar requirements and you don’t meet federal standards until a certain point so we throw the word “technician” around for the lower level jobs. I took a contract that had the job title of someone much higher and it was very awkwardly placed in between all of these technician roles. I’ve learned since that that company has a terrible reputation so I don’t even put that on my resume anymore, but the first interview I had after that contract was awkward haha.

  28. Yep*

    #2 – How is that misleading when it was the title you were given? If he disagrees with that he should have issue with your former employer, not you. I’d file that under, “places not to work and never interview with again.”

    #3 – Two things (food for thought):

    I used to work for a nonprofit who didn’t ask me to donate money, exactly, but I spent my own money on things frequently without being reimbursed. I was treated terribly and ended up resenting the money I spent, even though I cared about the cause.

    I currently volunteer for a nonprofit who has never asked me to donate anything other than my time. When I got married, they actually sent ME a large check as a wedding gift/thank you for my efforts.

    You’re under no obligation, they clearly don’t appreciate the sacrifices you’re already making, and I am floored on the lights comment. Floored. Absolutely, utterly unacceptable. Maybe your boss is one of those idiots who thinks a migraine is just another headache.

    1. NJ Anon*

      “I used to work for a nonprofit who didn’t ask me to donate money, exactly, but I spent my own money on things frequently without being reimbursed. I was treated terribly and ended up resenting the money I spent, even though I cared about the cause.”

      This is why I insist all employees get reimbursed for out of pocket expenses.

  29. JoJo*

    LW#1 I wouldn’t assume that your ex-boss will give you a good reference anyway, so I’d cut him off completely. No phone calls, no emails, nothing. Try to find someone else at ex-job to give a reference if necessary.

      1. LBK*

        If he’s belittling her skills to her face I don’t see why he wouldn’t do the same to others.

  30. Eduardo Ramirez*

    My company (a massive for-profit) drives very hard for 100% participation in the annual United Way giving campaign. HOWEVER, that’s 100% participation in filling out the form. There’s no pressure to actually give money; you are free to pick No Thank You.

  31. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – I’ve noticed goofy fonts, stationery, and their ilk tend to be used almost exclusively by admin assistants around here. Not sure if that’s normal everywhere.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      As an admin myself, don’t tarnish us all with the same brush! :)

      There is a lab technician who uses a “notepad” background with the metal spirals on one side.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      As an EA, I hate to agree but I do. The only person I’ve ever seen using it in my office was an assistant in the president’s office and she probably sent only two or three emails before someone put a stop to it. She also used to try to evangelize to coworkers and attempted to give me a bible that I refused to accept. Then I saw her preaching on the subway and tried not to make eye contact because it was so awkward. She did not last long.

      1. CA Admin*

        God yes. Nobody in my office does this, thankfully, but I only ever see it from the admins at other firms, not the investment professionals.

        Important question though: is this worse than my boss (high-level partner) who uses text speak, even in emails with external bankers and LPs? I’m not sure it is. You’d hope that someone that senior would know better…

    3. Cath in Canada*

      One of our senior admins uses the blue sky with white clouds email stationery, with that font that’s supposed to look like handwriting. She’s otherwise excellent, so people just deal with it. I can make it through a short email, but if it’s long I copy and paste it into a better font to read it.

  32. Amber Rose*

    Oh, I love questions about unprofessional emails. Because if you’re asking, you care, and you’re in the tiny minority. I mean, I get emails from people in txt speak and full of smileys all the time. Often in like, pink font color.

    The only exception is our foreign clients. I like their emails because they try super hard to be formal and polite.

  33. BadPlanning*

    Recently, our annual charity campaign began to feel like OP #3’s description. It used to be a rule that management could not be involved other than asking for a volunteer to canvass the department. And the canvassing was a “hey, it’s that time, here are some interesting facts about this year’s campaign. Hey, the deadline’s coming up, please give if you wish to. I’m here to answer questions.”

    The last time I volunteered as our area canvasser, I had assorted management pressuring me to pressure coworkers. Technically, they just wanted 100% response (which was clicking a button to say yes or no to donating, not actually donations requried), but it was still gross. If I could go back in time, I would have made a bigger stink out of it than I did. I did tell my immediate managers that I was unhappy with the pressure (one seemed confused about why I was unhappy, but the other agreed).

  34. Ed*

    For #2, I run into this all the time with my job. I am a systems administrator but there variations of titles like systems engineer, network administrator, network manager, etc. You could easily argue that a job of systems engineer is always a higher position than systems admin (and by the purest definition of both titles, you would be 100% correct) but when I list myself as engineer at my previous job, that merely means if you call them to verify my employment, that’s the title they will give you. I’m in no way trying to elevate myself to get a higher level job. I know I wasn’t technically an engineer. But I also know engineers who had a systems administrator title because that’s simply what their company calls it. It still wouldn’t be accurate for them to list engineer on their resume though.

    The same goes for having “Senior” in front of your title. So many companies hand out senior titles like Halloween candy that it doesn’t mean much. I’ve been on interview committees where someone says “the work they list here doesn’t say ‘senior’ to me.” Then call their current boss and tell her she’s an idiot but don’t take it out on the candidate. “Senior” often just means you’ve either been there forever or we can’t give you a raise so here’s a make-believe title to shut you up. I know a guy who is a technician for a public organization and his title is senior systems administrator. He does the typical tech stuff like computer repair, account management, phone troubleshooting, etc. and he’s not even particularly good at that stuff. Knowing his skill level, I would honestly have a hard time saying he is even a junior admin. But everyone at his org has fancy titles. On the flipside, my company is very stingy with senior titles. Only one person on my team has it and he had to threaten to quit to get it.

  35. Sophiabrooks*

    My university is now buying into this 100% thing, too. It is driving me nutty- we are the largest employer in the city, and there is no way we will get 100%. It also comes after years of freezes on wages and hiring/promotions, raising of healthcare premiums and parking costs while reducing tuition benefits, and a call to slash budgets while we keep adding highly paid administrative positions and building huge new buildings.

    I wish they would just come clean about needing it to get donations, rather than trying to convince us that we must believe the mission is so wonderful. It is just a normal private university and medical center!

    It reminds me of when they raised insurance premiums, from FREE, and sent a letter telling us they were doing so to be more fair and equitable to employees.

    1. KT*

      Ugh, that’s so stupid. When I was first starting out, I would get so annoyed, like my $10 makes such a big difference. For me it buys groceries, for the organization, it does what? Buy a stapler?

      It wasn’t until I worked int he development office of a better non-profit that I understood the importance of 100%, and that organization really did work hard to emphasize the WHY it was important. Our employee campaign MAYBE raised $1,000 total (most gave less than $10) but when I was able to say “100% of our employees donate to our annual fund”. I was able to secure donations in the $500,000 range from corporations and beat out other non-profits competing for those corporations. It’s a huge difference, and non-profits do themselves a disservice by NOT explaining that to employees.

      1. RR*

        I see your point, but I think we in non-profits do a larger disservice, and harm our larger cause, by helping perpetuate these practices. It would be great if we could do more to help donors understand why this is not a good metric by which to judge a nonprofit. (And don’t get me started on the myth that all overhead is bad and takes away from programs–how, pray tell, does one implement programs without support? “We want all the funds to go directly to the beneficiaries.” Okay, malnourished child, here’s a pile of cash–good luck with that!)

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, this. Donors who insist on 100% are encouraging a false metric – the company where 90% of employees willingly and wholeheartedly give is “worse” than the company where management quietly kicks in $1 for each employee because otherwise nobody would give.

      2. AcidMeFlux*

        Sorry, but what a load of crap. Your employees are not indentured donors. They are hired to facilitate the work of the organization. Period.

      3. Observer*

        Actually, non-profits do themselves and the entire sector a dis-service by playing into this nonsense. This stuff is NEVER good for the non-profit, no matter how it’s handled. Think about what your boss did. I agree that it’s far, far better than pressuring people who can’t afford it to give money they don’t have. But, there are plenty of non-profit ED’s who cannot afford to do what he did out of their personal funds. So, to do the equivalent, the boss would have to find some way to pay all of the staff a few extra dollars to make up for it. What a great way to encourage “transparency and accountability”! The alternative is to pressure and guilt everyone to either do something that hurts or give a truly meaningless amount, perpetuating a ridiculous idea and putting organizations that refuse to go that rout for ethical or practical reasons at a disadvantage. And, you can be sure that what goes round comes round – these things always come back to haunt you one way or another.

  36. I'm a Little Teapot*

    Ugh, #2 is uncomfortably familiar.

    I had a long-term temp assignment at a university and applied for a perm job in a different department there. My resume noted my position as Administrative Assistant (Temporary), Teapot U Dept. of Spouts (via Rent-A-Temp). The interviewer accused me of lying on my resume by claiming that I worked at Teapot U – despite my clearly indicating that it was through an agency. Apparently she couldn’t read.

    She’s now Assistant Director of HR at Teapot U.

  37. Ineloquent*

    #3, you should tape your lightswitch into the off position for now so people can’t flip it casually. Because, holy hannah, that is so messed up.

  38. Brett*

    #4 We actually have an enforced domain policy that requires a blue font (#1F497D to be exact) and white background for all email. I am not sure of the reasoning behind it, but for some reason that color blue is the mandatory font color for email.

    1. Brett*

      Thanks to upthread, I now realize this is the outlook default. We apparently just have outlook locked so you cannot change the default settings.

  39. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

    #2 Your interviewer was a douchcanoe missing one or more paddles.

    #3 After almost two decades in the nonprofit sector I can tell you that so many (too many) foundations require you to answer the percentage of board members giving the organization (should be 100%, it’s voluntary after all) and staff. This is often a question that has points attached to it. I recently completed an application where board and staff participation was an all or nothing game – 10 out of 100 points. Since I refuse to require my team to give cash, I asked everyone to document any time they spent on work stuff that was unpaid – attending a community event, telling people about what we do, sharing that information on social media or putting our services in a church bulletin. I did a quick memo with the number of hours x $23.07 (Independent Sector’s value of volunteer service per hour) which equals $X amount of money.

    1. ReanaZ*

      Ha! I love that response. That’s sleek.

      I refuse to donate to any not-for-profit I work for. Last time someone asked me, I told him that he’s welcome to record the $15K+ pay cut I take to work there instead of in the private sector as my donation.

      I used to work (60-80 hours a week for 20k) for an organisation that mandated all staff set up fundraising pages and hassle our friends and families to donate. (I don’t think it was mandatory from head office but it was in our region.) I just flat out didn’t do it the first year; the second year I did to get someone hassling me off my back and maybe shared it like once because the system tracked whether I did and it was required. (I think I even deleted it as soon as I got home.) One friend who I had donated to in the past donated a small amount, $10 or something. I hope that $10 was worth me never, ever donating there as long as I live!

      Pouring my time and energy into your org for less than market wages=my donation. Stop asking.

Comments are closed.