declining a raise, teaching employee a skill she doesn’t actually need, and more

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

1. My employee wants me to teach her a skill she doesn’t really need for her job

I currently manage a team of eight people. How much additional knowledge and information should I share with my employees outside of what is needed for them to do their job? For example, one of my staff members asked me to train her on using Microsoft Excel. Everything I’ve learned about Excel I taught myself, plus I needed to know it for my position. In her position, she doesn’t really need to know anything more than just the basics, which she already knows. So where do I draw the line? This would be advancing her Excel skills on a more personal level, but it’s not necessarily a good use of company time since she doesn’t perform any advanced work in that program.

On one hand, helping employees increase their skills and develop professionally is a good way to retain strong people, and you don’t need to be 100% rigid about ensuring that it’s directly related to their job duties. However, there are limits to that; you want to balance professional development against factors like how strong the employee is (and thus how much you care about investing in them and retaining them), how much time, money, or other resources the development would take (in general, as well as relative to what you might be interested in doing for others on your team), and how far away from the person’s job the skill is.

In this case, she’s asking not just to spend her own time learning a skill that you don’t think she’ll need for her job, but also for you to spend your time teaching it to her. That’s a pretty big ask and it probably doesn’t make sense for you to spend your time that way. But maybe you could tell her a bit about how you taught yourself,  point her toward any online tutorials or other resources that you found especially useful, and suggest that she explore that way, as well as offer to show her a few specific functions if there are some that she’s especially interested in.

In other words, not a flat “no,” but a “how about this instead?”

2. My coworker told her manager that I called her a rude name

I had a conversation with a peer, Ann, who works for another manager, during which time I called Ann’s manager an inappropriate name and showed her why that name was justified. At the end of the conversation, I recanted and told Ann that this conversation stays just between us and she agreed.

However, I was called into a conference room by Ann’s manager the next day and she asked me about the conversation (quite politely). I refused to answer, as I assumed it was a mutually agreed private conversation between Ann and me. Now I have a meeting with HR on Wednesday. What is my best course of action here?

Probably to apologize and say you realize that calling her a name was unprofessional and that you won’t do it again.

Don’t lean too hard on the “it was a private conversation” angle, because you’re unlikely to win that one. Conversations with coworkers — especially conversation with coworkers about work/other coworkers — don’t have any special right of privacy attached to them. They may get repeated, and they may get repeated in ways that cause problems for you (as happened here). And your employer is less likely to care that your coworker broke a confidence with you than that you’re calling a colleague a (presumably rude?) name.

The fastest way to make this go away is to say that you understnad that it was poor judgment and that you’ll be more thoughtful about what you say at work in the future.

3. Can I decline a pay raise meant to keep me exempt?

I recently received a raise without being notified. The raise was applied to my employment profile on the company’s online HR portal on the day the president signed action to raise the pay at which employees would get overtime pay. The raise I received put me just over the $50,440 threshold to not have to receive overtime pay. The raise was to $51,000; my previous annual pay rate was $50,000.

Do employers have to notify employees of raises and are employees allowed to decline pay increases?

Employers do not have to notify you if they decide to pay you more, although most employers do, because raises are generally seen as a morale and retention strategy, and they risk squandering those benefits if they do them covertly.

I suppose you could try to decline a raise, but (a) it would be weird, and (b) in this case they’re not going to let you, assuming that they raised your pay in order to keep you exempt under the proposed* new overtime threshold rule because they’ve calculated that it’s in their financial interest to do that. (For people unfamiliar with this: The Department of Labor has proposed raising the minimum salary required for an employee to be exempt from overtime laws to $50,440 from its current $23,660.)

* Note that new rule is still just a proposal and not yet current law. The commenting period is still open, and the final change (which may be in a different form than the proposal is) isn’t likely to go into effect until next year.

4. Starting a new job while still technically employed by the old one

My wife has a quick question regarding starting a new job prior to completing her last day with her current company. She works for a consulting group and is currently “unassigned,” which means she is waiting on a new project. However, she received an outstanding offer which she accepted but must start immediately, which means she may have two salaried jobs at the same time. Will this cause an issue with future background checks? Is it unethical? Or if her current employer just doesn’t take time to try and staff her (which is the case – there are a lot of folks doing work on the side while on the “bench” apparently), should she only quit once the employer takes notice?

Just curious as she would make some extra salary while holding both positions – which is always welcome!

If the new job needs her to start right away, she should be honest with her current employer about that when she gives her notice. Giving two weeks notice and planning to work for the new company during that time and just hope that the old employer doesn’t notice and assign her any work for her last weeks would indeed be unethical. Even if they’re not currently giving her projects right now, they’re paying her to be available; if she’s no longer available, she should be honest about that.

A good litmus test of the ethics: If her current employer knew she starting the new job immediately, would they choose to keep her on payroll? Presumably not, and quite reasonably so — and she shouldn’t be deceptive about that. If I’m wrong and they wouldn’t care, then she should still be honest with them about it and confirm that.

5. Employees have to provide receipts from their vacations in order to get time off

My daughter works for a chain retail clothing store. She just found out that if an employee wants to take a vacation, the managers require them to provide a copy of their plane ticket if flying or gas receipts if driving, along with a copy of the hotel receipt. Employees do not get paid vacation. Can they do this? What if they just want a week of to relax at home?

They told one person who was only getting 15 hours a week that she could not get another job just in case they needed her to come in to cover a shift. That I know they cannot do!

My daughter was working at an internship in the evening for 2 weeks. She had worked a day shift and was ready to go out to the internship, but they called and told her they didn’t need her that night. She went into the store to purchase something and the manager told my daughter that she had to tell her (the manager) when she was available just in case she needed her to come in.

Bottom line is these girls are terrified of their managers. Does a boss have a right to know what you are doing in your off time? This is a minimum wage job with no benefits.

That’s ridiculous. It’s not illegal, but it’s ridiculous. The best thing you can do is probably to let your daughter know that  this isn’t a normal thing that she should expect from an employer (so that this doesn’t mess up her norms for what is and isn’t okay), and perhaps encourage her to consider finding a job that doesn’t treat her like an indentured servant.

(By the way, it actually is legal for them to prohibit employees from having second jobs. It’s particularly stupid to do that with a 15-hour-a-week employee, but there’s no law that prevents them from being jerks.)

{ 479 comments… read them below }

  1. LisaLee*

    #2: Might I also suggest that in the future, no matter what you think of a colleague, you don’t share it with other coworkers? You put Ann in what must have been an incredibly uncomfortable situation by badmouthing her boss and then asking her keep it private. Vent to your partner or friend, not a coworker.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I’ll add to that. You asked Ann to keep it private **after** you made the statements, not before. You don’t have that right. If you want someone to agree to something, you need to disclose everything ahead of time. And nothing said at work is private.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        This reminds me of my friend who used to be a newspaper reporter. Frequently, while interviewing some city council member or whomever for the paper, the interviewee would say something juicy – then follow it with, “Oh, that’s off the record, though.” My friend sometimes took a somewhat sadistic glee in informing them that no, that’s not how “off the record” works.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          This is one of my biggest headaches in my job! If only there were magic words that could muzzle people. Alas.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes! I’ve got someone at my work who would unload stuff on me and then try to swear me to secrecy, but only afterward. I had to tell her what an awkward position it put me in.

        2. Ad Astra*

          I, too, thought immediately about “off the record” requests that come after the fact. A lot of people also tried to get us to leave out their names, as if anonymous sources are just no big deal. Sorry, Charlie.

        3. Green*

          I don’t think public officials should get the after-the-fact “off the record” (although beat reporters do need to balance maintaining relationships with sources that they will need again with getting a juicy (i.e., embarrassing) quote for a one-off story), but it would probably be most appropriate to let private citizens you’re interviewing for the first time (and who don’t know how “off the record” works at all) skate by on the “off the record” ask.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            This was mostly small-time politicians – city council member, school board chair, etc. So not senators, but also people who very much should have realized that the reporter for the Whatever County Gazette was not an appropriate person to vent to about their boss/opponent/constituency.

    2. uh*

      I don’t understand this at all. Why would Ann feel bad if you dislike her boss?

      I do understand it is generally stupid to vent at work and that name calling is unprofessional – just not why Ann would “feel uncomfortable”.

        1. Nina*

          For the most part, I’m the same way. I’ve had people badmouth bosses to me before and I usually just shrug it off. It’s a bad idea to vent like that at the office, though. OP was definitely in the wrong there.

          But the situation also depends on the context of what OP said, which unfortunately, we don’t know. Whatever it was, Ann felt that it was important enough to bring HR into it.

      1. Amber*

        She would feel bad because the OP forced her in a lose/lose position where Ann has to either A) report her co-worker and feel bad for “tattling” or B) ignore very unprofessional behavior that she doesn’t agree with.

        1. Koko*

          Exactly. If she’s a sympathetic/amiable person who wants to have positive relationships with all her coworkers, you’ve now put her in the position of having to choose between a coworker and her boss. Ick.

      2. UKAnon*

        I think the discomfort comes from the possibility that the boss/coworker will come to hear of the conversation and will assume that Ann tacitly agreed with what OP said.

      3. Advances, None Miraculous*

        If someone in another team is calling a manager names that are “inappropriate” and “showing why they are justified”, there’s obviously a problem that needs to be addressed. Whether that problem relates to something that the manager is doing, a breakdown in communication between teams, the name-caller’s personality and professionalism or a combination of the above, it’s a workplace issue that should be investigated.

        In addition to Amber’s point about lose/lose situations, there’s also a possibility that Ann respects and admires her manager, or is alarmed that there are apparently issues between teams, so it does put her in an awkward situation

        If you feel strongly enough to complain about someone and call them names, pairing it with “Oh, but I don’t want you to do a single thing about it” is a cop-out. Either the complaints are legitimate and need action or it’s an unpleasant little piece of undermining and the OP needs to examine their motivation. “But it was private” isn’t a free pass to do or say as you please.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          That’s the part that jumped out at me. “Jane’s an asshat. Now let me tell you why she is unequivocally an asshat….”

          It’s one thing to dislike someone you work with, maybe natural to nickname. But for Pete’s sake, don’t justify your own resentment *as factually based*. It’s still subjective and just your opinion.

          If I were Ann and you told me my boss was an asshat and left it there, I’d let it roll. If you then tried to persuade me that my boss is, in fact, an asshat, hell yeah I’m telling my boss. Who wants to get caught up in that drama?

      4. Bend & Snap*

        We don’t know what the name was, though. It could have been a slur or something really unacceptable.

        1. Kate M*

          Exactly. I’ve had a person try to justify to me calling someone (a black person) the n* word before, because as they stated, “there are black n*’s and white n*’s, and their behavior just happens to make them a black n*. Ignoring the fact that I had never heard them call a white person that slur. But that’s what this reminded me of – someone calling someone an “inappropriate name” and then “justifying” it. It may not have been a slur, but that’s one of the situations where it should absolutely be passed along to HR.

          The fact that the OP seems defensive and trying to loophole their way out of this shows that they don’t seem to understand that they screwed up. Which really makes me question their judgment.

          (I really hope this story wasn’t inappropriate to tell, it makes me uncomfortable even writing it, which it should.)

          1. Ad Astra*

            I have heard a similar defense for using the n-word based on behavior and, I just… no. There are so many other ways to insult someone’s behavior (if that’s what you want to do) without bringing a racial slur into it.

            1. Kelly L.*

              This. The language has a wealth of words, both polite and not, for all kinds of jerks. Nobody ever “needs” a racial slur.

          2. Anna*

            I feel like if the OP “showed” Ann why it was justified, it had something to do with social media, photos, and shaming. I don’t know why, but I can’t figure out how you would show someone why calling someone a name was justified. “She’s a slut and I know this based on Example A. Let the record show I’m showing Ann the photo of her boss kissing someone that’s clearly not her partner.”

            Either way, OP, please be more judicious in who you vent to and what you say when you vent. Even if Ann could have just blown it off, you made her feel uncomfortable enough that she felt the need to tell someone and that doesn’t reflect very well on you.

            1. BenAdminGeek*

              “Let the record show…” I imagine her with a plastic evidence baggy of Facebook photos printed out, some printed pages of texts from last night, etc.

              “Your honor, I think we’ve clearly demonstrated that Ann’s boss is s slut. Now, please seal this court record and don’t tell HR.”

          3. The Strand*

            I just find it amazing that there are still people willing to use any kind of slur in the workplace, let alone directing it at an individual.

        2. Ad Astra*

          That’s probably the only situation where I would bother bringing that information to my manager. If the OP had called her a jerk or even a bitch (which I realize is gendered, but not really a slur), it would damage my opinion of my coworker, but I’d keep it to myself. If it was something racist or misogynistic or something like that, I’d feel like my manager needed to know.

          On the other hand, I really wonder how someone could show that a slur or a truly egregious term was justified. At least terms like “tightwad” and “airhead,” while unkind and unprofessional, describe behavior.

          1. Afiendishingy*

            I’m imagining something like “white trash” or “slut” which would make a lot of people (myself included) feel pretty uncomfortable, but unfortunately many people would feel they could “explain why it’s justified”. My instinct wouldn’t have been to tell the manager who was gossiped about, but I also wouldn’t feel bound by any awkward promise to keep it private.
            Also, I can’t recommend “refusing to answer” questions from your superiors in cases like this. I recently had a client report that an employee had said something inappropriate to her. When we asked the employee “did you say x” she repeatedly replied “I said y and z.” “Ok, but DID YOU SAY X?” “I already told you I said y and z.” Maddening and made her look guilty as hell. Own up and apologize and the consequences will be less severe.

            1. Ad Astra*

              Hmm yeah, those are two examples of really inflammatory insults that technically describe a pattern of behavior (in a totally judgy and offensive way).

          2. Student*

            Do you realize that calling someone a “bitch” is literally equating women with animals? Do you understand that there are quite a lot of people (in fact, the majority of people on the planet, other women included) who consider women to be sub-human, not worthy of basic autonomy and human rights, worth less than livestock?

            Just because it is in common use does not mean it is not a slur. The n-word was once in very common use, but we all recognize it’s a slur against black people that implies they are inferior. The word “bitch” means the exact same thing, but people still generally consider it okay and acceptable to routinely say and imply that women are sub-humans.

            1. Ad Astra*

              Yes, I realize those things. You can argue all you want about the definition of a slur, but “bitch” and the n-word are simply not equivalent. Case in point: People feel comfortable typing and saying one but not the other.

              “Bitch” is a gendered term that’s often used in a misogynistic context, but the word isn’t inherently sexist, if you ask me. If you turn bitch into a verb, it’s something we all do, regardless of gender. The n-word, on the other hand, is impossible to separate from its racial connotation. If you turn that into a verb, the implication doesn’t change one bit.

              1. Anna*

                This. I’d also argue that it’s just not as loaded as the n-word. Bitch does not mean the exact same thing as the n-word. It’s not used in the same way and the cultural load on both words is not equal.

        3. KT*

          Yes, this. I had someone call a female boss the “C” and explained that it was justified. I’m sorry, I don’t care how unreasonable you think your boss is, it’s not okay to throw that around.

          Darn straight I reported said coworker. That language has no place in the workplace.

        4. AndersonDarling*

          Yes, venting is saying that some one is mean, has favorites, or smells bad. If someone went straight to HR, and HR is acting on it, then I’m guessing it had to be racist, sexist, or making accusations such as “She is a fraudulent, corporate fund stealing jerky-turkey.” Or it could be part of a pattern.
          Like Alison said, the OP needs to own up to it, and understand that whatever was said was inappropriate.

          1. Observer*

            Apparently someone went to their boss, who tried to follow it up and THAT person went to HR after the OP said that it was private. So, it’s hard to know how bad the original comment was, but the follow up was not wise, to say the least.

        5. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

          Yeah, I feel like there’s an ocean of difference between “Boss is a jerk” and “Boss is a [slur]”, especially if that slur refers to a characteristic of a protected class. Both are unprofessional, but the latter is just so much worse.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            ya… My first thought was that Anne was being hugely obnoxious… like OP had called their boss an asshole and Anne had gone right back to the boss and told her. Which, fine, not good judgement of OP to say that at the workplace or talk to someone when they obviously aren’t that close and don’t share the same feelings, but way more annoying of Anne.

            Also, you’re not chained in place. If someone shit talks my boss, I say “Hey, I actually really like Katie, I think she’s smart and fair, and I don’t think this is the kind of thing you want other people overhearing” and walk away. You have to smile and nod when coworkers talk about their kids sports games, not when they talk smack!

            If OP was calling their boss something totally inappropriate, like a slut, the C word, a racial slur, etc. that’s way worse.

          2. Observer*

            It doesn’t really make a difference. Using any inappropriate term was unwise. Spending the time and energy to actually explain why this was justified was even more unwise. And, refusing to apologize because she told the person she was talking to, to keep it quiet just seems bizarre.

      5. Amy UK*

        Maybe Ann likes her boss and doesn’t want to hear namecalling about her. Maybe Ann feels OP is pressuring her to also bitch about her boss. Maybe OP is complaining about a conflict with Ann’s boss, but Ann feels OP was in the wrong. Maybe Ann is concerned someone will overhear them talking and think Ann agrees with OP. Maybe Ann is concerned OP will assume she agrees with her, and will cite that later (“Meredith is a total bitch, and Ann totally agrees with me…”)

        It’s not about Ann “feeling bad” as in “feels sorry for her boss’ feelings”. There are plenty of reasons why someone might feel uncomfortable when a co-worker tries to gossip about the boss with them, especially when it involves name-calling.

        1. Judy*

          There is nothing to say that Ann is the one who told, anyway. I’ve yet to work in an office with walls that you couldn’t hear things in the neighboring offices. And if it was in a cubicle, everyone heard her just like they were standing there.

        2. JMegan*

          It’s also possible that the “inappropriate” name was something that also applied to Ann. For example, maybe the OP called Ann’s boss a “dyke,” and Ann herself is a lesbian, in which case Ann would have felt that the OP was talking about her as well.

          Another possibility is that this isn’t the first time this has happened. Maybe OP has said this type of thing before, and Ann just finally got tired of hearing about it. If that’s the case, going to the boss first may not have been the best response on her part, but it is what it is. Bottom line, OP needs to apologize, and knock off the name-calling at work.

        3. Ted Mosby*

          Then Anne should speak up and not tattle like a 10 year old. When people try to say bad things about my boss to me, I shut them down. I like my boss: I think she’s smart and competent and kind and I really respect her work ethic. I say it in a firm voice and walk away. I think it’s really immature to be so afraid of confrontation that you say nothing to someone’s face, then tattle behind their back. Ya, the firsst person isn’t being mature, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

          1. Observer*

            That makes a whole lot of assumptions that we simply don’t have enough information to make (including the assumption that she was the one who told.) But, it really makes no difference whether it was appropriate for anyone to go to the boss. The first mistake was getting into this in the first place. Depending on what was said, and the context, though, it could be understandable. But, once it was brought to the supervisor, it doesn’t make a difference if the person who “told” was right or wrong. The supervisor has an issue and refusing to answer – or better yet, apologize, is simply a totally inappropriate response. It’s totally unsurprising that it got escalated.

            1. Ted Mosby*

              I’m working off of what Amy UK said above, not making assumptions. If you don’t want to hear name calling or have anyone think you agree, you say something. It’s the right thing to do. Like I said, I don’t think either person was behaving very wisely.

              It makes a difference in my opinion about Anne, which is what I was discussing. I said that people should be more assertive and less passive aggressive, and I stand by that. I’m not saying it somehow cancels out what OP said.

      6. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah, this is a little dramatic on Ann’s part. Assuming the Op is not a horrible judge of character, she probably had no idea Ann would feel that way about what someone said about her boss.

        1. Green*

          This doesn’t really sound like “Man, Your Boss was really tough on me this week” complaining. Something more along the lines of “Your Boss is a real B**** and here are all the reasons why.” Which one it was closer to has a lot to do with whether or not it’s a “dramatic” response.

      7. Green*

        If Ann has a good relationship with her boss, she may be uncomfortable that someone is calling her a (what appears to be bad) name and torn between telling her boss and keeping a confidence. (Also, I think most of us have found that if someone is venting to us, they’re likely venting to others, which may or may not be the case here, but Ann may feel that her boss may want to stop this from going around.)

        It’s also entirely possible that the name-calling was an expletive (or gendered–bitch–or racial), which could certainly make someone uncomfortable.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Whether it was or not, you can’t assume that anything you say at work will be kept private. This exact situation bit me on the ass once. I bitched about the boss to my coworker and she told my boss. I got called into the kitchen (it was a food place) and my boss reamed me a new one. What could I do? I was guilty. I apologized and never did it again. And I wasn’t angry at my coworker; it was my own fault I got in trouble.

    3. catsAreCool*

      What gets me is that LW says “I called Ann’s manager an inappropriate name and showed her why that name was justified.” Apparently Ann didn’t agree, but LW argued over her?

  2. TootsNYC*

    #1, the Excel training

    I agree that spending your time training her on parts of the program that aren’t needed right now is not the best use of anyone’s time.

    But I do challenge this:

    In her position, she doesn’t really need to know anything more than just the basics, which she already knows.

    If she learns that program more deeply, you may be surprised at how more productive she becomes.

    1. Dan*

      The corollary is that if you want to keep her around, somehow you’ve got to train her to grow out of her current role.

      After all, no employer with a tuition reimbursement program has one because their employees *need* it in their current role. (If they did, then the employer would just hire for that skill outright.) Companies do that because it’s a tax break and a decent benefit for employees. Besides, once the employees start taking classes, then the employer usually keeps them on the hook for a year or two after classes are paid for.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Yup. I had one manager give me a bunch of links to online learning modules that the company subscribed to. I had no idea they existed! Few of the modules aligned with my current duties but they did align with my career goals. I happily took the modules during my lunch hour and in the evening while I was waiting for my car pool partner. My manager got a happy employee with low cost to him, I got training I needed for future assignments at the same company. Win/win.

      2. Gene*

        And if she learns some of the more advanced things you use, how much of your load could you have her do? She learns new skills, you have more time to manage instead of crunching numbers. Win-win.

      3. hermit crab*

        And, if you are in a client services field, they can raise your external billing rates once you get your degree. :)

      4. Nashira*

        Yeeeeup. I know my manager is actually mildly unhappy that I’m taking classes since, despite knowing that I’d work in my degree field for the greater corporate conglomerate, there’s just no room for a network admin or info sec noob in a clerical team.

        1. Retail Lifer*

          I’m going back to school but not telling my employer. There are no positions here that a higher degree would help, so it would be obvious why I’m taking classes.

    2. Graciosa*

      Part of any manager’s job is succession planning.

      If the manager uses the skills, the manager needs to ensure there is a pool of people who have them available.

      Possibly, there is already an adequate pool, but even then I would argue for contributions toward the successor’s succession plan.

      1. Beverly*

        Hi Graciosa,

        I definitely have a pool of employees already under my succession plan. I offer it to anyone on my team who is truly interested. I wish I could have included more in my initial question, but since I could not I can elaborate here. I’ve already posted a larger response below, but to recap – this employee rarely takes initiative to learn anything outside of her current position. In our 1-on-1’s She constantly mentions she has no desire to do anything else other than what she’s doing now (in her current role). When she asked for Excel training, she denied the online training classes I initially offered to set her up for. I then asked her for a SMART goal so that I knew exactly what she wanted to achieve, but she is also refusing to create one with one excuse or another. Basically, she wants me to do all of the work for her, which is frustrating.

    3. LQ*

      This may be true. Or it may take up a lot of time when the person tries to do things in excel that shouldn’t be done in excel or that they shouldn’t be doing at all. Some people are amazing and when you give them an inch they build a bridge. And some people accidentally unravel your sweater.

      (I have a coworker like this. Nearly every time I show her something she makes both her job and mine harder, I have to go back over her work, and often redo it entirely. I’ve learned what projects she can handle and just show those to her, but she still occasionally asks about other things, like when she asked if I would show her how to use access, but she had no idea what she would do with it or what kind of a program it is, she’d never have need for it, and it wouldn’t make anyone else’s job easier. –I may be a little biased!)

      1. themmases*

        Access is a tough one. It’s not a difficult program to use– once you understand what it’s for and how you should or should not create a database. Probably it’s because I’m new to it, but I don’t think of it as quite the blank slate, experiment and easily fix it later, program that Excel is.

        Also in my experience, by the time someone accepted that a relational database was needed, it was because the project was *way* too complicated for Excel and now someone needs to be trained. So the learning curve can be steeper than it would seem like it needs to be.

        1. LQ*

          Part of it is in our organization anything that would need to be like that goes to a different department. My team would never do it. (I do have access but I’m only supposed to use it for a very small number of things.)

          But the same with excel, sure you can do a lot with it, if you have use for it. And if you take a class or someone shows you something and you don’t use it for 6 months, you have to start over basically.

          I will say I’m clearly feeling bias and frustration because of my coworker and having to redo her work lately because I’m normally SUPER pro-sharing information and training others.

    4. themmases*

      I would say this is true of Excel in particular. It’s a flexible, ubiquitous program that, once someone knows it, provides a cheap way to solve tons of different problems. At a former job my boss and I each created totally different, working Excel sheets to track our PTO (I ended up liking his better). My boss avoided using commercial scheduling software for years using an incredibly complex Excel workbook. I created research subject databases, kept attendance and program evaluation records… You name it.

      I don’t think it’s reasonable for someone to sit down with another person and show them how to use an Office program unless they’ve literally never seen it before. However, OP1 should definitely get their employee on Lynda or share any tips about finding the good Excel tutorials online. Keeping employees learning is a great, often cheap, way to keep them happy and interested in their work.

      1. Beverly*

        I feel like I’m at a stalemate, themmases. My company has an online learning institute with a ton of Excel classes for all different levels, and signing her up for the Excel 101 classes was my first offer and suggestion (I’ve taken several myself and found them to be helpful). She doesn’t want to watch a video and she doesn’t want to read up on the program. I understand that everyone learns differently, but she has shown zero initiative towards resourcefulness and educating herself, and has refused my previous suggestions. I then asked for her to create a SMART goal so that we have something realistic to work towards, but she also refused that and just wants me to show her… I don’t even know what!

        1. Today I am Fiona*

          Ugh. I encourage all the people in our department to keep me in the loop if they’re interested in moving to a different department, have a career plan, etc. Our department is more of a foot in the door than something anyone would want to do long term (other than me, I’m here forever). I’ve had a couple people take me up on it, tell me what they’d like to do and what they’d need to do to get there. Then we’ve worked on skills they’d need, set up job shadowing, etc. I’ve had other people *tell* me they are interested, but then never put forth the slightest effort to talk to any other departments, or figure out what skills they’d most like to learn, etc. I’d like to have a hundred of the former, even if they’re just here for a short while, and none of the latter. Actually, the two biggest offenders are no longer with the company, not necessarily for this reason, but it was an indicator of no initiative.

        2. BenAdminGeek*

          Well in that case, the problem is not the Excel itself, it’s her wanting you to spoonfeed her and not having a goal for her learning. Is she a strong employee otherwise? If so, maybe she just doesn’t realize how this behavior reflects on her. Someone told her “Excel is the way to get ahead” and she’s running with that blindly. If she’s not a great employee overall, I would just not engage in discussion on the topic and assume that your boss will be hearing complaints that you refuse to train her.

        3. RMRIC0*

          Well, you’ve certainly led this horse to water. If they’re not willing tl show a little more initiative or effort (or even have clear goals) then i’d cut them short – either you don’t feel up to showing someone how to use the program (since much of your knowledge is self taught through these programs) or that it’s not a great use of company time.

    5. Ad Astra*

      If she were asking to learn something completely unrelated to her role, I could understand the reluctance. But this is an employee who already uses Excel asking to learn more about how the program works. It’s a very reasonable request, and the OP should look for ways to help her employee learn those skills, even if she doesn’t have time to teach the employee herself.

      1. Beverly*

        I agree with you, Ad Astra, that I should look for ways to help my employee learn Excel if she’s interested – and I have. She has refused all of the training I offered to set her up for under my company’s online learning institute. She doesn’t want to read anything herself nor watch any instructor led videos. She won’t even create her own SMART goal for Excel after I asked her to so that we have something realistic to work towards.

        I never deny teaching my employees skills they want to improve on because I want them to succeed, however, it’s extremely frustrating when a person does nothing to help themselves, therefore, does not help me help them, and expects me to do everything for them. It makes me feel like we have a parent to child relationship, instead of a healthy and productive adult to adult working relationship.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Based on the things you’ve explained in your responses, I have to wonder: Why does this employee want to learn more about Excel? Did she mention a reason when she made the initial request? I can sort of identify with wanting to know more and not knowing where to start, but it’s not clear to me what her motivation is at all.

          Have you talked to her about the other performance problems?

        2. Loose Seal*

          Is it possible that she does not know how to make a SMART goal and is too embarrassed to admit that? It seems pretty easy to make goals once you’ve been taught how but no one is born with that ability. Maybe a one-on-one with you helping her to define the SMART goal might be enough to push her.

          1. Mae North*

            I was wondering that too, and also if she might be someone who doesn’t learn by reading/watching, and has to listen and/or actively participate? I could also see someone who’s unsure about their Excel skills wanting a real live person to bounce their questions off rather than trying to store them up until they see their boss (who already doesn’t want to train them individually) the next day. Some people are self-starters, they’ll take a video or a link or a Help section and run with it, and others very much need guidance even after they’ve sat through the video.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes, exactly! I too learned Excel on my own- by using it, clicking the “Help”, and a lot of stuff on YouTube. But, the Op’s comment rubbed me the wrong way. Why would she want her report to stay at the same skill level forever and ever and not grow??

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Also, if the employee isn’t busy all the time, she’s getting paid to be there whether she’s working, learning Excel… or surfing the net all day. What would you rather your employee do? Something that might be useful down the road, or playing on her phone which only benefits her social life? As AAM said, if there are websites or books or whatever that helped you, why not let her know? She *wants* to learn more, which is a good thing, she’s displaying initiative! It’s so demoralising when you ask for something like this and you’re told “No, that’s not what your job is about.” So long as she’s not using learning this as an excuse to do her actual work, where is the harm?

    7. Beverly*

      You make a good point, TootsNYC. The only problem is, this particular employee has been working for me for about 2 years now. She skates by doing the bare minimum and has very rarely taken initiative to learn more outside of her current role. She’s also expressed on many occasions that “she has no desire to move up”. I absolutely believe that I should invest extra time into an employee that ‘wants’ to grow and succeed, but I do not see that being the case with this one employee. I hate to sound petty, but I genuinely think it would be a waste of my time. :(

      Additionally, when she asked me to train her, I specifically asked her what functions she wanted to learn in Excel. I told her I wanted her to come up with a goal for herself (a SMART goal) so that we had something to work towards together. Her response? “It’s kinda hard to say since I don’t know what I don’t know”. I’ve offered to set her up with an Excel class through our company (through an online learning facility), but she refuses because she says she can’t learn by watching an instructor led video. Basically, she’s unwilling to read up on what Excel can do, she won’t set a goal for herself, and pretty much wants me to do everything for her.

      And that… is my dilemma. :/

      1. Dan*

        Doesn’t sound like much of a dilemma to me. Once you fill in the blanks here, this sounds like an employee who you aren’t motivated to keep around, and shouldn’t feel obligated to.

        When you started with, “rarely shows initiative”, my thought was, “she’s showing it here, don’t use that as an excuse to hold her back.” But the reality is, she’s not all that interested in learning, and you’re wise in not wasting much effort on that.

      2. Colorado Girl*

        If she truly has no desire to move up, won’t bother to take the classes you’ve offered and can’t set a goal for what she wants to learn, then you’ve done enough. I would explain to her that because she won’t take the initiative to at least take the class offered (where she could likely assess what it is that she doesn’t know) and has no desire to move up, then it’s just not in the company’s best interest for you to take the time to teach her. She needs to know WHY more than anything.

      3. Green*

        “If you would like to learn additional Excel skills through [our company], you will need to take the online class that we’ve made available. You can take the course on work time, but other Excel training you may want you’ll need to do in off hours.” Dilemma solved.

        I wouldn’t handle it that way for other employees, but it sounds like this employee is refusing the options you’ve laid out and that spending your own time or further resources on this employee isn’t really an efficient option.

      4. LQ*

        I feel you here, I really do.(REALLY REALLY DO, I’d say you were working with my coworker but her supervisor would point her to me!)

        I think that it is true that you don’t know what you don’t know. It is also hard to figure out what potential there is for the tool. Would it be possible to have her watch you work on a spreadsheet for an hour? Ask her to make notes on the tasks she wants to learn how to do. Instructor led videos can be hard for some people to follow, if your online learning tool has any interactive courses (I believe…Skillsoft does, Lynda does not if you have off the shelf) pointing her at those might be good?

        1. Beverly*

          Thanks for the suggestions, LQ. Our learning facility does have interactive courses as well as videos to watch and take notes on. I’ve gone through several of the classes myself to see how good they were and I did learn a significant amount of material. I’ve also contemplated having her watch me go through some of my spreadsheets, however, the extent in which I utilize Excel is fairly advanced, and I worry she wouldn’t understand anything that I’m doing. I’ve got a few more suggestions I’m going to throw at her. How she reacts is going to determine how I move forward. I can’t help you if you don’t help me help you!

      5. AnonAnalyst*

        This sounds really frustrating. Although the employee took a small amount of initiative asking to learn more, it does sound like she’s not really committed to actually putting in any effort to accomplish that goal. I am somewhat sympathetic to her difficulty in creating goals, especially around specific Excel functions, if she’s not all that savvy in Excel at this point, but it doesn’t sound like she’s willing to invest any time and effort into the process.

        Honestly, from your description it sounds like this isn’t an employee that you’re really interested in retaining, and one that doesn’t have any interest in developing her professional skills further. Others have had good suggestions you might try (letting her play around with some of your spreadsheets, pointing her to other online resources, etc.) if she brings up the topic again but is still resistant to the class you’ve suggested. But beyond that, I don’t think I would spend more time or effort on this unless she starts to show a lot more interest in trying to learn.

        Sorry you’re dealing with this!

        1. Beverly*

          Hi Anon – exactly! If she was really committed to learning I feel that she would at least have some clue as to what she wants me to teach her. Even something as simple as asking what all of the options and buttons at the top of the screen are, at least it’s something and we can start somewhere. I have always been sympathetic towards each individual’s learning curves, but it’s a mutual help me help you situation. I can’t hold your hand every step of the way. I even have an Excel for Dummies book that I suggested she skim through to get some ideas as to what she might like to learn, but she refuses to do any reading claiming that she won’t understand the lingo. You would think that would be a great opportunity to then ask me, but it sadly is her wanting me to give 100% while she gives none.

          After reading some great advice on the comments, I have a few other suggestions I am going to try giving her. If she refuses all of the options I’ve provided, then that definitely tells me what I need to know.

        1. Beverly*

          I hate to admit it but I don’t believe my employee’s motive is anything other than getting out of doing her normal work for some odd amount of hours. I’ve asked her numerous times what she hopes to accomplish or what she wants to learn, and she never gives me a concrete answer. She literally keeps telling me “I don’t know what I don’t know”. Well, I don’t know either then!

      6. Ad Astra*

        Is it possible that she’s changed her mind about moving up and is trying (and maybe failing) to show some initiative by asking for training? I’ve been in a position before where I was sincerely trying to turn my attitude around and be better at my job, but I’d ruined so much good will with my managers that they were less willing to spend time helping me grow. It was in many ways my own doing, but it was extremely frustrating. Maybe that’s what’s happening here, or maybe not. Just thought I’d throw it out there.

        1. Beverly*

          Hi Ad – I really do give people the benefit of doubt, however, I’ve worked with her long enough to know that she has no intentions of ever changing positions or moving into a higher role. I suppose a miracle could happen, but I’m being realistic and know that it’s true because every month in our one-on-one she mentions her zero desire to do anything else. She is not a high retention employee, regardless, at minimum I ask that an employee shares with me their vision, goal, or idea when asking for training so that I know where I need to go with the their learning plan.

          I’ve received some really great advice in these comments though, so I am going to try and suggest a few more items. If she doesn’t accept any of them, then I will have my answer!

  3. Dan*


    I gotta admit, that really stings. On the one hand, though, you’ve got to know that being $500 away from the OT limit means with almost absolute certainty that you’re going to get get a raise to keep you out of the OT zone. But OTOH, giving you literally just enough to get you over the hump? That sucks. If the company didn’t want to insult you, something in the 5-10% range would have been more appropriate.

      1. Kat*

        I really doubt that was an insult. A business wants to make money. It’s their main goal. Over-time, while nice for the employee, is a huge financial drain. An employee doesnt have a right to “potential over-time”, and the business bumping the salary up now is a prudent move for them.

        Its not a law yet, but the business seems to be covering their bases. Why is that wrong?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, and I think there’s going to be a lot of it going on if the new rule goes into effect. It’s the sensible thing for a business to do; it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t, if that’s the financial calculation that makes sense for them. Plus, financial considerations aside, moving a bunch of people to tracking hours who haven’t previously had to is a huge change to how many people work.

          I do think they should have told her, though, and explained why they were doing it.

          1. Dan*

            Don’t get me wrong — I’m not knocking the employer for doing it. Note my original comment that said, “When you’re $500 away from the OT rule, you have got to know that you’re going to get a raise to bump you over.” I’m knocking the employer for the morale hit they delivered to the OP by giving them a very tiny raise (ok, 2%). A move like this doesn’t say to an employee, “we value you.” It says, “we’re being cheap.” It’s moves like this that plant the seed in an employee’s head that it might be time to move on.

            In this day and age, a 5% raise is pretty decent — had they given that to the OP, they could save a little face and say, “we appreciate your efforts, and decided it was time for a decent raise. If we didn’t appreciate you, we’d give you the bare minimum to meet the law.” Again, the way in which they implemented this delivers a message to the OP that says they’re not valued.

            As you say, there’s going to be a lot of this going on. It’s going to get really interesting for those in the $45k to about $55k range or so. Right now, those at $55k are $10k more valuable than those at $45k. Those $45k people who work a bit of overtime will find themselves at $51k still working overtime. But what about those that make slightly more than that? Do they get raises too, or are they just going to get told, “sorry?”

            1. BRR*

              This is exactly why I think people are against a higher minimum wage.

              Maybe the LW should use this opportunity to ask for a larger raise if the timing is right.

              I’m in the running for a job where I hope this proposed rule will work for me. I would take a salary cut for it but they would need this position to be exempt so I would get bumped up to roughly what I’m making now.

            2. Stranger than fiction*

              Hmm, I see what you’re saying, but her company could very well have had to raise the pay for multiple people in preparation for this law change, and maybe a lot of them were nowhere near the 51k and they’re having to bump them 5k or 10k, and for the Op it just happened to be 1k. I totally agree with Alison, they should have sat their employee/s down and explained what was going on, but I’m not sure if it was an outright insult to bump her 1k, unless it was in lieu of a normal raise.

              1. Dan*

                If I were in that position, you could explain it all you want, but at the end of the day, I got a $1k raise. I would still be less than thrilled.

                My compensation is between me and my employer. Other employees’ compensation is truly not my business, and it’s really disingenuous for them to tell me they “had” to give Bob a $10k raise, and therefore I could only get $1k.

                In any other situation, if I were to walk in to my Boss’s office and say, “Bob got a raise, I want a raise too!” I’d be shown the door.

              2. Green*

                Bumping someone up $10k may not be efficient from an overtime perspective. The goal isn’t to get everyone over the hump necessarily but to act efficiently. The employee isn’t currently entitled to overtime. They should take the $500 raise and be happy for $500 extra buckaroos, not consider it a performance-based raise, and carry on with their regularly scheduled raise request at the next interval or performance marker.

              3. RMRIC0*

                Also, these people were presumably exempt before so their calculations wouldn’t have relied on overtime. It isn’t like taking a job with the expectation of getting OT and then having it snatched away on a technicality (and now you’re bringing less home0>

            3. AnonymousaurusRex*

              This is slightly off topic, but I’m curious, what is an average raise?
              My company hasn’t been doing great in the past year since I’ve been here, so no one has received raises in over a year. Apparently last year, when the company was doing very well, they gave everyone a 1.3% “performance raise” just before I joined. That seems low, but I was surprised to hear Dan call a 2% raise “tiny”. I thought that this was pretty much in line with many cost of living adjustments.
              (Now that my company is doing better (in part because of a lot of hard work I’ve put in) I’m thinking of asking for a raise soon, but I have no idea what is a “normal” versus “tiny” really is in a larger market. )

              1. Ad Astra*

                I’ve never received a raise or a cost of living adjustment, so I have no idea what other people expect out of a raise, or how often they expect them. Reading comments on AAM makes me think 5% is usually a substantial raise, but I’m interested in what others have to say.

                1. Dan*

                  5% consistently would be substantial. My last job, I got the bagel for three years, then 7.5% (promotion) then 2.5%.

                  That promotion raise didn’t do much for my self esteem; while 7.5% sounds like a lot, 7.5% after two years of nothing was more like a 2.5% raise every year on average.

                  TBH, if I didn’t get that raise that year, or it was materially smaller, I would have started “exploring my options.”

              2. Dan*

                We can split hairs on words, but anything inline with the cost of living is not substantial, it’s not going to increase your buying power as a consumer. I work my ass off so I can have a better life, not just so I can keep up with the same lifestyle I had last year.

                At my previous job, I went three years without a raise. Watching your rent keep going up and your paycheck staying the same is pretty demoralizing.

                Inflationary adjustments, on average, are the minimum needed to keep employees happy.

                Keep in mind that some of these numbers were a bit out of whack during the recession, because there were declines in the CPI and what not, but we’re far enough away from those times such that we can’t say “because of the economy…”

              3. Green*

                1.5-2.5% is a cost-of-living adjustment. I still consider it a “raise” (since they’re not obligated to give it, and it’s higher than the previous salary), but I think you need to get 5%+ for it to be a true performance-based raise.

                What happens is that a lot of companies provide a manager with a raise allocation for the department and if the department as a whole is full of strong performers, they equally allocate the raise as a COL increase rather than giving someone a large bump and leaving others the same. It’s not really fulfilling but they’re trying to be “fair.”

              4. hayling*

                When I worked at a nonprofit, the average dept raise had to be 4% (which came down to 3% when the recession hit). Now I work for a for-profit tech company (not a super rich one with VC funding, but a profitable company) and I have gotten about 15% each year (plus another 15% when I got promoted recently).

            4. MsChanandlerBong*

              My husband got a 1.5 percent raise this year (he’d always gotten about 2 percent), with the explanation that the company just couldn’t afford to give more. About two weeks later, we got to read an article in the newspaper about how said company is spending $12 billion on various initiatives. Yes, it’s just business, and employers have been doing this since the beginning of time–but it still stings, and it really doesn’t engender any loyalty.

            5. Omne*

              The joys of working for a State. The last time we got a 5% raise was in 1988. Since then we’ve had about 10 years with no raises and between 1% and 2% in the others.

          2. Artemesia*

            The abuse of the exempt compensation is callous and cynical. A system designed to apply to professionals and management — generally well paid rolls has been used to keep people paid little and with little authority from being paid for their work.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              While that’s certainly sometimes true, it’s far from the case with loads of people who are being paid $50K+, the proposed new threshold.

              1. Artemesia*

                Right now it is in the low 20s — 50 is not high but if the new law actually is passed and implemented that is an improvement. Right now it is being applied to people entirely cynically. The idea that someone making 22K should work 80 hour weeks because they are highly compensated professionals or managers is sickening but common.

                1. JoAnna*

                  I agree. My husband is an entry-level computer programmer and he’s being paid 37K right now, which is way on the low end for even entry level (he works for a public school district, not in the private sector). And he’s spent the last few weeks working 12-14 hour days, plus 8-hour days on the weekends, due to a big project that was due. It’s just infuriating that he’s being paid so little for his profession yet works so much overtime. I’m not sure if his employer could afford to raise his pay to 50K per year, but either that or getting OT would make a huge, positive difference in our financial situation.

                2. Green*

                  There are also some things that are known quantities in an industry (say, journalism) that people nevertheless decide to go into. (You will be a “professional” but you will be undercompensated and overworked.) To some degree there’s an element of caveat emptor there. (SO is a journalist.)

                3. Ad Astra*

                  Ugh, Green, the ridiculously low pay in journalism was a known quantity to everyone but me. People always said “Well, you don’t get into this business for the money,” which is something I’d grown up hearing teachers say, so I assumed the pay was in line with what a teacher makes. It’s…. not.

                4. Green*

                  My favorite journalism-low-pay story was a few years ago on the journalism message boards there was a story about a journalist who kept spite pooping on the floor at the paper.

                  Did you do college newspaper? It was probably the best prep for journalism since you work most of the time while going to school full-time, hanging out at 3 am in the newsroom working on a story nobody will read, and you get paid nothing.

              2. Ad Astra*

                I did student newspaper in college, but it paid reasonably well for a college gig. Things changed when I had to pay back my student loans instead of living off them, and of course the environment of a professional newsroom is a whole lot less fun. Most of your description is pretty dead on, though.

            2. Apollo Warbucks*

              I thought the law defined who and what was exempt, surly that restricts the abuse of the system to some extent?

              1. Not Today Satan*

                not really, which is why the law is in the process of changing. Currently people can make 24,000 and be “exempt” and forced to work over-time for free.

                1. Apollo Warbucks*

                  But would the law stop me classing shelf stacker’s as exempt and making them work a 60 hour week for 40 hours pay?

                  It was my understanding there are certain criteria that must be met and wage claims and legal enforcement can follow, if a company doesn’t follow the laws around exempt / non exempt workers and over time payment.

                2. Not Today Satan*

                  Yes, but it wouldn’t stop you from classifying the supervisor of the shelf stacker department, who herself also stacks shelves, as exempt. Because she’s a “manager.”

                3. Sans*

                  Yes, about 10 years ago, my husband was the manager of people who made $12 an hour, part time. He also made $12 an hour as their manager. The only difference was that he got 40 hours pay and benefits. However, he was exempt. So he had to do overtime and not get paid, making @ $25,000 a year. Basically, the people who worked for him made MORE than him per hour.

                4. Kelly L.*

                  Yep. I used to see this in fast food. Some places, it seemed like 75% of the staff were some kind of “manager,” and it mostly just meant “Ha ha, you don’t get overtime anymore!” The lower-end “managers” almost always worked with two or three other managers who were above them (you’d have a shift with four people, three of them managers) and so it’s not like it really imparted any more authority. Here, have a different shirt and less money!

                5. ITChick*

                  The new law would require that if you give someone the title of “supervisor” or “manager” that they actually perform management functions. Most of the time a shift supervisor (speaking as someone who has held that title) at a fast food place wouldn’t qualify under the new proposed rules. Which is exactly why the new rules are being created. Either make those people legitimate managers and pay them as such, or treat them like all the other hourly staff.

            3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              For people who are paid $28k a year as an assistant manager at Big Chain and worked 65 hours a week, sure, but that’s not the OP’s situation.

              Paying somebody 51K, who actually fits the exempt regulations, so that they don’t have to track their time is not abuse unless other abusive factors exist.

              1. BananaPants*

                My father was in this position – working 70+ hour weeks as a restaurant manager but being designated as exempt (and earning right around $50K/year). He got one day off a week (which often didn’t happen) and had to go in for around 4-5 hours on Sundays. On an hourly basis his assistant managers were earning more than him, but his employer classifies all general managers as exempt. Salaried managers were expected to work such crazy hours and not give OT to their non-exempt assistant managers because the company didn’t want to pay OT when they could just work their salaried employees to the bone. He stayed even when the expectations got absurd because he just wanted to get through to retirement age.

                Finally they fired him with zero warning 18 months before reaching Social Security eligibility, ostensibly because the store he managed was not meeting sales targets. They even went and fought (successfully!) his unemployment claim (they contract to a firm to fight EVERY unemployment claim, and win 95% of them). They effectively destroyed his career; used him up and spit him out. My parents did not think to hire an employment attorney until it was too late.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  Restaurant management is brutal. That was the husband’s background before we married. That’s a terrible story. (FWIW, I don’t think that’s a misclassification issue. It’s a “this place sucks to work for and I hope they go out of business and nobody in upper management can sleep a full night again” issue.)

                2. Stranger than fiction*

                  Whoa, what? I don’t know what state you’re in, but in CA they’d never win if they fought an unemployment claim unless the employee was let go for gross misconduct. (well, never say never, but just sayin’ it’s not likely to happen)

                3. I'm a Little Teapot*

                  Yeah, in Massachusetts the unemployment office apparently knows about some large employers that have a policy of always denying unemployment, and will immediately overturn the denial if the worker appeals.

                  Companies that fight an unemployment claim in bad faith are committing insurance fraud, and should be treated as such.

              2. BRR*

                One big thing in general but also for the LW is what a standard workweek looks like. People on my level are all exempt but we aren’t working more than normal business hours. Maybe 10 or 15 min extra one day a month. It’s such a good situation for us; when another department asked us to do a ton of work our director pushed back and said they’ll get what we can finish in our normal work day (politely though, it also helped they asked this last minute give our director some support).

              3. SystemsLady*

                A 2% raise isn’t really that uncommon of an amount, either. It’s possible the raise was given for other reasons.

                Not to mention that it isn’t like OP is currently eligible for overtime pay. I’m not sure why the OP assumes this is the reason why they’re getting a raise.

            4. NJ anon*

              I agree. As I commented below, raising her salary in and of itself is not/should not be enough to make someone exempt. There is more to it.

              1. Ani*

                She’s currently more than 25k above the threshold for exempt. I just do not get the outrage over the employer in advance adjusting up for the new threshold. And that does seem like an adjustment, the way it has been implemented; presumably OP is still eligible for merit or other raises etc.

                1. Apollo Warbucks*

                  Maybe the OP had done some sums and thought that they would cash in more than $500 in overtime payments based on the hours they normally work.

                2. LBK*

                  Agreed completely. I don’t get the sense that the OP was previously upset with her pay or with being exempt and was hoping the change in the law would correct that for her. It just seems like she was excited to potentially be able to make more if she could work overtime. So it’s understandably disappointing to have that possibility removed, but I think the claims that she’s being exploited or screwed over or that the company is being cheap are totally unwarranted in this scenario because there didn’t seem to be any injustice occurring before the possibility of overtime was raised.

                3. Poohbear McGriddles*

                  Her situation hasn’t really changed, except for making a few more dollars. She was exempt before the raise, and remains exempt after it. Unless the final rule when passed adjusts the cutoff to some other amount.
                  What strikes me as odd is the employer’s apparent knee-jerk reaction, making changes even before the new rules are finalized. If the threshold changes upward, she’d presumably get another raise. But if it gets adjusted downward, would her recent raise be voided? It’s a strange way to operate.

                4. baseballfan*

                  I agree. She was exempt before, she’s still exempt – basically everything remains the same. If she was happy with her pay and hours before, she still should be.

                  That being said, I do suppose optically it might have been a good idea to give a % that could justifiably be a merit raise, just to keep people from complaining like this.

                  I totally expect a lot of employers to follow suit on this.

                5. Margaret*

                  Thank you and everyone for the great comments. I am the employee who wrote in and anted to say I realize, at my current salary, I am really in no real position to complain. I have been with my current employer for a little over a year. I came in as a rebuilder for part of the company that was somewhat neglected until my arrival. Since then, key metrics used to evaluate how my piece of the pie is performing have grown between 40-90%. I have worked many 70-hour weeks because it’s what had to be done to get things back on track. By all accounts – from my peers to my managers – my work has exceeded expectations.

                  I am not concerned about the money. I am concerned about what I perceive as a slap in the face by way of a small raise, putting what my work may actually be worth just out of reach.

                6. Green*

                  But if you think your work is “worth” more, you can still ask for a performance-based raise. (Although remember that for something to be objectively “worth” X rather than subjectively “worth” X, somebody has to be willing to pay X for it.)

                  I wouldn’t consider this a performance-based raise that blocks near-future performance-based raise requests, just a status-quo preservation.

                7. Apollo Warbucks*

                  +1 green I agree completely this is a market based adjustment that will be beneficial to the company it is not a merit based increase and shouldn’t prevent a raise in the near future.

                8. LBK*

                  Another +1 to Green – an adjustment in pay for reasons related to labor laws is not in any way connected to a merit raise, which you can definitely still ask for (and should, because it’s really rare that an employer will offer one outside of a review period without prompting).

                9. SystemsLady*

                  I can sympathize a bit. My company gives out flat 3% raises and opts to put all the individual and company performance merit cash into bonuses, which they aren’t very transparent about calculating and are stubborn about keeping it as their form of merit pay. It’s frustrating.

                  Since you have a year behind you, have you tried asking your manager for a merit-based raise? If it truly was just an increase to “beat” the overtime law, all the more reason to check and see if something merit-based is still on the way. It may have even been an oversight and you just got the “default” raise, and it never hurts to ask.

                  This year they forgot to give me a raise due to a miscommunication between my boss and the president (they implemented a review system this year), and asking was all it took to correct that.

                  Especially if you haven’t had a review yet, or your review would have just been submitted, I think it’s a good step to take.

              2. Hlyssande*

                I got promoted to an exempt pay grade without a change to title or actual duties, but because I’m working for a huge global company it’s not like I can really push back about it.

                1. Elysian*

                  If you are working at a US outpost of the company, and your duties don’t classify you as exempt, you can report them to the department of labor. (Note doing what they did would be OK if you COULD have been exempt before the change and they were just deciding to treat you as non-exempt. For example, if you actually were a manager but they were paying you as a nonexempt worker, they could switch you over at any time. But if your actual duties are that of a non-exempt worker, they can’t just change your pay and switch you over.)

            5. Barefoot Librarian*

              I agree completely. I know this might suck for people who are making close to the proposed new limit now, but I was in my early 20s (years ago now) with two small children and making $24,000 as an exempt employee. It was horribly unfair as I was working well over 40 hours a week, but I had two kids to raise on my own and I just sucked it up and dealt with it. I should have been receiving overtime. No one can easily live on $24,000/year but they can’t exactly take another part time job if they are exempt and expected to come in on demand. To add insult to injury, I now work as an exempt professional employee and have a ton of flexibility in my schedule. If I work late, I come in late the next day or take a look lunch. As long as my work gets done, I’m considered responsible enough to adjust my schedule as needed. That flexibility is supposed to be the trade off for being exempt and on call (correct me if I’m wrong, there Alison).

              Some companies just abuse the wage category and those are the situations that this change will hopefully prevent.

              1. Barefoot Librarian*

                Just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t complaining about my current employer — they are awesome and are doing exempt the right way.

              2. Margaret*

                Allison, My mom was in a similar situation when my brother and I were little. Thanks on behalf of the world for doing what you had to do to make life great for them, like my mom did.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                Nah, what will happen is they won’t authorize any overtime. Folks will still get paid $24,000 a year and work 40 hours (or less) and that’s it. Or they’ll move everybody to part-time and stagger them so all is covered and nobody even gets full-time hours or benefits.

                I feel so lucky to be where I am, thinking about how other jobs I’ve had would handle this. ^^

          3. Apollo Warbucks*

            That’s the bit I don’t like, you have to tell people when their employment conditions change, it might be legal but I strongly disagree with unilaterally imposing new conditions on people without consultation.

            1. Iain Clarke*

              But surely their work conditions won’t change. They’re above the exempt threshold now, and they’ll stay above the threshold later now. Assuming all other parts of the job remain the same (as the OP doesn’t mention them, that’s a fair assumption).

              So, the whole point of the letter is “I got a raise so my work conditions DON’T change, can I reject the raise so my work conditions DO change”.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                When I say conditions of employment I am including salary in that, perhaps pay and conditions or terms and conditions would have been more accurate for what I meant.

                In this situation you’re right from what we can tell from the letter the employee hasn’t been disadvantaged but in general I believe it is not fair to change pay and conditions without a conversation with the employee first and that is regardless of the nature of the change.

                1. Monodon monoceros*

                  Especially because changes in pay can have tax implications, and what if they are on the Income Based student loan repayment system? Employers should let their employees know when anything changes in their employment, whether they think it is a good or bad change.

            2. AnotherFed*

              A $500 salary bump isn’t imposing significant change on someone… if anything, it’s being done to keep their current conditions. If people are upset about not feeling valued for only getting a small raise, imagine how un-valued they’d feel when you have to force them to track their hours down to 6 minute increments and be strict about keeping to 40 hour weeks every week – no more front loading one week to take time off next and still make deadlines.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                I agree in this case it’s not a big change and not even a bad decision for the company to have made, but doing it without consultation is the problem for me.

                Maybe it’s just a cultural thing it would be a big deal (probably illegal) in UK to change someone’s employment conditions without a discussion first.

                Even an email saying:

                “We anticipate this change in the law and have decided that to deal with this we are going to do X, Y and Z please talk to your manager if you need more information.”

                Would have been better than nothing.

                1. AnotherFed*

                  Really? I admit that kind of breaks my brain a little, but I’m usually busy enough and dealing with enough stuff on fire that administrative things are nowhere near the top of my list of topics to talk to the boss about.

                  In a case like this, it doesn’t seem worth a manager’s time to talk to each affected employee and tell them the same things. Would a mass email or an all-hands meeting an acceptable way to handle this? Or does it need to be the same email sent individually to each person? Or is it the sort of thing that a manager in the UK would be expected to do and it’s a US thing to think it isn’t worth the time?

                2. Apollo Warbucks*

                  There is a bit of freedom as to how it is handled and a lot comes down to the terms in the employment contract and how much individual employers want to engage with staff.

                  Changing a contact (that includes amongst other things hours and place of work as well as salary and benefits) needs more careful consideration, changing a company policy is a lot easier. For either minor changes are easy enough, a group email would be fine in a lot of situations, but some advanced notice is needed.

                  Some employers are better than others at staff engagement and there are ways companies use just to play lip service to these requirements, (my mum had her shifts changed and the new set up was terrible and none of the staff liked it but it was still introduced.)

                  Lay-offs and redundancy are a whole specialist area of law with very strict requirements that must be followed.

                3. AnotherFed*

                  Thanks! I’d forgotten most of the UK was on contracts rather than at-will employment – that makes a lot more sense now!

                4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  I agree that more communication is always better. I don’t know how big the employer is that the OP works for but it’s easy for communication to break down in even much smaller employers. Since more money = good thing, PTB didn’t anticipate an employee feeling slighted by not being told in advance about more money.

                  It seems like this adjustment took place outside any normal raise process, and, thinking through to the next step, it does make sense that an employee would have more questions like, “is this my raise for the next X amount of time?”

                5. Ani*

                  This isn’t a change in working conditions. OP is currently exempt. The exempt threshold hasn’t changed but is only a proposed change. OP hoping to suddenly qualify for overtime based on currently being just $500 under a PROPOSED new threshold (while being more than $25k over the actual threshold) is not just disingenuous but really something the emploer could find beyond distasteful. I mean I find it shocking and I’m not an employer.

                6. Apollo Warbucks*

                  It is a change to the employees conditions of employment (to me that covers salary, hours of work, place of work and the type of work being done) but I have a very specific contract with my employer, the law prevents my company deciding to vary the conditions of that contract with out consulting me or my colleagues.

                  To be clear I don’t think the employer is wrong for making this change it is not a bad change nor is it unreasonable, but one the employee should have been consulted or at the very least informed about it in advance, even if it was just an email that said we are increasing your salary so you will still keep your exempt status should the law change.

          4. NJ anon*

            But there is more to being categorized as exempt than salary. Just raising someone’s pay only satisfies the “salary rule.” There are other requirements for designating someone as exempt.

            1. Swarley*

              There are. But I think we’re all assuming that the OP is currently exempt, so a raise in salary above the proposed threshold is fine, assuming the other two factors (paid on a salary basis and performing exempt job duties) already apply.

              1. NJ Anon*

                The LW doesn’t say she was exempt before the raise so I made the opposite assumption, that she was not. If not, simply raising her salary should not designate her as exempt. As others have mentioned, there is more to it than that. At Oldjob, boss tried to make as many people exempt as possible to avoid OT. HR was constantly having to push back because they did not perform exempt job duties.

          5. Ad Astra*

            The company had an opportunity to earn some good will by giving the employee enough of a raise to feel like she’s gaining something while the company gets the benefit of making her exempt. Instead of spending a little more for a win-win, they went with the obvious CYA move, and that’s too bad. But I agree that it’s not a calculated insult.

            And it’s pretty messed up to think of someone making less than $27k and working unpaid overtime.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              But assuming the OP is already exempt they are not losing anything personally and the company isn’t gaining anything as the OP is already working the hours needed to complete their job.

              As others have mentioned it’s more than salary that makes a job exempt so there’s nothing to indicate the OP is being miss treated or the company’s decision is flawed.

              1. Ad Astra*

                I originally interpreted the letter to mean that the OP was previously non-exempt (despite exceeding the pay threshold) and this change came with a new designation as exempt. That doesn’t seem to be the way most people read it, so perhaps I’m wrong.

                I agree that if she was already exempt and they raised her pay that this is no big deal.

      2. AnotherFed*

        I really doubt it was either. First, it’s not an insult to make more money for the same work, nor to be considered exempt and worth paying more to keep exempt – that goes with a fair amount of responsibility and decision-making authority as well as the wage/hour structure (both are required to meet the definition of exempt). Second, if the company was being callous, they’d not have done it so far in advance of the legislation going into effect. They risk having given a raise for nothing if the version that becomes law draws the line at $50,000, or at $5X,000 and they can’t afford to keep everyone exempt at that rate.

        I’d interpret this more as a statement to the effect that ‘we value you all’ and maybe even a ‘we support the proposed exempt/non-exempt threshold.’ They could have sent a nice email from the CEO saying that, in which case it’d probably have been a good way to raise morale, but even badly communicated, I’d interpret this positively.

        No one’s budget randomly has enough extra cash in it for 5-10% raises for everyone outside of the normal COL raise/performance pay increase cycles. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and even Treasury considers it forgery if they just print some extra bills to pay their employees more!

    1. Delyssia*

      I don’t think I understand this argument. The bare minimum to keep someone exempt under the proposed new rules would be $50,440, not $51,000. I could kind of see being insulted by getting a raise of $440/year, but even then I think it’s counterproductive to really get upset about it.

      1. Margaret*

        You’re totally right. I’m the one who wrote in. I posted in another comment above that it’s more of a principle thing. I’ve dig my department out of a deep hole since I began wirk a year ago. Metrics measuiring my performance have increased 40-90% and I’ve worked many 70-hour weeks to get there. It was more of feeling like I was slapped in the face than the actual $$.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think you’re not going to be the only one who’s going to run into this. Companies would benefit from being really clear that this is an administrative change that is separate from genuine raise movement for employees getting a raise under X%. Were you hoping for a more significant and performance-based raise, or had you been actually hoping to be made non-exempt and to start earning overtime?

        2. Delyssia*

          It sounds like you have a great argument for deserving a merit-based raise, not a measly 2% to keep you above the exempt cut-off. I think the merit argument is the one to focus on.

          I understand why it feels like a slap in the face, but responding to it that way won’t help. It seems like they’re trying to avoid any chance for you to negotiate what kind of raise you should get, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still bring it up and push for what you want.

    2. ceramic*

      I agree – this is an insult. And I’ll bet the employer expects the OP to be thrilled to be getting a few more pennies. Ugh.

      1. Margaret*

        Ceramic, I was the one who wrote in and I definitely see where you’re coming from. It was more of a slap in the face than being about the money. Briefly, I’ve worked many many long hours to pull my piece of the company’s pie out of a hole and it hurts to see they would be so calous toward me. Taking it too personalky, but I couldn’t help it.

        1. ceramic*

          That’s understandable. It is easy for other people to say “don’t take it personally” but if we’re talking about your pay and your livelihood, that does affect you, personally. If your employer doesn’t value your work, that affects your morale. I am in a somewhat similar situation (different details, same disrespect and lack of appreciation) and it is difficult. You have my sympathy.

        2. Green*

          Be careful with the “slap in the face” sentiment. Remember the CEO who raised everyone’s salaries to a minimum of $70k? A lot of his employees who were above $70k –who were likely previously happy with their salaries–thought it was a “slap in the face” that admins were now making $70k and made their exits.

          Try to consider your happiness with your salary in relationship to your own work rather than external factors (like a proposed regulation).

          1. Ad Astra*

            Try to consider your happiness with your salary in relationship to your own work rather than external factors (like a proposed regulation).

            This is excellent advice. If your salary is still in line with the value you bring to the company, why does it matter what other people make, or what proposed threshold you’re over?

  4. Dan*


    Can we name names here? Employers get away with this shit because people are afraid they are going to get outed.

    BTW, when people don’t get paid vacation, taking time off is called “Unpaid leave” or “Unpaid time off.”

    Having to “document” the fact you are taking unpaid time off is BS. Presumably, employees in that situation actually need a break from a sh!tty boss, and they have to “prove” it?

    1. neverjaunty*

      I understand why people don’t want to name names HERE, but I hope they do so elsewhere, like Glassdoor and through tips to sites like Consumerist.

      And to employment lawyers.

      1. Dan*

        Why is this place any different than the consumerist? It’s one thing to write a letter with enough detail to identify oneself, but that would be quite worse on Glassdoor, where an employer might actually look and see what’s been written. Here, an employer is less likely to see it, and it’s easy enough to obscure details to hide things. Like this post, if “everybody” has to abide by the rules, you have no idea who is complaining. And at a national chain store, you’d have no idea which location they’re even talking about, further enabling anonymity.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, it’s worth noting that it has the potential to create a pain in the ass for me. Unlikely, but possible.

          But actually, the bigger downside is that we don’t know the other side of the story. People don’t always perfectly represent what their employer said/did. That’s fine when it’s anonymous, but it’s more of an issue when the employer is being named; the burden seems higher then to ensure what’s being said about them is accurate.

          1. Dan*

            You’re likely in the clear because you generally don’t police much content, and the courts have generally held that permitting such communication doesn’t hold you accountable for it. I do get that being right doesn’t necessarily mean your legal bills are $0.

            But second, these are opinion pieces, and everybody knows it. They’re certainly not held out to be fact-checked journalism works where you would expect “fair and balanced” (ahem) reporting.

            Also, look at Glassdoor. By its very nature, names get named, and I haven’t seen too many employers try and write back and say “so and was a disgruntled employee…”

            Do you actually redact company names, or do you let them through if people reference them?

            1. UKAnon*

              “…and the courts have generally held that permitting such communication doesn’t hold you accountable for it.”

              That’s different in the UK, and as people in the UK are reading this the company could bring an action here (see our defamation tourism problem for more) Just an FYI; I think it’s much easier for Alison to keep this anonymous :-)

            2. AnotherFed*

              I think we’ve all learned that the answer to “Is it legal?” and “Is it the right thing to do?” are not always the same. I tend to agree that even if it’s legal, it’s not likely to improve the main purpose of Alison’s site, and is only going to distract from the questions at hand.

              Plus, then when someone writes in on behalf of their daughter, or their friend, or their spouse, the details of what happened are second or third or even fourth hand, and we know nothing about the reliability of any of those filters.

            3. BRR*

              Even if it is legal, it might just be easier for Alison to just not do it.

              Side not to the daughter, there are a lot of retail jobs out there. Start looking.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            There are plenty of places to name names like The Entire Internet. There’s no reason to do it here. This is advice, not advocacy.

          3. SevenSixOne*

            “People don’t always perfectly represent what their employer said/did. That’s fine when it’s anonymous, but it’s more of an issue when the employer is being named”

            Especially because, even if the employee tells the whole truth, the rules may still come from one bad manager, not across-the-board company policy.

        2. neverjaunty*

          I was about to say, because that’s not how AAM wants to run her space. Other places do want that and provide a forum for it.

        3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          The purpose is different. The purpose of AAM isn’t to help people evaluate whether they want to work for specific companies. It’s to talk about management practices, workplace behavior, decision making at work, how to approach tough work situations, etc. The value (and probably also popularity) of AAM is that the advice and discussion is generalize-able and useful to people, whether or not you have any interest in the specific employer being discussed. If every question were” my manager at Walmart did x or y”, it wouldn’t be as interesting to read, and I doubt the discussion would be all that interesting either if we talked about specific companies and their practices vs. the overall experience of being in a workplace. I mean, AAM is entertaining – but I’m not sure it would also be useful if it were just crazy stories about this or that employer.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I’m curious to know if this is a company-wide policy, or bad management at one particular location. It’s much more understandable if it’s one crazypants controlling store manager than if these policies were invented by some CEO in another state.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Note: still awful policies! I just mean I could better understand how they came to be policies.

      2. Ruth (uk)*

        I obviously cant know for certain but I would guess it’s just a crazy rule that that location. I worked for several years at a franchised fast food chain of one of the biggest chains in the world. Company wide policies tended not to be too ridiculous but store policies, or the store’s interpretation tended to vary drastically. I knew employees in other store who had way more or way less freedom on certain things.

        A basic example of variation is the meal break. Company policy says employees get a free meal on their break. Interpretation varied from stores allowing people to make themselves custom orders as long as they recorded the items use, to stores that only allowed one item, and only pre-made burgers (so need only). My store had a rule that you couldn’t prepare your own break, couldn’t have anything customized (you could have subtractions but not additions or swaps) and could have one burger from the value menu, one side (fries or apple bag) and one medium drink (no shakes or frappes etc) and no dessert items.

        I won’t bother talk much about our unpaid leave policy. Basically you couldn’t book off Fridays or Saturdays ever and it was v. Unlikely to get more than two consecutive days off.

        1. Graciosa*

          This level of detail around what an employee can eat is mind-boggling.

          If the store was in so much trouble that it really needed to control every penny, it could still have been done by putting in a reasonable cap (your meal cannot exceed X pounds).

          I can’t imagine trying to dictate food choices on break – what a stupid way to kill morale.

          1. Beezus*

            It reminded me of the story Mr. Beezus likes to tell, about when he worked for Pizza Hut in his misspent youth. They were allowed to make a pizza to take home after working a long shift. He was banned from making his own pizzas after constructing one that used $50 worth of toppings. Some people see a meal break, some people see a creative opportunity. ;)

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              In college I worked at an ice cream store. In the past, employees has been allowed to bring home their mistakes (basically, if you make the wrong thing or misunderstood what the customer wanted – it couldn’t be served to someone else, so it went in the “mistake freezer”). A previous employee was found to make “mistakes” on purpose and taking home a significant amount of product every night and ruined it for everyone. (He went on to steal credit card slips from his father’s business, so my employer got off easy – this was before anyone thought of charging their ice cream purchases!) The store owner would then just clean out the freezer and take the mistakes home every night or so. (We were never sure what he did with them… Lucullan ice cream feast?) Once in a while, he would let us choose a few things to take home, but it was never a regular thing.

              We got a 25% discount on ice cream, could have free soda while on shift, didn’t have to work in winter when the store was closed, and he regularly bought us pizza from the place behind us, so not getting to eat our mistakes was not really a hardship, but it was sad when hot fudge was involved. (That was just garbage then, because it needs to be eaten right away.)

          2. Elizabeth West*

            The cafe in CA where I worked allowed us to have anything we liked but we had to fill out a meal slip and 50% of the cost of the food was deducted from our paycheck. I invented a few variations on our sandwiches. My main diet consisted of salad, soup, small quiches, and lasagna from the cafe and apples, sushi, and peanuts from the grocery next door. Pair that with no car and I was SKINNY AS HELL.

            I should start eating like that again now!

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              When I did my student teaching (unpaid, since I was still very much a student), I got $3/day in credit at the school cafeteria. That was enough for a tiny burrito and either a yogurt or a milk. Combine that with the fact that I was living out of the dorms for the first time and so had to cook my own dinner – and was so busy I often just forgot to eat dinner at all – and I lost an unhealthy amount of weight in five months.

      3. JGray*

        I agree Elizabeth that it would be good to know if this is a bad manager or a company wide policy. I have worked in retail before for a nation wide retailer and it was a part time minimum wage no benefits (except for vacation time) job but they didn’t have any policies such as this. Generally, because it was only 15-20 hours a week I had enough free time to do all the other things I wanted to do.

        Also, I didn’t realize that it was legal for companies to prohibit you from having another job. Don’t get me wrong pretty much all of the companies I have worked for have had policies related to outside employment but they mostly related to conflicts of interest. At my current job the policy also addresses performance (i.e. your second job shouldn’t interfere with your performance at this job).

        1. Zillah*

          My understanding is that it’s legal because there isn’t a law explicitly prohibiting it, not because there’s a law allowing it. However, it’s obviously bad management – and tbh, I’d say it’s immoral and unethical as well.

          1. Mary*

            You are correct that there is not a specific law. I contacted the state labor board and they instructed me to tell my daughter to get a lawyer because they couldn’t find any laws pertaining to this specific subject.

            Laws and morals do not always go hand in hand.

      4. Ad Astra*

        My best guess is that it’s a deeply misguided manager at this particular location. This policy would look ridiculous in any kind of official company literature.

      5. Ginger*

        I am curious also. The very last retail job I worked (early 1990s) was for a large chain furniture store. The general manager was a tyrant. She told us the company did not provide paid vacation or sick/personal leave days, period. I was young and naive back then, this was actually my first full-time job. She went on maternity leave and a temporary manager was assigned to our location. Somehow the subject of vacation days came up, and she was shocked to find out that our GM had lied to us about not having paid vacation, and that the company actually provided pretty generous vacation and a couple of personal days to full-time employees. So we all came up with a schedule so that we could use some vacation time before the GM came back. We also discussed how to confront her with our new knowledge of the company policies. She came back and found out pretty quickly through some payroll reports that pretty much every employee had used vacation time. This was 20+ years ago and I still remember the look on her face when she came storming out of her office to scream at all of us.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          And this is why so many companies have policies that new employees have to attend boring onboarding meetings to discuss benefits… And why you have to sign so many papers your first week.

    3. some1*

      Keep in mind we only have one side of the story, and it’s second-hand at that. Of course the LW is biased here, because she loves her daughter.

      I am thinking of that dad who took to Facebook not long ago claiming that his daughter had been refused service at a gas station in her Air Force uniform, and the entire premise ended up being basically a crock of bull.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Why on earth would anyone be refused service at a gas station for wearing a military uniform? That’s, like, not a thing. Most gas stations I’ve been to don’t even enforce the “No shoes, no shirt, no service” policy, so I doubt they’re making judgment calls about the types of people they will and won’t serve. How do these things go viral when they’re so clearly not true?

        1. The Other CrazyCatLady*

          Because people like to make things up for attention and other people like to get angry.

        2. Fact & Fiction*

          Because too many people enjoy getting up in arms and having martyr complexes without doing any research.

      2. Mary*

        Of course I love my daughter. I’m not running into the store to yell at the managers and I’m not posting who she works for or the city. She’s come to me for advice and I needed answers to give it to her. I contacted the state labor board and they told her to get an attorney because they couldn’t find any laws that pertained to this subject, so I looked elsewhere and ended up here.
        My daughter’s concern is not just for herself, but for her co-workers as well. Some have been there for over a year. I did tell her that we live in an at-will state, so they all can quit at any time they like.
        She’s not trying to go Norma Rae here, she’s just trying to make sure that she doesn’t have to legally tolerate these “rules” if she works at this place or any other.
        I’m not making her work there, in fact I told her she could quit if she wanted. But she has chosen to stick it out because she wants the work experience and she will learn from it.

        1. MegEB*

          No one’s saying you don’t love your daughter, nor suggesting that you’re running into the store to yell at her manager. It’s completely understandable that you’d get mad on her behalf, because it’s frustrating to see someone you love get mistreated by someone else. You did the right thing by double checking with the labor board (and then coming to AAM for advice rather than getting an attorney, because that was a terrible suggestion). It’s just that sometimes, people are biased, and it can be hard to see a situation clearly. Seeing someone you love get upset is one of these situations. Has she thought about finding another retail store to work at? There are good ones out there.

          1. Mary*

            It was suggested that I was biased because I love my daughter, which of course I do. She knows that she has certain human rights which is why she came to me about it, but neither of us knew what the legal ramifications were, if any. She told me how her coworkers felt and I did explain, that in some cases, the management was within their legal rights. These are not the instances that I’ve brought up here. I told her that she could look it up online or call and she asked for my assistance.
            She is leaving for college soon, so she won’t be needing a job for a while. She wants to be able to help her co-workers understand their rights as well because this doesn’t just effect her. If she weren’t going to school, she would have found another job already (she had a couple other offers, but chose this one).

        2. some1*

          I didn’t mean to imply that you or your daughter are misrepresenting this situation here, but because it is a second-hand account from a subjective source, I don’t think it’s wise to name the employer on this blog.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, this made me pretty angry. It’s soooo none of their business what their employees are doing on their unpaid time off! Alison says they can require employees not to have second jobs also, but that part sucks too.

      1. Anna*

        Exactly. This is a great opportunity for mom to teach her daughter about advocating for herself. Just remind her she can reasonably stand up to her manager politely and still refuse to give him that info. Or just be obnoxious about it. Give him your gas receipts for when you went shopping and then the doctor. Maybe take some snapshots of your root canal.

    5. Mary*

      I have tried to contact the corporate office but have not received a response yet. The jist of the email was to inquire about franchise information (which was not entirely untrue). If they had responded I would have passed the contact information to my daughter and her co-workers. AT this point, we won’t name the chain.

      I agree-unpaid time/leave should not have to be documented. They are being unreasonable.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Very much so, and if they lose good employees because of this policy (as in, they quit and find a better company that doesn’t treat them like children), well too bad for them. >:P

  5. neverjaunty*

    OP #2, maybe stop focusing on inventing bizarre rationalizations for why you shouldn’t get in trouble, and maybe just acknowledge you screwed up, you were unfair to your coworker, and you are compounding the problem by acting as though it’s none of your employers business.

    The place to call a manager inappropriate names is when you’re alone in your car.

    1. LBK*

      Agreed – and refusing to say anything when called in to discuss it is pretty out there regardless of the reasoning. You better hope this meeting with HR isn’t to discuss you being suspended, because I’d be on that track based on the behavior you’ve outlined in the letter.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Yeah I’m thinking suspended at least. Verbal warning, written warning, some disciplinary action.

  6. Three Thousand*

    There are so many good tutorials out there that she would probably be best off learning from one of them and applying the skills she learns to specific tasks and projects she’s working on. That might be the best use of everyone’s time.

    1. katamia*

      I agree. I don’t love the OP’s attitude of “You only need to know what you need to do right now” because it might be a sign that there isn’t a lot of upward motion possible at that company, at least for that employee. If my manager said something similar to me, that’s certainly how I’d interpret it.

      But there’s so much information out there now that there’s no reason the OP should do this herself, at least not for Excel. If this employee does, in the OP’s opinion, have a long-term future at that company, it might be nice for the OP to find something a little more company-specific to train her on during a slow period.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Totally agree with all of this. There are some people who will be happy doing the same exact job forever, but by asking how she can learn more, this employee has indicated that she’s probably not one of them. OP, if you’re interested in retaining this employee, I’d at least try to think of resources or programs you can direct her to to start learning on her own, although I like the suggestion of seeing if there’s anything more company-specific you can work with her on during slower periods. Otherwise, there’s a good chance she’ll get the idea that in order to grow professionally and develop new skills, she’ll need to move to a new job (that’s how I would interpret it, anyway).

      2. KT*

        This–there are so many skills I learned that helped me do my next job better…and even if something seems unrelated tot he work, learning new skills can often be applied. For instance, my job is mainly writing, but I did learn InDesign and Illustrator. While technically not related to my work, it has helped me when explaining how I want my copy to fit to the designer and makes me more aware of the designer’s needs, turnaround times, etc.

        Learning new skills is never a bad thing!

      3. Zillah*

        The OP has clarified above that the employee has been pretty unmotivated overall, including turning down offers of excel classes, requests to give the OP a clearer idea of what skills she’s looking to acquire, and explicitly saying that she didn’t want to move up in the company.

    2. BRR*

      You can also throw out, “I don’t know everything so here are tutorials for you to choose what skills you want to pick up.”

  7. Dan*


    A side note about crappy employers… a former client of mine was known to be a bit sleazy, but he hired entry level people in a field where entry level jobs could be hard to get. These aren’t entry level in the retail sense, we’re talking jobs generally geared towards college graduates.

    I expressed some interest in working for him, but he flat out looked me in the eye and said that while he’d hire me when I was ready, I really didn’t want to work for him. “Stay in school” he would say to me. When I left that job for grad school, I told him what I was planning to do. He looked at me again and said, “Smart man. School is the right thing for you.”

    Sleazy employer or not, I actually liked the guy and got along well with him. The thing is, he gets away with what he does because large parts of the industry are like that, and frankly, the labor market supports it. (We’re also talking about a labor pool old enough to know what they’re doing, and making conscious choices.)

    But that’s the message I want to pass along to OP5’s kid, the same one I got: Stay in school so you can get much better jobs. Employers like this exist because there is a labor market to permit it.

        1. BananaPants*

          Very true. My husband has a college degree (in business, no less) and 15 years of work experience including supervisory roles – and he earns less than $30K/year in a call center. These days getting a degree is no longer the ticket to a good entry level job that it was a decade or two ago.

    1. UKAnon*

      This is somewhat ironic as it’s hit UK news today that nearly 60% of all graduates are in jobs which don’t need degrees. In fact, a lot of young people who are doing best IME are those who didn’t go to university but instead built a career for themselves. Most degrees nowadays mean little more than fantastic amounts of debt which will never be repaid.

      1. Daisy*

        But UK student loans are the best borrowing deal you’ll get in your life- repayments tied to income, doesn’t affect credit score, etc- it doesn’t really matter if they take forever to pay back.* I think a degree opens up a swath of jobs you couldn’t otherwise apply for and there isn’t really a downside, as long as people are realistic about the amount of those jobs that are available and the likelihood of getting one. Though, yeah, the idea that it’s an instant passport to success is outdated.
        *(In the US, yes, I would think veeeery carefully about it.)

        1. UKAnon*

          Student loans are really, really burdensome. I know it looks like good borrowing, but it’s still borrowing and the repayments can be awful. There are months where we end up spending more than we’ve brought in simply to meet rent/bills/food. My partner’s been paying his student loan for five years now, a substantial amount (read: we wouldn’t have spent more than wages if we had this money) and now he owes more than when he left university. Mine is just accruing debt because I can’t afford to repay it.

          Both of us have built careers which would have been impossible without a degree. Trust me, repaying them for the rest of our lives and losing all that money every month – it matters. A lot. If either of us wasn’t using our degree, it would be crippling debt for no gain whatsoever, and actually a loss because it’s too late once you leave university to build a career that you could have had without one.

          Student loans were a huge mistake, and the 50% target was even worse.

          1. la Contessa*

            Student loans have been awful in my household, too. My husband doesn’t even have any, but mine are so huge that they are a bigger expense than the mortgage. In fact, the student loans would have prevented us from even buying a house if we hadn’t purchased one from family, since we don’t have enough money left over each month to save up a down payment. It’s my own fault–I thought I was going to be a rich lawyer (which is why I needed the education in the first place), so hey, I’ll pay it back. Hahahaha, that was a good one. I was young and stupid, and took out more than I needed so I could avoid working during school and focus on my grades. Everything about that was a poor decision. I’m finally in an attorney job that I love, so I don’t regret the education, but the loans are always out there, waiting.

            1. Ad Astra*

              Yep, our student loan payments are more than our rent and would probably be more than a mortgage payment in this market too. The majority of my debt comes from my first two years of college, when I just honestly didn’t know any better. Everyone kept telling me it was “good debt” and “an investment,” while warning me to stay the heck away from all the free credit card offers on campus.

              On the other hand, every job I’ve had since graduation has been in a field related to my degree. I can’t think of any jobs that I would enjoy or be good at that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. There isn’t much I would have done differently.

            2. Renee*

              I’m there too with the law school loans, and there really aren’t any jobs in my community. They were manageable when I left school but years of being underemployed and deferring/forbearing and they’re pretty out of control. Thank goodness for income based repayment. We would never be able to make it without that. I use my law skills for my current position because I have them, but they’re not necessary and none of my predecessors had legal backgrounds. I regret law school big time and I’ve moved over to team “educations are really overrated.” For now. I think there are great things about education but the cost/benefit analysis is just not good right now.

              1. Ad Astra*

                It depends on how you define the value of your education. Even though I have a professional degree, I went to school to learn, not just to get a job — though I ended up doing both and still being broke. So instead of saying “Education isn’t worth the expense,” maybe we should be saying “Education is too expensive.”

                We don’t tell wealthy parents who can pay out of pocket that college is a waste of money, so if we’re warning lower- and middle-class families about student loan debt, it sounds like a problem of funding, not value. Of course, that does nothing to change my situation or yours. ;)

        2. Koko*

          There is definitely a downside to being overeducated and overqualified. You should only get an advanecd graduate degree if you know of a specific job that you want that requires that degree. Otherwise you risk being tossed as “overqualified” when you go applying for jobs that only require a Bachelor’s degree. Not to mention grad school can be its own form of hell for people who don’t want to be there, arguably worse than many crappy jobs that college grads can get.

      2. Polka Dot Bird*

        In my industry, a degree generally doesn’t mean anything until you want to become a manager, or an executive. Then it’s quite important. So degrees are useful for later stage career building.

      3. Swarley*

        Agreed. I think a big part of this is industry dependent. There are plenty of great jobs out there that don’t “require” a college degree. And too often, employers place value on a degree without being able to justify it’s worth. For a lot of jobs, work experience trumps education. A college degree shows that you can probably think (and hopefully) write critically, and that you can stick with something long-term. Other than that…

      4. Student*

        That’s not generally true in the US. Many jobs that don’t really utilize the skills you gain from obtaining a degree still “require” a degree – especially many of the more stable, long-term ones. They use it as a filter for job candidates, just to cut the pool of applicants down. All well-paid jobs except rare, successful entrepreneurs are restricted to those who have a college degree.

        1. Myrin*

          Which always seem so weird to me from my German perspective, because we have a very different system that has more people going to university than 30 or 40 years ago, but still by far not almost everyone. I’ve kind of gotten used to this from reading a lot of US sites but it’s still so mindboggling to me.

    2. Mary*

      Thank you. My daughter is a merchandising major and ultimately wants to own a boutique (or become an actress, but one is more realistic than the other!) This experience, although bad, will prove to be beneficial to her in the end.
      I contacted the state and they told me to get a lawyer. So, doing the math….a minimum wage job cannot cover the costs of the attorney…..which means the management stays in place…and this is why the behavior will continue.
      Much the same as your previous employer.

      1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        FYI nearly all employment attorneys will take clients on contingency. Your daughter shouldn’t have any out of pocket to retain an attorney if she’s got a meritorious claim.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The issue though is that a lawyer isn’t likely to take a case where laws aren’t being broken, and nothing here sounds illegal, just jerky. There isn’t really anything for a lawyer to do, although the OP could certainly talk to one to be sure.

  8. omgomgomg!!!*

    Please please please let the salary law go through! If I remain salaried, that means an increase of almost 20K. If I go back to hourly, I either get to cut down to 40 hours a week or gross an extra $5800 a year (which is an amount I’d be much more okay with making).

    1. Grey*

      There’s a chance your employer would give you a 20K raise if this law is passed? I don’t know where you work, but I’d like a job application.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In general, it’s most likely that employers will do the math: They’ll look at how much the person earns in overtime in a typical year, and compare that amount to what it would take to raise them to the new threshold. In a case like omgomgomg!!!’s, they’d presumably choose to pay the overtime, not give a $20K raise.

        Alternately, some employers may lower the person’s hourly rate, so that their total annual pay comes out to what it’s always been, even with overtime payments added in.

        It’s very unlikely that many people will get massive raises because employers will have the options above.

        1. Graciosa*

          Another alternative (depending upon the numbers) would be to hire more staff.

          There is a potential trade off in overhead costs, but those can be less than the overtime.

          1. eplawyer*

            Actually, the other alternative is to fire people. Raise the people you can afford to raise, offer overtime to those you can afford to, and fire the rest to keep employee costs in line.

            Raises and overtime increases also increase other things that the employer must pay. The one thing an employer can control when it comes to costs, is how many employees you have.

        2. Grey*

          That makes sense. I’ve been salaried and never expected to work more than 40 hours a week. The exempt status just covered them for the rare occasion I’d need to work late, and covered me if I ever felt like skipping lunch or doing casual after-hours work from home. I wasn’t thinking of everyone who’s paid a salary for 40 hours and might be required to work far longer than that.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I hope things work out well for you!

      We’ve had conversations about the proposed rule here before. It’s my belief that this isn’t going to result in a financial windfall for most people. The majority of managers aren’t sitting on mad piles of cash in their budgets that they can use to pay for a windfall.

      I think the best positive effect we can hope for is that people who have previously been underpaid while being pushed to work many hours over 40 per week will no longer be pushed to work many hours over 40 per week. I don’t think there’s going to be much $$$ gain per individual.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        I’m super excited for this rule to go into effect, and not because I expect to gain any money–I just want my weeks to be capped at 40 hours and for management to be forced to confront the workload issue. As it is now, my job is almost impossible to complete in 40 hours (and it’s not a time management issue–I’m client-facing with appointments and then admin work on top of that and sometimes appointments take up 8 hours a day).

        And I think/hope it’ll be good for the economy in general–too many employers have one worker doing the work of two, or at least four doing the work of five. So I hope employers will be adding positions here and there.

      2. blackcat*

        I’m pretty sure you’re right.

        I’ve had lots of (college grad) friends in salaried positions right around 25k, where they’re expected to work 60 hrs/week or more, often in major cities with high costs of living. Limiting those sorts of jobs will not eliminate them, but it will mean people can have a life (or take on a 2nd job). Limiting hours can be a truly huge benefit in a lot of ways, so I still think it’s a big deal to a lot of folks.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I agree.

          And my next best hope is for job creation. Business will be loathe to or can’t budget on time and a half. What I hope is that for every say, three who have previously been work excess hours, they will hire an extra one.

          1. BananaPants*

            My husband’s new employer is hiring an additional staff member in his department rather than having existing employees cover the OT. It’s definitely cheaper to hire another full timer than it is to pay five employees to each work a full day of overtime every week.

            Unfortunately, we were hoping that working OT would boost his pay up to a more comfortable level, but you can’t argue with what makes financial sense to the company.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Exactly. It’s not only about money – it’s about time, and exhaustion and overwork, and creating more jobs with fewer, saner hours rather than fewer jobs that work people to the bone.

        3. Ad Astra*

          Exactly. When I was making $36k in a moderately high COL city, I desperately needed a second job to make ends meet but couldn’t take one because I was working 50 hours a week, spread out over 7 days, at my overtime-exempt job. If you can’t pay your employees more, at least give them time to live their lives.

      3. NJ anon*

        Agree. We are very small, 14 employees. We have only one person right now who is exempt and making less than the proposed minimum. She will be switched to non-exempt and be told not to work any over-time.

      4. F.*

        Unfortunately, at some companies employees will be expected to do the same workload in only 40 hours per week instead of 50 or 60, with failure to meet these unreasonable expectations written up as poor performance. I once worked as non-exempt administrative assistant at a Very Large Corporation where I was the only non-exempt in a department of exempt professionals. I was expected to GET THE WORK DONE regardless of how long it took and with no overtime authorized. I was forced to work unpaid overtime or lose my job.

        1. Koko*

          But eventually the company is going to have to face the music. If they write someone up for poor performance and then fire them, the next person they hire is also going to get written up and fired. They can keep churning through employees while work doesn’t get done, or they can pay for overtime or an additional employee to get the work done. Eventually they’ll pay to get the work done.

          And eventually someone who is being illegally forced to work unpaid overtime will report them or threaten to report them to the DOL and they’ll have to put a stop to that too.

        2. Sammie*

          My former employer used to do this to the non-exempts. Eventually someone complained to the Labor Board (or several someones) and it stopped.

          Full disclosure—I am in California.

        3. Observer*

          In the shot term that is almost certainly true. But, in the longer term, employers will have to change how they operate. There is a cost to high turnover in many such jobs, and while it may take a while to sink in, most reasonably functional employers will probably come to realize that they need to be more realistic about workload if they don’t want to be spending that much time and money on constantly replacing people.

  9. Scmill*

    #4 – I worked for my old and new company for one day at the end of a job. It was the end of the month, and starting on the 30th meant that my health insurance kicked in on the 1st instead of a month later. I had been traveling on business right up to the end and spent the last morning and early afternoon cleaning out my old office (shipping hardware, files, manuals, etc out to another office) and then getting all the new hire stuff out of the way later that afternoon. My new boss knew where I was and was fine with it. I didn’t care what my old boss had to say about it as he was the reason I was leaving.

    1. Not Today Satan*

      “To be clear, while the goal of this change is to make more people eligible for time and a half for working overtime, it’s a huge step backward. We’re not the manufacturing economy that the original Fair Labor Standards Act was designed for. We’re a knowledge economy and knowledge is much harder to measure in terms of hours than manufacturing is.”

      Um…. huge step backwards to whom? The attitude so many people have towards labor and labor laws is SO depressing to me. Just because I’m not working at a steel mill doesn’t mean my work isn’t valuable labor. And sorry, but you shouldn’t be paying an “ideas” person 25,0o0–or 35,000 and expecting them to work 60 hours a week.

      I also sincerely doubt that this rule will result in tons of unhappy employees. Was this post sponsored by Scott Walker?

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I don’t agree with all that Suzanne writes I really disagree with an article she wrote recently about Amazon and their working conditions where she basically said, if you don’t like it don’t work there it’s a free market, and if enough people vote with their feet it will force Amazon to change! However I thought this article had a useful summary of some of the options employers will have to handle the introduction of this proposed new law.

      2. fposte*

        I’m not sure what I think about the change overall, but for me it’s going to be murder because there’s no exception or pro rata for part-time.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I consider that element it to be a giant flaw and I hope that sorts in the comment period and there’s a change. It’s a handicap for the professional employees more than for the employer. It could eliminate part time professional or job sharing professional positions entirely.

          1. Cat*

            Though then you need a way to distinguish between the teacher who is deliberately job sharing and the retail manager who was hired part-time and is being worked a zillion hours a week.

            1. fposte*

              Can you–or anybody–think of metrics that might help with that? I’d totally submit a proposal as a process comment. (Probably won’t make any difference, but what the heck, right?)

          1. LBK*

            I’m assuming that since the threshold is so low that someone who’s part time could still be paid enough to qualify as exempt, relieving them and their employer of time management requirements. So they’d be more free to just come in for a few days a week whenever was applicable or worked for their schedule, but now that will have to be monitored a lot closer since they’ll have to be non-exempt.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            As long as they make more than $23,600, they are treated the same as any other exempt, with the same freedoms of choice.

            Our HR director is 3 days a week exempt and an example of someone who wants a professional level position at part time hours. She’s retirement age but doesn’t want to retire completely. She wants to use her management skill sets while having freedom in her life. She oversees full time staff.

            It’s problematic to place restrictions of movement on employees like this.

            1. Me*

              On the other hand, an awful lot of people *don’t* want to be part-time and yet that’s all they can get. If hiring 100 part-timers instead of 50 full-timers is made more difficult or costly, then that’s all to the good.

              We’ve gone way, way backwards in terms of workers’ rights as the war on unions has progressed.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                Saying it is “all to the good” is dismissing the people whom it isn’t good for.

                Professional part time positions by choice do a ton of societal good, including keeping people raising young families in the professional work force. They are an advancement that shouldn’t be thrown out with the bath water.

                1. fposte*

                  But you’re missing the fact that it’s a problem even when employees *don’t* work more than 40 hours a week. It’s not like this means everything is the same as it was except for overtime for the over-40s. It means tracking of hours worked for all these employees, it means lower pay in weeks when they work fewer hours, it means creation of policy for deciding whether they get to work above their expected hours even if there’s no OT involved, it means figuring out workflow changes. I think it’s quite likely to be a good thing overall, but that doesn’t mean it’s only a pain in the ass to evil people who’ve been overworking their staff.

          3. Apollo Warbucks*

            Thanks LBK and Wakeen, that makes sense, I hope they pro rate the salary by FTE in that case.

          4. fposte*

            It’s worth noting that this threshold hasn’t been raised in forever, and that the new number is basically the old number if it had been adjusting for inflation along the way.

            But aside from my personal stake in the part-time issue, my thought is that the part-time professional employee is a concept that’s really burgeoned in the last few decades and that therefore the threshold concept is out of date with a lot of part-time employment.

        2. Koko*

          Pssst….consider submitting comments at I’m sure other associations and stuff are on it, but it never hurts to make sure your voice is heard!

        3. Student*

          I think that’s a good thing. The point of being part-time is that the part-time employee expects to only spend part of their time working somewhere. If a part-time employee works over 40 hours in a week, then I don’t understand how anyone could still reasonably consider them a part-time employee. Nobody signs up, on purpose, for a 30-hour salary and then wants to work 41+ hours in a week.

          1. Koko*

            In addition to fposte’s point that a lot of exempt employees front-load and back-load work around vacations or other absences, it also requires them to start logging/tracking their hours, which might be a significant logistical burden. Maybe the part-timer works 3 days a week and is has limited on-call-esque availability on their days off, so their full-time coworkers don’t have to wait until their next day back in the office if they need something small and simple. Now they have to start logging the time they spend answering emails on their days off. More broadly, the company has to implement an hours-tracking system where they might not have had one in place before, and it has to be flexible enough to accommodate this kind of ad hoc/at-home/a few minutes here and there work where before, everyone was exempt so there was no need to worry about how to log 5 minutes spent checking email or some background internet research that an employee did while watching TV at home one night. Exempt employees tend not to have as bright and clear a line between work time and non-work time as non-exempt employees.

      3. LBK*

        I think her point is that a large portion of jobs now are more about contributing expertise than creating a product and requiring people to track the hours they work while doing that is both cumbersome and nebulous. The comparison to manufacturing isn’t to say that non-factory jobs aren’t valuable but rather that it’s much more straightforward to track “I spent 8 hours on the assembly line today” vs. “I had an early morning conference call, I teleworked for a few hours, I came in for these 2 meetings and then responded to a few emails later that night.”

        There are plenty of people being paid fair wages under $50k whose responsibilities look more like the latter than the former and most likely companies won’t react by just having that employee track odd configurations of time, but by reducing that employee’s flexibility so the tracked time fits more neatly into an 8 hour clock-in/clock-out shift. I think EHRL’s concern is that the proposed change doesn’t account for how wildly different the majority of jobs function in terms of when, where and how people are working compared to when the original overtime laws were instituted.

      4. neverjaunty*

        Yeah, this is the workplace equivalent of that boyfriend who told you it was cool for him to sleep with other girls because people should be “evolved” past all that antiquated stuff about jealousy.

        People have lives and need fair treatment and work-life balance, regardless of whether they’re tightening widgets in a factory or writing code.

        I don’t want to bash on other columns here, so I’ll just say that this is a very good illustration of the truth that employees need to keep in mind: HR is there to help the company, not you.

        1. LBK*

          But this change might actually be *worse* for the work/life balance of people who currently enjoy the scheduling freedom that being exempt affords.

          1. baseballfan*

            I agree. I’ve always been exempt and would go crazy documenting every minute of work.

            That being said, I’ve spent a number of years as a consultant, where we of course had to track our hours – but I really only worried about billable hours.

            1. Elysian*

              You don’t have to document every minute of work if you’re non-exempt – pretty must just time in, time out, and your meal break. You’re just paid for everything else.

              1. OfficePrincess*

                But when you job includes answering emails /calls on nights and weekends, that’s a lot of clocking in and out.

            2. BeenThere*

              Being exempt does not preclude you from irritating time tracking software sadly. I’ve been exempt for the last ten years and at most companies have had to document every minute of work to internal billing codes. The real kicker is that I’ve never been allowedto bill more than 40 hours per week even when we were working 60-70 hrs weeks. One copmany made us enter it a week early so we would invent what would happen one week in four. So I would make corrections in the following month to account for what actually happened in week four of the previous month. It was such a waste of time, oh and I billed ever minuted rounded to the nearest hour spent on time tracking, plus the cognitive switching cost.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Discussing how the change may or may not be beneficial to certain employees is way different than trotting out “knowledge economy” and similar buzzphrases as an excuse for changing workplace protections.

            And as we’ve seen from previous AAM letters, employers in “knowledge” fields are perfectly free to require time tracking. Ask any lawyer about this.

            1. LBK*

              They’re free to do it but for the vast majority of white collar professions it’s not the norm now and is going to represent a dramatic change in culture. I’m unclear on why you think discussing the “knowledge economy” is a red herring either – buzzword or not, the way the average workplace operates now is so wildly different from when the FLSA was instituted that you can’t make this kind of change to it with zero other consideration for how this impacts things like flextime.

              I just don’t believe that it’s as simple as everyone either making more money or everyone being cut back to only working 40 hours per work, so no matter what you win. There’s something to be said for the level of flexibility people will lose, the level of scrutiny they’ll gain and the pressure they’ll experience to balance output and budget.

              To be clear, I think there are necessary changes to be made to exempt/non-exempt classifications to the benefit of people who work jobs where they should be getting overtime and currently aren’t – if nothing else, clarification of those standards and a dramatic increase in awareness would help a lot. I don’t think just changing the salary threshold is the right way to do it.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                I’m overall in favor of the changes and I don’t think the salary threshold is a bad choice. I believe that some change had to happen. Exempt rules are poorly written.

                Maybe the right choices was to rewrite the rules more clearly and spend time and money on enforcement so the employers who are abusing the law now wouldn’t get away with it. THAT said, nobody in our government was going to pony up money for enforcement so, here we are.

                I think the whole thing is workable if thinking people take the time to consider the issue 360 degrees and write rules to the best possible effect of all people. Part time professionals deserve consideration in this process.

                1. fposte*

                  Agreed. I don’t know how the updating rules work, so I’m not sure how much they could change without getting the legislature involved. It makes absolute sense to update the financial threshold; it’s just that the changes in the work world have been more than just inflation, and none of those other changes will be reflected.

                  I think the people who will be hurt by this are the minority, but they happen to be me and my staff, so I can’t just brush off the collateral damage.

                2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  And all of this happens to have worked generally to our favor. It’s a competitive advantage for me because there’s pretty much 0 impact due to the way we’ve previously classified people, our 40 hour week culture, etc. I now have an advantage over competitors who haven’t been operating the same way (or at least level playing field).

                  So this helps me sell more teapots, but it’s not all about me. :p Lot of impact on a lot of people, let’s be thoughtful.

                3. LBK*

                  I really wish awareness and education were the first step of this change. I’m positive there are thousands of unreported wage claims out there because people have no idea how the FLSA works (I sure didn’t before I started reading this site, which wasn’t until years after I’d started working in a salaried non-exempt position).

                  On some level, I can appreciate the $50k threshold as an easy shortcut to clue in what will presumably be a large swath of people who are currently working illegal unpaid overtime and don’t even know it. But I do worry that there are serious nuances not being accounted for and that if people still don’t have any idea what exempt/non-exempt means or how it relates to their pay, it still won’t actually help solve the problem of people not being paid appropriately under the FLSA.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Hahaha, I love your analogy to describe these disingenuous self-serving bullshit arguments.

          (Caveat: if hypothetical you and boyfriend have agreed your relationship is open, that’s cool with me, but that doesn’t work one-sided or after the fact.)

      5. themmases*

        These critiques of the proposed rule are ridiculous. As others have pointed out, for many people not having to work overtime would also be a welcome change. They may not get a windfall from their employers, but they would get time back to spend on their health, families, and lives– or even on a side job if they need more money and aren’t having luck finding different employment.

        I’m not sure what’s controversial about paid overtime. Have a lot of the people writing about it never earned it? I used to earn overtime occasionally when I worked retail in college, and there were weeks when I didn’t even want the overtime and would gladly have given the money back to get to go home on time. There were other weeks (and holidays, when I was in a union) where I was happy to see the money. Either more money or more time is acceptable to lots of people; demanding huge amounts of people’s time and not paying them for that time is what’s not OK.

        Also, I *am* an hourly knowledge worker. It is just not a big deal. I keep a Google spreadsheet of my hours open on my work computer, enter my presumed hours in it, and only change it if something changes. Then I copy those hours into an online system every two weeks. Yes, I occasionally do work stuff from home (mostly email my boss back about my schedule or where to find a file; can’t do much else without my work computer). But then, I also read AAM sometimes at work.

        1. De (Germany)*

          As someone who always had to track hours (I work as a software developer, but as a consultant – so my company needs to know what they need to bill the other company for), I am honestly confused by how people here are saying that it adds so much overhead to their work. I’d say it takes less than two minutes a day for me to put in when I came in, when I left, when I had my break and what project I work ed on.

          1. Meg Murry*

            That’s fine if you don’t have a cumbersome hours tracking system. My sister worked at a place where she was hired as salary plus commission, but then the company decided (or possibly was sued and then went over cautious) to make her position hourly. If she had had to just keep a timesheet, that wouldn’t ahve been so bad, but she was supposed to clock in and out at her computer – and she kept getting in trouble for forgetting to clock in and out at lunch, or for being on the clock for 15-30 minutes a day, resulting in 1-4 hours of overtime a week – her boss didn’t want to see ANY overtime. And didn’t want any under-time either – she’d also get griped at if she came in at 37.5 -39 hours instead of 40. But my sister worked on commission – so before that, if she had to work an extra hour in the evening to make the sale, she would do that. After the clocking in and out was instituted she was hurt both ways – if she didn’t put in the hours she could lose the sale and therefore the commission, and if she did she got yelled at for using overtime. They also had a system where they would work Saturdays and take a comp day the next week – but with the new clock in and out rules they couldn’t do that – the comp day had to be taken before the Saturday they worked, so that meant on working Saturdays they only got 1 weekend day instead of being able to work Saturday and then take off the next Monday or Tuesday.

            I think going to a paper or Excel based honor system timesheet isn’t so onerous – but being nitpicked for minutes by an automated system is infantilizing and one of the worst parts of being hourly.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              And bad systems for reporting isn’t a legal problem – it’s a management problem. I am exempt and have to report hours, as my employer reports all contract-related work hours to the government entity we are a contractor for. My issue with this has more to do with the antiquated system we use to do this. (I am not a software designer but am pretty sure I could design something better.) However, I know plenty of people who have to report billable hours, and with decent systems in place it’s no different than any other work task.

        2. AnotherFed*

          The big deal part is when the exempt employees are used to working much more flexibly and not so concretely – checking email while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, doing boring admin tasks at home with the TV on in the background, listening to a telecon while ordering something from Amazon, etc. Do those count as work time, or not? Do you have to clock in for that 6 minutes of email in the checkout line while you also corralled your kid to stop them from adding candy to the cart?

          And what about when you want to work odd hours to handle an absence without taking PTO? In some states, you can’t work more than 8 hours in a day without being paid overtime, which means there’s no more working two extra hours one day to make up for leaving early another day.

          Don’t get me wrong – the overall effect will probably benefit a ton of people, but there are some people it will make things worse for.

          1. Meg Murry*

            Yes, this flexibility is what I like about being salaried. And it goes both ways – do I log the 6 minutes I checked email from home? But what about the 6 minutes I spent on the phone with my kid’s doctor this afternoon, do I have to count that as time off the clock? Or if I get back from lunch 30 minutes late, will I get in trouble?

      6. Jess*

        The argument isn’t that work outside of manufacturing isn’t valuable, it’s that working on an hourly basis is less relevant or appropriate for professional, non-standardized work.

        Personally, I would be pretty upset if I was forced from salaried to non-exempt. My performance is assessed by my output/work product and I’m paid for providing that output; whether a given task took me into overtime or not is somewhat irrelevant to whether I’ve fulfilled my role to the satisfaction of my employer. I was hired to get a job done, not show up for a set number of hours. I’d hate to lose the flexibility to get the job done as I see fit, which yes, does include putting in more hours when I feel it’s needed.

  10. Apollo Warbucks*


    I saw a meme on LinkedIn where two people were talking:

    Person 1
    “What if we train out staff and they leave?”

    Person 2
    “Yeah but what if we don’t train them and they stay”

    You have to invest in people, having a motivated engaged emoployee who feels valued and is learning whilst at work can only be a good thing for your business.

    Provide a little time in work if you can or at least point them in the direction of training resources.

    I’ve learnt some very useful computer languages at work and home mostly self taught but there have been people at work who have helped me with some of the trickier stuff and it’s really helpful and I’ve paid it forward where I can.

    1. Koko*

      Or really all four possibilities, including “What if we don’t train them and they leave?” (i.e. withholding training is no guarantee they won’t leave and might even drive them to leave if they care about development!) or “What if we train them and they stay?” (i.e. they will provide so much value if they stay and may be incentivized to stay in a place that’s helping them grow without all the hassle of job-switching). Person 1 is considering the 1 of 4 scenarios where training wasn’t an advantage and not the 3 out of 4 scenarios where training is the advantage!

  11. AcademiaNut*

    Just a comment on ads – for the past week or so, AAM has been playing ads with really intrusive audio, every time the site is loaded, on automatic repeat. I can manually pause the three banner ads playing in unison in the body of the text, but the one embedded in the header cannot be turned off.

    The current ad appears to be some sort of financial ad (in Chinese, so I’m not sure of the details).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sorry that’s happening; it’s not supposed to, but they’ve been acting up in recent days. If you’re able to email me the URLs that they click through to, I can have my ad network track them down and block them.

      But you also have my blessing to use an ad blocker here!

      1. Green*

        The Hitman: Agent 47 movie trailer has a grand old time playing some unsolicited Eminem on your site.

    2. katamia*

      I’ve been getting those too, but I’m in a Chinese-speaking country, so I thought that had something to do with it, lol.

        1. katamia*

          Oh, true. I get a lot of weird ads in other languages in general (could guess why, but don’t really know for sure), so I don’t think about them that much. I was a little surprised that the languages matched my location this time, actually.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Most of the spam I get by email (which Gmail filters out, thank heavens) is in Arabic. As far as I can tell, a lot of it is “business opportunities” for selling soft drinks. I have never spoken Arabic nor been involved in the beverage industry. I’m super baffled.

            1. AnonymousaurusRex*

              All of my Gmail spam is in Russian. But I think it is because I have a traditionally Russian first name.

  12. nicolefromqueens*

    I really think Excel is something she should learn on her own, or at least not at the expense/time of her employer. Not only is Excel use ubiquitous (and varied) but as said above, she has a lot of other options outside the office. After she takes the initiative to learn that (and other software), and has proven herself capable of then she can ask her boss about more advanced skills for that office. Don’t lay the foundation for her. Also, I would be concerned about her fleeing with the elementary Excel skills if it were my workplace.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      The thing is not to let the learning encroach on the work that needs doing

      What is acceptable varries by office, when I’m free I write code and scripts that are useful to the business it’s a time suck because I’m learning, but I’ve got the judgment to know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not.

      A colleague of mine did his degree in the subject I’m picking up as I go, he’s always happy to answer a question or two and point me in the right direction when I reach the limit of my knowledge, but it’s a water cooler conversation most of the time (me: I’m trying to do x, him: go and Google “cool function” it will do that for you) or he’ll read my code and spot the syntax error in seconds. It’s not a massive formal training program and doesn’t stop either of is working.

      Excel is over whelming there are so many functions it’s hard to know where to start, if the OP can give some direction to their employee it will help them get started.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Yep, perfect.

        A direct report of mine is interested in data analysis but lacks the background and its not in her current job scope. I could surely use more hands in analysis (most of the hands are attached to my body) but I’ve no time to teach. I gave her access to our Google analytics and told her to teach herself how to use it in her spare time. (She has a few work hours a week she can put into it.)

        About once a week I ask her what she’s discovered so far and we’ve had fun talking about it. 6 months from now I might give her some assignments. If she’s really serious about learning, she’s going to figure out how to learn, since I’ve given her the keys and allowed her the time. Concurrently I’ve told her the areas in excel to brush up on, like pivot tables, that will go with all of that.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes – could OP just start with stripping some of her current spreadsheets of confidential info (change client names to Client A, Customer B, etc) and/or make dollar amounts generic and give those to the employee to review and learn from when she has some spare time? If the person is a self-starter, they can learn a lot just by clicking in a cell that has a formula and trying to follow what the formula is doing, and using the built-in help files when necessary. I learned most of my excel knowledge by reverse engineering spreadsheets other people had made in my department, and then expanding on it by taking a function used in one sheet (VLOOKUP, for instance) and putting it together with a function used in another (SUMIF, for another example) to make my own worksheets or improve upon existing ones in our department. Then OP can just give the person a few minutes here or there (why did you use VLOOKUP here, why doesn’t this SUM fuction go down the whole column) to explain, but not spend hours doing formal teaching/tutorials.

          I agree with everyone else that while her current role may not require more advanced use of excel, you may be surprised what she could help you with to take off your own plate once she learns it – if nothing else, she might be able to help you proofread/error check your sheets. And if she becomes more comfortable with Excel in general, she might become faster at her basic tasks she has to do with it – for instance, learning to use ctrl-x, ctrl-c and ctrl-v instead of right clicking or going to the menus for copy and paste is a lot faster, but that kind of thing takes practice to become habit (or in my case, requires you to use a computer with a crappy trackpad where you get used to keyboard shortcuts really quickly or you start pulling out your hair – that’s how I learned and got used to all the shortcuts I know now.)

        2. Bostonian*

          This sort of mentoring is great. My first job out of college, where I had good quantitative skills but not much Excel background, my boss assigned me to update some reports in Excel – take the number from this accounting report, plug it into this cell, etc. Over the course of the next several months as I got more comfortable with Excel I gradually ended up re-doing his spreadsheet to make more things update automatically, then creating new reports. I became his go-to person for analysis of department performance, though I was his administrative assistant and that wasn’t originally in my job description.

          That boss was great about that sort of thing – he saw my analysis skills and really encouraged them, then helped me move into an analyst job when one opened up. (Boss: “Have you talked to Matt about the analyst job?” Me: “What analyst job?” Boss: Boss to Matt: “You still looking for an analyst?” Mark: “Great! Let’s talk this afternoon about your new projects.” Me, in my head: “What the heck just happened?”)

          My successor was much less interested in the quantitative aspects of the job and really just learned the basics of how to update reports, but he saw how well she did when events rolled around and she ended up doing some pretty serious event planning for the company. The strategy of hiring smart, entry-level people and helping them grow into actual professionals worked really well for him, though it meant he was constantly training new admins.

          1. Sammie*

            He sounds like a great boss/mentor–unfortunately the type that is becoming the exception–not the rule.

  13. Apollo Warbucks*

    #4 Being on the pay roll for both combines doesn’t sound right to me, my contract of employement and what is in my employee handbook prevents me from doing that, I would check to see if anything prevents toe wife from doing this.

    Most likely I’d, quit immediately without notice saying something like,

    I’ve been offered this other job and its a great opportunity so I’ve accepted it. I do have to start right away but as we aren’t busy at the moment I thought that would be OK and certainly better than doing both jobs”

    If you wife presents the lack of notice as a benefit to the current company and the ethical thing to do then it won’t look bad. Also you don’t know what might happen if she gave notice they might ask her to leave right away anyway I’d they’re not busy and don’t need her to work.

    Being honest and straight forward about this is the best thing to do.

  14. Blurgle*

    #2: You even say the word you used to Ann was ‘inappropriate’. And you ‘showed her why the name was justified’?? So out of the kindness of your superior heart you taught dim little Ann why it was right and good for you to call her boss some kind of (I can only assume) slur, because otherwise she (sigh) just wouldn’t be able to figure it out.

    Did it not occur to you that a) Ann might wonder what kinds of slurs you throw around behind her back, justifying them and begging everyone else not to tell you, and b) Ann might see an issue here with you treating her as too stupid to walk and chew gum at the same time?

    Also, if the ‘inappropriate’ word is racially or sexually charged (say, if it rhymes with “itch”), Ann might be wondering if the problem isn’t actually with her boss but you, and might also wonder if she’s in line to be your next target.


    1. Nina*

      This whole comment is pretty harsh, and “slur” feels like a reach. We have no idea if the OP was throwing slurs around, and inappropriate can have many meanings in the workplace, not all of them sexually or racially charged. OP could have said something like “Gary’s a cheapskate because he buys crappy office supplies” and that would still be considered inappropriate.

      OP definitely messed up here, but can we at least try to give them the benefit of the doubt?

      1. neverjaunty*

        It is giving them the benefit of the doubt to take them at their word. OP didn’t tell us what the “inappropriate word” was, which is interesting in and of itself (why not say ‘I called my boss a cheapskate’ if that’s what it was?) but it’s apparently serious enough that OP immediately backed off and then tried to keep it private, to the point of refusing to talk to a manager. And HR is getting involved, which generally does not happen if the comment is “wow, my manager is a big boo-boo head.”

        Do we know it was bigoted? Nope, but IF the OP did in fact do so, she needs to be aware that kind of behavior has bigger implications than an annoyed boss.

        1. Artemesia*

          I think we can assume it was bigoted since HR got involved and someone felt compelled to report it. Is that going to happen with milder slurs? I doubt it. I would assume it was either a particularly vulgar sexist or a racist slur. (that it is a slur was a given in the way it was described)

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            This is where I’m falling out. It’s a fine line, I admit, but I wouldn’t think twice about someone saying, “Ugh, Boss is such an a**hole!”, yet, “Boss is a c***” or, especially, the n-word? I would also approach HR.

            It’s the justification part here that gets me– what on earth would you have to justify? Someone once defended the use of “f****t” to me, and I no longer speak to that person. If you have to justify it, you crossed a big line.

      2. Blurgle*

        In truth, I saw red at that question. I imagined an arrogant, self-important bully who thinks her opinions are the equal of fact and that everyone would agree with her if they just let superior her just explaaaaaain in very great detaaaaaaaail.

    2. Ad Astra*

      Because we typically give letter writers the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to suggest that the OP meant she showed Ann which of the manager’s behaviors and traits matched that unflattering description. It’s not that the name was truly justified, it’s that the OP was explaining what she meant using examples.

      1. Not me*


        The name could have been anything from “micromanager” or “cheapskate” or “kind of a jerk sometimes” to the slurs or threats people have suggested here.

          1. HB*

            I think HR is getting involved in part because OP doubled-down when confronted and refused to own the mistake or apologize, making it seem like she really does think the other boss is whatever name she used. I think if she’d just said “I’m so sorry, I was out of line. It won’t happen again.” or something HR would not be involved at all.

  15. Amber*

    #1 Training an employee in something she doesn’t need to know can also be a good way to make that employee feel like she’s growing professionally, especially if there aren’t currently other ways for her to do that. And that can go a long way in job satisfaction. She’s asking because she wants to learn, why hold that back?

    1. Liane*

      The OP comes off as a boss afraid of ending up with an employee who could do their job better than they can.

      1. Graciosa*

        I don’t see anything to support that in the letter.

        I think the OP comes off as someone who has not thought through the benefits of training people in ways that are not *immediately* useful to the business, but that’s a very different issue – as is the legitimate concern about balancing training with other demands on your time to provide the best overall value to the business.

        1. Koko*

          There was a hint of potential territorialness in the comment about how OP is self-taught. People often use the fact of being self-taught as explanation for why it feels unfair to have to share the information with other people. They perceive having this exclusive knowledge as an advantage that they worked hard to secure and they don’t want to lose that advantage to someone else who won’t even have to work as hard as they did and will just have the knowledge spoon fed to them.

          That’s not necessarily why OP mentioned being self-taught, but it was one possibility that came to my mind at least.

          1. aliascelli*

            Oh, see, I thought it was because being self-taught would make it harder to teach. I find that to be the case, anyway – my Excel skills mostly come from the “bang your head against it for a week and see what happens” school, and I have no idea how to show someone those skills differently.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          The OP said, “This would be advancing her Excel skills on a more personal level, but it’s not necessarily a good use of company time since she doesn’t perform any advanced work in that program.” It’s possible the OP doesn’t want to or can’t justify to her boss the time it would take to spend training the employee.

    2. Outlook Power User*

      In every position I have had I was trained (sink or swim basically), learned all I could and watched what everyone did – then found a better way to do it. My predecessor in my current position was staying every weeknight until 7PM and working Saturdays, spread sheets all over the place. My organized brain got it down to a 35 hr per week position – with no mistakes (saving the company tons of dollars) and minimal spread sheets. I created templates in Excel, Word, and Outlook that simplified what I needed to do (instead of repeatedly typing in my company/my name/my phone, etc for instance). I utilize the tools provided once I learn them completely.

    3. catsAreCool*

      If you search for Beverly (I think) you’ll see LW’s response. The employee doesn’t want to read an Excel for Dummies book (too many technical terms) and doesn’t want to watch an online class.

  16. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 don’t say anything behind someone’s back you wouldn’t say to their face, even if it’s 100% true.

    Insults and name calling can be fun but they are not helpful or productive.

    If it comes up again apologies for the laps of judgement and then move on don’t get sucked into trying to explain or justify it.

  17. Apollo Warbucks*

    #5 This is complete bullshit, id tell the manager to get stuffed and that I was not going to justify my time outside of work to him. Of course that depends on how much I needed the job, but this is so out of line I don’t know where to start

    1. NJ anon*

      Ditto. It’s a part time job. Tell him to shove it and find a new one. A good teaching moment on how one should not be treated in the workplace. I’d consider contacting their corporate office on this.

      1. edj3*

        I wouldn’t tell them to shove it. That’s not behaving in a professional manner either. I’d channel my best inner AAM and say that option isn’t possible for me and could we discuss other options.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          No it’s not professional but sometimes peoples stupidity means a more reasonable and measured response isn’t easy to come up with.

      2. Mary*

        I’ve looked up the corporate office and am having a hard time finding contact information. I’ve emailed, but have not received a response; it’s been over 2 weeks. (I said I was interested in franchise information).

        Management intimidates these young woman; I have told my daughter that she can quit, but she is determined to work through the summer and leave it at that, knowing it was an experience to learn from ant that it’s not normal or good management.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Does your daughter have any paperwork from when she started? Some of it might have contact information for employees to ask questions or report problems, too. (I’m going to be generous and assume that the local management might be bad and corporate might not know. But they might all be terrible people.)

          1. Mary*

            She had to read and sign for the employee manual at orientation. I asked her where it was so we could look up the policy if there was one. They took the manual back after she signed for it! I told her to get it–it’s hers because she is the employee!

      1. Mary*

        Ha! And take selfies in front of the TV!
        We often take “staycations”; they are more relaxing than going out of town.

    2. JMegan*

      I quit in the middle of a shift at a coffee shop once, and my only regret is that I didn’t stick around long enough for the manager to come in, so I could tell him personally to get stuffed. ;)

      OP, this is not good advice for everyone, obviously! But yeah, your daughter is being treated terribly, and she shouldn’t have to put up with it if she has other options. If she can afford it, and if she does decide to leave without another job lined up, I hope you’ll support her in that decision.

      1. Mary*

        I do support her 100%–she is determined to stick it out through summer and knows these people are being unreasonable.
        I quit in front of a customer when I worked at Wendy’s. He got mad at me because I didn’t acknowledge him as soon as he walked through the door (I was taking care of and talking to another customer) and told me he could get better service at McDonald’s. I told him “fine–go ahead” and walked out in the middle of the dinner rush. My manager was right there. It was 1982–minimum wage was $3.35/hour. ….. Not enough money to put up with bad people.

        1. JMegan*

          You sound like a great role model, for real. Best of luck to your daughter, and I hope she finds something better soon!

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          I’m glad you’re sticking up for your daughter, but I’m confused on the Wendy’s story. Unless your co-workers or manager were just as bad as the customer, walking out on the customer didn’t harm the customer at all: just your co-workers and manager who had to cover the dinner rush without you.

          1. Mary*

            Sorry about that…. to further the Wendy’s story..there was so much more to it than just that. Wendy’s, at the time, had very strict rules about what the front counter person could do. Not touching food or cups or utensils was one of them because you handled cash which is very dirty. But, the manager and my co-workers were in the back room doing whatever and had left me alone; I had no choice. It was getting busy because of dinner time and finally the manager brought up other people to their stations. I’m a by the rules kind of person and that company was not above sending in secret shoppers, so I could have lost my job if caught. It was not an unusual occurance for this “rule” to be broken as well as many others and I’d had enough. In this particular case, the customer talked to the manager and told him to fire me. The manager told him he agreed with me and kicked the customer out and told him to go to McDonald’s. So it didn’t hurt the store or the customer or me really; my co-workers were supportive of me–and so was the manager. I was out of a job though, but for just a few weeks. It stung us all a little bit. I don’t know about the customer, but I’ve never been unemployed since that time over 30 years ago and Wendy’s is still in business! Moral of this long story: We only put up with what we are willing to put up with.

    3. Ad Astra*

      “Get stuffed” probably isn’t the most professional way to handle it, but I do think the OP’s daughter should look for a new job.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        If someone told me I needed to provide documents to justify or prove how I use my unpaid time outside of work then Get stuffed is the politest most professional thing I’m likely to say.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’d be tempted to go all Catherine Tate on them–

          “I can’t be bovvered.”

          “You’re fired then!”

          “Do I look bovvered? Does my face look bovvered? No? Because I ain’t bovvered. Bye now.”

  18. Dutch Thunder*

    I don’t think OP #2 helped herself by refusing to discuss the conversation when asked about it politely, by her own admission, by a manager.

    It seems that’s made this a lot bigger than it would have been if she’d just apologised, with the OP now having to speak to HR. Apologies are still the best way to solve this, though, but from the OP’s post I’m not sure she feels she’s actually done anything wrong here, so she’ll need to work hard to make her apology appear genuine.

    1. AnotherFed*

      It seems like the manager even gave her a chance to share her concerns. I can’t tell if the OP’s rudeness was something more work related, such as lazy or micromanaging, or just rude/swearing. Since the manager wanted to discuss the conversation (presumably more about the justification than about the rudeness), if it was work-related, even something like “I’ve been stonewalled on moving forward on X, Y, and Z because of the [Manager’s Department] process for how to handle those things, so my schedule is shot and my client is furious” could have turned the situation around and started building towards fixing the underlying issues.

      Instead, the OP refused to bring concerns up to the person she had concerns about. If they were legitimate workplace problems, it’s not really an option to refuse to talk about workplace problems with management (at least, if you want to continue being employed). To me, that’s probably worse than if the OP had called the manager a witch or something similar, but both are highly unprofessional. I don’t think an apology is going to cut it – the employee is probably going to get written up for this, and people are going to be watching (formally or not) to make sure it isn’t a pattern.

      1. UKAnon*

        “…that’s probably worse than if the OP had called the manager a witch…”

        Justification: she keeps putting curses on coworkers?

        1. AnotherFed*

          Maybe the OP in this one IS the curse and the manager is the one who’s been cursed.

          The first thing I thought of was the ‘I curse you to always put your shoes on the wrong feet’ that came from maybe Elizabeth West? Did we have a comment thread on workplace-acceptable curses somewhere? If not, we need to this Friday.

    2. AnonAnalyst*

      Yes, this is the part of the letter that really made me cringe. As AnotherFed said below (much better than I could have!), depending on what was said there may have even been a productive way to address it, but it sounds like the OP flat out refused to discuss it because it had been a private conversation. Even if what was said was just rude or otherwise unaddressable by the manager, I can’t imagine that the refusal to discuss it helped the situation in any way.

      OP, others have already said this, but I think it bears repeating since, from your letter, it sounds like you are convinced you are 100% in the right and are really digging your heels in here: it’s not a great idea to speak badly about your coworkers and call them names to other coworkers. There’s no reasonable expectation of privacy for your comments, so in the future, I would proceed with the expectation that the things you say will get back to others. Apologize, try to sound sincere, and try to speak more carefully in the future.

      1. Koko*

        “it’s not a great idea to speak badly about your coworkers and call them names to other coworkers”

        And it’s a doubly bad idea to go behind a manager’s back and attempt to undermine her authority with people who report to her.

      2. MsM*

        Also, if you feel the need to justify your comments in the first place, and they’re not in the form of direct constructive criticism to the person in question or as part of a discussion with your boss about how to resolve the issue, that should probably be a warning sign to you that the other person might not see things your way and you should get the venting out of your system on your own first.

    3. Not me*

      I agree that apologies are the best way to solve this.

      I also wonder if OP got into what she thought was a venting session with the coworker, while the coworker planned to start it and planned to share whatever OP said.

      It’s a middle school thing to do, but I think we all know that middle school doesn’t end for everyone. I’ve read stories about that sort of thing here.

  19. Zahra*

    Alison, how about that Excel Open Thead you had some time ago? OP #1 could refer her employee to it.

  20. Grand Mouse*

    For #5-
    What if they can’t afford travel (especially if they’re working only 15 hours and have an unpaid vacation)? What if they have visiting family? What if they’re taking care of a medical issue? I haven’t been able to afford travel for over a year because I can’t take the hit of losing my hours plus not making that much to start with. And my expenses are lower than a lot of people in my situation because of some assistance. Can’t afford a car either. It’s hard enough being in a job that doesn’t have paid vacation and this would be insult to injury.

    1. Not Karen*

      I feel you. At LastJob, people kept asking me if I had any travel plans coming up, and while I know they were just making small talk, it was really upsetting because I want to travel but can’t afford it. (It would add insult to injury when my manager asked me this, considering that one of the reasons I couldn’t afford it was because he refused to give me a raise!)

    2. Monodon monoceros*

      Yeah, what if they just want a “stay-cation”? Maybe the crazy manager would accept selfies of them sitting on the couch in their pj’s?

      1. Mary*

        This is exactly what I said to my daughter when she told me about this. Take a selfie in front of the TV!
        Management should not grant the time off if they don’t trust the employees. And not everyone can afford to go someplace. I certainly couldn’t when I was just starting out and if my daughter had to pay for travel she couldn’t either.

        It is an unreasonable request for sure.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Ha ha ha, put on a Poldark rerun and pause it and then take a selfie with the full screen behind you and email it– “I’m in Cornwall!”

          Or any exotic locale, the more absurd the better, given a tiny salary.

    3. BananaPants*

      We haven’t been able to afford any vacation in years. Our last one was a cruise when our older daughter was a baby, in 2011. Then we had another baby and our finances simultaneously went in the toilet with my husband getting laid off, and we can’t even go camping because it’s too darned expensive.

      When I use vacation time it’s for such luxuries as cleaning the house or organizing a closet while the kids are at daycare, or very rarely to do something special as a family on a weekday when a place like the science center or children’s museum is less-busy than on the weekend. After the recession, an increasing number of Americans are taking “staycations” rather than taking more expensive trips away from home. I would be supremely pissed if I had to show proof of an actual trip somewhere in order to use the PTO that I had earned.

      I’d be tempted to fill up my car’s gas tank on the day my vacation started and submit that receipt, and to say I was staying in my relative’s vacation cottage free of charge. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, awful manager!

      1. Mary*

        Thank you for your response. We too take staycations to relax or do housework, but also because the economy didn’t allow us to! My daughter is learning from all of this. The gas receipts in no way prove that she was even in the car that was filled up. It’s a ridiculous request. Good luck to you and your family!

      2. AMT*

        I am taking two days off next week, while my kids are in school, specifically to clean my attic! Its impossible to do on the weekend when we have plans and errands and the kids are home, and I cant afford to travel anywhere and need to use the time so I might as well be productive with it. In the past two years I have used nearly all my vacation time on projects, either installing windows, cleaning, doing taxes – all boring stuff!

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I spent everything on the last two trips and now everything is a staycation. People keep asking me, “When are you going on another trip?” And I think, probably never. :P

    4. PolarBear*

      It’s just crazy! Here in the UK by law, full time workers have to get 28 days paid leave including bank holidays! Pro rata for part time. Most organisations pay more, for example my current employer gives me 25 days leave plus 8 days bank holiday. My last employer gave me 30 plus bank holidays!

      I have never ever been asked for proof to take my annual leave. It’s my time and I can do what I want with it.

  21. AcidMeFlux*

    Oh,OP2, PLEEEEZE write back and give us more details about how you explained how the insult to Ann’s boss was “justified.”

    1. hbc*

      LW2: The first step is to realize you made a mistake and own it. I mean, in the same “conversation” (it really sounds more like you vented in Ann’s direction), you supposedly outlined all your supporting evidence for Boss being a jerk or a [w]itch or a slacker and then decided you didn’t believe your own argument. And you didn’t even think to ask for secrecy before bringing out the “inappropriate” name.

      Your best chance was to tell Ann’s boss, “I’m sorry, I was just venting and I even realized at the end of the conversation that I was wrong. I shouldn’t have said any of it, both because it was inappropriate and factually incorrect. I apologize.”

      Now your best chance is to give some version of that to HR and tack on that you were surprised by Ann’s boss hearing it and panicked about what to say. Depending on how much of a euphemism “inappropriate” is, you might also have a lot of tap dancing to do to explain why that word would leave your mouth in any work context, and be prepared to accept an official write-up without argument.

    2. Career Counselorette*

      Yeah, really- I have to say, I’m kind of blown away that this person thinks they have sufficient “evidence” to “justify” calling someone an inappropriate or even threatening name, as if HR will review and be like, “Wow, you present a compelling case here- she IS a real nag after all!” (Or whatever.)

      1. MsM*

        I get the feeling OP has been operating under the assumption this is common knowledge around the office. Other coworkers may even have said similar stuff and just not gotten called out on it. Trouble is, everybody knowing it still doesn’t necessarily mean you can say it.

    3. fposte*

      I’m reminded of the French caricaturist Philipon, who got in trouble for satirizing King Louis Philippe as a pear, and asked the court if resemblance was a crime.

  22. AvonLady Barksdale*

    #4: I was a bit tempted to do this, so I get it, but DON’T DO IT. I had a job where I had next to nothing to do, I was working remotely, and my boss would ignore me for weeks at a time (reasons 1 and 3 were why I left that job). My boyfriend made a crack about not quitting at all because no one would notice, and I admit I considered it for a hot second.

    But it’s not a good idea. It would weigh on your wife’s conscience (one would hope), then she risks losing both jobs if either employer finds out. If she works in an industry where people talk to each other, then… she’s screwed.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Yes; make the ethical decision. She should quite and say that her last day needs to be today or tomorrow (how ever long it takes to out-process). Given that she’s currently unassigned there should be very little issue with her leaving right away; in fact if she’s literally doing nothing for them/not taking in any money they probably would prefer to let her go immediately.

      In case you need to know why making the unethical decision can impact you. Don’t give two weeks notice and count on doing nothing for them. What if she gets asked to do a brief job, do some paperwork, even is just scheduled for a departure meeting and she can’t because she already started the new job? That’s a way to burn a bridge and ruin a reputation. Definitely don’t start the new job and just wait for an assignment to arrive and then quite. It will be obvious that she had no intention of staying and another way to burn a bridge and ruin a reputation.

      If her employer is paying her while she is unassigned it is to keep her available for them to use when needed. I would also expect that they expect her to be doing some training, administrative work, etc so that once she is assigned to a client she can bill all her hours to them so she probably shouldn’t be twiddling her thumbs all day long.

    2. Paige Turner*

      Your old job sounds a lot like my current job…I started two months ago and I’m wondering if I can stick it out for a year or if I’ll go stir crazy first.
      For the OP, I think that two weeks’ notice isn’t necessary given the circumstances, and it definitely seems like asking for trouble to try to get paid for both jobs at once. I do wonder if the new job wanting the OP to start immediately is a red flag, though.

    3. Ad Astra*

      If the wife’s current job is project-based and she’s not currently working on a project, now is the best time to resign. This may be a case where the standard 2-week notice isn’t really necessary because there’s nothing to wrap up. This is actually a pretty fortunate turn of events, so don’t mess it up by trying to pull one over on these companies.

  23. Justcourt*

    #5 reminds me of my first employer, a large corporation that has since gone out of business.

    The company was pretty clear their policy was no guaranteed vacations, which I interpreted to mean employees weren’t guaranteed to have time-off requests granted. I found out my manager’s interpretation was wildly different when I was on approved vacation halfway across the country and received a phone call asking where I was and if I was coming into work. I was into my second week of vacation when the new schedule came out, and my boss scheduled me for work right in between approved days off.

    I thought it was just a mistake until I came back to work and had to meet with the store manager and the district manager. They kept repeating that it was company policy to not guarantee any vacation even when I pointed out that policy essentially prevents anyone from traveling or making any vacation plans in case they are called into work. My argument did not convince them, and I was written up. Unsurpringly, I didn’t stay there much longer.

    My advice to the OP is have your daughter seriously consider whether she wants to stay with the company. It’s been my experience that employers who intrude on and place unreasonable restrictions on employee’s personal time are horrible employers.

    1. NickelandDime*

      Agreed. It’s a part time job at a retail store. While I’m sure she needs the money, it appears she’s in school and doing internships, etc. This young lady deserves some down time – and folding sweaters or stocking earrings isn’t important enough to ignore that. I also worry that they will start to encroach on school and the internships she’s getting. I had one part time job that tried to get me to come in during finals week. I was like, no and told them I wouldn’t be back. I’m a freshman in college and it’s my first finals week – are you for real? I found another job the next semester.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yeah, I remember my freshman year dorm neighbor crying because her part-time restaurant job scheduled one of her shifts directly conflicting with a final exam (which they knew about ahead of time) and demanded she work it or be fired. She decided the education she’d worked so hard for (and she and her parents had paid so much money for) was more important than that crappy job, and quit without notice that day. There really wasn’t another reasonable choice.

        1. Mary*

          It’s sad, really, that people think they have that kind of power and use intimidation as a management “skill”.

    2. RVA Cat*

      I think the huge takeaway is “large corporation that has since gone out of business.” I know there must have been many causes for its demise, but treating its employees like this had to be a factor.

      (Was it Suck-it City by any chance?)

      1. Justcourt*


        No, it wasn’t that company. They were pretty bad to employees, but they were driven out of business because of their business model wasn’t really compatible with the 21st century.

    3. Mary*

      My daughter will work for a couple more weeks until school starts. She’ll be a junior in college which is out of town. Sadly she turned down another job to take this one, but lesson learned. Retail is hard, unappreciated work. They have asked her to work Black Friday and Winter break, but she has said no.

      I just don’t think they should grant the time off if they don’t trust.

      Thank you for your response!

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        If your daughter works in a mall, she should ask around before she takes the next retail job. When I was doing retail, the mall gossip was the best way to find out where you did and didn’t want to work. :)

  24. jesse maegan*

    regarding the employee wanting to learn excel – i would highly recommend John Forman’s “Data Smart”. it’s an amazing, thorough book that is conversational in nature, and really teaches the ins and outs of Excel.

  25. Allison*

    #5, So to clarify, you can only get time off if you’re going on a trip? That seems to be the bigger issue. I mean, making people prove they went where they claimed to go is also annoying because it shows that they don’t trust their employees, but man, only letting people take time off when they have to go somewhere is really short-sighted; there are plenty of reasons someone might need a week off for something other than a trip.

    1. Graciosa*

      Just to be clear, I would absolutely push back on this policy, which is both stupid and condescending. It is the kind of policy only implemented by petty people, drunk on power, with no real understanding of good management.

      That said, it occurred to me that this might actually be an interesting use for services that provide fake receipts to help you conceal your whereabouts from a spouse or significant other who has reason to mistrust your fidelity.

      1. Mary*

        Time off to decompress is just as important.

        One of the girls at the store said she took a road trip with her parents and had to turn in her parents gas receipts.
        When my daughter told me, I said–Yep–I’ll be more than happy to go into the store to talk to your manager about my personal gas receipts–which don’t prove she was in the car with me.

        I agree these are power plays and they are poor managers who don’t know any better. Or if they do know better, they are just not good people as well as bad managers.

      2. A Mindless Drone*

        I’m not sure that push back is the appropriate response, though. In many cases in my life, both personal and professional, the wisest course of action has simply been to allow others to think that they are getting what they want, while I do whatever I was going to do anyway. Especially when the power structure is so heavily slanted away from the OP’s daughter, there can be actual harm (used in philosophical sense, not literal injuries) that comes to her from being blatant about pushing back. If I’m off doing something else and I get a phone call from the job, I have no obligation to answer. While I’m fairly sure that the managers want everyone to be at their beck and call, what someone wants is not always what you’re obligated to deliver.

        1. Mary*

          Mindless :) You make excellent points here that I will pass to my daughter. Thank you.

          Good news just received today–she received a job offer from the campus book store today and will be starting in a couple weeks. She’ll be moving off to school a few weeks sooner than planned and before school starts, but she is happy to be moving on.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Although I’m sure you’ll miss her because of her leaving early (and she’ll miss you!), it can also be really nice to get to school and get settled in the area before classes start. It means she’ll already have the lay of the land before all her soon-to-be friends start arriving and she has homework and everything.

            I’m so glad it’s worked out well for her. I hope her coworkers also get out of there.

            1. Mary*

              Thank you. She is very excited. Fortunately school is only 90 miles away, so we don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to see each other.

  26. anonanonanon*

    #2: If you won’t own up to your words when someone asks you about them, don’t say them at all. One of my biggest annoyances in life is people who talk BS behind everyone’s back and then act like it’s a crime when someone calls them out on it. You said something the offended someone else, so own up to it. You can apologize or you can drag this out and make it into a bigger matter than it needs to be. Saying a conversation in the office was “a mutually agreed private conversation” does not justify saying something negative or offensive.

    As far as the “inappropriate name”, if I was in Ann’s boss’s situation, I’d feel the need to ask you if you had any issues with me, regardless of whether you called me something relatively tame, such as a slacker or a cheapskate, or called me a slur. I’m leaning towards guessing that since Ann told her boss, the name and “justification” was probably a bit worse than calling her a slacker, etc.

    OP2, you really need to apologize for calling the boss the inappropriate name and then stop badmouthing people in the office. No one wants to work with a coworker who is complaining about people behind everyone’s backs. It brings down office morale and makes everyone wary of interacting with that coworker lest they’re the next one who gets badmouthed.

    1. some1*

      “One of my biggest annoyances in life is people who talk BS behind everyone’s back and then act like it’s a crime when someone calls them out on it.”

      Absolutely this. We’ve all got caught gossiping at one time or another, but a person of high integrity apologizes for it when confronted, they don’t project the blame on their own actions on other people (Ann, in this case).

  27. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – was this a gendered term, by chance? Because that makes it even more verboten in that context.

  28. Dasha*

    #1 please provide some training to your employee. It doesn’t have to be hours and hours, but like Alison said maybe some general pointers and resources. It’s not going to hurt anything and you’re going to build goodwill.

    1. Justcourt*

      I agree.

      One of the best jobs I had was with a department that made extra training, which the company made available to all employees, a requirement.

      I worked in other departments that prevented employees from attending additional training, and my impression was that it was to prevent employees from moving on. While I eventually moved on from the job that requires training, I took on a lot of extra responsibilities and really grew in the department. And after I moved on, I referred several awesome employees to that department because I knew they would be good for the team and they would get a lot out of everything that team offered. I never referred anyone to departments that didn’t encourage growth.

  29. Retail Lifer*

    OP#5, I’ve worked for a ton of chain retailers. Some of this is common, but most of it is ridiculous.

    Lots of retailers will tell their employees that they can’t get a second job because they want you to be available when they need you. I worked for a compnay where we were supposed to require all of our part-time employees, who made $9 an hour and got about 15 hours a week, to maintain “open availability,” meaning no second job and not even school! I didn’t require that because then my only potential employees would be bored housewives who didn’t actually need a job. Many employers are willing to work with you if you get a second job with more fixed hours, or at least hours that won’t impact peak times, like weekends. They also might say you can’t work for a similar business, but you can work fast food or at a store that doesn’t sell any of the same types of products so as to avoid a conflict of interest. Scheduling two retail jobs is always tough and it usually doesn’t work out for long, though.

    As for the other stuff, like this vacation business, I’d bet money that this is the manager’s own policy. She works for a chain retailer. Chains all have district managers and a Human Resources departments at the corporate office. Your daughter *should* have been given an employee handbook when she started. If she still has it, see if there is anything regarding vacation time. I guarantee there’s nothing that states anything about needing receipts. At most, there might be something requiring a doctor’s note for a sick day. NO ONE require documentation for anything else. I’d say tell her to go to the district manager, but she’ll probably get fired because the manager sounds like a nut job.

    Minimum wage retail jobs are a dime a dozen, and once she has just a tiny bit of experience under her belt, any other store in the mall will hire her. Retail will never treat her well, but anyone else in the mall will treat her better than this. I complain about my job all the time, but THIS really offends me.

    1. Mary*

      Thank you.

      I asked her if she had to sign for the employee manual. She said she read it, signed for it, and then they took the manual. I told her to get a copy of it–it’s the “employee” manual. The corporate offices are not responding to an email that was sent a couple weeks ago. I was asking about franchise information, but was hoping if they responded that I could get the contact info to my daughter and her co-workers.

      She’s just there till summer is over and leaves to go back to school in a few weeks, otherwise she’d be looking for something else. But some of these girls ahve been there for a while and she wants to help them. She is looking at it as a learning experience not just for other immediate mall jobs while she’s in school, but for when and if someday she becomes a manager or store owner. Her ultimate goal is to own a these bad experiences will give her a good perspective.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I wonder if the best way to help them is to help them with their resumes. There are better jobs out there. I worked in fast food, and they did a good job working around my college class hours. I don’t remember them even complaining about it.

  30. Brett*

    #5 I would really push back about the supplying receipts part. I have seen too many low level fast food and retail managers steal (something I think is a function of how poorly they are paid); and even had my credit card information stolen once in a situation where I had to unexpectedly provide receipts to a manager as a customer. How many people are seeing and handling the personal information that you get from plane tickets and hotel bills? (“Oh, hey, I see you booked a suite for two people and, oh, what were these movies you watched?”)

    Or rather, if this were me, those receipts/copies would show up with so much information redacted that you could not even tell if they were real or not, much less any idea of where I went, who I went with, what days I went, or how much I paid by what method.

    1. NickelandDime*

      I was also concerned about handing over such personal information. You should always question people asking for information they have no good reason to have. It’s rarely for a good reason or they would have told you up front.

    2. Mary*

      I agree with you. There is often personal information that we don’t want others to see. I believe that they should not grant the time off if they don’t trust their employees to tell them the truth. But that is the environment the management is creating.

      As far as stealing, there has been a pattern of tills being short when the lead manager rings up a customer. He accused the employee of course, but there really is no way to prove who took the money. However, the employee had 1 cash transaction that night for $7.00 and the customer used exact change. She never gave any change. But the manager did use her till to take care of a customer. Does this prove he did it? Not really, but it certainly doesn’t prove she did it. She got fired 2 days later because her car broke down and couldn’t make it to work on time–they said it was also because she was on probation for her till being short.

      Bad management……..

      1. cataloger*

        I believe that they should not grant the time off if they don’t trust their employees to tell them the truth.

        Tell the truth about what? Why do employees owe any explanation (much less a true one) for what they’re doing with their unpaid leave?

        1. Mary*

          That is my point, although maybe not worded well. I don’t think I need to tell anyone what I’m doing in my free time…free is operative here.
          If the manager feels they have a right to know what people are doing in their off time or don’t believe that the employee is not using the time for vacation or a surgery or whatever, then the employer has the right to not grant the time. The alternative is if the employee does need surgery or wants to leave town, then they can lose their job.

  31. AMT*

    #1 – Learning to better use Excel is never going to hurt, and I am still surprised by all the things I use it for now that I would have never considered using it for before when I didn’t know much more than the very very basics. So it might wind up being more beneficial to the company than you realize. That said, it is very time consuming to learn, particularly to teach. Many libraries offer free computer courses, the city and county libraries where I live all offer Excel classes for free. That, in addition to some online tutorials, might be a good first step for your employee – she gets to learn some of the new skills she desires but without costing you time or money.

  32. Cafe Au Lait*

    LW #1: Don’t hold onto a rigid view of what your employee NEEDS or DOES NOT need to know for Excel. I worked with a student employee who inputted all office supplies into an Excel workbook. He created a separate spreadsheet for every shelf, which had been marked with an Alpha-Numeric guide. If you were looking for blue bic pens, you could search “blue pens” and it would tell which cabinet and shelf they were on. Weekly inventories also were done, so it let you know how many pens were in stock or if they had been ordered.

    That’s something I probably would have said “eh, it’s not needed.” After it was done, I really liked the system. But even more importantly, I didn’t know it could be done in Excel. Your employee might surprise you by changing a core element of her job that reduces a lot of time.

    It would also be a great resume builder for you if you did choose to train her. Maybe pitch it to you boss as “Jane has been asking for additional training in Excel. Fridays from 8:30-10 are pretty slow. I’d like to offer an Excel ‘Did you know’ training session once/twice/weekly for anyone who is interested.” It 100% makes you look like a team player by passing your knowledge along.

  33. Amber Rose*

    So what this boils down to is, we need a law that prevents employers from being jerks.

    And by this, I mean over half of the questions ever submitted to AAM. ;)

  34. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    OP #1 – There are TONS of videos on youtube on how to learn excel. You can search almost any function that excel does and find a video on how to do it. Perhaps suggest this to your employee as a way of teaching herself excel like you did.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      THIS. I don’t need it for my current job, but in my job hunt I’m learning that everyone expects advaced skills (well beyond what I already learned and forgot in college). I found some free online tutorials and a better course for $10. I didn’t do well with the book I bought, but that’s probably a decent option for other people. It’s on ME to learn it, though, no one else.

      1. Judy*

        You should check your public library, also. When you sign into our library site, there are some “patron only” areas with tutorials on lots of things. There are also in library resources that can be used from their computers.

        1. AMT*

          My local city library as well as the county branches actually offer free classes, including word, excel, basic computer use, etc., in addition to patron only materials.

  35. AndersonDarling*

    My experience in training others in Excel-> I’ve had lots of people say they want to learn Excel, so last year I put together a training class. 1. The people who said they wanted to learn didn’t come, 2. If you aren’t using the skills, you forget them, 3. All it did was make me the company go-to person for everyone’s Excel questions (when they can use google).
    I taught myself Excel, and there are so many more resources now than there were 10 years ago. There are loads of tutorials on youtube and forums full of Excel nerds.
    If my manager approached me and said that Manager X wants me to train their employee in how to do x,y & z in Excel, then I would be all about it. That is a structured request. But I’ve found that everyone who has approached me about “learning Excel” is asking on a whim.

    1. Bostonian*

      Also, “learning Excel” is really broad, because the software can be used in so many different ways. Right now I’m doing research in an academic setting where I use Excel to work with the results of SQL queries on our giant database, and as an intermediate step to reformat the SQL database output for use within mapping software. I use a lot of tools that let me combine different data sets, summarize data, and create charts to see where there are patterns, but I don’t repeat the same actions or update old reports all that often, I don’t care all that much how pretty things are beyond being able to understand patterns visually, and pretty much no one else ever works with my spreadsheets. In a business context where a spreadsheet on a shared server is updated monthly and the same charts are updated and included in reports for management, a different set of tools would be useful. And for an event planner tracking RSVPs and attendee information, the emphasis would be different from either of the first two scenarios. Some of the skills you’d need overlap, of course, but just “learning Excel” in the abstract without a purpose or context may sound good but isn’t likely to do that much good, given your point about forgetting what you don’t use.

  36. Jerzy*

    #1 – Excel is a great skill to have, and an employee wanting to enhance this skill beyond what’s needed of her is a good problem to have. Of course, I agree with all the commenters here who have suggested directing this employee to some online tutorials. I, like many others here, am self-taught on Excel, and actually really enjoy finding solutions to problems as I come up against them.

    #5 – What baffles me on the vacation documentation thing is that there is a presumption that you only deserve vacation time (and unpaid at that) if you are travelling somewhere. As someone with a very busy professional and personal life, a little “stay-vacation” is always welcome, and usually I take a few days to a week off every year just for that purpose. What I do with my time off work is my business, and that goes double for any time that’s not even paid. It’s a ridiculous mandate.

    1. Mary*

      Thank you. This is what I told my daughter too. We often will take short staycations through the year. They are relaxing, less expensive, and give you the time you need to get work done around the house. They don’t need to know what she’s doing in her off hours.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I don’t have the money for travelling, but since I absolutely hate travelling anyway, that’s not a problem for me. How horrible to imagine I would have to travel somewhere to get time off. What.

  37. Ann O'Nemity*

    #2 This is what I would have suggested the LW to say the first time she was questioned about the conversation, and what she can still say to HR:

    “I was venting to Ann about some of my frustrations with [Manager]. At the end of the conversation, I asked Ann to please forget what I’d said because I realized I was being inappropriate and unprofessional. I was immediately sorry for what I said, and I’m sorry that my comments may likely hurt work relationships. The whole thing has reminded me of the importance of always staying professional, and I will do whatever I can to fix this situation.”

  38. mel*

    #5. Meh, I’d rather call their bluff and see if I’d get fired. THAT sounds like a brilliant idea – fire the useful staff and start training again over a technicality. I’m sure the owners would love all the business that that word-of-mouth would attract.

    1. Mary*

      Fortunately this is just a summer job for my daughter, but some of these young woman have been there for over a year. I contacted the state and they said there is no law covering the questions I have. The bottom line is these girls are scared of their bosses. And you’re right, the cost to train new employees is more.

      Treating them like “indentured servants” is a good description of what is going on. I’m glad this will be over soon for my daughter and she has been passing information on to her co-workers as I can get it to her.
      I guess bottom line, Oregon is an at-will state. The employees can leave any time they want, they are just worried their current managers will black list them.

  39. Outlook Power User*

    I don’t know that I agree with Allison’s response entirely. I’ve worked at a Fortune 500 company for over 20 years. We’ve all discussed “down time” at work (you’re reading this, right?). During my downtime I have documented my position in PowerPoint for training purposes (something no one was doing that is now done in EVERY department), I have created Outlook training, I have created newsletters for distribution to sales (my customers), training for vendor online systems. These are the items I have created. In addition I have taken company sponsored training for PowerPoint, Access, advanced Excel, Project Management (over 40 modules!) – my training certificates fill a folder I take with me to inter-company job interviews. I am the go-to guy for just about anything as I take my downtime and make it productive. My supervisor used to tell me she LOVED when I got bored – because I would do something creative, outside my job description that would benefit many.

  40. Student*

    #1 – You could consider buying the employee a reference book or tutorial book about the subject she’s interested in. That’s a fairly inexpensive way to give her what she wants – probably $200 or less. There might also be classes or workshops you could offer to pay for.

    It’s possible that the employee will come up with new ways of handling her duties that you haven’t thought of if she knows excel better, or find new ways to help the business that are useful, but not strictly within the lines of her job description.

  41. Ambee*

    For #3, if they gave you a raise and said nothing about it, ask about it. It might be an error and you don’t want to have them catch it six months down the road.

    1. Margaret*

      Ambee, I am that employee and have a meeting with my boss tomorrow. I am very lucky to have a boss who will hear me out and we shoot straight with each other. As in my comments above to others, it’s not so much about the money as it is the principle of my working 70-hour work weeks for the last year to bring my department back up to standard – and beyond – and having this perceived slap in the face for my hard work. I’ll post tomorrow in the comments with an update on that meeting.

  42. Anx*


    I wouldn’t say that this is outside of the norm in service industries and part-time work, unless my friends and I have been particularly unlucky. Well, the part about the receipts is (although I think it’s fairly common for employees to want to see proof that you have plans to take time off, like a death certificate, plane tickets, or wedding invitation).

    Employers seem to want your full availability without making you a full-time employee. “Flexible” schedule doesn’t actually mean flexible; it means that you have to be flexible but they will not.

    1. Mary*

      Thank you. What my daughter is learning is that she has the power to say no I won’t do that. The state cannot find laws that cover the topic and told us to get an attorney. Truth is there are a number of people that can be hired to do the work, so we have to decide what we want to tolerate.

  43. That Marketing Chick*

    #1 Why not buy a subscription to for your staff? It allows them to learn all kinds of useful skills, and makes them feel valued that you want to invest in their training. If I had an employee asking to become more well-rounded, whether or not it currently was needed in their job, that’s the kind of employee I would want to invest in. If you don’t have time to do it personally (and who does?), this is a great option.

  44. Buu*

    With #1 perhaps the employee knows OP uses it and wants to learn so that they can move up a job at some point.

  45. Heather @ Heat's Kitchen*

    #1: I do wonder if training in Excel would benefit this employee from the NEXT job. I recently interviewed for an internal promotion, didn’t get it, but the hiring manager told me I should try interviewing for the next next job so that they know I can continue to grow.

    I totally agree it doesn’t make sense for this manager to train the employee, but I wonder if there are books, websites or some tasks they could share to expand that knowledge.

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