having a boyfriend meet you at work for lunch, dealing with Boss’s Day, and more

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

1. Do I have to organize a Boss’s Day gift?

That time of the year is coming up again: Boss’ Day. I am a huge proponent of the “gifts flow down” mentality and usually don’t contribute to a gift, but I have a particular dilemma this year.

I recently took over as Administrative Assistant for my department, and our old A.A. moved into a different role within our office. Since she’s still here, she’ll occasionally reach out to me with things to keep on my radar. Well, today, she emailed me to remind me to coordinate a Boss’ Day gift. The only problem is I hate the idea of Boss’ Day gifts. I think asking people to contribute money or gifts to people who make vastly more than the rest of us do isn’t appropriate and I don’t want to send out the “give me money” email.

It’s become a tradition in the past couple years, though, and I don’t know what to do about it. If the bosses (we have two) have come to expect this and I don’t do it this year, I don’t want there to be any kickback. But if they ascribe to the same mindset that gifts should flow down and are uncomfortable with the tradition, I would absolutely love to put an end to it.

Do you have any advice as to how I could ask them about this? I don’t know how to broach this without looking like I’m saying they don’t deserve recognition or accolades for the hard work they do here. I think they do, but I don’t believe that needs to be expressed in a monetary manner.

I’d default to assuming that you don’t need to do it; it’s far more likely that your manager won’t care than that they will. But if you’re concerned, why not ask the old AA who mentioned it to you? You could say something like, “I usually don’t do stuff like this and have heard some convincing arguments that gifts shouldn’t flow upward in a workplace, but I wanted to check with you: Have Jane and Fergus ever said anything that indicates to you that they expect this or would be upset if it didn’t happen?”

Or you could simply thank her for the info and then ignore it.

2. Is it weird for my boyfriend to join me at work for lunch?

My boyfriend is on an alternative work schedule for the summer and gets to take off every other Friday. Today, we met up for lunch, and when the small cafe we frequent had run out of seats, I decided that it wouldn’t be so bad for him to come back to my office with me. Our building has a seating area outside and it’s not heavily used, but the weather was good and there were a few colleagues already eating their own lunches. (A note about my office: people keep to themselves or at least their departments, so the only people I socialize with are the other three I work with. I know the people on the patio but not well. Also, I’m 23 and one of the youngest in the organization; most people who work at my company are 30+ with families.)

Anyway, I was a little apprehensive because the surprise lunch at my office meant my boyfriend was wearing a t-shirt, some basic blue cotton shorts, and sperries–not exactly office-like. I hoped that just a quick in and out lunch wouldn’t be a problem, but as soon as we sat down, the entire table of colleagues to one side looked over at us (very obviously) and one or two kept looking at us as we ate. I felt like the attention was unwarranted as we were just sitting and chatting and eating–zero PDA. But I still left feeling like I had crossed some sort of line in having my boyfriend join me for lunch.

Any advice on whether this is something that’s okay to do in the future or should I just avoid it? It wouldn’t happen often but I’d like to be able to have him stop by once in a blue moon (better dressed, of course). Admittedly, I think part of my apprehension comes from being the youngest at an organization and new to the working world in general.

I wouldn’t worry about this. If he were joining you constantly, it could come across as a little immature (like you couldn’t get through the workday without boyfriend contact), but on occasion, like once a week or less? In 99% of the offices out there, totally fine, as long as you’re meeting him outside your office, which you were. (If you were bringing him in to eat with you at your desk, that would be weird. And obviously, PDA is out but it sounds like you know that.)

Also, there’s no reason he has to put on a suit to meet you for lunch; he’s not the one working at your office, and he’s allowed to dress however he wants, as long as it’s reasonably inoffensive.

I’d bet money that people were looking at you just because people are interested in seeing coworkers’ significant others. We are a gossipy species.

3. Having employees write up formal complaints to sign

A question came up between my manager and me, and I thought I’d bring it to you! We are an HR office (the two of us). I had an employee come in to make a complaint about another employee. We agreed to take the issue to his manager and I wrote down his complaint, typed it up, he signed it and all that jazz.

The reason that I wrote down the notes was because some of his complaints were very valid (there is some funny budgeting going on), but some of his complaints would NOT be something to put on paper (for instance, that he suspected this employee was a lesbian – I told him that was not something that we could file a complaint about but he didn’t seem to agree).

But my manager said that we should never write the notes up – the employee has to do it himself. She said it was inappropriate for me to do it even if I got his signature. What do you say?

I say y’all are making this more bureaucratic than it needs to be and you don’t need to have employees sign formal written complaints at all, unless you’re in a context where people routinely deny saying things that they said to you earlier. If for some reason you’re committed to doing it this way, though, it’s really up to you whether you want to write it up for them or have them write it up themselves; there’s no real “best practice” around this because you don’t need to be doing it this way at all.

(Also, this particular employee sounds like an ass.)

4. Asking a friend to refer me after I’ve already been rejected

I applied online for a job yesterday, and at the same time sent an email to a friend who just got hired there, asking if she had the contact information for a recruiter there so I could send a quick follow-up email.

I got a rejection to my online application the next day, but my friend also got back to me and said she could forward my resume along as a referral. Should I go that route, or would it be weird since I already got rejected?

Ask your friend. She’s in the best position to know. Let her know that you’ve already been rejected and ask if she thinks it makes sense for her to pass your resume along anyway. In some cases, that’s reasonable to do and can result in you getting a second look. In other cases, she might prefer to defer to the judgment of whoever did the original screening. (The latter is more likely to be true since she’s new, but let her make the call.)

5. Can my boss find out about my side earnings?

Due to my current low pay relative to my career field at my current job, I am contemplating doing side jobs to earn some extra money. To save you a large email, you will need to trust me when I say that these jobs would never become clients to my current employer anyway. But I have plenty of free time outside of work to do these jobs, which are also outside of my employer’s current client area.

I am worried, however, that when my boss files taxes, he can see my earnings as an independent contractor. While I don’t really *NEED* to continue working at this current job, I enjoy working here for the most part, except the low wages. Can my employer see my earnings from being an independent contractor?

Nope, he cannot. The only people who can see your earnings as an independent contractor are the IRS.

{ 250 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    #3. He wanted you to document that his co-worker was a suspected lesbian?! I can’t. I don’t even have words…

    1. Daisy*

      I was coming to comment on that as well. Even if some of his complaints were valid I’m not sure I could take anything he was saying seriously after that. I understand why you are of course but it is mind boggling.

      1. BRR*

        I was reading an article this past week saying how people tend to ignore all arguments from a person if we disagree with one thing they think. I can’t get over this. Does he expect HR to fire this employee because they were a lesbian? Does this employee get a PIP first?

        1. Not me*

          Firing an employee for being a suspected lesbian? It’s legal to fire people for being LGBT or suspected of being LGBT in 28 states.

          1. Jerzy*

            And THAT is a much bigger problem than what’s being addressed here, but one I think too many people forget about.

            In this day and age, for it to be LEGAL in the UNITED STATES to fire someone because of who they love, is beyond reprehensible. As a nation, we should be ashamed.

            1. BRR*

              My comment was just more of a joke about what a PIP for being a lesbian would look like. I may be a little biased but I would be considering if I wanted keep the employee who brought the complaints.

              1. Blue Anne*

                Sadly, I’m reminded of the old news story about a woman having to go to court martial for supposedly being gay. They brought on her boyfriend to talk about how good she was in bed. I wish I was joking.

                1. sstabeler*

                  actually, in the abstract, I can see how it might actually be relevant. ( specifically, if she has a boyfriend she is sleeping with, she’s bisexual at most.) How good she is specifically isn’t really relevant, though. ( and to be honest, since the boyfriend was presumably testifying in her favor, then if she thought it would help…)

                2. naanie*

                  sstabeler, I don’t appreciate your comment; a lesbian woman sleeping with a man doesn’t necessarily make her bisexual. If she identifies as lesbian, that’s what she is. Also this isn’t an abstract concept, these are real people whose stories you don’t know. Having to testify publicly about deeply personal matters like this, so that strangers can judge whether you’re “really” a lesbian or not, is humiliating and excruciating.

          2. BRR*

            I’m all too aware it’s legal (I’m gay). Just making a joke to lighten how this employee is an ass.

              1. BRR*

                That’s alright, you had no way of knowing plus it’s not something everybody would find funny because the underlying premise is horrifying.

            1. Ad Astra*

              And, fortunately, many individual companies have policies that protect LGBT employees, or at the very least they have HR departments that know sexual orientation is a bad reason to fire someone. A law wound be nice, though.

          3. F.*

            Legal, but stupid, in my opinion. A company should want the best employees for the position, regardless of what they do in their bedroom.

          4. Observer*

            It’s also legal to be dumb as a post. I still can’t imagine that any halfway competent HR person would consider that a complaint worthy of following up on.

            1. Kristine*

              Could it be that “I think my coworker is a lesbian” could be code for, “She also turned me down for a date/rebuffed my sexual advances”? My guy-dar is going off.

              1. Observer*

                Sure it could. That’s even more reason for HR to not follow up on that complaint. Even barely competent HR gets that penalizing someone for not responding to someone else’s advances is a REALLY bad idea.

                1. JessaB*

                  Actually it might be worth following up on quietly just to make sure the complainant is not sexually harassing the woman in question. If he’s going the “she rebuffed me, she must be gay” route of stupid thinking, he may not be treating her well. So I would not investigate the possibly lesbian woman, but the complainant.

                  On the other hand. it doesn’t matter if the complainant is a jerk, if the other complaints are valid they need to be addressed. If the company has a non discrimination policy on the other hand, WHILE addressing the other complaints, the person should be counselled on the fact that you can’t do that in civilised society any more and the company does not support that kind of thing.

          5. Turanga Leela*

            This could change! The EEOC (which is persuasive but not binding authority on the courts) is now treating sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination, which is illegal.

          6. Ask a Manager* Post author

            For what’s it’s worth, people who are transgender do have some protection: In 2012, the EEOC ruled that employers who discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of the person’s gender identity are violating the federal prohibition on sex discrimination, and can have EEOC charges brought against them.

        2. HeyNonnyNonny*

          Hah, what would that PIP look like? Employee must wink at one man per day to get back on the straight and narrow?

          1. Meri*

            “By the end of the month, we expect to see you holding hands with a member of the opposite sex regularly.”

            1. Katniss*

              But then they could simply be exchanging long protein strands!

              Sorry, couldn’t resist the Simpsons joke.

    2. Tagg*

      Employees like them are the reason that LGBT equality doesn’t stop at marriage equality, unfortunately :(

    3. INTP*

      Could you see the comment section if he were the letter writer?

      “Dear Alison,
      I suspect my coworker is a lesbian. Is that legal?”

      1. neverjaunty*

        “Yes. It is legal in all 50 states and under Federal labor laws to suspect that your coworker is a lesbian.”

    4. Sunshine Brite*

      I would’ve documented it just to show the full extent of his complaints. It could be that he’s looking for any reason to get rid of her because of this and she may be harassed without coming forward yet.

      1. INTP*

        This is a good point. It could also be helpful for her to have this complaint documented if in the future he starts making more serious, untrue allegations because he doesn’t want to work with a lesbian.

        1. Sarah*

          Or it is great for her in case his bigoted stance takes a more aggressive turn. They can have on file evidence that any aggression would be able to be considered a hate crime.

      2. Jerzy*

        That was my thinking as well. If you want a written account of the complaint, let the person making the complaint do it him or herself. If they are going to start throwing around accusations about suspected lesbianism, or if they are going to make any other kind of off-color remarks, let them do it. If/when their complaint gets tossed in the trash, maybe they’ll learn a lesson about sticking to relevant points in HR matters.

    5. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

      He wanted someone to sign something saying someone was a lesbian? This is literally something out of Mean Girls . . .

        1. INTP*

          I’m now wondering if the reason for this suspicion and the complaint in general is that she didn’t respond to his come-on. Maybe she should be asked if there are any complaints she would like to file.

        2. AnonInSC*

          Which in my cynical mind makes me wonder if he suspects it b/c she didn’t respond positively when he hit on her.

    6. OP #3*

      It’s company policy here that if an employee wants to have action taken against another employee, we have a signed copy of the complaints from them. I agree that it’s very bureaucratic and often ends up where no action is taken where it needs to be because people don’t want to go “officially” on record. It was intended to weed out the petty complaints (and it does in a lot of instances), but it can cause issues as well.

      And, yep, he had a whole list of complaints. A lot of the things he said were rumors and we wrote down a lot of them (because we wanted to make it clear that this guy wasn’t very reliable in his judgment) except for the part about the employee being a suspected lesbian. That’s none of his business and none of our business and isn’t a work related complaint.

      He complained about two legit things that I could see: the budgeting thing – the employee was purchasing $$$$ in supplies for a two person team and refusing to meet with team members, telling others it was so that she could just stop doing this aspect of her job entirely when they gave up and stopped trying to make an appointment.

      But he also complained about things that someone said she said 3 years ago at some event somewhere. Kicker? This manager is brand new. Like, hasn’t even been here a month new. So very little of his issues are first hand and most would be he said/she said issues that are so old that it is just ridiculous to bring it up at this point. He’s come back to us several times to “add complaints” that aren’t really complaints – they’re gossip. We’ve refused to write these down and have told him that this is not proper management, that these complaints are not legitimate, and that he had to back off or we’d consider it harassment of her.

      Now this guy has started going right over HR’s head to the CEO to put in his complaints (which are still petty). He definitely is targeting this woman (because of personal bias) and the CEO and his VP are aware and taking action (with our cooperation). So, hopefully this will be an example of career Darwinism.

      1. Another HRPro*

        I actually would document his “complaint” that someone is a lesbian and have him sign it. Because if someone is making this type of complaint you can bet he will continue to be trouble and things may escalate. It could be good documentation of his homophobic beliefs that could support future actions.

        1. OP #3*

          We let his VP and the CEO know about it, but want to keep it out of official paperwork to protect the employee.

          1. neverjaunty*

            I can see why you want to keep it out of the complaint, but you should still document it, perhaps in a confidential memo. If this employee gets fired and tries to sue (and this is exactly the kind of ass who sues when he doesn’t get his way), you don’t want him to make hay out of the fact that there is no documentation that he ever said such a thing.

      2. OP #3*

        ETA: Should have added – we refused to write it down as a complaint against the employee, but have documented all of this complaints and when he has come to see us in HIS file.

      3. Vicki*

        I’m beginning to wonder if it is related to harassment. If he’s been trying to get her to go out with him and she said no.

  2. Daisy*

    #2 I really wouldn’t worry about his clothes especially since the eating area is outside. And there is nothing unprofessional about having lunch with a guest occasionally. For all anyone knew it could have been your out of town brother visiting.

    1. Carpe Librarium*

      I would only worry about this if the patio is some kind of ‘staff only’ area.
      Did you need to sign him through security, or use a swipe/pass card/ID to get to the patio? Can you access the patio without walking past people doing their jobs (aside from say reception/concierge)?
      If this is just a patio around the side of the building or through a main door off the foyer or whatever, I would assume it’s no big deal to have a guest.

      1. Jesse*

        My old job had a cafeteria you had to swipe to get to (shared by several companies, but still in the office building), and people had guests there a fair amount, in “business attire” or not. Of course, at that job, there were a lot of staff not in “business attire” anyway…

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Ours is restricted access, but we do have a patio anyone can get to. People bring SOs and kids up to their area all the time, but they do have to be badged first. It’s mostly safety, so we know who is in the building in case of a sudden emergency evacuation.

          This was the case at Exjob also–visitors had to have badges to be in the shop areas, though they weren’t restricted. I was the receptionist who gave them out, and the easy access drove me crazy because people would let unauthorized visitors in there all the time.

    2. INTP*

      Yeah, I have worked at a few offices where it was common for a spouse or SO to show up occasionally and they were never in office attire themselves. If they are appropriate for being in public (with maybe a tighter definition of appropriate than you see some places – let’s say they are wearing real clothing, no pajamas or revealing workout gear) they are fine.

      1. Kelly L.*


        Just remembering my own funny story with this–my then-long-distance boyfriend joined me for lunch once at my old job while he was in town…I was working at a women’s college. Oh, the looks we got in the cafeteria. It’s not that there were never men there or that men weren’t allowed–men taught there and we had a handful of male students in a few programs–but men were substantially in the minority and people knew most of the regulars. So yes, we are a gossipy species, and a random New Dude will get the tongues a-wagging! :D

        1. Career Counselorette*

          I went to one of these schools too- we were coed but we had something like an 80/20 female to male ratio, so if you wanted to date one of the 10 straight boys on campus, you had to be okay with him having also dated five of your friends. Any time a new boy showed up everyone was like O HAI BOY.

          1. OfficePrincess*

            We played “boyfriend or brother?” It was almost always a boyfriend visiting, but sometimes it would be a single guy that we would all want to be introduced to.

          2. Cath in Canada*

            Heh, during undergrad a friend of mine was dating a guy who was studying marine engineering, and I went with her once so she could hand over her apartment key to him on his lunch break. We got lots of double-takes and stares from the all-male students as we walked down the corridor, and we heard someone say “there are GIRLS here!”, in a tone of great surprise. I went back home that night and told all my single female roommates which building to go to if they ever needed a date on short notice.

    3. LabTech*

      I’m thinking if the SO was in casual dress and LW relatively young compared to other employees, her coworkers might have assumed neither of them worked there – especially since LW mentions people in her office generally keep to themselves. There’s a decent chance they didn’t recognize her.

    4. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      A few places I have worked have an open seating area outside, and I have on occasion had guests join me.

      I think Allison is right, people were staring out of curiosity :)

    5. Ad Astra*

      I agree that it sounded like he was dressed just fine. If it were me, I might choose not to eat lunch at work with the boyfriend anymore because it seems OP’s coworkers are nosy and weird about it. But really, the OP didn’t do anything wrong or even particularly strange, so it comes down to whether she wants to deal with the stares or not.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I agree that it’s nosy, but not necessarily weird.

        I had a friend join me for lunch at a cafe near my office where everyone goes, and I thought everyone was staring/noticed because of what she was wearing. The one person who mentioned it to me asked if she was a new employee who hadn’t been introduced!

        I agree with Allison’s assessment, humans are curious creatures. But there likely wasn’t anything more than that behind the stares.

    6. Dorothy*

      I work in a very small (8 people on a day when the office is totally full, which is rare), professional office. My boyfriend is a truck driver with a city route. About once a week, his route takes him by my office around his lunchtime (which is sometimes, but not always, around my lunch time). He texts first to be sure I’m in the office, and if I am, he comes in, says hello to everyone, sits in my private office, and eats his lunch. Sometimes I’m too busy to visit with him (he knows this is a risk), and sometimes I can visit with him. It’s only a 30 minute lunch, and no one here cares in the least. They’ve gotten used to seeing him in his uniform and it’s no big deal – but this is a laid-back place. They don’t really care where I am or what I’m doing as long as my work is done.

    7. Charlotte Collins*

      Perhaps people were staring because he’s what “they saw on the patio that inspired them.”

  3. MLT*

    #1 Why don’t you start a new tradition? You could send an email to your team reminding them when boss’s day is and suggesting that if they have a few minutes, they might want to either pop in and wish the bosses a happy day or send a nice email letting them know their work is appreciated. I would much rather hear about something I did that was helpful than to receive a gift.

    1. Doy*

      Yes to this- wouldn’t any decent boss love a note from each employee saying one thing they really appreciate about their boss? Far more valuable than a thing.

    2. UKAnon*

      I was about to say exactly the same thing! I was going to suggest everyone put in loose change for one of those huge cards, just so you had everybody’s “nice thing – thank you” message in one place but I think the sentiment of getting everyone to say thank you for A Thing would be much more appreciated than a novelty mug or whatever.

    3. W.*

      Agreed- I think in this case OP does have to do something, even if it is a token -like getting a card and bringing in treats that everyone can share, just because OP is new in that role and they usually acknowledge that day. It seems rude to entirely ignore it, even if it doesn’t seem fair – you could say it’s the company’s culture. Maybe next year OP can completely obliterate it once they’re secure in their role.
      Maybe OP should ask around and see what was the usual gift, it might not be soo crazy, but yeah I think food everyone can have, a card, balloons?, maybe a special breakfast for the team – Danishes and some special coffee/orange juice and a card? Basically token celebration items and food for the whole team – so you’re paying lip service and everyone is benefitting. But OP might find that’s what they did before – or what other team members would prefer.

      1. Cassie-O*

        +1. You could simply do a card, and maybe bringing in the boss’ favorite snack or dessert. Or bagels & coffee for the whole team. I feel like the company/organization should spring for any boss’ day treats, rather than having the subordinates pay.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        I’m a fan of the employer-provided card + treats for everyone. Lately my current employer has been using this strategy for any of those workplace appreciation “holidays.”

    4. Sadsack*

      This is not a bad idea. I would worry that just ignoring it all together would cause the coworker to go into some kind of uproar when bosses day comes and nothing has been done.

      1. #1 OP*

        I held off on answering this comment because I really didn’t think it would…Just had a talk with the previous Admin, who has made a Very Big Deal out of the fact that our bosses deserve recognition. This is going to be interesting…

    5. MsChanandlerBong*

      Great idea! There are times I feel like a terrible person because someone will give me a gift, and while I am smiling and thanking them sincerely for the gesture, my brain is thinking, “Where am I going to put this? I don’t want any more stuff!” I would so much rather receive some recognition for my work than a tchotchke for my desk.

      1. #1 OP*

        We typically do gift cards as opposed to actual gifts, so at least there’s that option for them to get something they want? I still don’t like it but it’s better than a random gift they can’t use.

        On the opposite end of this, they got me a plant for Admin Day and I still have no idea what to do with it… Sweet gesture but I would have preferred a raise.

        1. Another HRPro*

          As a manager, it makes me very uncomfortable to receive gifts from my team. I’ve told them not to do so, but they continue to do this. The best “gift” I ever received from my team was framed piece of paper with messages of thanks from all of them. This hangs on my wall to this day.

    6. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      That’s a thoughtful solution given what’s happened heretofore but can I please say UGH, generally.

      I don’t need or want anything for such an annoyingly artificial holiday. Of all of the artificial holidays, I think this one is the worst. It’s completely ignored in our place, thankfully.

      Is it really a thing that people do? It’s so obviously made up to sell Hallmark cards. Do places of business celebrate Boss’s Day?

      1. MLT*

        It is a contrived holiday, however, like Mother’s Day, Admin Day, and others, such holidays are about reminding people once a year to be grateful of the contributions of others. Often no one tells a boss they are doing a good job. They hear about everything that’s going wrong, but rarely does anyone say to them that they make this a nice place to work (or whatever).

        1. #1 OP*

          See, and that’s the thing. I really do appreciate the work my bosses do and I want to be in the habit of vocalizing that often because they’re great about telling me what I’m doing right. I don’t want everyone to just think they need to do this obligatory thing once a year and sign a card and be done with it.

          Also, as a side note, I hate the idea of Admin Day. I plan on destroying that tradition when it comes up next year, too.

          1. Becky B*

            That’s where this idea upthread, “You could send an email to your team reminding them when boss’s day is and suggesting that if they have a few minutes, they might want to either pop in and wish the bosses a happy day or send a nice email letting them know their work is appreciated,” may just work well, because it takes more thoughtful effort than just signing a card going around.

            Plus offering this as “the” thing you’re doing for Boss’s Day will / should redirect people from the old way.

            1. #1 OP*

              Absolutely. That’s an excellent idea and I think it would mean a lot more than a gift card could, anyway. Definitely looking forward to making some changes here.

      2. CAA*

        Last year I got a card signed by the people who report to me (the local ones anyway). I was surprised and thought that was very nice, but I definitely do not expect even that much, and yes, even that is a little uncomfortable.

      3. Anonicorn*

        Is it really a thing that people do?

        Sigh… yeah, at least at my workplace. This is very much a kiss-up environment and each year someone asks us to donate money so the 3 bosses in our department can get gift cards.

        1. #1 OP*

          That’s exactly how it’s been run in the past in my office and I just hated getting that “so bring me money whenever you can!” email. I hate the idea of being the one to send that out because I know that even if it’s not much money, being asked to contribute even five dollars is a real strain on some of our workers, and I do not want them to feel guilty or obligated.

          1. Artemesia*

            Giving gift cards to bosses is just obscene — the lowly paid need to pay to continue to work there? Having a cake, signing a card, some creative thing with post it notes where people express appreciation — fine — but giving the boss money? ICK. A boss who accepts this is a sleaze. There is no reason a boss cannot discourage this kind of inappropriate gift giving. It is almost one suck up admin in my experience who organizing and pushes this sort of thing. If you are the new admin — well time for a creative approach. You probably don’t want to end the celebration entirely but move to expressions of appreciation that don’t involve money.

            1. Zillah*

              I agree that bosses should discourage inappropriate gift giving, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say the boss who accepts inappropriate gifts is “a sleaze.” Sometimes, an employee is being so pushy/seems so invested in it that a boss might feel like it’s not worth it to make a huge thing about a $10 gift card, and IIRC, we’ve even had letters into AAM before from people who were like, “My employees gave me a gift for X this year. It’s a tradition at this organization, but it does make me kind of uncomfortable. What should I do?”

              It’s clearly a bad practice, but I don’t think that the simple fact of a boss accepting a gift from an employee makes them a sleaze.

              1. #1 OP*

                And I’m sure the whole idea of giving gift cards has roots in something that’s well meaning, so I feel like it would be hard to reject one after it’s already been paid for and is being presented to you, especially if it’s on a day where something is expected. I think it was one of those things our former admin just said “hey this would be nice to do for our bosses” but it’s been handled incorrectly in the past, by way of letting us know after the fact that the gift card had been purchased so paying the admin back was harder to argue. That’s definitely not the legacy I want to leave.

              2. The Strand*

                I agree. The year that someone in my old department pushed for a collection for a gift card, the boss in turn gave everyone gift cards from the same company at the holidays, spending much more money, ultimately. There was never a collection again, I think because the original collection engendered some bad blood.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Right? This is my exact thought whenever I hear anyone mention Boss’ Day. I look more favorably on Admin Day because I feel like administrative professionals’ contributions are often overlooked in the workplace, so it might at least get people who otherwise might be oblivious to recognize all the work their admin team does, but I really don’t get why Boss’ Day is a thing.

          Fortunately, none of the places I’ve worked thus far in my career observe this holiday.

      4. Menacia*

        I agree, UGH is the perfect word for this…! What is really annoying is that there are three middle managers were I work, and two of them are well-liked by their staff, but their bosses really goes above and beyond. My boss (the third one), is, to me, just my boss, I’ve worked very hard to make her life easier, but have yet to see my boss do anything out of the ordinary for me. A former staff member who was friends with her would do something (and ask us to contribute), but thankfully that staff member is gone now. It’s just an annoyance more than anything else.

    7. majigail*

      I truly feel like Bosses Day is a holiday best celebrated with a personal note or thanks (or not) and donuts. Because everyday should be celebrated with donuts.

    8. JGray*

      My thought was to buy a card- there are plenty of places where you can get one for $1. Let people sign it. Or if a card really won’t work the email is a good idea. But I think that the admin should sent an email to the bosses with the rest of the team cc’d. I think that leaving it up to the individual employees is hard because some people will be on it immediately others will make it a low priority (which this kind of it) and forget. At my old job we used to do this with birthdays. It was nice because you could just reply all and send your wishes. Might not work in all offices but is probably good for a situation like this.

    9. #1 OP*

      I love this idea, and I really think that’s the mentality my bosses both operate with here. I just get stuck feeling guilty for not really doing any work on my part to let them know they’re being acknowledged. They are both by far the best bosses I’ve had and I do want them to know they’re appreciated…hopefully I can find a good way to implement this, because it’s a great idea. Thank you!

        1. #1 OP*

          You’re absolutely right. I tend to be more a gift-giver anyway, so it’s hard for me to remember that giving my time instead of something tangible or financial is still giving something. Thanks for the reminder. :)

    10. Ad Astra*

      I like this idea. After all, the real goal is just to make the boss feel appreciated.

      A potential add-on: If this is the sort of office where people bring in food to share, maybe ask some of the regular contributors to bring in a pan of brownies or whatever it is. Not every office or every coworker would appreciate the request, but those who enjoy baking for the office wouldn’t be put off by baking for Boss’s Day, I don’t think.

    11. WorkingMom*

      I’m a fan of a card – everyone can sign it – and if you buy it at the dollar store it’s literally a buck. No big ask to pitch in, but it’s a symbolic gesture of appreciate. Not necessary at all – but in an environment where management might be “used to” some type of recognition, this is a great way to still acknowledge your boss but not make too big a deal out of it.

      I’m a manager – and I would appreciate something small like that – but would NOT want my team to be spending money on me! (In fact, I’m a new manager for them, and I know they used to pitch in get their old manager a nice gift. I’ve already told them they do not need to do that, and in fact they should not, and quoted the “gifts flow down not up” stance. For my birthday they gave me a very generous gift card which I was so blown away by and really appreciated it, but I also felt kind of terrible that everyone had to pitch in their hard-earned money for that gift card.

  4. Blurgle*

    #3: someone who thinks “she’s gay” is a legitimate complaint will mess with the books himself to make her look bad.

    1. W.*

      Yeah I wonder if that should have been written up in the notes and signed because it could prove harassment later on.

    2. Beezus*

      Oh, I don’t think that’s necessarily a foregone conclusion. Bigotry and dishonesty don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I’d assume that any complaints he made about her were heavily biased, but I think assuming he’s setting her up completely is a pretty far leap unless there are other red flags.

      1. LBK*

        Agreed, if for no other reason than the moral tenets that condemn homosexuality are generally all still opposed to lying, so someone following them isn’t likely to break one rule in favor of another.

        1. Zillah*

          someone following them isn’t likely to break one rule in favor of another.

          I wouldn’t jump to this conclusion at all – people who are aggressively religious are just as (if not more) capable of hypocrisy as everyone else. For everyone who’s genuinely living according to those very rigid laws, there’s one person who’s flouting some of them for self-righteous reasons and another who’s flouting them because they’re inconvenient.

        2. OhNo*

          While it’s true that many religions have edicts against lying, it’s also true that many die hard proponents of those religions can usually justify breaking one or two “minor” rules if it means they can bring down some judgement on someone who’s breaking a “major” rule. My experience has been that the more strongly people believe, the easier it is for them to justify actions that others might find inappropriate in the name of their religion, but that’s just my experience.

          I don’t believe he’s likely to be cooking the books just to get her fired, but I don’t really think we have enough evidence to make a judgement either way here.

    3. Observer*

      That’s totally not borne out by any existing evidence. I would, however, want it in the record, because if this is the only person who is complaining, and that person does not have really compelling evidence, there is a good case to make that the real issue here is his prejudice rather than her behavior.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I am genuinely curious about this employee’s reasoning about the lesbian comment, even though it’s not really relevant to the OP’s question. Why would he think being a lesbian is the kind of thing you report to HR? Is the company loosely affiliated with a religious organization and he incorrectly assumes the company expects employees to live by those religious values? Is this a job where she works with children? (Of course there’s no reason lesbians can’t or shouldn’t work with children, but a homophobe could at least feign concern about ‘confusion’ or ‘setting an example.’)

      It can’t be that he genuinely thinks being a lesbian is, in and of itself, a detriment to her work at what sounds like an ordinary position at an ordinary company? People like this don’t really exist, do they?

      1. OP #3*

        It’s a religious company, so maybe he thought it was against some kind of morality clause?

        But, actually, the opposite is true. It’s in our non-discrimination statement.

        1. Observer*

          You have a non-discrimination statement that specifically includes this, and he STILL thinks he can get somewhere by reporting it? Wither he’s DUMBER than a post, or your HR department has some introspection to do, because why would he think that?

          1. OP #3*

            I really think you just can’t plan for every dummy. It’s at the very top of our applications. It’s at the very top of our staff handbooks. It’s pretty much stuck everywhere we can stick it. We, the HR office, even have a little booklet of our company’s values that we go through when onboarding that mentions it.

            I think some people may think “Well, that’s what they say on PAPER” or just not ever pay attention. And this guy is one of those people who talks over you or ignores you if you’re not saying what he thinks you should be saying. So, I think it’s the latter.

    5. OP #3*

      He’s only been here a short time and our numbers are submitted monthly, so I don’t think he’d have the opportunity to mess with the books. She did buy a substantial amount for a small group, but I believe it was for an expensive project, so it could very well be a legitimate purchase. It shouldn’t be hard to show

      1. Blurgle*

        It could also be that the excessive buying wasn’t her own idea. She may have taken advice from older and more experienced team members.

        I really would not trust this guy with anything he says about anyone from now on.

  5. TheLazyB (UK)*

    #2: everywhere I’ve ever worked that would be weird. I’m in the UK though FWIW.

    #3: I’d be so tempted to respond “She’s a lesbian? That’s great! It’ll really improve our diversity stats!” (Not a serious suggestion!)

    1. UKAnon*

      Wow, really? I meet my partner for lunch or after work frequently, and I’m always welcome to wait in his reception if the weather’s horrid. He’s also been to my workplace before – on one occasion he waited in my office because I was working late and nobody else was around. I’ve never known anything odd about SOs being seen near the workplace now and then.

      1. TheLazyB (UK)*

        Receptions fine. Any place where food is consumed= staff only. I let my mum sit in my office once when she arrived early but the kitchen would not have been ok. Are you north or South, wonder if that’s a factor? I’m in the north….

        1. LBK*

          I think it’s slightly different because the OP’s eating area is outside of the build. It would be a bit weirder to sign someone in to bring them to the employee cafeteria, but this doesn’t sound like an employee-only area.

          1. UKAnon*

            I see where LazyB’s going now, but I agree with this – it doesn’t sound like an employee only area in the same way as the office kitchen might be. More like it’s for entertaining lunch meetings and so on, in which case I think the odd lunch would be ok.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Everywhere there’s been an employee cafeteria, outsiders have been welcome.

            If people eat in the staff breakroom, that’s different.

        2. Chalupa Batman*

          I worked in a college with a student area where eating with Mr. CB would have been ok. I never ate there because my role led to any foray into student areas running the risk of becoming a working lunch, but it wouldn’t have been frowned on. He would sometimes drop by briefly to say hi or ask a quick question (he became a student after I started working there, and these drop ins were within the norm for the culture), but we usually left campus to eat together. I’m in the Midwest US, and it would have been considered unusual for my coworkers not to have at least met my spouse everywhere I’ve worked, except a medical facility where HIPPA was a factor.

    2. TheLazyB (UK)*

      Completely missed that they were outside; I read it that the outside area was too busy so they were inside somewhere. Ignore me. #readingcomprehensionfail

  6. Apollo Warbucks*

    #4 I’m not sure about Alison’s advice here, you’ve been rejected by people who I assume know the job they are trying to fill and the skills they are looking for, I can’t imagine why a referral from a new hire will change their mind and if anything it risks your friend look like they don’t trust the judgement of the managers that turned you down.

    1. UKAnon*

      I think it depends. If it was an automatic rejection (your CV doesn’t contain a key word or something) then I think it could be valuable for it to be passed straight to a person to have a look. If it looks like somebody has looked it over I would be more cautious.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Agree with this.

        If I were the OP’s friend, I’d make my own assessment about whether her skills might make her a reasonable candidate. Sure, I’d factor in that there was already some skepticism about that, but I’d act on my own decision.

        The rejection sounds fast enough that I’m not 100% sure I’d trust it to be all that carefully made.

      2. Fuzzyfuzz*

        Agree here too. There are 5 people currently on my team at work. Three of us were rejected by the online system and then pulled out later and hired: 1) I was thrown out because I was too conservative with my experience level, but was recommended by the person I was replacing; 2) coworker #1 then applied for a lower level position and was then put in the running for the original higher position by the hiring manager after her interview; 3) coworker #2 ended up applying and getting an internship (she had enough experience to be an assistant) and was hired full time 4 months later. It says something about your recruitment processes when your online system routinely screens out successful, high performing candidates–and none of it is good.

    2. Colette*

      I’ve heard hiring managers complain that the resumes they get from a recruiter don’t match what they’re looking for. It’s possible they were the best of the lot, but it’s also possible the recruiter rejected good candidates due to poorly understanding the job/resume.

    3. BRR*

      Well Alison’s advice is leave it up to the friend, who might know more about the process. There’s also the possibility that the LW is qualified but there are just too many qualified candidates to interview.

    4. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

      Where I work, we’d probably give a rejected candidate a second look. If someone had already been screened and rejected we might have to tell the referring employee we’ve already rejected them, but if we only rejected them based on a resume we may be inclined to give someone a call if they then came through as a referral.

    5. Recruit-O-Rama*

      This is a scenario I deal with daily. When a current employee tells me a friend/relative has applied, I will look at their resume a second time, even if I have already rejected them. 9 times out of 10 I do not change my mind. Personal referrals are tricky business and I love and hate them at the same time.

    6. Another HRPro*

      Generally it won’t hurt for the friend to put in a good word. Maybe it will get the OP’s resume a second look, maybe it won’t. Even if the managers are comfortable with their initial screening, as long as the friend doesn’t imply that they are fools for not considering OP, there really is no harm.

  7. Carrie in Scotland*

    #2 A friend and I had lunch in my old workplace on a friday. The floor is open to students and I could keep an eye on my office (I was the only one of 3 in that day). Don’t worry about it and enjoy the odd lunch with your SO!

  8. Christy*

    We all laugh about writing up that she’s a lesbian, but there are no state-wide anti-discrimination for LGB workers in a majority of states. (Most of the Deep South, the entire stretch from North Dakota to Texas, and a few others.) Some states only protect state employees. Oh, and it’s even worse for trans* workers. So she really could be fired for being a lesbian, depending on the employer and location.

    1. Tagg*

      I was coming down here to basically say just this. Things are getting better, but we’re a long way from equality by any stretch of the imagination.

    2. AnotherFed*

      But she could also be fired for being blond, or being tall, or having a regional accent, or not liking the boss’ favorite football team, or for not being a lesbian, or for refusing to do tech support on the boss’ mom’s computer – far, far more isn’t covered by laws and has to be left to common sense and market forces. This OP isn’t even considering firing the employee for being a lesbian, she’s trying to figure out how to properly investigate and document a legitimate complaint that has odd and unrelated stuff mixed in with it.

      1. PontoonPirate*

        But the point is, if I go to an employer and say, “I’m uncomfortable working with Cersei because she’s blonde,” there aren’t any employers who will sit back and say, “Wow, thanks for telling me that. We’re a traditional company and, you know, we’d need to consider whether having a blonde person working here is in line with our values.”

        Now insert “lesbian” for “blonde” and you’ll see why I think you’re making a false equivalency. The fact that the employee brought it up is really problematic.

        1. AnotherFed*

          But it isn’t what the OP is asking about. The OP understood that and has a different question. It’s great that people are so passionate about this issue, but by derailing the discussion, we fail to address the question the OP wrote in about in the first place.

          1. PontoonPirate*

            I would argue that the OPs question surfaced a related issue, and that’s what people are chiming in on, and for what it’s worth, I think some of these comments might be very useful to both the OP and to other readers who may appreciate that there’s larger context involved.

          2. The IT Manager*

            I agree that this is derailing the discussion of the actual answer to the question. The LW was very clear that she “she’s a lesbian” in not a complaint that HR is taking seriously.

            Yes, the guy making the complaint sounds like a bigoted asshat, but LW who sounds like a rational, non-bigoted person has noted that there is some funny budgeting worthy of an investigation.

            I’d say that this doesn’t need to be written up formally. Whether you have a formal signed complaint from the bigoted asshat if the investigation reveals some funny business with the money you act based on that and not the complaint.

    3. Chalupa Batman*

      Good point. There are some good arguments upthread about documenting why this person may be biased against the coworker, but I can also see a changing of the guard in HR resulting in this “suspected lesbian” being terminated completely legally based on this complaint. HR declining to document the suspicion makes sense if it’s irrelevant to the person’s work and they live in a state (or workplace culture) where it could be used against her later.

    4. JGray*

      Some local jurisdictions have taken matters into their own hands and passed anti discrimination ordinances so even if the state won’t pass anything it could be that locally firing someone for being LGBT is illegal. That being said I think it was absolutely appropriate that the LW told the complainant that stating you think someone is a lesbian is not a legitimate complaint. I also think that it was appropriate that the HR person wrote up the notes on the persons complaint because I think that if you allow an employee to write up their own complaint than it will include everything even those things that are not valid. If the company doesn’t investigate that someone might be a lesbian than the complainant could say that they didn’t investigate the other things he complained about. Also to your point I don’t think it is appropriate to have anywhere that someone is a lesbian (or might be a lesbian) or any other LGBT category because they could be fired or face other discrimination. It’s really not anyone’s business but your own

    5. OP #3*

      I’m very lucky to work for a company that has a non-discrimination policy that includes LGBT people and puts that right in their onboarding paperwork. It’s one of the things that attracted me to this job <3

      1. OP #3*

        ETA: I’m in a Bible Belt area, so employment protection for LGBT people is definitely not a law here (which is a big reason I didn’t want to write it down)

  9. Rae*

    I previously worked a divided shift where I worked until noon then returned to the office to cover late hours. My then boyfriend (now husband)’s office was on the way home, so when our schedules aligned we ate lunch together. Sometimes this was once a week, but more often it was around once a month. His co-workers actually loved seeing another person…then again they had an office with around 10 people.

    I do want to note as others have that I always signed a visitor log. Even if I didn’t go in anywhere but their lunchroom that was important no matter how much they loved it.

  10. A Minion*

    So, it’s weird to have friends or family come to your office and eat lunch with you at your desk? Really? Cause that’s kind of the norm around here. I’ve never worked in a place that friends and family of colleagues didn’t occasionally drop in and have lunch in the colleague’s office or in a common area. No joke, I’ve seen it in every place I’ve ever been and I’ve had friends or family come in and have lunch with me occasionally as well. Certainly not on a regular basis, just once in a while. Maybe twice a year, something like that. Had no idea this wasn’t appropriate.

    1. INTP*

      I think it varies by employer and industry. I’ve never worked somewhere that they actually came in and ate at people’s desks, though I have worked places where they’d occasionally pop in before going to a lunch out or while running errands in the area. If you work with, say, confidential information or sensitive equipment, I could say it being a huge faux pas to just invite a non-employee in at all, while in a more casual environment without many lunch places in the area, it might be common for them to drop in for lunch. I’ve also worked at places where the vast majority of employees had cubicles rather than private offices, which might be part of the reason that SOs didn’t stay for lunch. It would be less weird if the SO could wave hello to everyone but then eat lunch privately.

    2. Jen RO*

      It would be very weird in my office (not in the US) if a non-employee had lunch at an employee’s desk or in the kitchen. It would not be weird if a non-employee had lunch with employees in a public place… unless it happened too frequently, in which case it would get a bit odd.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I’m in the US and it would be weird at my current job and the majority of my previous jobs if my SO/parent/friend came and ate at my desk or in the staff kitchen.

      2. L Veen*

        Really? So if one of your colleagues regularly had lunch at a cafe with their friend who works nearby, you would consider that weird?

    3. Not Karen*

      Depends on the office. I work with confidential medical information so it’s not appropriate to have guests in the workspace.

    4. Ad Astra*

      The weirdness really depends on the office. Our lunch area is open to the whole office and even technically to the public (they’re not invited to eat up there or buy a Coke from our company kitchen, but there’s no security or ‘Employees only’ sign or anything). I’ve seen someone eating with what looked to be his wife and kids once. It was unusual, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone. So at my office, I’m rating it a 2/10 on the weirdness scale.

      At past offices, it might have been more like a 4/10 or a 5/10 on the weirdness scale, mostly because people tended to either eat at their desks or go home for lunch. Not unacceptable, but not really something we’d do.

      Anything above a 6/10 on the weirdness scale probably indicates the company has some kind of policy about visitors that the employee is violating, either in a “letter of the law” way, or a “spirit of the law” way. In that case, the staring could be kind of a “Does she not realize that’s not allowed?”

    5. Another HRPro*

      It would be very odd for my company. And frankly a pain. Due to security, you would have to call their visit into security for parking, meet them at the front desk, wait for a guest id badge and then escort them while on premise. Frankly not worth it and when someone does have a guest everyone notices.

    6. Artemesia*

      If the employee has an office, who cares, but I would think it would be wildly inappropriate to have someone hunkered down with a sandwich next to the employees desk in a cube farm.

    7. Margaret*

      In my office, it’s not weird for family members to walk through the office – either dropping something off, or meeting up to go out to lunch, or something like that, and especially with younger staff they often like to show off their office/cube to their guests. I think I have seen people eat with guests in the kitchen, though that’s kind of rare. Eating at someone’s desk with them would be weird, I think. We do have confidential information around, but I’m not sure that’s really why (it wouldn’t phase me to see, say, a spouse hanging out for 15 minutes waiting for them to finish something, if they were picking them up to go somewhere after work), but that somehow seems weird.

      The weirdest part of me about op#2 is that the coworkers didn’t approach them to say hi and find out who she was with! Maybe my office is just overly nosy in a family kind of way, but if you had someone in the office (that was clearly not a client), or was out a nearby restaurant with someone, or whatever, I’m pretty sure that anyone higher ranking than you for sure, and probably anyone, would be immediately coming over to introduce themselves and get to know your SO.

  11. INTP*

    #1: If the bosses are approachable in general, you may be able to feel them out by asking what kind of celebration/recognition they would enjoy for bosses’ day. Then you might get a sense for whether they feel uncomfortable with the whole shebang too or see it as an important thing. (I think the whole thing is ridiculous and inappropriate too, but you don’t want to be the person who comes in and takes away their Boss’ Day gift if it’s really important to them, though that’s a hill that bugs me so much I’d be tempted to die on it myself.)

    If they are very formal in communications though, they might be put off by the vulgarity of – gasp – discussing gifts out loud.

    1. Sharon*

      I actually like this response better than Alison’s. I think Alison’s response was (surprisingly because she’s usually spot on this stuff) politically tone deaf. Meaning that there are bosses who maybe don’t say anything about wanting the gifts, but if they didn’t show up on the expected day would be very hurt. And because the OP is the new admin, and the old admin knows she notified the OP about it, OP would be in the political hot seat as a result. The OP definitely needs to feel out the bosses expectations on this before she can try to phase this practice out.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, I agree I was kind of surprised by this answer – I’d be really hesitant to advise ignoring it completely because that leaves so much room for interpretation from those bosses who are going to care about not getting a gift. I doubt most are going to assume it’s because the OP philosophically disagrees with Boss’s Day and move on; most are probably going to assume either she doesn’t like them and did it on purpose or she’s careless and forgot about it, neither of which is a great impression for a new employee.

        At minimum I would definitely ask the former admin, but I might also go to the most reasonable of the two managers and say something like “I’ve had some managers in the past that didn’t feel comfortable receiving gifts from employees but didn’t want to look rude by rejecting them; I know traditionally the team has gotten you and Jane gifts for Boss’s Day and I wanted to check if that’s something you’re fine with going forward before I start organizing something this year.”

        1. JMegan*

          I’ve had some managers in the past that didn’t feel comfortable receiving gifts from employees but didn’t want to look rude by rejecting them; I know traditionally the team has gotten you and Jane gifts for Boss’s Day and I wanted to check if that’s something you’re fine with going forward before I start organizing something this year.

          This is an excellent script. It’s a great way for OP to say she’s happy to organize something if need be, but also give the bosses a gracious “out” by blaming those mysterious other bosses who didn’t like it.

          1. Zillah*

            But it also obligates the OP to organize something she really isn’t comfortable with for a variety of very legitimate reasons if the boss says, “Yes, I’m totally good with that!” – and not just for this year, but indefinitely. I like the idea of either giving them heartfelt messages through a card/email would be a graceful way to acknowledge the holiday while steering away from the giving-the-boss-gifts mentality.

            1. LBK*

              But if the boss is someone who likes getting a gift, the OP doesn’t really get to make that decision, especially since she’s new and doesn’t necessarily have the capital to push back. I don’t think there’s any way for the OP to stop doing it if the manager expects it to be done without it looking terrible for her.

              1. #1 OP*

                My wording in the letter was slightly misleading, I think. I’m new to the role but not the department. They’ve been my bosses for a little over two years, but I work in a much closer capacity with them now.

                At any rate, I have a good relationship with both of them and I think they would be more than happy with a heartfelt card. We do also have a lot of people in the office who enjoy to bake, so I may just offer the suggestion up as a possibility and let people come to me if they’d like to bring food in.

                1. LBK*

                  Ah, okay – I think you’re fine to proceed as Alison suggested then. I was envisioning you having less of an existing grasp on whether your managers would care about getting the traditional gifts or not, but it sounds like you know them well enough to know it’s not an issue. Thanks for clarifying!

            2. INTP*

              My concern was that the previous admin’s reminder could indicate that it’s a big deal in the office culture, and the new admin wouldn’t want to offend all the bosses by doing away with the concept entirely or replacing their customary gift with heartfelt emails. (I think most reasonable bosses would be happier with the emails, but there are plenty of unreasonable ones out there.)

              Based on OP’s response below, though, it seems like she isn’t brand new to the situation so this isn’t a big risk.

  12. Kara*

    #5 – if you are going to be freelancing, I strongly suggest you contact an accountant to make sure you understand how taxes work and what you are going to owe on your freelance income. Your question tells me that you’re very unclear on how taxes are actually filed.

    1. JGray*

      An accountant could also help with things such as a business license or getting registered with the SOS office in the state. You should also have business insurance. Freelancing is very different than being an employee and if you don’t do it right than any extra income you might make could have to be paid in penalties and interest to the local, state or federal government for not doing it correct.

      1. Zillah*

        You should also have business insurance.

        This probably depends on the specific circumstances and what you’re doing, no?

    2. LawLady*

      Totally agree. When I was doing taxes for people, I would occasionally get someone really surprised, because they hadn’t had income withheld from some freelancing gig, and the amount withheld from their normal job was decided with the assumption that there wasn’t a freelancing job. At the end of the year, they’d be expecting a refund and end up with a big bill.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        *raises hand* This happened to me. I didn’t realize the taxes were so much higher, too, and I ended up with a huge bill I had to pay off. I haven’t looked into freelance work again and I won’t unless I have someone to help me.

    3. crunchy apple*

      I would also check with your employee handbook also. I work for a state university and I have to fill out a form every year for my two part time jobs and the university has to give me permission to work them every year, even though I am just working for different university departments for each job.

      1. Bostonian*

        This is a good point. When I worked at a financial services firm we had to disclose all outside jobs. I can’t remember the exact reasoning, but it wasn’t just the firm being nosy. Something about preventing money laundering or insider trading or something like that.

    4. Mary (in PA)*

      Yes, this. You also need to make sure you’re not violating any NDAs or non-compete contracts you might have with your company.

      For example: in a past life, I worked as a technical editor for a large federally-funded research and development facility that focused on software engineering research. They were happy to let employees do almost anything as a side job, as long as it didn’t conflict with their actual jobs. What this meant in practice is that I was free to edit papers on metallurgy, biology, psychology, and other subjects, but I was not free to edit papers that had to do with software engineering, and could have been fired for doing so.

    5. Dynamic Beige*

      Absolutely. If you don’t have some sort of small business development centre where you can go to ask questions about what sort of taxes you need to collect, check webpages for your politically defined area and see. They should have some sort of “So you want to start a small business? Start here.” kind of FAQ/thing that you can go through. But having a good accountant is an absolute must if you’re going to be self-employed.

      As an example, when I went freelance, there was a tax that you were supposed to collect on sales to your clients — provided you made over a certain amount of sales. So, running a knitting business part time out of your home, you might not make $30K in sales in a year and wouldn’t have to charge/collect/remit this tax.

      However, if you’re thinking of picking up shifts in retail or something, they should be withholding taxes and issuing you all the correct paperwork for you to file.

  13. edj3*

    So on a tangent from #1, what’s the best way to let my team know I don’t want them to celebrate Boss’s Day without sounding like I think or expect that they will? Because this is my first year with this team, I haven’t had to address this or any other event (made up or otherwise) with them.

    1. UKAnon*

      Is there somebody you could discreetly sound out, or other managers you could approach to find out what the office culture is around it? That way you can approach saying no with confidence if it turns out it is A Thing. Personally, if it turns out they do like to do something, I’d ask them to put all contributions towards food goodies and make five-ten mins in their schedule over the morning to try and get everyone together and just have a team moment. That way it’s for everyone and you needn’t feel awkward about anything.

    2. Michele*

      Unless there is a culture in your workplace of celebrating boss’s day, I would just ignore it and assume that they will, too. By saying, “no, don’t do anything,” that is drawing attention to it and runs the risk of sounding insincere.

    3. edj3*

      So the reason I think there’s a chance that this culture DOES celebrate Boss’s Day is because we celebrate everything. I’ve had to overcome my own reticence and realize that even though I personally would rather not, for example, celebrate my birthday, that’s just not how Things Are Done around here.

      1. Bostonian*

        Most offices like this have one person who’s the instigator/organizer – the one who buys the cards and arranges the cakes and collects money when there’s something that needs a collection. I’d approach that person with a “just making sure this isn’t something you plan to do” kind of message.

    4. NK*

      Of the 5 large companies I’ve worked for, Boss’s Day was not a thing. I don’t even know when it is. I would just ignore it entirely because I think the people who celebrate it are actually in the minority (unless you know your company does this). And if they do get you something, I would do something nice for them in return. And then next year, let them know in advance that there’s no need to do anything.

      1. NK*

        Oh, I missed your comment before about celebrations being part of the culture. Can you ask another boss in the company if it’s usually celebrated? And then if it is, you can say, “I understand people sometimes celebrate Boss’s Day around here, but really, your great work is enough!”

    5. SherryD*

      Maybe send an email like this: “Looks like Bosses’ Day is coming up! To thank you for making my job so easy, I’m treating you. (Please don’t get me anything.) What does everyone prefer — donuts, Danishes, or something else?”

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I think this is the best tactic. It’s what I’d do if I were a boss. But I’d go with pizza or some other lunch food. :)

  14. the gold digger*

    I seriously do not get this culture of “filing a complaint.” Sure, I have griped to my HR friends, but only as friends, not because I expect them to take official action. I have only once worked in a place (SergioLandia, Land of The Radio That Launched a Thousand Ships) where people routinely complained to HR about their coworkers rather than just dealing with the issues themselves. It is the worst place I have ever worked and I started looking for a new job a week after I started there. Honestly. It’s like some people are stuck in 7th grade or 2nd grade and have to run to tattle to the teacher every time something happens they don’t like.

    1. LBK*

      Agreed – filing a complaint should be reserved for things where HR needs to be involved due to potential legal implications (harassment, hostile work environment, discrimination, etc.). I find it particularly odd when people say that HR is useless because they don’t do anything after complaints are filed. What do you expect them to do? Fire someone? That’s your manager’s job.

    2. Windchime*

      It sounds like in many places, the first place to go with any kind of complaint is HR. Where I work, going to HR is definitely an escalation move–we are expected to always go to our boss/supervisor first with any kind of “reportable” complaint (harassment is really the only thing I can think of). If the complaint were about my boss, then I would be expected to go to *his* boss. Only if the issue was somehow not addressed would I go to HR.

      I know that’s not the culture in many places, but that’s how it works here. Oh, and if I went to HR to complain that I suspected someone was a lesbian? I’d be laughed out of the place, after a serious Talking To about diversity.

      1. Nom d' Pixel*

        Where I work, the first place to go is to your boss, although if you are in a more supervisory position and the person causing a problem doesn’t report to you, then you go to their boss. That is for simple things like someone isn’t doing their job or just gives you a bad attitude when you request things. I can tell you that when I was harassed (a group of men from another department physically cornered me), my boss instantly pulled in HR.

        The only time that I think it wouldn’t go through a supervisor is if the supervisor was doing something unethical. If I strongly suspected my boss of embezzling, that would go through HR first. However, like you said, if I included the charge that he might be gay, I would get laughed out of the office. OK, I would probably get a lecture about how the company does not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation and have to be retrained.

    3. OP #3*

      We honestly don’t get a lot of people who file official complaints. Like you say, it’s mostly people blowing off steam. Sometimes, we see things they CAN be official about and we let them know what their options are, but HR sometimes is more counselor than action officer lol.

      We have some people who are petty/paranoid (like the one guy who thought that a coworker threatened to break his car window because he mentioned someone at his gym had had his windows broken…) but, we mostly try to get their perspective fixed rather than do anything official.

  15. Michele*

    Boss’s day needs to end. First and foremost, it is a violation of the idea that gifts should only roll downhill. If you really want to show your boss gratitude, bring in cookies for their birthday. A simple, “thanks for helping me on that project” goes a long way.

    I have only had one boss who cared about boss’s day. He would get upset and vocal if people didn’t do something. It was just one of the ways that he was the worst boss I have ever had.

    We don’t do boss’s day around here. I don’t even know when it is. I would be really uncomfortable if one of my direct reports even got me a card, and my boss would think something was wrong if I got him anything.

    1. #1 OP*

      See, for me, this would normally be a non-issue because I don’t celebrate these kinds of “holidays” but I feel like I’m in a weird spot since the office has traditionally collected money for gift cards for previous Boss’ Days. I am definitely not planning on going the gift card route again because they really don’t need our money and we’re a pretty young office (just out of undergrad for a few years with massive student loans as opposed to the bosses, who are several years out and financially stable), so I just feel awful about asking people contribute money when I know they don’t have it and the bosses don’t need it.

      That being said, it would be really weird to just ignore the “holiday,” so a card wouldn’t be at all out of line in our company’s culture. That may just be the route I go with here. But I completely agree with you. These workplace holidays need to go.

  16. Erin*

    #2 – Since you’re literally outside the office building, it’s cool. Also, I’ve observed in my own work place in a situation like that your significant other does not need to be wearing work clothes. (I wouldn’t have him wearing ripped jeans or an offensive tee-shirt, but yeah.)

    My work sponsored a local baseball game recently and got free tickets, and those who attended brought guests. The CEO was in a suit as he always is, but his wife was in jeans. I wore my work clothes; my husband jeans. Other employees/guests seem to follow suit.

    Obviously work norms differ, but I’d definitely say you’re safe given the information provided. Just make sure, as Alison noted, it is every other week or whatever so it doesn’t look like you can’t get through the day without boyfriend contact. And if people stare, just smile and say hello to them, like you’re assuming they’re just politely acknowledging your presence.

    #5 – I laughed when I read this, because one of my employers is a CPA and does my tax return, so he *does* see all side jobs and other income. (And my husband’s income.) Assuming that isn’t your case, I’m confident you’ll be just fine.

  17. J*

    Obviously laws regarding discrimination are different depending on what state you are in, but is it common in some places for people to have a problem working with someone they think might be gay? I live in a very liberal upper midwestern city (in a state that made gay marriage legal before the USSC did) so I have never encountered this.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I wouldn’t say common–but no phenomenally rare.

      And “having a problem” and “VOICING that problem” are not always going to go hand-in-hand.

      People will voice their “problem with it” if they feel supported by those around them. This guy was testing the waters.

    2. Bostonian*

      I’m a lesbian who’s lived in several big liberal cities, and I’ve never encountered anyone who voiced a problem working with me. I have encountered a number of people who felt awkward or uncomfortable – feeling like it’s something they need to mention in hushed voices despite the fact that I’ve been out for my entire adult life, stumbling over referring to my spouse as my wife, asking the occasional obnoxious question that they don’t realize is intrusive, etc. But if I encounter that in super-liberal areas, those in conservative areas are likely to have more trouble.

      I do know a few people who haven’t felt comfortable being out at work – teachers primarily among them. Stories of teachers being fired for being gay make the news pretty regularly if you’re paying attention. So it can vary by industry as well as geography.

  18. TootsNYC*

    Re: #3

    The real question is, should HR be the ones to write up the complaint (thereby employing their own filter, their own wording, etc.), or should HR insist that the employee write it up (removing the possibility that HR has performed a gatekeeping or editing function).

    If HR edits the complaints, this:
    -requires an HR person to make a judgment call in the moment (more work, etc.)
    -keeps nonsense complaints out of the system, thereby streamlining, and preventing later investigators from being distracted
    -protects the company from looking as though it is accepting (and perhaps validating or participating in?) a complaint that could get the company in hot water (e.g., if your state forbids discrimination on sexual orientation)

    If the employee write her own complaints, with no influence from HR:
    -might imply that the company is taking bogus complaints seriously (though a written response might be a counter to that).

    I think that there’s not a “best practice,” though I would say that all complaints should be met with a response and that editing the complaint is a form of response.

    1. OP #3*

      Thank you – maybe it’s best decided on a case by case basis using our best judgment, if neither one falls under the “inappropriate” area

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or even how annoyed you are at the complaint–if you edit it, you can distill it down to the simplest sentence, which will show how stupid (or substantive) the complaint is:

        “My boss broke the union contract” vs “my colleague is a lesbian”

    2. neverjaunty*

      The benefit of HR writing the complaint is that 1) it actually gets written down every time, instead of maybe not if the employee doesn’t get around to it, and 2) there is feedback: instead of the employee simply handing HR a form, both HR and the employee are involved in making sure the communication is clear.

      And I really, really have to respectfully disagree with AAM that this is unnecessary or not an important practice. Documenting every complaint means that there is no question later (on either end) that a complaint was made, or exactly what the complaint was. Assuming the employee gets a copy too, it protects everyone; the employee against a lost (or “lost”) complaint, and HR from being accused of ignoring or round-filing a complaint.

      This isn’t just useful in case of litigation or EEOC complaints. It’s useful to create a paper trail, rather than relying on the current HR workers’ institutional memory. (Which, again, protects both the employee and the company.)

        1. neverjaunty*

          The benefit to having the employee sign it is that the employee agrees that the written summary of the complaint is accurate. Then if HR misstated or omitted something, the employee can point that out (or refuse to sign if it’s really egregious), and the company is protected; it’s a little hard for an employee to complain that the report is inaccurate when they signed it. Of course, an HR person should also be signing it too, for the same reasons.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You can, but it turns your environment into a really bureaucratic one, when in most contexts that’s not needed and it’s perfectly sufficient to send an email summary or otherwise document in a less formal (and thus often intimidating) way.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I guess, but coming from the lawyer side of things, “more paper trail” is almost always better, especially when dealing with people as buttheaded as this employee seems to be.

            2. Strategies for redesigning the entire manifest universe*

              > … intimidating …

              My understanding is that this is how the FBI works it when they get a ‘confession’: FBI agents ‘assist’ the suspect in composing a written statement, which the suspect then signs. It’s not difficult to see how this could be abused by the FBI.

              But HR? I’ve never worked HR, but if I had to wing it I’d ask the ‘complainer’ to write a statement, and then write up a ‘statement of work’ that details what parts of that statement that HR plans to address. I mean, it seems like this would minimally cover your ass^h^h^hneed for documentation. I agree that requiring signatures seems extreme, but if you’ve got a guy who wants to complain that a coworker is a lesbian – he’s probably capable of complaining that his complaint was altered, etc. Having him sign it might help to keep him honest. (Or not).

            3. OP #3*

              We only require signatures for formal complaints that would rely heavily on an individual to validate rather than ALL complaints. There are plenty of times where we’ve taken anonymous complaints and addressed the issue with the employee or even where we’ve written down notes from a complaint, but it ends up the complainant is just blowing off steam, so we don’t need a signature for that (just documentation that the meeting occurred and the notes in a file).

  19. LAsouth40*

    At my very first professional office job, I was an administrative assistant to the VP of a department in an insurance company and I got reamed out for forgetting Boss’s day. Seriously. I had an art degree and never heard of “Boss’s Day” in my life so when the VP’s personal underling came up and started giving me crap that I hadn’t done anything (got a card or ordered a cake or something) for the VP, I laughed at him because I thought he was teasing me about a made up thing. 15 minutes later I’m in VP’s office with me, VP & underling and he’s tattling on me. I told VP I had never heard of such a thing as “Boss’s Day” and I laughed at underling because I seriously thought he was pulling my leg about it. VP said I shouldn’t expect anything from her for Administrative Assistant’s Day since I thought so little of Boss’s Day and I told her I’d never heard of that day either. I then asked for the date of Boss’s Day to add to my calendar so I wouldn’t miss it again (if it was a certain calendar day or 2nd Tuesday or whatever) and was told to go look it up myself. Despite my sincere apologies, I don’t think VP or underling ever quite forgave me for my ignorance and I did not last long at that company.

    1. Zillah*

      I don’t think you had anything to apologize for, and I sincerely hope that you found much better employment after that.

    2. Kristine*

      What a bunch of petty, backstabbing incompetents! I say give them a bad review at Glassdoor so that the rest of us can avoid applying for jobs at a place which is “managed” by drama-prone deadwood who cannot focus on their tasks at hand.

      1. Kairi*

        +1 It’s just rude for a VP to complain about not receiving a present on a day some people don’t want to celebrate/don’t even know about.

  20. 2 Cents*

    #2 You did nothing wrong — it was a public (I’m assuming) outdoor space. We have one too, and people have their friends and family stop by in the summer. They were probably just nosy — and didn’t care if they concealed it.

    #5 Good to keep in mind next time, but when you’re interviewing in the later stages, it’s good to ask if doing freelance for unrelated companies is OK. I work in one industry, but do freelance work in another. When I started my last two jobs, I used my “thank you email” as a way to ask if unrelated outside work was OK. I kept the responses in case there was ever an issue (there never has been).

  21. Kairi*

    #2 I think what you did was fine. It definitely can vary from company to company, but I think the fact you ate outside was okay.

    I actually had my SO spend the entire day in the office last week, which I cleared with my boss a few days before. My office is large, so it was easy enough to set him up in a cube for the day. We were moving into an apartment in the same city I work in, and the night before we had to pick up a futon from a friends house. Since he doesn’t have a car, it would have been an extra hour of driving to drop him at home prior to going to work, and then it would have been another 2 hours to pick him up to start moving in after work.

  22. Kristine*

    #2 – I think it’s really important not to “fortune-tell” others, that is, to speculate on their motives when they have not actually done much or come out and said anything. I’m seeing more letters here talking about what people think other people think, rather than what other people actually do or say, and there is a danger in that. When one is young, one is inclined to ascribe others’ actions as being centered around oneself when that is not necessarily the case.

    People stare. People seem to have lost the idea that staring is rude. (My new neighbors stared long and hard at us until the foliage grew up.) It could be because you are young, pretty, and have a boyfriend. Maybe they are happy for you. I’m increasingly aware that people are unaware of how their faces look in public – they do not wear a “public face” and thus may communicate the opposite of what they are thinking. Unless something actually happens, think the best of others.

  23. charisma*

    For OP #2 and all others who feel a little apprehensive about this kind of thing, and to second Allison’s last comment: People think about you way less than you think they do. Let it go. :) People are just naturally curious.

    I generally err on the side of “my coworkers aren’t thinking about me/judging me/whatever” because 99.999999% of the time, it’s in our own head, and is merely a reflection of our own insecurities. Usually, a good barometer is to consider how much you think about your coworkers when they are not around, or if you see them from afar, or whatever other situation might arise. You don’t think about them that much, do you? You don’t assume the worst about them, do you? Then, that is probably the same for them.

    (If you do assume the worst, or you do sit around thinking about what must be going on with your coworkers, then that is a time when I’d say you probably need to take a look at your own thought patterns, but that’s a different AAM post entirely.) :)

  24. The Strand*

    A thought about Boss’ Day… while I agree that it can be a “suckup” who organizes this sort of thing, another issue can be sincere friendship that crosses into an inappropriate space…

    Recently, there were discussions about managers who inappropriately had “BFFs” at the office and beyond. Someone who feels a lot of gratitude for the friendship they have with a higher-up – a friendship that can be very genuine and full of caring – may not see how inappropriate “Boss Day” gifts are, even if the boss is very supportive to them personally. And what if the Boss is absolutely beloved?

    Reading through this post today reminded me of a system-wide email I got at my last job some years back. It was announcing a baby shower for one of the vice presidents, a woman in her late thirties who already had three small children. The org was downsizing in a big way – buyout packages for older employees who were paid the most, and our entire cleaning staff, including many employees who had been there a decade or more, laid off and outsourced. And yet every person in the company is being invited to shower a woman making six figures, whose partner also made six figures, with baby clothes and gifts. Apparently this is also a questionable thing, etiquette wise. The email came from an administrative assistant who was making “tuppence” compared to the VP. The only thing I could conclude, besides the possibility of a “suckup”, was that the VP was very well-liked, and out of friendship and caring, this assistant (who was not a direct report) just wanted to do something nice, without thinking of the inequity.

  25. The Strand*

    OP with the boyfriend: sure, I think it’s good not to let other people, as John Scalzi has said “live in your head”, supposedly criticizing you, but I wouldn’t downplay our ability to pick up cues from coworkers about the culture, especially if you have already been singled out due to your age (versus something you might be thinking is about your age, but could be nothing).

    This varies so much by employer that I think, in addition to using Alison’s advice, you will be the best judge of whether this is just an overreaction or your intuition being correct about people being uncomfortable, busybodies, or overtly caught up with you… or you doing something that doesn’t match the culture.

    As far as Charisma’s comment about 99.9% of the time, people are not thinking about you – I think that can be a really healthy attitude and ideal, but I also think that once you’ve been bullied or in an overtly authoritarian or watchful environment, you realize that more than 0.1% of the time, some people are thinking about your behavior or the “optics”. Ask a Manager wouldn’t exist if there weren’t people to write in and ask if their colleague’s behavior is legal or rude.

    I would just argue that these watchful people’s behavior usually is about them: their insecurities/self-image – ie the recent post by the person whose colleague makes passive-aggressive remarks about when she leaves for work; the colleague is clearly unhappy and rather than focus on changing her job/life/etc., she pins it on the person who leaves at 4 pm. That OP’s colleague is letting the OP “live in her head”. Most of the time, you can just ignore these people and focus on the rest; other times, listen to your gut.

    As you get more used to the workplace, it gets easier to recognize these folks who are overtly concerned with comparing themselves to others, complaining about others (rather than trying to resolve inevitable issues that come up), and not working on themselves; or simply those who are very critical. For instance, I know a very talented person who has unreasonably high, perfectionist standards for others. It is a facet of personality: he’s a great guy in most ways, but everyone has an Achille’s heel and that’s his. I could imagine him making an arbitrary, very critical comment about something minor like this, because I have witnessed him do so about other people, and about himself. But I also know enough about my workplace and working in general, to know when to take this as a potential threat or concern, and when to chalk it up to human differences.

    It’d be cool to hear back from you after you’ve gotten more of the lay of the land.

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