wedding gift favoritism, stinky office-mate, and more

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

1. My company gave me a much smaller wedding gift than it gave my coworkers

I work for a small but successful international company. I am the office manager, but I take care of all accounts payable/receivable, HR, and building management. Three of my coworkers, including me, have all gotten married within the last two years. On our expense reports, I have seen our company wedding gifts to each of the other two employees; both were around $300 and purchased from a registry. When my wedding came along a few weeks ago, I was of course looking forward to a nice gift from my office just like my coworkers (with birthday gifts, we always give the same amount to everyone, so I assume it would be similar with other gifts). For my gift, I received simply a $50 gift card. I wasn’t registered for my wedding, but I thought that my gift would be at least ballpark to the others in value.

I am grateful for the gift, but I also think it’s kind of unfair to give so much to some employees, and much less to another employee. When it comes to gifts I usually have a totally different attitude, but since it’s obvious to my boss I see the expense reports, I’m surprised. It’s also bothering me because everyone at the company knows I’m one of the most hard-working employees here. I know based on my work with the budgets that it’s not an issue of cutbacks, and I also have been here just as long as the other employees and I’m actually at a higher level of management than both of them as well, though my pay is around the same level. Please let me know if I’m being ridiculous or if there is something I can do to make things more fair.

My boss does seem to really like the employee who received almost $300, but from my perspective he has shown just as much like toward me as well, so I don’t feel it’s a favoritism issue necessarily. Anyways, I’m not sure if this is worth bringing up at all or if I should just move on, but I’m curious what your advice might be.

Well, it’s possible that it was because you didn’t have a registry and they did; sometimes that leads to unevenness, without people realizing it. That doesn’t make it a great move on their part, but it might mean that it was inadvertent. In fact, it’s much, much more likely that this was inadvertent than intentional.

Unless there’s other evidence of you being devalued or not treated as well as others who are similarly situated, I’d let it go. I get why it’s striking you strangely, but it’s going to come across as petty if you raise it, and really, the value of your wedding gift is really not the thing you want to base your work satisfaction on. (And if there is other evidence of you being devalued or not treated as well as others, that’s where I’d focus anyway, not on the gift disparity.)

2. My office-mate stinks

I share an office with a guy who’s about 20 years my senior. Our office is a pretty good size. We’re constantly about five feet away from each other. I’ve been in this office for about two months now (just moved teams in my company and therefore buildings).

As the day goes on, he gets stinkier and stinkier, and whenever he stretches, it stinks up the whole office. I am keeping the door open. I haven’t rigorously documented how often he gets stinky–it’s definitely more than once a week, perhaps not every day, and more towards the end of the day.

At what point, if ever, could I request to change offices, or some other course of action? We’re on the same team, but we don’t work on any of the same projects. I’m certainly not perfect to share an office with, as I also occupy a human body, etc., but this is egregious.

I think you could ask to change offices now — you’re not required to tolerate this for some particular length of time before you’re allowed to ask not to be subjected to it. When it’s at the point that it’s clear that it’s a regular thing and not merely occasional, it’s reasonable to explain the situation and ask if you can sit somewhere else.

Do be prepared that your boss might instead choose to try to address the problem with your coworker instead of moving you, or even that you might be told to find a way to deal with it … but it’s a totally reasonable thing to speak up about.

3. What to use instead of “write-ups”

In a recent post, you had a parenthetical thought that’s had me thinking. You wrote: “If your manager still wants to ‘write you up’ (a silly concept that needs to be banished, but that’s a different post), at that point there isn’t a lot you can do about it.”

I’m an HR manager, and supervisors come to me when they want to write someone up. It often feels needlessly adversarial to me, and I end up encouraging the supervisor to have a candid conversation with the employee that’s more collaborative than a formal write-up.

On the other hand, if that employee is not going to stick around (either by our choice or theirs), that paper trail is pretty vital. What happens if we banish the “silly concept” of write-ups? What’s a better method, but still covers the bases for documentation?

Yeah, the problem with “write-ups” is that they’re infantilizing. Your employees are adults, not naughty schoolchildren being sent to the principal’s office. If there are problems, you have a direct conversation. If the problems are serious ones and it’s a pattern, you can document the conversation by writing a memo to yourself about what was covered and keeping it on file, or you can send the person a quick email summary of the conversation (framed as “just wanted to summarize what we talked about, in case it’s helpful to have it to reference”).

4. Employees seeing our private health insurance information

Is it legal and or ethical to have three regular floor employees help HR go through and process all other employees’ (hourly and salary) open enrollment insurance information? All of our personal information is on them, as well as our loved ones’. This can’t be legal.

I get why that made you uncomfortable, but it’s legal; the law doesn’t look at that any differently than it looks at HR employees doing that work. And I’d argue that it’s ethical as long as the employees were instructed to keep the information confidential, and some safeguards were in place to ensure that they did (and that there were serious consequences for any breaches).

5. Who should I resign to?

There’s a chance I might be offered a position with another company soon, and I’m wondering how to go about resigning from my current job should I want to take that offer. My situation is a little unique in that I’ve had three direct supervisors over the past several months. My original supervisor (the director) went on leave in August and won’t be back until mid-January. When she first left, I was assigned to report to one of our VPs in her absence. Then last month, we hired a new assistant director and I now report to her. The plan is currently to go back to being supervised by the director when she returns in mid-January (possibly later).

Who should I approach to give my notice to? Right now I’m thinking I would first approach my current supervisor (even though I’ve only been working with her for a month), but also send an email to my original supervisor who will be returning. We had a good working relationship and I wouldn’t want her to come back to find that I just left without telling her. In terms of my official resignation letter, who should that be addressed to (current supervisor, supervisor on leave, HR)?

Yep, that’s exactly the way you should do it — tell your current manager first and then email your original manager who’s returning in January to let her know too.

If you’re asked for a resignation letter (and you may not be; it’s not a universal requirement), address it to whoever has requested it.

{ 372 comments… read them below }

  1. Tara R.*

    Your employees are adults, not naughty schoolchildren being sent to the principal’s office.

    And you shouldn’t do this even when your employees aren’t adults! Everywhere that I know that employs lots of teenagers has some sort of ‘3 write-ups in a quarter, you’re out’ system, and it honestly just encourages them to take their work less seriously. It becomes about gaming the system– “Okay, I wanna go to this party, and write-ups reset next week so I’m just going to no-show” (actual phrase I heard)– instead of learning how to be accountable and take pride in your work/work ethic. If you’re employing someone, you have an adult relationship with them, regardless of their age. I know McD’s had a new manager who actually pulled a kid I know aside and talked to him about how his being late wasn’t just a black mark in his file– it inconvenienced all of his coworkers, and made her not want to trust him with more responsibilities. He took that conversation to heart way more than any of his previous write-ups, and made a genuine effort to improve.

    1. Tara R.*

      Thinking about it more, this is probably a feature of the fast food/retail/service industry more than anything, since the adults working there are subject to the same awful system– but I do think treating your employees as though they don’t know how to be responsible leads to that irresponsible behaviour.

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        This exactly. If you treat adults like adults, nine times out of ten they’ll behave like adults; if you treat them like children, I think anybody would act like a child eventually.

        1. Not Today Satan*

          My last job treated employees like children (including write-ups for being 4 minutes late, things like that), and that place was a mess. Everyone did the absolute bare minimum amount of work.

        2. blackcat*

          And if you treat teens like adults, about 8 times out of 10, they’ll behave like adults.

          When I taught high school, I’d sometimes get comments about how hard it must be to wrangle teenagers. I’d always laugh, because I thought it was easy! I treated them like adults until they proved to me that I shouldn’t and they were great! I even had dress code violation conversations in a non-adversarial “FYI” sort of tone I would take with adults, and I never had a kid take that badly. Sure, things didn’t always go well, but running the classroom from a stance of mutual respect as opposed to top down authority worked very well for me.*

          *As a young-looking, petite, 22 year old new teacher, it was one of very few options. I don’t think the 17/18 year olds would have taken kindly to being treated like children by someone barely older than them.

          1. katamia*

            Yeah, I was a tutor at around that age (an extremely young-looking one; I was routinely mistaken for a high school student even though I was out of college), and I could never have pulled off any kind of “I am the adult here and you will behave because I am the adult” with my students (at least one of whom was actually 18 anyway and therefore not a child at all).

            And then I went on to teach adult education and wound up with students who were old enough to be my parents or even grandparents, primarily from a culture that placed a lot of emphasis on respecting one’s elders. So pulling the “I am the authority” card wouldn’t have worked well with them either, lol.

          2. Koko*

            This is such good advice for life in general. People will tend to live up, or live down, to the expectations you set for them. I’m not sure why so many people discount the possibility of having a constructive, honest, rational discussion with someone with whom you ostensibly share some sort of common goal. Unless you’re a prison warden or a detention supervisor, the person you’re teaching, supervising, or even just working alongside most likely wants to be there, wants to get something out of it, and on some level understands that they’re going to have to do a good job to get something out of it. Why not approach the conversation from that shared interest: Here are the things I need you to do in order for us to reach our shared goal, is there anything preventing you from doing those things, and if so how can we solve that problem?

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              This is an excellent point, and one that I have found to be true while working as a manager while raising a child. If one sets expectations and helps meet those expectations, then the other person builds confidence and eventually exceeds those expectations.

              This is not to say that one should treat employees like children, just that the compassion, understanding, and assistance given in both situations is similar – like comparing hiring and interviewing to dating.

      2. YourUnfriendlyPhlebotomist*

        We do write-ups in health care too. one of the major grocery stores around here have a crazy points system with no allowance for emergencies. A woman I know had to have 3 days out of work for pain, two of which she was admitted to the hospital and then they decided to operate. she was fired because that counted as 4 different occurrences!

        1. Lily in NYC*

          That’s awful. Hey, what ended up happening with your job? You were worried a couple of weeks ago about getting let go – I guess it didn’t happen? I hope not!

        2. Hlyssande*

          My little brother’s former employer did the same thing with points.

          He did get fired and the points were the reason (he was a half point over and it was about to reset), but there were also some favoritism (other people were far, far over the max) and probably retaliation going on (he’d filed OSHA complaints).

          1. Bunny*

            I was out of work for a week with seizures (I have epilepsy) and was fired for being over points. We had just gone to the new system.

            Went back to journalism; never happier. Points equals no common sense.

      3. A. Thrope*

        It’s common in customer service type jobs as well. I don’t work in a call center but I’m classified as customer support. We have “occurrences” for attendance. Accumulate so many and you’re out. I told my supervisor that it was just treating employees like children instead of adults. She said well people act like children. I said yes, because that’s the expectation. You pay terribly and you treat them poorly. Why do you expect better behavior? I didn’t get an answer to that. So people game the system. If you’re going to be late you might as well take a half day. One hour or four hours is a half occurrence no matter what. One day off is the same as three in a row.

        1. Arjay*

          Yep. Walmart’s policy has been (may be still be) that you can’t use sick pay for the first day of an absence; that day has to go unpaid. You can then use sick pay for day 2, but if you are out a third day, that requires a doctor’s note. That place sees more instances of the “48-hour flu” than the CDC could count.

    2. Cheeto*

      The write-ups reset? Every place I’ve worked they’ve been cumulative. Three write-ups over the course of 15 years of employment, and you’d still be fired. But they saved the write-ups for really egregious things, not just being a little late once or your drawer being off by 25 cents.

      1. Ops Analyst*

        Woah that seems crazy. If a person just starting in their career makes write up worthy mistakes at age 22 then nothing for 15 years and suddenly makes one mistake at 37, it seems extreme to fire them at that point.

      2. Arjay*

        In systems where write-ups are done for attendance, punctuality, or other metrics for quality or productivity, I’ve seen them accrue and “reset” on a rolling basis of 6 months or a year. And in those systems, you regularly see people who wait for an attendance point to roll-off and then call out again in the next few days. They must like living on the edge.

        1. Biff*

          I worked at a place like this, and the reason people took time as soon as it was available was because there was barely any paid time off, if you did have it you couldn’t get time off it your tried (most teams were understaffed and several had required OT), and finally, if you could get it, you could only get it Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday and it could only be one day. It was not possible to get two days off in a row most of the time. People did what they had to do to keep their lives on track.

        2. Biff*

          AKA: It has nothing to do with living on the edge, and I wish more people would see it for what it is — people working in a very punitive system.

          1. Arjay*

            I apologize for that unnecessary editorial comment. I do recognize that attendance and time-off policies can be draconian and punitive. In the specific situation I’m most familiar with, there was generous PTO available, and it was fairly easy to get approved. There were limits on how many people could be off on any given day, and it was strongly preferred that requests be made at least two weeks in advance, but no restrictions around Mondays, Fridays, or actual whole weeks of vacation. I shouldn’t have extrapolated from the individuals I knew who worked the system to all those who are negatively impacted by the same system.

            1. Biff*

              I appreciate this post. It’s easy to extrapolate what you see into a more widespread picture. Sometimes that extrapolation is dead on, and sometimes it isn’t.

              I agree with a poster up thread who said that the points system accidentally encourages people to engage in the kind of behavior you describe, regardless if there is plenty of PTO/sick time. Out of curiosity — what job was it that people had plenty of PTO/sick time but it still had this silly points system?

              1. Arjay*

                It’s not a call center, but a similar production environment that’s a small part of a much larger company. The generous PTO was dictated at the company level, so it applied to everyone. The attendance policy applied to non-exempt employees, so most of these production associates were affected by it.

              2. doreen*

                The huge state agency I work for has lots of various types of leave ( start with 2 weeks vacation, 1 week personal, 12 holidays and 13 days sick which accumulate up to 200 days ) as well as an occasion system. It’s not a particularly onerous system- after more than 8 occasions in a rolling 12 month period , a supervisor/manager looks at the employee’s attendance history and decides if this is an employee with generally good attendance who is having a short-term issue (in which case, that’s the end of it) or if the employee is generally an attendance problem and further steps need to be taken. Five minutes late is not an occasion – an unscheduled absence of more than two hours is an occasion. Multiple-day absences are a single occasion if documentation is provided or if you request multiple days when you first call. And while I won’t disagree that policies sometimes encourage undesired behavior, in this case that wasn’t true. The smaller agency I originally worked for did not have this policy prior to merging into the larger agency. And most of the same people were attendance problems before and after the policy. The only change was in the direction of improvement. No one suddenly started calculating that they earned their sick time after working 7 out of 10 days in a pay period .I didn’t see people suddenly using unscheduled leave on 2/3 of their workdays after the policy change. People didn’t suddenly start calling in the morning and say they were taking the day off for something that clearly was or could have been planned in advance* . The people who do those things did them before the policy existed. Some people who used to do those things have stopped – apparently inconveniencing their coworkers wasn’t enough reason to ask for leave in advance but getting an occasion is.

                * No one just wakes up one day and finds out it’s their mother’s birthday and they need to take the day off to take her out- they knew that at least the day before. Painters don’t just magically show up at 7:30 am with no prior notice. You don’t find out about your house closing the morning of. Just some examples.

    3. Aunt Jamesina*

      I’m forever grateful for my very first manager when I worked as a cashier at 15 at a family-owned grocery store. He had high expectations and treated us as adults (most of the cashier and bagging staff were in high school). Very above the board and fair in his management, and he gave us regular feedback. As a result, most of their staff stayed through high school, and many returned during college breaks as seasonal help (and they paid fairly!). It wasn’t until I was in the adult work world that I realized how unusual this is.

      1. Sara M*

        Same here, I had a terrific first boss. He even helped me when I was sexually harassed and he made it stop completely. I was lucky.

    4. Artemesia*

      Great example. The whole idea of ‘write up’ is just infantile and the words themselves make me hostile and I never even worked in a place where that is done. If you have a problem with performance you discuss the performance; if it is repeated you fire the person, but you don’t do it with some idiotic demerit system designed for 12 year olds in military school.

    5. non-profit manager*

      Yeah, I don’t get that whole concept and agree it leads to irresponsible behavior. My sister worked for a Well Known Theme Park in Southern California when she was in college, and it seemed her whole life revolved around trying to game the system on numbers of write-ups and allowable call-outs. My dad, who would drag himself to work on his deathbed if asked to, was beside himself.

  2. SCR*

    Is it common for workplaces to give their employees wedding gifts? I’ve given a gift to a coworker when I’m invited to their wedding but never just money or a gift for being married. Wedding gifts are a fraught topic but I wish we’d do with them in general, they served a purpose back in the day but seem to just be something that can lead to hurt feelings or feelings of entitlement or resentment a lot. Case in point, letter #1. Something just rubs me the wrong way about how much thought you’re putting into why you deserve a gift of as much or more monetary value as someone else. It’s a gift, not a salary, it doesn’t have to be fair.

    1. could be anyone*

      I agree in general but when a company has established a policy of giving gifts they should be equitable. Whether it’s the same approximate value for all or levels based on positions.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        At previous companies, there was a note in the company handbook saying a wedding gift (a voucher for a particular amount) would be paid in the months following the marriage. I think there were also gifts for births as well.

      2. ginger ale for all*

        It should just be the thought that counts but when you find out that there is a large monetary difference, it cuts you up. I went to the bank one day with my mom and she withdrew $350 . I asked her what she needed that much and she said it was for my sister for her birthday so she could get new golf clubs. I said that I had thought that the usual birthday amount was $40 and she said that my sister got more because she expected more and my mom didn’t want to disappoint her. I walked home , I was so angry. I know I am not entitled to money or presents but for goodness sake, it still hurts to remember that.

        1. Xarcady*

          That stinks, frankly.

          I used to think my parents were silly, trying so hard to make *everything* equal between their 7 kids–it was an impossible task at times. But at least we were spared what you went through. I’d have a very hard time even talking to my mother after something like that. And I’m sorry that happened to you.

          1. Bagworm*

            My parents were the same way with the six kids in our family. Every Christmas we had to have the exact same number of presents that they spent the exact same amount on. I still remember the time my older brother got $7 rolled up in toilet paper as one of his gifts to even things up.

              1. the gold digger*

                Ha. Mine were the exact opposite – disinherited my husband but still expected him to be the executor.

                My husband’s older half brother, when he learned that all the money was going to the grandkids, said, “That’s not fair to you, Primo! You don’t have children!”

                My husband was touched that his brother was concerned about him. I said, “It’s not about you at all. Ted is ticked because he has only one kid and Jack has three, so Jack is getting more.”

                1. Green*

                  Ted and Primo both sound like they don’t “get” what their parents were trying to do. Sheesh. They asked him to be the executor because they trusted him and it doesn’t exactly sound like a spiteful disinheritance; it sounds like they expected him to understand that they wanted to help their grandchildren.

                2. Judy*

                  Having read quite a bit of GD’s material, I’d say to not leave anything to a son, and then expect him to be an executor while explicitly saying he wouldn’t get fees for it is pretty hard to “get”.

                3. Chinook*

                  Green, having read GD’s stories, there is definitely more at play. But,, I have also been in the only childless child and I will admit to losing it one year when I was up for Christmas, helping in my Mom’s gift store and found out that none of the adults would be getting gifts that year from my parents but they were giving very nice to their grandkids. Plus no birthday present from them for me (but Dad did send me a birthday card). Add to that the fact that I was expected to work for free in her store during my Christmas vacation and I may or may not have vented to my Dad about how I was beginning to feel undervalued as a family member because I didn’t have children. By the time I left, I had a pay cheque form the store, an overly large gift basket from my Mom and I get very nice gifts for my birthday and Christmas since then (which I feel immensely guilty for because I never intended to guilt them into gift giving, just wanted to make a point about beign used).

            1. CharlieCakes*

              I just LOL’d quite loudly. Probably just woke the downstairs neighbor up!

              That’s really sweet of your parents. My in-laws used to do this, but then one day they bought my BIL a new car and gave my husband underwear and socks. Mmm, yeah, that has to sting.

            2. Devil's Avocado*

              My mother in law is the exact same way. She tries to show us receipts every year at Christmas, and one year gave my husband a $20 bill to “even things out”. After our wedding she wanted to know how much money each of her friends gave us so that she could calibrate future gift giving.

              1. the gold digger*

                My brother had to close his business a few years ago because of health reasons. My mom helped him out a lot in the year and a half that he was out of work. (My husband and I also gave some money to my brother. He needed it. We had it. He wasn’t using it for heroin but to buy groceries and pay medical bills, so I didn’t mind.)

                She sent my sister and me each $14,000 (I think that is the max you can give without incurring gift tax) to even things out. My husband and I tried to argue with her, saying that I am not keeping score and my brother needed it and we did not. She refused to take the money back, so we finally deposited the check and told her that there is $14K in our account that is earmarked for her.

            3. Chalupa Batman*

              My mom’s rule was the same number of presents, regardless of cost. There were no ridiculous discrepancies (ie. I get an iPad and he gets socks), and my brother and I were at very different developmental levels (we’re 7 years apart), so it worked out well and didn’t leave them scrambling to make things financially equal. It’s worked well with my kids, too. My mom always said my brother wouldn’t have noticed if I got hundreds of dollars more worth of gifts, but if I got one more box he would have pitched a fit. Obviously doesn’t apply to OP’s situation though. My guess is that the person who chooses things from the registries didn’t even think to compare apples to apples. Often $50 gifts don’t look impressive, but $50 in cash/gitftcard form seems like a nice gift. They didn’t think about the chance they would be compared.

          2. Paquita*

            My parents did this at Christmas. 3 girls and 1boy. As soon as one of us opened a present we girls knew we all had a ‘whatever’ too. Maybe different color but same item. My brother got some things different but it all worked out pretty equal. Kinda took some of the fun out of opening gifts but that was life. At least we got stuff.

        2. Nashira*

          I hear you. My older brother had thousands a year spent to finance his fencing, when I was a teen, whereas I was forced to stop taking horseback riding lessons at fourteen because we couldn’t afford them. I’ve still never quite forgiven my parents for the inequity, even though they objectively spent more on me later on, for a much needed corrective surgery.

        3. Zillah*

          Ouch. That’s awful. :(

          It’s not really about the money, I don’t think – it’s more about feeling undervalued. I feel like most people would have the same reaction to something that’s not monetary – like not acknowledging a birthday or graduation or something.

          1. Hlyssande*

            Yeah, this! That would make me feel so undervalued.

            My parents try to even out the monetary help they give us, too. They paid off my little brother’s student loans, so they’re also paying mine down to the same amount they paid for his. That sort of thing.

          2. Carmen Sandiego*

            Exactly re: feeling undervalued. It’s not just about gifts, it’s the entire message. I once worked in a department of 12 or 13 people where some employees got cakes, custom-designed cards, and a small in-office party on their birthdays, while others (including me) got bupkis. No rhyme or reason other than who was chummy with whom. Talk about feeling cut down to size.

          3. Ashley*

            This happened to me at my last job! Everyone else had their 30th birthdays celebrated at work…decorated offices, cupcakes, card, etc. When mine came around? Nothing. Not even a happy birthday. It wasn’t about the decorations or the cupcakes, it was about feeling so unvalued that I didn’t even warrant a card.

            1. OP*

              That’s exactly what I was concerned about. As in my original question to Alison, I point out that if I didn’t know the expenses because of my job, $50 would be totally great and I would appreciate the thought, but it’s because I know the comparative gifts that it seems unfair, and considering the amount of work I do, made me feel undervalued. I would be just as ok about abolishing the whole giving-wedding-gifts-to-employees, because it should be equal for all employees. regardless of the amount.

              1. mirror*

                My first thought that came to mind: did your boss give you something else that they think might have more value? Like, extra time off, leaving early to run errands, etc for the wedding. Otherwise, that stinks and I understand why you’d feel that way.

            2. Vera*

              I posted below about my wedding, but yes, this. I never thought I’d mix my emotions with my work but when there was a wedding right before mine and right after mine where the employees got engagement parties, wedding showers, cards, gifts, etc. and I get nothing. It just hurts. It reminded me of middle school a bit, where it feels like you’ve been specifically excluded, and even worse, you can’t “escape” these people making you feel like crap. You’re stuck with them until you get a new job. :(

        4. Stranger than fiction*

          I can totally relate to that, and what the Op is saying. My sister and adult niece have routinely been losing jobs and on and off again problems with substance abuse and my parents are constantly bailing them out, I’m talking like $100k over the last five or six years between the two of them . They’re essentially getting all this money and attention for their negative behavior, which just enables them. Meanwhile, I get somewhat ignored, and smaller gifts like you because, you now, I’m “ok” ’cause I have a steady job and can pay my bills (but still can’t save hardly anything).

      3. SCR*

        If it was truly equitable then everyone would get a gift in addition to a birthday gift. What about the single people? Shouldn’t they then get a one time gift during the time they’re working there too? Or what if someone gets divorced and married again? They get 2 gifts and another gets none. It’s a little ridiculous to expect all gifts to be equitable. Gifts by nature are not equitable, it’s a nice gesture and you should appreciate what you get. To harp on how someone else got more than you seems immature.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Gifts can be a nice gesture; they can also be other things, like a way of showing that one person is more valued than another. Pretending this isn’t the case and scolding people for noticing favoritism seems deliberately obtuse.

        2. Zillah*

          But it’s not about being perfectly equitable – it’s about treating people in similar positions consistently. If my boss gave me a CD for Christmas and gave my coworker an iPod, I’m going to assume that they don’t value me as much, and I don’t think that that reaction is unreasonable at all. It would be kind of like my boss letting my coworker leave at 4 every day and occasionally telling me I could leave at 4:50 – it’s not really about the money, it’s about the message certain gestures send, monetary or otherwise.

        3. Devil's Avocado*

          Agree! I think we could save ourselves a lot of emotional work by:

          1) Not expecting a gift – ever.
          2) Being genuinely grateful if you get one.
          3) Resisting the urge to compare it to other gifts you or others have received.

          I read a lot of advice columns (Carolyn Hax, Miss Manners, etc.) and this is a topic that seems to come up frequently.

          1. Erin*

            Although I find the OP’s upset/annoyance at the blatant favoritism justified…I have to say, this is very, very good advice.

            1. Devil's Avocado*

              Sure, you can “justify” almost anything. But I think comparing their gift to someone else’s and feeling offended by the result probably isn’t serving the OP very well. I mean, she’s clearly very upset by it. But what is the practical result of that? Confronting her boss? Continuing to be upset? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Being happy someone thought of you and got you a gift at all seems like a much more satisfying approach.

              1. Zillah*

                Sure, that might be a more satisfying approach. However, people generally can’t just choose how they feel about something based on what’s going to make them the most satisfied – and I’d argue that the cues you get from noticing signs that you’re appreciated less than the people around you can be quite valuable. Relentless positivity can stop you from picking up on genuine issues happening around you, which can actually be a barrier to you finding a situation that you’re genuinely comfortable with.

                1. Devil's Avocado*

                  That is definitely the first time anyone has referred to may approach to anything as “relentless positivity” ;)

                  I tend to be pretty action oriented so I take this approach a lot. I find it helps me to manage my emotions and find solutions to problems more quickly, without indulging the worst parts of my lizard brain too much. But maybe that doesn’t work as well for others.

          2. Banditcoot*

            Agreed. If you like Miss Manners and Carolyn Hax, check out Etiquette Hell. Excellent, amusing and sometimes jaw dropping. Especially their community board. I’ve wasted many an hour reading the posts.

            1. MashaKasha*

              Full disclosure, I came here from Etiquette Hell after someone (was it you?) posted a link to this site. :)

              I agree with the advice. We don’t know what happened. Perhaps they were confused because there was no registry? If they paid OP $50 for the same work they’d paid all others $300 for, Or if everyone else got a 5% annual bonus and OP got 1%, I would say worry. But a gift is a gift… you cannot expect a gift.

          3. Anna*

            I think that’s great advice and really easy to follow if you’re not in a position that specifically gets to know what’s being spent. There’s something a little “We know that you know, but nobody can say anything” about giving the person who manages your expenses a much smaller gift than other people. It’s a little too…intentional. And that’s crummy and doesn’t really hold up to the three gift-receiving rules.

            1. Devil's Avocado*

              You don’t know it’s intentional though. Maybe they were having budget problems. Maybe a new person took on the gift obtaining role. Maybe there was another glitch that we don’t know about. Who knows. I just think it is pointless to read meaning into it, especially if doing so is going to make you needlessly upset with the people around you, with no clear solution. Why not just choose not to care about this relatively minor infraction?

              1. Zillah*

                I don’t know about you, but when I try to “choose not to care” about something, I actually end up with a far higher level of anxiety and tension than if I just acknowledge what I’m feeling. It’s not possible for a lot of people to choose not to care, and I think it’s a little disingenuous to present it as a simple option.

                The OP also specifically said that since she works with the budget, she knows it’s not a problem with cutbacks.

                1. Devil's Avocado*

                  I’m not being disingenuous. That is legitimately how I approach things and I find it very useful in keeping myself sane. I threw it out there because I thought someone else might find it useful. You don’t – that’s fine – people are different.

        4. Chinook*

          “If it was truly equitable then everyone would get a gift in addition to a birthday gift. What about the single people?”

          Speaking as someone who was self-employed when she got married (and so missed out on any company gift but atleast the British non-coms I was training wished me good luck when I let it slip I was getting married the next day), I understand where you are coming from but I have to disagree. These gifts can’t be seen as a perk or benefit but, instead, as a way to celebrate an employee’s major life milestone. Some people will have more than others. Some will have them more conveniently timed than others. Would I have liked to have had a wedding when I worked at the place that supplied a limo for a wedding ceremony, yes, but I am not going to take it personally that I didn’t get it and someone else did.

      4. De (Germany)*

        Both companies I have worked for had had exactly how much extra money you got for birthday/wedding/birth written down (as well as how much extra vacation you got for these days). It just came as part of the paycheck.

        1. SCR*

          That makes more sense to me, it’s money in your check and it’s official and equitable — like a bonus.

          Here the OP didn’t have a registry and the others did so they got something off their registry. Have a $300 item on your registry is a whole other thing entirely but they did and they got it. When you don’t have a registry and you’re still expecting gifts from people? Well then, come on, how can you then say “but it wasn’t enough”? Maybe they thought you didn’t want gifts at all and they were extending a very nice gesture anyways?

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Maybe they thought you didn’t want gifts at all and they were extending a very nice gesture anyways?

            That’s what I would have thought with the whole no registry thing. $50 when you don’t know what the person wants seems pretty nice to me.

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I’m torn on this. On the one hand, I can see how the differential irks OP, and I think it’s perfectly valid to allow yourself to feel like that outside of work. But as a society we expect all gifts to have the same amount of thought put into them and therefore to be ‘worth’ the same, and so we become annoyed when somebody doesn’t appreciate a gift. In this case, I think the fact it was a gift card – cold cash, basically – rather than something picked out which is highlighting the differences in gifts. But, OP, I think you should try and see it as your office still putting thought and effort into acknowledging your occasion as with your coworkers, rather than focussing on the money aspect.

      1. neverjaunty*

        But it isn’t really the money aspect; it’s the differential treatment. If OP’s company had some through hard times since the last time somebody got this bonus, I don’t think anyone would bat an eye. But giving employees different treatment for the same thing suggests at least the boss likes one person more than another.

        1. Ife*

          Nobody’s entitled to a gift from their employer when they get married, but if that’s something the employer wants to do, it really needs to do it consistently. The OP’s coworkers’ $300 gifts were worth 6 times as much as OP’s $50. It would be hard not to feel slighted by that. I agree there’s not much OP can do, but their feelings are totally valid.

    3. Colette*

      If it were a social gift, I’d agree, but it’s not. The business has chosen to give wedding gifts, presumably because they want to show their employees they value them. In that context, value is more relevant. (If everyone else got a bonus for 6x the OP’s bonus, no one would think she was out of line to be upset.) The company would have been better off if they’d never given anyone a wedding gift rather than making them unequal.

      Having said that, it’s not something the OP should let poison her relationship with the company. If there are other signs she’s not valued, she should use those to determine her next steps.

      1. Tate*

        Thank you. I realize I’ve never been married, but this really feels like much ado about nothing to me.

        And maybe I’m wrong, but I love gift cards. There are times when you’re running a little low on money and you just happen to remember you have $24.67 left on a card…I love it! LOL

          1. MashaKasha*

            It’s guilt-free shopping to me. I can go out and buy whatever I feel like buying on my gift card, and not worry that I’m taking away from my family expenses.

        1. Merry and Bright*

          I love gift cards. What amuses me though is when I have used one and the shop assistant asks if I want to top it up. I know it is a sale for the shop but why would I top up my own gift card? But there it goes.

    4. Cheeto*

      Wedding gifts still serve a purpose. My husband and I lived together before marriage, but we didn’t have any money, so we were sleeping on holey sheets and eating off plastic dishes. Our wedding registry was full of replacements for these items, so now we have actual dishes and nice comforters.

      1. Koko*

        Which makes more of a case for “moving out of your home” gifts than wedding gifts, because unmarried people need sheets and kitchen items too. It’s just that moving out of your home used to happen at the time of marriage and not if you didn’t get married, which is why wedding gifts have lost their purpose.

        1. Ad Astra*

          The purpose of the wedding gift, though, is to celebrate a big moment in someone’s life. It used to be that almost all couples would be in need of housewares when they got married — and of course many couples still do need or want housewares — but it’s not really about the supplies. These days you can register for a honeymoon that guests can contribute to, or you can register for video games and pet supplies, or you can request that guests donate to your favorite charity.

          Wedding gifts, like most gifts, are about showing your affection for someone.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Not sure if it’s like this all over the East coast, but where my parents are from and where I still have a lot of family, it’s customary to give all cash or checks for wedding gifts. The houseware type stuff is given as a shower gift, if there is one.

            1. Chocolate lover*

              Not in all places, or not for some people. I’m around Boston, and my husband and I mainly created a registry because we knew that some of our family/friends (also mostly in the Boston area, or at least Massachusetts), absolutely would not be willing to give us cash or checks, they would want to give us gifts. Personally, I find it more fun to pick out a gift for someone, too, so I can understand that. So we got updated linens, small appliances, etc.

              1. xarcady*

                Yup. Parents and close relatives might give some cash, but the bulk of the wedding presents are actual gifts.

                I’ve felt a little out of place at non-Boston area weddings, even in Connecticut, where everyone else was putting an envelope into a box, and I was bringing in something off the registry.

            2. Sara M*

              East Coast culture allows money gifts, but Midwest and West usually prefer gifts. No idea about the South.

              An interesting quirk. Oh, and East Coast folks dress up more, or err on the side of slightly more formal if they’re not sure.

            3. doreen*

              I’m not sure if that’s an East Coast thing or an ethnic thing. My husband and I are both from ethnic groups where cash is the preferred gift for nearly all life events that don’t involve children. (Christmas and showers are gifts) My sibs and I recently threw a milestone birthday party for my mother – she received a bagful of envelopes from her Italian family and actual gifts from her non-Italian friends.

            4. Cheeto*

              At my wedding, it was physical gifts at the shower, and about an 80/20 split on cash/physical gifts at the wedding. I’m from Ohio and my husband is from NJ. It was only Ohio people who brought physical gifts to the wedding. I like the cash better– envelopes went into one box and it was a lot easier getting that one box home than getting all the boxed stuff home that night.

            5. ECH*

              @Stranger than fiction: It would be so nice if people would give all cash or checks for wedding gifts at my wedding this upcoming summer. He and I both have our own places and need very few things. But we sure could use help paying bills or just having money to do fun things or support our giving habits. We don’t know how to tactfully ask for cash or gift cards though!

              1. hellcat*

                Late response, but there’s not really an etiquette-approved way to ask for cash/gift cards. The way to signal that’s what you want, though, is not to do a gift registry, and let close friends/family know that you’re trying to save for Big Goal X. Mention it to the wedding party or whoever’s throwing a shower and your parents, because they’ll probably be who people ask. Then they can say, “oh, they don’t need a lot of housewares, but I know they’re saving for [the honeymoon/ a new home/ whatever.” Message received and you don’t offend people by asking for money.

      2. Chinook*

        “Our wedding registry was full of replacements for these items, so now we have actual dishes and nice comforters.”

        We actually appreciated getting cash because a) we were being moved at some point in the next 6 months b) I owned a single bed (I was 29, moved a lot and given up on getting married) but had a fully stocked kitchen and c) DH is 6’4″ and living in barracks, so we needed a bed that would fit the two of us but not much else. We could have made due but I am eternally grateful we didn’t.

        1. Cheeto*

          Oh, we got mostly cash at the wedding and gifts at he shower. We ended up moving nine months after the wedding, but luckily most of the stuff we’d gotten was just replacing old, so we didn’t have double the stuff to move.

    5. Chocolate lover*

      My offices have all done wedding gifts and celebrations, but they were all by voluntary contribution and potluck. They’ve all been relatively small offices where many people worked together for years and were close. Yes, some people were closer than others and contributed more for certain gifts.

      My experience has been that it’s a friendly, generous gesture.

    6. Jubilance*

      My team of 10 people all chipped in and got me a gift card to one of the stores we were registered, as a wedding gift. There wasn’t an “official” gift from my company or my manager. It was actually really nice – I changed teams a few months before my wedding and no one from my current team was invited, but they got me a gift anyway.

    7. MK*

      Gifts don’t have to be fair, of course and no one is entitled to them; but that doesn’t mean they have no message. I will admit that I give more expensive gifts to friends and family I am closer to (though I always keep it pretty equal for kids). If I find out a friend gave a 30-euro gift to me and a 300-euro one to another friend, I won’t feel cheated, but (barring other cricumstances, like genuine need) it will signal to me that I am not as close a friend as the other person. Which might be fine, or it might hurt, if I thought we were closer.

      1. Kate M*

        That’s true, although in cases of weddings you have to look at a ton of different factors that go into it. In your example, were the weddings close in time? I know I can afford more now at near-30 than I could when the first wave of my friends started getting married at 22. Do you have to travel for one wedding and not the other? If I have to spend $1,000 on a bridesmaid dress, hotel, bachelorette party, car rental, AND a gift, versus a wedding that I don’t have to travel for, you can bet that I might not be spending as much on the gift for the first wedding, even if it is a closer friend, purely for financial reasons.

        In general, gifts can send a message, but especially for weddings, you have to look at the bigger picture and a lot of different variables.

        1. Daisy Steiner*

          I think that’s what MK meant by “barring other circumstances” – i.e., taking into account the big picture.

          1. Devil's Avocado*

            It’s impossible to know someone else’s circumstances, though! That is why I think it is dangerous to head down the gift comparison road at all. A gift shouldn’t ever be an expectation. The fact someone thought of you at all, and then went through the trouble of selecting, wrapping, and then giving you a gift should be meaningful. It seems tacky to then evaluate the cost of that gift and guess what that monetary value means in terms of your relationship with that person.

            1. Anna*

              Yes, but again, this is a specific case where the person receiving the gift knows precisely what was spent because it’s part of their actual job. She also didn’t get a gift that was selected, wrapped, and given. She was given a gift card with a solid monetary value attached.

              1. Devil's Avocado*

                Someone still had to take time to select and purchase it. I think my point still stands. She put the emotional effort into noting what other people got, actively comparing it, and getting upset about it. I say this as someone who both selects coworker gifts and does payroll (so I know who is getting what gifts and even who is getting paid what.) If I put that much thought into who was getting what when and how it compared to what I was getting and when I’d find that… exhausting. Why not just choose to be grateful instead?

            2. MK*

              Eh, I do know the circumstances of people in my friend circle; if I don’t know the circumstances, I don’t draw conclusions. And it’s not about “evaluating” the gift, because a difference like that is obvious; you can’t help but know that a brand perfume costs ten times the money a book does.

              I actually agree that it’s the thought that counts. But that also means a gift represents what the person is thinking of you.

              1. Kate M*

                But I think this can also be a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You’re absolutely sure that you know the exact circumstances of everyone in your close circle? There are plenty of things people don’t like to talk about openly, such as worrying they’re going to lose their job, having financial difficulties, possible illnesses, getting ready to start trying to have children, not getting a bonus they were expecting this year, suddenly having 5 weddings in the same summer that they have to go to (that they didn’t want to mention to you because they didn’t want to guilt you), a ton of things that they might not bring up to you right around the time of your wedding. You almost certainly don’t know everyone’s circumstances as well as you think you do.

                1. MK*

                  If my close friends are having these sort of problems, yes, I would know about it, even if I was getting married. Maybe it’s cultural; where I am from, money problems are not some shameful secret, at least among family and friends. Also, brides get special consideration for a couple of weeks before the wedding, not for the whole of the previous year. If someone is hesitant to mention they might lose their job for fear of becoming a nuisance to me when I am too busy choosing flower decorations, they don’t feel close to me; which kind of proves my point.

    8. Artemesia*

      I think what happened here is that the OP didn’t have a registry and so they did some minor thing and the person who did it probably wasn’t the same person who gave the larger registry gift earlier or didn’t think of that. If she had had a kitchen aid mixer on a registry maybe they would have sprung for that.

      I don’t think it is petty to feel slighted when the business has the norm of giving generous gifts for weddings and then doesn’t do that for your wedding. It isn’t a ‘gift’ in the sense of a personal choice, it is a business policy where the OP has been slighted. But there is no percentage in making a fuss about it; no good can come of that. What I would be doing is thinking about my compensation and making a case for a raise since apparently she is not making any more than people who have less seniority and less productivity.

    9. Ad Astra*

      I feel fine about wedding gifts in general, but it does strike me as odd that the company pays for these gifts. In all my past workplaces, employees will pool their own money to buy some kind of gift, which is a nice gesture. I would also be fine with workplaces that opt not to buy a gift at all — especially if the coworkers aren’t invited to the wedding.

    10. The Party Pooper*

      Ugh this is why I hate blending the work/social aspects in life. No parties, no gifts, no hurt feelings.

  3. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

    “If they problems are serious ones and it’s a pattern, you can document the conversation by writing a memo to yourself about what was covered and keeping it on file, or you can send the person a quick email summary of the conversation (framed as “just wanted to summarize what we talked about, in case it’s helpful to have it to reference”).”

    I always recommend people to do that anyway with any important conversation (in and outside of work) anyway. You’d be amazed at the situations where you *know* X said Y and it means Z but you can’t prove Y. It’s just good practice in life to keep written records; even if that’s still the only proof you have, it at least shows your understanding has always been Z.

  4. Treena*

    It’s weird to me, but a lot of people see “no registry” as either they don’t really want gifts, or they don’t care about gifts. So with that context, I can see someone saying that a large gift isn’t necessary, and deciding on a smaller amount instead. Still weird in this particular situation where you will see the financial disparity, but that’s likely the reasoning behind this.

    1. Charityb*

      Plus, without a registry it’s a bit harder to pick out a thoughtful gift. A gift card can just seem easier — about as easy as selecting one item from a list of items, actually…

      1. Tomato Frog*

        Yeah. My suspicion is that the gift inequality here comes down to the lack of the registry, just because it’s so much work to pick out a gift for someone, especially someone you’re not really close to.

        I am an anti-registry in principle (I am against anything that implies that gifts are expected or dictates the term of a gift) but in practice I realize it’s actually a courtesy to your guests, who want to give you a gift that you actually want, or feel they are obliged to give you something and would rather put as little work into it as possible. Not having a registry and still expecting people to give you gifts you really want is folly.

          1. Tomato Frog*

            I know. She is my gospel.

            (Well, technically, she’s not against people registering — she’s against people offering up the registry without being asked.)

            1. Oryx*

              True. Really, I think it’s that she she thinks having a registry takes away the thoughtfulness of gift buying. Which is funny, because years ago I used to feel really guilty buying off-registry but putting a lot of thought into a gift. Since becoming more familiar with Miss Manners, I stopped feeling that way :)

              1. MK*

                Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s particularly thoughtful to force people to spend the first months of their married life running around returning unwanted or duplicate gifts. The reality is that even when you know a person well, you can seriously strike out when it comes to what they like or need. And if you do get it right, chances are other friends or family would have the same idea.

              2. Three Thousand*

                There’s a good argument to be made that gifts aren’t primarily about thoughtfulness at all but about giving someone something guilt-free that they might not otherwise buy or be able to afford for themselves. Like people mentioned above, gift cards feel like “free shopping” where someone might feel obligated to use a cash gift for necessities.

                The value of a gift isn’t always that someone knows you or cares about you so deeply that they’ve seen into your heart and gotten you something that shows their deep connection to you, but that they’ve saved you the guilt of having to spend money on something you want or need that you might not otherwise buy for yourself. I agree that it’s not particularly thoughtful to send people to department stores to return a bunch of gifts they don’t need and won’t use.

          2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            We went no registry for our wedding – after nearly a decade, we had all the home items we liked and didn’t need anything. Some friends did gift us with cash instead since we didn’t note anything tangible.

            We initially went no registry for the baby because I find them somewhat gauche, then a coworker pulled me aside to let me know coworkers wanted to get something, but didn’t know what I needed since I didn’t have a registry. I went ahead and created one more to help the gift-givers since they seemed to need it, and in that instance, we received gifts instead of cash.

            I’m going to agree that not having a registry is the unfortunate reason for the disparity. For some reason, some people tend to think of cash as more valuable than things – giving an item that is 6x more than the cash gift you received is inequal, but may not be intentional. The idea of giving the equal value in cash may have seemed larger since you could theoretically buy more with the cash than the one thing others received. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is an attitude I see. It’s one of the reasons gift cards are so popular – it’s cash yet tangible, and people tend to get a higher amount on a gift card than one would hand over in cash. It’s a funny phenomenon.

            1. bearing*

              If you disregard the intangible sentimental value that the receiver may add to a thoughtfully chosen or handmade gift, cash *is* more valuable than things, because it’s fungible.

          3. Ad Astra*

            Huh, I didn’t realize Miss Manners was anti-registry. I’m pro-registry and pro-Amazon Wishlist and pro-telling people what you’d like when gift-giving occasions come up. It’s not a demand for presents, it’s a helping hand for people who actually want to give you something because they like you and want to make you happy.

            I am, however, opposed to including registry information in the invitation. That comes off as asking for gifts.

            1. LBK*

              Yeah, I like the idea of having it there to point people towards if they want to get you something but not proactively distributing the info. My family pretty much does all of our Christmas shopping off each other’s Amazon lists and it’s made it so much easier, especially now that we’re all adults with incomes who tend to just buy things for ourselves when we want them. A lot less stressing about finding the right thing or having to fake excitement about things you know you won’t use.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Me too, actually–I’d much rather get something off my wish list than a pile of crap from people who only guessed what I might like and are WAY off. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to eliminate the adult gift thing from Christmas, but whatever.

              1. Sara M*

                Agreed. Our friends basically made us do a registry. It helped us get gifts we liked, at least. We were really okay with no gifts, but our friends insisted!

                1. Chinook*

                  “Our friends basically made us do a registry. It helped us get gifts we liked, at least. We were really okay with no gifts, but our friends insisted!”

                  I made DH do a registry (he had never heard of one before we got married) but he insisted it was rude until his boss came up to him and asked where we were registered. That was when he realized that a registry helps people know what we need/want and what our colours/taste are (especially when we both had family that lived away from where we were). Nobody said guests have to buy what is in the registry, but it atleast points them in the right direction.

            3. VintageLydia USA*

              My family has a very strong tradition of wishlists for birthdays, Christmas, etc and it’s SO helpful. When you have a limited budget it’s nice to know what you got for your brother or mom was something they actually wanted or needed and therefore appreciate. Especially when the person you’re giving to has a limited budget so they have things they really really want but can’t afford. It’s why for my brother’s housewarming gift My step-dad and I took him to IKEA and basically let him pick out his stuff instead of guessing what colors he wanted (he really had to start from scratch with housewares. It was fun basically furnishing his house for him but I’m glad he was there to pick it out.)

            4. Anna*

              I feel like there’s too much judgment and looking down the nose at how people handle their weddings and gift stuff. For every one person who thinks putting the registry on the invitation is tacky, there is at least one person who prefers that so they don’t have to make a phone call or send an email asking some relative where the registry is. I see nothing wrong with having a registry either for a honeymoon or household items and putting it wherever you want.

              To me there’s something disingenuous about pretending like you’re not asking or expecting something that we all expect, whether we say so or not. There’s a vast difference between putting a registry on the invitation and pointing out the registry and telling people you expect any gift-giving to come from there.

          4. Erin*

            Really! Well that is interesting to know.

            IMO I can’t imagine that the registry or lack there of is playing a factor here, but maybe I’m wrong.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I feel exactly the same way. I’m against them because I don’t want to indicate gifts are expected, and I’d much rather get something that someone thought on their own I might like. But I also get the stress of having to buy a gift for someone you don’t know that well, or someone you know pretty well but don’t what kind of household-type stuff they would like (I’ve definitely been surprised by stuff some of my friends have picked out before).

          1. Koko*

            Shoot, a lot of thoughtful gifts take recon, too. What’s their waistband size or shoe size? Do they already own a crock pot and just never use it, or would they use one if they had it? Are there blank walls in their house that this art would fit on, or are all the walls pretty full, or are they intentionally mostly blank because that’s the person’s aesthetic?

            Even for people you know pretty well you often have to get one of their top two or three closest friends, someone who lives with them ideally, to get some of the more detailed information to make sure your gift is actually appropriate and desired.

            Can you imagine the burden it then places on those couple of best friends if 150 wedding guests were reaching out en masse to ask them for sizes and preferences etc when there’s a damn registry already available that answers all of these questions?

            If you don’t have the kind of relationship where you spot something in a store at any random time of the year and think, “Oh my gosh, Stella would love that!” and want to buy it for them…then honestly, just buy off the registry. You don’t know the person well enough and it becomes obvious you’re avoiding the registry because you’re concerned what it says about you to be a “person who buys registry gifts” instead of being concerned with the person/couple you’re ostensibly buying the gift for and what they actually want.

            1. VintageLydia USA*

              All the pluses. Of all the people who went off-registry only two of the gifts get used on a regular basis and one of them was bought by one of my best friends from middle school. The second was a fluke and was something I didn’t use for 5 years but have since found a use for.

              1. Cheeto*

                An aunt made us a very lovely crocheted thing which she framed that had my husband’s last name crocheted into it. But I didn’t take his last name. So it would have been super weird to hang something up with just his last name on it. We kept it for a year or two in a closet and then threw it out. I felt awful, but that’s the chance you take when you make assumptions with gifts.

        2. Kate M*

          Oh man, I HATE when people don’t have registries. It’s partly that I’m from the South, so they’re so common here (and considered really weird if you don’t do), but don’t make me spend a ton of money on your wedding and then also have to put a ton of thought into your gift, and hope that you didn’t get the exact same thing from someone else. Then figure out where to send it. I love being able to go onto Macy’s or wherever, click two buttons, and what someone wants sent directly to the address they provided.

          Plus, when people don’t have registries, it’s usually hinting that they want cash instead, which is no less gauche to me (in fact, in some regions, it’s more gauche to expect cash).

          Now, yes I would probably feel weird filling out a registry for myself if I actually ever get married. It does seem a little grabby. But being a guest at so many weddings has made me so pro-registry in general that I don’t think I would feel too bad.

          1. Oryx*

            I don’t think hinting you want cash is gauche. Outright ASKING for cash would be, but if you don’t actually need physical items, I don’t see the problem with not registering.

            1. pieces of flair*

              I don’t even think not having a registry counts as hinting for cash. My brother and his fiancee don’t have a registry because most people have to travel a long way to attend the wedding and they honestly don’t expect or want gifts on top that.

              1. Kate M*

                It’s an “All x’s are y, but not all y’s are x” type of situation. No, not everyone who doesn’t have a registry wants cash. But, most people who just prefer cash are advised not to have registries (or have very small ones) in order to get the point across.

              2. MK*

                They may not expect or want them, but they will probably get them and it will be things they might not like. Giving wedding gifts is so much part of the culture, that most people will fell obligated to give something; and no, telling them you don’t want them isn’t going to change that.

                I realise many people are perfectly sincere when they say they don’t want anything. But sometimes people do want to give, and it doesn’t make sense to make it difficult for them.

            2. Kate M*

              I certainly don’t think preferring cash is gauche, but I know some people do (i.e. little old Southern ladies who expect to be able to buy you a piece of china and would be very offended if they heard you just wanted their money instead). It

        3. Koko*

          There’s an old joke that goes, “People really do want the items from their registry.” Some people get so hung up on how impersonal the registry is and they want to make the gift super personal and pick out something themselves instead. And honestly…this sounds great in theory, but the vast majority of people invited to the wedding probably don’t know the couple well enough to pick out something unique that the couple will love more than anything off their registry. So instead of substituting a registry gift for a wonderfully unique item that shows how well you know them, you end up substituting a registry gift for some random item that ties into the one or two dominant traits you know about them (“Elsa collects snow leopard statues – here’s a pillow with snow leopards on it!”), or worse, a generic gift that leaves them scratching their heads about why you picked it over a registry item.

          Going off-registry is only thoughtful if you’re in the approximately 5% of guests who know the couple well enough to buy something they’d love at least as much if not more than the registry items. Otherwise it really seems vaguely selfish to buy them a gift they don’t really want or need that will take up space in their house just for the sake of your own pride/ego at not wanting to be the “lazy” person who buys from the registry.

          1. OfficePrincess*

            I recently had to go off-registry because the couple simply didn’t have enough on it for the number of guests. Everything was snapped up fast. I used what was on their registry and having been in their apartment to get something in the same aesthetic that I hope they like. But without the registry as a guide, I would have been stumped. Yes, they’re family, but I didn’t inventory their apartment while I was there to know what they have/don’t have/need to replace.

          2. Dana*

            Totally agree. And you can register from anywhere for anything. My best friend got married last year and she had a Sandals registry for their honeymoon and I bought her a scuba diving outing. She said it was the most fun thing she did on her honeymoon and really appreciated it.

        4. CADMonkey007*

          I don’t mind registries, but I don’t understand why wedding gifts are expected to be either “stuff” or “cash.” Why not a gift card to a nice restaurant in town, for a date night? What hobbies do they enjoy together? Golf? Cooking? Theater? Ball room dancing? Heck, skydiving? The point is there are other gifts that actually support the couple in a healthy lifelong relationship, and not just frivolous household junk.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        Actually, a registry makes a gift less thoughtful. You have to put way less thought into a gift when you have a list to pick from than you do when you have to come up with something on your own.

        I think you probably mean it’s harder to get someone something you definitely know they want if they don’t have a registry, and for coworkers, that’s usually true. Unlike friends or family, you don’t usually know what your coworker might need and don’t know them well enough to pick out something that fits their personality.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          The idea of the registry was for couples to establish a household and note the items desired for that. It was designed to let others know what the couple needed and let them help the couple get a good start. It arose when dowries lost favor.

          In the last couple decades, these registries have turned from helpful pointers to gimme-gimme grabs by some couples (just check for scary examples). This is why I find them so distasteful – what began as a lovely community gesture is now promoted as a self-centric list of things couples think they *deserve* for getting together. It coincides with the ridiculous amounts some people spend on weddings nowadays.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Agree! (I know the thread isn’t about this so I won’t derail) but that and.. “no boxed gifts please”…….there’s just something so so so wrong about expecting guests to fund your wedding/your life.

          2. Ad Astra*

            Wedding registries aren’t any more gift-grabby than Christmas wish lists. Both occasions are firmly established gift-giving occasions when people who care about you want to give you something you’ll like because they want to make you happy. All a registry or wishlist does is acknowledge the custom of gift-giving, and that doesn’t seem like a huge etiquette breach to me. It’s weird to pretend that you hadn’t even considered the idea that someone would buy you a gift for a major gift-giving occasion.

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              Honestly, I’m offended by this response.

              I’m a former Jehovah’s Witness. I am not a Christian.

              You assume that I have been raised in a certain tradition since birth and state that it’s “weird” that I don’t get gift-giving at Christmas. You dismiss my opinion by saying that registries are like wish lists.

              I “pretend” nothing. I don’t get wish lists because those have never been my tradition, but that doesn’t make me weird or wrong or defective. I’m not familiar with the “customs” because they’ve never been my customs. I am aware of them, but that doesn’t mean I understand them or personally approve of them. Is it also “weird” that I don’t know Christmas carol lyrics and hymns by heart or the reasons behind an advent calendar?

              Would I turn away a gift given out of genuine love? Of course not. I would appreciate the care and thought. Would I expect a gift because of a specific action? No.

              You’ve assumed a lot about me and denigrated my response as a result. I don’t appreciate this at all. I hope that you will stop and think for a long moment before again assuming cultural tradition to be fact.

              1. Anna*

                I don’t think Ad Astra’s response really warrants that reaction. She wasn’t singling you out specifically; she was using “you” in general. She’s saying in our culture, the idea of putting the registry on the invitation as tacky because it seems like a gift grab or an expectation of a gift at a time when people DO expect to give and get gifts, is odd. Like I said below, it’s disingenuous to pretend that nobody is thinking of gifts during wedding or the holidays when that IS what most people are thinking of.

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            “It coincides with the ridiculous amounts some people spend on weddings nowadays.”

            Thank you! I wholeheartedly agree. It’s all over in a few hours, where you could have spent that money on something that lasts…like a house.

          4. xarcady*

            We shouldn’t overlook the role the stores offering the registries play. Back in the 1950s, when my parents got married, you registered for your china, crystal and silverware. That was so that guests would know which pattern you had chosen.

            Now that I’m working retail, I’ve learned a lot about the registries. In my store, it isn’t enough that the Bridal Consultant open a certain number of registries a month. In order for her to get full credit for the registry, the couple has to register for $4,000 or more, open a credit card, register for at least one piece of furniture, register for electrics/electronics (a coffee maker counts) and I think a couple of other things that I can’t remember right now.

            The stores used to offer the china/silver/crystal registry as a service to customers. Now it has changed to be a money-maker for the store. In other stores, the registry person will follow the couple around, pressuring them to register for more expensive items, or register for anything they pause to look at.

            It’s become a cut-throat business, getting people to register at your store. Stores offer discounts for the couple to purchase things after the wedding–which is why you might see some very expensive items on the registry–they aren’t expecting anyone to buy those for the wedding; they are planning on getting those themselves, after the wedding, when there’s a 20% discount. There are promotions a couple of times a year with a larger discount. There are coupons and things for opening a registry. My store has a deal where a percentage of the amount of every purchase off the registry goes to a gift card that the couple gets after the wedding, to use to buy more stuff.

          5. JB (not in Houston)*

            Pretty much my mom’s entire career was in the wedding registry business, so I know a ton about them, including the fact they were invented by a department store. People may have shopped for them because they wanted to do a nice thing, but they were not created by people motivated by a desire to help newlyweds. This wasn’t a community getting together and saying, “How can we make sure Dorcas and Frederick get their household set up?”

            But I agree with you that registries have become even more ridiculous (there have been people with ridiculous registries for a long, long, long time, but anecdotally it seems like they are even more over the top). But that, too, is helped along by department stores and the like, where couples are encouraged to registry for anything and everything because you never know what people might get you.

        2. Fifi Ocrburg*

          But much more useful for the recipient. I’d rather have the coffee mugs on my list than the stuff people think I should have, thanks.

        3. BabyAttorney*

          Well, I may know my friends and their personalities well, but just because *I* think a plastic dog tag is tacky doesn’t mean they aren’t totally happy with it or don’t care and would rather have X instead.

          I use the dog tag as an example, I would cringe if anyone gave one as a wedding gift….

          Similarly, I don’t know exactly what their household has, even if we’re close friends.

          I feel this way about almost all gifts though, which is why holiday gifts are usually homemade food.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          Well, the couple thought about what they want and picked all the items on the list, so buying them something they really want is actually better.

          The majority of my family do not have one clue what I want or need and thus I end up with a boatload of crap on Christmas that I then have to either store or find a way to get rid of. They don’t ask either, because they think a gift should be a “surprise.” It’s hella annoying; I’d rather get a gift card or nothing.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I do think it’s usually the better way to go for most people you’ll end up buying wedding gifts for. When I said it’s less thoughtful, I didn’t mean it’s better, I meant literally more full of thought. Unless you are someone who always buys the same wedding gift, or you just buy the first thing you see, then you’re basically going to have to put more thought into figuring out what to buy someone when you don’t have a list to pick from. You have to think about what you know about the person, and what they might need, and where to buy it, and so on. There is usually more of yourself in that gift. But usually, when it comes to household stuff, you’re going to end up buying something they don’t want or need.

        5. Anna*

          I don’t see how buying a couple something they specifically would like could be considered thoughtless. Wouldn’t it be thoughtless to ignore their preferences and buy something you *think* they might like?

          Not really, because both are thoughtful options, just coming from different perspectives.

        6. Cheeto*

          But I’m picky about stuff. I don’t want THAT baking dish, I want THIS one. I did a lot of research on the things I put on my registry, because if I was ever going to get a blender, I wanted this particular one. My husband hates flannel sheets, so we were sure to put cotton ones on the registry. If I have to use an item every day, I want it to be the one I want. I don’t want the random terrible $10 iron Aunt Milly picked up at Odd Lots.

      3. jmkenrick*

        I had similar thoughts. I know plenty of couples who eschewed the registery because they genuinely feel they have enough stuff. I tend to take people at their word if they say they don’t want gifts, and OP’s office may have interpreted her lack of a registry as indicating that.

        In addition, $300 is a lot of money to spend if you have no idea what the couple in question wants. Based on my limited context, I think the office made a sensible choice.

    2. BRR*

      Applying the principles of professional fundraising, if you ask for something you’re likely to get more.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        “Hello, Wedding guests! I’m happy to let you know that thanks to your generosity, we’ve attained 77% of the items we listed on our registry. These items will go to an excellent home and you should be proud of your accomplishments to ensure their safety and future treatment.

        We still have 4 weeks until the wedding and still have so much to do! I urge you to revisit your sense of compassion and consider opening your hearts and your checkbooks a little wider. With your help, we can reach our goal of 95%!

        Thank you for your continued commitment to our lives and well-being!


    3. hbc*

      I think the “no registry” thing is at the root of this too. It might be that they think it means she wants to keep things low key or doesn’t want gifts. It might be that they didn’t go in thinking “We want to give her a gift worth $X” but instead thought “We should get her something she wants” and they’re seeing 4 place settings and cash as what the coworker and OP respectively want. Or it could just be that they’re squeamish about cash gifts–I know plenty of people who feel strange handing a check to someone but would spend 5 times that amount on a gift because that somehow “cleanses” the money.

      1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        Ha! I’m one of those people.

        I go into a wedding with a budget in mind, but I’ve been known to go over if someone has an item that sparks my interest.

        But without a registry, you are getting that budget amount in cash.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Yes, no registry would make me think the bride/couple felt weird about receiving gifts, so I’d be reluctant to go pick up a $300 mixer that they may or may not want, and may or may not have already.

        1. jmkenrick*

          Exactly. Without more context, I think the office made a sensible choice, which they probably thought was in line with the bride’s wishes.

    4. Oryx*

      I don’t think it’s that weird. Most etiquette experts agree that if you don’t want gifts (or would prefer money) and because you can’t SAY you don’t want gifts (because that implies you expect gifts or your guests are somehow obligated to buy you one), it’s best to just not register.

    5. Foster Friend*

      I’m getting married next year and I’m not planning to have a registry because my fiancée and I are both in our mid-30s, have lived on our own for years, and have accumulated quite a bit of stuff. If people don’t want to get me a gift, that’s completely fine (really) but if they do want to get us something, quite frankly I would rather have cash so I can use it to pay down our new mortgage.

      1. Artemesia*

        My daughter had this attitude. I pointed out to her that family were going to want to give gifts since they were coming to the wedding and if she didn’t register she would have 3 toasters from a little store in Kenosha that she would have no way to easily return or exchange. Now 10 years later, she is very happy to have the nice stainless and the pots and pans.

        Our son wanted tools (both he and his bride wanted tools) and they got lots of great things from people who were intrigued by the complicated tools and had fun buying dremels and rotary saws etc.

        I think pushing a registry it gross, but having a registry is a kindness to guests.

      2. Ad Astra*

        If you really would prefer cash, my advice is to tell a few trusted people — like bridesmaids and parents — about your preference, and have them inform anyone who asks about where you’re registered.

        1. Chinook*

          “If you really would prefer cash, my advice is to tell a few trusted people — like bridesmaids and parents — about your preference, and have them inform anyone who asks about where you’re registered.”

          That is what we did. And then those people let it be known that we would be moving soon across country and also needed to buy a bed (which no one would be able to buy as a gift). Some then gave cash, some gave gifts and some offered to pay for parts of the wedding (ex: flowers). All were wonderful and unexpected.

      3. Sara M*

        Warning, your friends may insist on giving you gifts anyway. Ours did. We were glad we caved and built a registry. At least we got what we wanted.

        If you don’t need household stuff, consider things like boxed DVD sets from Amazon or subscriptions to Cheese of the Month club or something.

    6. AmyNYC*

      In my experience, “no registry” equals “we want cash” (usually to use towards a house, but once you’ve given the gift you don’t get a say in how it’s used)

    7. lawsuited*

      +1 I assume that folks without a registry already have what they need for their household, and are just looking for cash. I don’t like giving cash in an envelope, so if there is no registry and I have to give cash, I usually give less cash than I would have spent on a registry gift.

      I think it’s likely that for the employees who had a registry, the company spent more to get a “nice” item like an appliance or similar, but didn’t want to give the OP a random $300 cash gift.

  5. Daisy Steiner*

    #1: “Please let me know if I’m being ridiculous or if there is something I can do to make things more fair.”

    No, you’re not being ridiculous. You’re allowed to have feelings – and yes, it can feel bad to be treated differently from others, even if it’s something you’re not ‘entitled’ to in the first place. What if your boss bought everyone a coffee except for you? Coffee isn’t part of your remuneration package, and you’re not entitled to coffee from anyone, but you’d still feel pretty bad.


    No, there’s nothing you can do to make things more fair, unfortunately. You just have to feel your feels and move on.

    1. Michelle*

      I agree, Daisy. I work in an office full of younger people who are getting married and/or having children all the time, and we have had years where we had up to 6 showers. OP1, I totally get how you feel because of the following story.

      One year we had weddings on consecutive weekends, so the showers followed a similar pattern. One shower was huge- I’m talking 200+ and so many presents that 3 cars were needed to haul the stuff. The next wedding shower (the very next week), all the same people invited, maybe 50 RSVP’s. 27 people showed. I will never forget that young lady’s face. I decided right then and there that unless I work closely with GOH, I am opting out of attending and participating in showers. That was the most blatant favoritism I had ever witnessed. Not surprisingly, bride 2 left the company shortly after her wedding.

      The thing that stuck out to me the most about those wedding showers: Couple #1 (big shower) It was the bride’s third wedding. The B & G has been living together for a couple of years (they both work with the company) and had all the things they needed to set up a household and yet that was what they got the most of (kitchen items such as coffee makers, silverware, pots & pans, dishware and linens and knick knacks). They returned most of the stuff for cash (!) . Bride 2 had registered for the household items listed above, but mostly received gift cards and cash.

      OP1, unless you see favoritism in other areas, I would try to move on. Personally, I think showers and gifts in the workplace should stop because of situations like yours. If you want to invite someone from work to your wedding, do so, and if they want to give you a gift, they can bring it to the wedding or ship it to your home. That way if there is a disparity in the gift giving, it’s less obvious and less likely to cause hurt feelings. We all are human and have feelings and things like this can cause hurt feelings.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        “The thing that stuck out to me the most about those wedding showers: Couple #1 (big shower) It was the bride’s third wedding.”

        This drives me nuts. Bridal showers and baby showers are reserved for a first wedding and a first baby. I routinely decline showers for an additional marriage or additional baby. Again, just a gauche grab for things without regard for courtesy.

        I’m slowly realizing that I must be an old-fashioned Victorian woman at the turn of the wrong century when it comes to showers and etiquette.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          No, I agree. Unless you are getting married again after a huge disaster that wiped out your entire kitchen and all your household things, you don’t need a fricking shower.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I must be too, because I’m with you. I had a shower for my first…someone asked if there’d be a shower for my second. Um…that’s sweet, but it’s only been three years, I didn’t burn or sell or give away the first-born’s stuff.

        3. CADMonkey007*

          I tend to agree, but I would say that in this context, if a company is going to host showers then they should host showers for all weddings, no matter what number it is. Plus, 200+ people showed up for this bride! So I guess it was a non-issue for most people??

        4. Anna*

          I think maybe you’re making a lot of assumptions about why someone might have multiple showers. Weddings, yeah, why have another shower? But a baby shower for baby #2? There are all sorts of reasons why that would be acceptable. Starting with gaps between babies that are large enough that you got rid of all your baby stuff and that’s just one that came off the top of my head.

        5. Num Lock*

          I’m with you. I’ve only made one exception for a second baby shower, for the following reasons:

          1) It had been 10 years between kid #1 and kid #2.
          2) She had honestly gotten rid of all her old baby stuff, except blankets.
          3) I didn’t know her when she had her first kid, so this was the first shower I’d attended.

          But yeah I laughed my tail off when I got an invite to another friend’s second baby shower. If you know you want multiple, get gender neutral stuff the first time around, folks. Otherwise I guess your baby boy is going to be riding in a pink car seat, isn’t he?

        1. Artemesia*

          I understand that but I am stunned at the idea of a work shower with tons of gifts. I’d feel so totally hosed if I were expected to bring a personal gift to a co-worker’s shower (unless I were a personal friend and this happened outside of the office.) Every workplace I have been in took up a collection and bought a single item or else just had cake; when I was pregnant as a lowly intern, I got a surprise shower at the office and they gave me a basinet and I was amazed and thrilled — but not gifts from each person in the building.

          1. Koko*

            It seems that people weren’t expected to bring personal gifts, though – which is why nobody showed up or brought gifts to bride #2.

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        I have this fear (not on a work level but on a personal level) of no one showing up. I have to say, I do like the way our company handles birthdays and I guess other events. I haven’t yet seen any wedding showers (only been here less than a year) but but two women in my office were pregnant and due weeks apart….the company threw a surprise baby shower for the both of them. I thought that was cute and sweet.

        1. xarcady*

          At OldJob, we had 5 employees get married one year. We had been used to having a shower for weddings, but there had only been three since the company was founded. Small company of about 40 people, so everyone knew everyone else.

          The solution was to throw one shower for all the people getting married. It was held at lunch time, and the soon-to-be spouses were invited. A collection was taken up, and it was made clear that the money was going to be divided equally among all the couples. I think it ended up being $250 per couple. Gifts were purchased off their registries.

          No playing favorites, no special treatment. I’m sure the co-workers who were really close with each couple may have given them a more personal gift, but it wasn’t on company time, as it were.

      3. CADMonkey007*

        I feel bad for Bride #2 in this story, but was it your company that treated the brides differently? I can understand concern if the *company* is giving differential treatment (which is OP’s concern), but when it comes to employees, isn’t it kind of a fact of life that some people are more popular than others? Maybe I’m in the minority but I’m of the opinion people should be allowed to be generous towards whomever without feeling obligation to be “equally generous” to everyone else. I don’t know what would have prevented this problem short of banning office showers all together, but perhaps that is what you are suggesting. I just find the “no gifts allowed unless everyone gets an equal gift” mentality a depressing way to approach life.

        1. Arjay*

          Right, and if both Bride and Groom #1 work at the company, that could double the number of attendees and gifts because the groom’s coworkers are more likely to participate.

        2. Michelle*

          They used the company email list to invite everyone to both showers. The company “donated” the room and purchased the cake, hors d’oeuvres and drinks. I understand that some people will be more popular than others, but really, this was kind of obnoxious. Being human, your feelings can get hurt and cause resentment in the workplace. In theory, you should not let something like this upset you. In reality, it still stings. Honestly, if I were bride #2, I would have been hurt as well. Heck, I was upset for her. To her credit, she never said a word, never complained, wrote prompt thank -you notes and was gracious about it, but the look on her face.

          I agree you should be allowed to be generous to whomever you choose. However, I think bridal and baby showers should not be held at work. You can invite people from work to your shower and they can gift you there and it stays out of the workplace.

          BTW- couple #1 never sent thank-you notes.

      4. Erin*

        Oh, that’s so sad. Poor Bride #2. I’m sure it was more of a, everyone was sick of the whole wedding/shower situation thing, rather blatant favoritism, but of course that’s how it came off.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I agree.

      My company varies in the way they handle celebrations and gifts. Some employees get birthday lunches, cake, and presents; other employees’ birthdays are ignored. Same with showers and retirements. There’s no policy or designated person in charge of coordinating these things, so the generosity just depends on popularity, timing, and who your boss is.

      It used to bother me more, but I’ve realized that there’s not much to be done about it. Especially since it’s not some malicious plot.

  6. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

    We never had a real HR director until a few years ago. Before that we had clerks and I expected her to come in like at bat out of hell on bunches of our practices. Which, she did, except the “no write up” culture. Look, we were doing something right!

    All she wants is an email trail. If something is serious enough for a sit down, she wants an email summary for the sit down, and any other email documentation back and forth with the rep or about the rep that takes place prior or after (in relation to the issue at hand).

    That satisfies HR. Then, for management, we put as much or as little in writing as necessary to help the employee improve.

    One thing that helps us is that someone from senior management always joins a serious sit down. (serious = person’s job will be on the line unless they turnaround). That’s two people to talk thru with the employee, make sure important things are understood, plus two people who can write a summary to HR after. Precludes real or imagined “they never told me” without having to write up infractions and have someone sign them.

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I managed an environment that had binary goals. If someone didn’t meet monthly goals or missed too much time, I had to issue a write-up and give feedback to the employee.

      The whole thing was useless and ridiculous. People knew what they missed and what they needed to do to improve. The only feedback was really: You missed your goal, you need to hit next month, what do you need to ensure this? I felt like a parent lecturing children twice my age, and employees hated it as much as I did.

      I left that area after a year because I found the entire process pointless and humilating. I felt like management was glorified babysitting – I actually shied away from other management positions for several years because of the bad taste it left.

      I’m in a different area now as a leader with professionals who do the best jobs they can based on what they know at any given point in time. Sometimes there are no right or wrong answers. I much prefer the conversations we have around these topics and seeing the aha! moment happen or discussing what we learned – we can just *talk* about these things without some idiot process. I’ll request email details if needed for critical items, but my team knows it’s so I can help break through the blocks rather than nitpick their work.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Totally agree. In fact, all but one of my jobs used the “conversation” method most of the time and a formal “write-up” was only used if that person was likely on their way out the door. At the one other job with Nightmare Boss, she used write-ups frequently and very unfairly. It’s the only place I was ever written up in my entire career. She’d regularly warn myself and others on the team about certain petty things, but if she didn’t like you or you had said or done something to piss her off, then you got the write-up for the petty thing, while her “pets” never received write-ups for the exact same petty infractions.

  7. RobM*

    #3 – As a Brit who enjoys reading this blog along with a few other sites that discuss management, I’ve always found the concept of “writing someone up” bizarre. In the UK, its perfectly common to have a concept of giving out formal warnings to problem employees and this is a Big Deal when it happens, and is a record of a discussion that takes place between an employee and their line manager. This totally needs to happen when a situation is serious.

    “Writing someone up”, however, sounds like an oddly passive-aggressive method of management on a par with tattling to teacher about how Anthony and Cleopatra changed desks while all the grown-ups were out of the room at school. I honestly think I’d have trouble taking this process seriously whichever side of the desk I was sitting on.

    I’m relived to see Alison respond along similar lines.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Okay but I think “formal warning” in writing sounds just as bad. I mean, literally, my ear can’t hear the difference as to why one is worse than the other, except possibly I hate Formal Warning more.

      I’ve never managed a factory full of employees either or had to work out management practices for a national retail chain. I have to allow that I might have an entirely different opinion of write ups or formal warnings if I was trying to put a fair, evenly executed plan across a host of managers and employees.

      1. RobM*

        They’re probably not different in terms of what they mean, or should mean. I think that tonally, “formal warning” sounds less childish than “written up”, and as Apollo says, its something the employee can appeal against whereas I get the feeling this isn’t the case in the US with “write ups”.

        I don’t like either term. This kind of disciplinary route should be a last resort; formal warnings are essentially a slope towards firing someone and of course, who likes doing that…?

        1. Tamsin*

          This thread is really pretty unsatisfying and possibly misleading. A write-up in the United States in the vast majority of workplaces that use it is very much a disciplinary action and is one taken and meant to be more severe, professionally, than the verbal disciplinary action and warning etc. Your job is on the line.

          1. LBK*

            See, that doesn’t sync up with my experience in the US at all – a single write up doesn’t even come close to implying your job is on the line. I think it’s safe to say that this all depends on how the company defines them, which as others have pointed out emphasizes how useless they are.

      2. Colette*

        To me, “write up” sounds like you don’t have any authority – the authority belongs to the write up process. “Formal warning” sounds like the authority belongs to you.

        1. RobM*

          Thank you. This is exactly what I was driving at but totally failing to connect with. In my defence, its a friday and I’ve had “a bit of a week”.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


            Which, Collette’s explanation, explains why I don’t like Formal Warning. My “warning” style is more collegial, my POV is more partnership. If you are making too many mistakes then we can’t keep you on because it’s costing us $XXXX to fix your mistakes, and you can see how that doesn’t make sense for the business. So we need to see an improvement on the mistakes in the next 30 days or this just isn’t the right job for you.

            I don’t see “write up” as lacking authority so much as sounding like it comes from Monsters Inc and expecting to see blue copies and pink copies.

      3. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        In almost all workplaces there’s a disciplinary practice procedure which has to be followed to (safely) dismiss someone, and it’s broadly oral warning -> written warning -> fired. This is super standard, so it’s a recognised part of the workplace discipline which most managers/employees understand. It’s also all legal, as it creates a record of disciplinary stepping up to prevent unfair dismissal/constructive dismissal claims afterwards.

        1. The Expendable Redshirt*

          I wish Old Job followed this practice! They operate on the sequence

          Write up (highlighted as not a big deal)-> good performance review -> sudden job loss


          Good performance review -> sudden job loss.

          It’s happened to myself and so many coworkers. Old job has a clear history of firing people out of the blue. On the topic of write ups, I was told they were given for the purpose of documenting an incident. Standard procedure if you will. The company would suddenly call you into the office and give notification of your write up.

          Is there another option for companies besides a write up?

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yeah, I had a job where I got a formal warning, was put on a PIP, got through it, got an excellent review, like three months later I made a mistake and was fired 36 hours later.

            I mean, it wouldn’t be fair to say I had NO idea it was coming, but it was still a stunner and felt unfair.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That’s the procedure for most jobs I’ve had (I’m in the U.S.). The verbal warning is noted, but it’s not technically a write-up per se.

          Of course, your boss can also yell at you informally.

  8. AnotherFed*

    #2 That’s pretty terrible. Air fresheners might not go over well, but if the smell gets too awful, have peppermint gum or strongly flavored hard candy. I’ve found it helps me deal with one coworkers smelliness, and gets the nasty chemical taste out when she notices she smells and bathes in perfume or motion to cover it up.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I had a coworker who would keep a scented candle in her cube because we worked with a smelly coworker who often would stand IN her cube, over her shoulder for long periods of time. A burning candle may not go over everywhere, but I have some LED candles at home that also put out a mild scent.

      1. Anonicorn*

        Our office doesn’t allow burning candles but does allow those electric warmer things that you put the candle on for the same effect.

      2. Hlyssande*

        Oooh, scented LED candles? That’s awesome.

        I know there’s such a thing as a ‘candle warmer’ that doesn’t have open flame, but with many offices going scent-free to accommodate people with serious allergies, I’m not sure it would be allowed.

      3. MsChanandlerBong*

        I used to work in a law firm with a woman who had an incontinence issue. One of the legal assistants used to keep a candle burning at all times to try to cover up the smell of pee. It didn’t work too well, though. It just sort of smelled like cucumber-melon pee instead of plain pee!

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              Did you know: The ability to smell asparagus urine is genetic. Some people have the gene that can detect the aroma, and others do not. So if someone claims that they eat asparagus all the time without this particular after-effect, that person isn’t lying; that person simply lacks the gene.

              It’s similar to broccoli and cruciferous veggies – some people (like me) have a gene that detects the bitter compounds in these vegetables very acutely, yet other people do not. To those who do not have this gene, broccoli is yummy.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I wonder if it’s cultural, or like a good friend of mine likes to say “sometimes a fox can’t smell it’s own hole”. I have to admit, though, earlier this week I decided to see if I could get away with wearing Tom’s natural deodorant. Nope, I smelled myself by lunchtime.

        1. UsedToDoSupport*

          You beat me to it! I work with someone who does the “No-Poo” thing, uses natural deodorant, and natural toothpaste. While I admire the effort, um, she smells. Particularly her hair which she flips a lot. It smells like dirty hair. Honestly though, dealing with others’ idiosyncrasies is something we all have to live with. Unless you yourself are perfect, that is. No-poo actually complained about someone else’s odor (perfume or shampoo or something) and got her desk moved. Glass houses…I ain’t throwin’ no rocks.

  9. Ani*

    A write up is a formal warning and a big deal — pretty much exactly what you describe. Honestly, it’s almost like the entire thread is reacting to what apparently people think is a frivolous name for it, because the substance of it certainly is not.

    1. sylph*

      I agree with you. Honestly, to me, if some one gets “written up” that’s just shorthand for “AWe had a serious conversation addressing the issues, talked about ways to improve, and I sent an email afterward so we both had record.” Not “I was late once and got written up; two more times and I’m out”

      Am I missing some other definition of “written up” that makes those two things not the same?

      1. Sydney Bristow*

        I’ve always understood “being written up” as the latter. So it can be pretty trivial but my issue with it, as someone said above is the ability to game the process. Companies become so attached to the process that they forget what purpose it is supposed to serve.

        I worked somewhere that had a points system where if you wound up with so many points you’d be fired. I don’t remember specifically how it worked, but I do remember coworkers who were chronically late or just didn’t show up for their shift more than once but because of how these things were spaced out, they never had too many points so they weren’t ever fired. The company was too tied to the technical process of it all.

    2. hermit crab*

      The names of things are important, though! If something has a negative connotation, I think it’s less likely to accomplish what it’s supposed to do.

      1. hbc*

        It’s a negative thing, though. This isn’t a review that can be positive, negative, or a mixed bag. You did something wrong, either consistently enough or bad enough that there needs to be documentation of it.

        We can call it a Progress Update, or an Observation of Action, or something less negative, but that’s just word games. As long as the Formal Warning or Write-Up or Wrist Slap isn’t used in a condescending or capricious way, I don’t care what it’s called.

    3. RobM*

      I’ve seen references to “being written up” in other places (reddit, workplace stack exchange) for what I would say are trivial matters, which may well be the reason I dislike the phrase so strongly. It’s certainly a poor manager who reaches for this particular item out of their toolkit at the drop of a hat, whatever they’re calling it…

      1. Greggles*

        In the retail food service environment writing up is to track. Where 5 minutes in some jobs seems trivial in some it’s not. I’d also like to point out that all managers in say food service or retail have termination power. That is left up to the GM.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I think it varies from work place to work place. In some places, it’s just a way of saying that a note was made. In other places, it’s a formal stage of disciplinary procedure, and it is a big deal (and some places have appeal procedures).

    4. Can't Think Of A More Clever Anon Name Today*

      Nah I don’t think so…

      In a lot of instances and work environments (especially, I think hourly / service jobs) , a write up is for small things like “was 5 minutes late 3 times this week” or “forgot to close the safe (even though it was empty) last night” <– sorry I couldn't think of more clever examples, but its small somewhat petty things/annoyances or may even include juvenile things like not getting along with coworkers…

      A sit down meeting would be the bigger deal, after you've had x amount of "write ups" like yellow slips in first grade.

      It's absolutely silly, as Alison stated.

      1. Coffeepots by Hazel*

        I get that this can be handled in a silly, infantilizing way, but I respectfully disagree that “5 minutes late, 3 times in the same week” is a small thing. In some jobs, yes; in other food service & retail jobs, 5 minutes really does matter. 5 minutes late one time, or once in a great while? Hey, things happen; the train was late, there was an accident on the freeway, whatever. But if it’s happening multiple times a week, and this is a job where someone else can’t go home until you get there or customers really are lining up at the door or flooding the phone lines at 8 am sharp, that’s not acceptable. Sure, as a manager, I’m going to start that convo in a concerned, collaborative way: “Fergus, you were late Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday this week. What’s going on?” But even in the best-case scenario (Fergus is a valued long-term employee who’s never had a problem with punctuality before, and comes to me proactively after the second or third lateness acknowledging the problem and telling me what steps he’s taking to correct it), I’m going to document the conversation, even if it’s just a memo for the file and/or a friendly email to Fergus that summarizes our convo. And this is only partly about Fergus; partly, it’s a CYA move just in case Apollo develops a lateness problem next month and then when I speak to him about it, complains to HR that he’s being treated unfairly.

        1. J. Lynn*

          Coffeepots by Hazel – I agree with you re: retail/service jobs. I worked in large Starbucks-like coffee chain and for months one of the people that was always scheduled to replace me would be 15-45 minutes later and I couldn’t leave (because we could not have just 1 person in the store) and there was always only 2 people on staff. So if i left, it would have been grounds for termination for both me and the person I left behind. On top of that, I had another evening job 30 minutes away I had to get to (and only 60 minutes to get there, change clothes, eat dinner), so it was so frustrating to literally be walking in that job with no time for dinner. Fortunately that boss was laid back and it wasn’t another food service job so when I had to, I ate as I worked, but I was so frustrated my manager would not say anything except “Hey try to be more on time” to person that was always late.

          1. BabyAttorney*

            But there has to be a limit somewhere.

            I worked at a retail store between passing the bar and getting a job. The company has a “point system,” but its only in relation to timeliness.
            5min grace period, 5mins to to 2hrs late, you get 1/2 point. After 2 hours, a whole point. A call out was a whole point, NO MATTER WHAT. A no call no show was six points. Leaving early was the same thing–more htan 2 hrs, a whole point, 5-120min, half point. You’re fired at seven points. It was awful.

    5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      In my experience, Write-Ups lead to Action Plans, which then lead to Performance Improvement Plans, which then lead to Termination. It’s the first step in a process, not a formal warning or big deal in itself.

    6. Ad Astra*

      Well, that’s the rub. A write-up might be a big deal at one office and a minor thing at another. If it’s a toothless formality, why bother? If it’s accompanied by a real consequence, than the effective part is the consequence, not the write-up.

  10. devans00*

    Ms. Smaller Wedding Gift should put herself in the shoes of single and childless employees. We never get extra gifts of any amount. So her complaint comes across as petty and ungrateful.

    Complaining about the price difference may lead to the company wedding gift perk being cut off for everyone.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      One of my employers used to put a “birthday bonus” in your salary for your birthday month. Everyone below senior management received the same. Being in the UK it was taxed as extra pay but it was a nice gesture and meant everyone benefited (except senior management and directors who got paid much more anyway).

    2. Xarcady*

      I’m single and childless and don’t mind at all if a company chooses to honor important life events, that I might never celebrate, for their employees. It’s an extra–we all get some extras other people don’t.

      And I do think that if the company does this, roughly same amount needs to be spent each time. This company has taken a good employee, the OP, and now that employee is very unhappy. I’m sure that’s not what they intended when they started giving wedding presents.

    3. BRR*

      That’s really dismissive of the lw’s feelings and the situation. I complety get and agree that it’s not fair for only certain people to get a perk like this. However the company is doing it and it sucks to have such a disparagy. The lw does acknowledge they are thankful for it too.

      Also agree with Alison that it would be petty to bring up.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Agreed. It’s reasonable for OP to feel hurt and wonder if there is some deeper meaning to the disparity.

        This is why we don’t do wedding and baby gifts on the organization’s dime. It feels like we’d be giving gifts to the same people over and over, and leaving out the same ones (also, we are a charity, and this stuff isn’t in out budget). I spend the little money I have for staff recognition on recognizing good work.

        I also feel weird about goodbye parties for similar reasons. I’m not organizing a goodbye party for someone who has been around for two months, sure – but where exactly is the line? If a peer wants to organize drinks, lunch, or a cake when someone leaves, that’s fine (only cards are paid for by the company) but I’m not leading it and we are not making it an official thing. I will attend if invited. If you can’t do these things by some consistent system, you just should not do them. Or, you do them privately – I will take exiting employees out to lunch and write them a sincere card if it’s someone who has made a major contribution.

    4. Allison*

      I’m single and childless as well, and I would have no problem with my company giving people wedding presents as long as they’re in the same ballpark. If one person’s gift was $300 and the other’s was only $250 that’s fine, but spending hundreds on some people and only $50 on someone else, without an obvious reason (seniority, etc.), is absolutely not fair.

      Also, I think you can be grateful for a gift but still slighted that it’s significantly less than what others seem to get. Those feelings aren’t mutually exclusive, although it is possible to focus more on one than the other.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I think this is really the root – if the company is going to bestow gifts on employees for certain situations then it needs to have a transparent gift policy. I’m willing to bet that OP would feel less slighted if she knew that there were guidelines for cash vs. tangible gifts, rather than assume the choice is selective and possibly based on performance or favoritism.

    5. Anonymouse*

      Yeah, I agree. Since it’s the employer giving the money and not expecting coworkers to pool in for a wedding gift, I’m less annoyed, but it still reeks of pettiness. Frankly, I’m a little tired of weddings where people expect a certain amount for a gift and ignore that not everyone wants or can give the same amount. It’s so entitled.

      And honestly, it does sort of go against treating employees fairly because you’re acknowledging someone’s outside-of-work choices with extra money and that seems unfair.

      1. Anonymouse*

        Also, I’m tired of employers only celebrating weddings and baby showers because it’s SO heteronormative. If you’re going to celebrate events that happen outside of work, celebrate for people who don’t get married and have kids. I’ve worked in a few companies that throw wedding and baby showers and expect people to contribute to gifts, but won’t acknowledge other employee’s who, say, graduate from a PhD program or interns who graduate college or someone who buys a house. If you’re going to celebrate some personal milestone events, don’t ignore others.

        1. LBK*

          I mean, gay people can get married and have kids too, so I don’t think it’s inherently heteronormative any moreso than those two actions are in general.

          1. K.*

            A gay friend of mine was thrown a HUGE wedding shower at his work. His now-husband was there and frankly, they made out like bandits. (The company has deep pockets.) The company is involved with education so they celebrate graduations too.

          2. Daisy Steiner*

            You’re right, LBK, but I agree with Anonymouse that it’s a bit of an old-fashioned approach to life’s milestones.

            My friend was delighted to see that her Facebook status about getting her PHD received far more replies and likes than her post about her engagement, as she considered it much more of an achievement.

            1. LBK*

              I don’t necessarily disagree that it’s old-fashioned, but that’s a whole separate discussion from whether it’s heteronormative or not. Arguably one of the reasons marriage equality has been such a big deal is precisely because marriage is a cultural milestone and being able to get married allows gay people to share in the traditions and recognition that accompany it, not just legally but also socially.

              I do think there has to be a line drawn on what’s a big enough deal to consider a personal milestone – no matter what it’s going to be somewhat arbitrary, so I think making the delineation “family-related things” isn’t a bad call (and maybe “education-related things,” too, if you want to loop in graduations, etc).

              1. Daisy Steiner*

                OK yes, I see the distinction now. I think I got confused about what I was agreeing with and what was just my own opinion. Let me have another go: I think it’s a bit old-fashioned.

            2. fposte*

              And that’s great, and that’s a situation where it’s appropriate to expect that kind of proportionate response. Facebook is about recognizing achievements. Traditional gifts are about commemorating milestones; those aren’t the same thing.

              And I think when you’re talking gifts, “It’s not fair! I want mine!” is a poor moral place to make a stand. And I say this as a single and childless person with a house and a PhD.

              1. Daisy Steiner*

                Yes, I agree. I probably wasn’t clear – I don’t think that PhD gifts should necessarily be a thing like wedding gifts, and I wasn’t saying that the FB response should be reflected in real, tangible gifts.

                I’m struggling to explain what I mean, but I think you’ve made a great distinction between milestones and achievements. I think there is a lot of overlap in acknowledging the two though, and sometimes one is confused for the other.

                I’m certainly not saying that I want more gifts! I’m just considering the wider landscape of milestones/achievements as a whole and thinking about what we consider the standard ones for gifting/congratulations and why.

                1. fposte*

                  And that’s a question worth examining, that’s for sure. I’d also like to see a recognition culture that moves away from gifts, at least significant gifts.

          3. Jackie*

            When gay marriage became legal in my state years ago, my so and I ran out and got married and didn’t have a honeymoon or a shower because of timing and money, just taking one day off. Another coworker got straight married the same month, with honeymoon and all the fixings. When he got a wedding gift from the company and I didn’t, my friend took the boss aside and said something like “I’m assuming it’s because she basically eloped and he didn’t but just so you know that kind of looks bad” and you’ve never seen a boss send a receptionist out to buy a gift card so fast.

        2. fposte*

          But the company isn’t making up these milestones out of whole cloth; they’re culturally identified milestones at which presents are given. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expand the definition of milestones to make sure everybody gets something at some point. If the issue is that you think culture should recognize those milestones differently, that’s a different question, and I don’t think the company is the first place to start there.

          1. LBK*

            Agreed completely. As always, you manage to succinctly voice the thoughts I try to write out ten times and ultimately delete because I can’t figure out how to say them :)

          2. Daisy Steiner*

            fposte, I think this is what I was trying to explain in my badly worded reply to you above. I agree with your comment here. I was more thinking aloud (typing aloud?) about why those are the culturally identified milestones.

        3. Erin*

          …but, then we’d be celebrating every little thing and that could easily get out of control.

          No, single and childless people don’t get the monetary and other gifts, but they do receive perks in other ways. Like, the freedom to not have to take time off work to meet with wedding vendors or do parent/teacher conferences and the other myriad of ways your family demands your time and money.

          In fact, I think it could be argued that single/childless folks are able spend more time and energy accomplishing things like a PhD, and things at work that could say…lead to a promotion (a monetary benefit).

          Please take that statement with a grain of salt, because of course married folks with children can do these things as well, but hopefully my point stands: There are pros and cons for both married and single people. Wedding and shower gifts is one pro for the former.

          None of this takes away from the blatant favoritism with the OP’s situation. The fact remains that she did not receive a clear benefit that others in her position did – and her boss had to know that she knows this!

          As I said somewhere else here – I think the company shouldn’t be spending company funds on things like wedding gifts. I think the people the employee chooses to invite should spend out of their own pocket, at their discretion, based on the individual relationships they have and their current financial situations.

          OP, I’d let this go and chalk it up to valuable information you’ve learned about your company. (And congrats on getting married!)

          1. SCR*

            Um… “No, single and childless people don’t get the monetary and other gifts, but they do receive perks in other ways. Like, the freedom to not have to take time off work to meet with wedding vendors or do parent/teacher conferences and the other myriad of ways your family demands your time and money.”

            Weddings are a choice. Having children (generally) is a choice. It’s not a “perk” because someone decides not to or cannot participate in those things. I know this is derailing but please tell a woman that is struggling with infertility that the freedom to not attend parent/teachers conferences is a perk.

            1. LBK*

              Maybe “perk” isn’t the right word, but there is a trade-off. I think the point is that looking at it solely as “parents get all these presents and recognition while the rest of us get nothing” is a myopic view that ignores all the challenges of being a working parent. Your infertility example kind of strikes me as counter to your argument, though – in that case it isn’t a choice, so the pro/con weighing of the choice doesn’t really apply.

              1. SCR*

                It’s the wording that bothered me. Because the flipside is that single people will complain that the parents get to leave early and they don’t. Thinking of these things as perks is the issue. These circumstances are the consequences of decisions we’ve made and our life’s direction. Rewarding some and not others is what niggles.

                1. LBK*

                  That’s fair. I think contextually I’m reading perks as synonymous with pros or advantages (contrasted with cons or drawbacks), but I can see that reading it as more of the benefits package definition of perks makes the phrasing icky.

                2. Erin*

                  Yes, you guys are right, LBK hit the nail on the head, I did mean more so pros than perks, and was using them as synonymous. My apologies.

                  I meant to say, I think it’s silly for someone to complain that married people and parents get gifts single/childless people don’t. So they therefore shouldn’t complain about favoritism with said gifts. Favoritism is a separate issue in and of itself. And there are pros and cons to being married/being a parent, as there are pros and cons with the good ole single life.

            2. Artemesia*

              Those who assure the future of society by bearing and rearing children incur enormous expense and labor to do so. Being without children allows accumulation of wealth and the pleasures of free time to spend it. I am glad I had kids and now having wonderful adult kids is a great joy and I know some people want to and can’t have kids and this is a personal tragedy, but no amount of gift cards or kitchen towels at showers comes close to being more financially beneficial to an employee than the time and money not having kids affords.

            3. catsAreCool*

              Single and childless people have to do everything themselves (or pay someone to do it). If I’m sick, I still need to feed myself, etc. Married people can at least share chores.

          2. LBK*

            In fact, I think it could be argued that single/childless folks are able spend more time and energy accomplishing things like a PhD, and things at work that could say…lead to a promotion (a monetary benefit).

            This is a great point – married people and/or those with children face their own challenges at work, especially women whose careers and earning power can suffer permanent, long-term damage. As a person who doesn’t intend to have kids, I’ll gladly trade off getting a fancy expensive baby shower in exchange for not being parent-tracked (and I’d venture there’s plenty of parents who’d be happy to make that exchange as well).

            1. SCR*

              But people choose to have those children (hopefully) and know the consequences. Our society should be better to not malign mothers but you prioritized children and a wedding and whatever else. Plenty of single and childless people don’t actually pull down more money, it’s still common for men to make more if they have a family to support.

              It’s not an equal world. Which is why the OP harping on getting less money feels potentially petty, getting married is a privilege and a gift from your employer is such a generous gesture. Congrats to them!

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Yeah, I’m laughing pretty hard at the whole single-people-have-more-money thing. No, we don’t necessarily, because 1) we have to shoulder the burden of every expense ourselves, and not all of us make the big bucks. Also, 2) if you’re talking about travel, two words–single supplement. We get punished for not having another person with us.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  For real. I don’t have anyone to help pay the mortgage or to fix the roof or to repair my car or to split the rental car and hotel room with on my vacation. If I want to buy new furniture or dishes or a duvet, that’s all coming out of my pocket. Sure, there are married people on one income, I’m not saying getting married doubles your income. I’m just saying that I don’t know why anyone would assume that a single person is necessarily more well off than a married person.

        4. Ad Astra*

          I’m all for looking at other big life events to celebrate like buying a house or defending a thesis, but I don’t see what’s wrong with celebrating weddings and babies. There are plenty of gay and otherwise not-heterosexual people who get married and have children.

    6. AnotherAlison*

      Heck, I was already married before I started any professional job. Unless a company is weirdly skewed towards having a young staff, wouldn’t a lot of coworkers already be married and never have a chance to receive this perk?

      1. lawsuited*

        I was married before I started working too, which meant I married young, which meant we didn’t receive many wedding gifts at all as most in our network were not yet established enough to afford gifts. But who cares? I’m lucky that I got married when I did because my partner and I have enjoyed that many more years together.

        Getting a wedding gift from anyone, including an employer, is a windfall, not an employment perk or a “getting married” perk. OP’s post is a reminder that all couples that being married to the person you love is the only gift that newlyweds should count on, and the only one that matters.

      2. Ad Astra*

        The average age to get married is something like 25 or 27 now, so a lot of people will start a professional job before they get married. Of course, plenty of people will get married while they’re working for one company, which perhaps doesn’t do wedding gifts, and then later take a job at this company and miss out on the “perk.” It might be better to think of these gifts as just kind gestures rather than true perks like a company car or summer Fridays, because they’re really coming from a different place.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Right, I meant the latter. . .that people won’t be from 1 job from the time they’re 22 until they’re 40. I’m only 37, but I’m a weirdo who got married at 19. I know most of my friends weren’t doing that.

    7. K.*

      Yeah, I have to say, I was put off by this. I spent a lot of money last year at my previous employer because everyone was getting married or having babies, sometimes in a small window. (We were also voluntold to chip in for a gift for the VP’s birthday, which REALLY bugged me – he makes four times what I did, and I made good money. He can buy his own fruit basket.) Those were the only events celebrated with gifts (most birthdays were cake and card; no gifts were given for other milestone events like graduations or work anniversaries).

      I get that it’s unfair, but I would be really irked to hear “But I only got $50!” around the office. Save that for your friends and spouse.

      1. Daisy Steiner*

        Good point, K. OP, you came to the right place – an ANONYMOUS website – to get this off your chest. But I would advise not talking about it in your workplace as it could easily be taken the wrong way.

      2. devans00*

        K., you stated my point more elegantly than I did. I don’t begrudge anyone (except the jerks) who get any company gifts at work.

        I do have issues with complaints about the size and quality of gifts that are not even available to everyone in the office. For whatever reason.

        I’d be more empathetic over something like an unfair yearly bonus. Every employee, regardless of life outside of work, has an opportunity to earn one and it’s usually based on HR formulas. Less chance for favoritism to creep in.

    8. Daisy Steiner*

      But it’s not about what she actually received, it’s about the disparity and what she’s worried it might mean.

      If my mum got my brother and sister slippers for Christmas and got me nothing, you can be darn sure I’d be wondering what’s up. It’s not about the cost of the slippers or feeling entitled to a gift – it’s about the difference in treatment and wondering what it means.

      1. Allison*

        Right. I’ve learned to be grateful for what I get for Christmas, or my birthday, or whatever, but if my parents spent $300 on my sister and only spent $50 on me, I’d be grateful for what I got but I’d definitely wonder what was going on. They definitely try to make things equal on Christmas morning, even if one of us has her heart set on something expensive while the other has no idea what they want.

        What this company should have done was say “hey, we normally spend $X on someone for their wedding present, let’s see if we can get this person something of roughly equal value.” Even if it was a bunch of gift cards, rather than the one OP got.

        1. lawsuited*

          I totally disagree with this approach to gifts. I would be surprised if, as Daisy suggested, my parents got my siblings gifts and got me nothing for Christmas, but I do not believe that gifts have to be equal and I would not bat an eyelash if my parents got my sister a $400 Kitchenaid mixer and got me a $30 book.

          1. Artemesia*

            That happens year after year and it is a clear message that your parents love your sibling more. And it happens in the workplace as an official gesture from the employer and the message the OP got is ‘they value me less.’ I think in her case, it is probably not so. It is an artifact of the registry/no registry thing and I doubt the boss ‘knew she knew because she sees the budgets.’ I doubt the boss gave it a thought or remembered. (possibly she did but I wouldn’t assume it.) But of course the OP wonders if it is a message, just as a child would wonder why his sibling got a pony, a bike and a laptop three years running and she got a ‘nice book’.

    9. neverjaunty*

      Other people get treated unfairly, so OP shouldn’t complain, and also OP shouldn’t complain because if she does the unfair treatment will stop? Really not getting this.

    10. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      It’s not fair to force the OP to look through your point of view. Your argument may have validity but you don’t get to dictate how another person feels.

      OP is free to feel slighted by the difference in gifts. You may find it petty and ungrateful (which I think is pretty harsh) but that’s not for you to judge.

      What matters now is how OP manages her feelings into actions. Again, she is free to complain, wonder, and even ask about the disparity. This is what OP is asking for, not your personal feelings on the behavior.

    11. Erin*

      I think that’s a little bit unfair. We aren’t talking about single and childless employees. We’re talking about blatant favoritism with wedding gifts.

      This reminds me of when people say, “Why is this news outlet reporting on X, it should be reporting on Y?” Because we aren’t talking about Y. You could literally apply that statement to anything. I mean, why are we talking about weddings at all, with the whole France situation??

      Anywho, that being said, I actually do think the wedding gift “perk” should be cut off. Why is the company paying for a wedding gift out of company funds? I’ve admittedly only worked at smaller companies, but I’ve never heard of this before. That seems so bizarre to me. You invite coworkers you’re close to, and they pay out of their own pocket for a gift, right? (Apparently not.)

    12. Stranger than fiction*

      I seem to remember a Sex in the City episode where Carrie threw herself a Single Shower, and everyone came and gave her gifts. I thought that was awesome.

      1. Oryx*

        Sort of: she had a friend host a baby shower at which Carrie lost her very expensive shoes because someone else wore them home (it was a whole subplot about needing to remove them because dirt on floor or something). When Carrie called later asking about them, her friend was very flippant about it and when Carrie asked to be reimbursed, her friend flat out said, “No. That was a choice to buy those shoes. I shouldn’t have to supplement your expensive lifestyle” even though Carrie only had to take them off because the woman insisted.

        So, Carrie went to the store and registered for that single pair of shoes and her friend was the only one who was sent the registry information and sure enough, the friend bought the shoes and Carrie got them.

        (I’m a bit of a S&TC addict)

  11. Can't Think Of A More Clever Anon Name Today*

    I do think the gift card amount was because you had no registry. A lot of people who choose not to register do so because they do not wish to receive gifts. The disparity may not have been at the forefront of whomever was tasked to get your giftcards mind (or they may not have even known) It’s possible whoever got the other gifts was someone different? Or just chose something especially nice from the list and didn’t remember the price point now when it came time to recognize your special occasion (to which they had no list to work from)

    1. Xarcady*

      I mostly hear the flip side of this argument–that when people don’t have a registry, that means they want cash. In my experience, people who don’t want gifts at all usually said that up front.

      1. BRR*

        I think a lot of people hope to receive cash when they don’t have a registry. But if you want cash or nothing it’s better to be direct than hope people catch on. We wanted cash so we wrote something about people’s presence being enough (everybody had to travel) and being blessed with everything we already needed (which is true, a registry would have been replacing things that worked perfectly fine) but we would really like help in being able to go on a honeymoon. I saw somebody recently that said no gifts (very wealthy family) and just put two charities that meant a lot to the couple were involved with.

      2. Greggles*

        For a business that becomes a nightmare and most likely a taxable event. I think even the gift card is tricky. Anytime we get one from our employer its on our pay stub as income.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I was wondering about this, if that is why they only gave $50, to avoid having to report it as income on her W2.

          I’ll attach the link separately, but I found an article that says “Based on the employee-employer relationship, most gifts that you give to your employees are presumed to be compensatory in nature. What this means is that unless you can show that a gift is connected with an event that’s totally unrelated to your business (for example, you attend an employee’s wedding), gifts to your employees are considered taxable wages for payroll tax purposes.”

          So I wonder – did the bosses attend the other people’s weddings, but not OPs? That could play into it as well. Or if the other weddings were last year, it’s also possible either their accountant said “hey, stop that, no more big presents from the company” or someone declared a cap on this type of thing effective as of July 1, or something like that.

        2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Good point. Cash gifts and tangible gifts are subject to taxes, but they have different thresholds on the taxes removed. I want to say these items are taxed at a higher rate as bonuses, not at the federal rate for wages.

      3. Int*

        I’ve heard that it’s rude to say that you don’t want gifts, because that implies that you’re expecting gifts.

        1. Kate M*

          On an invitation or any written form of communication, that’s true. You should never mention gifts (even requesting no gifts) or a registry or honeymoon registry or cash or anything on an invitation. (It is ok to have an insert with a wedding website, where the website links to the registries if people are interested).

          If someone asks about gifts in person, it’s ok to say that you don’t want gifts. But only if someone asks about it directly.

        2. Oryx*

          Kate M is correct. You should never mention gifts (or no gifts, or preferring cash, or any variation of the same) on wedding invitations or save the dates, etc. But if someone asks about gifts, it’s okay to say you aren’t registered, are saving up for a house/honeymoon/etc.

  12. Xarcady*

    #4. My sister worked for a Catholic elementary school for 20 years. They got a new, lay, principal when she’d been there 15 years. The last two years she was there, the principal had one of the teachers, someone who’d become her “best friend,” go through all the personnel files of all the other teachers, and make recommendations about what they needed to do for professional development, what paperwork was missing from their files, and a few other things I can’t remember.

    And apparently this “best friend” teacher was not able to keep her mouth shut about some of the things she discovered.

    All the teachers felt as if their privacy had been violated, and this was a big part of the reason my sister left that school. Along with 8 other teachers (25% of the staff) in a three year span.

    It may be legal, but it can definitely be upsetting to the other employees.

    1. OfficePrincess*

      But in this case, I would have to argue that the problem wasn’t that the teacher checked over the files, it was that she didn’t keep her mouth shut.

      1. Chinook*

        I agree – the problem is never who sees the information but the ethics of those who see the information and how they use it after. I have worked in all sorts of roles where I have seen confidential HR information and the only time I used it was when I was negotiating a salary when I moved from temp to perm and even then I pointed out to my boss that I was bringing it up because I couldn’t deny not knowing what others made. But I would never divulge this information to anyone else.

  13. Katie the Fed*

    So, we don’t really have “write-ups” but we do have a disciplinary process that includes a formal written warning. In three years of management I’ve only had to get to that point once. Almost everything else can be resolved with a conversation, and if a conversation doesn’t work then it’s a more formal verbal warning where I make it clear that if the behavior continues I’ll be pursuing progressive disciplinary measures up to and including termination. That usually gets their attention.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, everywhere I’ve worked has had “verbal warning” and then “written warning” – and these were used when patterns had developed, not for one off incidents (unless they were extremely major incidents, like stealing). “Written warning” was the last step before a PIP was put in place, and it pretty much meant “get your act together now”. Those places also had a separate “points” system for attendance (call offs, late punches, etc) though – and getting a certain number of points would trigger the verbal warning, written warning, PIP process.

  14. CNH*

    Regarding #1. Oh weddings! What joy! Wedding etiquette is ever-evolving, and even more sensitive within the work environment. Without knowing where you are from, that can greatly impact different people and their expectations. Wedding gifts should never be expected, but lots of people will want to provide a gift. In some cultures, not registering can mean that you don’t want gifts or that you would prefer cash gifts, but that’s the inherent problem with not registering – people are left not knowing what to do. Those who do register provide clear, tangible items that would be helpful to them in married life. That ambiguity can cause it to be difficult to choose and provide a gift. I will echo what someone said previously, but for whatever reason, it seems perfectly fine to buy a $300 gift, but weird to give $300 cash. I totally understand feelings being hurt, but if you’ve never had any other reason to feel like favoritism is being played towards another employee, please, please do not take this as a personal affront!! (Sister and I were married within 4 months of each other – one had a registry and one did not, so I am speaking from personal drama, ahem, experience here.)

  15. Some2*

    Re: OP #3- every time I hear about someone being “written up” I just imagine the conversation ending with “and thats two days detention for you young man. We’ll see you at four.”

  16. LBK*

    #4 – I’m curious what’s making the OP think there’s much difference between the regular floor people and HR in this context. HR isn’t any more legally bound to not share that information than anyone else – they don’t have special clearances or certifications that permit them to see that info.

    I’m not sure what info is on the enrollment forms exactly, but as long as it’s just things that are confidential (SSN) but not personal (medical history) I don’t think you need to be worried unless the people selected to help have a history of being thoughtless about sharing private information.

  17. John*

    #1 — sounds as though your wedding was the most recent of the three. Isn’t it possible that they’ve decided to change their policy due to financial circumstances or maybe just because they realize they set a too-generous precedent and need to rein it in?

  18. MR*

    I have to write up employees as part of the disciplinary process. Everyone knows it’s a complete waste of time, and I have some people that have over two dozen writeups for various things over the years. I hate it. Employees hate it. But it’s something that I have to do.

  19. Amy M.*

    #3 – As an HR Coordinator for a home health agency, we generally reserve write ups for violations of policies and procedures (not like being late, more like not complying with documentation deadlines/incorrectly documenting treatments/HIPPA violations). These are generally very detailed instances, where care ordered by a doctor was performed differently than requested, things like that. A write up would have that detailed information so the nurses would know exactly what the issue was, and that ensures a paper trail in case those issues come up again. While I do not like an actual paper write up form, I am wondering if a conversation would be as effective as seeing it in writing.

    1. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

      But sometimes I’ve had surveyors or the State ask to see the signed write up especially if it is connected to a patient complaint.

      1. Amy M.*

        Yes, great point. For us, we would have one paper for the complaint, and then a separate write up for the employee regarding the complaint. I would not want to have to explain during a survey why we have a complaint with no formal write up!

  20. AnotherHRPro*

    2. My office-mate stinks: I’m surprised that Alison didn’t recommend the OP say something to the office-mate. I realize that this could be uncomfortable, but I think that it would be better for the office-mate to hear it directly from the OP than from a manager. I would say something like, “Office-Mate, this is sensitive, but I thought you would want to know that there are times when you seem to have some body odor. It seems to be toward the end of the week. I don’t know if those are gym days or what, but I figured I should say something as I would want to know.”

    I think the key is to be honest but discreet. I would imagine it would be much more embarrassing to hear from your boss that your coworker complained about your body odor and is being moved because of it.

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I agree. Mentioning this to the co-worker may be awkward but the kind thing to do.

      I once knew a gentleman who had medical issues that resulted in an odd smell. Instead of making fun of him behind his back I decided to talk to him (even though my stomach was jumping). He was noseblind to it and honestly didn’t know is was as bad as it was, and was able to talk to his doctor on ways to manage it.

      OP doesn’t need to speculate, just stick to facts. “Pete, you may not realize this, but on some days you have a strong odor. This seems to be worse on Wednesdays and Fridays, and sometimes distracts me from my work. I know this is a personal thing to discuss, but I felt you should know.”

    2. Ankh-Morpork*

      I feel like in most previous discussions that concerned smell or hygiene the person responsible for the ‘talk’ was always the manager. It is a very hard conversation for most people to have with someone – and might be too much to ask of an employee who will work with this person regularly. Or an employee who’s strength is not in gently and professionally confronting someone with something this uncomfortable. Not everyone would be able to do this well. This kind of message could come across much better from a manager in a “this is a professionalism issue that we need to change” than a peer in a “your smell bothers me”.

      We had a manger at my old office that had a serious smell issue and no one was brave enough to deal with it. Finally another manager took this person aside – and while she was great and supportive and gentle there was apparently a lot of crying. A guy would probably react differently but even when done well this kind of thing can bring up a lot of emotion. Having a manager deal with that seems like the best way to go.

      1. LBK*

        This kind of message could come across much better from a manager in a “this is a professionalism issue that we need to change” than a peer in a “your smell bothers me”.

        Yes, I agree – this is a situation where it’s kinder to have a manager make a general statement rather than for the OP or anyone else directly say “I think you smell”.

        1. OfficePrincess*

          Yes, especially since OP is new to the team. No one likes having someone new show up and point out their flaws.

      2. Allison*

        I agree, the manager should be the one giving this talk. Especially since, in OP’s case, the smelly guy is older and has been at the company longer, that really doesn’t put the OP in a good position to comment on his odor.

        But *someone* should really tell the guy. It’s possible he knows and he’s actively choosing not to control it, or he does the best he can but struggles due to some medical condition, but it’s also possible he really has no idea and it hasn’t even occurred to him he might stink, especially since no one’s said anything.

  21. Dasha*

    ” […] also have been here just as long as the other employees and I’m actually at a higher level of management than both of them as well, though my pay is around the same level.”

    Maybe you being in a higher level of management has to do something with the amount you received? Either way, it sucks and it’s annoying but if otherwise your work is fine, I’d really let this one go. Buying wedding gifts can be extremely confusing so maybe chalk it up to that and enjoy your new married life!

  22. Merry and Bright*

    Is it possible that the person who organised the company wedding gifts from the registry wasn’t the same person who bought the OP’s wedding giftcard? If so, maybe they didn’t know the the cost of the earlier gifts when they bought the card and didn’t think to chech.

    I would have been a little hurt too, if I’m honest, but most office stuff seems to happen through thoughtlessness rather than anything else.

    1. Kelly L.*

      That’s kind of what I’m thinking. Either the person changed, or the policy changed, and the OP has the misfortune to be on the other side of the change.

    2. CADMonkey007*

      I had the same thought – OP says the weddings are “within 2 years” but a lot can change in 2 years! I’d be more concerned if it changed between June and October weddings.

    3. jmkenrick*

      Oooh, that’s a good point. Yeah, there are a lot of possible reasons for mix-up #1 that don’t involve favoritism.

    4. Allison*

      Hmm, hadn’t thought of that, but it’s likely. That or they decided “woah, $300 is a lot to spend on every employee getting married, we need to cut way back!”

      Because it is, IMO. Nothing against wedding gifts here. If you want wedding presents, register for them, I don’t care (I see it more as a wish list to guide people wanting to give gifts, similar to the letters we used to write to Santa, “rather than a list of demands”); if you want to buy a loved one something expensive for their wedding, go ahead; but a company buying an employee a gift that expensive for an occasion that has nothing to do with their career at the company is a bit much.

  23. Sutemi*

    #2, I shared an office once with a smoker and I am quite sensitive to smoke. While she always smoked outside, the residual smoke on her coat and clothes was enough to give me a headache by the afternoon every day.
    I brought in a small air filter, the smallest model available was enough to keep our small office air clean and I didn’t get any more headaches from that job.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      I too have coworkers who reek of smoke, but thankfully I know them well enough to say “seriously you smell like an ash tray” lol. If it were body odor that would indeed be a very awkward convo to have.

  24. some1*

    #4, can you expand on why you are so alarmed at floor employees being able to access your info vs. HR? HR employees don’t take a Vow of Confidentiality.

    Also, plenty of other roles probably know more about you than you realize. My first receptionist job, I found out things about my coworkers just by answering the phone and opening the mail that I WISH I had never known. Just because I didn’t spread what I learned around the office doesn’t mean my coworkers would have been thrilled I knew that info. (And I would imagine IT folks have similar stories.)

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Because it’s personal, and people often prefer that people who don’t need to know their personal information don’t have it? Plus, we like to think that HR people understand the importance of keeping information confidential, and you don’t work with them on a day-to-day basis, so you don’t have to look them in the eye every day knowing they know personal info about you. I’m not the OP, so I’m just guessing. I’d be uncomfortable if some of my coworkers had been able to look at that kind of information about me. It’s not illegal, usually not unethical, but I think it’s understandable why people wouldn’t be comfortable with it.

      1. catsAreCool*

        “we like to think that HR people understand the importance of keeping information confidential, and you don’t work with them on a day-to-day basis, so you don’t have to look them in the eye every day knowing they know personal info about you.” This!

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Right, but let’s hope they’re employees with a track record of being trustworthy and discreet. Perhaps the Op is worried because they’re not necessarily that.

  25. Devil's Avocado*

    Re: #1: Maybe you could offer to draft a gifts policy for your workplace, if you are well situated to do so. You could lay out the situations/occasions that are gift giving occasions, and set limits for gift amounts. This could make gift giving more equitable in your office in the future.

    Also… try not to look too deep into the meaning of the gift you received based on its value. I’m the office gift buyer for my office, and the whole thing is so fraught. I’ve goofed a couple times (not spending enough from the point of view of the recipient, picking the wrong thing, etc.) and I’ve heard even years later that ex-employees are apparently still holding on to extremely minor differences regarding their gifts/going away parties. I never intended to actively insult anyone (it’s a gift! a gesture of goodwill!), and it kills me to know that people assess gifts that way. Assume the best of the giver!

  26. Matt F*

    I haven’t rigorously documented how often he gets stinky

    I imagine he throws down his pen and declares: “it’s 2:21! Time to get stink-kay!”

    Seriously though, this is one of the unwinnables. If this unfolds exactly as the op describes, it’s most likely a condition beyond his control rather than a failure to bathe.

    1. LBK*

      You joke, but I had a coworker with a daily Axe body spray schedule. No, I did not work in a middle school locker room.

  27. Caleb Wong*

    I love your answers, Alison, but I think the title should be “Whom should I resign to?” instead of the current version up right now.

  28. Vera*

    Re: OP#1 – when I got married, I got NOTHING from my company. Not a wedding shower. Not a wedding gift. Not a cake. Not a lunch to celebrate. Not a card. Not even “congratulations” when I returned to work, just the typical “Did you get my e-mail?”. Other people that got married at my company typically received a big luncheon with a cake, a gift from the company, and usually the coworkers would sign a card and chip in towards a gift. Everyone knew I was getting married because my out-of-town wedding conflicted with several work events I had to miss. A week or two after I returned from my wedding another female got engaged and they threw her an engagement party, featured her & her ring on the intranet, and passed around a card, etc.

    I don’t have personal relationships with my coworkers, and so I tried to convince myself that it didn’t bother me and, didn’t I hate this kind of stuff at work for other people? But….it definitely stung for everyone to just completely ignore it, and it really hurt my feelings. I like to think that it was because my team was always crazy busy and our workload was overwhelming, and that no one had time to think about this or plan anything. Whatever the case, my experience has changed my perspective on celebrating these life events for others but particularly my own team members. Employees are people, too.

  29. Narise*

    I always thought write ups were to protect against unemployment claims and possible discrimination claims. An email documenting a conversation as a reference may not be enough. But if the employee goes before a judge and states they had no idea this would lead to a termination I think the judge would state the email was not enough. Also if you just have memos documenting the conversation and nothing showing the employee read it I think the company will have to pay unemployment.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That hasn’t been my experience – and I think if it were the case, you’d see a lot more companies doing write-ups, etc., but the majority of professional workplaces don’t.

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