I distributed layoff plans without permission, new job says I can’t take a previously okayed trip, and more

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

1. I found my company’s layoff plans on the copier … and distributed them

There are several changes happening at my current workplace. A month and a half ago there was an announcement that we would be organizing a few departments into a new model which came directly after higher-ups laid off 3 directors very suddenly. This was not due to performance issues but specifically part of the plan to move forward with a new model. They even escorted one of them out of the building with security. This employee had been with the organization for 35 years and did nothing wrong but apparently they do this to prevent retaliation. Needless to say, there are trust issues now and each week there seems to be a new issue.

We were told at the beginning of this process that no one would be losing their jobs and that the company was working to procure raises for everyone are on the same level as other professionals in our area. There hasn’t been a lot of communication since and morale is low. Our previous leadership had been advocating for our raises prior to being laid off.

A colleague of mine found a copy of the proposed restructuring plan on a copy machine in a common area. The plan had significant staffing cuts in some areas and we had heard nothing about it. We were promised staff input and public forums about any changes. This employee shared this information with me and another colleague. We thought about approaching our manager but thought they might sweep it under the rug and avoid our questions. After a sleepless night, I spoke with my colleagues and made a copy of this document and anonymously distributed it. Within hours, there was a response and it seems the higher-ups are now having meetings to actively deal with issues. However, our manager is also accusing someone of breaking into their office which isn’t the case. This document was left on a copy machine and anyone could have seen it. Our manager believes whoever did this only wanted to share information and wasn’t being malicious but should have gone about it a different way.

Part of me feels guilty but part of me is happy that we are finally getting included in big decisions and our raises are now at the forefront. What are your thoughts? I feel terrible for upsetting our manager but I feel like we were owed direct answers and weren’t getting any until this happened.

I mean … they left it on a copy machine. Whoever did that basically invited this to happen. Should you distributed it? No; it wasn’t yours to share. Is it understandable that you did anyway? Yes. (At least, given the fact that it appeared you’d been lied to. Without that detail, my answer would be no.) Is it possibly pushing your company to be more transparent with you? Yes.

That said, I wouldn’t assume that this will change their layoff plans or that it will result in raises. Those aren’t usually things that happen just because people learn about layoffs being planned (in fact, I’d say raises are probably fairly unlikely right now, but who knows).

2. My new job okayed my trip but now says I can’t have the time off

In August, I was offered (and accepted) a new job at a company. At the negotiation stage, I said I had an upcoming trip in December and the new company agreed I could take it.

Well, December is here … and the company is now saying that they can’t let me go due to a myriad of reasons, including being short-staffed, rolling out a new HRIS (in which I will be taking on some additional work), the tight turnaround for three-day pay periods in December, and any month/year end recon that I need to do will have to be done in a two-day timespan. My only saving grace is that I don’t have plane tickets in hand.

My boss says she feels horrible. We have a great relationship and are pretty candid with each other. I’m irritated, but also understand (life happens, eh, and when trying to make this a long-term career oriented role … I’m not sure I want to chance this). I’ve offered to take a company owned laptop with me and work from there, but in the insurance world they’re not keen on that.

I know this is legal, but should I fight back for something (additional vacation days?) to make up for this? I’ve been here three months and don’t want to rock the boat. We are going through some changes and looking to hire a counterpart to my role, but so far we don’t have anyone yet.

I think you’re right to be irritated, but it sounds like you like your job and your boss and think that their reasoning here is understandable rather than outlandish. I wouldn’t think of it as “fighting back” (which is more adversarial than it needs to be), but what about saying something like this: “I can’t say I’m not disappointed since I thought we’d nailed this down when I was hired and talked about it as part of the offer, but I understand what your concerns are. Would it be possible to do something to make up for it, like a few extra vacation days for when I reschedule the trip down the road?”

A good manager is already going to feel terrible about this and will be happy to have a way to make it up to you.

3. Is it unethical to try to recruit people away from competitors?

I am recruiting for a very specific job in a very specific location (think industrial copper teapot spout designer, located in a large city) and having difficulty attracting good candidates. Using LinkedIn, I can find qualified folks doing a very similar job at specific companies in the right location pretty easily. Even though I know that this is what recruiters do all the time, is it wrong for me, as a hiring manager, to reach out to people directly this way?

On the one hand people are putting themselves out there, and if they didn’t want to be found they would hide themselves. On the other, it feels a little wrong to target specific companies (even though I know 95% of qualified candidates are going to be working at one of these companies). I certainly wouldn’t want my employees targeted this way!

Nope, that’s not unethical and it’s both normal and smart to do. Don’t fall into the “I wouldn’t want my employees targeted this way” kind of thinking; your employees are free agents who deserve to be able to pick the job that’s best for them. You can decrease the chances of that being a different company by offering competitive (or better) salary and benefits, treating them well, and so forth — but it never works to try to keep people by blocking them from other opportunities. And the same applies to your competitors!

4. Company wants us to leave quarterly reviews on Glassdoor

I’ve been informed by my team lead that we are expected to leave quarterly reviews of our company on Glassdoor. This is justified by the reviews “being used in our proposals” and to “maintain ratings.” I am very uncomfortable with this process, and find it morally objectionable as a whole. I am afraid if I leave a review and honestly report the problems I have with the company, I will be pinpointed and retaliated against. Would consulting HR for the reservations I have about this task be appropriate?

I took a look at Glassdoor’s term of use to see if what your company is requesting might violate them, and unfortunately it probably doesn’t. Their terms do limit you to “personal, non-commercial use,” and it’s possible this could violate that but it’s probably a stretch, although you could try arguing it with your manager.

What would happen if you just didn’t do it? Or started the review with “my company asked me to leave this review”? Or, yes, if you’re willing to speak up, I’d love it if you’d say, “This is outside the spirit of Glassdoor. Most people think it’s pretty obvious when a company has tried to drum up positive reviews, and it ends up making the company look bad, like it’s covering something up or engaging in a Big-Brother-ish PR campaign with workers. I’d recommend that we encourage people to do this if they’d like to, but not require it and definitely not push people to do it quarterly, since these reviews are typically a one-time thing.”

Of course, the reaction to this may depend on your standing in the company and the way they handle dissent.

5. Can I ask for details about a health insurance plan before accepting an offer?

My employer offers exceptional benefits – one being a great health insurance plan that covers fertility treatments (particularly ART, which from my experience is not a given on most plans). I am in the beginning stages of interviewing for a new job, but leaving for a company whose health insurance does not cover this would likely not be an option for me. I may be undertaking some fertility procedures in 2016, and the out-of-pocket cost is absolutely astronomical. Staying at my job for the benefits is certainly an option for me.

Is there a tactful way to ask to see a full breakdown of the health insurance plan if I make it to the offer stage? In the past, I usually just saw a breakdown of costs, not the specifics on coverage, copays, deductibles, etc.

Yes, absolutely. At the offer stage, it’s reasonable to say something like, “Could you send me more specific information about your health care plan coverage, including copays, deductibles, and so forth?” It should be easy for them to provide you with the insurance materials they give new employees, which will answer these questions. (Or they may have a website to direct you to, or some other way of providing this information.) This isn’t an unusual or outrageous thing to ask at all; consider it a normal part of collecting information about the benefits package that’s a key part of the offer.

{ 405 comments… read them below }

  1. Erik*

    #3 – this is normal and expected. This happens a LOT, especially in SF/Silicon Valley, where people are poached all the time. It’s really standard operating procedure.

    1. SL #2*

      It’s true. I used to work in SF tech. I left the city months ago but I’m still getting LinkedIn mail from internal recruiters hoping I can be lured back.

      1. mull*

        There’s no such thing as “poaching.” The prevalence of that word is part of why #3 even thinks there could be a problem.

    2. AnonACOD*

      This happened to me at my last job, kind of. I was looking for a job and reached out to a company that had worked for them.

      They hired me and gave me a 57% pay increase. My boss was made that I had gotten “poached”. Uh, well, if you’d given me a pay increase when I asked in the last two years, especially after completing my master’s…

      1. AnonACOD*

        Basically: employment is mutually beneficial. Employer needs a service, worker needs a job. They have to remain attractive to each other.

    3. Allison*

      I work in recruiting, and we often see people leave us for similar companies. What bugs me is that the recruiting team makes it sound like these companies are being *terrible* for luring our good people away, the person is selfish and disloyal for taking a job that pays better and has a better commute (oh yes, how dare they stab us in the back?), and we’re somehow failing in our job when it happens. Now, it does always stink when we have to backfill a tricky role, but I fail to see how it’s the recruiting team’s fault if someone leaves; it’s not like they would’ve stayed if only we recruited them more effectively when they joined us!

      It’s just . . . there’s too many politics around this . . .

      1. Windchime*

        I’m of the opinion that nobody can be “poached” unless they want to be. If someone were to call and offer me a job with less pay, or less perks, or less interesting work then no, I’m not going. But if they call and offer me a situation that is mutually beneficial and with enticements like more money, better benefits, better work, more perqs….then yeah, I’d consider it. And I consider myself to be happily employed. It’s a business arrangement, though, and if a better one comes along then consider me “poached”.

        (Says the person who just got done hiring two awesome people away from an employer that was moving his team from a 10 minute commute to an hour commute each way. They both loved their jobs, but not enough to increase their time in the car to two hours a day. )

        1. Anna*

          My brother has a particular skillset that is desirable and is constantly getting headhunted to leave his current company for other places. They do offer a lot of money, but they refuse to offer the one thing he really wants: remote work. In other words, exactly what you’re saying. It’s not even a Thing for him and it wouldn’t be that surprising to his current employer, I’m sure. But as long as these other companies refuse to give him the single thing he absolutely needs, he’ll continue to work for the company that will.

    4. Bob*

      We have always had relatively high turnover but morale has been especially bad the last few years. Now managers and even directors that have been here 20+ years are leaving on a regular basis. Aside from the problems caused by longtime managers leaving, the bigger issue is they tend to know who on their team is not happy and what that employee currently gets paid. They all signed contracts that they can’t hire anyone for one year after leaving but they are wiping us out after the deadline passes. We’ve had a few superstar employees recently get significant raises out of the blue a week before the one year anniversary of their manager leaving.

      It’s the perfect example of why you should treat your people well and pay them fairly. Once they start looking, it is often too late.

  2. Little Teapot*

    #2 – this happened to me. I started a new job, and during the interview I mentioned I had booked and paid for a week-long holiday to my hometown. The manager said that was fine. As the months rolled on and the holiday date got closer, words of Stocktake were heard (it was a retail job between other jobs). I wishes everyone good luck as I was out of there! Finally, a co-worker said to me typically Teapots Inc don’t let you take time off during Stocktake. I said it didn’t matter as I cleared it with Manager months prior. She advised me to double check. So I did, and Manager said, Yes sorry, you can’t go. Take the week prior, the week after, two weeks prior, two weeks after, doesn’t matter, but that week is a no-go. I reminded her of our conversation that A I had prebooked and paid for it, and B she approved it and C I took the job knowing my time off was secure and she shrugged and said she obviously forgot about the dates. Tough.

    So, I quit. It was a crap retail job I did in between other jobs, and I didn’t need it. I had another part-time job I did after hours and I asked if I could go full time there. That was approved. So I quit, went on my holiday, and came back to full time work.

    I know I got lucky that I had back-up employment and quitting had little impact on me (apart from drastically increasing my income as the part-time-come-full time job paid me heaps more than the retail job!).

    It’s so dodgy that they can turn around and say no. I really feel for you :(

    1. nofelix*

      Well done sticking it to them! If Stocktake is such a big deal then it’s ridiculous that she ‘forgot’.

      There’s no need to confirm that you have permission after it’s already been given. It just gives them an opportunity to retract it, which they then did! This happens with my boss all the time. I ask once, well in advance, and then assume it’s a fait accompli. If he regrets his decision he can still come to me and say it’s not going to work.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        If Stocktake is such a big deal then it’s ridiculous that she ‘forgot’.

        Not just that; notice that Little Teapot quit and missed “Stocktake”, and I assume that this company did not implode in a Fireball of Doom ™. They could have given Little Teapot the week off, and they should have; if the supervisor really forgot about Stocktake, that’s their problem, not Little Teapot’s. They could have and apparently did handle it without LT.

        1. TB*

          That’s a pretty big assumption. For all we know, that company crashed and burned because Little Teapot wasn’t there for STOCKTAKE. I bet hundreds of people are unemployed now, out on the street, their children begging for handouts, because Little Teapot selfishly took a planned vacation.

            1. OfficePrincess*

              Oh this thread is what I needed this am! Not to derail, but it’s peak so I’m herding cats to make things happen but, really, this is for a retail store. The world won’t implode if the toys and dog food sit here an extra day, regardless of what the wrath from above might have you believe.

    2. Erin*

      Yep, especially with retail jobs this is super common. Reason number 191931211443 I will never go back to retail.

      I had a part time retail job two years ago, and I let them know upon being hired that I couldn’t work Black Friday because it coincided with my high school reunion. I knew that was a busy day so I was super upfront about it, offering to work Christmas Eve and otherwise work with them on it. They said I could have it off and promptly scheduled me anyway. (I got sick and ended up neither working nor going to the reunion).

      Anywho, OP your situation is stickier because it’s probably non-retail, and you like your boss. Because you have such a great relationship with her, and she has acknowledged her mistake, if you can, I’d let this one go.

      As Alison mention, negotiating for an extra vacation day or two later on is perfectly reasonable and a great solution – you still get a bit of a perk out of it, and it lets your manager off the hook so she won’t have to feel terrible anymore.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, it can’t hurt to ask about the extra vacation days. The worst the boss can say is no, but if she feels badly about the change, it sounds like she would ask for you to get it if necessary.

      2. OP2*

        Yes… I like my job. I like my boss. This is definitely a step up and will make or break my career. Plus… if I left… we are considering trying for kids in the future and that would just ruin all my FMLA plans. ;)

    3. Collarbone High*

      Can I just say that I love the word “stocktake”? I first encountered it when I visited Sydney and all the stores were having stocktake sales. Somehow it’s much cooler than “inventory.”

  3. MK*

    OP3, I think you seriously need to rethink your attitude on this. What you are proposing to do isn’t unethical objectively, but if you would think it wrong that someone did it to you, then you yourself probably consider it dubious. Frankly, your question reads a bit like “Well, this behavior is not something I would want done to me, but if I do it, it’s different isn’t it? (No). And the justification that if other people’s employees didn’t want to be approached, they should hide themselves, is completely non-sensical; unless you are talking about people who have somehow indicated that they are looking to change jobs.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I didn’t get that sense from the OP at all; the letter reads to me like she actually doesn’t feel right about doing it (when there’s actually nothing wrong with it).

      1. nofelix*

        Related to this: what’s the best line for employees to tread when communicating that they’re loyal to a company but still poachable? Are these just two opposite ends of a spectrum or can one say “I’m here for you, but this is a business arrangement and a better offer is still a better offer”?

        1. Kate M*

          I mean, I think “loyalty” to a company is a little…misguided? I mean, yes, you don’t want to screw your company in unethical/illegal ways (giving protected information to competitors, actively sabotaging work, etc), which I guess could be construed as loyalty, but also just being a decent person and worker. But the companies that expect “loyalty” in my experience are usually the ones who underpay and overwork their employees, and then expect the employees to put up with it because of their loyalty and thankfulness to the company for deigning to employ them or something. So I wouldn’t couch it in terms of loyalty.

          I’ve been approached about new opportunities before, and my response is usually something along the lines of, “while I enjoy my job and like the people I work with, I’m always open to hearing new opportunities if it seems like the right fit.” That way, I’m not saying I really want to leave my company, but if the right offer came along I’d be receptive.

          1. AMT*

            Yes! I wish the default wasn’t “loyalty.” It makes the relationship extremely one-sided. The employer gets to make the employee feel like job-searching represents a personal betrayal, but if the employer lays people off or your raises don’t keep up with inflation, it’s just business.

            1. Bob*

              Agreed. Loyalty is a two-way street. I would be loyal (within reason) to a company that I knew was going to be loyal to me. But giving me a paycheck for services rendered isn’t loyalty, it’s a business arrangement and I owe you absolutely nothing but a full day’s work. Loyalty is defined by how you treat your employees when times are tough or they need support during a personal problem.

          2. Sarahnova*

            Yeah, my stock reply is “I’m happy in my current role, but I’d consider the right opportunity”. It’s a nice place to be, frankly.

      2. mull*

        Not only is there nothing wrong with it, it’s arguably unethical for a company to avoid recruiting from competitors. It’s a passive form of wage control and an anticompetitive practice. Just about everyone would agree that an explicit agreement between companies that they wouldn’t hire or recruit each other’s employees is unethical. One business deciding to avoid doing so has about the same effect.

        1. Anon mouse*

          Ding ding ding. Yep. All of this.

          And not only would it be unethical for competitors to agree not to solicit each other’s employees, it’s illegal (a thing that’s illegal!)…see the High-Tech antitrust litigation.

        2. Brett*

          Absolutely. My employer (as I have talked about before), passed a formal ethics law that makes it illegal for certain employees to leave for any vendor. For some professions in our organization, this covers all competitive employers for the region. With my employer being one of the largest in the region, in those professions this has created a creeping wage suppression. First inside our organization with employees being unable to leave despite a lengthy wage freeze, but spreading to other employers as our suppressed wages form a justification for keeping wages low at other companies.
          Ironically, I think our ethics law has itself become unethical by becoming little more than a wage suppression technique.

          1. Observer*

            What do you mean? How can your employer pass any sort of law? Unless you work specifically for the government.

              1. Observer*

                Even so, if you work in the US, they can’t pass laws.

                Are you saying that all potential employers in your area do business with this government agency? And that you can’t go to work for them in ANY capacity?

    2. Tinker*

      I think there’s a point here, but I’d propose that the bit that needs rethinking is “I certainly wouldn’t want that done to me”. I mean, for one, I’m not really liking framing the matter of that making an appeal for a person to pursue this or that path in their career is something that is “done to” their manager. (Would the OP feel a sense of violation if the thing that was done “to them” was encouraging their employee to work running their household or to pursue a religious or social vocation?) It’s incorrect, for one, and also I think it’s the sort of thing that if expressed would often serve them badly. My employer and I are mutually pretty clear in acknowledging the reality that a plainly better proposal would have me out the door (as is right and proper) — and that honesty makes it somewhat harder to come up with a proposal that is plainly better.

      Proposing that the OP should resolve the contradiction they’re currently expressing by refraining from recruiting in a way that they view as inappropriate does save them from hypocrisy, but it leaves them with the wrong belief. It’s better that they fix the problem by getting rid of that.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I had a reply going to that comment, and then I saw that you had pretty much written it for me. Other companies are not “doing this to OP,” just as OP is not doing something “to” other companies; both are acting for themselves and hoping to find mutual agreement with a candidate.

        I know full well as a manager that my direct reports are getting phone calls from recruiters at least once a week, many based on their LinkedIn profiles. That isn’t unethical or wrong, but it does force me to up my game as a manager so they won’t want to respond to those phone calls with anything but “thanks, I’m not looking right now.”

      2. Graciosa*

        While I think we’re basically on the same page, I’m going to make a point fairly bluntly.

        The reason this is not “done to” the manager or the company is because we DO NOT OWN HUMAN BEINGS.

        Sorry about the screaming, but this irritates me. Shades of our nineteenth century factory owning forebears and their feudal predecessors! The idea that “our” employees somehow “belong” do us and should not be addressed without our permission is unspeakably patronizing. “Stealing” an employee is not the same thing as stealing a car.

        If you don’t want “your” former employees working for a competitor, the way to handle this is with a non-compete agreement or an actual term of contract (rather than employment at will). The individual will know about this, and when approached can reply that they are sorry, but they will not be able to work with Cocoa Teapots Los Angeles office down the street as it is within X miles of the current Chocolate Teapot factory, or that have 18 months to go on their current contract, but would love to hear from you next year.

        Individuals get to choose whether or not they want to enter into such contracts and whether additional compensation is required.

        Because they are (gasp!) legally competent adults who get to make these decisions all on their own – without their master’s permission.

          1. Graciosa*

            A lot of jurisdictions have limits on their enforceability so that they have to be reasonable, however, and still let you make a living after you stop working for the contracting employer. I think a lot of people assume that the overly broad ones are enforceable without ever consulting with an attorney when that may well not be the case.

            Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your view), my belief that competent adults get to make their own decisions extends to the idea that they can choose to make ones that they later regret.

            1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

              Yep – non-competes (at least in the UK) are really strictly defined – among other things, they have to be relevant to the job, i.e. you have financial or product knowledge and your company would genuinely suffer if it got to their competitors. They can’t just exist without reason. And also yes to adults deciding whether or not to go into the contract. And once you are signed up, you know it exists, so you can plan for when it ends/you leave. Subject to proper oversight, they’re very much a necessary part of business.

            2. Brett*

              Even unenforceable non-competes have a chilling effect on potential employers worried about tortious interference. At the level I have been looking for jobs (which is not even managerial level), every application asks up front if you have any potential post-employment restrictions.
              And you still have to fight the non-compete. That can start with your old company seeking an injunction against you working for the new company; and if new company makes your employment contingent on your ability to work then you are out of work while you fight your lawsuit.

        1. LBK*

          Or if you don’t want “your” employees to be poachable, give them good work, good pay, good benefits and a good environment. Unless the competitor offers a truly insane salary, it’s usually pretty hard to recruit people away from jobs that they like and that pay well.

          1. the gold digger*

            I have a friend who is an engineering director at a non-Silicon Valley company, so their pay is not SV pay. She will have guys want to take a half day of PTO to go to the doctor and she tells, them, “Don’t even bother me with that! Just go and do not take PTO.”

            Her attitude is that she cannot increase their pay but she sure can control almost everything else and make it a very desirable work environment.

    3. Erin*

      I don’t think you should look at it as “This behavior is not something I would want done to me but if I do it it’s different.”

      No, you wouldn’t want a recruiter “poaching” your employees, but that notion should be a part of the motivation driving you as a manager – this sense of healthy competition, where you want a sound, profitable workplace with a high retention rate.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        As managers and employers, we “rent talent”.

        I’d actually be flattered if other companies were recruiting my people (and they probably are). It means I’ve got people who are worth going after! Naturally, I want these outsiders to ultimately be unsuccessful in their recruiting.

  4. A Non*

    #1 – I dunno about ethics in that situation, but I want to buy you a drink. Consider this incident your fair warning that at least part of your management will lie to you – believe nothing that they say and look only at what they do. If I were in your office, I’d be brushing up my resume, because my money is on layoffs happening and raises not happening.

    1. Mike C.*

      I’ll buy the second round. It doesn’t bother me that the info wasn’t for you to distribute – it was clear that your management is lying to you (you’re not getting those raises, no way in hell). Leading you on like that when you could be looking for more stable employment or making other important financial decisions is incredibly terrible. Let’s face it, they’re likely dressing up a downsize as a “new model” and wanted to maximize their flexibility by promising you the world and then telling you nothing.

      If your boss continues to get mad, it’s going to take a lot to not immediately throw these lies or the firing of those other employees. Good for you for taking a risk and doing the right thing by your coworkers.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        I’ll buy the third round. I hope your coworkers start leaving en masse and spreading the word to any prospective new employees.

        But watch your back; according to your letter, there are colleagues who know it was you.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Let’s make it five.

            It was pretty dumb of somebody to hide this information and then leave it on a copier in a common area. And trying to say someone broke into an office? Bullsh!t. Modern copiers retain a scan of stuff they copy. I’m juuuust sayin’.

            1. Kassy*


              I’m a firm believer that companies are going to get back what they give in terms of how they treat people. Be open and honest and you’ll get the same. Do shady stuff like this and, well….let me play the violin while they whine about how this blew up in their faces.

      2. Umvue*


        My guess: The raises are an illusory carrot intended to forestall the obvious from happening (the people with options jump ship, and the company has to move forward with exactly the segment of the workforce it had planned to lay off).

        1. Jenna*

          Brush up your resume.
          Step up your networking.
          Start looking for where you want to work next, because those layoffs WILL HAPPEN. You want to be well on your way when the ax falls, and not one of the many scrambling to find a new job.
          You have the warning. Believe it, and act on it.

      3. Agile Phalanges*

        Yeah, I’m torn on the ethics of distributing a confidential document you found on the copier, but definitely agree that the company was in the wrong here. My company closed our entire location, which SUCKS, don’t get me wrong, but they handled it the right way by giving us six months notice and allowing us to job search on company time and with company resources (and even brought in coaches to help with resumes, etc.). They offered stay bonuses for people that stuck it out to the end, in addition to severance that everyone was eligible for, and some people stuck it out and others didn’t, but a lot of people were at least around long enough to train their replacements, etc., and because the company had treated us with integrity, while we weren’t happy to be in the situation, we were at least willing to repay the company with our own integrity, and help out with that training and other handover tasks. (Some of us even helped out with stuff well beyond our normal purview as things were winding down–for example, I did a couple of phone screens for jobs in a related department but not my direct replacements–that was eye-opening at a time when I was also a participant in phone screenings as the interviewee as well!)

        By being sneaky about it, your company has not only NOT done the right thing, they’ve lost the opportunity to have the respect of the current employees even as they might be departing. Sorry for what you’re going through and about to go through, but I definitely agree you should be looking.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yeah, this is really the way to go to ensure that the downsizing goes well. Yeah, there’s still going to be initial anger and whatnot (we’re all human after all) but it’s going to be a whole lot smoother for everyone involved if you try to do things the right way.

    2. Artemesia*

      This. Spotted petard, made sure they got hoisted by it. And everyone else, anytime they say they are restructuring, but no one is losing jobs and they are looking to give raises, get your resume out there. I know two companies including one I worked at that did something like us. Much ugliness ensued.

      1. fposte*

        The grammatical ambiguity of “Spotted petard” now makes me want to open a pub called “The Spotted Petard.”

        1. CollegeAdmin*

          I thought “spotted petard” was some kind of phrase that I hadn’t heard of and was Googling to figure it out…got a lot of results in French and articles about submarines. I was so confused!

          For anyone else who’s wondering: a petard is (apparently) a small bomb.

          1. sunny-dee*

            A petard is (or was) a small sword. It’s a line from Hamlet — “hoisted by your own petard.” It means that you were undone by your own attack. Basically, whatever you did bit you.

            1. fposte*

              No, CollegeAdmin is right–it’s a little bomb. The “hoist” is about sending stuff up into the air, in fact. (Those familiar with French may see relevant etymology in the “pet” segment.)

    3. starsaphire*

      Yeah, ditto. OP #1, that was totally the right thing to do; just promise you’ll never admit to anyone it was you. And polish up your resume, for sure.

      If I worked with you, I’d be eternally grateful. :)

      1. mull*


        You’re about as much of a hero as someone’s going to find in the course of normal workplace stuff.

        Well done!

          1. Writer of #1 Here*

            OMG that is a huge compliment! Seriously, I felt sick being one of 3 people knowing about this and having no one else know. It felt awful. I couldn’t sleep and felt ill. I had to do something. How productive it was… IDK

      2. Anna*

        I love that the manager’s conclusion is that it could only be that someone broke in and took it, as if they would know exactly where it was and not disturb anything while looking for it. Paranoid much?

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I think the only reason manager said that was to cover her ass because she left it on the printer.

    4. pony tailed wonder*

      I am a bit confused about part of the letter. It states that the manager is accusing someone of breaking into an office to get the information. Is this a general statement of trying to figure out how it was done or is the manager specifically accusing one person? If the latter is what is going on and another employee is in the hot seat for something they didn’t do, then I think further advice is needed.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I understood it to be a general statement trying to figure out how it was done, rather than directly blaming some.

      2. RobM*

        Even if they are accusing someone in particular of doing it… well that’s an issue if they’re serious but it may just be a way of looking to see if “the real guilty party” will Spartacus themselves into the firing line.

        1. Writer of #1 Here*

          Well they sent an email hours after it happened trying to turn it into a security issue to be investigated and proceeded to take the memo out of anyone’s mailbox that hadn’t picked it up and read it yet. That is why that detail is important. Luckily, the next day they sort of realized they were in the hot seat and doing an investigation to find out who did it was not going to help their popularity or re-gain our trust.

          1. Bwmn*

            The ‘security issue’ thing struck me as the manager trying to CYA in regards to how the document was made available in the first place. Certainly when the manager’s higher ups found out about this, the first question was “how did this happen”? And “it was stolen from my office” makes the manager look a lot better than “I left it at the printer and forgot about it”.

        2. A Non*

          Exactly what I was thinking. If they’re accusing an innocent person, a) you know they don’t have any real evidence and b) I guarantee it’s someone they were planning to lay off anyway. Revealing yourself is not actually going to save the coworker.

          Glad I’m not the only one who’s spent too much time around manipulative bastards.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I think it was a general statement of trying to figure out how it was done. Plus the manager will most likely NOT want to admit to having left a document such as that on the public copier; therefore, “someone must have broken into the office.”

        1. AVP*

          That was my impression too – no manager (especially during layoffs!) will admit to being the dummy who left the paperwork on a public copier for someone to find this is an easy lie to shift the blame. As long as it’s not directed at any specific employee I would let that part go with the wind.

        2. Anna*

          See, I didn’t even make the connection that the manager was the one who left it on the copier. That makes way more sense than the manager leaping to the bizarre conclusion that someone must have stolen it.

      4. Boo*

        I’ll bet the manager knows perfectly well that they left it on the copier, but of course they can’t admit they did anything so monumentally stupid, so they’re pretending someone broke into their office instead.

        1. Lia*

          Yep. I worked for a place where something like this happened, and I am almost certain it was not an accident. Everyone found out within hours, and the backpedaling was something to behold.

          OP1, I’ll buy the pizza to go with the drinks. Yeah, it’s a no-win situation, but I am sure there are an awful lot of people who appreciated the warning. I know we’ve had letters here before where people have gone on vacations, bought homes, etc when if they had known about the company situation, they may have made other choices, and you enabled people to have this info to inform future planning.

        2. Donna*

          I’m wondering if one of the managers did it on purpose because he/she silently disagreed with the plan. Although a mistake like that is not unheard of, it’s also an old trick to leave things you want to be known in the public copier.

    5. Random Lurker*

      Warning: unpopular opinion ahead.

      While everyone is buying this person rounds, I’m surprised nobody is calling out that the LW has essentially created a no win situation for themselves. It does not sound like this will change much in the company’s culture. I mean, they have already spun themselves as the victims here (someone broke into an office!). The meetings they are holding are probably about how to deal with the damage control, rather than address any of the employees’ legitimate concerns. It does not sound like a healthy environment. If the company every finds out that LW distributed it, I would anticipate some sort of retaliatory measures. Go ahead and argue with me all you want on this, but I find it ironic that LW complains about trust. Trust is a two street. There is no way the company will have any trust in this person moving forward after distributing confidential information. While it may have felt good to do this, it’s a hollow victory with all the markings of a career limiting move.

      To be fair, it doesn’t sound like this is a company the LW should stay at anyway. I would start looking for a new opportunity. Immediately.

      1. F.*

        Heck, I’ll buy the OP coffee and aspirin to clear up their hangover after all those rounds! What they have done is give their coworkers a heads-up so they aren’t totally blindsided when the layoffs do come. The trust has already been broken – by the company. It is similar to telling a spouse who inadvertently learns of their partner’s cheating that they cannot make plans to protect their assets and exit the marriage until the cheater lets them know they are cheating. The OP knows they’re already out the door, whether involuntarily or voluntarily.

        1. Mike B.*

          Great analogy! This doesn’t save the underlying situation at this workplace, no, but it does improve the employees’ odds of leaving on terms more favorable to themselves than to the company (or escaping the axe if enough others leave first).

      2. BuildMeUp*

        Trust is a two-way street, and the company broke that trust long before the OP found documents sitting out in the open and warned her coworkers that they might be laid off.

        You’re right that this probably won’t change the company’s mind – I think the OP should let that possibility go – but now employees who were being lied to are able to start job hunting now, versus after the surprise layoffs.

      3. RobM*

        Trust might be a two-way street but it still sounds like the employer was the one who dug it up and left rubble strewn over both lanes.

        1. Jean*

          Beautiful metaphor! Especially the part about “[leaving] rubble strewn over both lanes.”
          (I’m late to the party b/c I spent the day in a workplace that somewhat resembles that of OP #1.)

      4. TB*

        It was already a no-win situation; the LW did not create it. They simply shed some light on it for everyone else in the organization.

      5. LBK*

        I don’t agree about the trust piece but I do agree that the OP’s optimism about this changing anything is unrealistic. If years of watching Real Housewives has taught me anything it’s that shady people don’t usually change their ways when they get caught, they just double down on obfuscation and blame-shifting.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. They aren’t changing anything. The ship has sailed. They have already decided to make these changes. The only difference is now the employees know they need to hustle to find new jobs if they don’t want to be caught by surprise. Been there. Done that. Wish I had gotten the memo. Well done, OP. (and never admit it)

          1. Katieinthemountains*

            Yes, and the people who jump first have their choice of available positions in the area, while those who wait have fewer options. If you’re a rock star, there will always be a home for you, but if you’re in the middle of the pack it really may be in your best interest to search hard right now.

        2. Natalie*

          Yes, definitely. The new information LW #1 has is that there are going to be layoffs, and people should start looking if they want to avoid said layoffs. Don’t hang your hat on any verbal promises.

          1. I@W*

            Yup, I can’t blame you for letting people know this info, since the company has been lying all along. But, the company is only going to come up with another spin and proceed in a SNAFU fashion…layoffs, maybe some token to the hanger oners.

      6. videogame Princess*

        Actually, that was just an accusation on the part of the company. Nobody actually broke into the office. Just clearing some details up. :)

      7. Elizabeth West*

        I agree it probably won’t change anything. And I wouldn’t want to stay there either, so launching an immediate job search would be my reaction as well. But I’d sure be happy to have the heads-up.

    6. Writer of #1 Here*

      Hi everyone! Thank you so much for your encouragement. I might have to write an update for this site as things unfold. Some details: I actually work in health care directly with patients and everyone I work with is specifically trained in the medical field and has licenses to practice. That being said, I know they aren’t going to lay off anyone but ultimately they promised no one was going to lose their jobs.

      Within hours of this happening, a higher up sent an email saying they were going to investigate how this got distributed but backed-off the next day when they realized they were in the hot seat. We were then told in a meeting that all FTEs would remain for the next fiscal year and that an emergency meeting was happening the next day regarding raises. Now, I don’t really trust anyone for how this has been handled but I think it put them more in the public light. Before they started this “restructuring” most of the rank and file had never met these higher ups who are now pulling the strings to our future.

      As far as the memo: We were told it was a draft created by outside consultants. The paper did not say draft and it also wasn’t marked confidential. Maybe I am being to literal here but I would love as many cocktails as I can get!

      1. Writer of #1 Here*

        I know they aren’t going to lay off anyone: I meant I know they aren’t going to lay off EVERYONE. Though the proposal had severe cuts.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          Thanks for the update! As others have said, I wouldn’t trust anything they say about raises or outside consultants. Sure, they might change their minds now that everyone knows, but they obviously have no problem lying to everyone about what’s happening. Good luck with all of this!

      2. HRChick*

        I’m glad the backed off investigating – that, at least, was a good move on their part. The “Who told you???” route doesn’t really address anything.

        I would still look at leaving, if I were you.

      3. Ad Astra*

        My one concern is that you may have distributed information that was incomplete, or out of context, or unofficial (like a draft from a consultant that hasn’t yet been approved or maybe even discussed). So your coworkers are getting some alarming information that may or may not be accurate or useful.

        On the other hand, if you leave documents like that on the copier, you get what you get. If you’re in a position to look for jobs with another company, I highly suggest you do that.

        1. LCL*

          Contrary to what many of us have experienced, some managers do have a heart and conscience. I don’t believe that the person who left the memo out made a mistake. This was the only way that person could warn people without losing their job. Sometimes using the company grapevine is the only way to get things started.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s possible it was created by outside consultants. It’s also possible that saying that is the best damage control they can come up with right now, whether or not it’s true.

        It’s also possible that they’re telling you the truth. But it’s also very unlikely that y’all finding out about this earlier than planned would change plans they were committed to. Business just doesn’t work that way. If this is the plan that they’ve decided makes most sense, that’s the plan they’ll use — it wouldn’t make sense to backtrack just because people found out about it early.

        Now, maybe they weren’t actually committed to it yet, and it was just one scenario of several they were considering, and they’ll ultimately go with something else.

        But I think it would be naive to let yourself believe that the exposure will change anything. It’s clearly made them rush to damage control (as it would for any company, really), but they’re not going to change course over this, not long-term. Why would they? Exposure earlier than they wanted is a pain in the ass, but you don’t make major changes to restructuring plans over it, not if those plans are ones you’re convinced are right for the business.

        I’d be job searching.

        1. Bob*

          “I’d be job searching.”

          I’m at a company that acquires companies so I go through this kind of stuff all the time. It’s always a closely guarded secret about potential layoffs. As we walk away from the initial meetings with the company, we often comment to each other that these people should be job searching right now. The signs are usually there but they don’t want to see them.

        2. Writer of #1 Here*

          This whole ordeal started with consultants that came in the Spring, interviewed us in teams and then generated a report wit recommendations.

    7. Sparky*

      Well done, LW. If I found that memo, I think I would have re-written it to make it look like all of they lying upper management was on the chopping block, as well as leaving the original content. Let them all turn on each other, and wonder who they can trust. If enough people leave due to the information in the memo, maybe there won’t be layoffs for a while, but don’t trust that anyone’s job is safe, and know that there will be no raises.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is genius. Wish you had thought of that (and of course done it on the computer at the library and not work or home.) How sweet that would have been.

    8. MashaKasha*

      Don’t want to turn #1 into an alcoholic, otherwise I’d buy a drink too. While what you did will not result in raises, it was absolutely a good thing to do in my opinion. People have families to support. They deserve to know it if they have X months left to find work; not strung along till the last minute and then escorted out with security and maybe given a couple weeks severance if they’re lucky.

      1. MashaKasha*

        PS. story. I did something like that once when I was leaving an ExJob. There was a mass exodus due to the department being shortstaffed and stressed out. Management finally decided to start hiring replacements. They got together after work in my direct supervisor’s office and made a list of job openings on his dry-erase board: job title, base pay, bonus… The base pay for our replacements was going to be 30% higher than ours had been, for the same work and same job title. Meaning that everyone who was left behind, was probably being severely underpaid.

        My boss, who generally wasn’t playing with a full deck so to speak, was supposed to erase the list before people came into work the next morning. He didn’t. He then called me into his office for good-byes and such, told me about the meeting, “we made a list last night right here on this board”… points at the board, which is hanging behind his back… sees the look on my face, looks at the board, turns pale, and begs me not to tell anyone because he should’ve erased the numbers.

        So I only told two people that I could trust with my life, and asked them not to tell anyone. They told everyone else within two weeks, like I knew they would. They never named the source. I was at my new job by then, but my ex-coworkers kept me updated on what happened after that.

        I was hoping it would lead to raises, unfortunately it didn’t. Management called an all-hands meeting and somehow BS’d their way out of the salary discrepancy: “when we said base pay, we really meant base pay plus medical insurance plus vacation…” yeah right. But at least people knew they were being seriously underpaid (while being told that their pay is right on the market reference point or some other corporate BSy thing) and that they could leave and get significantly more money somewhere else, if they needed to.

    9. brighidg*

      Amen! Though yeah, OP should start looking at making her exit. That place is going down the tubes.

    10. TootsNYC*

      Consider this incident your fair warning that at least part of your management will lie to you – believe nothing that they say and look only at what they do.

      This is always true, and especially more so when the company is talking reorganization, sale, and layoffs.

      The *cannot*, in all fairness to stockholders, release information until it’s final. I think it’s sort of unfair to ASK them for information like that.

      1. Anon for this*

        Absolutely agree. That seems to be the new script when a company get taken over: no layoffs! Raises for all! We come in peace! The company that took our place over said this and then couldn’t start restructuring fast enough.

        Also, can’t the history of printed documents be viewed on the printer? Something like “completed jobs” in the menu should show who sent it to the printer.

  5. Blurgle*

    OP#4: Have you thought about starting with the disclaimer Alison suggests, then following with something so outlandishly positive that it couldn’t be mistaken for the truth? I mean things like liveried servants carrying you to work in a gold-plated litter, tea personally prepared by Richard Branson, live noon concerts featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Hunger Games-style battles among the managers, and the like?

    1. McAnonypants*

      But will that be convincing enough? I mean, what quality of candidate is willing to settle for anything less than being hand fed perfectly chilled grapes at the top of every hour? And those little tiny ones you can only ever find once a year at a Trader Joe’s or the like, not some inferior, flavorless grape you can get at any old grocery.

    2. Kira*

      That’s what I was thinking!

      [Company] is the sun and the moon. I feel inexpressible joy to awaken, knowing that today I work for [Company.] The sky is bluer when I look out [Company] windows, the air smells sweeter when it has passed through [Company] air filters. Before [Company,] I had no purpose, I did not exist, but now I am alive in the fullest sense. [Company] brought me new life. [Company] IS life. We have always been at war with the Oceania branch.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Joining the LOL at that.

          “We’re all given company-issued sparkly unicorns to ride to work. All cups in our break room are genuine Ming-dynasty porcelain. Happy hour is Veuve-Clicquot champagne and VVSOP brandy. We have a recreation center featuring a light-up disco floor and a holodeck, in addition to the standard-issue Nerf arsenal.”

    3. Renee*

      I have a former terrible employer that suddenly became an “engaged employer” on Glassdoor this year. A long string of really horrible (and honest) reviews has been followed by 3-4 perky and impossibly positive reviews. I like to think that no one is fooled. What really cracks me up is that they’ve been left by people that represent they’ve been with the company for more than ten years. When my boss made five years, it was celebrated as a feat accomplished by only a handful of people at the company. In the three or so years since I worked there, there has been a mass exodus of most of those senior people. I’d be shocked if there were more than two people still there that have worked there for more than ten years. I guess what I’m trying to say is that a whole lot of regular positive reviews hitting at regular intervals is going to looks as fake as it probably is.

  6. Anon the Great and Powerful*

    #1 – I don’t think you did anything wrong, after all, your loyalty should be to your coworkers not to the company that is lying to all of you. However, please keep in mind that the people who lied to you about layoffs are probably also lying about including you in decisions and giving you raises, so try to get out of there as fast as you can.

    1. MT*

      The company may not have lied. The original plan may have been what was communicated, but things change.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        I agree and I know this is not going along with the popular opinion…BUT, the reality is the document could have just been a draft proposal vs. a final plan and plans could have changed since they last communicated. I do not think the OP was responsible in sharing the document. If it were me, I would have taken the copy to my boss and tell him/her where I found it and ask some questions about what is going on.

        1. AMT*

          I disagree. The other employees’ livelihoods are at stake. Even if the plan isn’t set in stone, they need to know that the strong possibility of layoffs exists so they can save money and prepare to find other jobs. This isn’t just petty office politics. If my coworker knows I’m in danger of not being able to afford groceries next month, they’d better tell me.

        2. Natalie*

          I’m having a hard time imagining a plausible scenario where the plan changes from layoffs to “raises for everybody!”, though. Perhaps if they found some kind of new source of revenue, but in that scenario you’d think they would just explain it rather than go on a witch hunt for suspected office burglars.

          The point of all of this isn’t that LW #1 and their coworkers should take this plan as gospel, and if Joe sees his job is being retained he can breathe a sigh of relief. The point is that the company’s plans are the EXACT OPPOSITE of what they’ve been telling their employees, and the employees are being denied an opportunity to make an informed decision about the future. It doesn’t have to be that way, at all. My company had substantial layoffs a year ago. We were given 9 months notice that layoffs were coming, and the specific people were told 4 months before their jobs ended. The company did not collapse with the weight of departing employees.

        3. AnotherHRPro*

          Many major companies regularly looking at their structures, including assessing resources to determine what changes, if any, to staffing levels are needed. When completing business plans, it is important to identify what is needed to achieve those plans. Do you need to increase staff in Sales? Decrease in manufacturing? This is really a best practice that good companies do at least annually. And as part of this, some documents are created that could be interpreted by those not involved that layoffs are imminent. I’m not saying this is what the case was for the OP, but this has been my experience.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep. And I’ve certainly created contingency plans before (“if X funding falls through next quarter, here’s what it will mean for staffing”) because it would be irresponsible not to. That doesn’t mean those things are happening, just that part of running a business is knowing what plans you have in place if X or Y happen.

            That said, a good company would simply explain that in the OP’s situation.

            1. Writer of #1 Here*

              I work in a hospital so it is a bit different and I work directly with patients. That might change the perspective.

              1. mander*

                Maybe. My sister (a nurse practitioner) worked for a hospital-based practice that seemed to be doing very well financially; they even poached her from another doctor. The whole time she worked there they were talking about raises, the nice new premises they were getting, the other staff they were going to hire, etc.

                Six months later it had folded completely, without warning, and she had real trouble getting paid all the wages they owed her.

        4. Observer*

          We don’t know if the company was lying, but we do know that the plans looked VERY different from what had been communicated, and that the company could have communicated those changes at any time. So, at minimum, they were being disingenuous. That, combined with the fact that the OP didn’t do anything wrong in getting the plans, and the his co-worked got at them through the carelessness of someone else rather than inappropriate behavior, leaves me with Allison.

  7. Heather*

    OP 4: I agree, it’s a bad idea and your employer is silly if they think potential hires can’t tell the reviews aren’t genuine. I use Glassdoor all the time to research companies that I apply to and its obvious when HR is doing damage control. I tend to see that as a red flag because great employers aren’t afraid of honest feedback, but bad ones usually are.

    For instance I’ve posted my own reviews before and had one awful ex boss respond on the site that i was a bitter liar. It didn’t bother me since I didn’t work there anymore, but can you imagine if I did? I mention this because I think your company is setting itself up for petty drama.

    They should encourage reviews, not require them. That’s just weird.

    1. MashaKasha*

      +1, this is a ridiculous demand that will result either in a bunch of phony reviews posted to Glassdoor, or in retaliation. How do they want to enforce it, too? Do they insist that people post reviews on Glassdoor under their own full names?

    2. AMT*

      That ex-boss probably dug his own grave! Man, if I saw a crazy diatribe about how a former employee was a bitter liar, I would run so far away from that company.

      1. Artemesia*

        Exactly — if you are going to counter, it is with sadness and disappointment and wishing the person would only have discussed their concerns with you. This ‘bitter liar’ stuff just reinforces the negative review.

        This sort of guerilla marketing happens all the time on trip advisor — and it is obvious when someone is posting a false positive report or asking a question designed to tee up what is essentially an ad.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      And wouldn’t this be like astroturfing? Fake reviews on Amazon, put there by the company, spring to mind. It also reminds me of when Comcast told their employees to vote in Consumerist’s Worst Company in America awards so they wouldn’t get the Golden Poo again.

      When people find out about this fake stuff, they are usually not happy.

    4. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      I worked for a company that posted an anonymous glowing! review! on Glassdoor *the very day before layoffs occurred* — it was so awful I had to laugh at it. You could even tell who wrote it — the voice of their marketing person came through loud and clear.

      I was sooooo tempted to post my own anonymous review right after it calling out the author, but I was one of the layoffs and figured it might come back to bite me in the butt.

  8. Cautionary tail*

    O #2, I was in almost the exact same place as you several years ago. I started with them in June and as part of my upfront acceptance discussions told them I already had a planned, booked and paid-for vacation in December; was that going to be a problem?

    They said it wasn’t an issue at all. When December came they said “if you take that vacation we’ll fire you.” I reminded them that six-months ago they had agreed to me taking the already paid for vacation and they said I don’t care; take it and you’re fired. Since by that time I hated the company due to several other bait n’switches they had pulled on me I told them I was taking my vacation and I did. On my first moment back in the office, my boss said “you’re fired.”

    Leaving there was so uplifting and a weight was lifted from my shoulders. It was a wonderful day.

    1. Cautionary tail*

      I need to add that I filed for unemployment and stated the reason just like above. When it came time for the unemployment hearing the company did not show up so I got unemployment.

  9. Mike C.*

    What in the hell is up with so many employers revoking vacation? Can they not be bothered to properly staff up and things sneak up on them or were they lying the whole time?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Lying the whole time isn’t the most likely scenario. It’s more likely that shit happened, as it sometimes does. The OP sounds like she likes the job and the manager.

      1. The Bimmer Guy*

        I agree completely, Alison, and I like your suggestion. You can find out a lot about a person by how she behaves when things don’t go her way. It sucks, but I see this as an opportunity for OP to prove that she can take one for the team, and do so with a pleasant attitude. That always looks good when you’re on a long-term trajectory within a company.

        1. Erin*

          “You can find out a lot about a person by how she behaves when things don’t go her way.”

          Excellent point. OP could position herself pretty well here.

      2. INTP*

        In this case, it sounds like so many things came up that I’m skeptical that none of it was foreseeable or preventable. I wouldn’t assume they were lying the whole time but it doesn’t sound like they bothered to really confirm it would be doable before promising those dates or didn’t place any priority on not scheduling things for that time that OP has to be there for. The latter is understandable but they should have told OP that she could probably have the dates but no promises instead of approving them.

      3. Mike C.*

        Yet there are many anecdotes within the thread of similar things happening. I find it rather odd.

        1. chemgirl*

          I think it’s one of those things where if it happened to you, you’d comment, but if you had a normal interaction with the company and everything went right then you’d be less inclined to comment (not much to say haha!). So that’s probably making it look like it’s pretty common here I’d bet.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            +1 I have never cancelled a holiday from work, even when I offered to rearrange my plans as some problems had come up I was told not to worry about it the work could wait and honestly I can’t even remember being turned down for holiday when I’ve asked to book it.

            Holiday is viewed as an entitlement in the UK and people don’t seem to have a problem with taking it as far as I can tell.

            1. Hush42*

              When I started at my current job in I told them that I had a 2 week vacation planned for September (I started in March) they said that was fine. When September came I went on my vacation despite the fact that between the time I was hired and the time of my vacation one of the other people in the department was “career adjusted” and the two people left were still handling three people’s work. It happens my boss told me to go on my vacation. The other person who was left in the department told me to go have fun.

          2. Lily Rowan*

            Yeah, exactly — I’ve started my last two jobs with preexisting vacation plans, and it’s been totally fine in both cases. So who cares?

      4. Anita Newname*

        OP says they work in insurance. I do too and if you’re at all involved in group insurance, it’s the busiest time of the year. Manager would have known this. Taking time off in December (and January) isn’t impossible, but a week long or more (not that we know how long the trip is) would likely not be approved except for special circumstances.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Which means it was pretty crummy of them to approve the vacation before they hired her! It’s not like that’s not predictable. The least they could have done was to say, “We’ll try.”

        2. Mike C.*

          Interesting. My wife works in property insurance and this is her slow time. Turns out that despite commercials to the contrary, there aren’t actually a whole lot of people who buy cars as Christmas gifts!

          /Wouldn’t mind that German made “sleigh” that Santa drives, dang!

          1. Anita Newname*

            Property, yes. But I’m willing to bet that they are in some kind of employer sponsored or group insurance. OP also mentions HRIS, which is also a clue towards working in some kind of benefits or group insurance product.

    2. neverjaunty*

      I suspect that while sometime it’s a genuine emergency, mostly it’s that they simply place zero priority on it. If you don’t care, you don’t do anything to make sure it can happen.

    3. Mando Diao*

      I think that it’s becoming increasingly rare for people to actually *go away* on proper vacations, and that makes it something that managers simply no longer process when they hear it. Or it’s a position that has really high turn-over, so they don’t really care about retaining or building a relationship with the employee. My teenage experiences in retail tell me that businesses don’t generally care about keeping new hires after the holiday rush, and they’ll resort to shady methods to get rid of you once there’s no more work for you. That includes “forcing” you to quit over something like a revoked vacation.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Hi Mike! Here we are on the staffing thing again.

      Lookit, I have never one time revoked a vacation and that should hold true for the rest of my career. That said, there have been tons of time I’ve not been properly staffed up but it’s not because I didn’t bother to do so. Maybe you work in an industry where there is a good amount of money laying around, but I don’t. The world has changed 180 since I started working in it.

      When I started in the 80’s, there was a lot of money in business to business teapots. The advent of the internet, with price transparencies, and the changes in people’s buying habits has, by 2015, created a teapot environment where we are working on 10 to 15 points less gross margin for the same orders, with WAY higher demands for service, especially super fast turnaround. (Curse you Amazon Prime and your shiny expectations you give people at large.) Way higher demands, way less money to work with.

      I’m a pretty smart lady and logistics is my thing so more days than not, I like the challenge of figuring out how to make this all work. But it is hard.

      What I’ll give you on this is planning and commitment to one’s word. If there’s a known crunch event in X month, plan ahead and don’t grant vacations in the first place. If an unknown event happens, plan ahead cross training so you can at least borrow from Peter to pay Paul so you can keep your word.

      But my main point is this: the world that I live in does not have enough cash to be staffed to full level at all times when unforeseen events like staff shortage (from unexpected leavings, higher than expected medical or maternity leave, higher than normal trainee washout, etc.) or higher than projected business growth happen.

      1. Sunshine*

        All of this, plus the added difficulty of actually finding good candidates when you need them. At least for me, that’s a huge challenge.

        I mean, clearly the manager was wrong, he I can certainly see how it could happen. For starters, being hired in June, that December vacation is pretty far away. Maybe they had plans to increase staff and couldn’t. Maybe three people quit the department suddenly in November. Maybe the boss just made a mistake and didn’t think ahead far enough. Shit does, in fact, happen.

        1. blackcat*

          But in my view, if shit happens, it’s the manager’s job to deal with it. The employee should still be able to take a vacation (particularly if it’s already paid for. If I were in that position and an employer *needed* me to stay, I’d expect them to reimburse me the non-refundable costs of the trip).

          1. Sunshine*

            Perhaps not. But it’s the manager’s job to get the work done, and you need people to do it. That includes making hard decisions like revoking vacations if necessary. It shouldn’t be taken lightly, and obviously only as a very last resort… but a manager who lets a team fail the company over someone’s vacation is failing at her own job.

            1. Mike C.*

              I don’t think reneging on the previously agreed terms of employment to be an ethical choice.

              What is the employee supposed to do if they’ve already paid money for this? What if it’s not just a general vacation, but a planned event, such as a wedding?

            2. Katniss*

              I doubt most businesses are going to fail entirely if someone takes the week off that they’d been planning all year. And as Mike C said, is the company going to reimburse the employee if the employee already paid for their trip? Or should the employee just lose potentially thousands of dollars?

            3. Kassy*

              I can get on board with that…but I think that the frequency indicates that it’s not being used as the very last resort, but rather the second or third choice down the line when the first backup doesn’t work out.

      2. hbc*

        Yes, thank you. In addition, there can be problems with being overstaffed. Most people who get used to a 75% capacity workload will find 100% or even 90% to be an unmanageable burden. In big companies, it should be possible to spread that out, but small businesses might add 10-50% overhead if they never want to have a time when one person can’t take a vacation.

        Not that I would revoke a vacation over it, and I wouldn’t take it as an excuse as an employee if there somehow was never a good time to take a vacation, but the solution isn’t just throwing more people on the payroll.

      3. F.*

        Wakeen’s Teapots Ltd., you are my heroine! You said what I wanted to say only much more eloquently and tactfully than I ever would have. Having said that, I am going to go ahead and blunder in…
        Mike C.: Sometimes things are not in black & white. The vast majority of managers are working for the good of the company and that includes having satisfied employees. I have gotten the impression that you are a union rep (forgive me if I am incorrect). Perhaps that colors your point of view, as the union exists to protect and advocate for the employees and usually sees management as an adversary. It can be helpful to step back and see the whole picture, from all points of view (including the clients/customers, whom we ultimately all work to serve). As WTL said, most business do not have the capability to be precisely staffed at all times. Sometimes that means having to limit vacations. I think the OP is handling this very professionally, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the company DOES give them extra time off to compensate for their inconvenience.

        1. Mike C.*

          I’m not a union rep nor have I ever been a dues paying member of a union. For the record, I favor the German model of worker-management collaboration with explicit documentation of processes.

          What colors my view is having had to work under management that refused to plan ahead and be transparent in their plans, thus turning everything into an emergency. What also colors my view is the number of times I’ve instituted processes that consist of little more than having a few extra supplies on hand and better communication between different groups and suddenly the issue is no longer an emergency.

          This happens time and time again that I have a difficult time believing most (not all) emergencies can be prevented if management is willing to take a longer term view, allow employee input and so on.

          1. F.*

            I apologize for thinking you were involved with a union. While I agree that transparency and trust are essential two-way streets in business, I have yet to encounter that in the all of the years I have been employed, across many different industries.

            The line of business I am in (construction inspection) does not lend itself well to long-term prognostication of needs. We cannot hire employees and have them sitting around just in case we get a certain contract. Our contracts frequently require boots on the ground in less than a week from date of signature, and may require a number of inspectors. We operate on a razor-thin margin with as little overhead as possible in order to remain competitive in this cutthroat industry. This means our management team has decreased from ten to six just this year. This means I had to perform the work of 2-1/2 employees for much of the year, putting in over 130 hours of uncompensated time, diluting my exempt salary to less than I was making per hour as an admin asst. This means I still have 60 (out of 104) hours of Paid Time Off left that I will not be able to take this year (and may not get to take next year). We hold our breaths waiting for the checks in the mail each day to cover expenses and payroll. Is this dysfunctional? Hell, yes! But this is reality for many, many small businesses.

            And for the record, we bend over backward to accommodate our employees’ vacation plans. Nearly one-third of our inspectors were out for the first day of deer hunting season this week. Others will be out next week. If we hire someone who has let us know at the time of hiring of clearly pre-planned vacation plans, we honor them. Our employees work very hard and long hours during the construction season, and we know how important their time off is to their well-being.

            1. Mike C.*

              No worries, I’m not insulted that you thought I was union – my father and both brothers certainly are and it’s helped them a great deal in terms of safety and fair compensation.

              Ultimately all I really care about is that people operate in good faith. When I hear stories time and time again about people having their non-refundable vacations taken away at the last minute for nebulous “business reasons”, it really bothers me. The employer in these cases is taking away their employees’ ability to plan things out. For every legitimate reason you or Wakeen or others can post, I can name examples where someone was just trying to protect their bonus or ignored the requests of those under them was was just plain incompetent. Back when I used to calibrate equipment for a network of labs, the owner of the company would go on shopping sprees acquiring new clients, which I then had to stock with new instruments. Did he ever tell me that deals were in the works? Nope. Ever mention that new labs had been acquired? No way. Only when the lab was about to open would I be told that there was an “emergency” that needed to be taken care of RIGHT NOW. Cry wolf and have time off cancelled enough times and you become cynical very quickly.

              At the same time, if that person is so important to the company that they simply cannot take a vacation, then that leaves the company at a huge disadvantage. What happens if that person suddenly leaves?

              Despite my diction, I do get that some areas you just can’t predict things. Otherwise I’d be home playing the stock market.

              1. F.*

                Mike, I hear ya’ about the shitty managers who fail to communicate. Even a simple heads-up that new labs were coming online around a particular date would have helped you plan accordingly.
                “At the same time, if that person is so important to the company that they simply cannot take a vacation, then that leaves the company at a huge disadvantage. What happens if that person suddenly leaves?” That is the problem plaguing nearly all small companies. Both the Accountant and I (she even more than I) could cripple this company by abruptly leaving or (God forbid!) becoming ill, injured or dying. I have asked for cross-training and been pretty much ignored. We have a pact that if one of us is ready to bolt, we will inform the other so we can leave at the same time.

              2. CA Admin*

                My company will sometimes require people to cancel their vacations at the last minute–but it’s usually the higher ups, not us peons, and the company reimburses whatever is nonrefundable. It works well because the company doesn’t like having to pay out that money, so managers don’t make people cancel unless it’s actually necessary.

            2. the gold digger*

              Nearly one-third of our inspectors were out for the first day of deer hunting season this week.

              My former employer used to just close the factory the first week of hunting season.

              1. F.*

                Around here (PA), the schools are closed, and many blue-collar business do just close up shop and give everyone the day off. They just can’t get enough workers to stay open. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of our contractors, and they are under deadlines to get their projects finished, hunting season or not.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            Okay but you are extrapolating your experience to a blanket statement about all worlds.

            There was no preventing the “emergency” of an uptick last fall on one of our brands, up 30% , with no explanation or forwarning, at peak. We were running around like chickens with blah blah, it was a mess. The same brand went back to normal levels this past fall busy season, leaving me overstaffed, since I’d staffed up for same busy season levels as the previous year.

            I agree that cancelling vacations is bad business if at all possible to avoid, but blanket statements that people could be properly staffed if management just bothered… that’s not true in my world.

          3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            Oh and p.s.
            Marketing at the moment is significantly understaffed because I switched the money and the hiring for the last 8 months to front lines, based on projections that were based on the previous year (plus other things). So now I’m too heavy on one and too light on the other and trying to cross train, re-position to balance that out, but it’s more than a matter of taking 3 bodies from one pocket and placing them in another.

            Theoretically I should lay off front line and hire for marketing but we don’t work like that. We’ve never laid off somebody who was performing well (or had potential for same), ever. It’s a good group, this will work out. But balance is hard!

    5. Random Lurker*

      Must be nice to work in Mike C’s world where there are no resource constraints, no unanticipated market demands, or competitors in your industry that will cause your company to make unpopular decisions. Any impact to the employees could only happen due to laziness and incompetence.

      Does it suck to have the vacation revoked? Yes.
      Was it because the company is twirling their cartoon villain mustache and trying to figure out how to stick it to the employees? No.

      Companies exist to make a profit/serve a cause. Decisions are made with these goals in mind, and that often is in direct conflict with our personal plans. It is a trade off that we accept by working for someone else instead of ourselves.

      1. Katniss*

        Too bad for the company if those decisions are made after they’ve already approved a vacation that’s been bought and paid for. The employee shouldn’t have to lose that money because of that.

        1. Sunshine*

          No, they shouldn’t. No one is saying it’s a good outcome, but painting the company/boss as villains who are deliberately screwing people over is harsh. Bosses are people, too, and they are tasked with meeting the demands of the business. Sometimes there are no other options.

          1. Katniss*

            Hey, as long as they’re prepared to have people leave the company over having no other options, fine. I would quit if I was expected to lose money because the business had an emergency. I may care about the business but it still isn’t MY personal emergency, and I wouldn’t be willing to suffer for it.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          They shouldn’t have to lose money over that, and a good employer will find a way to compensate them and make it right.

          But the picture that sometimes gets painted in these discussions of managers all being idiots or callous assholes just doesn’t ring true to me, and I’d bet doesn’t ring true to most people who have managed large teams. I think when you haven’t done that firsthand, it can be harder to understand how and why this stuff happens, but it wouldn’t kill anyone here to say “hey, managers, help me understand why this could happen in a responsibly run business” rather than leaping to the worst possible conclusions (and presenting said conclusions certainties).

      2. mull*

        Why is deliberate malfeasance the measuring stick? Carelessness with employees’ time and the company’s word isn’t an obvious excuse that should be universally accepted. And most people get that true emergencies are one thing. Poor planning is another.

        And if you’re fine with being casually deceived by your employer, fine, but it’s not unreasonable for some of us to want a different standard.

      3. brighidg*

        Must be horrible to work for people who forecast business demands even six months ahead of time. Sounds like a horribly mis-managed place.

    6. Hlyssande*

      I have a friend who is the chair of a major local convention who had this same issue.

      It was part of the offer negotiations that he could not and would not take the job without that vacation time blocked out, and they still tried to revoke it.

    7. Kelly L.*

      I think people literally just forget. They promise that block of time but don’t write it down anywhere, and because they don’t remember, they don’t arrange coverage for that time.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah. I’m not buying the “unplanned business” excuse. They had MONTHS to plan for it because they knew they would be short a person because the OP would be out on vacation. Someone plain forgot, and now the OP misses her vacation.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It may have been that the edict about no travel during that time came down from on high after they had already negotiated it, and it wasn’t poor planning by her direct manager at all. I’d be pretty pissed off if this were me and I had already bought plane tickets or had reservations somewhere. But if I didn’t, like the OP, and I could reschedule the vacation, I don’t think it’s at all egregious to ask for a few more days to make up for the inconvenience.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yep, I think in almost all cases it’s plain carelessness — either the manager doesn’t check for obvious conflicts before promising the time, or they don’t keep track of what time they’ve promised so that they can plan around it.

    8. OP2*

      So… to go into a bit more detail..My team is relatively new (as in, 4/5 of us were hired since January of this year).

      My predecessor randomly up and left with nothing in writing concerning her job. That means when I was brought on we had to document and re-create just about every process (and are contuinuing to do so) concerning the majority of what I do (and I’m in HR).
      My counterpart transferred to another department, meaning that now it’s just me who is teapot administrator.
      We have 3 pay periods in December with a short turnaround to get people paid on 12/31. With the Christmas holiday I literally have 1 day to turn things needed for payroll, and an additional day to turn the financials around.
      My team is also in the process of rolling out a new database… which again, with a pay period on 12/31.. we have to make sure that it’s correct.

      This is my first “corporate” job. The potential to grow is tremendous, and at this point in my life (early 30’s) I want to do what’s best for the long term me, know what I mean?

      1. Kassy*

        “Long-term me” thinking is really smart here. I don’t think anyone has made it very far in their career without deciding to “suck it up” at least once.

        It’s perfectly valid to decide that it’s worth not making a federal case out of that vacation time in order to advance your career in the long run….especially if this is a one-time thing and not something you will have to expect out of the job.

        That said, I’d push for that extra vacation time. They’re still going back on their word, even though it sounds like they have decent cause to do so.

  10. neverjaunty*

    OP #3, bad news: your competitors ARE trying to poach your employees. You aren’t going to stop that by refraining from doing the same. But as AAM says, what you can do is provide a working environment where your employees don’t want to leave.

  11. _ism_*

    I’m bitter, I’m just going to weigh in briefly on #5…

    If they agree to spend time with you to answer your questions or provide you with documents or contact information to get your questions answered… GOOD.

    If they say “you don’t need to worry about the specifics, trust us, it’s better than anything else around here, please sign these documents by tomorrow!” … RUN.

    1. Valegro*

      I had something similar. I went from a job with excellent benefits to one that also promised health insurance and a bit of a raise at a very small business. When I got to work the first week and I asked about the health insurance they handed me an Aflac agent’s card. I told the office manager they don’t do health insurance and was told the catastrophic plan was good enough for the owner and thus me. It cost a fortune for little benefit. Turns out everyone else had spouses with good jobs and insurance or were still on their parents’ plans. I paid a fortune for COBRA until the ACA came out since my preexisting conditions ruled out half my body. The company agreed to pay a whole $1000 towards that a year and that was taxed.

      I left that job for many reasons and that was just the first red flag. My new position is in a similar sized business and I pay $30/month for decent coverage from an actual health insurance company.

      1. sunny-dee*

        WTH? I have no preexisting conditions, no allergies or medications, and I pay $400 a month in premiums, and another $200 or something is subsidized by my employer.

      2. Kassy*

        That’s the first I’ve heard of that’s lower than mine! ($41, including a couple of incentives) That’s amazing!

      3. BananaPants*

        WOW. I pay several hundred dollars in premiums for employee + family coverage on a HDHP with a 5-figure out of pocket max. It might save us from bankruptcy if something truly major goes down medically, but we’re resigned to basically paying the full cost of our medical care from now on (plus the premiums).

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      Many companies will say they have “standard”, “good” or “comparable benefits” without the candidate knowing what that means or fully understanding how good their current benefits are. I have seen this happen particularly when leaving a company with exceptionally good benefits. OP, I would recommend you target companies that are known for very strong benefits. A quick google search on “companies with best benefits” will provide a listing of companies that do offer very strong benefits if benefits are very important to you. It is very frustrating (for both the candidate and the employer) to devote a great deal of time in the interview process to learn at the offer stage that benefit coverage is not going to meet a candidates needs.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, I think everyone downplays the importance of the specifics of benefit plans WAY too much. I worked with someone who got a great raise when she started with us. But because all their health care was with her (not her DH), and because our company had structured its health-care plans/premiums to favor single workers, the “+1 or more” premiums more than ate it up. She was making less money, and the coverage was not as good, even.

      1. OP*

        I ran into this issue at my previous job. I had just gotten married and didn’t realize how much more I would be paying to cover my husband at the new job. I ended up making less after my raise. Definitely do not want to repeat that.

      2. AW*

        I think everyone downplays the importance of the specifics of benefit plans WAY too much.

        I agree and it makes me nuts. It’s not as if most employers have similar plans or even similar costs, so you can’t even make a good guess at what the cost & plan is like. The variation, in my experience, has been all over the place.

      3. CADMonkey007*

        Definitely. The out of pocket cost for a healthcare benefit has SUCH a huge range and a bazillion different factors. If a company pays 100% of premiums, it could be a crazy high deductible plan! Or maybe they cover 0% of spouse/dependent. As a job seeker I should be able to tally up my OOP costs to factor into negotiations. I find it super shady for an employer to not disclose this info at any point during the hiring process.

      4. Kassy*


        I have interviewed at several places telling me that they have “one of the best health plans around/in the state/in the country.” Then I tell them I work for a state agency and they say, “Oh…yeah, we can’t compete with government benefits.”

    4. OP*

      Oh, definitely. I doubt most organizations will live up to my current plan, but they need to be at least decent for me to give up such amazing insurance right now in my life. I pay only $200 a month for my husband & myself for health/dental/vision w/a very affordable deductible & out of pocket, which covers just about everything. My husband’s company has a sub-par in network only version of the current plan we have for 3X my cost. Insane.

  12. Jillociraptor*

    Having been a part of the rollout of layoffs (in which my own position was eliminated, in fact), there’s such a hard balance to strike on how much information is useful. It sounds like there are some pretty serious culture issues in OP1’s workplace in general, but there are so many really good reasons to not involve the whole rank and file in every single thought process in a situation like this. It could be that someone prepared this option to appease some senior person with a bee in their bonnet, but there’s no chance it’s actually going to happen. It could be a political ploy to demonstrate that layoffs are unfeasible. It could be that there is new information that the company can’t share yet (major investor pulling out, financial agreements falling through, etc.) that’s driving this change in plans.

    Transparency is important, but especially amidst other challenging changes, people have a tendency to catastrophize small nuggets of information and turn them into grand narratives. That forces leadership to be on the defensive when sharing information, rather than strategic and thoughtful about it.

    The staff member who printed the plan should have been much more careful, obviously. And ideally, leadership at OP’s organization would have had a clearer roll-out plan detailing specifically what they’ll hear and when, and what kind of input they’re able to give. Of course, it’s totally possible that the OP’s account is completely true, that leadership is being shady about this and reneging on their commitment to transparency. But I would also urge the OP to keep as a possible option that the leadership team hit a dumb logistical snafu and are now trying to deal with the fallout of losing control of the story rather than trying to make good decisions amidst tough constraints.

    1. Shell*

      In theory I agree, but the way this company is running things I am skeptical about their ability to be fair and transparent (or as transparent as possible) about things and plan strategically. They laid off directors without warning. Not only do they have sudden layoffs, they ask security to walk the suddenly-laid-off long-standing ex-employee with 35 years of tenure off the premises. This doesn’t sound like a workplace culture of treating people well. The way they’re treating people beforehand absolutely warrants the paranoia.

      1. Jillociraptor*

        That is one possibility, and another is that the paranoia is writing the story. :)

        There’s obviously a culture problem here. My question is more, though, whether the OP is more likely to effect a good outcome (which I assume would include both a transparent process and not having layoffs) by leaning into the culture problem story, or by considering an alternative story and the concomitant behaviors.

          1. Jillociraptor*

            Sorry, by that I meant assuming ill intentions as the only explanation of leadership’s behavior.

      2. hbc*

        A “layoff” of directors without warning can just be how it appears to everyone else. I bet the directors wouldn’t have appreciated it if there was an announcement made that, say, “These people have been claiming to be wooing customers and investors while going on golf outings every week” or “The terms of their contracts were that they would generate X amount of business and their failure to do so is what’s resulting in all this scrambling” or “They’ve been fudging the budget numbers for years and we need to take action before our next audit.”

        1. Writer of #1 Here*

          They were laid off and we had a huge meeting the next day first thing in the morning announcing it. People were shocked and the people making the announcement were so cold and unfeeling. EAP stepped in and actually treated us like humans.

          1. Artemesia*

            I know of many situations where managers have been leg go — it has never been a surprise to the staff who had been wondering for a long time why people who don’t make rain when that is their job, or who can’t manage etc etc were allowed to continue not producing for so long. Far too few managers are fired IMHO for simply doing a terrible job; this terrible job is visible to their subordinates.

            It sounds like #1s directors were not so viewed and if that is the case then that is a really bad sign for everyone else. One — maybe there was malfeasance that people are not privy to — several? no one expects it or knows why? probably not.

    2. Colette*

      I’ve been through a lot of rounds of layoffs, and, once you know layoffs are a possibility, it’s best to know nothing else untol the decisions are made and people are notified. The notice gives you time to get your finances in order, and more information just makes the environment almost unbearable. People handle anxiety many ways, and one of those ways is talking about it constantly – which makes their colleagues even more anxious. It feeds on itself.

    3. Writer of #1 Here*

      Huge culture problem! I responded above as well.

      Some details: I actually work in health care directly with patients and everyone I work with is specifically trained in the medical field and has licenses to practice. That being said, I know they aren’t going to lay off everyone but ultimately they promised no one was going to lose their jobs.

      Within hours of this happening, a higher up sent an email saying they were going to investigate how this got distributed but backed-off the next day when they realized they were in the hot seat. We were then told in a meeting that all FTEs would remain for the next fiscal year and that an emergency meeting was happening the next day regarding raises. Now, I don’t really trust anyone for how this has been handled but I think it put them more in the public light. Before they started this “restructuring” most of the rank and file had never met these higher ups who are now pulling the strings to our future.

      As far as the memo: We were told it was a draft created by outside consultants. The paper did not say draft and it also wasn’t marked confidential. Maybe I am being to literal here but I would love as many cocktails as I can get!

      1. Izzy*

        This may be crazy but is it possible that the document was left on the copier “accidentally on purpose” by a staff member who felt you all should be warned? Someone who wasn’t willing to take the risk of distributing it themselves (or else would have been easily identified as the one who did it) but could get away with an “oops?”

        1. AVP*

          Maybe the manager who “had their office broken into” did it themselves! So much intrigue when you have a culture like this; anything becomes possible.

          1. Artemesia*

            Ahh good catch. If doofus left it on the copier, he has an interest in the ‘break in’ rather than ‘careless me’ story.

  13. The Bimmer Guy*

    Regarding #5: Note that Alison said it’s okay to ask about benefits at the *offer* stage, and not before. Don’t start quizzing your prospective employer about medical benefits and 401K-matching during your interview. It seems like that goes without saying, but I’ve personally seen several people do this.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        You know though, I don’t really get why discussing things like benefits early in the process is so taboo. I get that it’s simply not done and therefore would of course advise someone to wait until the offer stage, but I think making benefits more transparent from the get go would be more of a benefit than a hindrance. Just like people very much want to know a salary range up front (because hey, most of us aren’t working for the fun of it), ideally we’d like to have a pretty good idea of benefits as well. That way everyone’s time isn’t wasted getting all the way to the offer stage only to find out the benefits would have been a deal-breaker all along.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I used to work for a state university, and I felt they had the best hiring practices. All jobs had a salary band, so the position range was posted as part of the job description.

          Then it was one, all day interview but at the end you sat down with HR and they reviewed the benefits (vacation, retirement, health coverage).

          By the time the offer came, I was able to do a simple salary negotiation because I had a good idea of my entire benefit package.

          1. Persehone Mulberry*

            A local university that I’ve applied to a couple of times has ALL their benefits info available online. Employee handbook, fee schedules, coverage worksheets, the works. I love it.

          2. A Dispatcher*

            I work for a county government that is unionized, so all of my salary/benefits etc were not only made clear up front, but are also public. I much prefer that to my previous jobs where benefits and sometimes salary wasn’t discussed until the offer stage. I also learned the hard way my first job out of college to be very thorough when asking about benefits. I wasn’t and got stuck with a truly terrible HSA. Kind of funny though, I STILL haven’t used up all the money in that HSA account because my benefits at this job are so good I barely make a dent in it for co-pays and prescriptions.

          3. AW*

            Yeah, when you work for the government, your pay is a matter of public record.

            In fact, in some (many?) places you can look up someone’s pay online. Not just the pay band but what a specific person’s pay is. This apparently doesn’t cover things like grant money though; when I looked myself up after being hired by a university, it didn’t show my full compensation. It looked like I had a much lower salary than I actually did.

            1. Kassy*

              My pay is available online, and not even hard to find. If you know which agency I work for and my actual name, it will show everything I’ve been paid for the year – reimbursements as well as salary.

            2. BananaPants*

              A relative-in-law works for the federal government and I know exactly how much she earns. On top of her benefits it makes me want to weep for those of us in the private sector.

        2. Graciosa*

          It’s a problem in the early stages because it’s really presumptuous, and places an odd emphasis on benefits to the exclusion of other aspects of the role.

          I’m trying to think of an analogy – maybe like asking to review my finances on a first date? If we’re getting serious, you need to know this – but we’re not there yet. That’s a big leap ahead.

          I once had a candidate who used the question portion of the first panel interview to ask really detailed questions about the benefits. Really detailed – like is Named Doctor at XXX Street part of your plan, and is Specialty Drug covered? There were multiple managers and an HR rep on the panel and none of us knew.

          He never asked a single question about the actual job, or the company, or anything else – the whole thing was a major turn off.

          Don’t misunderstand my position – I completely agree that this is important information to have at the offer stage. HR will actually send basics to candidates who receive offers (a two page summary of plans with co-pays etc.). As a hiring manager I will happily make sure that the selected candidate gets everything she needs to make a decision, including details about Named Doctor at XXX Street and Specialty Drug coverage.

          But not everyone I interview is going to need all this information, so it seems pretty presumptuous to jump to that stage – especially with a hiring manager who had not yet decided whether or not you’re a viable candidate.

          1. A Dispatcher*

            “…especially with a hiring manager who had not yet decided whether or not you’re a viable candidate.”

            Well honestly, without knowing benefits I’ve yet to decide if a job with your company is a viable option, so it works both ways.

            I do see why the actions of that specific interviewee were a turn off, but in general I just truly think benefits are such an important part of an overall package that we should be able to discuss them up front, right along with salary. An interview is not purely about you deciding if you want to hire me, it’s also about me deciding if I want to work for you.

          2. Kate M*

            But for a lot of people, they won’t take a job without a certain level of benefits. If you’re going to go through 2-4 rounds of job interviews, that’s a lot of time to take off your current job, especially if you don’t accept the new job. Maybe not at the very first interview, but if after the first interview someone is still in the running, I think it would be very beneficial for the candidate to have specific information about salary and benefits. That way, if it’s out of line with what the candidate would accept, they could withdraw without wasting anymore of anyone’s time.

            Waiting until the offer stage to find out anything about salary and benefits seems like such a waste to me. If it ends up being unacceptable, then everyone’s time has been wasted. I understand not making that the first thing you ask about in an interview, but I really think it would behoove companies to offer this to candidates before you get to the offer stage.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I think this is when you need to recognize WHO you are talking about WHAT issue.

              So a panel of department heads, etc.? It’s incredibly tone deaf to ask them this sort of specifics; it’s not so much offputting, but it shows that the person has NO clue how this sort of stuff works and what everyone’s focus is.

              But I think when you know that benefits might be an issue, it’s OK to say, after the first interview, if they call you back (or indicate interest in any other way) “I’m so interested in the position. Unfortunately, benefits are a big part of the picture for me. So before we go much further, I’m going to contact HR to get some specific answers; would you alert them that I’ll be calling, so they don’t think this is out of the blue?”

          3. Ezri*

            I get that asking ONLY questions about benefits would be a turn off; but what about someone who knows that they need a very specific and not necessarily common procedure covered? It seems inefficient for both the candidate and the employer to get to the end of the interview process and then go ‘oh, your benefits don’t cover something I need’. If I were in that position, I’d rather know that before coming in to interview so I wouldn’t feel like I was wasting anyone’s time.

          4. Artemesia*

            I think if the person advances past the first interview that this information should be out there. Who wants to invest in the whole process to choose a candidate who won’t take the job because the salary or benefits are so crappy. I hired for a position that was underpaid and the other benefits were fairly good — excellent if you had a family. We didn’t have the resources to fly more than a couple of people in for finalist interviews and we really didn’t want to be wasting that on people who wouldn’t consider the job with what we had to offer. I made sure they knew the top salary possibility before they were invited to be a finalist.

            I don’t get keeping everything a mystery until an offer is made — who has the resources to keep at it till you find someone who will agree to those conditions?

          5. Natalie*

            I think there’s a happy medium between “no information until you have an offer” and “let me spend this interview discussing the finer points of your drug coverage”. Particularly with health insurance, it’s unlikely that a company that, say, only offers a high-deductible or cafeteria plan is going to be in a position to change that. It that’s a dealbreaker for a candidate, wouldn’t you rather they know that up-front so nobody wastes their time?

            Personally, I wish prospective employers would publish either starting salary or the salary range, and a basic overview of benefits. Just saying it’s “competitive” does not cut it.

          6. TootsNYC*

            HR will actually send basics to candidates who receive offers (a two page summary of plans with co-pays etc.).

            This is NOT enough.

            As a hiring manager I will happily make sure that the selected candidate gets everything she needs to make a decision, including details about Named Doctor at XXX Street and Specialty Drug coverage.

            This is.

          7. TB*

            How is it “incredibly presumptuous” to want to know if I’d be better or worse off financially before I decide to interview for a position?

          8. Kathryn T.*

            They may have gone about it in a tone-deaf fashion, but questions like “do you cover this doctor and this specialty drug” aren’t bizarre or out there. You may not realize how much these “specialty drugs” cost, but they can be OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive — $2k, $4k, $15k, $30k PER MONTH. Many drug formularies “cover” them, but only at 40-60%. It’s not unreasonable to want to know if a company’s medical benefits make it financially possible for you to continue the treatment that allows you to work before you spend a bunch of your time (and a lot of other people’s time, too!) interviewing.

        3. JAM*

          My current employer brought me in after a phone screen for a 3-part interview. In part 1 with HR, they gave me a benefit plan summary with a website to access for more information. The HR rep specifically stated that they wanted candidates to have all the information should they extend an offer so I wouldn’t feel pressured to read over the materials quickly or even pressured to accept without all the information. It was really wonderful to have it and be able to go into salary discussions knowing how to include and leverage benefits as part of the conversation.

        4. knitchic79*

          I can appreciate that, I think it really depends on how you ask. It would certainly only benefit all parties to have a honest discussion about these things upfront. In my case she actually said “before I waste my time dropping this off…” It was pretty funny looking back. I thought the manager at the desk was gonna choke.

    1. sprinkles!*

      Earlier this year, I was offered a job making just slightly what I was currently making. The benefits package they offered me was terrible (no 401k match until you had been there like seven years – and even then it was a very low match – and health coverage was skimpy. It wouldn’t have been a good financial move for me.

      Of course. I didn’t ask about the benefits package until I had been offered the job, but it sure would have been nice to know before I went through several interviews, taking time off work, etc.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I’ve had prospective employees give me an info packet that included basic benefits info – not full details, but an overview of how much the medical plan cost and covered, what other benefits were included, that sort of thing. Well before the offer stage. But – I never asked for it, and generally would not until we got to the offer.

    3. Brett*

      Though I think if a prospective employer is going to ask for my salary requirements on the application, then I had better have access to their benefits package at that point too.

  14. Daisy*

    The only people who can be “poached” are the willing.

    My husband had several offers of jobs but he liked his company and turned them down. He eventually left and now his new company is being accused of poaching from another local company. They have a horrible reputation and people are begging to leave. If suddenly a lot of people leave from one company maybe they should look at why and not blame another company.

    1. Artemesia*

      Exactly. Someone I am close to worked for a company that underpaid most highly skilled people and didn’t give raises until several key people had left for other local companies. Well, duh.

  15. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


    FWIW, I think recruiting people away from competitors is, net, a societal good. It gives workers leverage, encourages employers to provide conditions that make their employees less likely to be recruited, and spreads knowledge instead of keeping it silo-ed (making the economy stronger, in my theory).

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          That he/she’s not sure of a love there is no cure for.

          (We’re or at least I’m showing my age here.)

          1. LBK*

            Heh, that song predates my birth, although I’ll spare you by how many years so as to avoid rubbing it in :)

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I really agree with this. If you’re an employer who is concerned about this, make sure your employees are happy.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Here’s another way poaching is a societal good.

      As a employer, I’m secretly glad when someone leaves, because it means I get to try out another person who might -also- turn out to be a great employee. It’s good for my team, for people to leave for a new job.
      I’m confident that I’m a decent manager and am paying an appropriate rate, but people want to move up, and they should be able to from where they are with me. When they do, the rest of my people feel good.

      1. Mike C.*

        This plays into a thing I hear about every once in a while where some employers treat former employees as “alums”. Their attitude is that they’ve done great work at their own company, and now they’re going elsewhere to gain additional skills and experience. By treating them well in that sense, they in turn speak well of the company and so on.

        Years down the road the employee can be rehired with a boatload of new ideas, knowledge and so on while being a known quantity of the employer. So you basically turn standard turnover into a mutually beneficial catch and release program. Even if they never come back, you have an expanding network of close contacts at various businesses related to your own that can be very useful in it’s own way.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I actually would rather not promote from within. I prefer people to go outside, get BROADER experience, and then come back. Or, as you say, become a broader network of people.

          I’m also a little skeptical of universities who have a lot of alums on their teaching staff.

    3. Witty Nickname*

      My manager encourages me to try to be “poached.” It’s good to know what’s out there, and what opportunities I may have at other companies, so I can decide if staying where I am is the best thing right now or not. It’s not that she wants to lose me, but she also wants her employees to be happy to be there because that’s good for both us and the company.

  16. hbc*

    OP1: Your manager believes that someone broke into his office non-maliciously? Or does he believe they broke in with evil intentions, found the document, and then was moved from the Dark Side by compassion for fellow employees upon reading it?

    Honestly, I wouldn’t trust anything you hear or see for a long time, because it sounds like people are flailing around and nothing is making any sense. That includes the directors not seeing the end of their jobs coming, it not being about performance, the plan for layoffs that was found, them actually listening to feedback, nothing. For now, operate as if you might have to carry out your stuff at the end of the day or you might get an awesome raise after they implement all of your ideas. Don’t do anything that forces you to assume one or the other.

  17. LuvzALaugh*

    OP one. You finding the info and distributing it will not change the plan. The restructuring is being done for a business case and I have never seen it done lightly. As for being lied too, companies usually only include a small group of decision makers in lay off plans. I have never seen a restructuring that was transparent. The meetings you are now witnessing are probably less about raises (lay offs and raises usually don’t happen together) and more about how someone ended up with a confidential document.) You say your company pays below market wages, now they are restructuring. Weigh whether or not you are on the Titanic and want to jump ship if it looks more likely than not to you based on info not included in your question that the ship is sinking. I may also consider getting another position because when they find out how confidential information was shared, there may be some firing and you may be one of them. Disseminating that info was a mistake. Another position may serve you better anyway. It sounds as though you really are feeling yourself in an us versus them mentality. Working in fear of getting laid off is no fun. Look for something more stable.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Since we’re making the Titanic analogy, OP #1’s company has been treating its rank and file staff like they’re in Steerage….

    2. TootsNYC*

      I have never seen a restructuring that was transparent.


      In fact, this entire post makes sense.

      Companies do what is in their best interest, and while transparency is a nice thing to talk about, it’s often counter to the company’s best interests. And I would say upper management has no obligation to tell you anything until their decision is made.

      1. Writer of #1 Here*

        But they made promises to us in a public forum. Even told a midlevel manager to tell her employee to buy a car because they weren’t planning lay-offs. They weren’t being honest.

        1. Kassy*

          I agree that the promises that were made changes things. If it weren’t for that, I might have more sympathy about the higher-ups not wanting to shout “fire!” until there was definitely a fire to shout about. If things have changed so drastically in that short of a time span, that they’ve gone from “not even considering layoffs!” to, well, considering layoffs, then the company maybe owes more transparency than they might normally.

          The treatment of the former directors changes things too. If the company had a history of giving people a year to find new work, letting them take time off for interviews, etc., then it might be okay that they waited a little longer to tell people. But if you’re going to get escorted out within a day or a week? If those are the rules you play by, this is the kind of thing that happens to you in return.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I agree that making promises to people is not cool.

          But let me say this–a midlevel manager shouldn’t be *asking* “should I buy a car, or a house?”

          Especially someone at that level needs to have figured out that the company say officially say anything at anything but a final stage.

          The company, however, shouldn’t be shouting “fire”; they should just be saying, “I’m sorry, we can’t really speak about things. You’ll have to take the risk as you personally see fit.”

  18. MaryMary*

    OP5, the level of detail you’re looking for isn’t going to be in the general benefits information employers give to candidates or new hires. It won’t be on the insurance carrier’s website either, because fertility treatment coverage will vary from group to group. Ask for a benefits summary (not the summary of benefits and coverage (SBC), it won’t have the details you need) and a copy of the certificate. And I’d see if you can talk to HR or the company’s benefits manager, not the hiring manager. HR/benefits people get questions like this all the time. If you tell them you are planning a procedure within the next year and want to verify how it would be covered, they likely won’t bat an eye.

    Good luck! On the new job and your treatments. :-)

    1. TB*

      And even the benefits summary might not be enough. All the printed materials for my insurance (multiple-page booklet, not short overview) say about fertility treatments is that they cover “diagnosis and SOME treatment.” Yeah, that’s helpful.

    2. Mpls*

      Call the insurance provider for these types of questions. HR won’t know and the summary of benefits they have will be more geared towards the more general and typical things covered by the plan. You’ll want the summary of benefits so when you call the insurance provider, you can name the specific plan you are calling about. There should be a customer service contact number with the insurance information for that provider. You should be able to ask these questions as a prospective hire – if they won’t answer just because you are not an employee yet, then that should be a red flag.

      Calling the insurance provider is really the only place you will get the level of detail you want on a particular procedure. It’s not going to be (clearly) explained in any documents that are readily available. If customer service isn’t helpful, you might call the patient advocate/navigation help line (assuming the insurance provider has one) as another avenue for questions. They might not be able to help if you aren’t currently covered by the plan, but it’s worth a try.

      I would ask after either conversation if any of the information they have told you over the phone is available in writing somewhere. And make notes during the call (including name, time and date).

      1. Artemesia*

        This. I don’t have any issues anywhere near as complicated for insurance but I could NEVER get useful information from HR at my large company. They would have this special ‘information days’ for health care choices and the people running those meetings never had any actual information that was not in the poorly written unclear handouts. The only people who can answer the question, maybe, are at the insurance company. So armed with the policy number for that company, call them.

        1. F.*

          HR probably gets those poorly written handouts from the insurance company themselves. I always refer employees directly to the insurance company if they have coverage specific questions. Things change within policies, and I want to be sure the employee is getting the latest and most correct information. I also do *not* want to know about employee’s health problems unless there is a specific need to know. It is not the company’s business.

          In a situation like fertility treatments, where if successful, the employee is going to be off work for a period of time to have the baby, etc., as a job applicant I would *not* want the potential employer to know and have that color their decision. Yes, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of any medical condition or pregnancy (that might or might not even occur), but I still would not want to take the chance that the employer would then try to find other reasons to disqualify the applicant.

  19. F.*

    #1: I will be forever indebted to my colleague at Very Large Dysfunctional Financial Services Corporation who found and gave to me a printed email from HR to my boss advising boss on what to say to lay me off . The layoff was scheduled for the very next day. I stayed after the boss left for the day, took all of my personal belongings with me that night, and called off the next day to be able to mentally prepare myself for the firing (which is actually what it was, the boss had no documented performance issues with me; she just hated me.) When I came in the following day, I was laid off (fired with benefits). I was much calmer and, best of all, did not cry and get upset, thus depriving the boss of her pleasure. Oh yeah, I am not ashamed to admit I flipped the boss off under the table the whole exit interview! ;-)

    1. F.*

      Forgot to add that the printed email had been left on the counter next to the copier, in plain sight. The whole department knew before I did.

      1. Writer of #1 Here*

        That is terrible. Honestly, 3 of us saw the document and after one night of sleeping on the information ( not sleeping at all) we couldn’t sit with being the only 3 people who knew about these plans.

        1. BadPlanning*

          Frankly, in situations such as this, I would place 50/50 odds on the copy maker leaving the copy out on purpose in hopes it would leak to warn others.

    2. MJH*

      I overheard our HR person (who has very little phone voice and takes her calls in an open office) discussing a layoff and I guessed pretty easily who she was talking about. So I knew before he did that the layoff was coming. Since I hadn’t heard *for sure,* I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything, but I considered it. (And I was right, so….)

      I kind of wish I had said something, since I would hope someone would do the same for me.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Ack, what a hard situation to be in. In hindsight yes, since you turned out to be correct it seems like it would’ve been nice to give them a heads up, but had you been wrong it really could’ve been disastrous.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I had a co-worker find a document on a shared drive that listed those being laid off, including me. He wondered why they had left it so open (it turns out, that as IT he had higher privileges), and debated whether to tell me. He told me, which allowed me to keep my eyes open for other clues (so I didn’t get him in trouble), and wrap up my work so nothing was left hanging when it finally happened.

      When I had enough other evidence, I went to my boss and told him my suspicions, and asked if it were true to let me know, so I could wrap things up. He said he couldn’t say. I took that as official notice, and when the layoff came, everything was finished or documented.

      I very much appreciated the warning.

  20. TheLazyB*

    Anyone suspect that it’s no accident that the papers were left on the copier for #1? I think someone was trying to give their employees fair warning.

    1. Writer of #1 Here*

      We were wondering that too! Our manager is interim and said they only agreed to take the position if they weren’t going to be responsible for tearing apart the department and then the same manager said they did not want to investigate who made copies of it because they were sure it wasn’t done out of malice.

    2. TB*

      I once found out I didn’t get a promised promotion when I found the new organizational chart on the copier. The person who promised it to me, and who interviewed me (while assuring me it was a formality) never did actually come to me and tell me I didn’t get the job. Even when she asked me to do some of that work anyway, since the person she had hired (in an attempt to suck up to a higher-up) turned out to be completely inept. So yeah, I wonder if she left it there in order to inform me without actually, you know, looking me in the face.

      But I’m not bitter. ;-)

  21. Sam*

    #5 Definitely ask for details. During the offer stage, I kept asking about the health benefits and was told that they were pretty standard, nothing to worry about (but I got details about everything else). I made the mistake of not pressing for details and it turned out standard insurance benefits included sky high deductibles, a tiny network and covered very little. I got sick shortly after and had a number of bills.

  22. Sigrid*

    Alison, what would you advise an employee to ask for if, in the case of #1, the planned vacation had involved a fair amount of non-refundable outlay on her part (plane tickets, hotel reservations, etc. that she can’t get a refund on)? I’m not talking about when you’re in a situation like the ones mentioned upthread, where management is obviously being an ass and is not going to be reasonable about it, but if, in a *functional* workplace, your planned vacation needs to be cancelled. Is it acceptable to ask for money to help recoup the cost?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I know I’m not Alison, but my thought is that I would state what my nonrefundable expenses were, and maybe also “I checked with the airline, and it will cost me $250 in change fees to switch those plane tickets to another date. Since I went ahead and made those reservations based on the assurance that I could take those days off, what do you think is a fair fix for this?”

    2. jhhj*

      A fair fix is that the company pays you back for all your (non-refundable) expenses — including tickets for your partner/children if they were coming with you.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Well, I’d suggest inquiring about change fees, because that’s probably cheaper than just eating the cost of the tickets, so it’s a more reasonable thing to ask for.

        Darn it, I meant to include that in my comment above; tell them the full cost, and then mention the change fee as a more reasonable alternative.

        1. jhhj*

          Well, the fees are your non-refundable expense — I wasn’t clear later about other people’s tickets, but I meant that if you planned a family vacation, you bought more than one set of tickets on that promise, and they should be eating the non-refundable expenses for everyone, not just you.

    3. OP2*

      If I had plane tickets they would be on the hook for paying for letting me rebook them… I believe in this case it would be $250. :)

  23. Dasha*

    #1 I know what you did wasn’t exactly honest but I’m sure it was appreciated. I worked for a company once and they started to lay people off, I had two pretty close friends there and both knew my position might be eliminated but not for another month or two (three whatever soon but not immediately). Both friends knew I was already interviewing and looking at other jobs hardcore (I could see the writing on the wall…) but only one friend TOLD me I would for sure be laid off soon. It made all the difference in the world to me, I knew I couldn’t be picky about the next job I took and I was trying to make a MAJOR housing decision which I lost a deposit on but it was way better than being stuck in a twelve month lease if I no longer had a job in that area. I was really disappointed my other friend didn’t tell me or at least give me a hint especially since she knew that I already had a feeling about it, was seriously looking, and had a very big housing decision to make where I could have potentially been screwed… I understand because I’m sure she didn’t want to risk her job… but still… When my other friend told me it was like a huge weight and worry had been lifted off of me because I then knew what I had to do and what plans I should make.

    1. NickelandDime*

      I’m glad you were told as well, but please don’t hold it against the other person for not saying anything. Here’s why: I know someone who found out about some folks that were going to get laid off. She felt she was doing the right thing giving them a head’s up. Well, they turned right around and told the Powers That Be that they knew about the layoff plans and identified who told them. Guess who got fired? So many people have been burned this way on jobs and in their personal life. It probably killed the person not to tell you, but there’s always another side of the story we don’t know.

      1. brighidg*

        Yeah, that’s why you do it secretly if it can be traced back to you and then plan your own escape.

      2. OfficePrincess*

        This. Especially since the person already knew you had an idea of what was coming. Knowing information that you can’t share is always a tough spot to be in, and risking your job to confirm what someone is already pretty sure of makes it even harder to take that risk.

        1. Dasha*

          Oh? I said I understood because I’m sure she didn’t want to risk her job. This was more for the OP who was in a tight spot just sharing my experience of how someone helped me and what a help it was. I would also understand not sharing but maybe my story gives the OP some comfort of how much help it was to me.

          1. OfficePrincess*

            Ah, see this was the part that stood out to me more “I was really disappointed my other friend didn’t tell me or at least give me a hint especially since she knew that I already had a feeling about it, “

      3. Dasha*

        I said I understood because I’m sure she didn’t want to risk her job. I should add that the friend who told me found out she would also be laid out so didn’t have much to lose by telling me (someone accidentally put her on email she was not supposed to see). Just sharing my perspective to the OP who was worried about distributing the plans of what a help it could be. Hints can also be good or like brighidg said if you can do it secretly like the OP did (which isn’t always possible).

    2. TootsNYC*

      I already had a feeling about it, was seriously looking, and had a very big housing decision to make

      I think the friend may have figured you were already on it. You knew the risk, and you were acting.

  24. Xarcady*

    #4. Could someone explain to me how this would work? I thought reviews on Glassdoor were anonymous? So couldn’t people just point to any positive review and claim it is theirs?

  25. AmyNYC*

    #3 – it’s fine to contact people though LinkedIn and personal emails, but PLEASE do not call them at their current job. I’ve had this happen and it makes me a) annoyed, b) kind of embarrassed, and c) write off that particular recruiter completely.

    1. CM*

      I think it depends on the industry. When I worked at a law firm, it was very common to get recruiting calls at work.

  26. Vera*

    Everyone has had the moment of leaving something on the printer you didn’t want others to see. This used to happen to me on days when I worked from home and my computer was remotely connected to the office network – and therefore the office printer by default instead of my home printer.

    With that being said, it is a frustrating way to find out about things going on in your company. If I were in the OP’s shoes, I may have shared it with colleagues I consider very close an and trustworthy. But beyond that I would have just taken it as a sign about the type of leadership in the company.

    I’m very excited my New Job provided me with my own in-office printer!

    1. Writer of #1 Here*

      My colleague shared it with me and someone else. All 3 of us could not sit on this and be the only people who knew. We couldn’t sleep and discussed what to do and this is what we came up with.

  27. voyager1*

    You are awesome! Love that the idiots tried to make it a security issue, couldn’t even admit of a screw up LOL!

  28. ThatGirl*

    Just a quick note on layoffs – while the things the company has done sound pretty shady, being walked out is not uncommon. I work for a big Fortune 500 corporation and whenever there’s a round of layoffs, people are escorted to HR, then out the front door. It’s not personal but they don’t want people to have any further access to company property. HR will come get your coat and purse if needed and they box up personal belongings for you later.

    1. Brandy in TN*

      I think that’s ok, but I don’t trust the company to box my stuff up. I know several people thru the years who didn’t get all their stuff. Also too, some office supplies are mine that I bought. I took to putting labels on those items so they’d know its mine. I was only let go one time and was escorted to my desk to get my stuff and then out the door.

      1. Brett*

        Yeah, I have several thousand dollars worth of textbooks and journals in my office, all of which belong to me even though they are mailed to me at my work address. (My wife made it very clear to me that these needed to stop coming to our home.) I highly doubt I would get all of these, or possibly any of them, if my stuff were boxed up by HR an sent to me.
        My organization would probably be too cheap to pay for the shipping :)

      2. ThatGirl*

        I think usually departmental co-workers help gather stuff – we had a round of announced layoffs in early November, and one of my dept managers was starting to label her stuff as a precaution because, like you, she had some personal office supplies. (She did not get let go.)

        I mean, I understand not wanting HR or whoever to box your stuff up – I’m just saying it’s not uncommon to be walked out. (Like AnotherHRPro mentions, this is a secure building with badges to get into office areas, too.)

      3. Dasha*

        This. I had given my two weeks notice once and then unexpectedly had a contagious eye infection the last few days and couldn’t finish my notice period. I went to go get my things and lo and behold a lot of my personal items were missing… The things weren’t that important in the end but it was the principal of the matter to me. Last job when they started laying off people I took anything of value home.

        I think escorting someone to their desk is much kinder if at all possible.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        That’s what Exjob did when we got laid off–we went to HR and then someone went back to our desks with us and watched us pack up. I wasn’t allowed to touch the computer–it was turned off remotely for me. I understood the reason for it, though it was still kind of embarrassing.

        At NonProfit Job, I was just escorted out and they sent my stuff. But I sent them a letter saying here is what is mine and I expect to get it back, and I will mail my key fob (which I did), and I’m sorry this didn’t work out. I got everything back okay, including a porcelain envelope licker that wasn’t cheap. I would have been really ticked if someone had kept that.

        1. Brandy in Tn*

          I think that’s why if you start to get a vibe, get that stuff off your computer, email it home, etc… Because you aint getting back in the computer once you’ve been let go

    2. AVP*

      It’s not uncommon but it doesn’t leave a great taste in your mouth about the company, if they have no other reason or past history to think the employee might do something drastic. You can ask a security person to accompany the person to their desk and keep an eye out if you’re really that concerned. Don’t forget, you might need that person’s help in a month or two, and treating people with respect and assuming that they’re sane and compliant is a good way to earn that.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I mean, I’m not arguing with you about how it feels – I’m just saying it’s fairly common in some industries and types of companies.

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      I agree. Working for a Fortune 500 corp in secure buildings, it is necessary to escort people out of the building as exiting requires a badge, which you need to turn in prior to leaving. Every single person who separates has to go through a process where we collect company assets (including their badge) prior to their departure, which happens immediately after that process.

    4. Layoffs*

      Yes, what you describe is common. But it’s not okay for the company to keep an employee’s personal property for any length of time. And not even letting someone get her purse! That’s outrageous, sorry.

  29. AVP*

    #2 – if you’ve already booked the trip, can you also try to negotiate for reimbursement of any fees incurred? I know this isn’t done in every industry, but in my line of work we occasionally have to move our planned vacations and one thing my company does is allow you to expense the change fees for flights and cancellation charges. It’s a nice perk if you need it!

  30. Case of the Mondays*

    #5 – you may have some difficulty getting this info. When my husband switched jobs (to a fed job) he had the option of 6+ benefit plans. It showed the tiers for medication copays and the tiers for in-network and out-of-network providers but I had no way to find out what medications were in what tiers and which doctors were in and out of network to weigh the plans. Their online system is members only with a log-in. When I called they said I had to be a member. After a ton of negotiating, hold times, talking to multiple supervisors, I convinced them that a potential member needed this information to decide whether to become a member and was able to get it. Fertility stuff might be a little easier because it might just be in the policy definitions and you don’t have to get into actual formularies but it can be a huge pain.

    #2 – for people that have had previously promised vacations (as part of a job offer) rescinded. If you decide to take the vacation (it’s a honeymoon or family bucket list thing that you just can’t give up) and you get fired for it you may consider talking with an employment lawyer. Even though most states are at will, you still have an implied unilateral contract for your pay and benefits. Those can change going forward but not retroactive. So, they can say next year you are getting 2 weeks vacation and a 20k pay cut. But they can’t refuse to pay you for the time you already worked at your current rate and they can’t revoke an already earned benefit. Like if they said close this deal get X bonus. You close the deal they can’t renege on the bonus. Here, you accepted the job contingent on the promise of this vacation and then you worked at the job. This may have created contract. They could be in breach of the contract for firing you for it. Arguing this to keep your vacation could also work. I suggest speaking with a lawyer because it is likely state specific. It won’t be in a statute but it will be in the case law interpreting what “at-will” means and what amounts to a contract, etc.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d love to hear from employment lawyers on #2, but my understanding is that there wouldn’t be a legal violation there. They’re not saying “you don’t get any vacation” (and frankly even there, they can change benefits whenever they want to; they’re saying “you can’t take it on these dates after all.” Most companies have clear policy statements that vacation dates are subject to a manager’s approval.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I would advise an employer to not do this. A vacation planned after the worker starts, sure, you have discretion to pull it. But a vacation that was a contingent part of an accepted offer of employment? That is likely a contract. The employee didn’t care about getting A vacation. The employee cared about getting that week of vacation and the employer agreed to it to induce the employee to accept the job and the employee accepted the job and performed by working. It would be very shaky legal ground.

    2. OP*

      This is the issue I ran into previously when accepting new offers. They would send a breakdown of the costs without much detail. Then I would also feel uncomfortable asking them to send further information. I was young and single then though so it was a different ball game.

  31. CM*

    OP #4: Do what your company asks, and post positive reviews with some details so they know it’s you. Using your personal e-mail, or a web form, contact Glassdoor and tell them that your company is requiring employees to post reviews to maintain the company’s ratings.

  32. sally*

    #3: You’re not doing anything wrong, but keep in mind that the people you’re recruiting might have noncompetes that prevent them from going to work for you. I’ve had to politely decline several recruiters because of that.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is time in the US to outlaw ‘non-competes’ except narrowly drawn and in very highly compensated and technical positions. Jimmy Johns has them for sandwich makers, for pete’s sake. This is nothing but an attempt to turn workers into slaves — or even worse as at least slaves had job security such as it was. It is reasonable to bar people from taking the client list; it is pretty unreasonable to bar people from doing their profession or trade for a different boss.

      It is like arbitration clauses now in most contracts — an attempt to stifle competition and keep wages low.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Well, actually, even sandwich makers can have something that they don’t want to get out. It really does depend.

        1. BananaPants*

          The way to handle that is with a NDA rather than a non-compete. At least in my humble and admittedly uneducated opinion…

    1. Bea W*

      I was wondering if it’s another division at my employer. Huge restructuring going on. It doesn’t affect my business unit so much though so it’s business as usual for us and I’m not privy to the rumor mill. Can totally see this happening though…except the promise of raises, which are so notoriously bad we jokingly refer to them as “pay cuts” because they don’t keep up with CoL.

  33. CogInTheMachine*

    For #5: you might also look at state resources for fertility treatments if you live in a bigger state. I know New York covers the cost of fertility treatments once your primary insurance runs out. It might give you a little more wiggle room on accepting a new job.

    1. OP*

      Unfortunately those previsions only cover the testing period and more basic procedures. They will not pay for the procedures involved with IVF, for example.

      1. CogInTheMachine*

        In your state or in NY? My understanding was NY will pay for IVF if that is what is recommended in your case.

      2. Observer*

        That’s actually not correct. There is a certain amount of funding for IVF. Not every center deals with it, though. And, there are certain limitations.

  34. Shannon*

    I certainly wouldn’t want my employees targeted this way!

    First, they’re not your employees. They are adults with agency to make decisions for themselves.

    Second, I want employees to have the best possible job for them. Whether that’s at my company or another company isn’t my choice to make for them and denying them the information to make the best possible decision for themselves is paternalistic.

    Recruitment is a revolving door, not an open and shut door. All you can do is provide the best work place that it is within your power to provide and let other people make their own decisions.

  35. Shelby*

    OP1, I have nothing productive to say but I salute you. I don’t know that I could have overcome my fear enough to do what you did myself, but I would have wished like hell that I did it. Great job.

  36. TotallyAnonymousForThisOne*


    I worked for a company that did the exact same thing. I had had the kool-aid (rah rah, start-up culture) and was all about this place, but it felt skeevy to me. They played it off as a positive thing to do for the company, IIRC.

    I didn’t do it. No one ever asked about it again! It may have been mentioned again, but I always just noncommittally “mhmmed” and smiled along. No one asked, I made no promises, and that was that.

    Until someone asks, I would assume they won’t check or know. If someone asks, exclaim that you “totally forgot, oh dear”, and you’ll have to leave yourself a note! And then, conveniently forget. Forever.

  37. Formica Dinette*

    Hey OP #4, if you decide to go along with it, perhaps for every positive review you leave, you also post a real review–under a different name, of course. I volunteer to rewrite your real reviews so they won’t sound like they’re coming from the same person. :D

  38. JJ*

    #1- I would have done the same thing. my old job was in the midst of reorganization and we were promised that we weren’t going to lose our jobs. on more than one occasion. our regional VP of teapot sales looked all of us in the eye and said -“you guys are important to this business, and you have nothing to worry about.” 2 weeks later he showed up unannounced with measly severance packages and gave us 30 minutes to get our stuff and vacate the office. the worst part was that the teapot sales people that occupied our office were told the day before that they were being relocated to their homes and our office was closing, and to keep it a secret from the teapot service people that were being let go. I know it goes against normal protocol, but someone was dumb enough to let this document out in the open, and management deserves whatever repercussions they get over it.

  39. Anonymous Minion*

    Regarding #5, I have always gotten blank stares when I ask about this. Insurance companies send the “introduction packet” to you AFTER you’ve joined, and their websites invariably don’t go into the dirty details of their policies, if they say anything. I have never successfully been able to look at the details of a policy before I’ve been hired.

  40. DMC*

    Am I the only one that thinks it was definitely wrong to distribute the document? In fact, so wrong, that if it’s discovered, it’s a fireable offense and the company would be justified in terminating the offender? Here’s my reasoning – you knew it was not a document meant to be seen widely, but you had no real background on it. You don’t know if it’s one of many proposals, if it was an old proposal that has since changed, or where it fits in the grand scheme of things. Even if it is an accurate, current document that totally reflects their plans, it’s wrong because you work for the company and you knew the document was not intended to be distributed. The best thing to do was to go to your manager, say this was found on the copier, you’re not sure who else has seen it, and inquire about it.

    1. Not Karen*

      I’m on the fence about it being a fireable offense, but I’m definitely uncomfortable with OP taking somebody else’s printout from the copier, much less sharing it, much less taking it and sharing it knowing it was confidential. I’m surprised everyone else is so supportive because it seems pretty immoral to me, regardless of how the higher-ups are behaving.

      1. Observer*

        The way the higher ups are behaving is relevant here, because it alters the terms of engagement.

        So, though I’m not sure it was the best thing to do, firing the OP is also not the right thing to do. This issue would not have happened if there were transparency and / or the people who were handling these plans were not so careless. It’s really not all that reasonable or realistic to expect people to ignore information that they came by in a reasonable fashion (they didn’t go snooping), and which could have enormous impact on their livelihood.

    2. NoTurnover*

      I definitely think it was unwise, and I’m not sure what OP was hoping to gain from it–it’s very unlikely that the plans will be changed, damages her relationship with everyone above her, and it was a “proposal,” so the specifics of the document may have worried some who will not be laid off/not worried some who will be laid off. The fact that management promised staff input on this is strange to me–I’m all for input on many things, but if layoffs are necessary, I’m not sure how it helps to discuss that in a public forum. I can see why OP wanted to tip people off, but I wonder if there was a way to do that without airing the entire document to the entire company.

      The company is also at fault–they haven’t communicated well, and it was unethical of them to say that there would be no layoffs if they knew that was a possibility on the table–but OP doesn’t come off well in this, either. It doesn’t sound like a fireable offense to me, but if I was her manager, it would take her out of the running for any management positions.

  41. INFJ*

    Whoa. #3: not everyone who joined LinedIn did so to “put themselves out there” to be poached. Networking isn’t always just about finding your next job.

    1. Observer*

      You make it sound like the people being “poached” are merely passive bystanders or chess pieces to be grabbed and held by whoever.

      “Poaching” is a term that should have very little impact on employment and recruiting. Poaching is illegal hunting of animals you have no right to. Since we don’t have slavery, nor even indentured servitude, the “illegal” part is simply not applicable. Even if you go with “unethical”, that doesn’t apply since no one has an ethical right to the unwilling labor of another person. Nor are the employees “game” to be hunted. They are PEOPLE who have agency, and can decide whether they want to entertain an offer or not.

      Which goes to the other half of your comment. Whether people are putting themselves “out there” to get their next job or not is not relevant. The only ethical issue here is how to react if someone says no – in which case I would say the ethical (and smart) way to respond is to back off. But, you have NO ethical obligation to their employer to not approach someone.

  42. Ruffingit*

    I often wonder about the companies that think they are being “stabbed in the back” when someone leaves or that the person was “poached.” Meanwhile, said companies offer horrible benefits, low pay, bad commutes, etc. And they refuse to even think about changing any of that, preferring instead to blame it on the workers. People have needs and if you can’t meet them or won’t meet them, it’s not a betrayal for that person to leave.

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