my friend is blackmailing her boss, employee is overlooking emails, and more

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

1. My friend is blackmailing her boss

I have a friend who works as a server for an upscale hotel in a large city. She recently told me about a “deal” she made with her supervisor that has resulted in her making a lot more money. A little background — she’s been at this job for about five years now. The hourly wage for her position is very low (with no raises in those five years) and most of the money she makes comes from gratuities. At this hotel, all of money made in gratuities is divided evenly among all of the full-time servers. About a year ago, my friend was getting really fed up with her job and threatened to report her supervisor to HR for making frequent racist and sexist comments to his staff. Her supervisor got scared and told her if she kept quiet, he would find a way to give her that raise she had been requesting for so long. From then on, her paychecks were considerably larger. Because her base hourly wage hadn’t changed, she knew he must have been doing something different with the gratuities. It turns out, he found a way to manipulate the division of gratuities so that she would always receive a significantly larger percent than the rest of the servers. I don’t know the exact figures here; all I know is she bragged about how she ended up making over $10k more this past year than previous years, so I assume it must be a pretty significant increase.

The reason this all came up is because now she’s scared this all might end because the hotel is switching to a new payroll system which will make it harder for her supervisor to do this manipulation. However, he promised to still try to make it work. She’s gotten so used to her new paycheck amount that she can’t imagine going back to what she was being paid before. I told her she should also be worried about what will happen if HR ever finds out this is going on, because to me it seems like grounds for immediate firing of both her and her supervisor. She truly believes she’s innocent in this situation and there’s no way it could/would be held against her (“I’ll just pretend I didn’t know it was going on”). Listening to all of this seriously irritated me me because aside from this being just plain wrong, she’s been cheating her coworkers out of money in order to make more herself. I honestly don’t know how no one has caught on yet. I agree that her supervisor sounds like a racist/sexist jerk, but blackmailing him in this way is not the answer, right? Just because I’m curious (I’m not going to turn her in or anything), do you think if /when this arrangement is found out, she would also be subject to discipline in addition to her supervisor?

Being paid wages she doesn’t deserve in exchange for staying quiet about racist and sexist comments? Yes, I think she’d likely be fired. No sensible manager would want that kind of lack of integrity on her staff. (The same goes for your friend’s boss too, of course.)

I suppose it’s possible that they won’t know why she’s been getting paid more, and it’s certainly not in her supervisor’s best interests to explain it; he may just play it off as a mistake. But if they do find out what was going on, then yes, I think your friend should assume she’ll be out of a job.

Perhaps more importantly though, why is your friend okay with screwing over her coworkers (literally taking pay that’s meant for them) and protecting someone who makes racist and sexist remarks to his employees? She needs to do some serious soul searching about her ethics, and you probably should think about whether she’s a friend you want.

2. What to say to an employee who’s overlooking emails

What’s a good response to an employee who said they “missed” an email you sent? I’ve already stressed the importance of reviewing all incoming mail and provided resources on organizing and managing your inbox. This has happened a few times now with negative business consequences (late payments) and I don’t want to jump right to write-ups.

“This has happened several times now, and it’s causing problems like X and Y. What can you do differently to ensure that it doesn’t continue to happen?”

If you’ve already had that conversation, then this instead: “We’ve talked in the past about how important it is to manage your email so that you don’t miss messages, but it’s continuing to happen and it’s causing real problems. I’m concerned that whatever system you’re using isn’t working, and we need it to.”

3. How to stop our employees from giving us gifts

My husband and I operate a home care business (think elder care, senior care, etc.). This business started as a one-woman operation (me) and grew to 85 part-time employees and eight office and support staff. We are very friendly with the entire office and support staff, as those are the people we interact with every day. We have birthday lunches for them and occasional working meeting lunches (just office and support people). At Christmas we try to get something for each of the caregivers (the other 85 people) and recognize their birthdays with a birthday card (no gift).

Every year, no matter how kindly we ask them not to, the eight-person group pools their money and buys us a Christmas gift. We already do the potluck thing at Christmas (they get together and bring everything; we are told to just show up). We don’t want to come across as ungrateful for their generosity, but always feel uncomfortable being on the receiving end. Do we give up and just be thankful for the great people we have hired? Put this discomfort aside and appreciate their generosity?

It’s smart to say something early on like, “We’ve so appreciated the gifts you’ve given us in the past, but we’re really uncomfortable with you spending your money on us. The best gift you can give us is to do your jobs well, and please don’t worry about any gift beyond that. We want your money going to you, your families, and your savings.”

However, if they give you a gift anyway, at that point you should just accept it graciously so as not to make people feel bad.

4. I get dizzy and pass out on first days at work

I’ve started applying for office jobs recently and have started thinking about how to properly handle an issue that has come up at several of my previous jobs.

Essentially, something about orientations has always made me get dizzy and nearly pass out. I don’t think its nerves, because it happened once when I worked for my mother, and it also happened once on the first day of archery lessons I took with some friends. I think it has to do with standing in place while concentrating on instructions someone is giving me. I’ve gone to my doctor and haven’t been able to determine a medical issue for it.

I’ve tried just working through it before, but it’s not really a good plan because its hard to concentrate while actively trying not to pass out, and eventually I become noticeably pale and generally unwell, to the point where people ask me if I am okay and tell me I should have said something sooner. It also causes a bit of an interruption in the training because once it reaches that point, I have to sit and take a few minutes to stop feeling sick.

I just worry that, especially because I am a young, healthy, fit-looking woman, people will think that I am faking it and just being lazy and not wanting to stand. I’ve also had employers get concerned I won’t be able to do the job if I can’t even be on my feet, but even when I was a cashier at a grocery store, it only ever happened on the first day because the light amounts of moving from bagging was enough to stop this from happening, and I doubt I’d need any other accommodations made for me aside from the first day because I’ve done a few very “stand in one place” sort of jobs that have not been a problem. Any ideas on how to explain this without seeming lazy or fragile?

“I’ve learned from orientations at past jobs that I sometimes get very dizzy when I stand very still and concentrate on learning something new, so would it be okay if I sat during this? It’s never a problem to stand once I’m actually doing the work, but it’s something about standing so still and listening intensely for a long period.”

If they think it’s a little odd, you’re quickly going to replace that impression in coming days once they get to know you better (and they see that you are not lazy or trying to get out of standing), so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

5. Asking to delay a move for a job in another city

I live in Chicago but have always wanted to move to New York. I’m a copywriter and have applied to jobs in NYC in the past, and, nothing, but just now, I have one job offer and one interview offer. The problem is, neither company offers relocation. They both told me up front, and when I did get the first offer, I tried to negotiate for relocation but still, nothing.

Moving right now (in a month, in January) is looking impossible. Besides the fact that I don’t have the money to up and move to New York, I live with my partner in Chicago, in a one-bedroom apartment. Our lease isn’t up till May, and she can’t afford the rent on her own. So she’d have to move out and we find a subletter. Or I’d have to pay the rent on the Chicago apartment + the New York apartment (also nearly impossible). She’s unwilling to move to New York until she has a job (and has been reluctant to even look for a job in NYC). It’s a frustratingly impossible situation. Moving to New York has always been my dream, but it hasn’t been hers, and I’m so close and yet so far…

We are going to be in New York in just a few days for a three-day weekend, so this Friday I’ll be interviewing in person at the other job. My one hope is… they have an office in New York, and one in Chicago, where I live. IF they offer me the job, do you think they might allow me to work from the Chicago office till May, and then relocate to New York from there? After May we’d be off the hook with our lease, and I’d have 5 months to save for the move. Is this something a company might be willing to work out, or is this a long shot?

It’s possible. It’s reasonable to ask, although I should give you the caveat that some (not all) companies might be alarmed by you even asking the question, since they may worry that it indicates cold feet about moving and that you won’t really want to move come May. But if you explain the context about the lease, a lot of companies would be open to at least considering it, especially since they do have a Chicago office that you could work from.

For what it’s worth, though, I’m more worried about your partner. I realize this isn’t what you asked, but someone who doesn’t especially want to live in New York is a lot less likely to be happy there than someone who’s always wanted to. Despite its awesomeness, New York is also really expensive and comes with other drawbacks. Make sure she’s really on board with those, thinks she can find work there at a salary that won’t lower her standard of living, etc.

{ 489 comments… read them below }

  1. Little Teapot*

    OP5: How far are you willing to go? If your girlfriend doesn’t want to move, will you go long-distance? How long would that be sustainable for?

    It’s a tricky situation. I don’t know what to suggest, only I’m nervous that you’re so hell-bent on NYC and your partner isn’t. How will that look long-term? Would you be willing to get NYC out of your system and say work/live there for a year and return? Or do you want to stay there forever and ever?

    I’d be super careful when your girlfriend does move there, if she does, as it sounds like she’ll be pretty unhappy…

    1. neverjaunty*

      This. If the girlfriend wanted to live in NYC, she’d be looking for a job there. She isn’t. If you want to move, OP #5, follow your dream, but you can’t really insist that she do the same. It isn’t her dream.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        To be fair, there’s nothing in the letter to indicate that the OP is insisting on it. They may well have talked about it extensively and come to some kind of compromise or agreement. I know I raised the issue in my response (and I do think the fact that the girlfriend hasn’t seriously looked for jobs in NYC is worth paying attention to), but I don’t think we can say the OP is doing anything unfair based on what’s in the letter. I do think it’s something to iron out definitively before accepting the job though.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Oh, I agree; your last sentence is what I meant, not that OP was being unfair. It’s that OP seems frustrated the girlfriend isn’t on board, and, well, she isn’t. In which case trying to get her to love NYC, or giving up NYC for her, is going to make for unhappiness all around.

          1. MashaKasha*

            I got the same impression. She’s unwilling to move to NYC until she has a job there, which she is reluctant to look for? There’s a possibility that she’s unwilling to move there, period, and is stalling for time. Waiting for OP’s plans to fall through, or for OP to change their mind.

            And as much as I love NYC and would love to live there if I could, I understand her. That city is not for everyone. (Speaking of partners, there’s no way mine would ever be okay with living there.)

            Is there any kind of a compromise available? I mean, I don’t know why OP’s gf doesn’t want to live in NYC, but, if it’s the huge city-ness and/or the expensiveness of it, then they could maybe live somewhere outside of the city? Personal anecdote, an ex wanted to find a job in NYC and move there, but knew he’d never be able to afford living in the city; plus, he’s lived in a small town for the last 20 years and enjoys small-town living just as much as he enjoys traveling to and staying in NYC every chance he gets. He was looking at Yonkers. Granted, I’ve never been there and don’t know what it’s like to live in Yonkers, but maybe it’s an option where OP and OP’s gf could meet each other halfway? or maybe, if Yonkers really sucks (like I said, I have no idea what it is like), there’s a similar option that sucks less.

            1. Natalie*

              Apparently they both need to find jobs at the same time, also timed with when their lease expires… most likely, that just ain’t gonna happen. If this is really OP’s dream it’s time for some hard conversations.

              1. Sunflower*

                I agree. There ain’t no way that’s happening. OP could ask the landlord to let them go month to month once the lease is up. Or OP could hold off applying until GF secured a job and then find a job once they move there. Of course, this is banking that GF will be enthusiastically applying for jobs which doesn’t seem to be in the case and then I also agree with you that its time for hard conversations.

            2. Stranger than fiction*

              I’m wondering if the compromise might be to apply for/interview for jobs that are willing to relocate? Or is this just not common in the copywriting world?

              1. AdAgencyChick*

                I think that’s harder to get now than it was 10 years ago. My first job in advertising paid for me to relocate, but budgets were more flush in the early aughts. Clients have been cost-cutting ever since the financial crisis, and budgets have not rebounded to the point where an agency is going to be willing to shell out a relocation bonus if they have other candidates waiting in line. (We don’t always, and I would GLADLY try to push HR for, say, $5K in relocation reimbursement for a candidate I was particularly interested in. But I’m in a niche market; there are probably more copywriters clamoring for jobs at more big-consumer-product-oriented agencies.)

              2. Sketchee*

                If the job won’t pay for relocation, the other option is to save money so that relocation is feasible. Once you have this nest egg in order, it’ll be a lot easier to move to NYC. This might even help ease some of the girlfriend’s worries about moving. It would show that the LW is really serious about this and make it a less stressful

    2. KD*

      My husband moved to Los Angeles with me when I was offered my dream job straight out of school (before we got married) And… the first 8 months or so sucked for both of us.

      Still my advice is if you are going to do it, just do it. If moving to New York is the right long term decision make the short term sacrifice. I lived out of a hotel for a while, paid rent in two very expensive cities at the same time for 3 months while my husband made arrangements to move (And no, he couldn’t afford our existing rent on his own or find a job in LA before our old lease was up), planned our wedding, and still somehow learned the ropes at work. Now 19 months later we are both somehow still sane, both employed, and operating in the black.

      Side note: you will probably save money if you sign a lease in the middle of winter. Our current apartment complex rents units for several hundred dollars less per month during the winter.

      1. Snow*

        Has anybody seen the film the Five Year Engagement with Marshall from How I Met Your Mother and Emily Blunt?
        Wasn’t the premise somewhat like this issue?

          1. Nina*

            IA that it’s a lot darker than the previews let on. Story-wise, it ties up in a bow too easily in the end, but I found the arguments and the situation of trying to fit two people’s different work needs very realistic.

        1. Kassy*

          I have that movie! Yes, basically this. Marshall’s character was never able to find equivalent work in Michigan to what he’d been doing in…San Francisco? (I forget, it was a CA city for sure.) I agree that if OP’s girlfriend is not able to find comparable work, that’s a red flag.

          1. Chinook*

            ” I agree that if OP’s girlfriend is not able to find comparable work, that’s a red flag.”

            I would call it a red flag only if the OP has not had a conversation with the girlfriend about where they see their relationship long term. If you see yourselves “as good as married” with a life long commitment in mind, then this becomes a yellow flag where you need to pause and discuss long term goals when it comes to their careers and sacrifices they are willing to make each other happy. Military spouses do this all the time. But, you need to be aware that she is potentially sacrificing her career for yours and this can come with a financial cost (which is why spouses have legal rights to each others pensions. I know I would be in a completely different financial situation if I didn’t marry a soldier and hop scotch around the country for numerous years).

            If you haven’t had the “what is our long term outlook” talk, then this issue is a red flag for one of you and the OP may end up choosing between the career and the girlfriend. Harsh? Absolutely. But that right there is the difference between spouses (legal or otherwise) and girl/boyfriends – one is tied to you legally and financially and you both benefit and suffer together where the other is free to bail when there is a tough decision with the only consequences being emotional ones.

            1. Sunflower*

              Well OP didn’t say that GF was unable to find work- mostly that she was reluctant to apply so it doesn’t sound like she’s trying very hard to find a job. It doesn’t sound so much like a financial conversation- more of a personal wants and needs conversation.

        2. The Strand*

          I have friends who lived that movie. Down to the California/Ann Arbor thing. It was downright creepy, in fact.

          Really, really good film to recommend to family or friends who have the “dual body problem”, as it’s called in higher education.

    3. AnonymousaurusRex*

      I have a friend who negotiated exactly what you’re trying to do , OP#5. In her case though, the company wanted to hire her at the Chicago office and she wanted to move to New York. They agreed that they’d relocate her after she worked out of Chicago for a year. That gave her time for her husband to look for a job in NYC and fully make the transition. (Though in their case, he was really disappointed that they couldn’t move to NYC right away, as they both wanted to leave Chicago).

    4. Green and Gold*

      Whatever you do, don’t leave her literally in the middle of the night to follow your dream to move to NYC. Especially if you have strangers sleeping in your spare room. Because that really sucks, even if she knows that you want to go and she doesn’t and then she has to sit in her car and cry instead of being able to do it in her own damn apartment.

      Our situation was a bit different as he is a musician and I had no idea what I would do there. We never would have seen each other and I had no desire to move to a place that is many times more expensive than where we met just to not know anyone other than my SO who wouldn’t ever be around. Unless you have an agreement, she’s going to be miserable and the resentment will grow. Even if you do have an agreement, you’re going to have to be extra-super-amazing partner to help her adjust and make it fun for her. Ultimately, I’m glad that he went and I stayed. He wasn’t a particularly good boyfriend anyway and I wouldn’t have been happy.

  2. Kathlynn*

    For the LW who faints. It could indeed be nerves. If you are paying so much attention to something you forget to breath. (my breathing rate changes like that, different circumstances though.)

    1. LisaLee*

      I agree. I think that people often think that anxiety is just an emotional thing, but I get tons of physical anxiety symptoms (lightheaded, heart pounding, etc) in stressful situations even when my emotions are totally fine and I recognize that my physical symptoms are completely ridiculous for the situation. It might be worth it for the LW to ask her doctor about taking a mild anti-anxiety medication just for the first day or so of her job (I find that watching my breathing and drinking more water than I think I need to also help).

      1. Green*

        Don’t take anxiety medication (or any other medication) for the first time on your first day of work until you know how it impacts you.

        However, it seems that OP has already tried a physician to identify a physical cause, so I’d consider a therapist (or at least another physician).

      2. Blue Anne*

        I have the same thing in interviews. Emotionally, I feel great! I interview really well and I’m confident. But it’s still normal for me to get light headed and for the very edges of my vision to go a bit dark.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Low hydration can do weird stuff like that. And stress is just enough to kick the symptoms out into the open.

    2. Nursey Nurse*

      I’m not diagnosing the OP, but the most common cause of fainting in a healthy person is a vasovagal response. This happens when some kind of stimulus causes a sharp drop in blood pressure, which leads to less blood flow to the brain, which leads to fainting. The stimulus can be a number of things, including extreme anxiety. For example, many people go vasovagal and faint at the sight of blood.

      One thing I wonder, OP, is whether you’re standing with your knees locked? Some doctors believe that standing with locked knees for an extended period can trigger the vasovagal response.

      1. Kathlynn*

        Well, I don’t faint, I just yawn a lot. And it’s not stress related, just focus related. But, if I didn’t yawn, or take another breath, eventually I would faint (for anyone who doesn’t know, you won’t die from holding your breath, just faint).

        1. embertine*

          I do the same! I’m forever yawning in training sessions, and it’s actually because I’m paying MORE attention than usual, but it sure doesn’t look like it to outsiders. Thank goodness I’m not the only one.

          1. Rana*

            I do this too. And I also get faint if I have to stand too long in one place. Sitting down is an easy fix, though.

      2. Band geek*

        When I was in Marching Band, we would have to stand at attention in polyester uniforms in Texas heat. Band director beat into our heads – Do Not lock your knees! Every year we would have freshmen passing out who didn’t take that advice. My son is now in Marching Band and they tell them the same thing. Seriously, it makes a difference.
        Good luck at your new job! And ditto the ‘No meds unless you you’ve tried them’. It’s better to pass out than appear impaired.

        1. hermit crab*

          I was told “don’t lock your knees” so many times! I think it’s like The First Law of Marching Band.

            1. John B Public*

              Same! It’s hot enough already when you’re out there in summer band camp learning 8to5 drill and DressRightDress, the last thing you want is people suddenly becoming trip hazards while wearing a sousaphone!

        2. DuckDuckMøøse*

          I agree, and was going to suggest the same thing. Pay attention to those knees. Fidget a little in the lower body, to keep the blood flowing properly, and see if that helps.

        3. Elysian*

          I was in marching band for 5 years and never heard this!! We didn’t do a lot of standing at attention though.

        4. mskyle*

          This was my first thought also – locked knees. It’s the first law of choral singing too! Try and do some knee bends, fidget, shift your weight, stuff like that. I actually wear shoes that are somewhat uncomfortable for standing in when I’m singing a concert or a long rehearsal where I’ll be standing without a break – my feet hurt, and that makes me fidget more, which makes my legs and back feel better in the long run (and stops me from locking my knees).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Chorus! I was scrolling down to say the same thing. And how many times have we seen wedding videos on AFV and similar shows, where someone in the wedding party toppled over because they stood with their knees locked during the ceremony?

          2. Carmen*

            Yep, I’m a choral singer, and every year somebody in the choir faints – usually a younger, healthier woman! I shuffle back and forth slightly when I am standing and singing for more than a few minutes.

        5. Murphy*

          Thank you! I was just about to comment with “I bet she’s locking her knees.” Keep them slightly bent and it’ll help keep you upright.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I used to faint at the sight of a needle going into someone. When my grandma was getting an IV, I passed out from watching and came to on the floor with the nurse bent over me. Then, a few years later, my grandma got to where she could no longer administer her own diabetic shot, and I had to start doing it. The first time, I stuck the needle in her and my vision narrowed to black, just like one of those old-fashioned TV’s being shut off. I had to lean over and grasp the sides of the table for support. Then my vision opened up the same way it had closed, and I was able to finish the shot. After that, I never had any more problems, and I could watch needles going in all day long if I had to.

        1. the gold digger*

          my vision narrowed to black, just like one of those old-fashioned TV’s being shut off

          I got my bellybutton pierced. I didn’t pass out until I was in the car on the way home. My friend Ilene is a doctor and she put me in the front seat so I could recline. Leigh started driving again and then she started passing out in sympathy. She said, “I am getting television!”

          I just had to correct her and said, “No! You mean tunnel vision!”

          Then I realized that I was not focusing on the right thing – Ilene and I both yelled, “STOP THE CAR!”

          1. Blue_eyes*

            I almost passed out when I got my nose pierced. I watched him pierce it, I watched him put the stud in, and then one little drop of blood came out, and that’s when I almost passed out. My vision got hazy around the edges and as the haze approached the center of my vision I knew I would be out if the haze closed in all the way. The piercer helped me lay back in the chair and gave my some sugar tablets. I had just enough consciousness to take the sugar tablets and start chewing. After a few minutes I felt just fine.

            Something about blood from incisions just makes me feel like I’m going to faint. I’ve done Wilderness First Responder and EMT training, and all the gory pictures from those trainings don’t freak me out, but something about cutting people open on purpose triggers fainting for me.

            1. Anxa*

              I’m have blood phobia (or at least something very very similar) and it’s amazing how specific or context dependent the triggers can be.

            2. ashleyh*

              ugh, I got a flu shot at work several years ago, and right after the nurse administered it she said “huh, are you on blood thinners or something?” I looked over at her, said “no, why”, looked down at my arm to see blood dripping down my arm from the injection and hit the ground.

              Of course the shots were administered in a glass conference room and there was a line, so about 30 of my coworkers got to witness it. Still no real answer to why I bled like that from a shot or why the sight of it made me pass out (that’s the first and only time I had that reaction). Still – super embarrassing.

            3. irritable vowel*

              Yeah, I’m not squeamish about blood in general, but something about seeing it come out of a slice or puncture definitely triggers fainting in me, too. Even just thinking about that is making me woozy!

            4. I'm a Little Teapot*

              Any sufficiently painful injury (like slamming my hand in a door) can trigger it for me, as can freaking out that something dire is wrong with me for other reasons. (Especially reading about such dire possibilities when I’m worried.)

              1. OhNo*

                I have that “thinking something is wrong with me” problem, too. A few weeks ago I really banged by forearm something awful, and for some reason I got it into my head that I had cracked the bone. I nearly passed out right then and there, and I had to go sit with my head between my knees in a corner for a few minutes before I was alright again.

                (I was fine, obviously. All I got was a nasty bruise.)

          2. Mimmy*

            This thread is bringing back memories from some of my near-fainting episodes – once when getting my ears pierced, once getting a needle near my EYE (to widen the corner so I can stop tearing). I did pass out completely when I was getting a sebaceous cyst taken off my back. Oy, how embarrassing!

      4. Sunshine*

        Happened to me once (at work, of course) and my friend took me to the ER. Doc called it “an episode”, like we’re in the 18th century and I was just overcome by my weak sensibilities. Of course, he looked like he was about 105, so.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          My sister and I used to call fainting or other sudden but brief afflictions as having an episode because it was so old fashioned sounding. Now we call it “having a ‘sode” because of the show “Wonderfalls,” but basically only we think that’s funny.

          (If you haven’t seen the show, the main character at work faints. Her teenage coworker tells her mother that she “had a ‘sode,” which her very glamorous and dignified mother repeats to her later–“You had a ‘sode.”)

      5. Cathy*

        I was going to say the same thing – Bend Your Knees!! When my brother was in the military, they were instructed to always loosen their knees when standing for long periods of times in formation because otherwise there was the risk of passing out.

      6. blackcat*

        I have plain old low blood pressure. I am prone to fainting in the shower or if I stand up too fast. When this happens, I do tend to have the warning signs from my body that the OP describes. The way I think of it, my body is making a demand. It will get its way, so I have two choices.

        Choice 1:
        Body: “Sit down now!”
        Me: “Nope, I need to get up now.”
        Body: “NOPE, down you go!”
        Me: *faint*

        Choice 2:
        Body: “Sit down now!”
        Me: “Ok.”
        Body: “See, isn’t that better?”

        Basically, if I sit within the “the world is getting darker” phase, I’m fine within 30 seconds or so. I’ve had this happen in work settings, and people get super worried. I always brush it off with a “I have oddly low blood pressure. I’m fine so long as I don’t hit my head on the way down.” I say this cheerfully, and there’s zero follow up.

        I don’t think there’s anything odd with saying “Sometimes when I have to focus on learning new things, my brain decides it’s too much to do that and stand at the same time. I get dizzy, but I’m fine if I can be seated during training. Can we get a chair over here?”

        1. KateT*

          Ha! I get the exact same warning signs and responses. It’s definitely not nerves. I pass out when trying to stand politely and pay attention. Twice I’ve landed on something (rock, steel bar) just right and had convulsions. Both times seemed really dramatic and I couldn’t just say, “Oh, I was really bored and saw no polite way to get out of this tour.” I’ve since learned to sit down fast during that “world is getting darker” phase, even if it’s right on the ground. It beats people thinking you’re having a seizure.

          No helpful advice for the OP here, except that if you know you are prone to this issue, you’ll probably do what it takes to prevent it. Excuse yourself to the bathroom, grab a chair, etc.

          1. blackcat*

            Oh, yeah, I have awkwardly sat down on the floor before. I’ve done that when the choice is to voluntarily sit on the floor or involuntarily fall to the floor. I do try to make jokes about it to get the message across that I really *am* fine. The only time someone was like “You should really go to a doctor” a response of “I have. As long as I don’t hurt myself while falling, all my low blood pressure means is that I’m less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. I think this is a reasonable deal.” Which, you know, I *do.* As long as I always sit before I actually faint, the low blood pressure is only doesn’t hurt me and it has long term benefits.

        2. Natalie*

          Ugh, I get this too, along with a bunch of my dad’s family (where I got the low blood pressure, clearly). I’ve never full on fainted, but my vision has gone completely black before.

          Probably not related, but both my cousin (same family) and I love salt and put way more on our food than normal people. Maybe our body is trying to keep our blood pressure from falling too far.

          1. Kyrielle*

            My mom went thru a period of loving the taste of salt (in her case, to the point of wanting to eat it straight) and went to the doctor…who told her she needed more salt in her diet, based on blood tests, and prescribed salt pills. It can be a thing.

          2. Joline*

            I used to pour salt into my hand and then eat it as a child. Doctor at the time said it was probably because my body needed it (my mom told me later). In my late teens/early twenties I decided to stop because it was weird. And started doing the blackouts. Had to take a knee more times than I can easily count and full out fainted once (and hit my head on the corner of the wall on my way down). After that I decided that although the cutting down of salt is generally valid it isn’t for everyone.

            1. blackcat*

              Yup. After my epic low blood pressure episode (I couldn’t stand for like a day…), I got to meet with a nutritionist who told me all of the ways I could add salt to my food without it being overwhelming. I rarely eat processed foods, and so I don’t get much salt unless I add it myself. I used to eat it by the spoonful as a kid, too, and sometime around middle school I stopped because I thought it was weird (possibly related is that I went on BC pills to control cramps, and those can elevate blood pressure).

              My most awkward salt story from childhood is that time I decided to go after the salt block in a horse’s stall when I was about 2 years old. I have no memory of this, but my mom and a lot of her friends from that barn apparently *still* laugh about it. I vanished, and the barn dog (who was the designated child minder. It was a different time.) found me in a stall. The dog barked, alerting the adults of my whereabouts, and everyone had a good laugh when they found me licking the block.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                Heh, I also have low blood pressure, have a tendency to faint, and like to eat salt, sometimes just on its own. My husband has joked about getting me a salt lick, so I should tell him that it’s already been done :D

        3. Tau*

          I had a bunch of close calls with fainting or nearly fainting in the past year thanks to a health condition, and sitting down + putting my head between my ears the instant I started feeling dizzy, seeing black spots, hearing roaring in my ears, etc. worked wonders. As you say, the body is *going* down, but it’s probably willing to do it the easy way if you work with it.

        4. Cheeto*

          I’ve passed out only once, and it was on the NYC subway one morning going to work. I hadn’t eats breakfast, and all of a sudden, I felt super hot. I took my coat off, still felt hot. Then I started to feel woozy, but there were no seats to sit in. Then I thought, “I’m going to fall down. I’m going to fall on a knee and all these people will see.” Then j started to fall forward, thought, “Yup”,-‘d the next thing I knew, my face was on the filthy train car.

          Passed right out. A woman yelled at a guy to give me his seat and sat with me until I got out of the train. Luckily they were giving away Oreos in Time Square, so I crammed one down my throat and felt way better.

          Ended up with a fat lip out if it. Luckily I was wearing my contacts and not my glasses, which would have been destroyed.

        1. Anonicorn*

          Hah! Me too. My doctor said he’d seen the same thing happen to able-bodied military men during blood draws. I definitely didn’t mind being compared to that sort of fitness level.

      7. OP4*

        Thanks for the advice! I actually have fairly low blood pressure to begin with, so this might be it. I never really thought of the locked knees thing, but I probably do that. This might help.

        1. Arjay*

          This may not end up being an issue at all if you’re looking for an office job. Most office jobs have you sitting nearly all the time. I wouldn’t expect there to be any prolonged standing during training.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, you most likely will be in a chair most of the time. Of course, then you’ll need to get up once an hour or so and move around, so you don’t get a big old DVT or what they call “office spread,” LOL.

            If it’s not one thing, it’s another!

        2. Jaydee*

          Things I have discovered to help or have been told can help:
          — Acknowledge that it happens and be more mindful of the situation. Nervousness and anxiety are not conscious feelings. You can objectively know that there is nothing to worry about and still end up feeling queasy and lightheaded. But the more you identify those feelings and accept them and remind yourself that all is well, the less of a response you’ll have. This worked great for me in the case of having my eyes numbed for eye exams but only minimally for blood donations because I think there’s more of a physical component there in terms of low blood pressure caused by actual blood loss.
          — Movement – fidgeting, walking, stretching can keep your blood pressure up.
          — Eat a salty snack or sports drink beforehand. A nurse at the blood center told me this can help keep your blood pressure up.
          — Drink coffee/water. Coffee can raise your blood pressure, and hydration in general helps keep your blood pressure up. It also makes you need bathroom breaks, meaning more opportunities to move around.
          — The smell of rubbing alcohol. Same blood center nurse tore open a hand wipe packet and told me to smell it. Worked like a charm. Since I have no idea where one would find smelling salts nowadays, grab a couple of alcohol wipes from a first aid kit and keep them in your pocket.

          1. chocolatechipcookie*

            You can buy smelling salts (aka ammonia inhalants) off Amazon and probably also at your local drug store. I got some just in case as I sometimes get lightheaded and can pass out due to squeamishness with medical things. Fortunately I haven’t had to use them yet.

            I’ve also been told by a nurse to cough repeatedly, which worked for me (but probably not appropriate for the OP in this situation).

          2. Cath in Canada*

            I’m prone to fainting, especially on long flights (the first time my husband saw me do this, mid-Atlantic on the way to Manchester, it *really* freaked him out – he thought I’d died! I hadn’t thought to warn him because it hadn’t happened for ages, but apparently these things run in phases for some people). I now make sure to keep my feet and lower legs moving, and eat salty snacks and drink a ton of water, before/during flights. I also wear those oh so attractive support stockings, which might help the OP, too. I hadn’t heard the rubbing alcohol thing but will be carrying wipes from now on – thanks!

        3. Autonomic dysfunction*

          I have low BP and autonomic dysfunction, with some (but not all) symptoms of POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). Basically, when I go from sitting to standing my BP drops rapidly and my pulse leaps. Sometimes my vision blurs or blacks out for several seconds and I feel lightheaded, sometimes I feel nothing, but without meds, my body gets exhausted without help monitoring. And, if *anything* stresses me out, I run a real risk of fainting. It took decades to diagnose. One of the tests, tilt table, involves strapping you to a table and tilting you up into a standing position to see if you faint when the blood pools at your feet. I didn’t lose consciousness, because I wasn’t stressed, but I would have if I’d had a trigger at the same time.

          If it’s a really rare occurrence, I agree with the suggestions others have made: increase salt intake, make sure you drink at least 64 oz of water a day (check out Nuun, an electrolyte tab you can add, as many folks with low bp don’t get enough electrolytes out of water; if Gatorade or similar makes you feel better, that might be an issue, and your doc can test your blood for electrolyte levels if you’re curious), and wear compression stockings if you’re going to be on your feet. If you have to stand, curling your toes and shifting your weight, subtly, foot to foot to allow you to flex muscles and get the blood flowing should help.

          However, it’d be worth grabbing a cheap BP monitor from a drug store and testing yourself first thing in the morning. Take your BP and pulse sitting, then standing, first thing in the morning. Your blood pressure is supposed to go up when you stand. If you have autonomic dysfunction, it will drop. Your pulse should only increase by a little. If it really jumps, or becomes erratic, that’s another thing to note with your docs. It’s worth checking out because, as you get older, symptoms can grow worse, and you can start to have severe fatigue and dehydration issues that can interrupt your life much more often than on first days of work.

          Good luck!

          1. OhNo*

            Hooray for autonomic dysfunction! (Not really.) I was wondering if someone was going to mention it. I’ve always had that issue as well, particularly when I had to stand up from sitting. Luckily events conspired so that I don’t stand up anymore, so the problem is definitely lessened, although I’m now at risk for autonomic dysreflexia, which is way worse.

            Anyway, OP, it is possible that your issue has a physical cause, either autonomic dysfunction or some related issue, and that you’ve just never triggered it while in a doctor’s office. This is especially true if you notice it repeatedly in a specific situation that isn’t replicated when you see your doctor.

            If this does happen to be the case, increasing your intake of salt and water make a big difference, or at least it did for me. I found that just increasing one or the other didn’t do much of anything – it had to be both or it didn’t help at all.

            1. Rana*

              Yeah, I’ve got some of these symptoms too. Light-headedness, fatigue on standing in one place too long, lowish blood pressure, palpitations. I also sometimes get something that is usually referred to as a “panic attack,” though in my case it’s now entirely physical – I don’t feel anxious or panicked – where my body just starts dumping adrenaline or something. If I’m quiet and keep warm and still, it goes away; if I get worried, it escalates. Lots of fun over the years until I finally figured that out.

              And getting blood drawn is also not so fun, for the low-pressure reason.

              1. LabMonkey*

                Oh, wow, I get the panic attack without panic, too. I’ve never seen anyone else describe that, but that’s it for sure. I’ve wondered about my autonomic function for a while (many overlapping other things are already diagnosed), so it looks like I should maybe see a doctor about this. OP4, take care of yourself, too!

        4. LENEL*

          A little late to the party, but wiggle your toes as well, it helps keep the blood flowing! And I’m not sure if you’re like me and sometimes skip breakky, but make sure you eat something too and have some snacks handy.

      8. Hlyssande*

        I was in choir for years and marching band and we always got the advice not to lock knees, but I actually have no idea what locking knees entails and have never gotten a good answer.

        For reference: My knees hyperextend a bit, so I’m guessing that my version of ‘locking’ my knees is just extending them and standing there like that. I never passed out, though.

        1. Kyrielle*

          A “locked” knee is rigidly held at the point where the leg is straight and people with “normal” knees can’t bend them any further backward. I’m guessing you probably can’t actually lock your knees in a meaningful way, given that they hyperextend? Not sure.

          1. Koko*

            Hyperextending is also locking. 180* or greater constitutes knee-locking. Slightly <180* is where you want to be.

            Another way to tell – when your knees are locked your weight is stacked so that your leg muscles are barely working. Bend them slightly and you'll feel your thighs engage.

            Most people lock their knees because humans are lazy :) That's why all the people in band and choir or who have done weight training or other activities that involve a lot of standing have all had the "don't lock your knees" thing hammered into them – it's so common for people to do that correcting it becomes standard.

      9. Hillary*

        This. The same thing happened to me during a golf lesson once. Now I try to remember to move (shifting my weight back and forth is enough) and it hasn’t happened since.

      10. manybellsdown*

        This is what I wanted to suggest. Vasovagal syncope can have anything as a trigger, even really weird things. Mine is a common one: trauma. But it doesn’t have to be actual trauma; I’ve had a reaction from just listening to someone talk about something potentially traumatic. I once had a reaction just visiting my dad in the hospital. He wasn’t covered in blood, there were no needles, and nothing was happening – he was just sitting there. I can perform first aid, because the adrenaline takes me through it, but I cannot watch first aid training films without passing out.

        I knew a woman with another common trigger – urination. But only first thing in the morning, when her blood pressure and sugar were low. She didn’t pass out every time she peed!

        So yeah, there’s probably something about the training environment that triggers it. What helps me control my response is concentrating on my breathing, but that might be difficult when you’re trying to concentrate on learning things.

      11. Bwmn*

        Vasovagal response is exactly what I came here to say.

        I have this triggered particularly by strong chemical smells (i.e. nail polish, hair dye) as well as being dehydrated. Unfortunately I passed out once while getting my hair dyed and had an ambulance called to take me to the emergency room. That was a very expensive way to be diagnosed as having “nothing” wrong with me, but at least getting the name of the experience.

        That being said, being able to say “I sometimes have vasovagal responses and am prone to pass out – but it happens infrequently, I can catch it, it doesn’t require medical attention, etc.” definitely helps with discussing this with employers (or hair dressers).

        In addition to the knee locking, I will also make a not about being hydrated. It may be that in all the anticipating with training that you’re not watching how much water you are (or are not) drinking.

      12. blushingflower*

        Yeah, I also wondered if the OP is standing with her knees locked.

        I’m also surprised that orientation at a new job would require a lot of standing, as even for jobs I’ve had that required lots of standing/walking the actual orientation was often done in a classroom setting, but I’m sure that depends on the job/industry. But even if if it does, you should be able to fidget or shift your weight from one leg to the other or otherwise move in ways that keeps the blood flowing properly.

      13. Vicki*

        I’m wondering what kind of jobs the OP interviews for that require standing orientations. I have never had to stand during a company orientation.

    3. Jerzy*

      That’s what I was thinking. You forget to breath and because you’re tensing without even realizing it, you lock your knees. It’s pretty common, actually. And just because OP said it happened when she was working for her mom, it could still be nerves, because mom or no, it was a new job with new responsibilities, and she was anxious about doing a good job.

      As someone who experiences stress almost exclusively through physiological manifestations, I have no doubt this is somehow stress related, but Alison’s advice is good. Just ask to sit.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This! Also, OP, bear in mind that after it happened 2-3 times, you were probably anxious _about_ the response at some level….

        1. manybellsdown*

          Oh man, this is so true. I got over my needle phobia only to have it replaced with my passing-out phobia. The passing out is way more unpleasant than a needle jab. :(

    4. JMegan*

      OP4, it’s also worth remembering that if you’re applying for an office job, there may not be a lot of standing involved at all. Obviously you know what jobs you’re applying for better than I do, but most office jobs I’ve seen have more than the usual amount of *sitting* for the first couple of days, as you go over the intranet and policies and procedures and so on.

  3. INTP*

    Op2: If you’re afraid of making the impression that you can’t stand up to do the job, use the same script but ask if you can walk around, march in place, do some stretches, or whatever else works for you every few minutes. Hopefully they’ll just offer you a chair anyway, but if not, you can still move around as needed. I’ve seen people pass out from standing still, I don’t think it’s very rare or anything to worry about people thinking you’re faking it.

    1. Polly*

      Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t want to be the weirdo doing stretches and marching in place at orientation. It reminds me of something Andy from The Office would do. And although I fully believe OP2, I think it would be kind of strange for someone to say “I sometimes get dizzy when standing and concentrating hard on something.” It just sounds a bit… well… odd, and first impressions do matter.

      Instead I’d do a little white lie. I might say, “I’m at the tail-end of a cold and feeling a bit light-headed, is it okay if I sit down?” or “I’m recovering from a minor knee injury, mind if I take a seat?” Even though its a lie it sounds more plausible than the truth. Just my two cents :)

      1. manybellsdown*

        If you know it only happens the first day, I might go with this too. Some obviously transitory common ailment instead of having to explain the whole fainting thing. I mean, I’ve had a doctor diagnose it but my own mother still believes I’m just “being dramatic” when it happens.

      2. Mephyle*

        But you wouldn’t have to be marching around and stretching – the movements that prevent the response can likely be very subtle. No one even needs to be aware of it except the person themselves. And if it does need to be less subtle, why the lie? Does a cold or a minor knee injury actually sound better than a fleeting episode of low blood pressure?

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Is it just me or is the idea of standing through an entire job orientation odd? I’ve never heard of this. Even for the standing/walking types jobs I had when I was younger, they walked you around different stations/parts of the building and went over things in each place, but never just standing in one place and listening for what I assume is an hour plus.

      1. Development professional*

        Yeah, this was my thought too. Especially because she’s applying for office jobs. Super unlikely that she’s going to have to stand for long periods.

    3. A Cita*

      As someone who faints unexpectedly a few times a year, usually in the subway, here is what works when you feel it coming on and there’s no where to sit:
      – tighten/tense all your major muscles and then release. Do this a few times.
      – tightly curl your toes, arch your foot, hold and release. Do this a few times.
      – make sure you have water on you
      – do NOT do deep breathing. instead, try to slow your breathing.

      1. AFT123*

        This works for me for anxiety related light-headedness as well, even when I’m sitting. Tensing all of my muscles and releasing a few times really get’s my breathing “back on track”. And deep breathing, or even thinking about my breathing, does more harm than good for me.

  4. BuildMeUp*

    #4 – Is it possible that you’re passing out because you’re locking your knees?

    I think it’s totally okay to ask if you can sit, or see if shifting your weight or occasionally moving around a little helps.

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

      My cousin always passes out from this, locking her knees, including while standing as a bridesmaid! It always interested me how it’s correlated, but it’s apparently common!

    2. Isabel*

      I witnessed several middle-schoolers faint during different choral concerts when I was a kid. I never quite understood, but I don’t think it is uncommon. Choral directors often remind people not to lock their knees. Does it compress circulation…?

      Asking to sit during an orientation seems much, much less weird to me than asking to march in place or do stretches every few minutes. Just my two cents but I would find that very distracting and (though I know this is incorrect) it would give me a first impression that the new hire was an attention-seeker. Sorry. But sitting would seem fine.

      1. Kyrielle*

        The internet says:
        1. It doesn’t, it’s a myth.
        2. Blood can pool in the leg and movement of muscles in the leg helps recirculate it, thus locking your knees and standing rigidly still is a problem because you’re not using the muscles.
        3. Making sure you are not dehydrated can help. (Well, probably yes, because dehydration isn’t generally good for overall health!)
        4. Locking the knees interferes with the nerve involved in the vasovagal response, thus causing the problem.
        5. Locking the knees cuts off some of the veins returning blood to the body or interferes with the femoral artery. (I am VERY dubious about this one, internet, as it seems like it would cause active damage, not just fainting.)

        …yannow, several of those are good at sounding plausible, but mostly this has made me dubious and confused. Heh.

    3. Jen RO*

      As a non-American, this is the first time I’ve heard about the concept of knee-locking and the fact that it causes fainting! This is fascinating.

      1. Kate R. Pillar*

        As a fellow non-American, first that I hear of this connection as well.

        Though I know the “do not lock your knees”-concept from Pilates class…

        1. Artemesia*

          there is a famous picture of Queen Elizabeth reviewing the troops with one guard with one of those tall bear hats stretched out cold in front of the formation; the lock your knees, down you go phenomenon is international.

      2. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

        Locking the knees does not cause fainting in the US or anywhere else :) One cause of simple fainting (as opposed to the more serious forms) is blood pooling in the veins of the legs and abdomen. Alternately tightening and relaxing all the big muscle groups in the calves, thighs, butt and abdomen can often prevent this from happening and in some of my patients, can terminate an event in very early stages. Some people wear compression socks (there are fashionable versions!) or even an abdominal binder to help… But locking the knees does not prevent blood from returning back to the heart and is not responsible for the problem.
        (I’m an NP who works with a cardiology + research group in a center for people who pass out–I treat a lot of people w/ syncope.)

        1. Jen RO*

          Thanks! [I was being mildly sarcastic with my comment, it sounded like the American version of our “draft” (an open window is seen as positively deadly by most little old ladies).]

          I will have a question for you about fainting in the Sunday open thread, if I don’t miss it!

          1. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

            LOL I was absolutely DYING for the opportunity to weigh in without trying to diagnose OP or giving unsolicited medical advice ™
            I’ll look for you Sunday!

          2. Kate R. Pillar (DE, incidentally)*

            Oh, but the draft is VERY real!! ;-)

            I do not see it as deadly, but I fear getting a stiff neck sitting in it.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Yep, so does my BF. I’m used to it now but I used to be like “what are you an 80 year old lady?”

        2. fposte*

          Right, it’s what I think of as music teacher medicine–another example is all the stuff they want you to do with your diaphragm, which doesn’t do any of that.

          As with the diaphragm stuff, though, I think it’s got some point on the outcome if not the terminology, as you yourself indicate. If you’re flexing the knees slightly, you’re using muscles dynamically to keep yourself erect rather than relying so much on the skeletal column–in other words, you *are* constantly tightening and relaxing more muscles than you are when standing with knees fully extended. It’s not like some instant thing whereby if you stand with legs straight you’ll go down like a felled tree, but when you’re standing for long periods of time, the more you keep muscles working, the better off you’ll be.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            This makes a lot of sense. So it’s probably still true that people should not lock their knees when standing for long periods of time, but not because there’s something about locked knees that causes fainting. Just that standing with your knees locked means you are standing in a way where you aren’t flexing or moving muscles.

            1. fposte*

              Right. You could, I suppose, equally say “Don’t keep your spine stiff,” but that’s not something people will grasp in the same way. Basically, if you stand up stiffly without moving, your circulation isn’t great, so try to find little cheaty ways to keep muscles active without sitting down or falling down.

        3. Rat in the Sugar*

          That sounds like the same thing, though. Locking your knees means you’re not tightening and relaxing your muscles to prevent the fainting.

      3. Liz*

        My thoughts exactly – I sang in multiple non-American choirs for years and have never heard this before!

      4. Tamsin*

        I’m pretty sure it’s not the locking of the knees that causes fainting — but locked knees when you faint can cause serious injuries should you fall.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I’m not a fainter, but I do tend to lock my knees when I’m concentrating. Could be something the OP is doing without realizing it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I get headaches from concentrating because I clench my jaw and frown. I try to stop it when I catch myself doing it. It usually happens when I’m doing something I don’t like, such as sewing or cleaning. I have to distract myself with music or something.

    1. Rebecca*

      I second this! Just got the email yesterday from a coworker stating she would be collecting for our managers to give them gifts and a card. I tried the whole “gifts should flow downward” speech that Alison laid out some time ago, and was scolded for being an uncaring person and asked why I would ever feel like that. I tried to explain the power dynamic, no go. And it’s not like I can’t participate. They have a checklist of personnel and keep track of who donates. It needs to stop.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, some offices are really attached to the tradition of gift-giving to the bosses and it’s like a sacrilege to suggest that it stop. I had to pitch in $20 last year for a boss gift, and as a new person in the office with longer-tenure employees, I didn’t even try to get out of it or suggest anything different; I just coughed it up.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I can totally relate. Going through the same thing right now. I ended up looking and feeling like a total a-hole. Sadly, sometimes the battle is just not worth it and coughing up the $10 or $15 is easier, especially if the culture has been that way for eons before you got there.

    2. Allison*

      And mine? my coworker is collecting money to give our manager a gift, and I like our manager just fine but this seems really inappropriate.

      1. Artemesia*

        There is always some office busybody who takes the initiative to do this and in my experience it spirals out of control over time if no one resists the pressure. I am sure there are bosses who demand or encourage it (the boss whose family got sent on the ski trip comes to mind) but I think often they just passively accept and it is the office queen bee who makes this her project.

    3. Jubilance*

      My teammate just sent an email asking us if we want to contribute to a gift for our boss. I’m trying to figure out how to say “gifts should flow downward, not upward!”.

        1. Chalupa Batman*

          I can’t be the only one that thinks the concept that “money and time are now connected” is funny.

          Thanks for, “It’s fine to simply give a sincere and gracious ‘thank you.’ Most offices have a mix of gift-givers and non-gift givers.” I hate receiving gifts publicly, especially from people I don’t know well, and not having one for them makes it worse. It’s been really helpful for me to accept that some people just like to give gifts, and when I receive one unexpectedly it’s probably because the giver enjoys it, not to lock me into some weird bargain where now I’m indebted to someone I barely know for a gift I didn’t ask for.

    4. Michaela T*

      My coworkers always collect gifts for a gift basket for my boss, and it always makes her grateful but uncomfortable. This year she specifically asked that we adopt a family through a charity and collect gifts for them instead. Everyone seems fine with it!

      1. Elder Dog*


        Bosses can say well ahead of time they’d love something like this done in their name. Lay it out for the office gift nazi.

      2. Nom d' Pixel*

        That sounds like a good idea. LW should suggest a charity for everyone to donate to instead of giving them a gift. Something like the Ronald McDonald House or children’s hospitals is something that shouldn’t step on any toes. I would stay away from donating to a church or similar organization.

      3. OP or LW you choose*

        Hello all, I sent in this question. I read all the previous posts on this topic and couldn’t find anything we hadn’t tried in some way shape or form. We are close with these folks but it always makes us so uncomfortable when they buy us gifts. We’re at the gracious but you really shouldn’t have stage. I love the idea of picking a charity and saying if you must, this is something we would appreciate. Does that come across as encouraging the gifting though? Truly appreciate my employees/co-workers and don’t want to strong-arm a gift nor be seen as a scroogey bah humbug either :-(

        1. Nom d' Pixel*

          It sounds like they want to make you happy, so I get that you don’t want to hurt their feelings. Is there an office ringleader in the gift giving? If so, it might help to pull that person aside and say that although you appreciate the gift, it makes you uncomfortable, but you would love to see a donation to charity.

          1. Michaela T*

            That’s actually what my boss did, she told a couple of people and encouraged them to spread the word. They ended up organizing the charity gift-giving and ensured that everyone knew it was totally voluntary and that anyone participating could give however much they wanted.

    5. Development professional*

      Refinery29 has a slideshow today of “20 gifts to wow your boss” and all I could think was UUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    6. stillLAH*

      Christmas is the only time of year I’m glad my department is just me and my boss, there’s no rogue brown-noser to suggest buying a gift!

  5. The IT Manager*

    Don’t lock your knees. Standing for an extended period in very hot weather — especially with locked knees — can also make people pass out. Inactivity can cause blood to settle in the lower parts of the body, reducing the amount of blood flowing into the brain.

    Keep your knees bent and shift your weight from one leg to the other to keep the blood flowing.

    1. Alienor*

      Yes – my dad told me when he was in the military, people used to pass out all the time because they’d locked their knees while standing at parade rest. These were young, fit guys, so it can happen to anyone.

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

          Yep, happened to my cousin! Among other times, and she says it’s always from locking her knees… minus the time she fainted getting her naval pierced and they had her standing to do it (she may have been locking her knees… nervous, and concentrating too hard all at once! lol)

          I’ve only ever fainted once when someone hugged me way too hard and my arm was pressed again my chest in a weird way and I passed out in his arms.. lmao.. needless to say, he is VERY careful with how he hugs me now.

          1. Isabel*

            You swooned! Did you ever see that episode of Mad Men when Betty gets dizzy for a moment and Francis tells her, “A fainting couch. That’s what you need.”

          2. Marzipan*

            I am giving side-eye to the piercing place that does navel piercings standing – surely people would be keeling over all the time? Yes, the placement has to be marked while standing, but doing the actual piercing that way seems to be asking for trouble! (My first ever job was in a tattoo and piercing studio and people used to faint quite frequently when getting piercings – but hardly ever when being tattooed, interestingly).

            1. the gold digger*

              Any time I have blood drawn, I insist on lying down, closing my eyes, and listening to my mp3 player. My body thinks that having blood taken from it is an appropriate time to faint.

              1. Rana*

                I often do too. Fasting blood draws are the worst; I always have to tell the technician that I’m not going to move from my seat until I’ve had a chance to eat a yogurt or something (which I’ve brought with me).

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

              I thought it was really weird too. When I got mine done a few months later, at a different parlor, I was definitely lying down and I had no problems.

          3. Catherine from Canada*

            Hugging can be dangerous!
            Our son – when six – hugged his dad from behind when hubby was sitting on the stairs. Son’s arms went around his neck and he squeezed too hard. Dad passed out. Mind you, same son – when twelve – hugged his dad too hard again and cracked three of his ribs.

            (Our GP friend happened to be on duty at the local emerg that night. She had to leave the examining room three times to go laugh in another room…)

        2. Nashira*

          Amusingly, at my older brother’s wedding, the only person who came close to fainting was the one who went around going DON’T LOCK YOUR KNEES at the rehearsal.

          1. Artemesia*

            This was probably someone prone to fainting and thus the obsession with fainting while standing.

        3. Blue_eyes*

          Yes! My best friend almost passed out at her brother’s wedding. She was the only bridesmaid not in the shade for the ceremony. Luckily there was an empty chair in the front row and she had enough sense to realize that sitting down would cause much less of a scene than passing out.

      1. Pipette*

        Yep! I’ve been a standard bearer on a number of solemn occasions, which involves standing very still for long periods of time whilst holding a heavy standard. We were taught to shift our weight subtly in order not to faint.

  6. BuildMeUp*

    #1 – Wow. Yeah, I would be really concerned about the fact that your friend believes she’s innocent in all this. Believing she should be paid more and having a boss who’s a jerk doesn’t make it okay for her to blackmail someone and essentially steal money from her coworkers. Aside from the potential consequences, I would worry that she’d easily be able to convince herself of her innocence in other situations.

    If I were her, I would find a new job ASAP and never, ever do something like this again. But it doesn’t sound like she will listen to your advice on this.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Agreed. And, OP, I would drop this friend. Someone who doesn’t realize she’s so in the wrong in one situation is likely to deny she’s in the wrong when there’s a situation that would profit her at your expense.

      1. Andrea*

        Yes, this. I don’t understand why this person is still considered a friend. I guess I hold mine to higher standards.

    2. Stephanie*

      Ick yeah, especially in waitressing where people depend on the tips to account for the sub-minimum wage pay.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I immediately jumped to her coworkers, whose checks suddenly dropped :(

        I can’t imagine going in every day and working with people knowing your are taking some of their pay.

        1. NotherName*

          Yeah, like it’s not bad enough that they’re working for someone who is creating a hostile work environment. (Did I use that correctly, Alison?)

        2. fposte*

          It happened at a restaurant near here–it’s a very popular restaurant with devoted regulars and low turnover on waitstaff, and one of the managers was skimming tips. Eventually the waitstaff went to the owners and said “We think it’s significant that we only get half the tips when Lucinda is on,” and sure enough, she’d been siphoning. She’d been there for years so everybody was pretty freaked by it.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            The whacked-out managers of Amy’s Baking Company (the horrible restaurant in AZ that Gordon Ramsay walked away from) were allegedly taking all their server’s tips. I think it was legal because they were paying by the hour or something, but still, that alone would have made me never go there, not ever.

            1. Natalie*

              (I looked this up because when I had always heard that taking an employee’s tips was illegal.) DOL considers tips to be the employee’s property, with exceptions for specific kinds of tip pooling only. But, in 2013 the regulations were challenged in district court and that court found that, provided an employer was not taking the tip credit, DOL’s regulations were improper. At the moment, DOL isn’t enforcing the tip retention rules in the Ninth District, which includes Arizona.

              1. NotherName*

                That doesn’t mean it’s not skeevy to take the tips the customers think are going to employees…

                1. Natalie*

                  Huh? No, of course not. Elizabeth West mentioned the legality of it, so that’s all I was commenting on.

                2. I'm a Little Teapot*

                  Yeah, seriously. If I were at a restaurant and found out the tips were not going to the servers, I’d tip nothing but a note making my displeasure known, never go back, and post a scathing Yelp review.

            2. Nina*

              Man, that place was scary. I remember hearing it was a front for something shady. I wouldn’t eat there, either. I’d be afraid someone would throw a plate at me.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Blackmail someone, steal money AND subject her co-workers to a racist and sexist boss for her own profit.

      OP #1, sometimes people we think are friends show themselves to be actually terrible people. This goes way beyond being an imperfect human being. If your friend is that unwilling to admit to what she’s doing, consider it lucky that she showed you who she is now, rather than later and at your expense.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That was my thought, too. Take a hard look, OP. This is who your friend actually is. I am not sure how much longer you are willing to try to reason with her but you might want to figure out where your upper limit is. This looks like it could go on for a while longer.

    4. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      Yeah, even if you’re friend doesn’t get fired (and this sounds like exactly the kind of shady work environment where “I’ll report you for firing me because of my gender/sexist things boss said” would get it all brushed under the carpet by higher ups as well) she needs to move on. This sounds like an awful place to work, and very possibly is why your friend has started to behave in such an awful way. She needs to hand in her notice and report that boss as soon as she can find another job.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “It’s tough to soar like an eagle when you work with a bunch of turkeys.” We tend to sink to the level of those around us.
        Basically, OP, your friend has told her boss that her ethics are for sale. So he bought ’em.

    5. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I would advise the friend to get a new job as quickly as possible and move on.

      However, one thing that no one has brought up (that I can see) – if the manager is willing and able to adjust the friend’s paycheck, how does she know she’s the only one? This seems like a situation where the manager may have been messing with gratuity split all along, either doling it out unequally among the staff to his favorites, to keep others from tattling on him, or possibly skimming it for himself (especially if there are a decent amount of gratuities in cash). How do the waitstaff even know if their checks are correct, does someone give them all a rundown of the tips for each night and therefore what their share is?

      1. Anon Accountant*

        This is what I thought. If you are a favorite are you getting more cash to not report what he is doing with racist comments or with the tips? Is he skimming some himself? Is he overriding the totals of the tips each night so staff don’t know what their share should actually be?

      2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        That’s a good point. Clearly he was able to get this manipulated in a way that people aren’t complaining.

        I bartended in college and my drawer was always good, I think I had owed the bar a nickel once, then a new manager started rotating in and my drawer would regularly be $5-$20 short. I was so pissed because they wouldn’t allow us to sit in the room while the counted our drawers (we were told it wasted valuable end of the night time).

        Luckily our GM caught on (when your top three bartenders all of a sudden are off regularly, but only on certain nights), but instead of firing the dude they transferred him to another place owned by the company.

        tl;dr: shady people have systems for doing shady things.

      3. Emmie*

        This is what I came here to say. Once this pay disparity is discovered, she will probably be asked to pay this amount back and be fired. She might also not receive state unemployment benefits. Many states have provisions allowing for benefit denial in misconduct, or theft cases. Good luck to her. You cannot make bad choices and then later complain that you have to deal with the consequences.

    6. Kylynara*

      Since it seems the friend won’t care about the ethical side of things, you might try pointing out that when/if the “error” is discovered, she may be required to pay back the overage in a relatively short time period.

      1. voyager1*

        Yeah the shortages need to be paid back to the employees who got shafted. That trumps any jerkish things the manager did, actually to
        me the theft is far worst. OP, find a new friend.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      Totally agree and my first thought was also for her to get out there and look for a higher paying job. Her coworkers are also relying and living on their tips. Years ago, at one of my first restaurant jobs, I was privy to the fact that the General Manager, who had a huge crush on the young (17 or 18) hostess, paid her for 40 hours plus like 5 hours of overtime on every single paycheck, even though she only worked 25-30 hours. Seems it’s very easy to do these types of fraudulent things in that industry. I’d like to add that I do not agree with pooled tips in general, it’s just not fair. That means everyone gets the same even though a few may be stellar servers and some may be lax. When someone gives you a tip, it was for *your* service, personally, and they think that’s where it’s going.

    8. Nervous Accountant*

      The “friend” (not quotes bc I think this is a FOAF sitch) doesn’t sound like a very good person. Anyone who cheats their coworkers out of their pay….isnt’ a very good person IMO.

    9. Bob*

      I’m trying to play this out in my head and it seems difficult to imagine the manager getting away with it, even if OP’s friend admits defeat and stops blackmailing him. What happens when all of the waitresses start getting bigger paychecks the week after the new system goes in? Tips were handled by hand and I made an average of $600 a week. Now they are handled by a computer and I instantly get an average of $800 a week? And overall business and average check amounts has stayed consistent? I would immediately suspect that I had been getting cheated all along. I would imagine people who share tips are already a little suspicious just because of human nature.

      It would almost seem like the manager needs to figure out how to keep taking this money forever, even if OP’s friend quits. This might be the worst part of being blackmailed. You are “forced” to steal from your company (or in this case, probably from the employees) to keep someone quiet. That person could get hit by a bus and you can’t just stop stealing or you’ll be caught. You could get caught simply by taking a vacation or getting sick so you aren’t fixing the books a single week. You are forever tainted and it would have been better to just lose your job in the first place.

  7. Turanga Leela*

    OP #4, something similar happens to me! I’ve noticed it in weightlifting class—after I warm up, standing and focusing on the instructor makes me super-dizzy. I’m not sure why it is; I always wonder if I lock my knees.

    It hasn’t happened at work, but I do get dizzy and start shaking if I stand up too quickly, so I’ve warned people at work about that. (Apparently this is called “orthostatic hypotension.”) So far, my experience has been that if I don’t treat it like a big deal, no one else does either. It’s helpful to present it less as “medical condition” and more as “a thing that happens sometimes, and I’ve learned how to prevent it.”

    1. AnonACOD*

      We went to the parade at 8th & I this summer (Marine Barracks) and our host told us that the beginning of the season, Marines pass out all the time because of the heat and not having figured out how to stand at attention correction (locked legs!). So they have people dressed in dark clothes who wait in the bushes and drag them out of formation if that happens.

      1. irritable vowel*

        The fact that I thought, “Boy, I’d much rather pull the lurking-in-the-shade duty instead of standing at attention in the hot sun” is probably a pretty good indicator of why I would be a terrible Marine.

      2. Anna*

        I love this. A secret sneaky bunch of Marines on the look-out for the literal failure of one of their own. They swoop in and “disappear” them. “Did you see that?” “See what?” It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland where the guards are painting the roses before the Queen of Hearts can see them.

    2. Bowserkitty*

      I do Body Pump and I know one of the main things they tell my class is to always make sure your knees are slightly bent.

      It’s just so easy to lock them back up at the top of a squat or lunge though (T_T)

    3. Nom d' Pixel*

      I have a similar problem. It is really an issue at races (running, tris) because when I cross the finish line I have to stop suddenly while a volunteer cuts off my timing chip. I am so worried that I am going to fall on some poor volunteer.

  8. Adam*

    #1: I don’t know how a good friend this person is to you specifically, OP, but after she let me in on that little secret I’d be incapable of thinking of anything but what a toad she is. Perhaps I read the letter incorrectly, but it sounds like she wasn’t aware initially where the extra dough was coming from, but it seems like she didn’t bat much of an eye when it was revealed to her. Blackmail in general is pretty unsavory, but willingly accepting money that was meant for her co-workers who probably make just as little as she does is putting her right in front of the speeding karma train.

    I don’t know if this will get found out (although these things almost always eventually do), but I’d say her job is forfeit the moment it does. But if I were in your position I probably wouldn’t maintain contact with her long enough to find out.

    1. Myrin*

      Agree with all of this and can I also say that this is just an awfully bad thing to blackmail someone with? (about? for? Prepositions are hard.) If this is really about sexist and racist comments and behaviour, that’s hardly a secret. Everyone can clearly see those and sooner or later someone else will speak up and then what? I’m kind of surprised this hasn’t happened already, to be honest.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Exactly! What’s stopping any other member of the staff from reporting the manager. It’s not like hushing OP’s so-called friend has definitively sealed the can of worms; any other employee could easily open it.

      2. neverjaunty*

        And by “see those”, it seems the manager gets to continue to subject others to racist and sexist behavior.

    2. embertine*

      I don’t know where the OP is, but in the UK this meets the standard for criminal blackmail and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. Not that “friend” would ever serve that, but it’s worth pointing out that this is not just a crappy and amoral way to behave, but is also a felony.

  9. Stephanie*

    #5 (Warning, anecdotes ahead!)

    So nearly everyone I know who works and lives in NYC moved there first, found an apartment (or stayed with friends temporarily) and then found a job. (Again anecdote warning.) If it’s at all reassuring, they all found things relatively quickly.

    The only people I know where that wasn’t the case were starting jobs in high-paying industries like consulting, i-banking, or BigLaw where spending $5000 on an new hire relo wasn’t a big deal relative to their salary/potential earnings for the company. Something like copywriting, I’m guessing there are enough local candidates that they have their pick.

    My friend moved cross-country to NYC and worked with a couple of recruiters (perhaps you could do that and tell them you’re planning to be there in May) in advance of her move. The recruiters told her that companies were sometimes reluctant to work with long-distance candidates as they might have issues securing housing or not realize the realities of living in NYC (that it is really expensive, commutes can be rough, etc).

    So next interview, I would figure out a way to incorporate that you’ve really thought about the move and actually living in New York. Maybe mention you have friends or family in the area, or like that there’s an active professional association there, just something to indicate you don’t have a fantasy idea of being like Hannah Horvath writing in coffee shops all day.

    Although, I second the advice to discuss this with your girlfriend and how this would work out. NYC is fantastic…but it’s not for a lot of people.

    1. BRR*

      That’s a good point about hunting in NYC. In my recent job hunt there were A LOT of jobs there and I got a lot of responses. Things even moved fairly quickly. So if the lw moves there and the partner starts looking after it might be an easier hunt than other cities.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I mean, the jobs my friends found were good, not amazing, relatively entry- or lower-level jobs (and they all have bachelor’s degrees). And they are all 20-somethings who don’t mind having roommates and moved there with not a ton of stuff. But I was definitely amazed at how quickly things worked out for most of them.

        That being said, I did meet people in DC who gave up on job hunts, so I’m sure there are people in NYC who leave with their tail between their legs.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Expensive is right…I had no idea, even though I grew up in Queens. My parents bought their house in 1973, and I only lived there independently for a year before I moved, so I didn’t have much to go on, I thought Chicago was at least somewhat comparable. According to CNN’s cost of living calculator, housing in Brooklyn is more than twice as expensive as Chicago, and Manhattan over 3x as much. Other costs (food, transportation, etc.) are a lot closer, but the difference in housing costs was quite a surprise to me, and I still have friends and family there.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I had been flown out for an interview in NYC, which was great, but then I spent the weekend with a good friend who lived in Brooklyn.

        When I realized that his salary was easily double what my salary would be, and that he was paying $1200/mo to share a converted loft in Brooklyn with 4 people, I was like maybe NYC is not for me :)

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Oh yeah, I’ve only lived in the northeast (including NYC), and did some househunting in Chicago with a friend, and I could not get over how cheap everything was!

        1. Stephanie*

          Those winters, though…

          I had the same reaction comparing DC housing prices to Chicago prices. “Wait, the whole apartment is $1500/mo? Not just your share?”

          1. Zach*

            Chicago winters are a little overstated. There’s that bleak time in January and February, but honestly, with the right clothes, you’ll be alright. It’s not Minneapolis, after all.

            1. Sara*

              I’m a Chicago-area native now living in Boston, and I’d take Chicago winters over Boston’s unpredictable nonsense any day of the week. I do not love the cold, but I do appreciate not waking up every morning between Thanksgiving and Memorial Day and having to guess whether it will be 65F or 20F. Since moving here, I no longer sort my clothes by season…it’s either summer wear, or every-other-time-of-the-year wear.

            2. Stephanie*

              Lol, I’m a Texan living in Phoenix. I am better equipped to handle 101 F than 1 F. But I have been in Chicago in January and just bundled the f*ck up. All you could see were my eyes. It was not as snowy as I thought.

        2. Ad Astra*

          This is hilarious because all my friends and family in [small-but-not-tiny Midwestern city] are always going on and on about how expensive Kansas City is and how they’re so glad they don’t have to pay those “insane” housing prices. And yeah, the cost of living in Kansas City hovers right around the national average. The city I live in is basically free.

          1. alter_ego*

            I live in Boston and I had to stop watching those house hunting shows because it’s always like “Mary and Jacob are looking for an 8 bedroom house in Kansas for themselves and their 18 children. They want something close to the beach and the city, with granite countertops and a robot butler. Their budget is $20. Lets take a look at what they’ve found!”

            1. K.*

              Ha – I love those shows because I like seeing how far money goes in different parts of the country. Buffalo is basically free. Whole, big historic homes for $80K. They need work, sure, but still! (That said, you couldn’t pay me to live in Buffalo.)

              1. Elizabeth West*

                You see that in all those the-cheapest-places-to-live-in-the-US articles. They’re always someplace freezing or in some armpit town.

                I can work remotely, and I’m getting paid WAY more than I was when I first moved out to California, but housing is so high out there now there is no way in hell I could move back. A few years ago, I was looking online at houses in Santa Cruz and I found a really nice little Victorian cottage and it was EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS. That same house here might top out at $200K.

            2. Snargulfuss*

              Ha! Fixer Upper is the best/worst. “Here’s a falling-down house near Waco, TX that the buyers got for $10k. With their reno budget of $50k, it’s now the nicest house on the block.” Although people always seem to buy these 4-5 bedroom/3 bathroom homes in unlivable conditions and spend what appears to be their entire renovation budget on the kitchen and the living room. The show ends and I’m left thinking, what about the bathrooms and bedrooms?!

              When I was living in DC my mom kept asking me why I wasn’t looking to buy a house. Then we watched an episode of House Hunters in which a couple was looking at tiny 2 bedrooms houses in Alexandria for $700,000. After that she got it.

              1. Cassandra*

                Oh wow, yes, my mother was the same way when I lived in Fairfax VA — which I moved to just as the housing bust was really getting rolling.

                Sure, Mom, I’ll be happy to put myself in serious hock to buy a rapidly-depreciating asset. Suuuuuuuuure, Mom.

            3. I'm a Little Teapot*

              OMG YES (I’m also in Boston). My parents, who live about 2 hours out, watch those, and I always goggle and say things like “1000 sq ft is too small for one person?! I live in 175 sq ft!” or “That bathroom is bigger than my whole apartment!”

      3. AVP*

        New York is just really, really expensive compared to the rest of the country (even LA and Chicago…the only real estate market that I think is worse is San Francisco). The good news is, there are a lot of jobs, and much more stop-gap type work and odd jobs because people tend to be busy and willing to pay other people to do their errands and make coffee. So, that might be a holdover option if one is needed. This is totally anecdotal but you rarely hear those stories about people being unemployed for years at a time, although I’m sure that happens. A lot of underemployed people, but with some money coming in.

        If the OP’s partner is worried about culture shock I might suggest that they spend part of the weekend walking around Jersey City – it’s still cheaper than Brooklyn and feels more like a friendly small town. (I don’t live there but have friends that do and love it.)

        1. Kate M*

          Yeah, I live in DC, which is pretty comparable, although I do think NYC has more stop-gap jobs (considering the amount of people who move there for artsy/writing/acting jobs). But one thing to consider is that most people who are working the low-paid jobs with extra jobs on the side have a bunch of roommates. Even couples (my friend in Brooklyn lives with another couple in a 2 bedroom). So unless OP’s partner is a high-powered lawyer or something that can get another high paying job in NYC, that would be a big transition as well. If you get a writing job, you’re probably not going to be able to get a nice enough apartment for just you and your partner.

          And as for Jersey City – that could be an option, but when OP talks about it being her dream to be in NYC, I get the feeling that she wants much more of an “in-the-city” experience. Which is all well and good, but really expensive.

          1. Adam*

            Every time I watch the movie “When Harry Met Sally” I always laugh about how ridiculously nice all the characters apartments are, and I’ve never been to NYC. Granted the movie takes place years ago but when Harry is moving into his new apartment that has a living room that looks like a hotel ballroom I laugh every time.

            1. Kate M*

              Oh for real. It’s not going to be like the set of Friends where Monica has a “rent-controlled” apartment handed down from her grandmother in Manhattan. Like, DC is just as (or almost as) expensive as NYC, although our living spaces tend to be a tiny bit bigger. And I’m almost 30 and still living with roommates. Don’t go to NYC because you have a picture in your head from Friends/movies/Girls about how it’s going to be. Take the picture in your head, compress whatever living space you imagine by about fourfold, increase the rent you think you’ll pay by 100%, increase your commute time by 150%, and if you think you can handle that, then move.

              1. Development professional*


                The OP pays some lip service to “always wanting” to move to New York, but he doesn’t sound particularly ready. You can’t apply for jobs that say upfront that they won’t pay to relocate you, then try to negotiate for relocation that they already took off the table, and then say that you couldn’t really move there for another 5 months anyway because you can’t/aren’t willing to break your lease in Chicago. If you’re serious about the move, then you’re probably going to have to commit to it. Tell employers that you are moving to NYC in May, and then be prepared to actually do that, on your own, if you get a job that you want. No job by April 15? Then maybe don’t move yet and see if you can take your Chicago lease to a month-to-month arrangement until you do. The reality is that the population of New York creates a huge talent pool for many many jobs, including I’m sure copywriting. No one is going to pay to relocate you to New York for that.

                Now that you’re moving on your own dime, and you’ve made the mental calculations that Kate M has specified, do you still want it?

          2. A Cita*

            The thing about housing in NYC is–you never really spend a lot of time at home. I mean, if you want a quiet, suburban style of living, then no, NYC is not for you (though you could do it, what’s the point of living in NYC then?).

            There’s so much to do, a lot of it free, that you’re just not home much at all. That’s why there are a lot of services. I get my groceries delivered. I get my laundry picked up, done, and delivered. Nobody has time to sit at home and do this stuff. I have a roommate. But I might as well live alone since I never see her. We’re both gone from early morning to late evening. And I even “work at home” which means I spend time in a co-working space. Because who sits home in NYC? :)

            1. Adam*

              I’ve often heard that living in NYC is a great thing to do for a year just for the adventure of it. I can see the appeal but I doubt I’ll ever do it as while I like big cities I like living near them as opposed to in them. But even if you set aside the fantasy depictions of NYC you see in movies and TV it’s still an amazing place from all I hear. But if I were to ever try it I think a year is all I could handle. I’m at least somewhat introverted and need my home quiet time or else I’d burn out like a star.

              1. A Cita*

                Fair enough. Though I wonder if a year would be enough to really get the experience of it? It could be if you already have a social circle there.

                Full confession: I’m a city person. The bigger, the better. And I’m not particularly extroverted (I consider myself an ambivert–if that’s a thing)

                1. K.*

                  I don’t think a year is long enough. I’ve spent my entire life visiting NYC; one side of my family immigrated there and has lived there for a century. I lived there for ten years. And even being that familiar with the city (and having grown up in another major city – I’m a city person too, I love them) it took a year before I felt like I had the rhythm down. I think it takes a year to really learn any new city (and new job, for that matter – my mother always says you spend the first year at a new job “figuring out where the bathrooms are”). NYC has a rhythm that really doesn’t make sense to most people and it can take a while to get the hang of it.

            2. Not a Real Giraffe*

              *raises hand*

              I live in NYC (used to live in Manhattan, and now live in Brooklyn) and I spend plenty of time at home. I have a job and a very active social life, but I still spend a lot of time there. There are certainly people who are constantly on the go, but I wouldn’t say we’re all that way! :)

              1. Applesauced*

                Same here. I live in Brooklyn and love being a homebody and having people over rather than going out.

            3. Development professional*

              I lived in New York too and had my groceries and laundry delivered, but that wasn’t because I was just soooo busy. It was because I couldn’t afford an apartment in a building with a laundry room, and carrying groceries from the store back to my third floor walk up got old fast. I was out from morning til night too, but that was because I commuted between boroughs, and going home in between activities just wasn’t in any way efficient.

              There’s a lot to do, but depending on what you *like* to do, it very much is not all free and in many cases is much more expensive than in other cities. I’m glad you’re enjoying NYC but let’s give OP a realistic picture here.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        So true. My BF recently was being recruited/phone interviewed by a big famous Japanese electronics company’s division in Northern New Jersey, close to NYC. They would have paid for us to relocate across country, but the pay was wasn’t much more than what he’s getting here, although our housing costs would have skyrocketed, so it wasn’t worth it. Also, there was rumors they’re planning on moving that office to Manhattan, so even worse.

      5. AdAgencyChick*

        Oh my sweet lord, I used to have to attend a work-related conference in Chicago every year in June. Chicago is beautiful in June. And I would see all these signs saying, “3BR apartment, luxury building, starting at $350K” and I would call my husband up and go, “Want to move to Chicago?”

        Yeah, it’s not even close. The apartment we used to rent (a condo) went up about $250K in value nearly overnight a couple of years ago. Suddenly the owners were, all, “Junior’s college fund needs topping off. Bye, Felicia.”

    3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I had three seperare recruiters tell me that I should just get to NYC, crash on someone’s couch for a few days, and then start my search. This was as they were politely telling me they only work with local (or relatively local candidates).

      But then having a friend who worked as a recruiter in NYC, I started to understand. The jobs move fast!

      I live in a city that has a lot of people moving to NYC, and a lot of people from NYC moving here. I’m amazed when I talk to someone and they are basically showin with suitcases and their savings, and finding everything when they get there.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          Ha! I actually asked my friend about staying on their couch and he said he’d have to talk to his roommates because they made decent money letting out the couch on AirBnB!!

    4. Ad Astra*

      Everyone I know who moved to New York had to do so without a job (or with an internship and no solid plans for when it ended). As I understand it, companies in New York don’t offer relocation assistance because they don’t have to; there’s tons of talent already in the area. Being local will ease the job search in any city, but it seems to go double or triple for New York, especially in areas like copywriting. Your best bet is to save your money, sell your car, and move to New York when you can afford it, with or without a job offer.

      1. Ad Astra*

        And, FWIW, everyone I know who moved to New York did eventually find a full-time job that apparently pays enough to live on. I mean, I haven’t checked their finances or anything, but they all still live in New York and none of them are homeless, hungry, or shabbily dressed.

    5. Decimus*

      I do wonder if the OP is planning to look exclusively in Manhattan or is willing to be flexible? NYC is horribly expensive, but if you are willing to live somewhere like Jersey City the rents can go down to merely expensive instead of horribly unaffordable.

  10. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

    I pass out at my part time job sometimes too, and its my low blood pressure. I eat something salty before I go stand in the heat for 3 hours, and try to drink 16 ounces of water during the shift. It helps.

    1. blackcat*

      Oh, yes! I forgot to post this in my comment above, but OP, lots of water + lots of salt can really help keep blood pressure up. It may matter less for the triggered passing out (as opposed to having blood pressure slow low it just doesn’t keep up), but it might be really useful.

      the woman who once had to drink 2 liters of salt water while sitting at an urgent care office.

      1. Anon the Great and Powerful*

        OP says she went to the doctor and they couldn’t find anything wrong; blood pressure is one of the first thing doctors check.

        1. fposte*

          Postural hypotension is pretty common, and it doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy; it also doesn’t come up at a physical unless they’re testing you the moment you get up too fast.

          1. Natalie*

            In my experience, at least, you will actually be complimented on your low blood pressure and no one will mention the possibility of postural hypotension.

  11. FD*

    #1- What makes this really icky in my mind is that she’s not just screwing over the company, as she would be if he’d just snuck through a wage increase. She’s directly stealing from other servers, who helped to earn the tips they’re supposed to be pooling.

    LW, it’s not your job to teach this friend common decency, but you could consider dropping her with a script like this: “[Friend], I’m very uncomfortable with what you’re doing in your workplace. I feel strongly enough that I’ve decided I don’t feel we can be friends any more.”

    1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

      Oh my, this, a million times.

      The blackmail thing itself is very icky. But THEN there’s the “screwing over coworkers” thing and being somehow proud of it?

      I can understand being desperate, but not THAT desperate that I’d screw people over like this. I mean, 10k is a LOT of money!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have told people that I cannot participate in a discussion of a particular matter. It sounds something like this, “eh, that’s not my kind of thing, I prefer we talk about other things.” I use this at work, where I expect to continue on with some type of relationship with the person.

      FWIW, the few times I have told a friend to, “Watch yourself, this might not be the best idea”, that friend has become concerned and asked me what I thought. After a bit of conversation, the friend decides to make tweaks or serious changes to what they are doing. There is usually some type of movement. I do not see OP’s friend making any changes to what she is doing.

      Nor is OP’s friend concerned what OP thinks. That alone is a red flag to me. One time I was having a problem with X. The problem was noticeable so it wasn’t long until a friend said something to me. We discussed the matter though tears runnning down MY face, BUT we still discussed it. My friend insisted that I come up with a plan. Did not have to be friend’s plan but it had to be a plan. This to me is how friends handle things and help each other. OP, your friend is not even close to this point in conversation.

  12. Alma*

    OP 3: You might suggest to the employees that you have appreciated their gifts in the past, but would like to ask that a new tradition begin from this time forward – they collectively make a donation in the name of the business to the local food bank, Meals on Wheels, or nonprofit that provides services or does research for an illness many of your clients have.

    The business will get an acknowledgment with no dollar amount stated, and they have another reason to feel proud of their workplace and colleagues.

    1. pony tailed wonder*

      Great idea but the owners might want to stress that it is not compulsory by any means.

      They could also find an article or question from this site and link it to a company e-mail and say that the writer explains their feelings better than they could so the employees don’t think it is a aberration on the owners part, it really is an odd business practice in general.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So I’m actually a little wary of this. It’s telling someone else how to spend their money (they apparently want to give a gift to the OP, not collect for charity), and it’s doing it in a way where the business will get credit for something it didn’t actually pay for. The employees are likely to feel obligated to participate because that’s how this stuff usually works. I would rather they just clearly say “we don’t need any gift from you” but be gracious if they get one anyway.

      1. pony tailed wonder*

        Oh, so that idea is just redirecting the problem instead of solving it. Thanks for pointing that out. :)

      2. maggiethecat*

        I agree! Everyone in our office was volunTOLD to purchase gifts for the Salvation Army angel tree. My husband and I are not even doing gifts for eachother to have enough for our son. It’s really awkward because I’m thinking that I could use help right now and I’m required to spend money I really don’t have for someone else. I am sure there are needier families out there but it is so uncomfortable to be in this situation. We also have people going *desk to desk* asking for ‘donations’ for a baby shower. NO!

        1. Hlyssande*

          That’s so freaking gross. Sorry you’re having to deal with that. It’s so insensitive for anyone to push like that (desk to desk?!!!). You don’t know someone’s circumstances or what their finances are for whatever reason.

          That reminds me of multiple stories I’ve read regarding canned food drives in elementary schools when the families being hit up for canned food are families who would benefit from the drives. And that kid being prevented from participating in activities because they hadn’t donated enough (family couldn’t afford).

        2. Katniss*

          Oh ewww. Aside from that, there are good reasons to not want to donate money to the Salvation Army. As a member of the LGBT community who also doesn’t have a lot of money to spare, I’d be doubly uncomfortable with that.

        3. Liane*

          Not a donation thing, but NewJob–while having the nicest employees and mangement–pays very little* yet the optional holiday gift exchange was “minimum $20.” Yes minimum. I know our Christmas is going to be frugal this year, so that was out. Fortunately, because I am working with Good People, when one of my supervisors asked me about doing it, I was able to tell her, “Sorry, I’d love to, but just can’t make it work,” and she was cool with that. And I will still do the potluck portion, even if it is as inexpensive as persuading Husband &/or Son to bake bread with me doing cleanup for them.

          *was a combo of situation dire enough I couldn’t be picky and unemployment rules (must have so many apps & goes away if you refuse an offer.)

      3. OP or LW you choose*

        OP here…Thanks Alison, thats exactly what my worry was when I read this otherwise good idea further up in the comments. We’ve sent the link from one of your previous answers on this topic to all but I hear they are still planning to do something this Christmas. Soooo, graciously accept and keep reiterating how we really wish they would spend their money on themselves and their families.

  13. DrAtos*

    #1: There are good people who make desperate and unethical financial decisions. It sounds like this woman is not being paid a lot – probably minimum wage – and working in poor conditions with an abusive supervisor. An additional $10,000 can change the life of someone who struggles to pay the bills or feed her family. We may judge but there are many other people in white collar positions who take more than $10,000 from others in a single day or week. I’ve heard plenty of similar stories from people in academia, law, medicine, banking, etc. I don’t condone this type of behavior, but a lot of people would make that choice if they were desperate enough, and let’s not pretend that wealthier and more educated people don’t do the same if not worse. Second, if the friend is appalled by this decision, s/he could just be honest and ask this friend not to speak about this matter anymore. I don’t see any reason to terminate this friendship unless #1 thinks this friend is so unethical, that she might end up blackmailing #1 in the future because she is the type of person who could manipulate anyone for money. Other than that, there is nothing else we or the OP can do but to wait and see if/when the hotel finds out the true story behind this. I doubt this arrangement can last forever without someone finding out and reporting them to HR.

    1. FiveByFive*

      I will indeed judge someone who steals from her co-workers, who are presumably struggling just as much as she was. And I didn’t see where anyone posited that people in white collar positions don’t also do this. They do , and I judge them just the same.

      I’m also intrigued by your assessment that it’s OK for friends to steal and commit blackmail, as long as they don’t do it to you.

      Interesting post!

      1. catsAreCool*

        “I will indeed judge someone who steals from her co-workers, who are presumably struggling just as much as she was.” This!

    2. Panda Bandit*

      I disagree with your advice because it amounts to telling the LW to bury their head in the sand. The friend has shown that she has no problem accepting something that was stolen from other people. There are numerous ways to cheat and steal without ever bringing blackmail into the picture. I see all kinds of reasons to terminate a friendship with a thief.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’m not even sure where to start rebutting this comment, but I disagree entirely. This is so far from OK there is no way the employee should be taking the money and blackmailing their supervisor it can not be explained away or justified and I don’t think the OP should just ignore it in terms of their friendship I wouldn’t want to know someone like that.

      Interested in the UK our proceeds of crime and anti money laundering laws would create an obligation for the OP to report the crime or face years in jail and / or an unlimited fine. I’m not sure how it would be applied in practice but it is a very serious situation.

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        So, I know nothing about this, but I found a really interesting link where you can compare basic information about fraud across jurisdictions (link to follow). Looking at UK stuff, ‘conspiracy to de-fraud’ might be worth OP looking into (very, very unlikely, I would have thought, but OP should be sure before not saying anything) although if OP is in the US it seems to be different.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          I do hope that knowledge of a crime isn’t the same as conspiracy that would be very worrying.

          1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

            It entirely depends. Technically, I can’t immediately think of any crimes where it is. But let’s say OP’s friend, having told her about this, buys her [really expensive gift] for Christmas. For conspiracy, you have to show intent, not that anything actually occurred. So can you infer intent from that?

            There’s very similar problems with joint enterprise.

            (IANACL, so please somebody correct me on any of that!)

          2. Broke Law Student*

            Knowledge is definitely not the same as conspiracy. I *guess* if OP’s friend were committing a federal felony, OP could be committing misprision, but I’m not sure people really get charged with this on its own. I think to the extent it’s used at all, it’s used mostly in plea bargains?


    4. RAT RAT RAT!*

      OP#1. this kind of behavior, blackmailing someone is not just dishonest and unethical, but it is also a crime, for which she could face prison time! $10,000 which was coerced her supervisor to divert from others to her, may be enough to get her convicted of a felony! If the supervisor decides to come clean and tell HR what happened, when the new accounting system is in place, then there will be big trouble for your friend!

      1. BRR*

        This is a good point I haven’t thought of, that there are potential legal implications (in addition to being super unethical and a shitty thing to do).

    5. hbc*

      Yeah, well, I expect if the OP was friends with Bernie Madoff and he was bragging about his scheme, we’d even more be on her case to turn him in. Just because someone else has done it worse doesn’t mean we have to shake our heads and say, “Dog eat dog world, amirite?” We can stop spending time with the dog who’s proven she’ll bite your leg off when she feels hungry enough.

      That said, I agree with your point about asking her to keep quiet about it, assuming the OP wants to keep that person around and there’s something balancing out her misdeeds like, I don’t know, the extra money helps support her disabled mother and eight foster siblings. “I think what you’re doing is awful, and if we’re still going to be friends, I need you to stop reminding me that you’re doing this.”

      1. catsAreCool*

        “Why do you assume the OP needs the money more than the people whose tips she’s stealing?” This!!!

    6. Boo*

      I do absolutely have sympathy, it is awful struggling to make ends meet. BUT…the friend doesn’t even seem to understand that what she’s doing is wrong. Now if she were really desperate and felt terrible about it and was soul searching/asking for help or advice…ok it would still be wrong, but I’d feel for her. But here, she’s not even acknowledging what she’s doing, at all. I don’t know that personally I’d be able to see her in the same light afterwards. I’d really advise OP to distance themselves – for their own protection and to maybe make the friend consider the consequences of her actions.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think it’s on the OP to make her consider that consequences of her action.

        Besides, if word ever gets out, she’s dealing with far more serious problems.

        1. Boo*

          No I don’t think it’s up to the OP either. I was just making the point that if she does distance herself, it *might* give the friend a wake-up call.

      2. Chinook*

        “it is awful struggling to make ends meet. BUT…the friend doesn’t even seem to understand that what she’s doing is wrong. Now if she were really desperate and felt terrible about it and was soul searching/asking for help or advice…ok it would still be wrong, but I’d feel for her. But here, she’s not even acknowledging what she’s doing, at all. I don’t know that personally I’d be able to see her in the same light afterwards”

        I can’t agree with this enough. Honest people will be honest even if means being broke because some things are more valuable than money (even if means sharing your apartment with 5 roommates and living on Kraft Dinner). OP’s friend sounds like someone who just needs a justifiable excuse to do some thing dishonest. The problem is that those excuses can become easier and easier to find once you start looking for them.

    7. Mallory Janis Ian*

      No, I’d be so ethically disgusted with this person that I wouldn’t even want to look at them again. Continued friendship? Impossible.

    8. HatingTheGame*

      Glad somebody said it.

      I think part of the disconnect might be class-based. If someone’s parents were middle-class or above, there’s a good chance they’ve never actually worked for a truly exploitative work environment, let alone made a career at such places.

      There’s something about exploitative work environments, especially when encountered young enough and for long enough, that shape a person’s thinking into believing that the world consists of only two options at all times: Take advantage or be taken advantage of. This is the world they live in, and the world they know.

      I remember I once read a news report about a gang shooting, where instead of bystanders calling the police, they picked the dead boy’s pockets and stole his shoes… at the time it was hard for me to understand the world-view that made that response seem like the right one.

      One of the hardest parts of escaping the cycle is escaping the mentality. In some ways it’s easier to escape poverty than it is to escape exploitation — you just change sides and become one of the hustlers, introducing the old mentality to a new generation.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Sorry, no. You and the previous commenter are reading in a lot of facts that aren’t there; absolutely nothing tells us OP’s friend is “desperate” or came from circumstances where she’s genuinely unable to see these actions as wrong.

        And wow, class assumptions? I grew up around very well-off people and believe me, a sense of entitlement is worse than desperation as a motivation for people acting badly.

        1. caryatid*

          um, yeah. totally agree.

          poor people, or the “lower class”, are just like everyone else – some have morals, some don’t.

          1. catsAreCool*

            Yeah, you can’t assumptions about someone’s morals based on the person’s wealth/lack of or income.

      2. Xay*

        I think you are making some assumptions about the morality of lower class and working class people. Having been lower income and having worked to help people in poverty and exploitative work environments, yes there are pressures to believe that you must “take advantage or be taken advantage of”. But that is not a norm and in work environments where tips are pooled and shared, there is usually additional pressure to be fair about tips. People who get special treatment from their manager to get tipped out more than others are usually viewed very harshly.

        1. NotherName*

          Yeah, I’ve worked these kinds of jobs, and sometimes just being seen as being a little too cozy with management is enough to get you the side-eye from your coworkers. You’re supposed to be on the side of those who are in the same position you are. (If the group decides to give one person who is struggling extra tips while, say, their kid is sick, that’s more what I would expect in terms of not dividing all equally. In that case, the staff decides what is fair is not necessarily equal.)

          And I do have to say that some of the most generous people I’ve met in my life have had the least to give (monetarily – they have tons to give in other ways). True ethics and morality are free to all classes. It’s not like the OP’s friend is Jean Valjean.

      3. Katniss*

        Having grown up very poor, where almost everyone I know started off in exploitative work environments (myself included): no, this isn’t true for everyone. Many people will still not stoop to stealing from other workers.

      4. F.*

        You didn’t read about the hundreds of other residents in the neighborhood who DIDN’T steal the deceased boy’s shoes, did you? They grew up and lived in the very same conditions as the thieves, but CHOSE not to steal. Blaming someone’s lack of ethics on their perceived “class” is just another way of perpetuating the politics of class envy, not to mention stereotyping those who are financially poor (but may be ethically much more wealthy than you assume.)

      5. themmases*

        Yeah, no. Your comments don’t reflect the reality (there is even published research on this topic) that people in higher SES classes are more likely to endorse questionable ethics and lack off generosity. They are stigmatizing to people experiencing poverty, and they aren’t true. You hear stories about people stealing from someone who was shot because they make good news and reinforce stereotypes about poor people and the demographic groups that are most likely to experience poverty. That doesn’t make this behavior common.

        The norm among people who can’t afford what they need is to get it cooperatively through their social network (think of families and neighbors providing each other childcare and rides). It’s pretty much the opposite of stealing and taking advantage of others because poor people just don’t know any better.

        1. Observer*

          I think that this kind of reporting reflects two things:

          Man bites dog vs dog bites man

          Shock value.

      6. Not So NewReader*

        OP has not indicated anything about class level. So we have no way of knowing how class relates to this situation.

        BUT, I will say, it is very hard to work with corrupt people and not become corrupt ourselves. This rule of thumb applies to any work place, with any level of pay rate.

        While it is true some employers abuse employees and some employees do illegal/unethical things, it is also true that some employers are very good employers AND employees STILL do illegal/unethical things.

        It’s a chicken or the egg question. We have no way of knowing which came first:
        Was the workplace or boss corrupt before the friend started there and the friend sank to new levels?
        Or was the friend always a bit sketchy and now she is involved in this mess?
        We don’t know the answer.

        What we do know is that the situation has been going on for a while. Friend has made no effort to move on, which could be because there are not a lot of options. That has little to NO bearing here, because aren’t those coworkers stuck in this hellhole, too? Additionally, friend is allowing her coworkers to be verbally/psychologically abused AND taking their money to boot! But wait, it does not stop there, she does not see anything wrong with it nor does she think she will get in trouble. yikes.

        It’s the last sentence that does me in. She does not see anything wrong with it nor does she think she will get in trouble. I have talked with people about all kinds of stuff. The scariest ones are the ones that think there is no problem. Until your friend says she has a problem OP there may not be a lot you can do.

        I can see where some people might be able to work that through somehow, but for me, I would need to start stepping back from the friendship.

    9. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      When I was young, broke and hungry, I stole small bits of money from the office manager of my job at the time. She kept a few dollar bills under her desk blotter (remember those?) at any time. I had no rationalization for it other than I literally didn’t have any money to eat once I paid my bus fare home and a dollar would get me a sandwich. I felt awful, but I did it, and not just once.

      She probably missed the money but she was a kind and otherwise well off woman and dollar bills kept appearing there. All told, I think I took $10 or $15, which is what $25 to $35 today, over a period of 6 months.

      A person could forgive me what I did at 21 and still see me as a good person but that STILL doesn’t make it justifiable. There were other options including asking her for the money rather than waiting until everybody left the office and stealing a dollar.

      My point: I’m crazy compassionate about poor choices made in desperate times. Long term defrauding co-workers out of many thousands of dollars without any guilt? No way.

      1. Charityb*

        Agreed. I’m also not sure why the friend deserves more compassion than the coworkers, who are in the same situation that the friend started in only worse (since their pay has been slashed).

        I think what bothers me more isn’t the act of stealing but the smugness and the bragging about it, as if swindling other minimum-wage employees is something clever or admirable rather than something that you would do just to survive.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I suspect the dollar bills kept appearing there, because she was a kind woman. I can’t help but wonder if she knew exactly what she was doing.

    10. Texas HR Pro*

      I think it’s weird that you’re arguing that because there are other people who theoretically steal more money in less time, that this waitress is okay because she was desperate, and at least it wasn’t $10,000 over the course of a day or a week.

      I grew up poor, and was desperate for things that other kids had. Once when I was about 7 I stole a toy from the grocery store. I was so wracked with guilt that I never even played with it, just buried it in my backyard. It was wrong. Just because someone else somewhere else may have stolen more, or stolen as a matter of habit, it doesn’t make my theft any less wrong.

    11. KMS1025*

      Oh no…just no. This is sooooooooo NOT ok. Desperation means someone took a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk to feed their starving child. NOT STEAL MONEY. White collar, blue collar, no collar…the actions described above are a crime and not ok. And the old saying “two wrongs don’t make a right” jumps to mind. So because the boss is an abusive jerk, the legitimate response is to steal from other people? How does that make sense? And yes, that is definitely a friendship breaker. How could you trust this person?

    12. Boop*

      It is easy to do good when times are good. It is when people are under stress that they show their true character.

      1. neverjaunty*

        We have recently seen many examples of people responding to terrible events by helping others.

  14. SCR*

    #5 — If you want to get a job before you move to the city I think you really have to prioritize it and make it as seamless as possible, just like it would be if you already lived there. Otherwise there are a million other candidates they could hire locally. So either bite the bullet and find a way to make it happen in January or put this on the back-burner until you’ve saved up / are prepared to move / can maybe move without an offer but leads in hand.

    As for the Chicago / NYC thing, when they’re hiring in 1 city it’s because they need someone in that office. You’d have to be a number 1 amazing candidate to have them consider working with you on this, they’re hiring in NYC so presumably that’s where they need someone. Plus the offices may have different P&L’s or operating budgets and that job is to come out of NYC budget but the resource is in Chicago? So you would be doing Chi work and NYC would be paying for you? I’m assuming it’s an agency as you’re a copywriter and that’s how it works at my agency. It really makes the most sense for you to decide to move now or wait and search again in May.

    1. Random Lurker*

      Agree with this so much. In fact, if they already told you that relocation isn’t provided, and stuck to their guns when you tried to negotiate it anyways, I’d be really annoyed as a hiring manager if you brought up the possibility of working in a remote office at this point of the process. They’ve been transparent with you that the job is in NYC, and getting there is your problem and expense. It is hard to imagine that this request wouldn’t be interpreted as cold feet.

      1. Colette*

        Either cold feet or the failure to think things through. The potential employers have been clear. The OP needs to seriously evaluate whether she can make the move without relocation and, if not, stop looking until she can or bow out as soon as the employer makes it clear they won’t pay for relocation.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I guess this is why some jobs are reluctant to interview candidates who don’t already live in the same city.

    2. NYC Ad Person*


      I came here to say this. Most agencies in different cities operate on separate P&Ls, which would mean that NYC would pay Chicago for a seat in the Chicago office. That would cost them extra.

      The bigger issue is that as a copywriter in the ad world, you work with an art director partner. It’s going to be very hard to ideate with a partner if you’re in another city, let alone present internally to your CD and account/strategy teams if you are not there in person. I’ve only ever met senior teams who were freelancing and able to work remotely like that. I’m not sure what level you’re at, but it sounds as if you’re fairly junior, so the ECDs I work with would be really reluctant to do this unless you’re absolutely amazing and have won tons of awards, etc. The in person team dynamic at ad agencies is really important and having worked at five NYC agencies (big and small), I couldn’t see this arrangement happening.

      The best way to get the job is, unfortunately, to make the move first. Or find an agency who pays for relocation.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I was coming to say this. I would let an experienced writer work remotely under the right circumstances, but I couldn’t imagine starting someone off remotely.

        I’ve always been on the in-house side, rather than an agency, but there’s so much learning that happens in the first few months for being part of the team.

      2. AVP*

        Also chiming in here to say something like that. It totally depends on the agency, of course, but many that operate in different cities actually have different companies set up entirely and don’t share work at all. So like, DDB Chicago might have a different set of accounts than DDB Tribal NYC. It’s a product of how many mergers and holding companies have taken over the industry.

  15. SCR*

    One option that you could explore, though it’s more of a long game, is getting a job at the Chicago office of a company that also has a NYC office and work there a year or so and then angle for a transfer. Or look for an internal promotion, the company knows your value then and may be more likely to pay for relo and then you’re making a much easier transition.

    1. Sunflower*

      This is a really good option. I’ve also always toyed with the idea of moving to NY and that’s a big reason I took my current position. My current position requires extensive travel to NY and even though we’re head quartered here, NY is where everything really happens. So be on the lookout for similar jobs.

  16. Michelle*

    OP who gets dizzy should have her doctor refer her to get a tilt table test done, ideally from a cardiologist . This can give a measurement of how long she can actually stand before passing out (they can also give you adrenaline to mimic the anxiety). I have a form of dysautonomia and cannot stand for more than a few minutes at a time. I used to feel really awkward about it at work, but now I just say “sorry I have a medical condition and get dizzy of I stand for too long, mind if I grab a chair”. It can feel a little weird to sit while others stand but you get more and more use to it.

    One additional tip is to not wear higher heels as someone could mistake you as needing to sit down because your feet hurt and you weren’t smart enough to dress appropriately. Sounds like a minor thing but as a 20s something professional people think that a lot.

    1. Kathlynn*

      on a related side note, as another 20 something person: If your feet do hurt, and you aren’t wearing high-heels every day, go see your doctor, there are legit medical conditions that cause sore feet. some of these lead to chronic pain and or inability to walk. You aren’t being weak or anything by going to the doctor for it. (I’ve been wearing custom orthodontics for 4 years now. I was wearing $150 shoes, with generic inserts, and my feet would still be in agony after walking for 30 minutes max.)

      1. Hlyssande*

        I think you mean orthotics. :)

        But yeah, plantar fasciitis can be super nasty and completely debilitating. Heel spurs, bunions, all kinds of foot issues can be exacerbated by standing too much in shoes that aren’t properly supportive.

        1. Prismatic Professional*

          Ugh. It sucks so much and is so painful! I really wish I hadn’t waited as long as I did to see the doctor. All the walking on the inflammation just made it much worse! :-/

  17. KayDay*

    #2 – But first, make sure you actually sent the emails!!! (especially if you use a phone in a place with poor reception)

    1. Blurgle*

      And make sure there isn’t an IT issue where emails are being disappeared because they meet the parameters of some spamtrap.

      1. BRR*

        This is my workplace. It’s super annoying. Even as a candidate, my gmail address which I had been corresponding with suddenly became spam. I’m worried vendors or others with outside domains won’t be able to reach me but I might not know they exist or they might think I’m ignoring them.

        1. Bunny Purler*

          Haha, do we work for the same employer? This has been happening at my work for some time, due to a security breach a few months ago. Such a nightmare, and makes us look very bad. Sorry it is happening to you as well.

      2. Ama*

        Or, if the employee reads her email on her phone as well as her computer, that there isn’t some kind of weird sync issue. This was happening with my boss’s email — I’d send her something when she had her email app open on her phone but wasn’t actually looking at it, the email app would mark it read, and it would never actually register as a new message in her desktop email. With the volume of email she received it was impossible for her to notice new messages that didn’t ever show up as unread.

        We still haven’t completely solved it — now if I send something really time sensitive and she doesn’t respond in about half a day I try to verbally confirm with her that she’s seen it.

  18. Katiedid*

    I could be reading this wrong, but I’m wondering if for OP #4 this is less likely to even be an issue? I get the impression that the OP’s previous jobs have been more retail or the like where it’s not a desk job (even the archery classes would fall under that distinction). Orientation in those jobs do tend to involve a lot of standing while learning. The OP’s reference to looking for an “office job” make it sound like she’s looking for a desk job for the first time. If that’s the case, I think it’s much less likely that the orientation will require very much standing at all. All of the orientations for office-type jobs I’ve had have involved a lot of sitting. The only “standing” tends to be a tour of the office and facilities (here’s the bathroom, and the copy machine, and the recycling, etc.) and not very much actual standing in place and learning procedures and the like. In that case, if someone stops to explain the copy machine or the like, it’s a bit easier to move around a little by moving to ostensibly get a closer look at the copy machine while they’re explaining it or something like that.

    1. Xarcady*

      I was thinking the same thing. For an office job, a lot of the training is going to be done sitting down. There might be 5 minutes of standing while someone goes over the copier functions, for example, but then you’d move on to the next thing–and that would most likely be done sitting down.

      There’s a good probability that the OP won’t have any problem at all.

  19. [Anon]*

    #1. This is bad, and unethical, and particularly egregious because the money is coming from her coworkers, but honestly… Your boss harasses you, your job is terrible, but you are so desparate for the income that there’s nothing you can do about it. One day, you lose your mind and start yelling– and in some kind of miracle, you don’t get fired, and your boss is scared enough to get you a raise. You start getting a bit of extra money. You can feed your family a decent meal, finally. You’re no longer constantly at risk of being homeless. Your kids are healthier; they’re not telling you “Mommy, I’m hungry”. Then you find out it’s your a$$hole boss readjusting your paycheque. Yeah, the right thing to do would be to turn him in– and probably get fired, and be put into a situation of absolute desparation where you’re trying to keep yourself off the street and your kids out of social services.

    Growing up, I was the only one who knew about something my dad did [think along the lines of social security fraud; that’s not it, obviously, but in that vein]. He bragged about it. To him, the world is out to f*ck you over, and the only way to survive is to do whatever necessary. That’s what he’s learned in his life. I had to learn what’s right and wrong on my own, eating crappy food from the food bank and trying to reconcile “my dad, the guy who looks out for me and that I love” with “my dad, the guy that did that thing that I’m pretty sure was wrong and that I don’t think was justified”; and there were a lot of in-between stages of “Well, it’s not harming anyone” and “My dad says it’s okay, why am I fussing about it” because, y’know, our ideas of normal come from our parents.

    Frauds and liars and cheats are people, and often? They are good people in very, very hard situations. It’s easy to feel this moral outrage when you’ve been told from birth that stealing is wrong and people who steal are awful human beings and you’ve never truly loved or cared for someone who stole, or even someone who was in this kind of desperate situation. I wouldn’t cut someone like this off as my friend. I would be upset, and I would ask her to think about her coworkers. But I wouldn’t disown her anymore than I’m intending to disown my dad.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I think, though, that this is very different from your situation. I think that most everybody here can feel some empathy with the idea that the friend, who might otherwise be a lovely human being, was struggling with low pay and now has found a way to make her life a little easier. But in this case, there are victims – very tangible victims, who have to put up with boss’s crap and now are having money stolen from them by friend. What about friend’s coworker whose children are using foodbanks, or whose ill/elderly relative can’t access all the medication they need?

      At the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of people struggle through these situations. It’s hard, it’s degrading and almost everyone will face the temptation at some stage to “just make it that bit easier”. But then you have to look in the eye the person whose life is now three times harder because you are doing something wrong and it is harming them. So most people work towards a better job, take steps to curb their spending and so on. I’m a realist, I know this isn’t likely to solve the underlying problem, I know life sucks and it isn’t likely to get much better. But that’s true of most of the people OP’s friend is working with and friend is deliberately contributing to that.

      Understandable? Sure. Ok? No.

      1. [Anon]*

        I agree, and I do think it’s awful. But in the situation, I don’t necessarily think she’s thinking “Wow, I’m taking money out of Suzanne’s kids’ mouths.” The boss is stealing her coworkers money, and she didn’t find out about it until she had money in her pocket. I think it’s really, really hard for someone in an immediate desperate situation to decide to put someone else’s welfare above their families. I mean, it’s hard enough for big wigs to give up some of their millions to pay their workers a living wage– when someone starts getting an unexpected $10k that makes their life livable, giving it up… I would do it. I’m sure we would all do it. Because it’s the right thing. But it’s your *children*, the people you’re supposed to protect above all, do anything for… It would be hard, that’s all I know. I would be a lot harsher on her if the boss had said exactly what he was going to do and she had agreed, honestly, although I can’t quite justify why it’s different from her allowing it to continue.

        1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          “Because her base hourly wage hadn’t changed, she knew he must have been doing something different with the gratuities. It turns out, he found a way to manipulate the division of gratuities so that she would always receive a significantly larger percent than the rest of the servers.”

          So, it sounds like friend did know all along that other people were being screwed over for this, just not the exact details for a while. We also don’t know what friend’s situation is; for all we know she’s got three children who can’t afford textbooks for school, or she’s got no children and just likes spending the money on shoes.

          At the end of the day, theft is theft is theft, and when it’s Robin Hood perhaps there’s more of a moral grey area, but when you are deliberately stealing money from those who are just as badly off as you are, I don’t think it’s ever ok to say “it’s hard not to”.

          1. [Anon]*

            Yeah, which is why I would 10000% condemn the boss. And I 100% condemn the coworker too– but I wouldn’t dump her as a friend necessarily, and I think there’s a difference between actively stealing funds and passively accepting stolen funds and the whole point of my original post is that “theft is theft is theft” is…really easy to say. I think this is wrong. I would be angry about it– I am angry about it, for her coworkers. But I feel like a not insignificant number of people would do exactly the same thing, in her situation.
            (I find it very, very unlikely that even a single person could manage a shoe habit on minimum wage.)

            1. Colette*

              This would be a deal breaker for me. If she’ll steal from people she works with (passively or actively), I have no reason to believe she won’t steal from me on the basis that she needs it more.

              1. catsAreCool*

                One thing that bugs me is that the “friend” doesn’t seem to think she’s doing anything wrong.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Well, bigwigs don’t Scrooge money because they feel insecure. They don’t give it up because they’re completely disconnected from what it’s like to live on crap wages, if they ever knew that. They see labor as a cost, not as people doing work who need to live on their pay.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, that seems to be borne out by research–that you understand the situation of people in your social circle, and Jamie Dimon and his ilk don’t hang out much with waitstaff. (Now I’m thinking of the story ascribed to various peers, where the rich man responds to the concept of a napkin ring with “Can there be such poverty in England?”)

        3. Elsajeni*

          You are being very generous to her, but this is all assumptions. We know nothing at all about her financial situation. If she was in truly desperate straits and the stolen $10,000 is all that stands between her and starving on the street, then yes, sure, I would feel a little more forgiving toward her — but we don’t know anything like that. And even if we did, why don’t her coworkers, who the money is being stolen from, get the same hypothetical consideration?

      2. Not Today Satan*

        I’ve worked with a few people who commit social security disability fraud (and in these cases there’s tax evasion too because they get paid in cash at their jobs) and, while I sympathize that our society has not made it easy for them to do the right thing (because buying their own healthcare would be so expensive, or they don’t have job security at their paying job)– my sympathy is limited because I also meet all the time with legitimately disabled people who have been denied or who have been waiting to receive it and have lost their homes in the meantime. I don’t mean to get too off topic, but it seems like all fraud hurts other little guys, not “the man.”

        1. the gold digger*

          That’s the argument I have with my husband! Food stamp fraud, disability fraud – it hurts the people who truly need that money because there are not unlimited funds!

          1. NotherName*

            And it hurts them even more, because then it’s used as the political football to cut funding to these programs…

            If Hell exists, there’s a special place for those who abuse and cut programs meant for the most vulnerable members of society.

            1. Chinook*

              “And it hurts them even more, because then it’s used as the political football to cut funding to these programs… ”

              And then it hurts them even more than that because every time someone is caught using a loophole, the loophole is closed making it harder for those with legitimate need to get through the system.

        2. Observer*

          You are right. But, it’s easy to fool yourself about this, whereas with workplace fraud there is no real way to do that.

          I’ve had this argument with people who, themselves do NOT do these things, but don’t get the real damage it does.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      What utter nonsense plenty of people are in bad situations without resorting to fraud, you can dress it up anyway you like it’s wrong and unacceptable. I’ve been in dire situations where more money would make the difference between eating or paying essential bills never mind getting a badly needed hair cut or replacing clothes that were literally falling apart but that’s no one else’s problem and it’s not OK to lie cheat or steal from people in the same situation. If the employee was padding expense reports or claiming for a few extra hours then maybe I could see your point (not that I would necessarily agree with you) but this money is coming straight out of their peers pockets and that’s outrageous.

    3. HatingTheGame*

      Great summary of a hard to understand world-view for many.

      The tragic part is that many of the people who end up f*cking others over are ones who grew up being f*cked over; it just becomes how the world works, and imagining it any different seems like complaining that rain is too wet.

      If they’re lucky, they’ll find a counterpoint outside of work like weight-lifting or gardening that puts them in contact with a non-exploitative dynamic (neither your body nor the earth is looking to skim anything off the top). Counterpoints like that are important to recognizing that that’s how *a* world works, not how *the* world works, which gives them a fighting chance if they ever manage to get out of it.

      1. hbc*

        You know, I’ve never met anyone with that worldview who finds their car smashed in a parking lot with no note and goes “Bummer, but good for that guy, I would have run like the wind too.” No, they’ll rail against the complete a-hole who doesn’t have any sense of responsibility or common courtesy.

        If you’re going to go with a “this is how the world works” mentality, you’d better not whine to me about how the grocery store is overcharging you or someone took flowers out of your garden or, you know, your boss is a racist, underpaying douche when he can get away with it. Don’t be hypocritical about your Machiavellian approach to life.

        1. fposte*

          Well, I don’t think HatingtheGame is advocating this; she’s just noting that if you swim in water, you get wet.

          But I think you’ve got a point too, and this may relate to some of the class issues that have been raised–that there are different cultural (as well as personal) lines about what’s acceptable, what’s sketchy, and what’s outright fucking somebody over. I think a lot of it is perceptions of power and access to it–people who would be horrified by the theft of the plastic duck from their elderly neighbor’s front porch will say it’s fine to take stuff home from the supply closet at work.

          But when you’re the victim of a crime, you have less power than the offender at that moment. So it’s pretty rare for people to go “Ah, that’s how the world rolls” when they’re the victim, even if they would have felt it was okay to leave the scene after doing the same thing to the boss’s car.

          1. hbc*

            I understand having those different cultural and personal lines; I just know too many people who do the equivalent of the “Mom, she hit me back!” You either decide that it sucks being wet and swim for shore while cursing all those people splashing you, or you decide the water is fine and stop whining that someone managed to splash you while you were holding someone else’s head underwater.

            I can respect people who think they need to stick it to the man because The Man is squeezing everything he can out of the little guy. Screwing over people in your position and expecting pity when your scheme might come to an end? That’s some DSM-level self-absorption and hypocrisy right there.

    4. Observer*

      I haven’t read all of the responses to your post, but I have a few thoughts.

      Firstly, blackmailing the boss and getting fired were not her only two choices.

      Secondly, this wasn’t about her starting to yell or otherwise losing it, and then “somehow” her pay increased. She made a deal with her supervisor. She threatened him and he offered to pay her off. So, she knew from the get go that this was shady.

      You don’t have to condone government fraud to understand that it’s easy to see the ways people can justify it to themselves. But, NONE of those justifications work in this kind of case. In particular, there is just NO WAY anyone can foll themselves into thinking that “no one is being hurt.”

      Lastly, we can all be as compassionate as anything about the kind of background that creates this kind of warped view. But, even if that’s really where the OP’s friend is coming from (although we have no evidence of that), it STILL presents a problem that the OP needs to seriously think about. This is not just a person who stole, but someone who committed blackmail. Worse, this is someone who sees nothing wrong with blackmail and theft, even from people who are just as hard up as she is. That’s a seriously warped view of the world. And it’s one that leaves a real question of how much anyone can trust her.

  20. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


    Saying you missed an email is an excuse that works once every 6 months to a year, and then only with proper contriteness “OMG, I do not know how but I completely missed that email!”

    What I’d do next depended on the other party. If the employee was contrite and worried, I’d put on my nice hat and use Alison’s wording. If the employee was brushing off the “missed” emails as if that was somehow an excuse like “my alarm didn’t go off” for chronic latecomers, I’d have none of it. We’d first go over how serious it is until, if for no other reason than they wanted me to stop talking, the employee grasped the “do not let this ever happen again” seriousness.

    “If for no other reason than they want me to stop talking” <<< it's a skill set. It works for compliance if you use it at just the right time. Not necessarily AAM approved. :p

    1. JL*

      What would you do if the other person was not someone you manage, but a coworker? I work with someone like this on a regular basis, and it’s very frustrating, and I have no idea what to do about it. It feels very infantilising to go to them after every other email I sent to remind them that need to do something with it.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Snap his head off because I hate stuff like that? Probably, altho not recommended. But you asked so I’ll tell you what I’d do.

        I don’t play nicely with people who waste my time. I let the first thing go, unless it created a giant ball of fire. The second thing, I ask what I can do differently (sincerely! like, do you need a subject line in all caps or what). The third thing? That’s where my Philly roots show. “Yo? What is is up? You’re screwing me up here! Do I need to baby sit things I send you? ”

        For better or worse that’s my rep company wide and I’ll tell you what, people don’t show up late to meetings I’m in or put my emails at the bottom of the pile often.

        1. BRR*

          I’ve employed your second method many times. “Ireally need X because of Y, how would you prefer I do this with you?” If they don’t offer a new way or don’t seem super bothered I follow up with “I’m concerned because that hasn’t worked in the past.”

    2. BRR*

      “if for no other reason than they wanted me to stop talking” I love you for this. I think this is a good trick to have in the bag. There are great employees who sometimes have a minor flaw but are otherwise great.

    3. Liane*

      “If for no other reason than they want me to stop talking” <<< it's a skill set. It works for compliance if you use it at just the right time. Not necessarily AAM approved. :p

      Maybe on Friday, could you please explain the finer points of this? "People want me to stop talking part" I have down, but not to the point where they don't ever do whatever I was talking about again.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        No special tips I can think of other than choosing to use the tool sparingly. Harping too often would produce a Charlie Brown grownups’ effect, I think: wa wah WAH wa wah WAH WAH wa wa.

        An example I can think of was when a certain department reordered promotional supplies only when they’d used the last one, which meant a 2 to 3 week delay on receiving more. I tried explaining why it was important (potential customers can’t wait 2 to 3 weeks! lost opportunities means less income which means less of everything for everybody here) , I tried helping them come up with strategies, I tried blah blah. The response I would get was similar to “I missed that email”, we just “missed that was running low”.

        The only thing that worked (ultimately) was making the people in the department so miserable when I talked on and on and on AGAIN, every single time it happened, remembering became high priority because they didn’t want to hear from me again on the subject.

        Do you really want to sit in a room with me doing a post mortem on the particular mistake example, tearing it apart and me just p-a-i-n-s-t-a-k-i-n-g-l-y rehashing the entire individual incident, and know that’s likely to happen ever time you “miss that it was running low”, or do you just want to prioritize doing the damn thing I asked you to do and never hear from me again on the matter again?


        Also works with teenagers. Does not work with dogs.

        1. KMS1025*

          i intend to try this :-) many relatively, if in isolation, small things get missed by one employee in particular…i tend to think i’ll mention it and then let it go…but i mention it over and over and over…need another approach :)

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Will not work with MY dog, at all, ever.

          A former boss pointed to a customer and said, “she is a nice nuisance”. She could peck you to death and you just could not get mad at her. She was just too damn nice. She raised what you are showing here to a professional art form. I noticed this because I have used the technique you talk about and I know it works. She was nice about it (I could have been a bit nicer) and it was a slow, painless death.

  21. misspiggy*

    It would seem to be in OP1’s friend’s best interests to get a new job asap and not leave a forwarding address. Because if the overpayment is caught as an error on the new system, won’t the company come after OP’s friend for repayment of the extra amount?

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I wondered this too. Are they going to want to go back, work it all out and re-distribute the money as it should have been done?

      (My guess is that they’ll hide behind “too time consuming”, but if there’s enough pushback from coworkers they might go with “we know she took this much so we’ll divide it evenly between you all”. And seriously, OP, when this comes out, how does your friend expect to work with these people ever again?)

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I wonder if the coworkers could sue the friend for the gratuities that they should have received. Even if the friend didn’t know, she received money that rightfully belongs to them, like when your employer accidentally overpays you. Or if there’s no contract stating that it would be an even split, it’s possible that it really is up to the employer’s discretion how to divide up the gratuities, and although the company might not like it and could fire the supervisor over it, the unequal division still might be completely legal.

        1. fposte*

          It would probably be low enough to be in small claims, in most states, so the lawyer cost wouldn’t be a factor. However, my bet is they’d never, ever manage to collect.

  22. Not Today Satan*

    Re #2: how do you all organize your emails? At my previous job, I had it down to a science (mostly labels and some subfolders) but at my current job, I spend 50-90% of my day in meetings with clients. So my time available to read/respond to emails is significantly decreased AND the volume has increased due to my caseload (some are from clients, some are internal). To make matters worse, sometimes my manager will send out a departmental newsletter that’s 99% fluff, and then “oh by the way see this report that’s due in two days” so it can be difficult to just skim to see whether there’s an action item.

    I basically try to read/skim at email as soon as I get it and then calendar “Peggy sue email” and snooze until I respond, but it’s sort of annoying and there has to be a better way.

  23. AdAgencyChick*

    #5, I’m going to offer some industry-specific disagreement with Alison and say it’s likely not a reasonable request. (Or, maybe it’s not *unreasonable*, but it’s one that’s unlikely to be granted.) I’m speaking as a copywriter and manager of copywriters.

    A lot of ad work can be done remotely, but the industry, or at least the niche of it I’m in, still insists on a lot of face time. And it really does make a difference sitting next to my art partner and sketching things out and hanging them up on the wall together vs. doing it over the phone/being in person with the client instead of presenting work over the phone*/some other situations. (Not so much routing jobs, which I think damn well should be able to take place remotely, but project managers are always so nervous about letting that happen.)

    Also, I will second the advice already given about thinking long and hard about whether you and your partner want to do this, and what you’ll do if you want to but she doesn’t. I’ve lived in NYC for 15 years now and I love it, but I’ve seen scores of friends move out of the city because they got fed up with it. And, really, it is insane that I’m in my late 30s, making excellent money, married to someone else who makes good money, and we’re renting a drafty pre-war apartment when we could own a multi-bedroom house pretty much anywhere else we moved except San Francisco. There has to be something about the city that you love so much that it’s worth that kind of sacrifice.

    *If the client is within driving distance of the agency, you can forget about working remotely unless you are so junior that they’d never be putting you in front of the client — but if you’re that junior, they’re going to want to supervise you more closely, which very likely means in person.

    1. Dang*

      Re: nyc is general, absolutely. I feel like you have to really want it to make it work there, which makes me worry for the gf.

      1. Bibliovore*

        NYC. It is truly impossible to describe the consistent pressure of living there. Insane, exhausting commutes. Rent that eats up more than half of a paycheck even if you are an hour from your job. Small spaces. People and noise. Frustrating customer service. Terror alerts. Public transportation shut-downs/delays. Crazy cost-of-living. 24/7. If you are sensitive to odor…not the place for you. Economic insecurity even if your household income is over 80,000.
        Yet- stimulating environment. Never boring. Peers push for excellence. Competition sparks creativity and innovation. 24/7. Easy to make friends. Everyone is from somewhere else (an exaggeration but sort of true) Best food if you can afford it. Great entertainment if you can afford it. If you are not in fashion industry the uniform is black and no worries.

        1. SH*

          Bibliovore – You described it beautifully. I got fed up in August (after 3 years here), moved to Jersey City and I’m moving back to Brooklyn this week.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Adding on: The one time I’ve worked in advertising with someone who was remote (a fairly high-level account person), it was a TERRIBLE experience. Granted, she was three time zones away, not one, but it was bloody awful (getting comments from her at unpredictable times that she expected turned around quickly, just as though she were a client; not having any clue what she was doing with the rest of her time; she was three time zones away and would sometimes want to meet after the close of our business day). It drove those of us in the home office bat-poo crazy and the only reason it was allowed was that she had a prior relationship with the client who particularly asked for her.

      After that experience, working remotely is something I won’t allow when I have a choice about it, unless the person is someone I REALLY trust to handle things well. I certainly would not do it for a new hire. (Sorry, OP — and not everyone may be like me.)

  24. 30ish*

    OP1: Putting aside the ethics of the situation, your friend seems to only see one way this could go wrong – HR finding out. But there are other ways it could wrong.

    Your friend is putting herself at risk by agreeing to this “deal” with her supervisor. Specifically, she’s making herself vulnerable to being blackmailed herself (for example, if one of her coworkers finds out what’s happening). And it also sets an incentive for her supervisor to fire her. I don’t necessarily believe he’ll be scared enough not to fire her due to the threat of being exposed as someone who’s making racist and sexist comments, at least not forever. If she’s fired and only then talks to HR about the comments, it will be way less believable. Or let’s say she’s not fired but needs the supervisor as a reference at some point – it’s likely he won’t be a good reference.

    Last but not least, if you’re blackmailing someone they could at some point lash out against you. People don’t always act rationally. I’d be afraid of the supervisor having a sudden outburst. Overall, I’m not sure that the money is worth the risk she’s taking (again, ethics aside).

    1. Observer*

      If she’s fired and only then talks to HR about the comments, it will be way less believable.

      Yes, her credibility is shot. And, she wouldn’t even be able to point to the most problematic issue – the diversion of funds, because she would be implicating herself. But, even if they took her seriously, she’d probably not get her job back, and she won’t have a reference, either.

      If she were smart, she’d tell the manager “I’m going to look for a new job. You don’t push me out, and you do give me a great reference, and I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

  25. aNoN*

    Oh man…the fraud triangle is strong with OP1’s friend! Seriously, this is a clear case of embezzling and with the new payroll system, this person will more than likely be caught

  26. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-You might be worrying unnecessarily. I’ve never been in an “office job” orientation that required me to stand for the entire time, or at all really. I’ve always been seated. With the exception of a few jobs, probably healthcare or retail related, I can’t think of any job orientation that would require you to stand for the entire time.

  27. tango*

    Regarding OP#1: I just reviewed a bunch of case studies in white collar fraud, embezzlement, etc. The thefts ranged from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars from small businesses to large corporations. A few times the thefts started because someone got in a desperate situation- car broke down, they needed money to fix it and recognized a loop hole or way to skim/steal/get money to from their job. Then took a bit more and so on and so forth. There was the intent to pay it back. Others? They were frankly sociopaths who enjoyed being able to screw over their employers and had absolutely no moral qualms about what they were doing or other times people who could afford to live on what they made IF they didn’t have a psychological need to keep up with the Joneses. You know the types who flaunt possessions and live way way over their means? Well once you max your credit cards out but want (NEED) to live that lifestyle, then you have to find money somehow. It became easier to steal from the job then sell the house, get rid of the luxury cars and quit taking the family on all expense paid trips to Europe every year. I can’t believe how many of the people got a “high” out of it and that right there made it impossible for them to stop. No matter if it was a big theft or small theft, sociopath or just someone who hit hard times who planned to pay back the money, all the cases had something in common. NONE of the thefts stopped until the people were caught. And many times the frequency of theft, monetary amount and complexity or variety of schemes increased as the people realized they could get away with it, got used to the money and therefore felt they could not go back to less and/or felt more entitled – “ie; well employer has such a bad accounting system without proper checks and balances, boss is a big jerk, company mistreats me, etc, that I deserve to do this. They deserve to get screwed over” mindset.
    I have no sympathy for the OPs friend. She worked for the hotel as a server for a good amount of time BEFORE the blackmail started. I find it hard to believe with experience she could not find another job that paid a higher starting wage or a non-tip share situation at another hotel or restaurant. Secondly, her lack of concern about stealing from her coworkers by their pay being decreased is troubling.

  28. Mando Diao*

    OP1: I don’t have much sympathy for your friend (I don’t care if she has fallen on tough times; lots of people are in the same situation and manage not to play dirty), but I think there are a few angles to this that might prevent her from getting caught. The manager can’t tell HR or payroll about the blackmail without having the friend pipe up about why the manager was being blackmailed. Also, are we sure that the servers are being tipped out in the form of actual checks? Lots of people use “paycheck” as a catchall term for their work pay, even if it’s in cash, and even if the cash is supposedly being recorded in a payroll system.

    I can picture this woman lying to whomever and claiming that the extra money was a raise and that she assumed that her coworkers all got one too. Again, I seriously doubt the blackmail will come up.

  29. OriginalEmma*

    OP #2: What kind of e-mails is she missing? Calendar invites? Deadlines? FYIs? Meeting notes?

    My number one question would be, does your organization encourage indiscriminate e-mail usage? Sending e-mails for every little thing and expecting every little thing to be remembered/dealt with? Or are you judicious in your e-mail usage? Your employee could simply be overwhelmed by a glut of irrelevant e-mail so that she’s missing the important stuff.

    Then if she is overwhelmed, after asking what the offending employee can do about it, direct them to Outlook/Lotus/whatever resources for sorting their mail. For example, creating rules and folders for e-mails with keywords or from particular senders, creating reminders to check all e-mail once every X number of hours, etc.

    1. Charityb*

      It sounds like these are fairly important emails since the OP suggests that they’ve made payments late because of the oversight. It also sounds like the OP has tried to help them with resources to correct the issue without any success in the past.

      It’s definitely worth reviewing if email is being misused though. If only one coworker is having this issue, it might not be the problem but if it’s happening to other people, it’s definitely worth looking into it. If it anything, it would be nice just to improve people’s quality of life even if it doesn’t help this person.

  30. CADMonkey007*

    Yeah, whenever someone gives me this excuse, usually with a nonchalant “oh I must have missed it,” I assume they are either lying or just an unreliable person. The prospect of a legit IT issue that’s blocking emails sends normal people into a frenzy. What do you do if this is your boss? I’ve never confronted anyone but I usually do the “passive aggressive email forward.”

    1. Allison*

      Typically, if someone notices they’re missing important e-mails, they should be expected to identify the problem and solve it themselves, rather than allow it to continue and hope other people will fix it for them or accommodate them when they forget, miss, or lose things.

      I have a colleague who keeps missing meetings because, according to her, Outlook doesn’t always send her a notification. You’d think at some point she’d realize she either needs to figure out why she’s not getting reminders, or find a new way to remember these things. But nope.

    2. Brandy in TN*

      I run into items (even support emails from the company and my boss) going into my junk folder. I tried setting a rule so they’d go into the inbox but it doesn’t work on these (other rules do work). But I make sure I check my email every 30 minutes at least (if I see the ghost envelope, I check) and keep an eye on my Junk folder.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That ghost envelope is a godsend. I leave it on even when I get annoying notification emails (“Don’t forget the [thing that has nothing to do with me]!”) because if I turned it off, an hour or two could go by without me remembering to check.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I have people that I email regularly in my personal life. I am amazed at how many emails go missing. I never get them. They are never consecutive, it’s random, such as one in April, one in June and then another in December. I never see a pattern, one just drops away suddenly.

  31. Naomi*

    OP #5, your girlfriend seems to be deliberately dragging her feet–she won’t move until she has a job, but she doesn’t want to look for a job, either. I think you two need to have a real heart-to-heart, because she needs to either get on that job search pronto or openly tell you that she doesn’t want to move.

  32. Erin*

    #2 – In conjunction with Alison’s helpful phrases to use when speaking with her about it, I’d simply keep trying different systems with organizing the emails. Through trial and error you should be able to find something that works for her.

    If you haven’t already, I’d suggest trying: color coding, deleting/archiving old emails, automatically deleting unnecessary emails, red flagging important emails, making more use of the calendar and reminder alerts, using auto filters, unsubscribing from unwanted emails, making the emails themselves more direct and to the point.

  33. IT_guy*

    OP1, There are a lot of ethical things being thrown about, but one thing not being discussed is possible legal implications for your friend. Blackmail/extortion is illegal. There are criminal penalties, possible fines, and legal expenses if prosecuted. I’m not sure what the local/state statutes are for this, but it would be in her best interest to just walk away from this.

  34. JMegan*

    #5, if you do decide to ask about working in Chicago for the first few months, my advice would be to keep it short. You’ve given a lot of detail in your letter here, which can sometimes sound like you’re telling stories or making excuses. The employer doesn’t need to know all the details of your job hunt or your relationship with your girlfriend – just stick to the important points. Something like:

    My lease in Chicago isn’t up until May, and it would be difficult for me to find someone to sublet. Would it be possible for me to work in the Chicago office until the lease is up, and move to NYC at that point?

    You’d also need to decide ahead of time if you’re willing to accept the job if the answer is no, you must be in the NYC office from Day 1. It sounds like it might be a bit complicated no matter what you decide, but all the thinking around that part should be between you and your girlfriend. As far as the employer is concerned, keep it short and to the point. Good luck.

    1. TheSockMonkey*

      And I would also say don’t even ask till you have an offer in hand, and be aware that asking at all could make you appear out of touch and uncommitted to the work in NYC.

      And don’t ask if your girlfriend doesn’t want to move there at all, unless you are ready to break up/do something long distance. I think NYC is one of those places people either love or hate, and if she is someone who hates it, she shouldn’t feel forced to move there. (Said by someone whose brother has lived in the city for 10 years and refuses to live elsewhere, whereas I would never ever live there.) Have a heart to heart with your girlfriend before the job interview, if you can.

  35. Brandy*

    #5- If I were the company that offered you the job, I’d be pretty peeved if you wanted to push the start date to May and didn’t mention it up front. I’d definitely say you have some leeway and it would be reasonable to ask for a start date of say, Feb 1 vs early Jan to get your life in order and move out, but this would be EXACTLY why people have such hard times job searching from afar- employers don’t want to take this risk. I don’t know specifically what you do, or how competitive it is, but my understanding is copywriting (at the lower levels) is not a unique niche–you run the very real risk that they’ll go to another candidate.

    If this is what you really, really want to do, you should have the convo with your g/f that you should have had before you started applying to jobs– what does this mean for you, how can you/will you handle, etc.

  36. Bibliovore*

    OP # 2 I see that this is a report. What Alison said.
    Strategies- As her supervisor- emphasize that emails from you- her supervisor should be opened within x hours of receipt. Do you have a way to Flag those with a color so that as she is scanning her inbox she knows to open?

    New procedure- so that you are not wondering- instruct her to reply when she has received an email from you and that she understands/ can open the attachment etc. Resend email if you do not receive a response in a timely manner (this is up to you)

    Avoid long threads and make sure that you create a new subject heading for new email chains.

    Note in the verbal instructions your expectations. Follow up with an email recapping the conversation and request a reply and a statement of understanding.

    You have begun a paper trail in the event that she continues to “miss” your emails.

        1. bibliovore*

          not a big fan of read receipt- that just means she opened it. Expecting a written confirmation of reading and comprehension puts away the “excuse” of not following through on an action because “I didn’t get” “I didn’t receive” that email. I had an assistant who would say, oh I didn’t see it, it must have been caught in the SPAM filter. I finally had IT confirm that this was a lie.

  37. Sunflower*

    #5- I feel for you on this one. However, I think you’re SOL here. NYC is unlike any other location in job searches because there are so many available people- esp in a field like copywriting. They don’t offer relocation because they don’t need to and you would need to be such an outstanding, stellar candidate for them to consider letting you start in another office IMO. I think exceptions like that are only really made when you have highly desirable, rare skills.

    I think your best bet is either take the offer for what it is now or be prepared to move to NYC in May and start looking. I only know a couple of people who were offered jobs in NYC when they lived cross country- one had exp in a rare field, was living internationally and wanted to come back to the US, the other took an entry-level job where they said ‘your job starts this day, we aren’t helping, be here or don’t’.

    I actually know a quite a few people who got jobs in NY without moving there first but I believe it’s because I live in Philadelphia- we are a 1 hour train/2 hour bus ride away so most people use NY addresses and can schedule interviews almost as easily as if they were living there already.

    I’m not sure what is holding your partner back but so I don’t know if this option makes sense but is there any chance you/your partner would be willing to move to Philadelphia for the short-term? I know a lot of people who live in NYC but their BF/GF lives in Philly and vise versa. It’s not an ideal or long term solution but it might be a good compromise if your partner is concerned about cost of living and you would have an easier time job searching from there.

    1. Zach*

      This is absolutely the truth. SF and LA are the same ways, thought if you have tech skills, you’ll be relocated.

    2. Christian Troy*

      I agree with you about everything. I do think this is the situation where you either pack your suitcases and go as is, or try to save up and move without work in May.

    3. AnonAcademic*

      Cosigned. Just moved from the NYC area to SF. Got a job here because of a specialized skill set, but no relocation coverage. Partner looked for jobs in tech for ~3-4 months before we moved, not a single bite. After we moved he had probably a dozen interviews and got an offer at about 2.5-3 months. Several recruiters told him that people often hope/plan to move but then flake out due to the cost/logistics, and they can’t take that risk, so they prefer local candidates.

  38. Jerzy*

    OP#1 – I would consider myself fortunate to have found out the truth about this friend before she did something directly to me. A little personal story from me: I had a friend who I truly thought was a good person, until about 4-5 years into our friendship when she did several things that made me begin to see what kind of person she really was, including telling me she friended someone on FB who she didn’t like just to watch the trainwreck of their life, and telling her awkward 11 year old daughter that if she doesn’t dress a certain way (in designer clothes), people will make fun of her. All of a sudden, someone who I thought was kind, began to seem very shallow and judgmental. She no longer seemed like someone I wanted in my life. I have no doubt in my mind she would have eventually focused her judgment on me in a big way (and she actually had started to when I ended the friendship).

    Cut and run on this one, OP. Sooner or later, people like this find a way to alienate everyone in their lives.

  39. Unpopular Opinion on #1*

    Wow. I had a completely different reaction to #1.

    Hypothetical situation: let’s say the woman was a little better off, and she instead contacted a lawyer and threatened to sue the company for hostile work environment. The company doesn’t want the negative publicity, so they offer her a financial settlement: the terms of which state that the woman will be subject to a gag order, and the offender doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing and furthermore keeps his job. She agrees, for whatever reason. Maybe to avoid the uncertainty of he-said-she-said. Maybe she still needs money to live off now, doesn’t think she can afford legal fees through a lengthy trial/appeal. Maybe she doesn’t want the publicity either- win or lose, it might affect her ability to get further work in her town/industry.
    Let’s even take it a step further: instead of a restaurant, let’s say the offender was police or some other local government official, so the settlement money is literally coming out of someone else’s pocket, ie your tax dollars.

    Is there the same outrage that this hypothetical woman is doing something wrong? Is she being “unethical”? Is she a “blackmailer”?
    This feels way too much like blaming the victim instead of blaming the perpetrator or blaming the system.

    1. fposte*

      Huh? So in your hypothetical example, she avails herself of legal recourse, and the restaurant profits cover her settlement. In the real example, she’s committing a crime, and her co-workers (who presumably were exposed to the same manager and are therefore victims too) are losing their own money to pay her.

      I think you’re wanting a clear binary where it’s either system or victim, and where it’s either victim or criminal, and it can’t be some of both in either case. And of course it can–a substantial portion of people who commit crimes have also been victims of them, and just because our justice system sucks doesn’t mean I’m going to let the guy who mugs me off the hook.

      1. Observer*

        So in your hypothetical example, she avails herself of legal recourse, and the restaurant profits cover her settlement.

        Either the profits do cover, or they don’t. That’s not even the issue. The point is that she is availing herself of the protections offered by the law, and her employer is being clearly required to bear the consequences of the bad actions of its management. And, they KNOW where the loss is coming from, so they have an incentive to fix it, even if there is no publicity (because they know that another person could bring another suit.)

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s pretty significant that in one instance it’s her co-workers taking the hit and in the other instance it’s the business, who is responsible for hiring the creator of the hostile work environment. So I do think the source of the recompense matters.

          1. Observer*

            I agree with you on that. What I was getting at is it doesn’t matter if there are enough profits to cover the cost, or not. What matters is that the business is bearing the cost, as it should, rather than the coworkers who have no responsibility here.

        2. TempestuousTeapot*

          Not only that, but now the business organization is made aware of the behavior. It’s no longer a case of just the supervisor or maybe (and we have no way of knowing this ourselves) one or two direct higher ups.

    2. Charityb*

      Well, there’s a huge difference between working out a settlement via the legal system and two people working together to siphon money out of other coworkers’ pay checks. I actually wouldn’t care that much if the supervisor making the bigoted remarks was paying out of his own pocket; it would still be wrong (presumably, he hasn’t stopped his behavior) but at least she wouldn’t be screwing innocents in the same situation out of their hard-earned money.

      The friend isn’t the only bad actor here, of course, but she is still knowingly taking money that her coworkers have earned, in secret. (If this arrangement was public knowledge, the other coworkers would at least have the theoretical option of finding another job where their tips won’t be stolen by their supervisor, but it doesn’t sound as if anyone even knows). I’m having a hard time seeing the coworker as a victim here and I think the comparison to a civil suit or a legal settlement is really flawed.

      1. NotherName*

        Also, part of the point of using legal recourse is to actually fix the problem. In this case, the OP’s “friend” actually benefits from the fact that the supervisor is still employed continuing the bad behavior. A lawsuit can be brought by everyone affected, too, so all the staff could have gotten together to sue the employer for the supervisor’s behavior.

    3. Erin*

      I think the channel you go through to deal with harassment or a hostile work environment is an important distinction. Presumably with going the legal way about it, she wouldn’t be literally taking money that has been allotted for her coworkers, who did nothing wrong, and are possibly also being sexually harassed.

    4. Not me*

      Well, that’s a completely different situation…

      She’s not ~rebelling against the system~, she’s profiting from it at her coworkers’ expense. You know, her coworkers who were also underpaid to begin with, who are also dealing with racism and sexism at work.

    5. Observer*

      I can’t imagine why you are comparing what the OP described and suing a company or going to the DOL, for that matter.

      If you consider every law suite to be blackmail, then I suppose that there is SOME similarity. But collecting a settlement has NOTHING to do with theft, which is also what is happening here.

    6. Beezus*

      In your scenario, the financial arrangement is made through and approved by the legal system, not arranged between the parties directly. That’s a huge, huge difference.

      Even then, I wouldn’t be okay with my tax money going to pay hush money to a former public employee (however needy or deserving), and to keep a bigot from being exposed and removed from office/fired. I’d expect the officials in charge of investigating the complaint to do their jobs and be transparent about it, and remove the problem. Any settlement/damage award needs to be public information and consistent with what’s been awarded in similar cases. I would have a really, really hard time with the offender still having a job after being the cause of a hostile work environment situation that resulted in damages.

      Also, the victim in this story was not the only victim, and chose to leverage her situation to benefit herself to the detriment of other victims rather than report it. She chose to make herself part of the problem instead of trying to fix it. She actually helped perpetuate the victimization of others – not just perpetuate it, but compound it. Zero sympathy.

    7. HRish Dude*

      What victim is being blamed? The victims in this situation are the person’s co-workers. The money is being directly siphoned from them.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right. I am not clear how this hypothetical helps us to clearly think about OP’s situation.

    8. TempestuousTeapot*

      I can see your point of view here, but…

      No. There is no outrage for the hypothetical woman who filed a legal complaint. The hypothetical woman engaged in a L-E-G-A-L response. One in which terms were negotiated, resolved, given a finite time/$ amount, and recorded, leaving the hypothetical woman an ethical person who did not ‘blackmail’ anyone.

      The hypothetical has only the ties of a false equivalency to the actual situation reported by OP1. In your ‘example’ (and yes, I use this term quite loosely) there is a violation committed, but it is offset by a contracted negotiation to resolve it. In OP1’s statement there is clearly at least one crime committed by at least one person. Victim blaming? Hardly. System blaming? Maybe. But that does not absolve those involved in what OP1’s letter reports.

      When the alternative example goes to a public agency, it still makes no difference. The monies to a public agency may have come from tax dollars, but belong to the public agency once allocated to it. Complaining that it is ‘your tax dollar’ money taken to resolve a negotiated dispute resolution is like one’s boss complaining that one didn’t spend one’s paycheck the way he or she wants one to. That is purile and silly. And to be honest the perpetrator is being blamed and is not in any way, shape, or form a victim. Was the coworker once a victim? Yes, absolutely. When subjected to racial and sexist slurs, the supervisor victimized an employee. It’s what the employee did in response that makes difference between victim and co-conspirator. And while I have great empathy for the situation that employee found him or herself in, I have no sympathy for the current ‘plight’.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      Where is this scenario coming from? Because it bears no resemblance to the one the OP wrote about!

      The OP’s friend did have resources–she could have reported the harassment, and if the company did nothing about it, she could have started looking for another job if she didn’t want to escalate the reporting. She chose instead to do something illegal and unethical. No quote marks needed.

      Frankly, I hope she and the manager get busted. The manager’s assholery is no excuse for her subsequent behavior.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      OP wrote us about her friend. She did not ask about how to handle the management at this place of business. Nor did she ask how to handle the manager.
      The scope of the story is OP and her friend. We pretty much have to focus on that or we’d end up with an unwieldy comment thread loaded with good information but not helpful to OP’s particular setting. OP would probably give up and quit reading.
      Encouraging OP that her friend needs to be responsible for her own actions, isn’t blaming the victim. If OP’s friend was a victim in this story, she no longer is now, she shifted to a new role a while ago.

  40. No Longer Reading This Site At work*

    I just got told off at work for reading this site for the first time – because the ad at the top of the page for some trashy celebrity gossip site made my boss think I was reading

    1. Ineloquent*

      Yeah, Alison, we’d frankly rather pay you directly than deal with that particular type of ad, even though I know you don’t want to go to the paid content model. This isn’t working for a lot of us.

      1. A Cita*

        I think the paid content model creates a selection bias based on socio-economic status, and I’m against that in principle, particularly for a site like this that is especially valuable to folks with fewer resources and need sound job advice (even of the “is it legal” variety).

        I just see a lot of “we’d pay for this!” comments and want to make sure a dissent opinion is heard. There must be other work-arounds. Maybe a paid forum instead of the open threads?

        I will say I sometimes use ad blocker on here because of the ads when working in a shared space. However, I also turn it off when browsing from home or in private, so that Alison can get the revenue.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to be clear, I’m not considering a paid content model. Ads are what are make sense for this site (and I agree with you about your reasoning too, although there are also other reasons).

          I fully encourage people to use an ad blocker though, if the ads are problematic for them!

          1. hbc*

            Sorry if you covered this: is it not possible to have a model that accomplishes both? It’s more common in the app industry, but having an option to pay to get rid of the ads or continue on with them seems like the best solution from a user perspective. (Probably not from a site maintenance perspective, I’m sure.)

            Maybe the ad blocker options are better than they used to be, but the last time I had to wrestle with one, it was suppressing some things I actually wanted to see, so I’m hesitant.

          2. KMS1025*

            turn down the volume of the speakers and even if the ad scrolls you will not be able to hear it???

            1. Kathlynn*

              And, you can disable sound on/from your browser in newer versions of windows (I’m pretty sure you could in win7. I know you can in win8 and 10). For those who don’t know how, in win 7/8double click on the speaker icon until you get the advanced volume control (right clicking may also bring up this option), then turn the volume bar for your browser to mute/zero.
              in win 10 you need to right click and go to volume mixed.

      1. BethRA*

        Right below the initial question and your response, before the comments begin, I’m getting a split window box where the left window rotates between ads for various products (like printers) and video clips from “celebrity music tv” or something like that, and the right has a static headline and blurb about Scott Weiland’s death.

          1. BethRA*

            Right, but the “celeb tv” ad might be what No Longer’s boss saw that made it look like a gossip site.

  41. beachlover*

    OP# 2, if you use Outlook, You can color code emails from specific people – So have her color code the emails from you in red. That way they will stand out in her in box. It’s in View settings, conditional formatting. I do that with several of my Managers, I get so many emails, that I want those emails to stand out. The other option would be to have her create a folder for your emails and then set up a rule that all those emails go to that folder. She can then check it periodically.

    1. Not me*

      You can use filters and other settings for a pretty similar effect in Gmail, too, which really helps me with my 200+ a day.

    2. Erin*

      Great suggestion.

      Made me think of another one – Maybe if she’s using more than one email address and that’s confusing for her, she could forward all from one to the other. Or, other way around if she’s already doing that, maybe that’s why she’s overwhelmed and missing emails, and she should separate them.

      As I said in my original comment, trial and error. :)

  42. JC*

    #5: Would another feasible option be for you to find very temporary and cheaper-than-normal digs in NYC until your girlfriend moves and you are no longer paying for two places, such as a sublet of someone’s spare bedroom? I was in a similar situation with my then-boyfriend, now-husband 6 years ago when we relocated; I moved first and we paid rent on two places for a few months until he found a job in the new city. Renting something temporary and cheaper-than-normal while paying two rents is what worked for us. It was not ideal but it was manageable in the short-term. It also made more financial sense for us to pay two rents with both of us employed than to pay one rent but with one of us unemployed.

    Subletting might especially make sense if your girlfriend is still in Chicago with your furniture. And if you wait to move the furniture until your girlfriend moves, there is a chance that she could get her relocation paid. This is what worked out for me—my job did not provide relocation and I lived without furniture for awhile (and slept on an air mattress for months), but my husband’s later job offer luckily did.

    1. A Cita*

      I need to add: sublets in NYC are no longer cheaper than normal. They are often actually more expensive (person who’s room it is often now charges way more than they actually pay for it). AirBnB has a lot to do with this phenomena. So don’t look to sublets as a cheaper than normal option. But a sublet or short term roommate situation would be cheaper than getting your own place.

  43. Laura*

    Huh, lots of people are commenting that locking knees is a *cause* of fainting. I have never heard that. My understanding is that in situations where you are more likely to faint (choir concert – bright lights, pressed together with lots of people, performance nerves), having locked knees makes fainting more dangerous. Picture one soprano going over and knocking a row down like dominoes, rather than one lone soprano crumpling gently to the floor.

    1. Natalie*

      From a couple of posts upthread, it sounds like it’s a myth that locked knees cause fainting. Rather, standing super stiffly can cause fainting, so an easy way to prevent that is to engage your knees instead of locking them.

      Anecdata: I lock my knees all the time (literally every time I stand unless I think about it) and I’ve never fainted.

  44. OP#1*

    Wow, I’ve only had time to skim the comments so far but I’m excited to go through them more carefully. I really appreciate everyone’s input.

    I debated whether or not to reveal this, but this “friend” is also my sister. :( I intentionally left that out of my letter because I wanted unbiased opinions without any knowledge that I have anything more than a “friend” relationship with her. If this was just a friend, I probably would end the friendship, but obviously with family it’s more complicated.

    This story came out over Thanksgiving in front of other family members and I was (if you can believe it) the only one who was truly outraged. My mother was actually defending my sister and making ME out to be the “mean” one for not seeing her side of things (“She’s had such a rough few years.” ummm…. yeah. A lot of us have had “rough years” and we don’t respond by engaging in this unethical behavior). I shouldn’t be surprised; my family is all kinds of dysfunctional and this kind of behavior isn’t exactly unusual for my sister.

    I honestly wish I could show her (and my mother) this thread, to show that I’m not the crazy one for thinking this is wrong. I can only imagine the family drama that would start though (and I’m actually terrified my sister will somehow read this and kill me for writing it, although I’m 99.8% sure she has no interest in reading workplace blogs, lol).

    What kills me even more is that she has long been complaining about how underpaid and unappreciated she is at her job, and then I find out she’s actually been making more than me all these years (even before her “raise”)! She used to try to make me feel sorry for her for having such a “cushy office job” when she was slaving away as a server. And yet, I’ve learned that servers at upscale hotels can actually make a pretty decent living (not to mention it’s ridiculous to try to make me feel guilty for choosing a career path that she could very well have also chosen, if she had made different choices education/job-wise over the years).

    I really don’t think anything I tell her will make her change her mind about this. She is so good at convincing herself her actions are justified in almost any situation. I really don’t think it’s my place to get involved any further than trying to convince her that her actions are wrong (which I’ve already done), but I’ve been secretly hoping this all comes to light soon at her job and she may finally learn a lesson.

    Thanks again for all of the comments. If anything I now have validation that my feelings are justified.

    1. LCL*

      Here’s some advice for your sister that isn’t addressing the ethical issues at all:
      She should find a new job while she can still get a good reference. It always takes awhile for a new payroll system to be up and running smoothly, she could be happy in her new job before any of this comes out. If it is figured out while she is still there, her co workers will wreck her life and make it impossible for her to give good service and get any tips. Not to mention keying her car, planting stuff in her locker, trashing her non uniform clothes, etc.

      1. Sunflower*

        I totally agree with all of this 100%. Also, this has been going on for a year? Well my guess is the company might already be aware something is going on and might be watching/tracking the supervisor and your sister anyway. In situations like this, the company usually becomes suspicious and knows what’s going on but they need to track the pattern first. Even if they don’t know it’s her boss, it’s possible this new system is going into place because something has been off.

    2. Chinook*

      OP, finding out that the “friend” was your sister and that you are the only family member not shocked goes a long way in explaining why your sister felt justified. that being said, that fact would not change my opinion that what she is doing is wrong. So she learned from her family that working an angle to make easy money is okay? So what? You grew up in the same environment and learned that you are able to find a “cushy office job.” What is stopping her from doing the same thing.

      Honestly, I think you should pat yourself on the back for learning a different way to look at the world and realize that your sister will probably treat you the same way as her coworkers if push ever comes to shove (I am thinking inheritance drama after your parents die). Can you change her? Probably not. Do you need to cut her out of your life? Probably not but you should be aware if she starts crossing ethical boundaries with you.

      1. Goliath Gary Willikers*

        Agreed. You know your sister better than we do, OP, but the fact that she’s your sister and you can’t easily cut ties with her actually makes me more worried that she will do the same to you someday. She feels 100% entitled to cheat innocent people out of their money, and she has willfully warped reality in her mind so that she’s the poor, cheated sister and you’re the lucky sister living the enviable high life she deserves (even though she objectively has more money than you.) That combination of guilt-tripping, entitlement, and lack of remorse makes me very nervous.

        At this point, I’m not sure there’s much that can be done for her. I’d focus more on protecting yourself from whatever she might someday decide she’s justified in doing to you and the family.

    3. Elizabeth West*


      OP, your sister is really risking a lot by doing this. As several people have pointed out, blackmail is illegal and so is fraud. She risks not only losing her job and damaging her reputation, but arrest, conviction, and prison. If anyone finds out about this (and with the new payroll system, they very well might), they will not hesitate to report it.

      She is in very big trouble here. But this decision is up to her, unfortunately. It sounds like you’ve done all you can possibly do.

      1. Prismatic Professional*

        OP1 – It is also MUCH harder to get a job after being in prison. Especially if the charge was anything having to do with money. Just something to keep in mind.

        1. pony tailed wonder*

          I answer prisoner letters at my library job and most ask about job and business opportunities. Air conditioning/heating repair and lawn service jobs are asked about a lot. It is possible to get a job after prison but the jobs that the prisoners inquire about are tough physical jobs. Oh – and a few want to create their own fragrance and sell it.

    4. Observer*

      Ow, wow! That’s really rough.

      Good for you for getting away, to some extent, from the dysfunction.

      LCL’s advice to your sister is wise, because either she’s going to lose her job, or her co-workers will make her life a total misery. AND, if they don’t fire her, I would be willing to bet that she’ll get excluded from the tip sharing, whether officially or not. And, her employer will have no motivation to protect her. She’d never be able to make a case for illegal retaliation.

      So much for the people who were defending it on the basis that she couldn’t be expected to know better because she must have come from a background that makes it impossible to know better.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Oh boy, OP. I am feeling the upset for you.

      Given everything you have said here, you are right to just let it go. Sometimes the best we get is to realize our person is on a bad path and matters could get worse. I have had these heads up in life a few times. Your thinking is clear and your vision is 20/20 on this one.

      One poster commented to the effect of why is the boss willing to pay this money when any number of people could report him. They all see his harassment. This is a gap in her story that does not make sense. I suspect there are probably other gaps also. I think there is more to this story. I hope you never find out. I hope she moves on to another job and things are different.

      Meanwhile, stay on the path you are on. You have a good handle on how things should go and that will serve you well.

  45. A Cita*

    I’m struggling to think about what the other drawbacks are of living in NYC, besides the cost (which is somewhat, but not entirely, buffered by the higher salaries). The only thing I can think of is winter, but Chicago winters are worse. And cost of housing can go down significantly if you’re willing to commute a little and live in a more outer part of Brooklyn or Queens or in the Bronx.

    1. Sunflower*

      I live in Philly and we get so many people who are tired of living in NYC. I could say a lot but I’ll just say that when you’re talking about NYC, cost is not a minor drawback and ‘somewhat buffered’ is putting it VERY lightly. The drawback of moving to NYC is basically that you can get a lot more for your money elsewhere and not sacrifice that much. Also in OP’s situation they are living in the Mid-west and the East Coast can be a whole different ball game.

    2. Natalie*

      Commuting time can be a real PITA from what I’ve heard, especially if you work in Manhattan but can’t afford to live there. A lot of my friends in Brooklyn spent big chunks of their day on the train.

      1. A Cita*

        I live in Brooklyn. It’s not a big chunk of time. I spend less time on trains commuting than my friends who live in smaller cities, suburbia, or towns spend getting to work or getting around. Brooklyn is huge anyway, so you can’t really generalize commute times.

        1. Natalie*

          Certainly, but at least in my experience people from medium sized cities don’t really expect the sheer surface area of NYC to be as big as it is. In my medium sized city you’d have to live in the suburbs before your commute would get to 45+ minutes – any intracity travel just doesn’t take that long because the city core just doesn’t cover that much area. (I’m using 45 minutes since that was the BK-Manhattan commute I experienced visiting said friends.)

          1. doreen*

            That also depends on what you mean by the “city core” . I live within the NYC limits, in a single family house with a yard and everything. It’s not quite suburban, but then again, the closer parts of the NYC suburbs aren’t all that suburban , either. When I worked in Manhattan, my commute by train was between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on exactly where I was working. My neighborhood is probably more like your suburbs than it is like Manhattan or the parts of Brooklyn and Queens that are just across the river from Manhattan. Most people I know who neither live nor work in NYC have a commute of 45 minutes or more – the difference is they’re crossing political boundaries and I’m not.

    3. A Cita*

      Eh, none of it is really that bad. I wonder what it’s being compared to? I’ve lived in NYC now for 7 years. Lived in SF for 10. And lived in even bigger cities (not in the U.S.), and my friends who live in small cities, suburbia, and commute to their small city or town job, actually have longer commutes even as they drive because things are just way more spread out, and have none of the amenities of living in a bigger city. Now if it’s not a cultural fit, I get that. But commute time? Really not a big deal.

      I would also argue that while the cost of living is higher, the quality of life is MUCH higher. So much going on, so much to do, so many ways to do nothing and chill, so many interesting people, so easy to get connected–arts, sciences, technology, discourse, activism, international interests, food, people, culture, diversity on every level, ideas–an amazing place for a great quality of life, if you measure quality that way more than a big space or being able to drive places easily (full transparency–I’m not a driver. Never owned a car; never will).

      1. Sunflower*

        You’re comparing NYC to small towns/cities. There are plenty of big cities(including Chicago where OP lives) where you can the perks of a big city experience for less. I live in Center City Philadelphia- I pay $1,800 for a smaller 3 bedroom apt. My friends rent a 2,250 sq ft 3 bedroom for $2,500. The avg 1 bedroom is $1,400 and most people walk to work(anywhere from a 3-20 minute walk). I have friends in their 20’s who own houses(with multiple bedrooms) inside the city. We have tons of restaurants, museums, etc. We can be in NYC in an hour, DC in 1.5 hours. Not to go off on a soapbox(esp bc I’m someone who wants to move to NYC and people can go on for days comparing the 2) but Philly has a lot of the same things(maybe not on the same level) as NYC and for a much lower cost.

    4. Biglaw Stormtrooper*

      I think living here is difficult, and as my username indicates, I make a very decent salary. (Personal backstory: I grew up in Houston and lived in both Philadelphia and London before moving to NYC.) I think, particularly if you are from somewhere like Texas as I am, that 1. the cost 2. the lack of space 3. the overall pace of life can be extremely tiring, and I also think that if you grew up in a different environment the thought of raising children here can be daunting. I see people with strollers on the subway sometimes and, while I am sure that everyone involved is perfectly happy, that is not something I ever want to wrestle with. Though I will say my general level of happiness has improved greatly since moving out of Manhattan.

      Things I like–the excitement, the diversity, the ability to find almost anything you want at any time of day, having a lot of people around who can identify with my interest and experiences.
      Things I don’t like–the feeling that if I’m not rushing somewhere I’m doing something wrong, the fact that just getting to work is a battle, the additional taxes, the absurd cost of living, the fact that a lot of the city is pretty dirty.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        My husband gets recruiters calling him for jobs in NYC all the time and I’d be totally down with that except… we have 1 and a half kids. No way in hell can I imagine dealing with kids in the city, especially since I’m a bit of a homebody and currently live in a fairly large home. Going back to a small apartment now that I have little spawn just isn’t for me.

        I told him to wait until the kids were out of the house. I’ve always thought it was pretty cool to live there and I could live in a teeny studio sans children pretty easily.

    5. Ad Astra*

      I can think of a thousand drawbacks to living in New York, but it does seem like Chicago would have similar drawbacks. The main difference is there are more insufferable “omg this is the greatest city in the world look at all this CULTURE how could anyone live anywhere else” people in New York. Also, all the TV shows start an hour later on the east coast, which would not be my preference.

      1. Natalie*

        I can barely stay up for weeknight football in Central time, where it ends at 11 at the latest. And I’m kind of a night owl – my fiance would be asleep by half time.

  46. Elizabeth*

    I have seen other commenters bring it up but I had the same experience as OP4 (though not only for orientations) and it was diagnosed as a vasovagal response. Standing still for extended periods of time is a common trigger. My doctor recommended having a bag of pretzels and a Gatorade with me for any time where that would be necessary. In general I have found that it is much more common when I haven’t eaten (hence the salt recommendation) and I often eat less when I am nervous or starting something new.

    So, eat a big breakfast, pack a snack, and let them know that you can have difficulty standing for long periods of time.

  47. SD*

    #5 Don’t ask your gf to move to NYC if she doesn’t want to go. I am the trailing girlfriend who moved to a new city for my boyfriend’s job. I wanted to move and it’s still been incredibly hard. I get frustrated by job hunting in a city where I have no professional network and I miss my friends terribly. I don’t regret moving but it’s a recipe for your girlfriend to hate you if you pressure her to move when she doesn’t want to.
    And honestly think about your expectations for living in NYC. I moved to Chicago from New York. If you haven’t done the math leaving Chicago will be brutal. Everything is more expensive in New York. EVERYTHING. And don’t get me wrong New York is great, but it’s a real place with real flaws not some magical fairyland where everything is perfect and everyone’s dreams come true.

  48. Lebanese Blonde*

    OP3: Re: fainting

    This happens to me too! Not in orientation, but pretty much anytime I’m standing in one place for a long time (watching a soccer game at a bar, waiting for a reservation, etc.). I am also a young and very fit woman, so it always comes as a bit of a surprise to those around me.

    I have talked to my doctor about it, and she said it’s common in young women with very low blood pressure. Basically, when you stand for a long time, the blood flow slows way down, and can get low enough that your heart doesn’t have a fast enough flow to keep you conscious. I would hypothesize that this is exacerbated when you’re concentrating because your attention is on something mental and the rest of your body kind of checks out. The way to combat this is to move in place as much as you can, and to clench your legs and abs really tightly if you feel remotely faint.

    Basically, look up vasovagal syncope! It’s not a huge deal, and apparently goes away as you get older (and blood pressure goes up for everyone). Tightening the muscles in your lower body can actually successfully prevent fainting, although I agree with Alison that forewarning your employer is a good move.

    1. EllaEldorne*

      Vasovagal syncope was my first thought too! I have the same thing (female, age 27). That and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (or POTS). If you feel a flare coming on, there are a couple of things you can do: “bear down” like you’re using the toilet or cough once quickly. Both of those should help control your blood and heart. Beforehand, you can also eat salty snacks and drink plenty of water or Gatorade – the salt helps you retain water.

      Basically this is a totally manageable thing and not super scary once you know what it is. Good luck!!

  49. regina phalange*

    #5 – I was in a situation where I was interviewing for a job that had offices in both NYC & Chicago. At the time I was living in Chicago, and made it clear that is where I wanted to stay. Everyone was fine with that until the final stages of the interview process, where they decided the job HAD to be based in NYC. So I withdrew myself from the process because there was no way in hell I would ever live in NYC. And I completely get that some people love it, it just isn’t for me – so the point here is that make sure they don’t agree & then change their minds at the last minute, because it happened to me. Good luck!

  50. Lara*

    OP4- it might be a good idea to just tell people you tend to get a little lightheaded due to first day jitters. While that might not be exactly what’s going on I think it’s probably close enough and reasonable enough that people would let you sit down.

  51. OP #5*

    Wow, wow! What a lot of comments and great advice! I feel inundated with great advice. I would try to respond individually to comments, but there are so many, so I’m just going to comment here.

    1 – Yes, I need to get on the same page with my girlfriend before going much further with this.

    2 – You’re right, it’s not really fair to the company to ask if I could spend the first four months of the job at a different office (Chicago). If I do get the job, maybe I could push the start date to February.

    I’ve still got some thinking/exploring to do on my end, but I really appreciate this advice…it’s given me a lot of clarity. Thank you all!!

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