coworker won’t say please and thank you, telling someone’s boss they were speeding, and more

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

1. Brusque coworker won’t say please and thank you

I’ve been at my position for about three years now. While my title is similar to department assistant, my actual responsibilities are less administrative and more systems related. I’ve been transitioning to higher level responsibilities, and my boss and I will be having a talk soon about a title change.

My coworker has been at her job for about 1.5 years. While she is technically “above” me, we report to different managers and she doesn’t supervise me. We do need to interact somewhat daily on various things (feedback on issues that might pop up, new orders to put in, etc.). My issue is that she never says “please” or “thank you.” She can be abrasive and abrupt, constantly interrupting not just me but other coworkers with stream of consciousness-type thoughts about work issues. While she does do it with other people, it doesn’t seem as though she’s as abrasive and short as when she does it with me. Possibly because they’re on the same level? It feels like I’m a check box and she’s just checking off something on her to do list.

Most of my coworkers in my department (95%) are really, really good about saying “please” and “thank you” when giving me information about processing information into our system. While they are technically giving me assignments, it doesn’t feel that way and feels like we’re teammates.

I don’t want to chase her down and ask, “Why don’t you say please and thank you?” because it’s more of a feeling of being lesser than just saying two phrases. I’m also not wanting her to make small talk just for the sake of small talk! In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a big deal, but I feel the need to say something to her. Do you have some scripts on what to say after something like this happens again?

I’d actually just try to let it go. You don’t really have standing to ask her to be less brusque (that’s more something her manager could ask her to do), and — rightly or wrongly — I think you’re going to come across as overly high maintenance if you ask for please and thank you. Yes, she should be saying them, but she’s not. I think you’ll get faster and better results by trying not to let it bother you than by getting into this with her.

If her behavior were more severe — if she was being hostile or abusive — that would be worth tackling. But this is just someone who tends to be short when she talks with you. I’d just write it off as her way, internally roll your eyes if you want, and not expend your own capital on it.

2. Is it reasonable to tell someone’s boss that they were speeding?

I am writing about something that happened a few years ago, but I always have wondered how i should have handled it. I was working for state government, and driving my personal car during work hours from one state facility to another, on a day that I was a part of a group being given tours of the facilities. When I arrived, one of the others on the tour (not from my office, from another branch of government) told me that he saw me going really fast on the expressway, and asked if I was driving a state car. I told him I was not. Then he told me that he was going to call the director of my agency and tell him that he saw me speeding. I just gave him a look. But how should I have responded? And he never called my director. But would that have been appropriate? Years later, I still feel like the whole exchange was ridiculous, but maybe he was in the right?

He was out of line. If you were driving recklessly (like going at a really high rate of speed, not just 10 miles over the speed limit), I do think he has standing — as a fellow member of the public who uses the roads — to say something like, “Hey, you passed me on the way here and I was concerned about how unsafely you seemed to be driving. Is everything okay?” But the way he handled it was obnoxious.

Also: Threatening to call the director of your agency? As in, a person who probably manages a huge organization that probably has hundreds, thousands, or (depending on the branch of government) tens of thousands of employees or more? He needs to formulate his threats better if he wants them to be convincing.

3. New accountant says I’m not eligible for a bonus

I have been employed at my current workplace for almost 4.5 years now. For the first four years, I was a part-time student. started in the back as a warehouse general laborer and received several promotions. Fast forward to now, I have graduated university and got put on salary for the past six months as the senior purchaser and inventory analyst.

I have always felt my commitment and work ethic here has been much appreciated, as shown by promotions and responsibility increases. Every year since I began here, I received a very generous bonus, which was given around Christmas. This year, the program switched to a set value based on full-time salary years worked. I was always one of the only part-time employees in the company, but they kept me on due to my work ethic and commitment (as voiced to me by the president). The old head accountant had always known my situation and had my bonus handled accordingly. This year we got a new accountant and a new bonus program.

I was asking the new head accountant about health benefit payments and deductions, and the new retention program got mentioned. He voiced that since I have only been employed full-time for six months, I will receive nothing. This upsets me because I have been with the company 4.5 years and shown my commitment, and will receive nothing, whereas the new guy who has been here for one year plus a month will be receiving an “employee retention” payment of $1,200 (the new system sets rates that can be viewed by all employees). I have a very good relation with both the owner and the president of the company and would like to bring it up to them, but am unsure how.

Say this: “Fergus mentioned to me that I won’t receive a bonus this year since I’ve only been full-time for six months. I wanted to check with you if that’s correct, since I’ve received them for the last four years and was hoping to be eligible again this year.”

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Negotiating a higher wage when traveling as a nanny

I’m relatively new to a position working with a lovely family. I’m primarily the nanny to their two small children but also handle some administrative tasks. This family travels a great deal for business, sometimes relocating to another city or even country for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months at a time. As it’s been explained to me, these trips are fairly sporadic and come up without much notice. I’m not contracted, and as we discussed in the interview process, I’m not required to accompany the family if travel comes up; it’s something we’ll discuss if the time comes. For background, they didn’t travel at all last year, but made a few multi-week trips the year prior and hired locals to fill my current role, but they really like me so far (I’m fantastic at this job, I must say) and have expressed interest in me traveling with them.

Here’s my question: I’m paid hourly. I make a fairly decent wage, although other families in this wealthy neighborhood of our major city pay as much or more than I currently make, and I regret having low-balled myself when they first asked for my hourly rate. That’s on me, and it’s not really the issue.

I don’t look forward to traveling with the family, although I really like them and the job, but for financial reasons, I think I would have to take this work if they offered it. Assuming they would pay for travel and lodging (in the past they have rented houses, and I would be given a private room), can I ask for a higher hourly wage during travel? Despite having travel costs covered, this would be a major inconvenience and not enjoyable for me, as I really value my privacy and don’t relish the idea of uprooting my life for any period longer than a week or two. (I’m also not allowed to sublet my apartment while gone, by the way.) How much of a wage increase would be appropriate to ask for, if any? And how do I phrase this? I want to be ready with a response if this issue comes up, as I’m typically a people pleaser and I’m afraid I’ll agree to any arrangement they offer if put on the spot.

I think it’s totally reasonable to ask for a higher travel wage, given the disruption to your life during the time you’d be away. I don’t know what would be reasonable to ask for since I don’t know your field, but I bet you could get good data from other nannies or from nanny agencies. (Frankly, you could even ask them what they’ve paid in the past — “Did you pay a different travel wage with nannies in the past?”) You also probably should ask for more compensation for going away for a few months than for a week, since one is far more disruptive than the other.

Once you know what would make it worth it to you, I’d say it this way: “To make it financially feasible for me to be away that long, I think I’d need a travel wage of $X for the trip. Would that work on your end?”

5. Employer wants receptionist to suddenly start watering plants

For the past 10 years, our firm has had building maintenance or janitorial service people care for the watering of eight large planters, which are in the reception area of our company. Due to internal management issues, this service is no longer being carried out, and the responsibility is being placed on the receptionist to both care for and water all these large plants. This requires lugging water from a distance at least 5-7 trips, when answering the telephone, receiving visitors, and other administrational duties are a priority.

Is the receptionist legally obligated to perform this large task when it was never stipulated upon employment that this was part of the job?

Well, there’s no law in play here. Her employer has the legal right to assign her new responsibilities, even if it’s outside of her job description. She in turn has the right to push back and advocate for a different plan, or to decide that she no longer wants the job under these new conditions. No law prohibits either part of this exchange.  In other words, the employer can require what it’s requiring, the receptionist can say “hmmm, can we work out a different plan because of ___?” and from there it’s up to them to see what, if anything, they can work out.

It sounds like you’re thinking there that might be some law that says your employer can’t assign you work outside of the job you were hired for, but there isn’t such a law. It’s pretty common for jobs and responsibilities to evolve — but a good employer will be receptive to at least talking over concerns about that (and certainly “this is keeping me from answering calls” is a legitimate thing to raise).

{ 293 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    For #4, it would strike me that an alternative to a higher wage would be more credit for hours worked. I’m assuming your responsibilities while traveling would be different to some degree than at home, so you could probably make the case based on that. To me, that would make more sense than trying to argue you are worth more on the road than you are at home.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not that she’s worth more on the road than at home, exactly; it’s that being on the road for weeks/months at a time is a greater inconvenience, and thus it’s reasonable to say “to do that work, I’d need a wage of $__.”

      1. Chinook*

        “it’s that being on the road for weeks/months at a time is a greater inconvenience, and thus it’s reasonable to say “to do that work, I’d need a wage of $__.””

        We do this for guys in the field who have to stay in the field, away from home, for any given time rather than commute from home. It is not the same thing as the cost of their meals, but the fact that they have to cancel their usual evening (and sometimes weekend) plans as a result of their working conditions. When our contractors invoice us for this time of work, it is called something like “Living Away Allowance” and is paid on top of their regular daily wages and over time (which is for actual time worked), meal expenses (which can sometimes be covered by catering an event or meeting) or hotel expenses (which would not be paid out if they were living at a work camp). The advantage to the business, when done this way, is to show that there is a financial advantage to hiring locally.

        1. Pixel*

          “Living Out Allowance” is how the contractors I work with call it. I never thought about the advantage/disadvantage of hiring locally, just that there are contractors with specific, specialized skills who live in or around Big City but their actual work can only be done in the field (can’t take seismic measurements from my desk). Most remote sites are not attractive to people to relocate to, and anyway their work can take them in several different directions within a few months so there is no real need to relocate from Big City.

    2. Freezing Librarian*

      I have two friends who did some nannying and had to negotiate this. For both of them, the biggest issue they had when traveling with the family was agreeing on how many hours they would be on call for, and whether they would get overtime pay or a flat bump (e.g. an extra $40 each day) after a certain length of time. Invariably the families’ version of “travel with us” was “you can hang out on the beach with us all day, as long as you’re the one watching the kid, and by the way you’ll be babysitting every evening too when we go out to dinner.” Being on a beach or Europe or wherever wasn’t really adequate compensation for not having any time to yourself.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        Yup, my friend nannies and she always says that going on a vacation as a nanny means going to 24/7 duties.

        With her family she gets a pretty significant travel rate, and usually a day or two off when she gets back.

      2. INFJ*

        “Being on a beach or Europe or wherever wasn’t really adequate compensation for not having any time to yourself.”

        I was thinking the same thing. Even though it may essentially be OP working 24/7, I’m concerned that the parents might not see it that way. They might see it as them providing this travel opportunity for OP, especially if they’re paying for food and lodging, and therefore will interpret the request for more money as ingratitude. I hope that this isn’t the case and they’re reasonable people.

    3. Dot Warner*

      If they’re going to a foreign country, her hourly rate in dollars may work out to something significantly less, depending on the exchange rate when they go.

      1. Colette*

        If they’re paying her expenses, I don’t think they’re obligated to compensate her for the exchange rate. It’s not her choice to be there, but the activities she chooses to do are within her control (again, assuming they’re paying for food &a shelter).

        1. Merry and Bright*

          Very good point! If housing and most of your food are paid for, that’s a huge chunk of money from a regular wage packet.

            1. hermit crab*

              The OP is almost definitely still paying her rent at home — she says she can’t sublet her place while she’s gone.

              1. Chinook*

                “The OP is almost definitely still paying her rent at home — she says she can’t sublet her place while she’s gone.”

                This needs to be repeated. Even those who live in a work camp with 7 days on, 3 days off (or something similar) still need to support a permanent residence otherwise they end up couch surfing, living out of hotels or homeless when they aren’t working. It is doable when you are young and single, but eventually you need to be able to do more than live out of a suitcase.

            2. hermit crab*

              That said, I don’t think that has a bearing on the exchange rate part of the conversation. The OP is primarily going to be spending her extra pay at home, anyway!

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Would you say that they could also pay her much less than her normal wage if the destination had a very weak currency?

        I think if her food and lodging are covered, the expense of incidentals is on her, but shouldn’t be hugely impactful, in that they should be more manageable than meal expenses or lodging.

  2. Mando Diao*

    #1: I make a point to be gracious and polite in public (I have to do it deliberately because it doesn’t come easily to me naturally) and I have to say that I don’t say “please” at work. I say “thank you” all the time, and I make polite requests frequently (“Could you send me the spreadsheets when you get a minute?”) but never “please.” These are the resources or information I need to do my job, and while I ask politely, the other person doesn’t have the option of saying no. You’re within your rights to dislike anyone you want, but I’d be careful not to focus too much on the specifics of word choice when you’re really taking issue with her manner.

    Another thought: Lots of women avoid softening perfectly reasonable statements because they resent the social standard that forces us to be amenable and pleasant in ways that men aren’t pressured to be in return. If your coworker were easier to get along with but didn’t say the word “please” when asking for things that are necessary to do her job, would you still be bothered?

    1. Al Lo*

      I also say/email “Thanks” a lot. It’s my standard acknowledgement — “Thanks!” or “Thanks; got it!” I think I use “please” more in writing than in speech, although I think and hope that my tone conveys it in speech. “Could you please do up an invoice for this contract?” in writing; vs the same message, but maybe not the same words, in a light, friendly tone in speech. I do the same thing in restaurants. I’m very polite to servers, but I don’t always explicitly say please with my order.

      I don’t see “please” as a position of weakness in the same way that “sorry” can sometimes be, but I also don’t think that it’s the be-all and end-all of politeness. Tone, attitude, and the actual content of a request (or demand, as the case may be) go further, I think.

      1. hermit crab*

        I just realized that almost nobody at my office writes “please” in emails. Like you, we thank each other all over the place, and we also say “please” in person. But “please” in writing actually seems to be reserved for really formal/important stuff or it comes off as weirdly passive-aggressive somehow. We’re much more likely to phrase requests along the lines of “When you have a chance, would you do X? Thanks!”

        Like most things, I guess it’s a case of “know your organization”!

      2. Anon Accountant*

        We don’t usually say please either. But we do thank each other. “Thanks for getting that to me so fast” or “thanks for getting that while I was out”. I think the attitude and tone of a request can make something seem more polite or brusque than saying “please or thanks”.

    2. LisaLee*

      I agree. I remember vividly when at my first job I said to a coworker, “Hey, could you–” and he interrupted me to go, “You should be more polite! Haven’t you heard of ‘please’?”

      First off, I was going to end my sentence with “please” if he’d just waited for me to get out six more words. Secondly, it’s super annoying to have your language policed and I definitely had a lot of negative feelings about that coworker later (which turned out to be justified in other ways, ugh).

      If she’s brusque and rude, that’s a totally separate issue from framing her statements the way you would ideally like her to. There’s no way to tell someone else how to speak without coming off as a jerk.

      1. Jeanne*

        Your last sentence is right. I once had a coworker yell at me because I didn’t say God Bless You when she sneezed. I didn’t say it to anyone. She was very upset. I wasn’t sure how to talk to her at all after that.

    3. MillersSpring*

      I might ask the coworker, “I’m not sure by your tone…am I maybe doing something that bothers you?”

    4. Lily in NYC*

      It doesn’t matter if they have the option to say no. It’s common courtesy, and believe me, what you are doing makes people feel the way #1 does. It doesn’t cost you a damn thing to ask nicely.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I actually think it’s possible to make a polite request without the actual word “please,” but it’s all about tone.

        1. Kai*

          Definitely! When I’m at a restaurant I’ll usually order like “I’d like the lasagna,” or “Could I have the Caesar salad?” and I might include “please” about half the time. As long as I say it pleasantly and politely, it doesn’t really matter.

        2. Ad Astra*

          Exactly. If you’re not someone who’s great at picking the right tone (it certainly doesn’t come naturally to me), “please” is a good safety net. I can’t deal with people who are barking orders at me, even if the tasks they want me to do are 100% within the scope of my job. I’m not a servant; I’m someone you recruited to help you because I have valuable skills — and I can leave if I’m not happy. But it’s not about “please” specifically, it’s about acting like you care about other people’s feelings.

        3. Allison*

          Right! You can say, in a nice tone, “could you do this?” or you could say “can you PLEASE get this done already?” in a really impatient, nasty tone. “Thanks!” can sound genuine, or it could sound really sarcastic and hostile. Words like “please” and “thank you” help convey politeness but it’s not what you say that matters, it’s how you say it.

      2. BuildMeUp*

        See, to me “Could you send me the file when you get a minute?” *is* asking nicely, and it absolutely would not make me feel the way that #1 would.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I stand corrected, thanks everyone. I confess that I was reacting more to the original commenter’s posting style in general instead of what s/he actually wrote.

    5. Vera*

      I’m the same way. I have a huge workload and handle everything with a personal sense of urgency- but it’s just my style of work. I have to remember to politely ask team members for information (as opposed to “send this to me now!”) as others don’t work the same way. But still, I rarely use the word “please”.

      I wonder if this comes down to a conflict of personalities. Everyone has coworkers they prefer to work with, usually because they have similar work styles. I think what makes it harder for the OP is that it sounds like the entire team has similar work styles. But not everyone is the same and that can be difficult to deal with initially, but typically you find what works best for specific individuals.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I think more than the actual use of please and thank you, what is bothering the Op is that she’s seemingly talking down to him or her, while she’s not that way with other team members.

      2. Faith*

        I use thanks, but not please verbally. I was advised decades ago to soften my approach by a colleague. He suggested Please and Thanks in emails, which I rarely did previously. I now use them in emails the way some people use salt at dinner.

    6. Stitch*

      I dislike the word please. I can’t really place my finger on why – I suppose it always feels a little patronizing and forced. Like something kids are supposed to say to get adults to do something (the magic word!) but that adults rarely say to each other because, well, we don’t need a magic word to get each other to do things. We can be polite and considerate in more meaningful ways. But, as always with things like this, that may just be how we do it in my communities, and your social standards may be different.

      That said, I use thank you a lot.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Probably because it feels out of place when you’re not asking for a favor, but for something expected by both sides. I usually say “Could you [X]? Thanks!” (work) or “I’d like [X], thanks!” (restaurant/retail). I think asking and saying please feels like it should be reserved for things that go at least a little above and beyond the person’s expected, normal duties. I’ll thank them for their efforts, but to phrase it as a polite request feels a little insulting, because performing routine job tasks are not a favor they’re free to grant or deny without consequences, which “please” kind of implies to me.

        1. Charityb*

          Couldn’t you make the same argument that you don’t have to thank people for doing what they’re supposed to do anyway? Or that the “could you do X” for someone’s normal job is also disingenuous/forced because you know that they can do X since X is their job… I definitely don’t have a problem with your approach though.

          Things like “please” and “thank you” are just courtesies that signify respect/appreciation but they aren’t the *only* way to do that and someone can still be polite/respectful while using other words.

          1. Sunflower*

            In my org at least, people say thanks because it’s way to close the conversation. To me ‘thanks’ has become so the standard email sign off that I get ‘thanked’ at the end of emails even if I haven’t been asked to do anything.

        2. Sunflower*

          I agree with this. Using ‘please’ feels kind of weird to me in the workplace. I only use it when I’m truly asking someone for a favor or when I’m totally frustrated that I’ve asked for something 100 times and still haven’t gotten it

        3. LCL*

          Cranky IT guy, who has since retired, lectured me one day about how “please” shouldn’t be used in a work setting, if you are asking people to do their job. His reasoning was the same as Cosmic Avengers, though not put as elegantly.

        4. TootsNYC*

          Actually, I find that in my home, I use “please” to soften an order, esp. when talking to my kids. When I am genuinely asking them for help that they could say no to, I don’t use it. I say, “Are you in a spot where you can help me carry the laundry?” or “Could I get your help, or are you deep in homework?” or “Are you free to help me?”

          So to me, “please” almost always feels like it is attached to an order. and I don’t issue orders to my colleagues are work. I do issue orders to my subordinates, and so I will say “please” to them: “Would you handle this file, please?”

          Interesting to think about!

          1. November*

            That’s very interesting, Toots! I would never have put my finger on why it feels weird to say “please” to a colleague, but now that I’ve read your take on it, I see it — “please” does feel like a delegating word to me.

      2. Ife*

        Yes, I feel exactly the same about “please”! It’s a ridiculous filler word, and throwing it into a sentence does not make that sentence polite. I always think about going through the lunch line in grade school, where they insisted on the word please. That resulted in a lot of, “Gimme the potatoes…. PLEASE” rather than “Can I have the potatoes (please)?”

        Now, “Thank you,” I am all about “thank you.” It just feels more like an exchange between equals, whereas “please” feels like something that’s used when there’s a power imbalance.

    7. Koko*

      You know, I didn’t realize it til reading your comment, but I rarely say please either. Maybe because it ends up being a sentence rather than a question which makes it seem more like a command and less optional.

      “Please file these documents,” is something I would expect to hear from a manager, or a peer instructing me to do something routine that’s very much a part of my job, so there’s no question that I’m going to file the documents.

      “Could you file these documents for me?” is what I would expect to hear from a peer asking me to fit something into my workload to benefit them.

  3. Sandy*

    We live abroad, employ a nanny, and she travels with us sometimes, so maybe I can help a bit with #4 from the employer side.

    Where we live, babysitter and nanny salaries seem to be completely all over the map (between 3 USD to 12 USD an hour, with cleaners getting paid 15 USD). Since this is the first time we’ve employed someone as a close-to-full-time babysitter or nanny, it means that, as a family, we are kind of swimming around in the dark when it comes to pay. So if you’ve been placed with the family by an agency, talk to the agency about what practices they usually employ for this type of thing.

    If it’s an individual set-up with the family, then you will really need to take your cues from the family. In our case, when we’ve asked our nanny *if she would like to travel with us*, then we’ve asked her how much she would charge for that. Other families wouldn’t necessarily employ that approach (and might not take asking for a higher wage directly quite as well), so take your cues from what you know of your employer.

    Here’s how we have ended up doing it when we travel:

    -first, we decide amongst ourselves if we want her to come/can afford for her to come. This isn’t at all a guarantee, since her salary is far and away our biggest budget item even before travel costs.

    -second, we run it by her. Does she actually want to come with us or not? If not, then we can make our plans accordingly. Personally, I’d rather she just say “I’m not a big fan of travelling” if she was in a situation like yours.

    -if she does want to come with us, we pay for her plane ticket and any miscellaneous travel costs (visas, etc.) and for her accommodation (usually a room in a rental apartment). For meals all together, we pay, for meals on her own, she pays. Otherwise, the hourly rate is the same.

    -if she doesn’t want to come with us, she’s our first choice for house-sitting and pet-sitting. That way, she’s not losing her wage entirely while we’re away.

    1. KR*

      I like the petsitting and house sitting idea. That way, she still gets some income and it could work out as a paid vacation of sorts for her with more free time (except of course that she has to be there for the pets).

    2. Murphy*

      I find it interesting that you don’t pay your nanny while you travel. How is she supposed to make ends meet that month?

      We don’t have a nanny (if we had two kids we would, but with just one it doesn’t make financial sense), but our kid is in a day home. If we go on vacation we still pay our day home provider her normal monthly rate (as we’ll do when we go to the US for a week in March). There’s no fee reduction because we’re not there. Ditto for the two weeks in the summer that she takes off on vacation – we still pay the full month rate, it’s her paid vacation (which here is legally required). I can’t imagine I’d treat a nanny any differently (we’re looking at a live-in nanny so she’d be there to feed the dog and whatnot when we travelled, but she’d still get her full paycheque).

      1. Winter is Coming*

        They are paying her while they travel. She states, “Otherwise, the hourly rate is the same.” They are paying her plane ticket, travel costs, and accommodations IN ADDITION to her normal hourly rate. At least that’s how I’m interpreting it.

        1. Murphy*

          Sorry, I mean when they travel and the nanny doesn’t come with them.

          “-if she doesn’t want to come with us, she’s our first choice for house-sitting and pet-sitting. That way, she’s not losing her wage entirely while we’re away.”

          I get it if she doesn’t want to come, but if they don’t want to bring her (“first, we decide amongst ourselves if we want her to come/can afford for her to come. This isn’t at all a guarantee…), I can’t imagine not paying my nanny. How is it her problem that the family wants to travel and not bring the nanny. Why should she have to struggle to make ends meet because the family is on vacation?

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            Well, there are industries out there where work is more seasonal in nature and employees might have periods where they are sent home and not paid at all. This seems the same to me–it doesn’t seem to be the family’s responsibility to see that she can pay her bills when they don’t need her services.

      2. TCO*

        I agree. It’s not uncommon for nannies to take unpaid time off when their family is traveling, but if the trips are frequent and/or long, it probably makes it harder for families to retain great nannies.

        1. Murphy*

          But what about when you travel and she doesn’t come? She’s just out the salary? She has to figure out how she’s going to pay her bills? That doesn’t seem fair.

          1. SL #2*

            Sandy said that they ask the nanny if she can house-sit while they’re away so that she’s not losing her income for however long they’re gone.

        2. Willis*

          Right, but I think Murphy is commenting on your last point. You don’t pay her if she chooses to stay home (or pay a reduced petsitting rate), versus some daycare providers where you pay a monthly rate that remains constant regardless of travel.

    3. Mardi Gras Mambo*

      We have a live-out nanny who cares for our two children Monday-Friday when my husband and I are both working outside of the home. When we set up her employment, we agreed to pay her the same rate every week regardless of her actual work hours (like if we were out of town or had a day off, she would still get paid. She doesn’t travel with us– we’re not that wealthy!) The trade off was that she would baby sit for us for free on requested weekends and occasional late nights during the work week. She’s been with us for five months and I think it has worked out pretty evenly. For example, my husband and I were both home for 11 days during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays. She was paid her full wage even though she didn’t see the kids for those 11 days, but she has come over for Friday or Saturday nights out or the occasional late work night for both of us.

  4. Glasskey*

    #1-From what you describe, she struck me more as the kind of person who gets deeply absorbed in her own thoughts at the expense of others around her. This is not the same as unkind though I know it can be no less aggravating. You may not agree with that but here’s another way to look at the situation: 95% of the people you work with are really polite! That’s pretty great. Either way, best to take the high road here and not to assume too much or over-personalize the situation. And especially don’t star thinking that your pleases and thank you’s are wasted on her when she doesn’t reciprocate ’cause good manners don’t work that way. You get to set the bar here.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I didn’t read it that way at all, mainly because she is more polite to her other coworkers. Sounds personal to me. As an EA, I see this kind of thing often and I don’t think people who aren’t admins really notice it. There’s a percentage of coworkers who always see admins as “lesser” and feel free to treat them as such – and some of the biggest culprits are higher level admins.
      I actually had a VP say to me last month: “I don’t make time for assistants, have your boss call me” (I was there on behalf of my boss because the VP lost a gazillion dollar invoice for one of my clients). My boss is much higher level and ripped her a new one.

      1. Glasskey*

        That is often the case, I agree, but that it isn’t limited to admins. Managers get it, too, But that’s the subject of another post.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Thank god she’s in a different dept. but I hate her so much. I had a conference room booked for a 5:30 meeting and she was in there when we arrived. She came out and said they weren’t near to being done and I said “but we have the room booked now” (we don’t have enough rooms here) and she actually gave me a smug smile and said “good for you” and then turned around and shut the door in my face. I don’t think my jaw has ever fallen so far off my face. And people love her! Grrrr. I like to plan petty revenge fantasies in my head (not that I would ever do anything).

            1. Lily in NYC*

              The only thing I can think of is that she’s embarrassed because I keep having to go to her to find lost invoices that are buried on her desk. And she’s the boss of a budget dept! So unorganized.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Everyone loves this jerk VP, and my boss did too. She didn’t believe me when I told her she was mean to me until that incident.

      2. INFJ*

        “She can be abrasive and abrupt, constantly interrupting not just me but other coworkers”

        “While she does do it with other people, it doesn’t seem as though she’s as abrasive and short as when she does it with me”

        In one breath OP says this coworker is like this with everybody, and in the next breath says that it’s different with her. Which is it? I got the sense that OP is insecure about her position and is extra sensitive to rudeness. Kind of like having a bad skin day and suddenly wonder if everyone is staring at your break outs when they look at your face. I mean, look how much time OP spends in the letter talking about the power dynamics and how her position is changing and refers to the coworker as “‘above me.'”

        1. BuildMeUp*

          I didn’t get that from the letter, to be honest, and those two points don’t seem contradictory to me. She’s saying the coworker is abrupt with everyone, but seems to be more so with her. I’m not sure second-guessing the OP’s perceptions of her own workplace is helpful here.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      This was my read too.

      I had a team member complain that I had been a “bit rude” the other day. I probably was brusque, but I was on a tight deadline that my entire team knew about, and was focused with headphones in a music blaring. My coworker interrupted my work to ask me something that was (1) not time sensitive, (2) something she could have easily found the answer out herself.

      My answer was probably short, but the behavior was completely situational and not directed at the person.

  5. Little Teapot*

    #4- OP if you’re on facebook, look up ‘nanny care tribe’. This exact question has been asked a million times over. The Tribe is made up of over a thousand nannies as well as agency owners and families who are well-versed to give nanny-specific advice.

    Secondly, you need a contract. If you don’t go away with them do you still get paid? I see Sandy above said her nanny is ‘first call to water plants and feed pets’. That’s great but that takes what, an hour?

    I find it highly unfair that families go away, frequently, and often at the drop of a hat and no pay for nannies. If you get work off for a holiday do you get paid? Yes. Nanny still has bills whether you’re in the Bahamas or not.

    Also as an aside, $3-$12USD is a joke. Nannies where I live get $20-$40 (depending on experience, qualifications etc). American wages never fail to amaze me!!

    1. Mando Diao*

      If you get work off for a holiday do you get paid? Yes.


      Uhhh….no. It’s not so common for hourly workers in the States to be paid when the business closes for a holiday.

      This issue of nanny wages is the other side of laments over the prohibitive costs of childcare. I think there’s an issue of nuance/regionalism here. A family that’s paying a nanny $10-ish per hour probably isn’t traveling all that often. A nanny is often the more affordable alternative to an accredited daycare.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        $12 is above minimum wage in the UK (currently about $9) and the range also included babysitters which is a different job to a nanny.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        For a two week holiday once a year, I can see it being an unpaid vacation. But if a business is in the habit of irregular, weeks to months long unpaid shutdowns, they either need to recruit people who are okay with intermittent work, pay enough the rest of the time to cover the gaps and make waiting worthwhile, or accept that their employees are likely to find other employment.

        1. MK*

          Well, apparently the OP knew beforehand that the family might travel often and for long periods of time; also, that she might stay behind without pay. She took the job, so her employers might reasonably think that “recruiting people who are okay with intermittent work” is exactly what they did.

      3. Anxa*

        Yeah. I’m almost 30 years old and the only time I was paid for not working was when my duties were adjusted for a stipend-based position during a bought of mono.

        Federal holidays are the worst because there’s absolutely no reason I need something like MLK day or presidents day off.

      4. TCO*

        Here it’s the opposite–good nannies are far more expensive than accredited daycare (unless you have several children).

    2. Sandy*

      Actually, the pet care is more involved in our case. I would say it’s about 1/2 the daily wage she would get if we were there or she were travelling with us. Still not the same, but not as bad as only an hour’s wage!

      1. KR*

        I’ll echo this. My step mom does pet care and it gets pricey if you go to the real pros (like her). When she makes her prices she factors in the fact that she has to be at your house at least twice a day, that she has to make her plans around being at your house, any travel involved, any extra play/walking/brushing and any cleaning she has to do for your pets as well as the days you’re asking for petsitting (Christmas is a busy and expensive day). When she’s there she’ll also check your house to make sure the heat/cooling is still on, nothing is leaking and turn on some lights if they aren’t already on a timer. It pays pretty well and is pretty involved, so it might not be as significant as a pay cut.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is so true. One of my biggest expenses when I go somewhere is pet care. Someone has to come twice a day and feed Psycho Kitty (no playtime needed, as she is scared of everybody but me), check the house, and if I’m gone for more than a week, water the plants. I can’t leave food out for her if I’m only gone for a day or two, because she is an outside cat. When I was in the UK for three weeks, the pet care alone cost me over $400!

          I had been asking a neighbor to do it, but he is elderly and not getting around so well anymore. I did not want to obligate him for that long or in that condition, so I found a professional sitter.

        2. JessaB*

          Yep and pick up mail and generally make the house look lived in for you. Good pet sitters are NOT cheap.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m actually wondering if nannies are usually exempt from overtime? I seem to remember reading something, somewhere. There’s a nanny in my neighborhood that I see walking to her employer from the bus stop every morning when I leave for work, there she is walking up the hill. Later, I come home from work, and there she is pushing the kids in their wagon, and later when I walk my dogs, there she is still outside with the kids. She works at least 12 hours a day!!

    4. Just The Secretary*

      >If you get work off for a holiday do you get paid? Yes. <<

      No, actually not everyone does. I work as an hourly employee for a non-profit organization. We have 15 days a year that the office is closed. All of the full time employees still receive their regular paychecks. But if I'm scheduled to work on a day that the office is closed, I don't get paid for that day, I lose out on the income. I also never get a break because I'm responsible for the phones and the front desk and there often is no one around to cover for me. They say it's because I get paid for my 1/2 lunch that I'm not entitled to it and I can just eat at my desk. It makes for a very long day.

    5. LD*

      The commenter is living abroad and is sharing the salaries she has noticed for local nannies and what they’d be if they were in U.S. dollars. She’s not talking about “American wages”.

  6. regular lurker*

    Allison, I hope you’ll reconsider the idea that going 10 mph over a speed limit is not reckless driving.

    It IS a very accepted driving behavior, in part because driving is so ubiquitous, and also for many other reasons. But speeding is highly correlated to serious injuries and death, and traffic deaths compete with gun deaths in the U.S. The difference between 20 mph and 30 mph can mean a huge decrease in the risk that a person hit by a car will survive the crash. On a freeway, 10 mph over, say, a 60 mph limit might not be the same proportional difference as 20 versus 30 mph is, but you will still greatly increase the risk of injury or death (your own or others’) should you be involved in a crash. Although it doesn’t get the same kind of attention as drunk driving, sober reckless driving, which includes speeding, is dangerous.

    I’m not a traffic engineer or expert, but I am active in my community in the Complete Streets movement, and anyone interested can find more information and confirm my assertions by searching for Complete Streets and Vision Zero.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I may have phrased that poorly. I agree there can be a safety issue with going 10 mph over the speed limit, but even the law doesn’t consider it reckless driving. (At least in my state, reckless driving is 20 miles over the speed limit, or 80+ mph regardless of the speed limit.)

      My point is that 10 mph isn’t so extreme as to warrant reporting his reaction.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Hmm, I wonder what the reckless driving threshold is in states where many highways have a speed limit of 75. I don’t feel like I’m being reckless when I’m driving 83 in a 75 in good conditions!

        1. Koko*

          In Virginia they recently raised the speed limit on many state highways from 65mph to 70mph, but they kept reckless at 80mph.

        2. mander*

          Yeah, I think it depends on conditions, traffic, etc. Driving a well-maintained car down a nearly deserted highway in dry, calm weather and moderate temperatures — 85 doesn’t seem particularly reckless. Driving in moderate traffic, on a hilly or windy road, in particularly hot or cold temperatures — sometimes 30 is too much, even on the interstate.

      2. Swiss Miss*

        Huh, this is interesting! I grew up in South Dakota where the interstate speed limit was 75, and I would say most people drove about 80. I think it was last year that they upped the speed limit to 80, and I have heard of a lot of people getting tickets if they were doing anything above 80. I always thought that was odd, but this might help explain it.

    2. Mando Diao*

      Ick, I agree with you. 10 mph is sufficient for the police to slam you with a $400 ticket. I drive on the NJ Parkway a lot, and there’s a huge difference between the legal 65 mph and 75 mph. 10 mph is considered significant enough for the whole notion of school zones (speed limit drops by 10 mph during school hours) to exist. It’s not something to be brushed aside.

      1. Artemesia*

        On most US highways the normal speed is about 10 mph above the posted speed. Sure there can be tickets especially towards the end of the month so troopers make their quotas, but it is pretty much the norm most places (which is why Americans so often get massive ticket fines in Europe where the speed limits are generally enforced.)

        The idea that a co-worker would ‘tell on you’ in this situation is absurd.

      2. blackcat*

        *Puts on science teacher hat*

        Let’s say your car takes about 100 yards to come to a stop when you’re driving 65mph (this is a slightly value, assuming you car can come to a stop in about 2 seconds. I first picked 50yards, but back of the hand calculations told me that’s too small, and I like round numbers.).

        Because stopping distance is proportional to your speed SQUARED and not the speed, the same car would take >130 yards to come to a stop if you drive 75mph.

        This is why tickets for going >2x the speed limit in some states is a felony. You quadruple your stopping distance, which is a dangerous thing to do!

        Relatively small differences in speed can translate to large differences in stopping distance.

        *Takes off science teacher hat*

        I still drive 70mph in 65 zones. But I will never admit that in front of teenage students.

        1. Jinx*

          I’ll push it to 70 on my four-lane 65mph zone as well. This is primarily because in my area, going slower makes me feel less safe – I don’t like people who roar up behind me at 80 and then swerve around at the last second, which is a pretty common occurrence if you go the speed limit. Then again, that happened to me today in a 45 zone. I think people who live in my state have a condition where they lose years of their life every time they slow down. >_<

          Honestly, speed by itself doesn't bug me as much as the people who weave through traffic and don't use turn signals. It's not the speed that's reckless as much as not being able to predict where people are going.

    3. Mike C.*

      Sober reckless driving? I have a hard time believing that we should put light speeding in the same categories as drunk driving or racing.

      For one thing, you can simply look to nations like Germany which have freeways with no speed limit yet have lower rates of death per mile driven than here in the US – so the issues are much more complicated than speed alone.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        The parts of the Autobahn system that have no speed limit are insanely fast, but the drivers are excellent. The only time I felt actually unsafe on a German road on our last trip was when we got stuck behind the only bad driver we saw the whole time, in heavy traffic coming into Berlin at rush hour. The main problem for us was that the speed limit (or lack thereof) changes so often along a single route that it’s way too easy to find yourself suddenly going way over the limit. (We rented a “compact VW or better”, and they gave us a BMW turbo diesel for the same price. I swear my husband messed up the train ticket purchase on purpose so that this could happen. He had way too much fun).

        Having said that, this was in November, when most of the cars on the road had German plates. I think my Dad’s still scarred from his experiences driving our right hand drive British car on the Autobahn in summer, surrounded by other Brits in right hand drive cars and assorted other nationals getting their first taste of freedom from speed limits… an entirely different experience!

      2. Tau*

        Believe me, there’s lobbies to get speed limits onto the Autobahn (and, AFAIK, political reasons why there aren’t any although I’m not sure how accurate what I’ve heard is). There’s also a lot of other variables to account for with Germany – very in-depth and detailed driving tests needed to get a license, good pulic transport giving people more alternatives to driving, very dense population compared to the US so things like average road density, proportion of miles the average person drives on the Autobahn vs off it, proportion of time stuck in a traffic jam on the Autobahn and the like will most likely be different, and so on. As you say, the issues are more complicated than speed, so I wouldn’t point to Germany to go “but speed’s not important!” :)

        (Also, no speed limit on certain stretches of the Autobahn =/= no speed limit in other places.)

        (and seriously, I fail to see why *anyone* needs to be going at >180 kph *anywhere* other than a racing track, can you tell I’d like some speed limits already?)

        1. De (Germany)*

          “Believe me, there’s lobbies to get speed limits onto the Autobahn”

          Yeah, I am one of those people who thinks we should have a general speed limit. It#s never going to happen because of the ADAC, though.

          As far as I know, it’s only about a third of the Autobahn that’s not speed-limited, by the way. The popular notion that we can drive as fast as we want anywhere on it is really, really wrong.

    4. Tara R.*

      That’s what, 16km/h? Yeah, that excessive. Traffic often goes about 10km/h over the speed limit around here, but 16 is almost enough to get hit with excessive speeding I think.

      1. Kathlynn*

        And, around here (BC Canada), on the busiest streets (generally parts of a highway), people regularly go 20+ over the speed limit… then again, last year I encountered someone who thought that the speed limit was 90-100 on the highway (within the city), not 50-90km/h…

          1. A Bug!*

            In BC, excessive speeding is 40kph over the posted limit, otherwise it’s just regular speeding. I think that strictly speaking a driver could be ticketed for driving 1km over, but in practice police don’t generally bother with someone going less than 10km over unless it’s a school or construction zone. 16km over (There’s also “driving too fast for conditions” but that tends to require an accident first if it’s not accompanied by speeding.)

            1. Tara R.*

              I actually looked it up just now, and I was surprised! It’s probably just where I’m from; it’s pretty rare to go more than 10k over.

      2. Al Lo*

        Here (Alberta), the first “level” for speed fines is at 15 km/h over the limit. It’d be pretty rare to be stopped for 10 km/h over on a highway (although certainly more likely on a residential street), but the 10 mph is close to the first threshold here, too, give or take. Might push over into the second fine threshold, but it’s right on the line.

        Regardless, a pretty standard rule of thumb here is that 10% over the speed limit is unlikely to be ticketed. Photo radar tickets are fined, but don’t go on your driving record, since there’s no way to prove who was actually driving at the time of the ticket.

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          Same in Ontario. In fact, it’s the norm on our roads to go about 10 km/h over the limit (yes, that’s km/h so I know mph is faster!). On the highway? Normal is more like 20 km/h over the limit, and the people only doing 10 over get in the slow lane.

        2. Murphy*

          Yeah, I was going to say that 10% or 10 km/h (whichever is less) seems to be the standard at which most cars drive. On Highway 2 it’s a speed limit of 110 km/h. I always go 120. The cars that are going 130-140 are the ones you’re going to see pulled over.

      3. dancer*

        Eh I disagree. I drive everyday for work and 20 km/h over the limit is normal for the left lane of highways. If you drive slower, people will go around you on the middle lane. The actual limit is rarely enforced.

        Either way, I think the safest thing to do is match the flow of traffic.

        1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

          Yep. I take the 401 to work and home every single day and 115 in a 100 zone is very normal. Doing the limit of 100 means you’re the slowest thing on the road and semis are passing you. Flow of traffic is definitely around 115 to 125. Cops won’t generally get involved until you’re doing 125 or over.

          1. StudentPilot*

            I was about to post that the 400-series in Ontario see speeds about there. 120 is about the limit for enforcement on the 416. But doing 20 over in a residential area will get you a ticket.

          2. dancer*

            Exactly! Actually I’d argue the people driving 100 on the middle and left lanes and ignoring traffic flow are actually driving more dangerously because people have to keep moving around them. I don’t care if you want to drive at the limit, but stick to the right lane for Pete’s sake!

            1. Koko*

              Yes! Even if you’re speeding, you should always be as far to the right as you can be without having to constantly change lanes to pass someone.

    5. MK*

      I honestly question anyone’s ability to tell withe naked eye that a car passing them on the street is going so little over the limit.

      1. Mike C.*

        My little brother demonstrated this by cruising in his neighborhood in first gear but below the limit. Like clockwork someone ran out to their yard and started screaming about how he was going “too fast”.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          This is so true. I used to live in a condo complex and a neighbor left a nasty note on my doorstep to stop speeding in the complex, and I was beyond livid because I never did. There was kids and people walking their dogs all the time, that I was watching out for, plus it would have been nearly impossible to go over 15 due to the curves leading up to my unit. The posted limit in the complex was 15 mph. So one day, I smugly cruised by a group of nosey busy bodies (whom I’m sure the note leaver was part of this group), rolled my window down all the way, and yelled “See, I’m only going 15!!”.

      2. KR*

        Totally agree here. I used to drive a shiny blue 02 Toyota Celica. The body shape of the car dictated that it looked fast even when I was going under the speed limit. Several times someone would get in my car and remark about how they always thought I drove very fast but realized when they got in my car that it was just the shape of my car. Furthermore, the exhaust was loud as all hell so it sounded like it was speeding at all times.

      3. LQ*

        Yeah, this isn’t something the human brain/eye combo is all that good at. You might be able to tell the difference between 5 and 15, but that is because those are speeds our brain knows as runnable/prey/predator speeds.

        I’m going to have Impala for dinner. (Not really that funny but I feel like there has to be a good car as prey joke in there somewhere!)

      4. Ani*

        OP, however, isn’t the one who provided the 10 miles over the limit figure. (The complaint was that OP was going really fast — Alison mentioned the number in her response, which seems awfully low if a person you don’t know is confronting you. That aside, I just feel like sometimes the threads get really long and involved about derails that literally have nothing to do with the question.)

          1. A Bug!*

            On some blogs moderators will comment with a link to a recent open thread and encourage the folks to take the discussion over there.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Oh, that’s a great idea! I might try that. It won’t solve it altogether because often this stuff is off and running before I see it, but I’ll give it a shot!

              1. A Bug!*

                I think if it were to be something you started promoting, eventually people would start moving things over there without your direction.
                “This is a really interesting discussion, but I don’t think it’s relevant to the post. I posted in the open thread here so we can continue: *link*”

      5. Bowserkitty*

        Agreed. The only way I can typically tell if someone is speeding (save from watching them speed past me) is when they’re one squirrel sighting away from eating my bumper.

      6. TootsNYC*

        speaking of “ability to tell with the naked eye,” I’m wondering how sure the colleague was that the car he saw was the OP. I can’t see who’s in a car unless it’s traveling at MY speed. I guess if he were a passenger looking out the window, he might have recognized her as she passed him.
        Or if there’s something distinctive about the car (bumper sticker, etc.), he might have recognized it. (the wording of the OP makes it sound like the guy was there when she got there.)

      7. mander*

        Even following someone in a car can be iffy. I once got a speeding ticket that I went to court to contest (long story), and on the day I was there the judge was throwing out a whole group of tickets in which the officer didn’t actually use any kind of radar, but simply followed them for a few blocks and then gave them a ticket.

    6. EmilyG*

      Thank you for posting this; I think it’s so important to promote a conversation about how the US’s overreliance on cars and acceptance of all their downsides is not the way it has to be!

    7. BuildMeUp*

      I think it really depends on where you live. Where I live, driving 10+ mph over the speed limit is the norm, and if you’re the one car still going the speed limit, you’re probably impeding traffic. That’s not to say that everyone shouldn’t obey the speed limit, but I think going outside the flow of traffic – in either direction – is more dangerous.

      1. wanderlust*

        This. In Texas going the speed limit (i.e. 10 mph slower than everyone else) is probably more dangerous than matching flow of traffic. And will definitely incur road rage. Not saying it’s right, but it is reality.

        1. SL #2*

          The most dangerous driving situation I’ve been in was when the car in front of me was going 30 mph on a 65 mph freeway and constantly braking as well. I couldn’t pass them either because they kept swerving out of the lane.

        2. Marcela*

          In California, my driving instructor actually told me that driving slower than the other cars in the highway was dangerous because of road rage, even if I was going to the speed limit (65). Made no sense, so I asked him if the police could stop me. He said they usually stop cars frequently changing lanes or going really over the limit, no the ones going with the flow.

      2. LizB*

        Yep, I was taught to pay attention to flow of traffic on highways, and make sure I wasn’t impeding traffic even if it meant going over the speed limit. If there aren’t many other people on the road and people can easily pass me, of course I’ll stick to the speed limit, but if it’s busy I match speed with the other cars in my lane (and increase my following distance depending on how fast I’m going).

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        That’s why I hate driving in Portland, OR during the non-rush hour. The speed limit is 55mph, and everyone is going 65+. I prefer to not go more than about 4-5 mph over, but I have to drive faster there so I’m not a roadblock. (Ok, I hate driving during rush hour too, but at least then I’m not speeding.)

      4. TootsNYC*

        On freeways, and even on highways, I drive with the traffic flow. If that’s over the speed limit, so be it.

        On city streets, I drive at my own reaction-speed comfort level. Which is usually 5 mph below. Sorry, folks. I’ll pull over if it looks like you’d like to go around.

    8. LadyTL*

      My mother in law actually got a ticket for going the speed limit in Newfoundland. The officer ticketed her for impeding traffic. She even went to court over it and the ticket wasn’t thrown out.

      So sometimes you want to go over the speed limit a bit.

    9. SystemsLady*

      Context is definitely important.

      A 25mph school zone with kids everywhere or a construction zone with active workers right by the cones? Yeah, slow the heck down.

      But on a usually quiet interstate? Sitting in the left lane regardless of speed, cruising eyes glued to a device, not going an even remotely consistent speed (particularly when this turns into unconcious racing behavior), passing on the right through others’ stopping distance gaps, refusing to adjust speed for new speed/construction zones or busy, windy, wet, icy, or slushy conditions, not paying attention to other lanes, not using a turn signal, not being patient enough to stay in the exit lane you need to be in, and tailgating – those are what become reckless in combination with speeding.

      With no pedestrians and usually high visibility, I do not feel that going X over on a clear, dry road alone is (for most reasonable values of X) anywhere near as unsafe as those behaviors so long as you increase your following distance accordingly.

      Increased consequences of those bad driving behaviors happen at higher speeds for both the guilty and innocent, absolutely, but I really wish law enforcement would crack down on these behaviors that are rampant on US highways (particularly the ones that are already explicitly illegal) rather than focusing exclusively on nabbing people who go say 12 over. I realize it’s difficult to enforce, but that makes it no less frustrating.

      And no, I would never go even close 12 over, for the record.

    10. Observer*

      Sober reckless driving is problem, but there is a wide difference between the types of “reckless” driving that people can do. And, in most cases, going about 10 miles over the limit is really on the lower end of the scale.

      Also, in many places, it’s safer to go above the limit than not because normal traffic goes above the limit and driving significantly slower than the surrounding traffic presents a real safety issue.

      The point is that while driving over the limit is not a good thing, it generally doesn’t mean that the driver is a reckless driver.

    11. OriginalEmma*

      +100. A pedestrian being hit by a car going 20mph has a 90% chance of survival. Being hit by a car going 30mph yields a 50% chance of survival. And finally, being hit by a car going 40mph means you only have a 10% chance of survival.

      In Minnesota, we’re having a debate over lowering speed limits on residential streets to 25mph, and it has been a bit vicious.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      You can get a ticket here for going over the limit–I’m not sure how much over, since most people here routinely drive about five miles over the limit, including the cops. I did get one long ago on the highway for going nine miles over. I had just come down a long hill and around a slight curve where he was camped out on the access road. He got me fair and square. In town, you’re much more likely to get one if you’re driving fast on residential streets.

  7. Uyulala*

    #5 – to help with the new task, could the receptionist be supplied with a little wagon and 4-6 more watering cans? Then at least it can be done in one trip.

    1. TheOtherJennifer*

      it’s not like it’s every day, right? once a week if that? I think this is an overreaction.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          In my experience (although I’ll admit I’m reaching way back here), the biggest issue isn’t the amount of time or the physical effort, it’s the disconnect that supervisors and managers have that all calls should be answered and all visitors be greeted, but that someone CANNOT HAVE THEIR BUTT IN THAT CHAIR FOR 8 HOURS STRAIGHT, even without other duties, because of lunch and bathroom breaks. Throw in other duties that require you to be physically elsewhere, and you need a coverage plan. And many employees and even managers will resist assigning people to this kind of often thankless, demanding work.

          1. Kelly L.*


            Boring personal anecdote time: when I worked at the drugstore, we had the worst case of this. Be at your register at all times, but also do this list of scut work by the end of your shift. Didn’t even matter if I stayed in eyeshot of the register the whole time and could appear there in an instant if a customer actually arrived. They’d freak out if they saw me not there. HOW DID YOU WANT THAT DUSTING TO GET DONE, WITH AN EXTENDABLE ROBOT ARM?

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I so understand this disconnect, and how frustrating it is for the worker on the receiving end. I used to have a job with some seriously conflicting expectations. As in, I’d be in the middle of re-imaging a computer, and would get clients coming to me because “we’re out of coffee in X room.”

              Or I’d be covering the receptionist’s lunch break, so not supposed to leave the front desk, and “but the printer/copier is jammed and I need it RIGHT NOW” or “but I just have a really quick question about this computer thing…”

              That was frustrating, but not the worst of it. The worst of it was that they would expect me to both get project stuff done, and to always be available to clients at a moment’s notice. In other words, directly conflicting goals.

              I eventually got fired from that job, and can remember walking out thinking “@#R@#%@, I just lost my job” and “Wait…you mean I don’t have to go back???!!!” It ended up working out; I have a much better job now and am generally much less stressed and way happier.

            2. Xarcady*

              Yup. That’s my retail job. “Be out on the floor assisting customers.” The department is huge, I’m one person. You cannot see 2/3 of the department from any given spot in said department.

              Cannot count the number of times a manager has run over to me, hissing, “There’s a customer over there. Go help them!” as I have been walking through the department looking for customers. It is not under my control that a customer entered the section I was just in, right after I walked out, on my never-ending search for customers.

              And I’m supposed to put out-of-place stock away, refold towels, check the fitting room and put the clothes away, and restock certain items (which involves a stockroom at the other end of the store), and still be available to help customers at all times.

              What do the customers want? Someone standing at the cash register when they are ready to check out. I’m not allowed to stand at the register unless I’m ringing up purchases.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            TELL ME ABOUT IT

            This exact situation happened at Exjob, and they were just going to let all the plants die! Some people said they would take them home, but they didn’t. So I was like “OH FINE LET ME” and I brought in a plastic 2-quart pitcher and just watered the damn things once a week. I waited until my phone backup came in and transferred the phone to him. Some people did end up taking some plants home, but I don’t know what happened to the rest of them after they laid me off. I have a couple of them myself.

            I had to do stuff for the HR/accounting manager in his office, go get product samples and packing material, pack those things, etc., do ALL the filing in the entire company, blah blah blah. Most of it I did when my backup was in the office, but if he called in sick, it didn’t get done.

            I had the same duty at my favorite lab job (which was covered), and I took a bunch of the plants home when the business closed. My favorite one, a ponytail palm over three feet tall, croaked during the ice storm. :(

    2. KR*

      I was thinking a cart too. Does the receptionist get there before the business opens? She could do it before the phones start ringing.
      Also, if the business is using IP phones, which they probably are, Cisco makes a cordless IP phone that runs off Wifi. It can page, transfer calls, and put calls on hold and park. They’re commonly used in grocery stores and the business may be able to talk to their phone provider about a set of these for their admin staff so they can carry the work phone with them while making copies/watering plants/so on.

      1. Joline*

        We had that at old job. It was a long hallway, so if the receptionist had to do something it was always quite a walk from the door. So they got a doorbell for the front desk and a cordless phone. It allowed her to do more tasks, stretch her legs when she wanted, and when she needed to go to the washroom she’d just find someone and drop off the phone (which were people were much more willing to do with the cordless as it didn’t mean uprooting and awkwardly loitering at the front desk).

      2. PK*

        Yes, my former company’s receptionist had a phone set where he could remotely answer calls and etc while he handled other things like kitchen re-stocking, delivering mail to desks, etc.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Great idea. And sorry, OP#5 – watering plants comes with the territory when you are a receptionist. I had to do it way back in the stone age at my very first job. You are the low man on the totem pole, and the only way to get recognition and move to a higher position (or get a good reference if you plan to move on) is to be a team player. I absolutely hated getting lunch for people when I was a lower level admin, but I did it with a smile on my face. I have been promoted out of every admin role I’ve had and I’m sure it’s because I was helpful and agreeable when it came to new tasks. Your boss wants you to give them peace of mind, not to create stress for them because you complain about your very reasonable duties.

  8. Janie*

    On my first read of #5, I wondered if perhaps there was an ADA subtext, but upon closer reading, I realized their main concern seems to be other work being a priority. When I used to cover reception for our receptionist’s breaks, she used to have me come out 5-10 minutes before her lunch break so I could cover while she watered the plants. Could also be something possible to move to the beginning or end of each workday? Hard to imagine an office having plants that were so high-maintenance that it would take much more time than that.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      Very true about high maintenance plants being unlikely in offices. In most places I’ve worked they have been hardy and very low maintenance to withstand the dry air from the up-and-down heating and aircon. The office spider plant especially comes to mind!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Or pothos (aka devil’s ivy). Man, those things are hardy. I’ve left mine unwatered for two weeks and it was fine. A little yellow here and there, but bounced right back. Also, they LOVE fluorescent lighting. :)

        1. Coffee Ninja*

          I have one in my office & it is the only indoor plant I haven’t managed to kill! (Bamboo included). Mine is almost 3 years old, which in plant years for me is like 30.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I have a golden pothos that is the toughest thing on earth. I’ve noticed that this plant will pick one leaf to sacrifice–it gets progressively yellow, then brown, then crispy, and all the other leaves are fine.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes, that’s what I came here to say. It sounds like there are unreasonable expectations of the receptionist answering all calls and greeting all visitors but also being away from the front desk watering plants.

      Of course, the answer is to ask their supervisor/manager how they should handle the conflict between those tasks, or better yet, come up with a suggested plan, like talk to a coworker and ask if they would mind covering, then clear it with their manager and the receptionist’s manager.

  9. The Wall of Creativity*

    #1. “Do you have some scripts on what to say after something like this happens again?” Not if you don’t say please!

    1. MK*

      Yes. Frankly, the letter comes acrosss as the OP having a bit of a chip on her shoulder about seniority. She admits that the coworker treats everybody much the same, but that it “feels” worse for her than the people who are on the same level?

      1. RVA Cat*

        One current I see in both #1 and #5 is the lack of respect for ‘pink collar’ administrative workers. Is it really about this particular co-worker or is OP #1 more generally getting dissed by other staffers? Would she be as personally annoyed about the very same behaviors coming from a guy?

      2. I'm Not Phyllis*

        As someone who has spent many, many years in administrative positions, I totally understand OP’s beef with this. It’s not about seniority, it’s about manners. When I was a receptionist, I’d have people who would look me right in the face and walk by me without so much as a “good morning” (even if I said it first – and they would certainly say it to everyone else!) but they’d expect me to jump through hoops for whatever they needed. Sometimes people treat you like dirt in those roles, and it’s one of those things where the little things really matter. However, I also agree with Alison – there probably isn’t much OP can do about it without looking petty.

        1. themmases*

          When I was in a support role just out of college, it was both disillusioning to realize that that kind of unapologetic elitism and sexism were still around, and a blow to my pride to find myself on the receiving end of it! I definitely spent a lot of time mad and feeling like there had to be some way to make people treat me with basic respect and civility, let alone for how my nominally support role was actually much more technical. (There wasn’t.)
          I would encourage anyone who is really rankled by these little things to start looking to move on. Being right doesn’t mean you can fix it. Even if you are in the wrong and making copies is a totally reasonable part of your job, there is no shame in hating support work. The longer you hang around somewhere trying to make the environment OK, the longer you reward your crappy company or coworkers with the stable tenure of someone who takes a ton of pride in their work. Use that pride to move out, move up, and let those people worry about their reputation with you.

        2. MK*

          But that’s exactly my point: this coworker isn’t treating the admin like dirt, she is treating everyone brusquely. Absolutely this is about manners, not seniority; but the OP is making it about seniority in her mind.

          1. I'm Not Phyllis*

            True. And if the person in question is treating everyone this way you’re exactly right. I’m just saying that there are cases where it is about seniority, where people think the admin staff are “beneath” them, and where they are in fact more abrupt with people who are near the bottom of the food chain.

          2. INFJ*

            That’s how I see it, too. It’s easy for OP to wonder, “is it because my job title is admin?” Kind of like how when I am the recipient of someone’s poor behavior, I sometimes wonder, “Are they just a rude person, or is it because I’m a woman?” When you’ve experienced prejudice/typecasting before, sometimes your mind just goes there even if that wasn’t the other person’s motivation.

  10. Treena*

    As a former nanny who used to travel with families, the hourly wage is much less important than other factors. In nanny-land, no amount of money will make up for a few sanity measures.

    If the children wake up in the middle of the night, is it your job to tend to them? Are you going to be on-call pretty much 24/7 and then will be randomly dismissed when the family feels like it? (Ie, “Oh we’ve got it for the rest of the evening, you have the night off!”–thereby cutting your wages but not giving you a real night off) What are you expected to pay for in terms of meals, groceries, etc.? You may want to negotiate a full day off/week for longer trips, especially if they want you on-call all the time. Alternatively, you could have the same time of day be your off-duty time. A lot of this will depend on the family’s schedule, but some food for thought.

    I’m not sure about the specific payment models I used back in the day, but if I recall, if you’re on-call 24/7, the kids do wake up, and you are working every waking moment, then they just pay you your regular wage 24 hours/day. If you’re working scheduled hours, or a set number of hours/day or week, then it (was, 15 years ago!) typical to pay 1.5x the hourly wage.

  11. MK*

    OP4, you say that for financial reasons you might have to take abroad work if they offered it. Do take into account that they might decide to hire someone local rather than pay you a higher wage. I am not saying not to negotiate the terms of the abroad work, but maybe decide beforehand if you can afford to reject it.

  12. BRR*

    #3 if the company is any bigger than a handful of employees I would start by approaching your manager and not going over them to the president of the company. I also wouldn’t expect your bonus to be calculated on 4.5 years of service (although that would be nice) but it sounds like you definitely deserve it for the great job you’ve done.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed, start with your manager. If the bonus policy changed, then the accountant is following the new policy. It isn’t anything personal, they are just doing their job. Your manager would be the one who could ask for an exception on your behalf.

    2. Chriama*

      I don’t know if I would agree. This sounds like a very small company and OP has interacted with the president before. The manager might not have the authority to question the accountant’s judgement and it’s harder to go to the president after your direct boss has already said no. It also sounds like the previous bonus agreement was informal and the new program is more formal (maybe as they computerize more of their hr systems) and OP might be the only unusual case. I say talk to the president if you have a relationship with him.

    3. Wren*

      I would expect part time service to be prorated. So if the OP has worked 6 months full time, and 1/3 of a full time equivelent for 4 years, I would say she had 1 year and 10 months of service. This is how my husband’s years of service at his organization is calculated, as he too spent some time working there as a student, before later returning full time, after an interval away.

  13. Confused*

    #5 Watering the Plants
    I’m curious, what if the receptionist is physically unable to lug the water to the plants and (possibly) lift them up to the planters? I’m thinking due to a bad shoulder, back, etc. which didn’t impact her regular non-watering duties.
    If it was a big enough company, would “reasonable accommodation” kick in and the company would have to try to find a solution?

    1. Sunshine*

      I feel like any reasonable manager will just assign the duty to someone else it the receptionist is unable to do it. I’m not seeing this as a big deal at all.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, watering plants is a pretty common receptionist duty. It’s really not a shocking imposition.

    2. TootsNYC*

      as for “physically unable,” there’s the fact that most plants need only about a glassful of water every couple of days, so she can just use a smaller container.

      Or, she says, “It’s going to take so much time if I have to carry the water in small amounts because of my shoulder. Help!” And the manager figures out who else can do it.

  14. Worker Bee (Germany)*

    #3 I am a bit surprised at Alisons answer I was expecting the error question skript: Going to OPs manager and asking: “I didnt receive my bonus is there something wrong”. If the following line of thinking in the back of my head: If OP had known in the first place that s/he wouldn’t be eligable for the bonus she might have negoiated for a higher salary when she came on full time..

    1. Claire (Scotland)*

      It’s not that they didn’t get a bonus, but that they’ve been told they won’t. They are asking about how to bring it up before it happens.

  15. Apollo Warbucks*

    #3 I would check if there is anything about the terms of the bonus in writing (either policy or company handbook) to see what the eligibility criteria are if it says only full time employees are considered for bonuses then you might be out of luck, maybe the accountant has seen a set of rules that might indicate that you are ineligible but you should talk to your boss to see what their view is maybe they’ll arrange for it to be paid.

    At the very least you should ask about about getting the bonus pro rata so you get half of it for the 6 months you’ve been full time.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Yes but they don’t say what the terms or eligibility criteria are and what I was getting at is the accountant might be taking a very literal view of a rule that says 12 months service is required to qualify for a bonus, whereas the Op’s manager might push for some flexibility in light of the previous 4 years of service.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          This. At my old job I had a *lot* of flexibility with bonuses and for someone in the OPs situation I could have easily pushed through, at least, a pro-rated bonus. And, with a couple of quick conversations could have secured the full bonus.

          It’s definitely worth raising this to your manager.

          1. Judy*

            At a former company, student workers who worked part time during school plus full time during breaks were given a service date for seniority purposes if they ended up working full time after graduation. They calculated the date you would have been hired if all your hours were full time, instead of varying.

            So 3 months of full time one summer plus 4 moths of 20 hours a week put a service date of 5 months before full time hire. That date was used for vesting of retirement and vacation calculation, I think.

  16. Allison*

    1) It’s completely out of line to police your coworkers manners. “Say please and thank you” is something you say to children, and even then, you only say it to children you’re in charge of, like if they’re your own kids or you’re their teacher or babysitter. I’m not even sure how I feel about a manager telling a direct report they need to be more pleasant (although maybe they can ask someone to stop interrupting team members). But even then, saying please and thank you isn’t really the issue here, it’s her tone. You can say “please” and “thank you” while sounding like a huge jerk, and you can be perfectly pleasant without saying either of those things. ‘Taint what you say, it’s the way that you say it.

    1. Sunshine*

      Funny story… we had a dinner around Christmas at a really nice restaurant, and one of my colleagues said to the waiter “Hey, can I get a water?” It was a bit abrupt, but only because it was loud in the room and he was trying to catch his attention before he left the room. Before I could even think about it, my “mom” reflex kicked in. I looked at him and said “Say please!” I was mortified. He laughed it off, thankfully.

    2. Charityb*

      I agree that in general it’s a bad idea to police other people’s language. It’s almost always irritating regardless of whether or not the content of the criticism is valid or just the usual vague, “oh, you should be nicer,” without any specifics. I do think that it’s OK for a manager of a client-facing role or customer service position to have a standard along those lines though. There are some jobs where saying “please” and “thank you” (and other things like that) are a part of the job and someone in those roles can’t just opt out of them or opt out of general pleasantries.

      1. Allison*

        Yes, if someone is client-facing then I agree you can coach them to be more pleasant. Trying to get female direct reports to be sweeter with their teammates, however, feels a little off to me.

    3. S.I. Newhouse*

      I agree. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t enforce common courtesy.
      OP #1, this is an unproductive hill to die on. Let it go.

    4. Sunflower*

      Totally agree here. If someone said to me ‘Why don’t you say please and thank you’ in the workplace, my jaw would actually drop.

      Second you on the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ with tone. I swear it’s the people who sweetly ask you to do something are the same types who turn around and grumble about you. At work, I’d much rather have someone be slightly abrasive and forward than the type to talk ish about you behind your back.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is kind of where I am. I get that there are unpleasant people in the workplace (trust me, I get that), but the issue is an overall tone and team rapport, effective communication, and getting work done rather than that this one particular person doesn’t use the magic words. If I were to approach a manager about it, I would absolutely not mention please/thank you and focus more on the “having some difficulty finding a style of communication that works well with Jane and looking for guidance”. Interrupting people constantly is the only thing I might consider addressing (and, color me unsurprised that someone is more bothered by being interrupted personally than by it happening to others :), but it’s work, not kindergarten.

      I have worked with someone for years who is incredibly brusque but is very good at what he does. I always joke that, by the time he gets done telling me how ridiculous/stupid/bothersome my problem is, he has solved it, often saving me a lot of time and hassle. I think griping and sniping is just part of his creative process. I totally get that it’s off-putting to a lot of people and I know that he’s been counseled on tone, but I just take it with a grain of salt and thank him for solving my problem. I’d rather have a grumpy, effective coworker than an incredibly polite but incompetent one, if forced to choose.

  17. Pete*

    #5 – I’m trying to picture someone “suddenly watering plants.” Are they doing it in a hurried fashion? Do they unexpectedly, as if in a hypnotic state, leave a meeting in progress? Do they drop a phone call, grab a water can from beneath their desk, and surprisingly begin watering the plants in the area? #LameComedicRelief

    1. KR*

      I was thinking this too. I feel like it wouldn’t be a big deal if the plants weren’t so big that they required several buckets of water, but perhaps they are very demanding plants that howl loudly when they are displeased.

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          Be careful about angering the receptionist…. THE GUY SURE LOOKS LIKE PLANT FOOD TO ME…

    2. hermit crab*

      I have a lot of plants at my desk and sometimes I do suddenly begin to water them. It’s a good way to move around a bit if I am trying to think through a problem. I don’t think I have ever hypnotically left a meeting to go fill my watering can, though. :)

    3. OriginalEmma*

      I was reading an article regarding transportation infrastructure. A state transpo head wrote about “furiously” improving public transit in one of the state’s metro regions, or something to that effect. I imagined Mad Max-style hoards of civil engineers, urban planners and transit officials angrily convening, yelling their recommendations for BRT implementation and hurling binders of DOT guidelines at each other. It made me chuckle, it did.

  18. Yetanotherjennifer*

    I wasn’t ever a nanny, but I was at home when my daughter was little and soon discovered vacations weren’t really vacations for me, just the same job with different scenery. Both my daughter and I are happiest at home. Many times that made the job a bit harder. Kids are harder to settle for naps and bed in a different place. They can be more high maintenance in different surroundings: hungrier, more clingy, etc. OP, your charges are probably expert travelers so it may not be as much of a concern. But my point really is that no matter how glamorous the location, you will not be on vacation. For you, this is business travel.

    1. VintageLydia*

      Pretty much why our times away from home are either visiting family (who are thrilled for the chance to spend time with the kid) or when one of those family members can come up here for a few days or a week.

  19. Amo for This*

    OP#3 — we do bonuses where I work and people who start mid-year get their bonuses pro-rated if they are awarded. I think AAM strategy is good, and I think asking for clarification about what the policy is full-time employees who don’t have a full year of service is a good idea. There should be an official policy in place, because I am assuming that there will be other people in the future with only months of tenure, and if they are eligible I think they need to be told up front during the hiring process.

  20. Lily in NYC*

    #1 – I take this kind of thing personally as well. Our president’s assistant is a nightmare. She’s a total “mean girl”, but only to other women and usually when no one else is around. She is sweet as pie to men and her bosses. I used to try to kill her with kindness but that just made her worse. I finally gave up and now I am icily polite to her. I say please and thank you but I no longer say hello or ask her how she’s doing nor am I friendly (I am very friendly in general). Oddly enough, it seems to have worked and now she is much nicer to me.

    But the good thing is my awesome former boss here left for a while and just came back as CFO and she assists him as well. He remembers what a jerk she was when I worked for him (I used to forward her emails to him and we’d laugh about it) so he is actually pretty cold to her and I know it bothers her. He actually came to my desk to complain when she was given to him as an assistant and told me that he pays close attention to how she speaks to people and has already reprimanded her once (she HATES getting in trouble more than anyone I’ve ever met so I was pretty gleeful about it).

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Wow, thank you Alison! I think I just have an anecdotal commenting style and I often worry it’s annoying. So this really means a lot to me.

      2. Jessica (tc)*

        I agree! While reading your comments above, Lily, about the weird behavior of the VP, I kept thinking that I wished you had a blog so I could read your stories. Yep, I wanted to read more stories about the VP who was rude, and that normally stresses me out (due to having been around a couple of coworkers like that in the past)! I even did ctrl-f to find out if you’d commented more about her or other coworkers, which is how I found this section. :)

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Thank you so much! I am just so touched by your comment. The only other place I comment is on Gawker, but under a different name. I think I’m kind of “known” there but I’m a little scared to give the name I use. At Gawker, I either tell really dumb jokes or crazy stories about my family and I have a major potty mouth. I’ll try to get the nerve up to post the name I use (most people there assume I’m a dude).

          1. Jessica (tc)*

            If you ever start a blog, I’d read it! You could tell your crazy stories there, too, and not give out your other username. I understand about wanting to keep your usernames separate.

            1. Meg Murry*

              I’d read it too – even if a big chunk of the stories were just what you posted here onto Tumblr or similar, and then you carried on later with another anecdote about the same (or similar) characters. Although after a while you might have to give them all fake names so we knew who you were talking about, a la gold digger’s blog.

      3. A Bug!*

        I liked it even more because at first glance I read “assistant” as “assassin” and decided to run with it. Picturing a cartoon situation where this lady’s only working there as cover for her mission to off the president, but all of her attempts go off the rails for ridiculous reasons. She thinks Lily’s on to her because Lily keeps catching her in compromising situations, but Lily’s totally oblivious and just trying to make friends.

  21. Jerzy*

    OP #1 – My husband is terrible at saying please and thank you, and is only now making an effort to say it because we have a toddler who we’re trying to model for. In his case, the reason he doesn’t spend a lot of time on the little niceties is in part to to his ADHD. If he spends time and effort saying things like “please” and “thank you” and making small talk and all of the little social things we all take for granted, there is a real possibility that he will forget what he was trying to say, which also means he might interrupt people without meaning to, because if he doesn’t say it immediately, it might disappear all together.

    I don’t know this woman’s story, but there’s a real possibility that she is coping with this kind of disability, and maybe, if you look at it from that perspective, it’ll be easier to deal with what you might consider rudeness.

  22. Sunshine Brite*

    #2 I work for a public agency and one of the first things one of my supervisors told our cohort was to put away the name badges and turn over our bags so you couldn’t easily see the logo if we decided to go to lunch. He told us of instances where people on their lunch or breaks would walk through the skyway or window shop on their way and people would call the county commissioners. It’s all part of perception and being publicly identifiable.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      This reminds me of the people who call and complain because they see police officers eating at a restaurant in uniform, because they are taking a break on the tax-payers dime.

      1. Ad Astra*

        People do that?! I, for one, would rather be rescued by a police officer who’s had a chance to eat in the last 8 hours. In my town, the police are partial to Chipotle.

        1. LizB*

          Seriously — do you really want officers responding to difficult situations while weak from hunger, or hangry? Maybe I’m a weird taxpayer, but I’m perfectly happy with public employees taking time to feed themselves and rest a bit on my dime.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I think people sometimes get confused about what the word “servant” means when used in public servant.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Or do you want them to have to go home and change clothes, just because they need to eat lunch?

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          Yes, sadly. I have a couple of family members who are police officers or retired police officers who shared an article a few months ago on facebook about it.

          And the sad thing is, I have seen police officers leave a meal on the table when a call comes in that they are needed on and I have seen firemen have to leave their grocery carts because a call came in (though yay for living in a small town – 3 separate people offered to buy their groceries), and no one worries about that.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’m thinking now of the public forums on Parks and Recreation. People really do complain about the most ridiculous things.

        (Yeah, okay, I’m obsessed! I can’t stop watching it!)

        1. JAM*

          It was the most accurate depiction I’ve seen of my time in government. I have converted everyone I know into fans.

        2. ancolie*

          Not at one of the forums, but Ron’s short-lived circle desk:

          “There’s a sign at Ramsett Park that says ‘do not drink the sprinkler water.’ So I made sun tea with it, and now I have an infection.”

    2. CheeryO*

      Yeah, if the OP had been driving a state vehicle, I don’t think it would have been out of line to call them out for speeding. If I were traveling to a site in a caravan and saw one of our employees going significantly faster than the flow of traffic, I would definitely think about saying something to them. Threatening to call the head of the agency is pretty dramatic (although I have heard weird stories – apparently our state thruway administration sent the head of our agency a nasty letter after my boss rolled through an EZ Pass too quickly for it to register), but it’s important to manage public perception where you can. It’s the same reason why I bring work and don’t linger when I stop for lunch on the job, even if it means that I don’t actually get my normal break.

      Anyway, since OP wasn’t in a state vehicle, I don’t think this person should have gotten that worked up over it. (Although I’m a little confused as to how he didn’t know whether or not it was a state vehicle – maybe I’m just biased because all of ours are one of two models, with special license plates and giant logos on the side.)

      1. OP #2*

        OP 2 here! Just to clear a couple things up, I was probably going about 10 mph over on the expressway, although that wasn’t considered out of the norm in that particular area.
        Also, I worked for an agency of 30 employees, so I did know the director well. At the time, I was pretty young and inexperienced, I was momentarily terrified that he was going to call. Eventually I decided that it would be unlikely, so I got over the concern, but kept wondering how I should have responded and if he was out of line.

  23. Employment Lawyer*

    4. Negotiating a higher wage when traveling as a nanny

    The issue is that you’re actually uprooting your life. If it helps, you don’t have to think of it as a higher wage for the nannying itself–that’s only eight hours/day–but rather, as a standalone (large!) payment for spending the other sixteen hours/day in an environment other than home. That is more expensive for you (you don’t have access to your normal things) and more unpleasant (no local friends, no normal activities.) As such it should cost them some serious money.

    Moreover, when you switch from a stop-in nanny to a live-in nanny, that is also both costly to you and hugely beneficial for them: a stop-in nanny is only available during working hours or by appointment, while a live-in nanny is theoretically available for short tasks any time they’re around. Yes, I know a lot of nannies: it’s very hard for them to say “no” when they’re asked if they can “just watch little Johnny for 10 minutes while someone runs out to get milk.” Even if it’s after hours. And since you sound like a bit of a pushover I suspect that happens to you a lot…. But that’s work, and you should get paid, both for the 10 minutes and for the continued availability.

    In any case, it sounds like you’re not getting enough money now. It also sounds like you could probably switch families–after all you will get god references, and you are already at the low end of cost.

    1) I have been running my finances and it is clear that I need to make some changes. (This conveys an “it is what it is” issue. Don’t make it about your WANTS, make it about your NEEDS. “I need $20/hour in order to live and cannot work for you for less” is clear; “I was wondering if you’d like to pay me $20/hour” is not.)

    2) I wouldn’t choose to travel. Traveling to a foreign country is a cost to me, not a benefit. (I think it’s best to get this out there. A lot of people assume that travel is always good. This helps to set the tone for asking for more money.)

    3) When I travel with you, it affects my whole day, not just the time I am working for you. For example, I can’t work other jobs or do my normal activities.

    4) Moreover, because I am living with you, you frequently ask me to be available outside my normal working hours. This also puts a heavier load on me and s a benefit to you.

    5) Finally, your schedule makes it difficult for me to survive, since I must either travel or be unemployed.

    6) I would like to keep working for you. In order for that to happen, I need (need, not want!) one of two things. (A choice is good; people like choice.)

    7) The first option is that I can travel with you. I will need an additional travel stipend of $200/day, over and above my normal hours. If I work more than ___ hours/day, I will also need to be compensated for those hours. This should not change the current arrangement of paying my costs, food, travel, and ordinary expenses.

    8) The other option is that I can stay here, and that you can pay me a stipend when you travel. I think we both enjoy this relationship, but it is not working for me to be randomly unemployed at your leisure. The stipend is necessary in order to maintain my commitment to you, and to ensure my continued availability when you return. It should be 50% of my current weekly earnings, which is the least I can accept without seeking another permanent positino.

    1. Mean Something*

      I like this breakdown a lot. I would just add that when you’re talking to people about their kids, even if you are their employee and obviously need to take care of yourself and your income, you want to frame it as taking the needs of the kids into account and not neglect to include how much you cherish those kids, too. If the OP is an experienced nanny, I’m sure she’s aware of this. Easy enough to do–it’s surely better for the kids if their regular caregiver is there when they’re in strange surroundings.

    2. Graciosa*

      Regarding #1, I really disagree with this approach.

      In negotiating wages or payment, it is simply not done to present your case as being about what you need but rather about the market value of the service you offer. Your employer does not care about – and has no responsibility for – how you manage your money. Getting into this discussion about how much you need to live on invites the employer into that area (“Well, if you cut your cable you’d be fine, so just do that instead – you can watch ours and we’ll skip your raise this year”). Does anyone remember what happened when McDonald’s presented guidance to its employees on how to live on the typical wages for this work?

      I am completely supportive of clear statements to an employer (or prospective employer) about how much you expect to be paid – or need to be paid *to induce them to agree to do the work requested* because that is the market rate for your skills. But please don’t make it sound like the request for a salary increase is just because the cable company raised their rates and is completely unrelated to the value of the employee’s contributions to the business.

      Candidly, I was so surprised by #1 that I basically stopped reading and just went back and skimmed the rest of it. The overall tone seems oddly adversarial. It is possible to be clear about your requirements as an employee – whether its for compensation, time off, or any other working conditions – without also making it clear that you think you need to lay out a strong, non-negotiable case for your position because your employers are clueless or unreasonable. The fundamental points are fair, but a little more collaborative approach could go a long way.

      I urge people to treat the relationship with the employer as any other. Yes, there are limits and boundaries. Yes, there are things that would be simply unacceptable. But the starting position should be an assumption of mutual respect that allows a clear and candid discussion with a genuine effort to look for middle ground in cases of disagreement.

      Or come to a respectful parting of the ways if agreement is not possible – but without unnecessary acrimony.

      If that’s not possible, there’s always the option to make this adversarial later.

    3. MK*

      “Your schedule makes it difficult for me to survive, since I must either travel or be unemployed”?

      This is not only incredibly adversarial, but any reasonable person would then naturally ask “In that, case, why on earth did you take this job?”. The OP states clearly that the setup (sudden longish periods when she would either have to travel or be unemployed) was explained to her in the interview; if she has discovered that it’s not working for her, that’s one thing, but the employers has been unfront with her about their needs and it’s not fair to try to dump the responsibility for her finances on them.

      Also, as far as I can tell, the OP hasn’t traveled with them yet, so she doesn’t know that she will be required to work longer than her normal hours. And a lump sum of an extra 200$/day sounds way too high too me (considering that it would translate to more than 70,000$ a year), but I am not from the U.S., so I could be wrong about that.

      The OP needs to come to a specific agreement with her employers as to what her duties will entail when she is a live-in nanny; if she will be required to be always available, then she will need to be paid accordingly. And it would be reasonable to negotiate a higher hourly rate to make up for the inconvienience of having to temporarily relocate. Paying a stipend while the family is away is also not unreasonable, but it should have been negotiated before the OP was hired; whether they are willing to agree to it now as a sort of retention policy depends on how much they want to have her continue work for them.

      But, frankly, I am not sure I would like to take an employee abroad who treats the whole thing a the world’s worst imposition (which is the impression your post gives). Yes, this is bussiness travel, not a vacation, but traveling and staying in a foreign country can be a nightmare unless the people involved are at least somewhat positive about the experience and willing to make the best of things.

  24. Not Gloria A.A., B.S.*

    #1 Yeah you can’t tell her to say please and thank you. It would just come off as you trying to mother her and that’s not appropriate no matter what your level. When people are rude to me, their stuff gets done last. Within whatever deadline is required of course and acknowledging all other priorities that go into it, but all other things being equal? Bottom of the pile.

  25. Katie the Fed*

    “Then he told me that he was going to call the director of my agency and tell him that he saw me speeding.”


    OK. Bring it.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m imagining a call going to Mr. Burns. “Simpson who? Who is this? Unleash the hounds!”

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I had this exact thing happen to me when I was teaching middle school. A parent approached me after school and told me they saw me speeding that morning – 10 miles from school, on the interstate. They told me they were going to talk to the principal about it. I offered to give the mom my parents’ number, my pastor’s, and the newspaper’s.
      (I already knew it was my last year at that school.)

      I have no idea if she called the principal. I, too, thought: Bring it.

      1. OP #2*

        I like your attitude! I would like to think that if this happened to me again (unlikely), that I would say the same thing.

  26. B*

    Agreed, I would let it go. As an assistant I see this type of behavior many times but take it within the context. Is the person stressed due to a deadline? Is it their personality quirk? Do they just want to get to the point and not chit-chat so they can get the work done and go home?

    One thing to note – from the way you are describing the situation you seem to want her to be nicer to you because you feel you are slightly above her. I have to wonder if you come across that way, unintentionally, to her and that is why she may be a bit more brusque with you than the others.

  27. hildi*

    #1 – I’d chalk it up to her being very task focused and you being more people focused. She’s probably so far in her head on getting things done and focusing on the job that she has no clue the effect she’s having on you. You, on the other hand, I would guess tend to value relationships (as evidenced by your response to this. Two task focused people speaking abrasively to each other probably wouldn’t notice it as much). I often tell people in the classes I teach about this that get a feel for whether people are task vs people oriented you need to listen to the content of what they talk about. That will often reveal their values and focus. You said, “She can be abrasive and abrupt, constantly interrupting not just me but other coworkers with stream of consciousness-type thoughts about work issues.” and to me that screams the difference between you both.

    I agree with Alison is that there’s really nothing you can say that wouldn’t cause more potential conflict. Let’s walk this out: Let’s say you tell her it bothers you that she doesn’t say please and thank you and speaks kind of abruptly. First, she’ll immediately label you as high maintenance (even though you aren’t!). Next, she’ll think you’re weak and not capable. This might be totally, totally false, but because you are making a “big deal” out of something that’s not directly work related (in her mind), that will make her uncomfortable with you. I promise you that the vast majority of task focused people have a hard time wrapping their minds around why it matters to us people-focused people. Not to say that once they’re made aware they can start to change how they interact – it’s just a really hard shift for them to understand why it even matters.

    Here’s one way I’ve come to think of the difference:
    Task focused people (TFP) can do the job whether they like you or not.
    People focused people (PFP) have a very hard time focusing on the job unless the interaction is generally pleasant and they know that others are basically ok with them.

    TFP don’t have to start liking people, but they absolutely have to understand their impact on people. In the end, if you are abrupt and direct and only focused on the job, you will alienate and make uncomfortable the PFP. The natural byproduct of that is that you ultimately won’t be effective in getting the job done. Let that sink in!!

    PFP have absolutely got to chill the hell out when they are dealing with known TFP. We have to stop taking everything so personally. Your situation is a great example of that. I’d say with her you if you just stick to being highly capable and task focused with her, over time she might relax with you and become a bit more personable and things will feel better. Or she wont’, but at least you’ll know it’s because her head if functioning from a different space than yours.

    Here’s why it matters:

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yup, I thought of that, found the link, but checked first before posting it, and you already have. Listen to hildi!

        2. hildi*

          This shows me that mostly I am a broken record of the same basic material :) :) Although year later I have to say that my philosophy hasn’t changed, so that’s good!

        3. Mookie*

          You know, I didn’t remember her ‘nym (really bad with those), but the second I started reading this latest comment, I knew who it was. I <3 hildi.

    1. DMented Kitty*

      I’m a TFP – I am not people-focused, and I try not to sound too brusque when I’m facilitating a meeting and most of the time I really don’t feel like doing small talk (or sound really awkward trying to do it) when I begin it. I dive into my work everyday and get things done in the most efficient way possible (there have been several times my end users have commented that I responded to their problem even before they got off the phone with Helpdesk). I don’t start my instant messaging with “how are you doing – “; I say, “Hi – “. I do say “please” and “thank you”, though. :)

      That said, I try my best to take a break once in a while and interact with my coworkers (mostly PFPs), and I think they get that I’m usually the quiet one but when we go out for lunch (I do use it for some time off my desk) or happy hour I’m not a robot at all.

      1. DMented Kitty*

        OK my previous comment got truncated because of the brackets I used…

        EDIT: I don’t start my instant messaging with “how are you doing – (wait response; insert more small talk here before actual question)”; I say, “Hi – (insert request/question here”.

  28. Snarkus Aurelius*

    OP #2> Bystanders are notorious for being unable to properly guess how fast a car is going.  For example, in my neighborhood, people swear up and down someone is going 60-70 MPH in a two block stretch of street.  If that were true, cars would end up in the swimming pool that’s at the end of it.  So that guy probably doesn’t have a clue.  

    Secondly, a state trooper once threatened to call my boss, also an agency head, to let her know I was going 10 over the speed limit.  I wanted him to do that because she happened to be publicly testifying on a well-known tragedy that day and making an ask for more public funds.  So…yeah!  You do that, buddy!

    1. Anna*

      A friend of mine was a witness to an accident and had to testify about it. She said she could tell he was speeding (in this case, the driver was speeding and ran in to someone who was suing him). The guy’s lawyer asked her how she would know he was speeding since she wasn’t an expert and I remember thinking, “It’s called evolution. Our brains can process approximately how fast a car is going so we can determine whether or not we should turn, or cross the intersection, or almost any activity. If we couldn’t, nobody would ever turn left.” So people can’t determine the exact speed, but they can tell when someone is going pretty fast. And on a narrow neighborhood street it seems faster anyway, because our brain also tricks itself.

      1. Srs Bsns*

        “And on a narrow neighbourhood street it seems faster anyway, because our brain also tricks itself.”

        But this statement rather proves the point, doesn’t it? Your friend may have felt certain that the accused was speeding based on her admittedly non-expert observational opinion, when the fact may have been that he was not speeding at all. It just seemed that way to her.

        Or have I misinterpreted your statements? I’m sorry if that’s the case, your comment just seems awfully contradictory to me.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Sure we can determine that a car is going fast enough to get out of the way or turn left. But this guy accused the OP of committing a crime so much so he wanted to report her to an agency head. I’d want to be pretty specific about that speed before accusing someone of being reckless.

      3. DMented Kitty*

        I’m with Srs Bsns and Snarkus…

        Unfortunately, when you’re in some legal proceeding some things have to be taken in a very technical sense to add more credibility to the statement. Although yes you could easily tell if someone is going 60 on a 20mph zone, but in court it’s always better if you could find ways to quantify that.

        Whenever I see an oncoming train, I think that they look slow lumbering towards me, but once it whizzes past on the railroad stop they definitely look much, much faster. Unless I’m driving beside it and check my odometer perception is not an accurate gauge that will make things easier when in court.

        1. DMented Kitty*

          Also – while I find it amazing that our brains can make these calculations of whether it’s safe to cross the street or not or make a yield on green left turn – half of it is also putting a huge amount trust at a stranger driving a two-ton machine at you. You trust that they may slow down, but you never know if they are very distracted or just jerks who don’t care — no matter how careful you are, you’re still subject to the mercy of others when on the road.

          That’s actually what I always remember telling myself when I drive and someone on the road is being an asshat — that you can be driving carefully, but there’s always some jerk who won’t be that’s trying to get under your skin, and that’s how some bad things happen to good people.

  29. When You're a Shark*

    Former state employee here. There’s a form for using personal vehicles on state business (yes, probably varies by state) that releases the state of responsibility for accidents when musing a personal vehicle for state business. However, there’s still a clause for any employee (inside civil service and out) about behavior and actions when representing your employer. Ten miles may not be much to a state tax board employee, but what about state troopers? Here in California we’ve got the Office of Traffic Safety. That would be embarrassing to the department, especially if media catches wind of several employees or even just one notable one ignoring traffic rules.

  30. Erin*

    #5 – Just water the plants.

    Many receptionists have much worse and demeaning tasks like doing the dishes and cleaning out the microwave (in the kitchen….also away from the phones and potential visitors). If the phones are really an issue, ask for coverage from another admin, like I imagine you would if you were using the restroom or filing things in the filing room.

    Also, the “it’s not my job” thing is a tough card to play, because basically every single job evolves to include responsibilities not initially listed in the job description.

    …just water the plants. :)

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I agree with you every job involves things that aren’t in the job description. Though I wouldn’t necessarily describe the tasks you listed as “demeaning,” you’re right in that everyone has things they have to do that they don’t love to do. And somebody has to do them! The only recourse the receptionist has is if they are physically having an issue with this (sounds like a lot of work actually!) but otherwise I’m afraid he/she is out of luck!

      1. Person Who Sent Question*

        This receptionist is, in fact, facing serious abdominal surgery this month (for massive hernia) – will be off work on Short Term Disability and upon return will be limited in lifting to water plants. Sounds like it will be necessary to negotiate with her Manager to make other arrangements.

        1. Observer*

          Well, that’s another whole issue. Normally, watering the plants is a reasonable thing to ask the receptionist. But, I can’t imagine any reasonable manager insisting in these circumstances. I would think that it’s highly likely that the ADA would apply, but even if not, it would just be ridiculous not to accommodate it. Nothing to do with not being in the original job description, though. Just a bit of common sense about what a given person “has” to do.

          1. From Person Who Sent Question # 5.*

            Can you tell me what ADA means? Receptionist is in Canada and not sure of this acronym. Thank you everyone for all the great suggestions, ideas, and comments addressed to this situation – from Question # 5’er.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Americans with Disabilities Act — so not so relevant if she’s in Canada, but I bet Canada has a similar law.

              But really, the first step here is for her to talk to her manager. Has that happened yet?

              1. Observer*

                I agree with you completely. Like I said, a little common sense goes a long way in these types of situations – and I hope OP5’s management has some. My point, really, was that *IF* you have to resort to legalities, then job description per se in a non-issue, while ADA (or the Canadian equivalent) might be the way to go. But, really, a conversation that’s not confrontational but IS matter of fact and informative, is the best starting place. I’m going to follow with a link to a post on another blog that’s relevant here.

                1. Writer of Question # 5*

                  Okay – cool link you sent – thanks “Observer”………..will follow up with Manager.

              2. Writer of Question # 5*

                Because Manager is fully aware of these extenuating circumstances and appears to expect it anyways. Don’t know how to approach Manager regarding finding an alternative plan.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, this falls under “other duties as assigned.” Watering plants, washing the coffee cups, and going to the warehouse store for break room supplies (I had to do this last at Exjob–I got mileage and it was great to get out of the office for a bit).

    3. annabel*

      I always refused to be the bottle washer. You’re grown up men and women, you can wash up your own dishes.

  31. Anna*

    #3 I love that the new bonus structure is meant to be a retention program and will probably have the opposite effect.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I bet you a nickel that after he talks to his manager and the owner, they’ll make sure we genuinely wants to stay.

  32. Whistles*

    Letter writer #1 — I FEEL YOUR PAIN!
    When I began my job doing project organization (without any authority whatsoever), I dealt with a couple of personalities that were hard to figure out. I had a co-worker who was abrasive, condescending, defensive and used “power” stances when approaching people. She would literally put her hands on a person’s desk and leave over them before asking where her deliverable was. Thankfully, “monkey-see-monkey-do” is a common phrase for a reason! I always said please and thank you to her, even when she was abrupt; I showed appreciation to both her and the person executing her request, in front of others; I mimicked her stance a few times when she leaned or sat on people’s desks, and she’d immediately stand up. It took a few months, but over time, we heard the words “thank you” come out of her mouth. And now that we’ve been working together for 2 years, we actually have a strong working relationship… we have our moments still, but we’re able to talk about them and solve issues quickly.

  33. Mookie*

    LW 5, former interior landscape maintenance person here. I feel your pain. It’s better for everyone — and the plants, as well — when this kind of work is outsourced. Your office maintenance staff may well be able to direct you to a closer, more concealed water bib, probably in a maintenance or cleaning closet on the same floor. Please be careful with your back. A rolling cart or makeshift “mobile waterer” with a nice industrial coil hose is an excellent idea, and I’d put it to your office manager that acquiring one is a safety concern, so clients, guests, and employees don’t risk slipping on stray water dribblings. And don’t feel too poorly if the current plants kick the bucket over time; most of the fussiest, prettiest species (so, not aspidistra or sansevieria) aren’t long for interior climes, are sensitive to over-watering and low humidity (especially when they’re rootbound and in nursery plastic, as most are) and are regularly switched out by the contractor to maintain the illusion of good health.

    1. Mookie*

      Oh, and leftover plastic water or milk jugs will do in a pinch and allow you to resume your normal duties: pop out a couple small holes (small enough that they’ll drain quite slowly), fill bottom one-inch with pea gravel, situate each jug as far as possible from the root crown itself (basal bit of plant nearest to soil surface), and fill them up and let them be until empty. The first time around, check around the planting medium with your fingers to make sure it’s not too soppy, and don’t do it too often. Not very pretty, but if the planters are large enough you can probably conceal them with stray bits of moss (ugh) and it’s better for the plants themselves to receive a small trickle of irrigation rather than one gigantic deluge.

  34. OP of #3*

    Hi Everyone,

    I am the original poster of #3 and just wanted to let everyone know how it played out. I did in fact receive a “retention” payment that started me at the 3 years full-time salary mark. I brought it up to the president who said These rules are in place to make everything even across the board on paper, but every rule has an exception, with you being the case for this one.” To the one who said it would be better to approach my manager than the president directly, this made me laugh a little because (due to my relation with the president) he explained absolutely everything to me and said the accountant was unaware of my situation and it will be handled correctly, blah blah. After explaining the bonus i will get etc, he said “now go ask your manager so she can ask me and reiterate all of this to you so she doesn’t feel you went above her head.” Thanks for the comments and all went well, it was worth raising the question!

  35. rosie@rcoe*

    #1 – I think it depends on the nationality. I was raised to use please and thank you most of the time. So I carry it whenever I make conversations, making a memo to colleagues in emails. I don’t think that doesn’t matter or hurt anyone…

Comments are closed.