my boss wants his nephew to live in my house for three months

A reader writes:

The owner of the company that I work for requested that I transfer to a different state to run operations for our second location, as well as continue to run operations for my original location. The second location is an extremely high cost of living area, while my original location is a low cost of living area. Think of moving from Memphis to New York City. He does not like to give raises, so that was not an option. Therefore, I agreed to move if I was given a company car to drive and a rental home, both of which are paid for by the company.

My husband (who works for the company too) and I have been here for a year and are finally settling in to our new surroundings. However, during the owner’s last visit, he made an odd request. His nephew needs a summer job in between semesters at school, so my boss asked if he could come to work with me. Obviously, I said yes. Then, I asked where the nephew was going to live, and he said at my house, since he pays for it. Also, the nephew is from another country and doesn’t have a driver’s license, which means I will have to drive him everywhere he wants to go. The company does pay for the house, so I see his side of the argument; however, the rental home was in lieu of a raise, and having a house guest for three months sounds stressful.

If you thought the story was over, you would be wrong. This week, the vacation policy was changed from three weeks of vacation to two weeks of vacation. This policy change only affects two of us (we’ve been here the longest), but we are more than a little upset. Both of us had already booked vacations using our third week, and neither are refundable. When I politely asked why the policy had changed, the owner told me that if I am not happy working here, then I should find a new job.

A little bit of background: I didn’t sign a contract with the company at any time regarding the house, car, etc. I work about 70 hours per week at a high stress job. We are constantly understaffed and underpaid. To hold on to my top performers, I gave up my last raise two years ago, so that I could give it to my staff instead. Otherwise, they would not have received a raise for the past three years, and I likely would have lost them. The company has been profitable for the last two years, and we are on track to be profitable again this year. Despite all of this, I really enjoy working here, and I love all of my staff. We are like a family.

So, my question is, what do you think I should do about the nephew and vacation situation? Normally, I can think logically and come to a good decision, but I am seeing red.

Well, I can give you advice on the unwanted houseguest and the vacation policy change, but I’m not sure that either of those is the main point. The main point is that you have a ridiculous boss who responded to a very reasonable question with “if you’re not happy working here, you should find a new job.” In other words, you’re working for an a-hole.

Now let’s throw in that you’re working 70 hours a week. That’s unsustainable for most people if it’s a regular thing, and the only time it’s considered reasonable is if you’re being paid accordingly (for example, big law). But it sounds like you’re not being paid accordingly, and you’re working for someone who “doesn’t like to give raises” (which you should reword in your head to “doesn’t like to pay people fairly or do normal and expected things to retain good employees, and therefore isn’t holding up his end of the relationship”). And you’re giving up your own pay to make sure you can retain your own staff, which the company has somehow made your personal financial problem instead of its own.

So, honestly, we can try to solve the nephew problem and the vacation problem, but there’s only one way to solve the owner problem, and that’s to leave. If you don’t, you’re just going to keep encountering new outrageous and unfair situations. But on to those…

Yes, the My Nephew Will Live In Your House situation is ridiculous and untenable. The fact that the company is paying for your rental house doesn’t matter at all here. It’s your house, and you required it as a condition of taking the job in the new location. You didn’t agree to any strings like “the company is going to occasionally house other people there too” or “we’re going to live in a hostel.” You negotiated a house, you were given a house, and it’s entirely reasonable to assume that absent any prior agreement to the contrary, it’s no more open to mandatory houseguests than if you were paying for it directly.

It would be totally reasonable to tell your boss that you won’t be able to host his nephew. You shouldn’t need to give a reason; “we won’t be able to host Fergus” should be enough. Of course, your boss isn’t reasonable, so you might have better odds here if you give a reason anyway. With this guy, you’re probably better off not trying to come up with a cover story (like that you’re going to have another guest during that time) because he sounds like someone who would try to find a way to neutralize your reason. Instead, be direct — “our private space is important to us, and we’re not up for hosting someone in our home.” If he points out that the company is paying for your house, then say, “Yes, as we negotiated as part of my agreement to move here. We didn’t agree that it would mean giving up our privacy or control over who stays in our home.”

This would work with a reasonable boss. But you do not have a reasonable boss, so who knows. I’d hold firm regardless, because what he’s asking is ridiculous, but this is a dude who’s willing to quickly revert to “then find another job,” so you may encounter that here.

As for the vacation policy change, a reasonable employer would give you advance warning — not apply it in the same year where you’ve already made plans to take the previous, larger amount of vacation time. But once again, you don’t have a reasonable employer. So you can push back — and it would be totally reasonable to do that — but only this loon knows if it will make any difference. If you do push back, I’d say this: “At the start of the year, I had three weeks of vacation time, and I’ve made nonrefundable plans based on that. I’ve also considered the three weeks part of my compensation package, so you’re talking about a significant change to my benefits here. I’d like to ask that I be grandfathered in under the old policy, since it was an important part of my decision to work here.”

But again, you’re dealing with a jerk who underpays you, tries to use your house as a hotel for his family members, and when facing mild and reasonable questions tells you to find a new job if you don’t like it.

I do know that you said that you’re happy working there and you love your staff. So sure, if those trade-offs make it worth it to you, that’s your call to make. Just make sure you’re including all the factors in your calculation, like the low pay and the poor treatment.

One last thing! “We’re like a family” tends to be hugely problematic in work contexts, as well as untrue … and thinking of workplaces as families leads to a lot of bad decision-making. Ahem.

{ 314 comments… read them below }

  1. MsChanandlerBong*

    This was not the headline to read while on a conference call. I guffawed out loud when I saw it.

      1. Panda Bandit*

        Probably because the boss is being so ridiculous and over the top. All sympathy to the LW for having to deal with him and his stupid demands.

      2. Austin Storm*

        The headline is funny because you can tell just from the premise of the letter how totally insane the surrounding narrative is going to be.

        I’ve been in that kind of unhealthy situation. My advice to the writer is to get out, the sooner the better. Just setting sane boundaries with your current boss will hasten that day. Once you move on you’ll realize how unhealthy your current work environment is.

  2. Chriama*

    Hoo boy. I’m reminded of Dan Savage’s DTMFA. You’ve listed a whole host of abusive and unprofessional behaviours and ended with “but I really like working for this company.” Does not compute for me. You can find something better, doing the same (or even more interesting/fulfilling) work at a company with a decent manager and proper compensation.

      1. some1*

        Seriously. Boss as landlord, PLUS her husband works there, too? I don’t think this will get any better.

        1. BRR*

          Yeah it seems a bit much for me. Plus as a landlord I can see the boss really holding that over the LW’s head. They already have.

        2. Sketchee*

          Pretty much without any diversified assets like an income or a house, this boss is now playing parent to two adults. The LW and her husband as adults can decide to live with it. That does mean giving up their entire lives apparently, as they have neither money, nor space, nor personal free time. The process of learning to set boundaries with difficult people is hard for most everyone. Hope the LW takes this opportunity for that learning experience

          1. sstabeler*

            He is de facto the landlord, regardless of who is de jure the landlord. At a minimum, the boss seems to consider it more a case of it being his home that the employee is allowed to live in, not the employee’s home that happens to be paid fr by the company. ( if employee was a guest in employer’s home, employer’s actions re: the nephew would be understandable. Since they aren’t, it’s unreasonable)

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Very much so, and then come and give us an update.

        I like the updates, and I expect this one will tell us about her new job and co-workers, with a reasonable manager, good vacation, and even raises!

        I sometimes wish we’d get updates from the other side, from the unreasonable managers who suddenly lost great employees who were putting in 70-90 hours a week for no extra pay and guilt that they weren’t doing more, and how their business struggled or failed as the good workers left. Perhaps with a lament at the end about how they finally realize how important it is to deal fairly with employees. Or maybe with an angry and irrational rant for us to enjoy. Either would work.

        1. rupesuxa*

          Sadly, in my (limited) experience, it doesn’t work that way. For years, I worked for a horrible, abusive, ridiculous CEO. He finally went too far and I quickly found a job at fantastic new company. I heard it took three people to replace me. Anyway, this CEO was fired, in part for being abusive. Glassdoor tells me that he is still an abusive CEO at his new company.

          1. yasmara*

            Husband accepted a new job recently due to some unacceptable changes at his workplace, including the serial sexual harasser who is a favorite of the CEO and who Husband would eventually report to. Not to mention the shitty 2-week vacation policy, lack of flexibility, and complete family unfriendliness. And yet, they were so surprised to see him go!

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              It seems like it’s always the weirdest/worst workplaces that are most surprised people leave!

          2. S0phieChotek*

            It does make me want to experience more “karma” with ‘horrible bosses…even though I know I ought to be nicer…but too often it seems the “horrible” bosses or the “nightmare” employee stays and just continues to make everyone else around them miserable…

            1. Doriana Gray*

              Two of my former bad bosses got their comeuppance recently. Sadly, it took years for both of them to eventually get removed from power. Bad Boss 1 at Evil Law Firm was there for 10+ years, and she was the very definition of incompetent. But the woman lied like no other, so she was able to stay on the partners’ and COO’s good sides until one of their layoff rounds last year. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard because this was the same woman who gleefully volunteered people in our department for cuts, and would laugh whenever she was tasked with packing up the dismissed employee’s belongings.

              Bad Boss 2 in my last division has been there for 14 years and has been a manager for maybe six of those years. In that time, she’s not only yelled at employees (actually yelled, not just raised her voice), but she cursed out a few HR reps, fired people she didn’t like for personal reasons, told other managers on other teams that they’re incompetent and don’t know how to manage their staff, launched a smear campaign to get rid of one of my coworkers (which subsequently landed him in the hospital and on medication thanks to a nervous breakdown), sabotaged one of my internal job opportunities because she was pissed I wanted off her team, oh – and she tried to fire a coworker with cancer because said coworker’s treatment schedule where she goes out for three days and returns at the end of the week is “not fair to her.” Seriously – that’s what she told HR.

              I left that division in mid-January. By the first of March, they demoted her ass. She got to keep her title, but they took her direct reports away, and she’s now being assigned her own caseload to work on the very team she started on when she came to the division 14 years ago.

              Karma is real, but she’s also slow as hell. Some of these other bad managers will get theirs, even if it takes a while.

              1. Artemesia*

                I can’t help but be struck by the fact that both of these bosses who got their comeuppance were women in a world where most bosses are men. I can’t think of a single instance in my work history where a notoriously awful boss didn’t prosper. Good people are let go or driven out before management does anything about bad middle management and if they are top management double that.

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  Yeah, funny thing – the majority of the managers at Evil Law Firm were women. Ditto for my previous division at current company.

                  In my 10+ years of working, I’ve only had three male bosses versus ten female bosses. Two bad apples out of ten isn’t bad, and the best manager I ever had was a woman (I try to model my professional behavior after her to no avail). But yeah – it sucks that tyrants are allowed to get away with nonsense for so long when they’re in positions of authority.

                2. SystemsLady*

                  Anecdata is fun. I’m in a similarly male dominated field (tides are starting to turn quickly) and I’ve never run into a awful female colleague. However, I’ve worked with several moderately opinionated women a lot of people (particularly, but not limited to, awful male colleagues) thought were exceptionally awful but really weren’t.

                  When you’ve got mostly female bosses, I’m sure you’re conversely bound to run into at least one terrible one.

                3. FeedUsFetusFajitas*

                  I recall reading a book about the high cost of people who behaved poorly, and how the justifications for letting them get away with it were financially irresponsible. I think it was called “The No Asshole Rule” or something similar. It was very good.

              2. ThursdaysGeek*

                My spouse worked with a guy years ago who was universally disliked. He claimed that he liked to get people (metaphorically) up against a wall, and then let them down just a little bit, and keep them there. He was a lousy manager. He was finally let go, then he got cancer and died.

                1. SystemsLady*

                  And I felt bad that a contractor who unprofessionally berated me and almost got escorted out (after I told him there was a problem with something and he disagreed with no basis, long story) woke up with kidney stone pain…

                  (I think he is on the contractor blacklist now, though.)

              3. Kittymommy*

                My mother was working for a one-attorney firm when she was ill for awhile (seizures, couldn’t drive). She was always coming home from work with stories about this woman and her temper. One day I picked her up and she said the woman screamed at her, called her incompetent, and threw a heavy metal stapler at her head. It bounced of the wall above her chair. She threw a stapler at my 100lb mom. That woman is lucky I didn’t throw her off the sixth floor.

                Her practice failed a few years after my mom left.

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  Threw a metal stapler?! Why do people think it’s okay to behave like toddlers in the workplace?

                2. Teapot, Teapot, and Teapot, LLC*

                  Sounds more like Axl Rose in his prime. She did say it was a heavy metal stapler.

                3. Rana*

                  Hell, even toddlers behave better than that. If my toddler impulsively threw something and almost hurt someone, she’d feel awful and try not to do it again.

              4. Jo*

                Oh man, this is perfect timing. My employer just decided not to renew my contract and gave me my 30 days notice; same story with one of my two coworkers in my department (so we’re going from a 3-person department to a 1-person department).

                This is ostensibly because my non-profit is unable to secure enough funding to keep full staff levels. Despite this, my boss (who is paid an outrageous salary despite never doing a day of work in his life) is still being kept on without even a pay cut. He’s a Missing Stair who is completely incompetent but has been with the organisation for years and has survived due to being a VIP in the local political scene (we’re in a developing country), as well as by constantly punishing his underlings for his own failings (i.e., managing and overseeing the department).

                I’m pretty sure he threw us under the bus to save himself, and our management is too dysfunctional and nepotistic to notice or care.

                Also, our department is the only one being cut, despite being integral to our organisation’s mission, while our bloated operations and admin departments–that are full of people’s relatives in jobs that were created solely to give them a job–have not been touched.

                At this point I’m rather glad I’m leaving; just annoyed that they deprived me of the satisfaction of quitting.

            2. Andrea*

              My uncle worked for Martin Shkreli, the dude who became The Most Hated Man in America for jacking up the price of drugs 5000% (not hyperbole). He’s apparently exactly as terrible to work for as you’d expect, constantly yelling and insulting people, completely unreasonable. Once he fired someone in the middle of an international trip.

              Yeah, we all felt pretty karmically satisfied when he was publicly exposed as a jerk.

              1. Honeybee*

                The Shkreli story is so satisfying not just because he was exposed as a jerk, but because he got arrested for securities fraud and ended up resigning from the pharmaceutical company he founded (for the second time!).

              2. Navy Vet*

                There was a meme out there a little while ago that said something along the lines of “The good thing about this asshole is that everyone agrees he’s an asshole. No right wing, no left wing. Just the United States of F**** this guy”.

                Ok, now I’m laughing remembering it.

          3. GreenTeaPot*

            Everyone I have ever encountered who abused employees ha come to no good end. Get out now!

        2. Jade*

          Yup. In my experience the bad bosses rarely get their deserved comeuppance, but I’m hoping to watch such a thing play out at one of my current jobs. We just had several long time employees leave because they could no longer take our boss’s overbearing personality and policies that increasingly made a work-life balance harder to maintain. Did their departures shutter the place? No (well, not yet at least). But when they left, their dozens of clients got left in the dust. My boss is trying to place them with new employees, but we simply don’t have the manpower to take them on, which means he’ll lose those contracts. I don’t know if the employees that left told him any of their reasons why. I hope the boss is at least able to put 2 and 2 together and realize that all this is happening because of him.

          1. AMG*

            It’s so strange that these people are generally have so little self-awareness. My husband had a horrible boss who was a jerk that screamed at people and couldn’t keep clients. Hubby kept bringing in deals and Boss kept losing the clients. Hubby left and there are barely any clients left now that nobody is there to stuff the pipeline. Boss is still putting his dwindling life savings into the failing company and doesn’t understand what’s wrong. The funny thing is that despite the Boss being so abusive, he still has fond, favorable opinions of Hubby.

            1. Alix*

              In my experience, they have so little self-awareness because they believe they’re right. If people leave (or confront them), it’s just proof in their minds that those people had problems or didn’t do things right or weren’t cut out for the job – the bosses can’t fail, but only be failed, or so they think.

              I tell you what, once I started recognizing that, I got really paranoid about times when I’m sure I’m correct.

          2. Kat M*

            My last terrible boss recently asked for and received a demotion, so she’s now my coworker.

            Not comeuppance, but maybe better? I’m happy she’s not a supervisor, SHE’S happy she’s not a supervisor, and the new guy in the role is freaking amazing. Win win win!

            1. Revanche*

              That’s a huge win. Most horrible managers I’ve worked with are in total denial that they suck it or they revel in it. Haven’t yet met one with the self awareness to remove themselves from the role.

        3. Rocky*

          A friend who worked in a government had a truly terrible boss (we’re talking misappropriation of public funds, aside from the usual “My boss is a jerk” behavior), and it took years, but she was finally escorted from her office by law enforcement.

      3. Chriama*

        I totally missed this — what a nightmare. Your entire family depends on this guy for employment, shelter and health insurance? For that reason alone you should be looking somewhere else. The fact that he’s an a-hole is just icing.

        1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

          Also, if this owner is unreasonable, unprofessional, cheap and a jerk–why do you want him to succeed? Why do you want to contribute to his success at the cost of your own sanity and financial future?

        2. Kyrielle*

          Also, how is the lease structured? If it’s your lease and he’s just paying it, awesome. If not, you have to be prepared to move first – and if he might retaliate against one or both of you, you have to be prepared to do it on just the income of whoever got another job…. Yikes. :(

    1. Bookworm*

      I read something on Captain Awkward about bad relationships that this reminded me of. It’s basically – how long are you willing to put up with this? Because this person (or this boss) has shown you, time and time again, that they don’t give reward good behavior, expect a lot of work in return and make crazy demands.

      How long are you willing to work for someone who doesn’t give raises (or give you the tools to make your own team happy), insist on 70-hour work weeks, underpays you, cuts back on your vacation time and makes ridiculous requests? For how long is it acceptable for that to be your normal?

      1 month?
      6 months?
      1 year?
      5 years?

      The longer you stay in that situation, the more normal those compromises are going to seem, until you sort-of ‘forget’ that there are people who get the good stuff you have (great staff, interesting work) without all the crazy stuff.*

      *mind you, there’s always some crazy stuff, but it’s clear this boss is going above and beyond. Overachiever, much?

      1. Jill*

        This is what I came to say. I had a loony tune boss that was a great gaslighter and pretty harsh in her frequent criticism. Fortunately I had a co-worker who was more experienced in the office and she kept reminding me over and over again “This place is not the real world.”

        OP, your workplace is NOT how things function in the real (normal) world! Using your raise to retain other employees? Pressure to open your home to a stranger? Working insane overtime hours but having no raise AND having benefits stripped? Not normal.

        And I echo bookworm: how much longer are you going to put up with this? Til your first heart attack? Til it affects your marriage? Til your personal belongings are stolen or ruined by a company houseguest? Please start looking!!

        1. Bookworm*

          Thank you! I could not for the life of me remember what it was called and my google search brought up wildly left-field answers.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yeah, it reminds of the Captain Awkward’s House of Evil Bees. As in, your house is haunted, there’s blood dripping down the walls, and evil bees are coming out of the ceiling. But you’re all like, “It’s not bad! Me and the house are BFF.”

        Or… your boss sucks, you’re overworked, underpaid, and now you’re supposed to host/chauffeur the boss’s nephew for months. But you’re all like, “It’s not bad! I like my job and we’re like family.”

        1. mander*

          If the OP’s job is like family, it’s a hella-dysfunctional family. This situation is positively frightening.

      3. Sketchee*

        I think I know the CA column you’re referring to. Was it the broken stair? Going to a house with missing stairs. Everyone who lives there just climbs over it even though it’s dangerous and continually says it’s no big deal. If you try to fix the stair, they all stop you because it highlights how not normal. The choice is to continue climbing up a dangerous set of missing stairs and wait to fall. Or exit that house.

        1. JessaB*

          The other issue of the missing stair is that a new person has no clue and falls through it and instead of fixing the stair, everyone is “Oh you should have looked.”

    2. BRR*

      My best friend is in a similar situation. It totally seems to me like Stockholm syndrome. She works consistently long hours and isn’t paid enough for the hours she puts in or the accuracy her job entails (due to regulations). She is really attached to her coworkers but everybody she works with is miserable.

      Do the things you like about your job really make up for 70 hour weeks, lack of pay, lots of stress, no raises, and only two weeks of vacation?

  3. 1023*

    I do not have anything to add other than my support that you need to move on. I think after you are out of the situation you will see more clearly how ridiculous it is and that you are being taken advantage of.

  4. K.*

    I was through at the headline, and then REALLY through at “he doesn’t like to give raises, so that was not an option” when he’s requiring that you move to a high COL area. No ma’am. Tell your boss his nephew can’t live with you, get your resume in order, and start looking for a new job. That goes for your husband too. This is nuts.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    If that office is like family, it’s one helluva of a dysfunctional one. There are so many crazy elements in this letter. The nephew is just the icing on a massive WTF Cake. None of this is normal, OP. You need to find a new job.

    Has he even thought through the implications of what he’s asking? What if the nephew threw a wild party and damaged your things? What if he decided to start shacking up with a special friend? What if he has a girlfriend who leaves pads out in common areas! What if he does a crappy job at work?

    This is crazy. And 70-hour workweeks are insane! You gave up your own raise to keep your employees? And that’s acceptable to both you and him? And he tried to reclaim a week of your vacation for no good reason?

    You gotta go. The other people will be fine – they’ll do what’s best for them. It’s time to think about yourself.

    1. Ama*

      You gotta go. The other people will be fine – they’ll do what’s best for them. It’s time to think about yourself.

      This is super important (and something I learned the hard way early in my career). You may love all your non boss coworkers or feel a need to stay so you can protect and/or support them in a way your boss will not, but you can’t put your own life and career needs/goals aside to continue working in a place that is never going to give you credit for doing so.

      I respect the impulse that prompted you to give up your own raise to retain employees, but if your boss is forcing you into that kind of choice, he doesn’t deserve to keep any of you.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Great point. I’ll go one further and say that if you’re first to leave, you might provide a hopeful example for your previous coworkers, and maybe even a source of job leads at your new, rational, non-abusive employer.

        And I hope your family would treat you better than this jerk has.

        1. Rob Lowe can't read*

          Yes! Start by taking care of yourself, OP – get outta there. Then do what you’re able to do to support the rest of your (former) staff as they, too, jump ship.

        2. MsMaryMary*

          Yes, help your underpaid, overworked staff move on to better things as well! Be a strong reference, pass on opportunities you find… You might not be able to directly hire them at your new job, but you can continue to help them develop their careers somewhere other than your current company. I’d feel no loyalty to a boss like yours.

        3. rando*

          Agreed! I left a not so great workplace, and scores of people left after I did. We are all much happier, and make a point to get lunch and stay in touch.

          And the place I left is starting to develop a reputation because so many people left. They are having serious trouble replacing everyone. Maybe they will make changes, or maybe they will fail. Either way, I don’t care! Not my problem anymore!

          1. Desdemona*

            Right?! I wasted my youth “protecting” the people who reported to me in a toxic environment. I finally realized protecting them was killing me, and wasn’t really doing much for them, because we were all trapped together under this arbitrary boss who could reach over me to hurt them whenever he liked. I left, and virtually everyone I had hired left within the year, and all of us have landed in healthier environments. Leaving was the best thing I could ever have done, both for myself and for them.

            Also, though we all thought of ourselves as family while we worked together, I’ve found since leaving, we really didn’t have much in common beyond the shared trauma. Now I enjoy my colleagues, and appreciate being just work friends. They don’t need anything from me, and we can enjoy group outings without having any responsibility to them beyond being good company and a competent colleague.

        4. One of the Sarahs*

          I can completely see why, in a crappy job situation, people hold onto something like “I want to protect my awesome co-workers, so I can’t leave”, because it helps them get through the day, and because they’re nice people. BUT the really best thing to do is to demonstrate that they don’t have to stay in a shitty situation, and that this workplace is not normal.

    2. Bookworm*

      I hate it when employees described work like a family, because almost invariably they’re twisting the word around to convey all the patience, commitment, loyalty that people put into their families.

      If you fire your employees when they’re not doing their jobs, then you’re not running your business like a family. Trust me, otherwise I would have fired my sister back when we were still playing AYSO.

      1. BRR*

        I also really hate when people describe coworkers like family. In this letter it’s like accurately describing family but not in a good way. Work is a complete burden that takes most of your time, stresses you out, impacts your income, and is taking away your time off. I think many of us have felt that family does those things sometimes.

      2. Adam*

        My first thought when OP said that her coworkers feel like family: You work 70 hours a week and I imagine most of them are putting in more than their fair share as well. While I’m sure they’re genuinely good people I think the camaraderie of working in an organization that downright forces people to seek mutual support to maintain their sanity is probably contributing to that a great deal. It’s great you have that while it’s there, but you should really be encouraging each other to find your quickest functional exit possible.

      3. Alix*

        That, and also “my work is like a family” is a big red flag that there is no work/life balance and no boundaries, no place where work stops and your personal life begins. Even in an otherwise functional workplace, “work is like family” sets off my alarm bells.

      4. FiveWheels*

        Work being like family helps me greatly in the crazy times, because my family is so much more messed up than my work and have inoculated me against a certain level of stress.

        Screamed at for something I didn’t do which turns out to not be a problem anyway then pretending no screaming happened? No problem dude, I’ve been practising this for years!

      5. Kaz*

        I had an executive once describe a company that I used to work in as a family. Next he proceeded to lay family (err…people) off. Work is not family. Family doesn’t stop being family…but employees can stop being employees if they leave/laid off/fired. Nothing wrong with calling work…work and calling your employees…employees.

    3. taylor swift*

      “what if he has a girlfriend who leaves pads out in common areas!”
      Love it. +1000

      1. addlady*

        I didn’t understand that until I scrolled down the aam home page.

        Seriously, wtf, Wednesday!?

    4. the_scientist*

      I need that .gif of Jason Bateman in Arrested Development just shaking his head and going “No. No. No no no nonononononono”. That was my exact reaction to reading this.

    5. Callie*

      What if he injures himself while on your property and sues you? What if he does something illegal (like selling drugs) and you are held responsible? OMG. The nightmares.

      1. JeanLouiseFinch*

        You should draft up a ridiculous rule book for the nephew based upon this crazy Craigslist ad for a tenant I especially like the part about the automatic lights out at 11:30 pm and lights on at 5:30 am. If you pay your own power bills, he will need to pay a share, also the cable bills, water, food and gas for any driving he needs you to do. Oh, and by the way, he needs to pay you an enormous safety deposit for furniture. If any of these conditions are not met, nephew will be evicted immediately, even if it’s the middle of the night. Submit this to your boss. Tell him these are the house rules and this is what his nephew will be required to conform with. Oh, and your deal was that you get your own house, so the company owes you 1/3 of the house rental for the decrease in house room and privacy for 3 months.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            I know someone who has security cameras inside his house. They point towards the front and patio doors. He told me that in the case of the front door, there are very strict privacy laws around what you can or cannot have a camera pointed at, but from within the house, it is obvious that his intent is security, not surveillance. While I doubt in the case of this landlord that’s how they have been situated, I can see how having a camera placed like that inside the house would be useful in a break in situation… provided it happened during the time the lights are automatically on. *shudders*

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I’ve stayed in bad positions way too long. You can get so used to these things being normal that you stop realizing there might be a better way.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        My first inkling that perhaps the OP has lost perspective on how terrible her boss is was at “His nephew needs a summer job in between semesters at school, so my boss asked if he could come to work with me. Obviously, I said yes.”

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yes! I had the same thought! That’s not an automatic yes – it’s actually likely to be a big pain in the butt!

        2. JoJo*

          If Bossman can afford to put his nephew on the payroll for months, he can afford to give raises.

        3. Persephone Mulberry*

          Which is to say, not that the OP shouldn’t give the nephew a job, but that it should be done with some due diligence around what role he’s going to fill and who gets to lay down the hammer if he sucks.

          1. Honeybee*

            And it shouldn’t just be because he “needs a job” to fill the time; it should be because he wants to learn something about THIS job that he’s going to be working.

        4. Delyssia*

          Interesting. My spidey-senses went off at “He does not like to give raises, so that was not an option.” And the automatic yes to giving the nephew a summer job doesn’t really bother me.

        5. Sophie*

          I read this as:

          ‘Instead of giving my well deserving employees a raise after three years without, and keeping their holiday entitlement, I want to pay my cousin to work for my business but you have to do all of the training and look after him’

          Run. Run fast. Eww.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I’ve had things that happened that I just took in stride for YEARS and then one day I was explaining them to someone and I’m like, wait, that was not good was it.

        Last week I was describing an event in my childhood to someone that I’d never really questioned and just assumed was normal and I got to the end of the sentence and went, “…and that’s actually totally messed up isn’t it.”

      3. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yes. Horrible bosses are often good at messing with your head and making you think there’s no hope of anything better and you have no other choice. Just like other abusers.

      1. Windchime*

        I agree. And it’s kind of like a bad relationship; it’s not 100% bad all the time. Very few people would agree to stay if they had a choice if it was 100% bad. Sometimes there are enough good things that it makes you doubt your own judgment about the bad stuff.

  6. Artemesia*

    Quietly and calmly start the job search; the good news is that you are in a bigger city and so it is at least plausible that there are other options. Don’t tip your hand on that (and don’t host the nephew who will be a spy for uncle) Give two weeks notice; preferably do it at a very busy season. Don’t look back. People like this need to eat the consequences of being assholes.

  7. Robin*

    At the university I worked for, we were bringing in an Executive in Residence from India. We put this person up in campus housing and paid for just about everything during that summer. My boss told me that every Friday I was to go to her home, pick up her dirty laundry and take it to my house – wash it, dry it, fold it and return it to her on my way into the office each Monday morning. Needless to say, I resigned. The first questions my boss asked me was “Is this because of the laundry?” LOL! Hysterical.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      That’s truly bizarre. I wonder if she requested it- in India it’s pretty common for even very middle class people to have people to do their laundry, cleaning, etc but that’s because labor is so cheap. But she would also know that that’s just not common in the US!

      1. Jeanne*

        There are people in the US who will do your laundry for you. But they are not your coworkers and you do not get it for free. What an icky job assignment. (If you work at the laundry, that’s different.)

        1. Bookworm*

          Plus, if you normally work a 9-5 office schedule, getting a laundry assignment for over the weekend would not necessarily go over well.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Right. I was clearly in no way justifying it. Just wondering if maybe she requested it and idiot bossman came up with this as a solution instead of thinking through other options, because that is truly bizarre.

          1. fposte*

            I wondered if there might be a cultural element in the OP’s situation, too, since she mentions the nephew as being from another country.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              I was thinking the same. Boundaries are a little different depending on your country. Where I studied abroad I found people SUPER pushy in wanting “favors” like you writing their college entrance essays (um, no thanks).

          2. Ama*

            Given my experience working in academia, that is entirely plausible. Also possible that he looked at the cost of a laundry service and decided it was too much or thought it might not be an allowable expense under the university regulations and so decided to try to force Robin to do it rather than say no to the VIP.

            1. Artemesia*

              Sounds right. No university finance office would approve this. It reminds me of the diplomat who was busted for underpaying and abusing a maid she brought into the country and kept in bondage. Her defense ‘Well on what I make I can’t afford to pay benefits and minimum wage.’

              Well guess what neither can most Americans, so they don’t have maids.

            2. WIncredulous*

              I’m broke as a joke and I still have my laundry done out occasionally. My reasoning is that I live in an apartment with only paid, shared washers and dryers — so I either pay here, pay at the laundromat or *pay* the laundromat to do it (not much more than doing it myself.) Or, I drive a long ways to my parents and do laundry there, for the cost of the gas and wear/tear on my 196,007 mile truck. No way a university can’t afford a laundry service. SMH.

              1. Honeybee*

                Depends on where it is. When I was living in New York I actually knew a lot of people who had laundry service because it was pretty cheap – not much more than doing it at the laundromat. But in a lot of other cities in the U.S. laundry service is more expensive.

        3. hermit crab*

          Yeah, I can sort of envision a situation where the boss says, “My assistant will pick up and drop off your dry cleaning for you” — but that’s WAY different than actually doing the laundry!

    2. Chriama*

      So the issues I see here

      – asking an employee to carry the cost of doing business (paying for water, electricity detergent)

      – liability (you are not a laundry professional, your machine and facilities haven’t been inspected, any damage to the clothes won’t be covered by your home insurance and your home likely isn’t covered by your employer’s insurance)

      – unpaid overtime (unless you get to leave work early to do all this)

      You can pay anyone for literally anything these days. I guarantee there would be a local service you can pay to pick up laundry, do it and deliver it home. Boss seems unwise to me lol.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        A laundry service is not even that unusual of a thing! Like, it is totally a service that places offer, at least in large-ish cities!

        1. Jillian*

          I live in a town with a population of 10,000 and we have two places that offer this service, fairly inexpensively.

    3. Pwyll*

      I know someone who went through the reverse of this. I forget which country she was relocated to, but when she and her husband arrived they were introduced to their housekeeper who handled EVERYTHING, and even lived on-site. My friends were, of course, appreciative but didn’t really want that and asked the company to reassign her and they’d take care of their own household chores. Apparently this is a big cultural no-no wherever they were, and the local staff of her employer balked similar to the way we did with your story. Everyone of a certain social status had a housekeeper, and to not have one is to imply there was something wrong/unclean/etc. with them. Almost drove the poor woman into poverty too, as no one would hire her because they thought she had done something wrong. And the local employees started treating my friends pretty badly, as they assumed it was a form of racism/elitism on their part. It all worked out after they had a nice big meeting about the cultural shellshock (and frankly, why they didn’t do some kind of cultural onboarding in the beginning baffles me). Rehired the housekeeper. Spent 2 years in a foreign land having someone do their laundry and cooking amazing foods. I’m still jealous.

      All that is to say, this really sounds like something lost in translation between the employee and your employer, who then took the misunderstanding to outrageous new heights rather than actually addressing the cultural inconsistency. (And good for you for quitting, I’d have done so too.)

        1. Pwyll*

          Yeah, it was compounded misunderstandings. They thought because she was employed by the company she’d just get reassigned, but that’s not at all how that works, I guess. I wish I could remember where they lived, it sounded like a great experience (cultural misunderstandings notwithstanding).

          1. Stitchi*

            This is common in Singapore, which would be my best guess for where she was. It might also be common in surrounding countries, but Singapore is a pretty big business hub to boot. I think the US Military onboarding document for people stationed there also discusses the concept of a live-in maid and how to deal with that transition.

      1. Sandy*

        This actually happened to me once, in the Middle East. In the country I was living in at the time, basically, upper class households have housekeepers, and middle class households, like ours, have “a guy”.

        Basically, the services of “the guy” are shared by all the residents of the building. He acts as a guard for the building and takes out the garbage for each unit. BUT he can also be asked to do all sorts of things, like buy you cellphone minutes, or do your laundry, or order you takeout, or get you a cab, etc. He can also find you a cleaning lady, or fix your light fixtures, etc.

        So I didn’t know this. All I knew was that this supposed “guard” for my building kept knocking on the door of a young, single woman (me) and offering his “services”. The more I refused, the more he kept persisting.

        So I reported it to my company, who were responsible for renting the apartment. It caused a huge kerfuffle, and it took a meeting between me, my company, the landlord and “the guy” to learn that, in fact, what he was doing was completely normal and in fact part of his job description. He was genuinely scared (rightly so) that he would fired because I refused to allow him to provide the services he was contractually obligated to provide.

        In the end, once it got ironed out, he turned out to be an absolutely wonderful man – a real gentleman – and he totally made life easier by getting me cellphone minutes and ordering me non-sketchy cabs. I never got used to him taking out my garbage though- that was a step too far for me.

        Sadly, in the end, he was run out of town for being gay. Ten years later, I still wonder how he’s doing and laugh at some of my deeply-held assumptions.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Hahaha I can totally picture this! A friend of mine lived in Korea for a while and they also had “a guy” who took care of everything – basically a full-time concierge. God, I would love that right now. My husband probably would too so I’d quite asking him to do things :D

      2. Bookworm*

        Yeah, there are some places where it’s even considered selfish not to hire help if you can afford it – you’re depriving someone of a job in a place where jobs are desperately needed.

      3. Mephyle*

        These are great examples of how cultural shock and adaptation isn’t always what you think it’s going to be. One might ask “Why didn’t they explain it to the foreigners when they arrived?” Why? Because who thinks that you need to explain the most obvious things that ‘everybody knows’?
        Only, when you’re dealing with a meeting between two cultures, sometimes one culture’s ‘taken for granted’ that it would never occur to people that it would need to be explained is the other culture’s ‘what!?’

        1. Wendy Darling*

          My SO is from another country, but one quite similar to the US. When he moved to the US his employer put him up in temp housing while he found his own place, and gave him a document that was basically Protips For American Apartments. My favorite item was the one that said “DO NOT PUT GARBAGE IN THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL.” It was very emphatic. Clearly this had been a problem in the past, so it was explained in great detail that small food scraps were okay but actual trash had to go in the bin.

      4. Dynamic Beige*

        Back in the late 70’s/early 80’s (can’t remember how old I was exactly) I was at a neighbour’s house for dinner with the rest of my family. The neighbours had some friends of theirs also over as they had just come back from living in South Africa and were trying to get re-established in Canada. I was too young to know anything about anything going on over there, but the one thing that they talked about was the fact that they *had* to have a housekeeper. As in, in the back of their garden was a small house that was specifically for the housekeeper. After they moved in, they had said, every day a different woman had knocked on their back door and asked for the job. They turned them all away because they were used to cooking and cleaning for themselves and didn’t see any point in having a housekeeper. Finally, one of these women (who were all black) told them point blank that being a housekeeper was the only job she would be able to have, that if she was their housekeeper, she would be able to shop in the better stores because she would be shopping for them, which would also allow her to get things for her family that were otherwise unavailable. I can’t remember if they wound up hiring her but I still remember that story because I just couldn’t imagine living in a place like that.

  8. Just some Canuk*

    This whole article points to a very important issue many people seem to miss out on when taking on jobs or making significant changes to their own job.
    Get stuff written down in contract, and go see a lawyer to have it reviewed.

    That being said, OP you have my sympathies, but you need to look for another job.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Meh…even if it was written down the company can change their policies. Waving a piece of paper that says “you promised three weeks of leave” won’t stand up to “…and now we’re changing that policy going forward.”

      1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

        I am altering the deal, pray I do not alter it further.

      2. Mike C.*

        I have to wonder if something like this wouldn’t count as constructive dismissal. I honestly have no idea, but if nothing else it would give the labor lawyer a great story to tell and the consultation is free.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Very unlikely. A change in benefits isn’t going to usually rise to the bar of “a reasonable person would have no choice but to quit.” (Also constructive dismissal isn’t illegal; it just means you can get unemployment benefits.)

          1. Mike C.*

            Thanks for the reminder that cd isn’t explicitly illegal.

            You don’t think that “either house my nephew in your current domicile and drive him everywhere he wants on your off hours or lose your job” wouldn’t count as a situation where “a reasonable person would have no choice but to quit”?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Well, there hasn’t been an explicit “or lose your job” attached to that part so far. And it doesn’t sound like the boss said “drive him everywhere he wants to go,” just that he doesn’t have a driver’s license. (Potentially the OP could drive him almost nowhere and instead direct him to the bus.)

              So with just the facts that we have, based on dealing with unemployment from the employer side of things, at least in D.C. (where they’re pretty pro-employee): nope.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Requiring the transfer could meet the bar (if she wanted to refuse it), but probably not the no raise. They’re very black and white there.

            2. LQ*

              Unemployment varies greatly from state to state so you don’t want to fall into thinking that the rules are the same everywhere. If they were fired for not housing the nephew that would be likely to be paid in most states. But quitting a job, it is much harder to show in most states.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Just to be clear, though, like I said above: The boss hasn’t said they’d be fired if they don’t house the nephew. Quitting just because you were asked (not required) isn’t likely to be considered “constructive discharge” in any state, to my knowledge.

                1. LQ*

                  Yes, absolutely, they haven’t said that. Even if they -did- say that explicitly and the OP quit, they may still not be eligible (again depending on the state and the exact situation). This is not a case you want to assume that you’d get paid. Looking for a new job is the way to go here.

      3. Just some Canuk*

        I mostly referred to the house and car rental portions rather then vacation.

        you should have an employment contract that specifies the bonuses/perks/requirements associated with your job.

        Such and such salary, sole use of a house with x bedrooms and y bathrooms, use of company vehicle for private use.

        If they tr to change the deal you can ring up the signed agreement. Not sure on US labor rues if they change some of the terms if you have any legal recourse.

        1. Just some Canuk*

          Also things like this is why you should negotiate for a house and car allowance rather then use of a house and car.

          Removes the company from the place you live or car you own.

          1. Kittens Mcghee*

            But you know what? This company is making this doubly hilarious – because the boss firing OP and presumably refusing to pay rent for the house doesn’t mean anything to the landlord or to tenant law in that state. What lease is that house on? 6 months? A year? Month-to-Month? The OP didn’t mention that *they* had to sign the lease (as far as I can tell) and it sounds like they’ve lived there long enough to be considered tenants (it usually doesn’t matter who pays the rent, what matters is length of time residing on a property) and have the legal right to occupy the property and the landlord must follow proper eviction processes if their employer stops paying on a lease that he presumably signed. The landlord isn’t going to care about OP getting fired, LL is going to care about the lease being broken by the person(s) who agreed to pay the rent.

            Either way, they’re not likely to have to leave that house right away after being fired, because even if asshole boss IS the LL, he must abide by tenant-LL law in that state.

            1. Pineapple Incident*

              That’s definitely true- most states have a set of de-facto protections for rental tenants even when there’s no formal contract. I would look for those, show them to boss, as technically the company acts as “landlord” in these types of situations (not that there are a lot of situations this weird, but you get the point).

              1. Kittens Mcghee*

                Whether or not the employer is the landlord isn’t known (at least, I haven’t seen any information otherwise) and that makes a big difference too. If the Employer signed a lease and is paying rent to a landlord, then the Employer needs to pay that rent or break the lease. Now, the fact that he is firing an employee who lives on the rented property is completely immaterial to a third party landlord- the LL wants his lease honored and if the lease signer, who I am assuming is the employer, has no more reason to rent the property stops paying, the LL will go after him legally. Even if the employer is the actual property owner, he STILL needs to go through the eviction process and one misstep means he has to start all over or risk the wrath of the State if he attempts a self-help eviction.

          1. Just some Canuk*

            Do you not get some kind of of offer, or information package from your employer detailing your compensation, position etc…?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Usually (although not required by law), but it’s not binding for any particular period of time. The employer can change it at any time, just not retroactively.

              1. Gaara*

                Right. Even if these aspects of your job are contractual, as long as it’s an at-will employment relationship, the employer can make changes, which the employee is deemed to accept by continuing to be employed.

          2. TootsNYC*

            and U.S. workers don’t typically receive rent in lieu of salary. So if you’re going to count on those things as being part of your compensation package, get it in writing. It’ll be better than nothing.

      4. INTP*

        Yep. And that’s assuming people even have the foresight to make sure that not only does the contract include a house, it also guarantees that your company isn’t allowed to send anyone else to live in it. Even if there was a contract it would likely include language specifying that the property was leased to the company to do what they wish with it, just like your company car or cell phone, and a reasonable person wouldn’t realize that they would wind up bunking with the boss’ nephew.

    2. fposte*

      In the U.S., most people aren’t working on contracts, and most employers wouldn’t sign one if it were at the employee’s behest.

    3. Noah*

      There is almost a zero chance of employers in the US being willing to give someone an employment contract. You can get an offer letter or written policies, but it is not a contract and the courts will not treat it like a contract.

      1. K.*

        I had a contract at my previous employer, but I’m certain that’s because they’re a European company (and I’ve worked in the States for European employers before and haven’t had a contract). It’s the only place I’ve ever had one.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        It is standard in some areas, academia being one. I was in the US on a J1 visa, and I needed a contract with term of employment, salary, and health care benefits specified as part of the paperwork.

        They can, of course, change things when the contract/visa comes up for renewal.

        1. Honeybee*

          That may have been because of your J-1 visa, and not because of academia. Contract work is more common in academia than other fields, but I wouldn’t say it’s standard.

    4. rr*

      Now I’m actually wondering about the landlord agreement and lease and what was in writing in there. There may be landlord/tenant law that could come into play. (I am nowhere near a lawyer.)

      1. davey1983*

        I thought about that as well (note: I am also not a lawyer). I was under the impression that even if someone else was footing the bill, the current tenants has rights. One of those rights is refusing access/guests/new tenants into the building unless the lease says otherwise.

        Whenever I have rented, there is always a clause about when the landlord was allowed to enter– in one state I had to give written permission to the landlord to enter the building even if I requested them to fix something (they would not enter unless I gave them a piece of paper with my signature on it saying they could enter, even though I had asked them to come into the residence in the first place!).

      2. doreen*

        I’m not a lawyer either, but I suspect any tenant rights are going to depend on details that aren’t in the letter – like whether the OP is on the lease and the employer is simply paying the bill or whether the company is leasing the house and allowing the OP to live there while she is an employee.

        1. Kittens Mcghee*

          Nope, tenancy in majority of states are dependent on physical occupation of the property, not who pays the rent.

          1. doreen*

            I’m not talking about who pays the rent, I’m talking about who has the lease. There are lots of situations where employer-provided housing goes with the job (either on a temporary or permanent basis) . Most of them involve employer-owned housing, but I do know I’ve heard of situations where the company rents an apartment and allows employees to live there either while on a temporary assignment, or until a transferred employee finds permanent housing. I’m sure that if the person living in the apartment refuses to leave voluntarily, a court eviction would be necessary, but I’m not at all sure about the other issues – for example, if an employer provides housing to employees on temporary assignments, I would expect that they could assign four employees to a four bedroom apartment.

  9. addlady*

    Where will she live after being kicked out of her housing? She can’t just buy her own house in New York–that would be hugely expensive–and I doubt her old place is still available.

    1. KR*

      Assuming her old place was an apartment – she could theoretically be paying her mortgage/rent to keep her old home while living in NYC.

    2. Bookworm*

      I also don’t think people are necessarily advocating OP quitting right away – just that she should launch a job search.

    3. Chriama*

      Presumably wherever she finds a new job, whether this location or back home, she’ll get paid a wage that enables her to afford to secure her own housing. People rent, and move, all the time.

    4. neverjaunty*

      She can rent a new place once she gets a job at a place that pays market wages. I would bet a non-essential internal organ that a boss who “doesn’t like to give raises” also doesn’t like to pay a competitive salary.

    5. Kittens Mcghee*

      New York state has some very tenant-friendly laws. The proper eviction process will have to take place, and how long that takes will depends on the rent-payer’s willingness to have an eviction on his record.

      1. Honeybee*

        OP didn’t actually say she lived in New York, though – she used moving from Memphis to New York as an example.

  10. Jeanne*

    Everything in this letter sounds nightmarish. Stop working 70 hours a week. Cut it back to 55-60 and let the rest go. Things won’t be perfect but you need to take care of yourself. Keep saying “that won’t be possible” to having the nephew live with you. Change the locks maybe? Then start your job search. Good luck!

  11. Chameleon*

    Wow. WOW.

    LW, the most important question right now is: Whose name is on the lease? If it’s your name, you’ll have a certain set of rights if you push back on this ridiculous boss and get fired (or decide to leave). If his name is on the lease, you may have an additional problem…or maybe you can live there anyway while finding another job, since your name won’t be connected to any eviction procedures. If I were you, I’d be talking to a tenancy lawyer so you know your full options if you have to leave this crazy, crazy job.

    1. Mike C.*

      Even having lived there for a certain length of time is going to be really helpful. I know the OP didn’t say where they were, but there’s certainly a correlation between all the high CoL areas I can think of, and strong tenant laws.

    2. Joshua*

      I second talking to a landlord-tenant attorney. Even if just to give you peace of mind. As Alison said, you have an unreasonable boss. Who know’s what he will do. Best to arm yourself with information.

      Many larger cities (I know Chicago in particular fits this) are pretty pro-tenant. Even if your name is not connected to the house, by allowing you to live there many municipalities would recognize you as a tenant and your boss as a landlord and would grant you with a list of protections. I’d find out the situation just so you’re prepared and know what would happen if he retaliated.

    3. neverjaunty*

      This is an excellent point. If OP and her husband have lived there any length of time, they’re likely tenants regardless of whose name is on the lease. Definitely work a trip to an attorney to find out.

    4. Kittens Mcghee*

      The others are correct. In terms of establishing and maintaining tenancy, it’s irrelevant who pays the rent. They are tenants and can’t be kicked out the moment they are fired.

  12. Elle*

    I was feeling panicky just READING this post. Any one of these issues is horrible, but combined? I know I couldn’t do it.

  13. Mike C.*

    Uh, OP, holy shit.

    I don’t know if you’re a commenter here, but I’ve spoken on and off about that toxic job I had several years ago, and I’m hearing the same exact thing, right down to the combination landlord/owner situation. I know this, I’ve lived this and I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you.

    Bad news – you’re in a toxic workplace. An abusive relationship. Things don’t improve over time no matter how much time and energy you put into this. 70 hour workweeks are insane for emergency personnel. Are you actively saving lives, actively serving your nation in a time of war or some similar mission? If not, these hours are batshit crazy. You’re in an abusive relationship – sure, your landlord/boss isn’t beating the crap out of you, but he is holding your finances and home hostage to his crazy whims. What’s next, is he going to move in when he comes to town to save money on a hotel room? And driving the nephew around, what the shit?! If you’re hourly, I hope that you’re charging overtime for that.

    Look at the rest of the package. Your vacation time is being taken away. You aren’t receiving raises. Your hours are crazy. It’s going to have serious impacts on your mental and physical well-being, your marriage, your friendships and so on. Being so short on sleep on top of all that is going to prevent you and your husband from thinking clearly, being tolerant of things that normal adults are tolerant of and it’s going to make getting out of this situation more difficult.

    Good news – you can escape it. You need to carve out time for yourself to get a clear head and deal with your situation. Look up the landlord/tenant laws in your area. Redo (or hire someone to – this has worked amazingly well for me, and you don’t have a ton of time, sleep deprivation, etc) your resume and start looking for jobs elsewhere. Call in sick if you have to – the fact that you live with your husband and illnesses are contagious makes taking sick time off together easier. It might take some time to find other jobs, but the fact that you’re making progress on a way out will give you hope for those days that get really, really bad.

    You probably already realize a great deal about this, but I wanted to say all this just to point out that these issues are real, they are harmful and that you and your husband can get out. Best of luck to you, and please update us. :)

    1. Mike C.*

      One more thing – consider a consultation with a labor lawyer and/or a tenant rights group in your area. This isn’t about filing lawsuits, this is about gathering information and learning what special rights you have based on where you live. You may find that you have protections and rights that you didn’t even consider.

    2. neverjaunty*

      This is utterly true and very well put.

      One other thing to add, OP – in a toxic workplace, it’s very, very common for the employees to huddle together and feel ‘like a family’ because you’re all going through the same insanity with your boss. That makes it harder for you to want to leave – but I like my co-workers and I don’t want to abandon them! – but please consider that by leaving, you will be helping them to get out, too.

      1. Gaara*

        Yes! This!

        A few people have left my dysfunctional employer over the last several months. For the rest of us who recognize how screwed up the work environment is (and are looking for jobs elsewhere), sure, it’s made our jobs a little bit harder, but that’s far outweighed by how optimistic that makes us about having options elsewhere.

        1. F.*

          I have written extensively about my toxic workplace in this forum, but the rats are finally starting to abandon the sinking ship, and the first long-time management employee left last month. It CAN be done. In my case, because this is the third toxic manager/company owner in a row that I have worked for, and because I am a female in my mid-50s, I have a very strong fear of going from bad to worse. It is hard enough to get a job – any job – at my age, but I will have to work for at least 15 more years. I don’t want to make a serious mistake. I cannot afford to start over near the bottom of the payscale. It is definitely fear that is holding me back. Even with that fear, I have begun selectively applying for other positions. Everyone who is saying that you are in an abusive relationship with your employer is right. I was psychologically abused for 18 years until I left my parents’ home, it took me over 17 years to get out of a psychologically abusive marriage, I’ve been at this abusive company nearly 9 years. I WILL get out of here. And I WILL find something better. And you will, too.

        1. Brightwanderer*

          It’s really fantastic. I often go back to it – I’ve never been in a truly sick system as described but I recognise aspects of it in some of the places I’ve worked, and it helps to realise that the situation you’re in is actively contributing to your difficulties in escaping it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, Please be sure to read this link. I have seen this right down to the detail of being told, “You can’t work anywhere else because you no longer know how to fit in.” And there is some truth to that. Our deal was speed, everything had to be done fast-fast-fast. I have never worked anywhere that things moved so fast. I went to another job years later and the employees were complaining about how fast everything had to be done. I had time for naps in between tasks because it was not fast to me. I just smiled and nodded a lot when people commented.

  14. LibraryChick*

    Having a young man I do not know staying with me in my home would make me very concerned about my personal safety.

    1. 12345678910112 do do do*

      I think we can safely modify this to “Having a STRANGER stay with me in my home…” because frankly there are old women who are bat-poop crazy dangerous.

      1. BRR*

        I’d go so far as to say even if it’s an awesome person I don’t want someone living with me and my husband for a couple months. And that’s a best case scenario.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I barely want my boyfriend living with me sometimes, but at least I don’t have to be “host-polite” to him when I need my space. I have one cousin who is allowed to stay with me for more than one or two nights, but even after a week I’d probably want to throw her out.

        2. OfficePrincess*

          Exactly. My in-laws once stayed with us for two nights and it was two nights too many!

      2. starsaphire*

        “Well, dear, we put it in wine, because it’s less noticeable. When it’s in tea, it has a distinct odor.”

        – Aunt Martha Brewster, “Arsenic and Old Lace”

  15. Dan*

    “Despite all of this, I really enjoy working here”

    OP, I’ve got some really great news for you:

    If you like working there, you’re really, really, really, really, really going to enjoy working somewhere else! I promise! Can you just imagine?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “Every aspect of my life is under the control of one person who is not a competent human being, but other than that I really like my job.”


      OP, there are MANY likable jobs out there. This is not the only one. I promise.

  16. Sarahnova*

    I’m not the only one for whom ‘we’re like a family’ now reads as ‘this workplace is horridly dysfunctional and toxic’, right? And I say this as a veteran of one of those workplaces, which at the time I would have vehemently defended. I could only fully see how abusive it was, and how it had marked me, when I was out.

    OP: Work SHOULDN’T be like a family. A healthy workplace is not a family. Feeling that way about it is a sign that you are becoming too enmeshed, and that you depend on the approval of people there more than is healthy. Please get out.

    1. K.*

      Absolutely not. When I go on interviews, I always ask about company culture and I have opted out of hiring processes upon hearing “It’s like a family here!” My family is my family; my work is my work. “We’re like family!” is almost always a sign of a dysfunctional workplace with no professional boundaries.

      When I was unemployed, I watched a bunch of Kitchen Nightmares reruns. This would come up a lot – restaurant staff would be like “They’re my family!” and surprise surprise, the places were run totally dysfunctionally. Gordon Ramsay would say, simply, “They’re not, though. Your family is at home.” He pointed out to one owner that “we’re like family!” would fall by the wayside very quickly when the restaurant went under, the rest of the staff went on to their next jobs, and the owners and their ACTUAL families were the ones responsible for trying to dig themselves out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt they’d accrued.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, I watched those too, and I noticed the same thing. Also, in my experience, this tends to happen in small businesses where owners have little knowledge of labor laws or even workplace norms, they control everything, and there is no HR or oversight of any kind. It’s almost like a tiny despotic country.

    2. OriginalYup*

      You’re entirely correct. It’s like real estate code, where “quaint” means “no closets and bad plumbing.” In a work context, “we’re like family” is code for “you aren’t allowed to have boundaries, we won’t pay you fairly or recognize your contributions properly, and you’ll be regularly asked to do stuff that is one or more of the following: unsafe, illegal, insane, or professionally stupid.”

      1. TempestuousTeapot*

        Had one employer who pulled that and openly attempted to guilt trip my team into working unpaid. A few of us refused and wow did the threats and abuse go on. Yes, I worked a crappy job or two, but only until a better one was landed. I think most of us have been there.

        If that’s someone’s (OP’s boss’) definition of family, he/she (OP’s boss) needs to be disowned.

    3. A Bug!*

      When a company says “we’re like a family,” it’s usually true, but in the dysfunctional double-standard sense where the burden and benefit always seem to flow in one direction and anyone who objects to bearing that burden is chided for their filial impiety. These employers use “we’re family” to justify expecting unconditional loyalty from employees that are treated like crap in return.

      Those companies who are “like a family” in the sense that the employers treat their employees with kindness and generosity and are there for them in times of need? I don’t want to say they’re unicorns, but for all intents and purposes they might as well be.

      1. Althea*

        It’s not a myth! I work for one :) No one describes it as family, though. Good workplaces know that you need division between work and family.

    4. BRR*

      I don’t think “we’re like a family” is ever part of a 100% positive comment. It seems to appear more with “we’re like a family but horrible thing” or “I don’t how to handle this difficult conversation because we’re like family.” I wrote higher up but family also can have negative attributes. Even with previous work places where it did feel more like family, I’ve moved on and just like that I’m divorced/emancipated/estranged etc.

      1. Sarahnova*

        Ha, it’s like when letters start with ‘my boyfriend is totally wonderful, but there’s this ONE LITTLE THING…’

        1. Dan*

          No matter who asks it, whenever someone writes in and says “My is wonderful…” my immediate question is, if it’s so great, what’s motivating you to write into an advice columnist?

          I’ve decided that the people who open like that are trying to convince *themselves* that things can’t actually be that bad. I mean, look at OP here. Is stating “I love my job” going to convince us her job is great with all of the other details that she’s given? Oh hell no. For whatever reason, a lot of people don’t want to muster up the courage to end a relationship that isn’t working, and are trying to convince themselves that things are fine.

          1. BRR*

            +1 to all of it. The comments read like Alison asked “what was your most horrible job situation?” I don’t think anybody thinks the LW should stay in this job no matter the positives.

  17. rr*

    This lost me completely at “you need to move to a place with a higher cost of living, but we will not change compensation”. How much do they pay the people they hire who already live there? This is absurd.

    LW, I’m sorry, but this is not a good job. You may work with incredible people, but your boss is not one of them. And alas your boss is the one that’s the trump card. This is unreasonable demands, this is not okay. You are being taken advantage of, you are seriously underpaid, and you deserve better.

    1. BRR*

      I reread the letter and not only is that an aspect where I feel the LW should get a raise but “run operations for our second location, as well as continue to run operations for my original location.” How much more work is this to not get a raise?

      1. BRR*

        Also rereading if the LW moved to the new location and is having rent and a car paid for (not entirely sure of the situation), that’s very similar to a raise in my opinion. But the nephew thing is bullshit as well as so many other parts.

        1. TootsNYC*

          yeah, it’s sort of stupid for the boss; it’s roughly the same amount of money. Though, maybe he can write off the house rental or the car expenses in some way that benefits him.

          But better for the OP would have been to say, ‘OK, we won’t call it salary, but let’s have it be a housing allowance and a car allowance,’ so there would be no question about whose house it was.

          1. Gaara*

            I suspect you’re right about the boss being able to write off the expenses somehow (maybe it’s a business expense and that affects taxes?)… but also, just a little, don’t you wonder if the boss did it this way in order to have more control over the OP?

            1. CoffeeLover*

              But he can write off employee wages as an expense as well so that argument doesn’t really make sense. I’m guesssing he didn’t want to commit to a “permanent” wage increase. This way he only needs to pay for the place while OP lives in that city.

              1. TootsNYC*

                makes sense–but that would be an argument for the OP to insist on a housing allowance, which wouldn’t be factored into any subsequent raise.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I totally think he did it because it gives him all the control. Not sure if he thought it out that diabolically; it was probably more instinctive.

    2. boop*

      “How much do they pay the people they hire who already live there? This is absurd.”

      Well that’s probably why they had to move their employees from another state?

  18. Trainer*

    This is like the boss saying “I pay your salary so if I say you need to give some of your salary to my nephew, you need to do it.”

    1. MsMaryMary*

      Which in effect he’s doing, since there is no money for raises but somehow money to employ the nephew for the summer.

  19. Nico m*

    To add insult to injury, is there any way you can imagine the nephew is going to be a normal kid? Hes either going to be a little shit , or a pitiable charity case.

    1. Ted Mosby*

      Alison one thing that surprised me was that you didn’t have more input about the vacation week? Isn’t this the same as changing pay rate in retrospect? If the vacation was a part of the compensation package, and she worked the hours to earn the compensation, how can it be taken away?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If they accrue as they go and they’re in a state like California that treats that as pay, they can’t have what they’ve already accrued revoked. But the employer is allowed to change it from today forward. My quick read of New York law is that the employer can probably do this, but it’s unclear enough that an attorney would need to look at it and say for sure.

    2. Batman's a Scientist*

      Not necessarily. If the nephew is being raised by his (the nephew’s) parents and not by the boss, there’s a good chance the nephew will be nothing like the boss.

  20. Ted Mosby*

    WHAT?! You negotiated rent as a part of your payment for your job. This is just as obscene as if he were insisting you pay for all of his nephews meals because it’s “his” money. No no no no noooooo no nope.

    1. rr*

      Is the LW also expected to cook and clean for the nephew? Is the LW going to be buying groceries for him? More and more, this is a serious decrease in the LW’s compensation.

      1. JMegan*

        Who pays for the extra hydro and water once you add an extra person to the house? At minimum, OP, even if you do decide to allow the nephew to live with you, make sure you have some very clear arrangements about all these types of questions.

        To be clear, I agree with the others that it’s a terrible idea. But you may decide you have to put up with it, for whatever reason. And if you do, please get everything in writing before he moves in.

        Best of luck to you, and I too am hoping for an update that says you won the lottery and you and your husband dropped this crazy boss like a hot potato.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I want an update that says, “I got a new job offer that’s $20,000 more than my old job!”

          1. Delyssia*

            Well, $20k more if it’s back in the old location, $20k more than salary + rent + car if it’s in the new high-cost-of-living location. :)

  21. Ann Furthermore*

    OP, start looking for a new job immediately, and when you resign, tell your boss, “Go sell crazy somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here.”

  22. pomme de terre*

    In college a great professor gave us three pieces of advice on the last day of the semester:

    1. Go find something you like to do. If you need help figuring it out, ask him and he would help you.

    2. Do not get into consumer debt.

    3. Run far and fast from any entity that claims “We’re like a family” that is not your actual family. It’s usually code (especially from an employer) for “I am going to take advantage of you.”

    1. Mike C.*

      It’s usually code (especially from an employer) for “I am going to take advantage of you.”

      Or organized crime.

    2. Pam*

      Exactly. Get fired or quit. You’ll see how quickly the “family” dries up on you.
      I guess this is the part of the family that doesn’t treat the others right.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Heck, it’s not “family” right now–unless your definition of “family” is “takes advantage of you.”

        On second thought, maybe it is “like family,” and the boss is the dad, and everyone else is a minor child. That’s really probably pretty accurate.
        It’s his house, so his to decide who stays there.
        If you don’t like his rules, move out of his house.

        It’s very, very patriarchal. And patronizing. And infantilizing.

        And just as infuriating.

        Time for the OP to find her inner teenager.

  23. AndersonDarling*

    I want to barf. Reading this gave me the same feeling as when someone describes their life, and they are in an abusive relationship but they don’t realize it. Each paragraph had a warning sign of a terrible work situation, but the OP thinks it is normal.
    Dear, dear, OP, please find a new job for yourself and your husband. In your case, the grass really is greener on the other side.

    1. Althea*

      Absolutely how I felt reading this. Started badly and got worse from there. OP probably lacks perspective, considering her SO also works there.

  24. Callie*

    get out get out get out get out. I know that’s not helpful, but there are all kinds of warning flags here and you really need to get out before he decides to boot you out for no reason at all–then you will be out of a job AND a home. :/

  25. TootsNYC*

    Early in my career, one of my bosses made an observation that has totally influenced how I view companies’ approaches to vacation.

    She said: Giving people vacation time almost never costs the company money. Nor does it really cost them productivity. For the vast majority of people who work in our industry, if someone is out, nobody gets hired to replace her. She just works harder before and harder after, and her colleagues step up to keep things moving while she’s away, knowing that a similar effort will be forthcoming when it’s their turn.

    So I have absolutely no respect for someone who will pull back vacation like this.

    It’s such total evidence of what a complete user he is. He views you as if you’re a possession, not an equal with whom he negotiates a mutually beneficial relationship.

    I bet when you quit he’ll have a total conniption fit.

    I hope you can find a new job (and a new home) and quit about 2 days after his nephew arrives.

    1. neverjaunty*

      That is a really good point, and your boss is wise. (I mean, yes, in California, accrued vacation does cost the company some money – but not in the way salary does.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Although actually in California and other states/other employers that pay out accrued vacation time when someone leaves, it does cost money at that point in exactly the same way salary does. But you can put a cap on accrual and encourage/force people to take vacation so that you’re not facing huge payouts.

        1. neverjaunty*

          If it’s paid out when the employee leaves, absolutely – I mean that it’s different from salary even in California in that the employees can just take the vacation (and aren’t being paid money).

        2. TootsNYC*

          True, there’s the payout–but I’ve never worked anywhere that let people roll over more than a week’s worth. Of course, people might quit or get laid off toward the end of the year without having taken their vacation.

          But in most situations, it’s not really a big cost.

    2. BRR*

      That’s how I feel about vacation as well. If the boss is worried about output, he should think of training all of those two new people who will leave quickly who are affected and the others who will leave when they can’t accrue more than two weeks.

      Evilhrlady has a post recently that basically says really think what will cost more. The subject was a 10% raise was given and it was supposed to be 5%. Well instead of just letting it stay that way the employer took it back. How much quicker is the employee going to start looking? Was it worth that 5%?

  26. SerfinUSA*

    So how common is it for people to work unlimited hours for unofficial comp time that may never be usable due to the whole having to work unlimited hours because the workload is nuts and the business owner (we’re like faaamily!) doesn’t want to hire additional help or pay for tech/gear that would streamline things?

    My partner took a new job that pays well for our area, but the 40 hour week with room for flexibility (as advertised) seems to be bait and switch. People just work and work, no breaks, no lunch, no flex time, no sick leave, just the vague promise of comp time that is tracked somewhere (not on pay statements) by the person who does payroll (but taking time off is definitely not encouraged). Trying to decide about bailing without something lined up, but letters like this make me wonder if we should shut up, put up, and count our blessings.

    1. BRR*

      Alison tries to keep the comments on topic but you can always write to her or post in the open thread on friday at 11 am est.

    2. neverjaunty*

      First, “other people have it lots worse” is not actually a reason to put up and shut up. If your boss stole $10 out of every paycheck, the fact that some people’s bosses steal their ENTIRE paycheck would not make it OK or something you ought to tolerate.

      And yes, when your employer offers compensation that’s never really kept track of and can never really be used, that compensation might as well not exist. It is a sign to talk to an employment lawyer and to find another job.

    3. Emmie*

      That’s not common at all and is unhealthy. Sometimes when we see a situation crazier than our own, we minimize how intense our own situation is. Yours is still unhealthy, unsustainable and horrible.

      1. RVA Cat*

        The fact that another abuser stabbed his victim doesn’t mean you have to put up with “just” getting a black eye.

  27. TootsNYC*

    One other thought:

    At every time we take a job, or a relocation, or a new assignment, we should be planning our exit strategy. Where will you go if this job folds, or your boss turns squirrely, or if you just want a new job or more money?

    So, for our OP, did you have a housing plan?
    Because you will not only have to look for a new job, but you’ll have to find housing at the same time as well. Which, of course, could make it all a bit more complicated.

    (I had thought you were going to say that your boss wanted his nephew to stay in your house/apartment in Old Location. Which would also be wrong.)

    I’m usually really skeptical about the idea of company-provided housing. Similar to Carolyn Hax’s argument against cohabiting as a trial balloon, it makes “breaking up” so much harder.

    And in those situations, it’s even more important that you have a break-up plan.
    But we should be putting one together before we ever accept the new job.

    1. Dan*

      “At every time we take a job, or a relocation, or a new assignment, we should be planning our exit strategy.”

      You’re 100% right. What that really means for most people is “keep your skills sharp and up to date. You don’t want to be laid off with old skills that are no longer relevant.” Network a bit. Once a month or so, find the time to go to technical talks on your field. I know people are busy, but this is the kind of networking that is vital to your next job.

      Speaking of keeping skills up to date, I just sent Alison an article about a company retraining its own engineers to become data scientists. ENGINEERS. I never thought of that as a career that is growing stale, so if a company is taking those people “off the job” and retraining them to be hard core data folk, DAMN. This gist of the article was actually a really positive spin on how the company is actually training its own employees to fill new roles instead of hiring outside the company.

      1. VintageLydia*

        Like any industry, there will be glut. I seriously doubt engineering will be the cash cow it is now when my 4 year old is out of school. I’m suspicious it won’t be when my husband’s 18 year old cousin gets out of college either for that matter.

  28. TinyTim*

    The only good thing I read was that OP didn’t sign a lease for her car or house. I would take advantage of that and start working on an escape plan. I always get nervous when I hear anyone say they are taking a company car or housing. My first thought is that those can be taken away without notice. I’ll never forget the day I showed up to work and there were dozens of taxis outside. One of my co-workers informed me that they had a sales meeting today and unbeknownst to the sales people, they are all losing their work vehicles today. If your boss is a jerk, I wouldn’t be comfortable with him holding all the cards for my transportation and housing.

    I simply won’t work anywhere that requires ridiculous hours anymore. If I’m consistently working 70+ hours, that should be two jobs. Bare minimum, you can save the cost of benefits for a second person and just pay me like it’s two jobs. Though, to be fair, covering OP’s housing and car expenses in a high cost area is pretty generous. My mortgage, car payment and car insurance are my three biggest bills. If I eliminated those three bills and also moved to a high cost area, I would still be way ahead of the game.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      If your boss is a jerk, I wouldn’t be comfortable with him holding all the cards for my transportation and housing.


  29. LQ*

    Water water water! There’s a thing about how the last thing a fish would discover is water. You are a fish and there is water all around you and you can’t see it because it seems normal to you. What basically everyone here is trying to tell you is Water!

    This is not normal. You do not need to be treated like this. You can find another job. You and your husband.

    I wish you the best at discovering the water.

  30. animaniactoo*

    LW, you know what your situation reminds me of? A giant game of chicken. And you blink every time it’s not *absolutely essential* or untenable for you. I mean – basically, I’ll bet you 5 bucks that he went home congratulating himself for suckering you into paying your direct reports’ raises out of your own pocket.

    I really wonder what would happen if you responded to his “Find another job” with “If you would prefer that I do that rather than discuss this with me, I can certainly start looking.” I’m not advising you to do so because a *stupid* jerk will fire you even if it hurts himself in that situation and I can’t tell if your boss is a stupid jerk or a smart jerk. Just saying that I wonder…

    However, given that they DID accommodate you when you didn’t blink – I think you can stop blinking on the most outrageous stuff and stand your ground. “I would prefer not to look for another job as I do enjoy the work that I do here, but this situation is a problem for me.”

  31. Dip-lo-mat*

    I have to flag the nephew’s legal status. It wasn’t clear if he’s studying in the States or coming in for the summer. If he’s not a U.S. citizen, he must enter the U.S. on an appropriate status to work legally. If he’s a student, he’ll need appropriate authorization as well. You’re running the operations, so you want to ensure that that is in order. Typically it’s not so easy for companies to just make that status happen; even for seasonal labor, there is a petition process that should have been started already.

    Just a pro tip.

  32. Seal*

    +1000 to Alison’s comment about “we’re like family” being a problem in a work context. One particularly manipulative fellow department head regularly uses that as a justification for her bad behavior. Makes me shudder to think how she treats her actual family.

  33. Elder Dog*

    Before you give notice, find a new place to live and move your furniture and any pets out. You wouldn’t want to come home and find the place nailed shut with a guard on it.

    1. Artemesia*

      good advice. I’d have a safe deposit bank at a bank (they are cheap and big ones not much more expensive than small ones) and make sure all my personal papers were secure and probably any valuable jewelry and such. And definitely have a way to secure your stuff before dropping the resignation letter.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*


      Years ago I had an abusive boss who was also my landlord. Fortunately, he confined his abuse to the workplace. But I now shudder to think what he *could* have done.

      (He was my landlord before becoming my boss. I took the job because I was unemployed, broke, and very young.)

  34. art_ticulate*

    “One last thing! “We’re like a family” tends to be hugely problematic in work contexts, as well as untrue … and thinking of workplaces as families leads to a lot of bad decision-making. Ahem.”

    I can’t speak much about the rest of the letter, but I wanted to chime in and emphatically agree with Alison on this. I had a job once where I formed very close bonds with most of my coworkers– but that also meant that I wasn’t able to make good decisions about my future while I was there. I was so devoted to our working relationships that I let it keep me in a job and environment that paid me very little but worked me to death for almost six years. Don’t do what I did, OP. Be better than that.

    Also, our familial bonds ventured into dysfunctional territory at least three quarters of the time. I loved my job, loved my supervisor (who I consider my mentor and am still good friends with), but whoo boy, that place was a mess. The problem with your coworkers being your family is that, at least in my experience, they’ll fight like a family too. I’m amazed our ED didn’t just fire all of us and start over from scratch.

  35. animaniactoo*

    I also wonder what would have happened if you’d laughed when he said nephew would be staying in your house. “Ha ha! Good one. No, really, where’s he staying?” “You are such a kidder! I mean, you have to know that we’re fully occupying that as our private residence, it’s not like a hotel suite where you can give some of the rooms away!” and kept laughing – and walked away. “Too funny!”

  36. vjs*

    I hate “we’re like a family” ! My family is/was incredibly dysfunctional. I don’t need that at work, too!

  37. not using my usual pseud for reasons*

    I was actually in this position from the point of view of the nephew once (although I wasn’t a family member, just another employee). I got sent to stay for a few months and work in a remote office, and live with a coworker in said coworker’s company-paid-for apartment. There was a spare bedroom so it wasn’t a space issue, but it was awful for everyone involved, simply because not all coworkers are compatible roommates! (He wasn’t a bad person, but… yeah. It is not all that comfortable to be discussing dirty socks and shower cleaning regimens with a coworker.) So awful that I was the one who ended it and told the boss that it was untenable and had to be provided additional housing.

    I’m sure on paper it sounded great, but in practice it was… not… that.

    So yeah. I can’t say that pushing back will work in your case, but I wanted to chime in from the (ostensible) ‘other side’ and say that this isn’t even necessarily a good idea for nephew.

  38. Aloot*

    “I love all of my staff. We are like a family.”

    If this tight-knit loyalty is shared among all of your staff, you may actually be kinda screwing each other over because of it. You don’t want to leave because they’re like family, Wakeen doesn’t want to leave because family, Lydia doesn’t want to leave…and you all end up trapping yourself in a rather bad work situation because of it. It’s not so much that no-one wants to leave as much as it becomes no-one wants to be the *first one* to leave.

    (But once one person steps up and says no, I will not work here any longer because this is such a godawful place to work at, there might be an avalance of resignations because the other people holding out due to loyalty to their coworkers no longer have anything holding them back.)

    I wonder if your boss is aware of this strong loyalty between his staff and is exploiting it? Either way, he does know that you have stayed through all of the other unreasonableness, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he genuinely thinks that you’re never going to leave over *this* unreasonableness either. He already knows that you are willing to put up with being served crud, so why *wouldn’t* you be willing to put up with even worse crud?

    1. GH in SoCAl*

      Funny story: years ago I was on a remote gig, and my contract specified that the company would rent me a 2 bedroom furnished apartment. One of the junior staffers had a contract for a furnished 1-bedroom. Others were staying in company-paid hotel rooms, but I had a dog and I like to cook, so no way was I doing a hotel for 6 months.

      Well, the place we were didn’t have any rentable “corporate housing” type apartments. They couldn’t find us anything. Finally they asked me if I would be willing to share a 5-bedroom house with the junior staffer. We did, and it worked out great, for three reasons:

      1) The place was huge, better than what we’d each been promised. We each had a private bedroom/bathroom floor separate from the shared living areas. And it had a yard!

      2) They ASKED us if it was okay.

      Oh, and the biggie:

      3) The junior staffer happened to be one of my oldest and closest friends.

      Otherwise? No way, Jose.

  39. Collarbone High*

    I’ve had two overseas jobs where I had company-paid housing. You know what else I had? A lower salary than comparable jobs. Because THE HOUSING WAS PART OF MY COMPENSATION.

    The owner also pays your salary, but that doesn’t mean he can just take part of it back if he’s short on funds that month, or require that you donate half of it to charity, or whatever. It’s yours. You can spend your whole check on Tootsie Rolls if you want. The housing and car should be regarded the same way.

    Or look at it this way: He’s your landlord, yes? A landlord can require you to follow rules that ensure the house doesn’t lose value, or that they don’t end up in legal trouble (for example, shoveling the walks if your municipality requires it), but not to act as a hostel. Imagine if the manager of an apartment complex called up a tenant and said they had to let the manager’s family member move in for the summer. It would be absurd, right? This is equally absurd.

  40. Green*

    To Allison’s 70 hour per week reference: if you’re in big law, you have other options. Working 70 hours a week and unreasonable demands (last minute travel and last-minute expectations to pull all-nighters at the office and cancel plans) may be the norm in biglaw (although even then it’s not 70 hours EVERY week!) and you might be fairly compensated in biglaw — but it’s still not sustainable for most of us. There’s an “up or out” development policy, and the vast majority of lawyers who enter the big firm churn wind up opting out. Many are gone within 2-3 years, and even more are gone by 5 years.

  41. Not So NewReader*

    OP, this is a lesson that I learned and I have held on to it: When someone gives you money and/or things they own a part of you. Be careful who you accept money/things from and be careful of how much you accept from them.

    This guy basically feels he owns the two of you. He employs you both, he owns your car, and your home. Since he ties up most of your time, he also owns your relationships and your health.

    I think you see where I am going here. It’s a trap. Get out.

    Meanwhile you have the current issue of the nephew. Nephew will be at work and at home. This means you are providing 24/7 baby sitting services for the boss now, too. Tell him that you will need an increase in pay to do this. But you can say it tactfully by saying “Your nephew will not know anyone else and will be dependent on us for everything.” Your expenses at home will go up too, so you will expect him to cover his nephew’s expenses while he stays with you and that will be additional money.
    Tell him this is not your nephew so you have no family obligation to fulfill, you are simply providing yet another service to the boss and this is deserving of compensation. Maybe you can work it into conversation that it might be more cost effective for Nephew to live with Boss.
    Point out to him that your normal work week is 70 hours. If Nephew wishes to work less than that he will need to find his own transportation as you need the vehicle to get to and from work. (I wish I knew more particulars here because I could just keep going. If Nephew needs a special diet, that will require more cash. If Nephew has doctor’s appointments that some how involve you tagging along, that means more cash.)
    You can, of course, inform your boss that Nephew must comply with your household rules. I assume you lock up your home very well. So Nephew will have to be home by the time you lock everything up- no late nights. Then there is the issue of company. He can’t have any. You do not want SO’s or other strangers roaming in and out of your home at all hours of the day and night. Personally, my house has a no booze, no drugs rule. So I would tell the boss that the first time Nephew breaks that rule he will need to find another place to live. (IRL, I am not this rigid, but it would work well for this situation here.)

    I’ve loaded you up with a lot of detail here because this is how you can deal with the boss’ unreasonableness. Shoot his “logic” full of holes, like Swiss cheese. Develop your own list along the lines of what I have here and fire words at the boss like bullets. What I like about this is that you do not directly say no. What you do is show the boss how much complexity is here- this is not a straight forward thing. If he is as much of a jerk as I think he is then it will take him a while to figure out that you told him no, if he ever figures it out at all. Give him a list of details and go through it with him line item by line item. Be sure to point out as you go where you will be needing to get financial reimbursement from him.

    Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  42. Dot Warner*

    OP, ya know who said their employees were their family? Michael Scott. And your boss sounds 100x worse than he was. Run like hell!

  43. The Wall of Creativity*

    1. Find a new job.
    2. Find somewhere to live.
    3. Move out.
    4. Resign without notice.
    5. (Optional) Redecorate house with brown streaks on the walls before you go.

  44. Rubyrose*

    I think the constant 70 hour weeks has affected your ability to think critically about your global situation. Instead of taking a vacation where you go somewhere with distractions, I hope you just stay home, relax, do nothing special, and after of few days of nothing perhaps you will be able to think clearly and really take care of yourself in the long run.

  45. Xarcady*

    Nephew in the OP’s home equals Nephew as spy to Boss. I’m surprised no one else has mentioned this.

    Next time OP asks for a raise, Boss could come back with, “Nephew says you eat Brand Name cereal for breakfast, and have Netflix, and drink a bottle of wine a week. Cut those out and you won’t need a raise.”

    Or Nephew reports on OP’s tendency to nap on Sunday afternoons, instead of getting more work done. Or complains that OP didn’t drive him to a movie Friday night because she said she was too tired.

    Nope. Nope. Nope.

    1. Joanna*

      That’s a very good point. Especially true since he’s likely too young to have developed proper maturity and discretion. Even if he is pretty mature, he’s going to cave at some point and share something he shouldn’t out of deference to the uncle for getting him the gig.

  46. Leslie*

    Alison, excellent response. This is a perfect example of the writing that I enjoy from you so much!!

  47. Erin*

    Those staff you consider like family – you can perfectly well maintain good relationships with them without having to work together. Keep in touch, meet up regularly, whatever. Don’t use them as an excuse to continue staying in a bad job. If you leave, maybe they’ll be motivated to leave too, and you can serve as a reference for them, helping them to also get out of this bad situation.

  48. boop*

    but how tight-knit and family-like could your workplace be if you had to give up your raise and bribe them just to stick around for another year?

    Actually, that is pretty family-like. But this is also why I don’t bother with family.

  49. Navy Vet*

    I’m going to also recommend you start looking for another job.

    Also, I would like to note any manager that responds to a reasonable query/request with “if you don’t like it, you can find a new job” will never, ever, ever be a good manager. Ever.

    You have gone to lengths and made sacrifices for your team, and I commend you for your generosity and willingness to help your reports. But, I’m willing to wager that was his plan all along. He sounds like a bully and manipulative as hell. Not a great combo.

  50. Leslie*

    “We’re like a family” tends to be hugely problematic in work contexts, as well as untrue … and thinking of workplaces as families leads to a lot of bad decision-making.

    This line deserves it own article or free-for-all. I see this so often in many work contexts and how troublesome it can be.

  51. Unegen*

    I’m coming in late to the party and there were a LOT of comments, so maybe I missed it if someone else said this, but…

    OP, you need to start packing immediately. Literally. Start putting all of your belongings in boxes and get ready to have to move with 24 hours’ notice. Because you need to get out of this situation, and your boss has given you every indication of seeing himself (or company) as the owner (ok, renter) of the property you’re living in. Which means when you give notice of resignation, or your boss just finds out that you’re looking, or heck even when you just say no to the nephew moving in, your boss is going to try to have you evicted and move nephew in anyway. You may or may not have a right to stay in that home; I don’t know. But being ready to get your stuff out means you won’t be in a situation where your boss/company can become the de facto possessor of your stuff (in the, “the stuff’s in the home, you’ve been evicted from the home, possession is 9/10s of the law” sense).
    I hope this works out for you with the least amount of aggravation possible.

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