should I invite my boss to dinner at my house, employer thought I was yelling during salary negotiation, and more

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

1. Should I invite my boss to dinner at my house?

I’ve been thinking it might be nice to invite my boss and his wife to my home to have dinner — but I keep having second thoughts about it.

I’ve been at the job five years. My boss is a vice president and I’m one of six directors under him. He’s met my husband and I’ve met his wife at company holiday parties. The boss and I occasionally chat about non-work-related things like travel or sports, but have not socialized outside of the office at non-business events.

My husband and I enjoy entertaining and often hold small dinner parties. I’d like to extend an invitation to the boss and his wife for a casual Saturday dinner but whenever I start to write the invitation email I’m gripped by the idea that maybe it’s a mistake or would be weird or seen as “gifting up” or brown-nosing etc.

I wouldn’t invite a subordinate to dinner as I’d worry it could be seen as an unwelcome work obligation. For that reason, I wouldn’t expect the boss to invite me to dinner. But does that work both ways? One the one hand, I think it might be nice to have an opportunity for some low-key socialization and chatting about non-work things. On the other hand, I don’t want to introduce awkwardness into our currently friendly working relationship. Is dinner a bad idea? Or am I overthinking this?

Well, some people do this kind of thing and all parties involved seem to enjoy it. So it’s definitely a thing that happens. But I still wouldn’t. Your boss might feel obligated to attend, or awkward whether he does or doesn’t. And it’s blurring the boundaries in a bit in a way that isn’t great — ultimately, this is a work relationship, not a social one. Your boss needs to be able to, for example, give you tough feedback and it’s going to feel a lot weirder to do that if he was a guest in your home a week ago. So I say no, and just continue to appreciate the relationship for what it currently is, which sounds pretty nice as it is.

2. Employer thought I was yelling during salary negotiation

I was recently selected by a company for the role of strategic executive assistant to the CEO in a corporate strategy role. The interview process had gone well, and I was in the final stages of getting a formal offer. This was when a lot of odd things started happening. The general manager of talent acquisition turned out to be a little hostile. I had quoted an expected salary of $X right at the start when they had contacted me for the position. After clearing the interview and being selected, he offered me a salary almost $20,000 lower than $X. He then gave me all sorts of clichéd reasons for doing so and sometimes got downright nasty during the negotiation process. I argued that he very well knew my salary expectations even before being invited for the interview and that I can’t accept such low salary. Unfortunately, the conversation got heated a bit, but I stuck to my number.

By evening, he accepted my salary and sent me a formal offer letter. However, this too created some problems. In the offer letter, my title was just executive assistant while all throughout the process the company had used the term as strategic executive assistant in all forms of communication. I felt this would be important as I want a career in strategy management and do not wish to be confused with an administrative executive assistant. I pointed this out to them and here, too, the GM found issues. His tone went strict and he accused me of nitpicking. Unfortunately, my voice is a bit loud, and sitting in a quiet meeting room in office, he felt I was screaming. The conversation went pretty bad.

These two incidents have left a sour taste in my mouth, but I did not wish to start in a new company in such a manner. Although I have resigned from my current role and have accepted the new company’s offer, I feel the GM may create problems later on. Can you please advise on what I need to do to smooth this over?

Oooh, this is not good. They’ve been hostile and accusatory with you, they feel you were screaming — this is not a good or normal way to start an employment relationship. It’s actually pretty weird that they’re still on board with moving forward — if I thought a candidate was yelling at me or being argumentative, that would pretty much shut down the conversation. So I wonder what kind of environment they have that they’re still fine with moving forward, despite all this. (To be clear, I’m not singling you out in all this — the whole thing sounds aggressive and confrontational on all sides, and probably more on theirs.)

The problem, of course, is that you’ve already resigned from your current job, so if you back out, you’re going to be left with no job. Given that, I’d say to look at what else you know about them — were there other red flags? Is the GM someone you’ll be working with regularly? What’s the person you’ll be reporting to like?

As far as what to do to smooth things over, being scrupulously calm, warm, pleasant, and generally easy to work with is the best way to counteract whatever impression they might have gotten during the negotiation conversations … but keep your eyes wide open for additional signs about what this job and company will be like.

3. My manager told my coworker and me to decide who gets to go on a business trip we’re each interested in

I recently started a new job and I’m in an entry-level position. There is a business trip coming up for a project I’m working on. Usually, people in my position wouldn’t go on this trip, but they need the extra help. A coworker (who is in the same entry-level position) was also told about this trip separately. We were each asked if we were interested in going and both said that we were. We were then told together to decide between the two of us who would go on the trip. Am I wrong to think this is a little weird?

Nope, that is indeed a little weird. You both said you were interested — it’s a little unfair for your manager to then throw it back to the two of you to work it out, since it will mean that whoever holds firm “wins,” and what if you both hold firm? Your manager should pick one of you, ideally explaining why to the other (such as that the person selected has particular skills in X, which will be helpful, or that the person staying behind is more equipped to cover Y during the other person’s absence). Or if it’s truly just a random selection, that’s fine to explain too — something like “I can only take one person and I mentioned it to Jane first, but if another opportunity comes up where one of you could go, I’ll check with Fergus first next time.”

But given that your manager has punted it back to you, if you really want to go, I think it’s fine for you to say to your coworker, “I’d really like to go because of XYZ. Do you feel strongly about it too?” Maybe she doesn’t — but if it turns out that you both do, maybe you can both try negotiating something else that the other person would appreciate (like doing some undesirable task for the other person for a week or some other favor).

4. I want to be paid for my time mailing my laptop back to my former employer

I voluntarily left my employer after one year’s leave of absence, I gave a two-week notice and asked the HR person if I needed to speak with anyone specific. She told me she would handle my separation. I never heard a word from them so I shredded the company credit card and kept the laptop in a closet. Two months later, I get a letter telling me I need to drop the laptop off. I told them I would mail it but they would need to compensate me for my time, $100 as I no longer work for them. Is this a reasonable request regarding payment to return what they should have collected two months ago when I was prepared to do so during my two-week notice?

No, not really. You could have dealt with the laptop during your last two weeks there too — you didn’t need to wait for them to ask you to. It’s pretty standard to need to return equipment when you resign. Asking for $100 to mail a laptop back is pretty over the top.

5. Asking if I’ll be paid for a new hire orientation that happens before my first day

I just landed a new job and my start date was delayed due to some bureaucratic processes required by my department. I have been given the choice to attend a half day long Orientation/Training session before my start date. Is it appropriate to confirm if I will be compensated for my time at Orientation/Training? I don’t want to come across as rude or ungrateful, but also want to make sure I’m still compensated even though I have not technically started.

It’s often easier to say these things when you frame them more as confirming details. So I would say it this way: “I’m going to try to make this work with my schedule! (That gives you an easy out if there’s any weirdness around paying you for the time.) Am I right in thinking you’d need me to fill out new hire paperwork like tax forms ahead of time in order to do the payment side of things, or would you just roll it into my first check?”

{ 223 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia

    I would think not returning a laptop when you resign would be, well, stealing. Why wouldn’t that have been returned during the two weeks notice period?

    1. Sami

      My thoughts exactly. Since the OP shredded the credit card (taking care of company property), why wouldn’t returning the laptop be the same thing?

      1. Christopher Tracy

        And she really should have turned over both the laptop and the credit card since the company has no proof she actually shredded it. Doing this during the notice period would have eliminated the need for additional time and attention to an employer OP no longer works for.

        1. DN

          Exactly. I found it odd that she would shred the card instead of turning it in for this very reason. I know plenty of Controllers who would be pulling their hair out.

          1. Joseph

            For all intents and purposes, since (a) the company can’t prove the card was shredded and (b) depending on what “shredded” means (did you actually shred it or just cut it in half with scissors?), the number could still be readable, the Controller will likely need to treat it as though the card was lost. Calling the credit card company, canceling the card, getting a new one issued, and filling out all sorts of paperwork.

        2. Chaordic One

          Yes, she should have. It’s easy enough for the company to de-activate the credit card, but the computer is a big deal.

        3. Dangerously Cheezy

          I imagine the credit card was probably cancelled when she started her one year leave to avoid her using it for personal purposes while at home. In my company the boss would’ve demanded that a laptop be returned as soon as a leave began unless there was an arrangements to be working from home.

          I would argue that OP could’ve asked for the cost of mailing but they clearly asked for it to be dropped off at the office… something that would’ve needed to have been done as soon as OP knew she was quitting.

          If I were here I’d be worried about the cops coming to me door. Responding that she’d mail it if they’d pay her $100 for her time sounds more like a hostage/ransom situation. The company could very well claim that she has stolen the laptop and it doesn’t seem like she phrased it to them as “I am mailing it back to you now but I want to discuss compensating me for me time”.

          1. Jodi

            You are so right. It does make it sound like she’s holding the laptop for a $100 ransom.

          2. miss_chevious

            At my place of business if someone resigns or is terminated and isn’t coming back into the office, we mail them a box and shipping label to return the equipment to avoid exactly this kind of thing. I don’t think it’s fair to make the employee incur a cost to return the equipment, but reimbursing the price of shipping should be enough without any additional fees.

        4. kittymommy

          Yeah, I thought the same thing. I get the feeling there’s some other issues being left out.

            1. Colette

              I’m from the land of one-year mat leaves, and asking for everything to be returned when the leave starts would be highly unusual.

              1. Rob Lowe can't read

                Agreed. At least at my current employer, you keep your company issued laptop until you stop working there, even if you take extended leave.

    2. Willis

      I got the impression from the letter that OP had no contact with anyone at the company other than HR since she was resigning following a leave of absence. Sure, she should have followed up with HR about the card and laptop, but it’s also on the company if no one bothered to get in touch with her for two months. I don’t think they owe her for her time in returning it though.

      1. AthenaC

        Yes – what I thought was odd was that her company didn’t seem to care whether the laptop was returned. Until much later. In my experience, well-run companies (and even some not-so-well-run companies) tend to be fairly proactive about ensuring the return of work laptops and other equipment.

        1. Scott M

          Well, actually…. My wife wasn’t allowed to give her laptop back to the company when she was laid off. It was a consulting company, and the laptop had already been written off somehow when the current project ended and the team headcount was reduced. So if she gave it back, it would have to be considered an asset, which they weren’t supposed to have anymore (or something like that). The IT department just didn’t want to deal with it and wouldn’t take it back. So it’s sitting in a closet at our house.
          Companies do weird things sometimes.

        2. ThursdaysGeek

          Years ago, when a manager left a company I worked at, there was some discussion about the laptop that he still had. But he was so unpleasant that no-one wanted to deal with him, and considered writing that off as a loss was not as bad as having to talk with him again.

      2. K.

        My former coworker was laid off during her maternity leave and she’d been working remotely in the week or so leading up to her delivery (the office was far from the hospital where she delivered), so she had her laptop at home for a while. She returned it in person, which I found odd – she lived about an hour from the office, so I’d have asked for a shipping box & label. But she definitely did so at her leisure. (I was laid off too but was physically in the office, so obviously I just left my work laptop there.)

        The situations read as similar to me – the OP was home with it due to circumstance and the company didn’t press her about returning it. I agree that they shouldn’t pay her to return it.

    3. blackcat

      Yeah, when I left my old job (teaching), I viewed cleaning up the laptop and handing it back as a key wrap up activity. I removed all personal files and student-specific files (not that they couldn’t be retrieved if someone worked hard), and organized the shit out of all of the documents my replacement might want. That made it easy for IT to hand over a laptop to my replacement that came pre-loaded with things like my lesson plans, tests, rubrics, etc. I thought that was a normal thing to do….

      I did accidentally walk off with a ruler that I didn’t think was worth mailing back. I guess that’s technically theft, but I’m not worried about it.

      1. Joseph

        FYI, it’s common practice in most organizations for IT to wipe the drive before giving it to a different person.

        Unfortunately a lot (most?) people forget or don’t bother to clean off their personal files. Technically the laptop is company property and shouldn’t have any personal information on it, but it could open up potential liability if the next person found personal information on you (or worse, previous students) and misused it. It’s unlikely, but the (remote) possibility is there, so it’s just easier to cross that off.

        Also, when a user has a laptop for a long time, there are often a lot of low-priority PC maintenance tasks that get delayed that IT will do all at once – updating your browser to the latest version, hardware drivers, and so on. So it’s unlikely they just took your laptop and just immediately handed it to someone else – and if they’re already doing maintenance on it, wiping the drive isn’t much extra work.

        You *absolutely should* remove your own personal files and clean out your Saved Passwords for your own protection, but I wouldn’t necessarily spend a lot of time organizing company documents unless they asked you to.

        1. blackcat

          Oh, yeah, they recycled the machine. But there was a folder entitled “For [Replacement’s name]” in which all documents were organized–they copied that folder over to the computer they gave her. Teaching is its own special beast, but I’ve always thought that it’s best practice to make a replacement’s life as easy as possible. It took maybe 2 hours or so of work on my part.

          The big thing for me to delete was stuff that my replacement, and even IT didn’t really have business having, such as detailed student records (copies of emails to parents and the like). For students still at the school, I sent them to an administrator. For graduated students, I deleted them (per school policy). I also spent a loonggg time at the shredder getting rid of hard copes of all that stuff.

          I think the worst personal stuff they could have found on me was a copy of a wedding planning spreadsheet. That and some cat pictures….

    4. Vicki

      I get the impression from the letter that there was no onsite “two-week” Period. She’d been on a year-long leave. It sounds like “I’m not coming back from leave; I’m resigning.”

      If she never physically went to the office, that explains both the laptop and the credit card.

      But $100 for the 20 minutes it takes to drop a box off at the PO sounds like a lot. Perhaps she was talking more about shipping costs than “time”?

  2. Sandy

    So I’m one of those weird people who actually has had my boss over for dinner (multiple times!) In my view, ground rules understood by both parties are absolutely key to making it work.

    -Rank matters. Your immediate boss is ok, your “grand boss” is not.

    -The attendee list matters. There should always be other people there, not just you and your spouse plus them and their spouse (as an example). If you invite a couple other colleagues, or an interesting acquaintance from another sector that you think they should know, it will a) lessen the appearance that you are trying to ingratiate yourself with them for a favour and b) ease the burden of conversation on the spouses (assuming they are there. It’s too easy for the conversation to be too work related otherwise)

    -Your office culture matters. A lot. My coworkers and I all live close to one another in a strange city. *Given our particular context*, it would almost be weird not to do some socializing outside of work. But your office mileage may vary. Pay attention to the cues.

    -Timing matters. Don’t do it around the time that promotion decisions are being made, performance reviews, raises, etc. It looks bad to others and may raise an eyebrow from your boss (especially if it’s your first time inviting them)

    -If all else fails, just ask your boss. “My husband and I are having some people over for a casual dinner next Saturday. Our friend Cersei from Istanbul will be visiting. Since I know you’re planning a trip there next year, I was thinking you might like to join, but I don’t want it to seem weird. Let me know if you’d be comfortable with me extending you the invite.”

    If you have a good relationship with them already, that script should help. If you don’t have a good enough relationship for that script to work, I suggest rethinking your plan to have them over.

      1. Chinook

        I did a long weekend music festival with my boss where I slept in her sister’s trailer. I will admit to being on better behavior (though only because the tickets were free due to our organization being a sponsor, so I saw myself as a company rep) but it definitely didn’t stop me from relaxing with a few adult refreshments at breakfast (though always a lot fewer than my boss).

        As for why I would do it – I got to see my most favourite country music star live and for free!

    1. hbc

      I think the other people there are crucial. There’s so much weight and potential politics around Dinner With The Boss. But a dinner party where the boss happens to be one of the guests (especially if there is a legitimate reason beyond work that you thought of it) is entirely different.

      1. Liz

        Maybe I’m weird, but my boss has had all his team (+ other halves and kids) round for dinner and drinks on a few separate occasions, and he’s also invited us as individual families. They just love to host, and have a house that works well. But we all had a very good working relationship, and still maintain a good relationship even though our team was “restructured” and scattered. (We’ve also all been out for dinner & drinks elsewhere, again with other halves and kids.)

        1. Murphy

          Yeah, I’ve done plenty of work dinners like this. I’ve had dinners at my boss’s house with other people there; dinners at my boss’s house with no other people there (aside from our respective spouses/kids); and I’ve had my team over to my house (more than once) for a dinner (sometimes just as a team building, sometimes as a celebration of getting through a big project).

          I appreciate that your specific work environment matters and in some places it would just not be done, but I’ve never worked anyplace like that (and frankly, wouldn’t want to).

        2. Laura

          That’s definitely successful due to your company’s culture. Back in November, my boyfriend’s boss had his team over to his tiny apartment for a “Thanksgiving dinner” (which was purchased from Boston Market). My boyfriend said the whole thing was a bizarre experience because the team wasn’t getting along at that time. The manager made it awkward for everyone.

        3. Green

          My rules:
          — I will invite my boss to dinner *while we’re traveling for work* (“oh, do you have dinner plans?” “oh our flight’s delayed, want to grab a drink at the wine bar?”)
          — I will respond to invitations *from my boss* for one on one dinners/lunches
          — I will organize dinners/events at my house (or other locations) and invite my boss, if others from the team are also invited.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      You’re like, my hero.

      I have been reading the Joy of Cooking 1975 edition in my spare time, *coughcookbookgeekcough*, and looking at all of the fancy illustrations for fancy Dinner Parties and Tea Service, and imaging a life where I actually DID that. “We’ll seat the Bellingtons with the Wentworths because they have their time in India in common.”

      But, I’d have to clean my house so that always stops me.

      1. Sandy

        And see, as an introvert, I consider to be a small contribution to humanity and a large contribution to my sanity.

        If I host people, I get to choose the guest list and the size of the event. In other words, I get to tailor it for how I do best.

        Moreover, in my view, there are few things more intimidating than showing up to a party where there’s this wall of people you don’t know and you have to small talk your way through it.

        This way (it’s also one of my tricks for networking), I can give other people a break and myself a job to do. “Arya, thanks so much for coming! Let me introduce you to Bran and Rickon. Bran’s just been telling me about the great sci-fi book he’s just finished reading. You’re still the Treasurer of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fan club, aren’t you?” [forgive me my example, my knowledge of sci-fi is WEAK]

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

          That’s terrific.

          As an extrovert, I’ll be happy to attend your next gathering, unless you expect a reciprocal invitation. If so please see: I’d have to clean my house.

          1. Emmy

            Ah but the lovely thing is, reciprocal invitations can be “like” but don’t have to be “exactly like.” So you can invite her out to coffee or a movie, your treat. This is to help out people who for one reason or another cannot do the big, beautiful dinner party. So everyone wins! :D (And you don’t have to dust)

        2. Kate M

          It’s so funny – I’m an introvert too, but I absolutely love hosting things like dinner parties/barbecues, etc. I feel like I’m awkward in other group situations sometimes, but when I’m in charge and have a job to do, it makes me so much more comfortable.

      2. NJ Anon

        I am somewhat of a cookbook nerd as well. It must have pictures! (I call it food porn.) I still would not invite my boss over for dinner but in another, much smaller office, I was invited to and attended boss’ wife’s baby shower.

    3. Pwyll

      I really, really like this, and I especially like the attendee list part. I think Alison’s point about not mixing relationship types is important (this is a professional relationship, not a social one), which is not to say you can’t socialize professionally. Structuring the attendee list around professional contacts I think shifts the entire event to the professional realm, even if you’re hosting in your home.

    4. Graciosa

      I still wouldn’t do this – it just gets to be too awkward to mix business and social obligations.

      If this is a business dinner, the boss should be the host.

      If this is a purely social dinner, acceptance creates an obligation for the boss to reciprocate.

    5. Elizabeth West

      I think if you’re not socializing outside the office, dinner would be weird for the first thing. Happy Hour or something, no, but dinner seems too…intimate.

      Maybe it’s just me, though. I don’t hang out with coworkers or bosses as a rule anyway, though I have made exceptions for specific people. And I do friend/have lunch with people who leave or after I leave.

      1. Laura

        I have the same rules as you do. It’s fine to be friendly to coworkers and managers, but I absolutely do not spend time with them outside of work. I may make some exceptions as I build up my tenure here, but I’m still “new” and don’t want to overstep or give any hint of unprofessional behavior.

        1. valc2323

          Exception: unless we’re traveling together. Then we may be the only two people who know each other in this strange city. Or, more likely, each of us knows three or four people attending the same event from previous jobs, and so we end up with a group of five or six people who come from the same field but don’t know each other well, so there’s lots to talk about.

    6. Al Lo

      I love this. I want to be more of a “fascinating dinner party host” type person, but I not quite there yet; at least, not with as much frequency as I’d like.

      1. valc2323

        I like to say of one of my closest friends, “his hobby is collecting interesting people”. I’m proud to be among them, and I have had some of the most fascinating conversations with people I’ve met at dinner parties he hosts!

    7. Searching

      Sandy, all very good points! Office culture is the key. At one point in my career we had a relatively small office and casual culture and did socialize after hours. I developed a close friendship with my boss’s boss (the “grand boss” if you will – so that’s one point on which we differ, but this grand boss really fostered an egalitarian culture as much as he could) – who eventually became my direct boss. Something just clicked with us (all pure friendship and nothing romantic!). We’ve helped each other move, we went shopping together when we had some spare time on a business trip, and yes, had multiple dinners at each others’ houses (families included). With all that he was still very effective as my boss as well and had a tremendous positive influence on my career – I still think at times “what would Wakeen have done in this situation?” He hasn’t worked for the organization for over 10 years now and we still keep in touch (including occasional dinners) and I consider him a friend and a mentor. I developed a good relationship with his (now ex-)wife as well, and both of them did with my husband.

      My subsequent bosses all lived out of state, but if that weren’t the case there’s a few I might have considered inviting over, but definitely not all of them.

  3. neverjaunty

    OP #2, one of the things you need to do to ‘smooth things over’ is recognize that you need to change how you approach this GM. Your letter has a lot of distancing language about how you reacted during the hiring process. “The conversation” became heated? Your voice “was a bit loud”? When you mention that the manager thought you were yelling because of a loud voice and a small room, and you seem to acknowledge that you may have been, even if it wasn’t intentional. Starting off with the reputation of someone who yells when she’s angry and escalates instead of remaining calm is going to be hard to shake, but you’ll need to going forward. The only way to do that is radically alter how you respond to this stuff.

    1. Libervermis

      I noticed the passive/distancing language too – OP #2, while it definitely sounds like the GM got pretty nasty and aggressive, it also sounds like you upped your level of aggression to match. Conversations don’t magically become heated, people make them so. You can be assertive and professional without raising your voice.

      It could be that you just reacted badly to this (rude-sounding) person and the way you interacted isn’t typical for you. Hopefully you won’t have to see the GM much, but in addition to generally being professional and pleasant, you’ll want to be scrupulously so in communicating with him, no matter how hostile he is.

      1. Jwal

        Yes – there’s a big difference between accidentally getting a bid too loud when you’e talking and sounding like you might be screaming.

        I know I struggle not to match a person’s frustration when we’re having a frustrating conversation so this isn’t me trying to be picky!

        1. Emmy

          But haven’t you met people who say “I don’t like being yelled at!” and no one was yelling? They were just spoken to in a firm tone. (And are usually the one in the wrong.)

          “Mr. Barstead yelled at me today!”
          “He really raised his voice and yelled in the classroom?”
          “Well, he said it was my fifth tardy this semester in a really mean tone!”
          “Was it your fifth tardy?”

          1. Lissa

            I know somebody like this! I didn’t realize it at first, so all her stories about “so and so yelled at me” I took at face value, though I did think she ran into an abnormal number of yellers ;) then I saw somebody politely tell her not to do something against the rules and she went around telling everyone that the person “yelled” at her…there wasn’t even a raised voice, and suddenly all the other stories she’d had looked somewhat different…

    2. Important Moi

      OP#2- I think this OP is a woman, because there are seldom complaints/reactions about men standing firmly on their position.

      I haven’t had the opportunity to be offered a salary for $20,000 less then I’m currently making, but since I think OP#2 is a woman, I don’t think a man would have been low balled to this extreme and criticized so.

      Good luck to you OP. I hope these folks treat you better.

      1. RVA Cat

        This. I was also reading this as very gendered. Being low-balled on salary like that plus the title change – that reads as being busted down to “just a secretary” and “put in her place” and that she’s being “abrasive” to rightfully bristle at this.

        Move forward with caution. I know they say never accept a counteroffer, but I would be making sure no bridges were burned with the former employer and seeing if they might take the OP back in the near future if this doesn’t work out.

        1. AD

          I think men are as likely to be low-balled on salary and the other things you mentioned. This is not something that happens exclusively to women in the workplace, and there’s no info in the OP’s post to indicate gender.
          Plus, he/she handled themselves very poorly in this situation (you DO NOT yell or become hostile during pre-hiring salary negotiations under ANY circumstances, regardless of your gender. This is simply not ok for anyone to do).

          1. RVA Cat

            Yes, but women are punished even if they don’t fly off the handle – hence “abrasive” which is often code for assertive, not aggressive.

            1. AD

              Yes, but that’s not really the case in this situation. I’ll quote Alison’s comment further down the thread: “I can’t think of any scenario where it would be appropriate to raise your voice while working out offer details with a new employer.”

            2. neverjaunty

              Which would be a great point to make if that were in fact what the OP were describing.

        1. Important Moi

          I will admit this surprises me. I don’t know what to add, so I’ll defer to the other posters.

      2. Nanani

        Ding ding ding. That was my thought as well. The exact same phrasing and tone of voice from a man would not get that sort of reaction.

        Fellow commenters, there are studies on this. Educate yourselves if you think otherwise.

        OP, if at all possible, look elsewhere ASAP. You do not want to work for this man.

    3. Tuckerman

      I agree, but in all fairness, I think there’s some bad advice out there on how to handle situations like this. My project management textbook included a case study where a new female project manager yelled right back at the boss and he was so shocked that somebody stood up to him that he quieted down and they all worked happily ever after. That never ends well in real life.

      1. beachlover

        I did just that at one job. Operations mgr and I were working together, I was a inventory clerk at the time. She had reputation for not being easy to get along with, and was not liked by most other employees. She and I got into a small discussion, but I stood my ground and responded in the same tone that she was using. That broke the ice and from then on I worked on many projects with her, I even became a buffer, between her and other employees. No one could understand why we got along so well.

        1. Mike C.

          I’ve had similar situations. I never like having to do it, but sometimes it’s the only way.

        2. Tuckerman

          Apparently it can be effective! I think what makes it work is if the manager recognizes he/she is being loud or using a particular tone. There are plenty of managers who would recognize it in their subordinate (“YOU’RE YELLING!! STOP YELLING!!) but are not aware that they are just as loud. In that case, matching tone or volume is likely to be perceived as overly aggressive.

      2. hung up on a customer, it worked -- once.

        Something similar actually happened to me at my first job, it’s not something that I’d ever recommend others doing and at the time I was sure I was going to be fired. Luckily it worked out for me.

        The company I was working for was a co-op, I was a very low level data entry clerk in the warehouse. Our customers would call in and give me their orders by part number and I was meant to bring up their account and key in the order for them. This led to a lot of one part number orders as we offered quick turn around for their drivers to come pick up.

        One of our ‘customers’ (also technically one of my bosses since he owned his store and had a share in the warehouse) would call and get really annoyed when I would ask him for his account number or name. Since this was my first week I wasn’t yet recognizing voices and he was used to the people working there bringing up his account much quicker than I was. He ended up yelling at me at one point because he was just calling for a price and technically I didn’t need to know who I was talking to for that. He hung up on me and then called back 30 minutes later. I don’t actually recall what he said when he called back, but I had had enough. My 19 year old self decided in the moment to say ‘screw this’ and I yelled something close to, “you know what? If you don’t want to tell me who you are I can’t freaking help you! I’m trying to learn how to do my job and you are really not helping!” and then…. I hung up on him!

        I immediately realized how bad that was. Got up and walked into the presidents office (really small company) and told him what I had done. He laughed his butt off, and said that was probably John Snow owner of John’s Teapots and he’s pretty much a jerk to everyone. He then said I wasn’t in any trouble, but to come to him if I continue having issues instead of screaming at customers. (<– really good advice that)

        Here's the best part: Two hours later his delivery driver shows up with flowers for me and a card with an apology for being an a$$hole. The driver said John would appreciate it if I called him when I was able to. I called him, he fully owned up to his being a jerk and apologized again, then thanked me for setting him straight. After that he and I got along wonderfully and I ended up being his go to person for help over the years. I stayed in the same industry for 20 years moving up and into different companies and he stuck with me the whole time.

        1. Cucumberzucchini

          That’s a really funny story. I think what worked in your favor is that you immediately went and talked to your boss. Also some really difficult people admire people who stand up to them even if that stand-upper is in the wrong.

          I once was supervising a trainee back when I was a bank teller and a customer got aggravated with how slow the trainee was. It’s easy to get flustered when you’re new and overwhelmed. I just told the customer, “Hey, haven’t you ever been new to something? We appreciate your patience, trainee is doing their best.”

          1. hung up on a customer, it worked -- once.

            I completely agree that me owning up to it immediately worked in my favor, that’s something I’ve really held onto over the years. Owning up to mistakes is the best way to get in front of them and fix them. (obviously this one was a whopper, and one I never made again) One my favorite ever bosses used to always say “Well, it is what it is” whenever a large issue came up that we needed to resolve. That stuck with me too. You can’t fix what has already happened, so don’t dwell on it, you just need to move forward.

            That poor trainee! I actually don’t mind (and often enjoy!) being the customer when someone is being trained. It’s somewhat interesting to get a small peek into their processes, plus I’m just happy to be getting a bit of special care as new people are generally doing their best not to screw up! It may take a small bit longer, but as you say we’ve all been there before.

            1. OhNo

              Just as an aside, I also love being the customer that a new person gets trained on. I’ve been on the other side, as the employee in training with a mean, impatient, or rude customer, and it’s awful. If I’m the customer for a training session, it might take longer, but at least I know the employee had their first run with someone who was willing to be patient and not scare them away.

          2. ancolie

            Also some really difficult people admire people who stand up to them even if that stand-upper is in the wrong.

            Absolutely! In middle school, there was a girl who was a TOTAL @$$hole to me — mocking me, making fun of me, on and on. One day I had enough, stomped up to her and got right in her face saying, “you know what your f***ing problem is? You’re a f***ing @$$hole who–“. I ranted for over a minute and stomped away, feeling panicky but exhilarated.

            After that she WAS SO NICE TO ME! Seriously genuinely nice. I found out several years later from one of my friends (who had also been her friend and witnessed my blow up) that after I left, she turned to my friend and said, “I respect that girl!”

        2. Jeanne

          I love that story. Good boss, too, who let it be a way for you to learn rather than firing you.

  4. Mike

    Re #5 – Things like company equipment that you know you have possession of should be something you actively deal with after resigning (I have a laptop how would you like me to return it?).

    I was working 100% remotely for one company and what they did is mailed me a laptop shipping box with a return label. I boxed up the laptop and dropped it off at the FedEx location and they paid the shipping. No extra money was given to me for doing that and I think the arrangement was plenty fair.

    1. Connie-Lynne

      Did the OP reach out to her HR person or manager to ask for return procedures and get no response? If so, she’s not within her rights to ask for recompense for her time, but she also could be forgiven if she had assumed it was hers to do as she pleased and had lost track of it or given it away (note: for real, not as fakery to trump up a reason for keeping it). The longer that goes on, the less sympathy I have for her former employer. I think sometime in the 3 – 6 month window with no response, it’s the company’s loss.

      If, however, she didn’t ask and just chucked it in a closet, she is responsible for getting it back to them. Unpaid, because it’s just weird to press for payment for something you can generally solve during your departure period.

    2. SH

      My company requires consultants to return their laptops and shredded AMEXs to the main office as soon as they resign or get fired. It’s hard for me to understand the OP’s logic and I’m curious what his/her former company’s policy is.

  5. Chriama

    #5 – what is with people and company laptops? I remember a letter a while back about someone whose boss had bought them a company laptop when their personal one died and was resistant to returning it when they were let go. Seriously, this stuff does not belong to you. You should have dealt with it when giving your notice.

    I’m surprised that no one had a separation checklist to make sure you return this stuff (same with the credit card — they probably want that to make sure the account gets closed, not just that the card is destroyed). It’s unfortunate that no one followed up with you but in what universe did you think it was normal to just keep that stuff?

    And also, how is $100 for your time reasonable? If you’re a remote employee and the office is too far to travel there, tell them to give you a UPS shipping account # so you can have it sent back to them. Unless the $100 was to cover the cost of shipping (I’m in Canada and last time I asked about sending a laptop across the country it was $85 so that would be normal), asking to be paid for your *time* is supremely unreasonable.

    Why would you even make that request? Are you annoyed with how they handled your departure, or resentful of something about the work environment that caused you to leave? Because people who are leaving on good terms generally make a point to return company property ahead of time, proactively discuss exit procedures and at the very least are willing to be accommodating of reasonable requests after they leave.

    1. Jeanne

      Of course the laptop should be returned. I don’t understand wanting to keep company laptops. My last one was so locked down by company rules. I don’t want a computer where I don’t have administrative access. I’m not a hacker. But you might be right about the ill will.

    2. Anon Accountant

      My boss has loaned an employee his personal laptop so she could remote in from home when the weather was bad. She was fired last May and he realized in September she hadn’t returned his laptop. She won’t take anyone’s calls and didn’t respond to a certified letter.

      He said “call it a loss” and figures it won’t be returned.” When she was fired no one gave the laptop a 2nd thought. It wasn’t company owned but his personal one. Because she said she “didn’t have a computer to work from home on”.

      1. Chriama

        Well May to September is 4 months so while that sucks, I do think the boss was remiss in not noticing sooner. Not an excuse for her keeping it of course, but if I had been fired I wouldn’t want to answer calls from the boss who fired me 4 months later.

      2. Karo

        I feel like this is a very different situation. While personal belongings should be returned to the people that own them, it falls into the category of “don’t lend things/money you don’t have to lose.” Work belongings have a very clear code of conduct, though. There’s no ambiguity on whether it’s a gift, you normally have to sign paperwork indicating that you understand that it’s the company’s property and that you will return it within x days of separation, etc.

        1. Anon Accountant

          Yup it was a personal laptop but he loaned it for business reasons. He was determined he was going to “go after her” for it but the other bosses told him he should’ve considered all that when he was told she was being fired.

    3. Gaara

      Yeah, I was wondering about this, too. Why not just drop it off? Why should they pay your for your time (note I am not talking about the *cost* of shipping) in returning their property? And why such a high rate?

      Did they do something to offend you? Even if so, you need to act like a grown up. Give them their thing back and move on.

      Or is this based on the common internet advice to tell them you’re going to charge them your hourly consulting rate to do more work for them after the end of your employment, and even if that advice is sound in general — it does not apply here, since you’re not consulting or performing any *work* for them. You’re just giving them back your stuff.

    4. Dangerously Cheezy

      I found the key word in OPs post was that the company requested it be ‘dropped off’. To me that says that OP is not a remote employee and is being difficult. OP did not say that it was impossible to drop off because she lived too far away or even that she was with a new company and didn’t have the time to drop it off… she said she would mail it if paid.

      If she had been remote I would assume that the company would’ve automatically offered to pay for the cost of shipping it back.

      Considering she was on a one year leave (assuming mat leave) before giving 2 weeks notice, I think she either has unresolved feelings from before her leave or lost any sense of connection to the company as an employer…

    5. Roxanne

      I actually created a detailed separation checklist that was much more detailed than the short one from HR that included credit cards, computers, cameras, cell phones and then items such as “remove from first aid list” or “remove from contact list from a committee” and “forward emails to manager?” and “who to transfer calls to.” I had a long list of former employees with a list of contact names to transfer to if someone called for the former employee (this happens a lot in the first year but to be honest 90% of those calls were not work related but their dentist). I had staffers sign a form stating they had returned the laptop if they left on good terms and were not remote on their last day. Then it was shipped off to IT (in another province) to be reformatted for someone else.

      A more thorough process would have been to have her return the credit card and laptop before her mat leave and had she returned to work, they could be returned to her then. If she needed to check emails on mat leave, she could then do it remotely. An ex-coworker of mine had her computer assigned to someone else when away on mat leave and her access card temporarily deactivated.

    6. Loose Seal

      When I gave notice at my last job, my boss tentatively said, “You know that laptop you use belongs to the company?” And I said yes and would she like it turned in on my last day or did she need it earlier. She seemed so relieved to tell me the last day would be fine.

      I’ve thought of that off and on over the years since and thought I must have seemed oddly attached to my work computer but reading this letter makes me wonder now if my boss had to deal with something like this before my time there and was since gun-shy about getting computers back.

  6. Jeanne

    #2, if I have this straight, the GM is someone involved with offering salary/benefits on behalf of the company and will not be your boss. I hope I understood. The whole thing is a bit odd. This sounds like a reasonably high level job. Where was the CEO in this? Or whoever you would work with/report to. Is the GM paid by the company to be a hard ass so they can get all their talent for the lowest price? If that’s the case, the whole thing was an act and you did nothing wrong. But the company is skeevy for doing that. If GM meant it that he was offended by your actions, you may want to visit his office in your first few days to apologize for offending him and say you’d like to work well together starting now. Apologies can help.

    Either way, I would find a way to discuss it with your new boss. Express your concerns at the way the negotiations were handled. Ask if that’s normal at the company. If your company is losing good talent during negotiations, that could be relevant to a job doing corporate strategy.

    1. Sadsack

      I agree with you, my understanding is the GM is only involved in the hiring process. OP could apologize for losing his cool, but should not apologize for insisting on the correct title and salary.

  7. Gaia

    See, OP 5, this is why when our company just permitted our first remote employee we very carefully wrote out a memo of understanding regarding how they need to handle their equipment upon termination.

    If I was your former employer, I’d be pretty upset that you had not yet returned the laptop. It does not belong to you. Common sense should have told you to return it already. And you are not owed $100 worth of time to return it. Call FedEx, have them pick it up. Done.

    And shredding the card? Yea, I wouldn’t have done that either.

    1. Gaia

      Whoops, I meant OP 4

      As for OP 5, you should be paid for this time. I would phrase it as confirmation because, really, it would be incredibly weird to [i]not[/i] pay you for this time.

    2. Joseph

      Yeah, most companies have a written “Last Day” memo/policy/checklist listing what to do when an employee leaves, especially for remote employees.

      Because here’s the thing – OP#4 resigned voluntarily and can apparently be contacted so it can be resolved…but there are so many ways this could have gone badly – particularly since it’s been _two months_. OP could have been fired and so angry about it that he refused to acknowledge emails/answer his cell. OP could have moved and changed his personal cell phone number and the company couldn’t track him down. OP could have relocated out of country, so the company would have been hit with an expensive international shipping cost.

    3. Elizabeth West

      I shredded mine–they cancelled it because I wasn’t using it. I don’t know why they gave me one in the first place! But they told me to cut it up. (A bunch of us had cards and they just said hey, we’re closing these if people haven’t used them in X amount of time.)

      I would NOT have done that for a card I had after a layoff, however. I would either drop it off or mail it back with the computer.

      1. Colette

        I still have a card from the company that laid me off last year. I assume they have long since cancelled it.

        And yes, I should shred it, it just hasn’t been high on my priority list.

  8. Jeanne

    #3, your manager is a wimp. It’s your boss’s decision who should go on the trip, not yours. Talk to your coworker. If you both want to go, don’t fight it out. Tell the boss you both are interested in the training/learning/work on the trip and are willing to abide by boss’s decision who can help most on the trip.

  9. Mike C.

    Re #2: This whole thing sounds like the GM is using a bunch of gaslighting and bait/switch tactics and the general expectations of a white collar office to force the OP into getting a lot less than they should.

    What baffles me is why anyone would apologize for being in a heated discussion. No one was cussing or throwing chairs at each other, and the OP stated their salary expectation up front only to be low-balled by $20,000. Why shouldn’t the discussion be heated, that’s a significant amount of money! The next step involves the correct pay, but now the title has changed? When objections are raised again, the OP is told they are “nitpicking” and “screaming”, accusations which come off as gaslighting to me – people become very defensive when you call them out for lying. The whole thing feels slimy and untrustworthy.

    I also think we need to be careful not to go so far shown the road of “being the bigger person” that we never stand up for ourselves when being taken advantage of in a professional setting. Even when things get a little heated or the stakes high. A raised voice doesn’t mean someone is a time bomb or a bully or worse still, “unprofessional”. I think it’s fine to directly challenge someone who is making claims you think are wrong or dishonest.

    I get that from a practical stand point one has to let the boss save face in some way for this particular job to work, but we shouldn’t pretend that this means the apology was deserved or that the OP acted inappropriately.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I can’t think of any scenario where it would be appropriate to raise your voice while working out offer details with a new employer. If it comes to that, I’d take that as a flag that something has gone very wrong — possibly on the other person’s part, certainly, but regardless, if it’s come to that, things have disintegrated to a place they shouldn’t have gone if this is the right match for you both.

      I don’t think you could (or should!) feel good about the offer at that point; it’s sort of already over if that happens.

      1. uh

        I sort of can think of one. I work with a guy who is extremely hard of hearing and he talks VERY LOUD as a matter of course. A stranger might think it was “yelling” but in fact he is just LOUD.

        1. Myrin

          I believe there might be a difference between how people use “raised voice”.

          Like your coworker (and like a good portion of my family), I have a pretty loud voice which is great when I’m teaching a class but not so great when I’m in a quiet room with only one person. I’m not even hard of hearing – which might give me an understandable excuse – but I still don’t actually hear my own voice “correctly”. I always think I speak in a normal tone and then someone I’m close to – friends or family – will tell me that I’m doing the yelly thing again. It’s immensely hard for me and requires a lot of constant concentrating and monitoring to actually go through a whole conversation without progressively becoming louder and louder (and even the monitoring helps only minimally because, as I said, I can only guess if I’m being loud but I can’t actually tell and I’ve wound up whispering and needing to repeat myself a couple of times because suddenly I became too quiet without realising it).

          That being said, I’m always pleasant and polite and I’ve never gotten any professional feedback that told me I came off as screaming at others (it sometimes does happen with my family where someone mistakes my being mildly annoyed with being hugely pissed because I came off as less calm than I actually felt but that’s typically in a situation where there’s already some tension to begin with). But I do believe that that’s what many people mean when they say “raised voice” – they don’t mean “in a loud voice” (although that probably often plays a role) but rather something like “rude” or “confrontational” or “aggressive”.

            1. BTownGirl

              I’m a loud one too haha! Once as a teenager I had a terrible ear infection and temporarily lost a lot of my hearing in one ear….you could have heard my from space, I tell you!

          1. TootsNYC

            I don’t even have to raise my voice; I just project more powerfully.
            I can fill up a room without a microphone if I need to.

          2. Al Lo

            My husband and brother-in-law can always tell when my sister or I is talking to either our mom or each other on the phone, because we all just get louder and louder. It’s just a family thing that happens when we get together, but it doesn’t happen with anyone else. We can have some pretty loud family dinners and phone calls, though!

          3. Calacademic

            This is me. Plus, I have moderate hearing loss, so I have that working against me too. (Kudos to this description, brilliant.)

      2. Mike C.

        I don’t really disagree with any of this, especially the last bit. I just don’t want the OP to feel like they did something wrong when faced with someone negotiating in bad faith.

      3. Sadsack

        Alison, does it make a difference that the argument was with HR and not the hiring manager?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          It’s definitely better that it wasn’t with the hiring manager! If there’s anything that could make it salvageable, it’s that. It’s still not good though.

    2. neverjaunty

      There’s a huge difference between being in a heated discussion and yelling. It’s not about “being the bigger person.” It is also, by the way, about not getting baited.

      1. Alison Read

        Not getting baited! Exactly! You also mention up-post, “…radically alter how you respond to this stuff.” So much easier said, and intended, than accomplished. If you had any suggestions please share! This is a struggle, but when it’s unexpected and personal – particularly when being gaslit – I see that resolve flying out the window. The obvious offenders are easy, one can prepare themselves, the surprise assaults tend to suck me into their distinction.

        1. neverjaunty

          Practice in dealing with gaslighting, and seeing it for what it is. If you can think of it not as ‘how dare you treat me that way’ but ‘oh, are you pulling out THAT pathetic tactic? let me fix that for you’, it helps you to keep calm rather than getting angry. I highly recommend The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and The Art of Deception for learning techniques to deal with dishonest arguing (including gaslighting).

      2. TootsNYC

        yes to the “not getting baited.”

        I would bet this GM often accuses people of “raising their voice” because they’re responding to his aggression.

        1. Jeanne

          Probably does it with everyone who counters his offer. It’s an intimidation tactic. The more I think about it, the worse the company is for employing this guy and his techniques.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      I fall toward the Mike C. camp on this one, but I’m an aggressive negotiator AND I haven’t had to negotiate for a new job with new players in decades, so what do I really know about what’s appropriate in that set up.

      Anyway, the GM of Talent Acquisition isn’t the OPs boss. Personally, I wouldn’t give a rats ass what he thought of me, as long as I felt good about my relationship with the CEO, my boss, and was ready to do a kicking job. Especially if I got what I set out to negotiate for.

      (Can you tell I might possibly have bodies of people who tried to get in my way piled to the left and the right of me in my Rise to the Top? :p)

      1. Christopher Tracy

        I’m somewhere in the middle of Mike and Alison. The GM knew exactly what he was doing when he tried to lowball the OP, and then when he didn’t get his way, tried to pull another fast one with the title change. He made this situation adversarial when it really didn’t need to be. If there was a legit reason the salary offered needed to be lowered, this should have been communicated to the OP prior to the offer stage since he knew OP’s number. You don’t just spring that on someone at the eleventh hour – that would piss me off too.

        However, once it got to the point that the GM started accusing the OP of yelling and just generally being the one with the problem, there wasn’t much left of that relationship to salvage even if the GM was completely in the wrong. And this whole experience would have made me reconsider whether I’d want to work at a place that seemed to think it was appropriate to play the bait and switch game with job applicants – I don’t even work for you yet and you’re already being an ass and playing games? That doesn’t bode well. Maybe it’s just the GM and everyone else is lovely, but when people in high up positions like this behave badly, and they are allowed to act this way with no repercussions, it doesn’t reflect well on the company as a whole.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

          People who work directly for the CEO can gain a lotta power quickly, if they are good at what they do. The OP has already proved that she can stand up for herself and walk out of a room with what she set out to get.

          If her current job hadn’t been resigned, I’d have more tempered advice about considering options but the die is pretty much cast and I’m betting on the OP.

        2. the gold digger

          I have experienced both the salary switch and the title switch.

          Salary bait and switch
          In the first case, my new boss told me the job would pay $85K with 10% bonus. After we had talked for a month and I had told my then boss that I was interviewing for a job in another division, which did not make my then boss happy but I had to tell him by HR rules, the new boss made me a written offer of $75K even. No bonus.

          I protested and he said that,

          1. $85K would have put me above my counterpart in NotArgentina
          2. He never said $85!
          3. He meant $85K in TOTAL BENEFITS, not in salary! How could I possibly have misunderstood that?

          I accepted the job anyhow because it was still more money than I was making in the other group, but I started looking for a new job two weeks after I started in the new group.

          Title change
          I started looking for a new job and found the job I have now. When I got the offer letter, it was total boilerplate clearly designed for someone just out of college and with a job title of “analyst.”

          I called my current boss and said, “I have never been at ‘analyst’ level. Even 15 years ago, I was a senior analyst. I am manager level.”

          He was surprised that I cared so much, but he went back to HR and had the title changed. I had a verbal assurance immediately and a revised letter in a few weeks – they had to re-post the job with the new title, but that was a formality.

          I much prefer my current boss.

          1. Sadsack

            It is amazing to me that your manager would be surprised that you’d care what your title is. I’ll bet he’d really care if they changed his title from manager to analyst.

        3. BTownGirl

          Completely agree. I had interviewed with a company once that required disclosing current salary when applying (ugh, just ugh) and when I went for the interview, one of my would-be-managers started talking salary with me. He asked my salary expectations and I stated a number that no other employer had balked at, as it was reasonable for my experience level (I’m an admin person who had a good decade of experience at that point). He said, well, here’s what we’re willing to pay and said “I don’t think we’ve ever had an administrative person anyone start at $x” with a bit of a smirk. The number he quoted me? Less than what I was making at the time. I mean, seriously? It was really, really hard not to be annoyed, because it was fairly obvious he didn’t think admin experience was worth a whole heck of a lot, based on the way he’d phrased it. I stayed polite and, when I declined their offer the very next day (hey, red flag much?) he was really rude and made it sound like I’d wasted their time. I can’t. I just can-NOT.

      2. TootsNYC

        And in fact, the company didn’t back away over $20,000; and they hired him even after that unpleasant negotiation.

        I would take that to mean that the people whose opinion *really* matters (like, the CEO; and others who will need the OP’s skills and experience) really wanted him.

        1. Jeanne

          I take it to mean they have slimey negotiation tactics and will try to get away with not giving you what you deserve unless you fight for it. Then GM gets a bonus for saving money.

    4. Chriama

      I think you can have a civil conversation and show you’re pissed without yelling, and I wonder what the OP’s experience has been in other situations in her life. If all these conversations were with HR and not her future boss then I think things are probably ok (and they kind of have to be because she already quit her job!). And 20k lowball is completely unreasonable.

      So while I’m falling on the side of the GM just being unreasonable and angry about being challenged, I still don’t think standing up for yourself needs to involve being unprofessional. He offers 20k less, you say that’s not acceptable and I told you my salary range at the start. He tries to give excuses, you say ‘unfortunately I can’t accept this position at this salary. I gave you my range at the start.” He tries it again, you say the same thing and end with ‘if you can’t meet my salary requirements I’m going to have to decline this position.” There’s no arguing or reasoning with him, just stating your position clearly. And basically the same conversation re: the title. “I can’t accept the position if you can’t meet my requirements” and no need to get ‘heated’ or ‘yell’.

      And yeah, I think some of the onus is on the OP here, if only for the reason that such a deterioration in communication means things are going seriously wrong.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        When negotiating, I believe you are at your strongest when you present cool as a cucumber.

        But! I did not find the OP’s retelling to portray her as unprofessional.

        In other news, I’m from Philadelphia. :-)

        I read the post and was like okay, that could have gone better but, negotiating points won, job secured and tomorrow is a new day.

        1. Chriama

          “I read the post and was like okay, that could have gone better but, negotiating points won, job secured and tomorrow is a new day.”

          And I think I’m the same way, at least in this situation. If OP had other options or hadn’t yet quit her job or if the interaction was with her boss to be rather than just hr I might have different advice. But in this situation she got what she wanted and hopefully won’t have to talk to this GM in the course of her regular job activities. So while it wasn’t optimal or professional, I don’t think it’s unrecoverable.

        2. Jeanne

          I’m just outside Philly and I agree with you. Not perfect, not impossibly awful. And I lean toward the possibility OP wasn’t yelling. Voice got insistent and the GM uses the yelling accusation to intimidate. Just my opinion.

      2. Mike C.

        What in particular did you find unprofessional?

        I worry that we’ve gotten to the point where any show of emotion has become defined as unprofessional, even in the face of high pressure, deceptive or unethical tactics.

        1. Jwal

          I think screaming is pretty unprofessional. A show of emotion might be the conversation becoming heated and voices being raised as a result of the parties becoming frustrated. But screaming (or even if the boss misinterpreted bog-standard yelling as screaming) is definitely very different.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            Well, first he’s not the boss, he’s the talent acquisition guy whose job it was to bring the OP on board, which I think is an important point to keep in mind. Not her boss. Guy who, arguably, botched his job to bring her on smoothly.

            I didn’t read the post that the OP *was* screaming. I read that the OP said her voice was “a bit loud” and that the talent acquisition guy said she was screaming. That’s why I didn’t take on board that the OP had behaved unprofessionally.

            1. Chriama

              I think it depends on your experiences and previous work environment. I think OP is likely to give herself a more charitable interpretation than an outsider might give. I’m someone whose voice tends to get loud when I get heated/excited so I can imagine a world where I get “a little loud” and it’s received as yelling. But I would still consider myself as unprofessional.

            2. neverjaunty

              Eh, it’s the context of the whole thing. There’s a lot of distancing and not actually saying the GM was wrong or lying about the OP’s behavior, just sort of talking around it.

          2. calonkat

            ” Unfortunately, my voice is a bit loud, and sitting in a quiet meeting room in office, he felt I was screaming.”

            That’s what the OP said. The OP did NOT say they were screaming or yelling, the OP said their voice was a bit loud (so is mine, grew up with a hard of hearing family member).

            1. Myrin

              But the kind of vague and excusing way the phrase you’re quoting is worded actually makes it more likely to me that he did indeed yell. As I said above, I, too, have a naturally loud voice and often can’t tell or control how loud I really am. And yet people don’t always think I’m aggressively attacking them the moment I open my mouth which suggests that if someone does perceive you that way, it’s probably true. (Doesn’t have to be, of course. But again, I think the wording of that issue is super defensive.)

              1. Sadsack

                Unless the person accusing you of screaming has a reason for making you appear unreasonable.

        2. neverjaunty

          Mike, FFS, if you’re going to build a strawman, disguise it better. “Don’t scream at someone during negotiations, even if they’re a jerk” doesn’t translate into ‘any show of emotion is unprofessional’ by any stretch of the imagination. The problem here isn’t that the OP got pissed off or responded assertively. The problem is 1) she responded, according to her, with yelling and escalating, and 2) doesn’t really say so directly, instead using a lot of distancing language about ‘the conversation’ and ‘my voice’.

          I assure you as somebody who has to deal with gaslighting assholes, dishonesty and serious arguments on a professional and regular basis, it is entirely possible to respond without the extremes of yelling or acting like a robot.

        3. Chriama

          I find yelling to be unprofessional. Specifically, loss of control. Again it’s not unrecoverable, but losing control of your emotions and allowing that to direct your behaviour is unprofessional.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I didn’t read the GM in that letter as negatively as everyone else has. I’ve been interested in how this particular letter suggested different scenarios to different readers.

      Here’s what I thought happened: Sometime during the course of the hiring process, the LW was asked for and gave a salary (or range) he or she was looking for. The LW moved forward expecting that that would be the (minimum) salary offered. Later, the GM offered a lower salary (LW’s salary – $20,000). LW reacted in such a way that the conversation became heated, but eventually prevailed and was offered a higher salary. In a later conversation about the title, the LW raised his or her voice.

      To me, it feels like the LW has been culpable in creating the crappy tenor of these conversations. (Not to say that the GM hasn’t been as well.) I can’t even begin to imagine being in a salary negotiation that got heated; if we were way apart on salary and couldn’t find a way to get closer, at most I’d say something like: “I’m disappointed — and to be honest, a little frustrated — that we can’t get closer to the salary we’d discussed earlier. It sounds like this just isn’t going to work.” (I’m mild mannered to a fault; I’m not saying that my way is the right way, just that the LW’s personality/tone/etc. must have contributed to sending the conversation downhill.)

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        It’s like the blind men and the elephant! Are we reading the same post?

        Very interesting the different reactions.

      2. LBK

        I totally agree. I think when you’re that far apart in salary expectation and it doesn’t seem like the company is willing to come up, that’s when you just say “I don’t think this is going to work out” and you move on. I’m really curious what transpired in the conversation that the OP was somehow able to get them up $20k – that’s a huge bump.

        1. TootsNYC

          Actually, I think that as long as I had a job and wasn’t desperate, desperate to get out of it, if someone offered me $20k below what I told them I wanted, I’d just get up and leave (figuratively speaking).

          “Well, it’s been nice; thank you for your time, but that’s far too low. It’s so extremely low that it’s clear we’re not actually talking about the same job. Bye.”

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            Right. I think you, LBK and I are all saying the same thing. The conversation would *end*, not get heated.

    6. LBK

      Hmmm, I think this only makes sense if you have a very charitable reading of the OP’s role in this situation and glide over the vague parts; “the discussion got heated” isn’t particularly specific, and I’d be interested to know what that really entailed. Saying you just have a loud voice and the other person was wrong to interpret you as screaming at them feels like an excuse to me; speaking as a natural loud talker, I know the difference between when I’m at my normal volume and when I’m actually fired up and my volume increases to a yell. Your demeanor and your manner of speech also change when you’re yelling, not just your volume.

      I almost feel like the OP wrote in partly (mostly?) for validation and is downplaying their role in the discussion escalating the way it did. Yeah, a $20k undercut is a huge low ball, but I think there’s pretty easy ways to deal with that without getting in a fight, since I don’t think most job offer rejections turn into arguments. I know we usually take LWs at their word here but the more I reread the letter, the more skeptical I feel. Something about their description of the situation sets off the same kind of uneasy feeling I get when a crappy employee tries to explain how their employer is out to get them and that they aren’t actually doing anything wrong.

      1. LBK

        Oh, and because the extreme overuse of this word drives me crazy: it’s not gaslighting every time someone has a different interpretation of events than you, especially if those events are somewhat contentious (and therefore prone to varying perspectives on how they transpired, because each side of the argument is likely going to view it in a way that makes them look favorable).

  10. Chocolate Teapot

    1. A lot of old (pre-1980s) comedy programmes have inviting the boss to dinner as one of the plots of an episode. Naturally something will always go wrong, with hilarious results.

    But I digress. I think timing and the other people on the guestlist are very important.

        1. Supernintendo Chalmers

          The Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your kitchen?

    1. the gold digger

      Bewitched.

      Darren1 and Darren2 were always bringing Larry home without asking Samantha! I cannot believe she did not divorce him.

      If Primo brought home someone for supper without notice, that person might just be eating Cheerios with me, because I don’t prepare a sit-down meal every night.

      1. Cat

        I like old household management books, and, for instance, the one for Navy wives from the ’50s has a whole section on what you should keep around so that you can effortlessly impress your husband’s friends when he brings them by to show you off. (It was the ’50s, so I think it was like crackers, canned cheese, and olives.)

    2. Elizabeth West

      The Chicken Divine boss coming to dinner on Roseanne. And bringing his auto shop homework for Dan to help him with (a carburetor in a box).

      I love that episode because it nails what working in fast food is like.

    3. Fafaflunkie

      “O Lolabrigida, your food I diggida…”

      I still remember that Flintstones episode where the maid Fred hired quit the day he invited Mr. Slate to dinner and Wilma had to fill in last minute. Google “Wilma the Maid.” My attempts to link to a video with this phone led me to a bunch of popup ads that are enticing me to install a virus infected app. Be careful doing this on a phone.

  11. Mephisto

    I had a short-term marketing job once that involved equipment we had to travel with. Not nothing, but not a lot– all of my gear fit in an 18 gal storage tote that I kept in the back of a closet. My team was all remote, so these items had to be stored at our homes. We had an assignment that lasted 6 months, and then a (well communicated) gap of about a month before we heard back that the campaign would not be continued and we would need to send back our equipment (and the company would pay the return shipping). One of my coworkers reply-all’d asking if we would be compensated for storing the items at our homes for that month. The email chain that followed was one I will always treasure.

    1. SophieChotek

      I wish I could ask for compensation having to store about 5 huge boxes of work stuff at home (!) — never thought about that before…

      It is kind of a pain, but I understand it’s a necessity with one of the “perks” of working remotely also!

      (What happened in the email chain…?)

    1. Mike C.

      I still keep thinking about that article, has there any anything else written about differences in social class in the workplace?

      1. I'm a Little Teapot

        Some of the examples in that article were puzzling; I really don’t think bosses coming over for dinner is standard behavior regardless of social class. Maybe it was once? Maybe only in very specific industries/regions? Maybe people only do that in sitcoms? I don’t know.

        1. Miss Betty

          In the 60s and 70s, my dad was good friends with his fellow social workers at the state hospital. I remember visiting back and forth with them, and two families in particular became close friends of ours. I also remember my dad bringing a co-worker (just a coworker, not one of the close friends) home for dinner at least once and we going to someone else’s house for dinner at least once (again, just a coworker). I don’t think it was ever his boss, except at one place, a small, denominational children’s home in a small town – everyone who worked there went to the same church and their kids went to the same school – we were back and forth at boss’s house all the time. When I saw Darrin bringing his boss home for dinner on Bewitched, it never struck me as strange at all. I don’t remember this sort of thing happening after the 1970s.

  12. Sonya

    I’m very surprised at the responses given to OP #2. I think that the languaged used by the GM is actually extremely gendered. I imagine later responses will comment on it.

    Could it be that he isn’t used to a woman having the absolute nerve, the gall, the cheek, to even consider negotiating her salary and working conditions? Someone really should bear him to the fainting couch.

    It is well-known by now that there are some people in this world who do not appreciate it when a woman advocates for herself. It’s not “feminine” to ask for what you’re worth. It’s not good for her to be known as “loud”, or “assertive”. But I’d be comfortable guessing that he’d never have said these things to a bloke in the same kind of discussion.

    1. Jwal

      I’ve just gone back an re-read it and I don’t see what’s coming across as gendered. Annoying, definitely, and inappropriate, but not gendered. I don’t think that we’re even quoted anything, except him being nitpicky. Could you elaborate?

      1. Jozie

        I agree. I’d actually pictured OP #2 as male based on me just doing that whole associating them with a coworker of mine thing and my assumption didn’t seem wildly off base, even if ultimately untrue, based on the items mentioned in their letter.

    2. MK

      There is no indication in the letter that the OP is a woman. Also, the GM’s language, as written, is actually not “extremely gendered”. It’s true that women exhibiting certain behavior will sometimes be characterised negatively, while the same behavior from men goes without notice. But it doesn’t follow that every time someone accuses a worker of being too aggresive, it’s because of gender.

      1. LBK

        Yes. Just because many women are incorrectly characterized as being aggressive or abrasive doesn’t mean there aren’t actually any women out there who are aggressive and abrasive.

    3. hbc

      There may be a gendered element, but when the OP talks about small rooms and her(?) loud voice, it very much reads like people we all know who are actual yellers but make excuses. (“I wasn’t shouting at you, I was just angry and loudly expressing my feelings!”)

      I have no love for the GM’s approach and it definitely sounds like he’s playing games, but the passive “there was a heated discussion” type of language isn’t a great sign either. Maybe the GM would have tolerated the yelling from a guy, maybe not, but it still doesn’t make it a good move.

      1. Not Today Satan

        I was once on the phone with a client who got irate and started yelling. I told him that I can’t speak with him if he yells. He responded, “I’M A MAN! I SPEAK FROM MY CHEST!”

        I hung up on him.

        1. neverjaunty

          …because the rest of us speak from an interdimensional portal that summons our voices from the Elemental Plane of Sound? What a tool.

      2. Gaia

        I laughed at your parenthetical quote because I actually had a boss who, after yelling at me one day, said

        “I wasn’t yelling, I was just really frustrated so I spoke louder so you would hear me”

        Uh, that is yelling, jerk.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      Eh, maybe.

      We don’t have any information that the GM treats women and men differently. I go with “maybe” because it’s generally true that generally women can be held to a higher standard of “polite behavior” in negotiations, but there weren’t any gender flags for me on the read of this post.

    5. Mookie

      I don’t really see any definitive gendered aspect here but, as we saw with HRC recently, for example–along with “smile! You’re winning!”–labeling a strong and serious tone “shouting” seems to happen more often to women than men, a little bit like the received but incorrect wisdom that women talk too much, or studies that demonstrate most people overestimate the number of women in any group, as though having more than one or two is aberrant and unfair and will result in a case of mass cooties for which there is no cure but the cleansing power of fire, etc.

    6. Important Moi

      I commented above, but I will comment here too. I believe OP#2 is a woman and having the absolute nerve, the gall, the cheek, to even consider negotiating her salary and working conditions is uncomfortable to the GM.

      Your comment is spot on.

      1. AD

        We don’t have information on the OP’s gender, so this is speculation. Either way, he/she did not handle the situation well, as others (and Alison) have said so the point is a bit moot.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep — I’m actually wondering if I should ask people not to speculate re: letter-writers’ gender since it can really derail us and is often wrong. On the other hand, I don’t want to preemptively shut down a line of conversation that might turn out to be relevant. But at a minimum, I’d say it’s better to frame it as a question rather than a “the OP is probably a woman.”

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            Yeah I…

            Here’s the thing. There is way way way way more of the “women are treated differently than men when negotiating! women are judged harshly by their behavior!” running about the last 10 years than there ever was when I was coming of age in the business world.

            I believe there is a tipping point where “useful background” flips to the unintended side effect of intimidating women from entering the arena (so to speak). I was crazy fearless back in the day and I worry that a constant repetition of how disadvantaged women, especially with not enough data in an individual situation, can discourage women from even trying.

          2. mazzy

            Thank you for this. I definitely don’t want to become the blog commenter who is always playing devil’s advocate on these type of things, but I had wanted to comment that this story wasn’t extremely gendered.

            It is actually frustrating to see discussions here every few days on how this or that is gendered and err go the offending party very wrong. As if there original offense wasn’t enough, as if the same things don’t happen to guys, as if it would even help to discuss gender if the person in the letter seems like an all-round tool and is probably an equal opportunity jackass. I highly doubt dealing with this GM is a walk in the park for men just because their gender.

          3. Ultraviolet

            Would you ask that only with letters where the OP’s gender is not specified? Or would you apply it also to letters where the OP’s gender is specified but it’s not really obvious that that’s significant? Like, hypothetically, if in an alternate universe you had posted a letter identical to this one except that it happened to mention that the alternate-universe OP were a woman, would speculating how her gender affected the situation be off limits?

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              My issue is with people saying “the OP must be a man/woman” when we don’t actually know that and then taking the thread in a whole direction based on that assumption.

              1. Ultraviolet

                Thanks for clarifying. I’m really conflicted on this problem and will be interested to see what you decide to do!

    7. neverjaunty

      Yes, it could very well be that the GM is a sexist ass. But taking the OP at her word, she responded to him by being combative and yelling – not simply by being assertive. That is, to answer the OP’s actual question, problematic regardless of the OP’s gender. Nothing about being a woman and pushing back against a sleazy negotiator makes it ok to scream at people.

    8. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Heh. Just goes to show that what we read into the letters makes a huge difference.

      I definitely saw gender issues in the letter… but I thought the writer was clearly a man, because I had a hard time imagining a woman raising her voice in a negotiation. (I also thought it was clear that the LW DID raise his/her voice in a problematic way; I acknowledge that that is an inference that isn’t shared by others and may not represent the truth of the situation.)

    9. Artemesia

      This is what I thought too. My daughter counseled by me always pushed on salary and was almost always successful in negotiations but one instance it basically created an adversarial tone between her and the boss — they gave her a signing bonus but always treated her badly. I think Alison indicated the OP was a man but this reaction is one that is really common when women have the temerity to actually negotiate. I think there is research showing that men are valued when they do this and women are often devalued even if the hiring goes ahead (and occasionally offers are withdrawn because of it).

  13. Erin

    #4 – I’m genuinely confused why you think you need to be paid for mailing a laptop. You don’t have to pay the actual shipping costs, right? I mean, I get that it’s annoying when you thought you had squared everything away but this is not an unreasonable request from them. One hundred dollars, to mail a laptop? I feel like I must be missing information here.

  14. Gaara

    #4: Why not just drop it off? Why should they pay your for your time (note I am not talking about the *cost* of shipping) in returning their property? And why such a high rate? A reasonable hourly rate for that kind of work (mailing something) would surely be lower than what you propose here.

    Did they do something to offend you? Even if so, you need to act like a grown up. Give them their thing back and move on.

    Or is this based on the common internet advice to tell them you’re going to charge them your hourly consulting rate to do more work for them after the end of your employment? Even if that advice is sound in general — it does not apply here, since you’re not consulting or performing any *work* for them. You’re just giving them back their stuff.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      I would drop it off, mainly because I wouldn’t want to risk it getting lost in the mail or the company saying it got lost in the mail. I’d drop it off, have them give me a signed receipt that they got it in good shape, and then I’d be on my way.

  15. Deanna

    #4, I think that anything more than shipping costs will definitely reflect poorly on you, and even if they don’t think of the specific incident, it will be in the back of their mind if they are ever called to give you a reference. Mailing the laptop should take about 10 minutes tops. $100 is ridiculous.

    1. TootsNYC

      Just want to make this extra noticeable:

      it will be in the back of their mind if they are ever called to give you a reference.

      1. NotAnotherManager!

        Yup. Asking to be paid for your time to box and ship something comes across as a bit crazypants and a lot unprofessional. I’d certainly hate for a reference check to turn up that information. Asking for a box they would prefer you ship a delicate item like a laptop in and a prepaid shipping label is really about as far as this should reasonably go. Personally, I’d have emailed the HR person during the two-week notice period and said, “Hi, I haven’t heard anything from you and just wanted to make sure you don’t need anything from me. Also, I still have a company card and laptop and want to make sure to return these prior to my departure. What’s the best way to do that?”

        Our departure protocol that is sent to all departing employees includes an item that says they have to send us a list of and return all company property including, but not limited to, access cards, laptops, mobile devices, etc., so forth. (We have still had at least two people that I’m aware of try to keep their computers until they were told the cost of the item would be deducted from their final check, if they did not return it.)

    1. TootsNYC

      This has a kind of mean, personal tinge to it. Let’s not do that; it makes this an unsafe place to write in to.

  16. Pwyll

    #4 – Yeah, you’ve gotta return the laptop, it’s not yours.

    A lot of people are also saying the credit card shredding was inappropriate, but I think that depends. In my last job I had a company card issued, but the card was in my personal name (with the business name on it as well). Each month I’d get the bill at home, and I would need to expense the charges so the company would pay the bill. If not, I was responsible for paying the charges. The card agreement even specifically stated I was assuming responsibility for any charges and interest for unexpensed charges that weren’t submitted by x date each month. So, when I left, I shredded the card and cancelled it myself.

    Now, if you just have a general corporate card without a personal guaranty, that should have been returned to the company, not shredded.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I had a standard corporate card and worked remotely. They asked me to shred it; presumably they also shut down the account, so the card itself was somewhat irrelevant at that point.

  17. Rusty Shackelford

    #3, your boss is a weasel, and I wonder what would happen if you said “We’ve decided we’d both like to go, so you’re the tiebreaker vote.”

    1. Elizabeth West

      Ha, I thought the same thing. But the person doing most of the work on the project (assuming the trip has something to do with it) should probably be the one to go.

  18. Former Retail Manager

    #1….don’t invite the boss. For all of the reasons that Alison said. I think the bottom line in these scenarios is whether or not you are cool with the boss on a personal level currently (you don’t sound like you are….idle personal chitchat about travel doesn’t equate to being cool on a personal level in my opinion) AND if you will continue to be close with this person after one or both of you leaves the organization. If the answer to either of those is no, then I think the dinner party has the potential to create awkwardness with little if any benefit to you professionally or personally it sounds like.

    I am currently cool with my boss on a personal level at work and we chat about a myriad of things. However, should I no longer work for him, I know for a fact that we will no longer keep in touch. And thus, he has no place attending non-work functions with my family or friends.

  19. Juli G.

    OP4, your request is not reasonable.

    What is a reasonable request is to ask them to send you a prepaid shipping label and/or box so you can box it and call FedEx or UPS to come pick it up.

  20. Colorado

    I have to admit, returning my laptop to old horrible job was the most satisfying part of the resignation and I couldn’t wait to drop that sucker off at the FedEx depot.

  21. The Rizz

    OP3 should talk to the co-worker and then they should go together to the boss and say ‘We really would have appreciated it if you had assigned someone to the trip.” And if boss insists you figure it out yourselves, then flip a coin right there in front of them.

  22. Physician Assistant

    You cannot give up a half day unpaid to get training for a new job? Four little hours?

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