a round-up: this employer will pay for your wedding, is “be yourself” terrible advice, and more

Three interesting things —

1. Would you want your employer to pay for your wedding? Because that’s now a thing at at least one company, it turns out. You’re likely to love this piece by Aimee Groth about how some companies’ benefits are getting a little more intimate than they probably should.

2. “We are in the Age of Authenticity, where ‘be yourself’ is the defining advice in life, love and career,” writes Adam Grant in the New York Times. “Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. … But for most people, ‘be yourself’ is actually terrible advice. If I can be authentic for a moment: Nobody wants to see your true self. We all have thoughts and feelings that we believe are fundamental to our lives, but that are better left unspoken.”

I quibble with some of the framing in the piece — I think he’s conflating “be yourself” with “say everything that’s on your mind,” which are two different things, but it was an interesting read.

3. This is a pretty interesting piece about how employers are increasingly finding that, as unemployment comes down, more people are refusing to submit themselves to drug tests or aren’t passing them.

{ 253 comments… read them below }

  1. all aboard the anon train*

    #2 is so true, but I’ve found it to be especially true in dating lately. If I read one more profile that says they want to date someone who “is themselves” or “is authentic”, I’m going to scream. It must be this year’s “is spontaneous” or “teaches me something new”.

    As for #1, I’ve found that a lot of companies who give outlandish perks expect you to spend your entire day at the company. A gym onsite and free food is great, but I’d rather have a higher paycheck and a work/life balance.

      1. Dot Warner*

        Exactly! I tell students/interns that there’s nothing wrong with being yourself, but be the version of yourself that you’d take to meet the Queen, not the version of yourself that you’d take to a frat party. Both of those people are you, but only one of them will get hired. :)

      2. annonymouse*

        Is the guy saying “Don’t be yourself” serious?

        Saying exactly whatever socially inappropriate thing you’ve been thinking is not being yourself. (Unless “yourself” is an idiot who wants to make as many people uncomfortable.)

        Be yourself translates into not faking things you think people want and embracing your own unique qualities. But also owning your weaknesses as weaknesses.

        No one wants to be with someone who is faking things about themselves – like an introvert trying to be an extrovert or a lighthearted person trying to be super serious. That is not authentic to them and makes everyone feel awkward.

        But by the same token don’t use this as an excuse to not try to improve your more negative aspects.

        I know that nowadays some people (the kind that post “if you can’t handle me at my worst then you don’t deserve my best”) have taken “Be yourself” to mean they don’t need to change anything about themselves – including anger issues or being sensitive to others needs. It isn’t always going to be about them.

        I’m naturally very friendly, hyper enthusiastic and quirky with a tendency to over talk and interrupt sometimes. However I know to tone the quirk & enthusiasm down when meeting people for the first time and shut up and listen.
        Am I “not being myself”? No, I AM being myself – just a better version.

        1. Quinalla*

          Right, this was my thought as well, this isn’t the movie “Liar, liar” where Jim Carrey is forced to tell the truth against his will for the day, that’s not being authentic, that’s being a rude jerk. And being authentic doesn’t mean you are a fixed state either, at least in any of the various articles & books and whatnot I’ve read. It’s usually about temperament (generally seen as fixed – nature) and personality (generally seen as changing based on experience, environment, etc. – nurture). A lot of it is figuring our your tendencies and why they are there so you can work better with folks like you and who aren’t like you, good stuff!

          I mean, I’m kind of sick of how common authentic is now too, it’s is highly overused, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing. Agreed that be yourself doesn’t mean be a jerk to everyone :) though yes some people seem to think that is what it means.

          And agreed with Dot Warner’s comment about being the self you would take to see the Queen, not to a frat party. You can be authentic without being rude or inappropriate for the venue. When my boss says something sexist, my response is not the same as when I get catcalled on the street, but I’m still being authentic in my response!

          1. annonymouse*

            It also reflects the way I was when I was dating. I often had guys tell me they really liked how “I was being myself.”

            Everything I did was me and not clearly put on JUST to impress them.

            So how does this apply to work?

            By being honest about strengthens and weaknesses, and not trying to get on with everyone (if there are people who clearly don’t like you)

    1. Allison*

      Agreed on #1. I work in recruitment, and one of the recruiters I work with really believes in emphasizing the perks we have, like an onsite gym and a cafe downstairs, and most of what we have is mildly convenient at best, but my take is most people don’t care about that stuff nearly as much as they care about the work they’d be doing, how much they’d get for it (in terms of pay and *useful* benefits like healthcare, dental, 401(k), etc.), and how flexible the company is about vacation, sick time, working from home, work hours, etc.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Plus, it all depends on location. I work in the city, so a gym onsite and a cafe downstairs doesn’t mean much when I can go to the gym across the street or one of the many cafes nearby and not in the building. It comes off as a little tone deaf when a recruiter is trying to win me over with these great details that aren’t all that great compared to, as you say, working from home, vacation, or pay.

        1. Allison*

          True. Working in the city, you don’t need much. We work in the suburbs, so we don’t have many lunch options: bring your own, go to the cafe, enroll in this lunch delivery service called Peach, or drive to a local restaurant 10-15 minutes away (which is both expensive and time consuming). I can see wanting to compensate for our boring suburban office being in the middle of nowhere, but I still don’t think a wealth of perks is going to make our office attractive to people who prefer working in the city.

          1. K.*

            I used to work in a suburb, which I loathed (I’m a city person) and there was a gym on site but NOT a cafeteria, which was really stupid. The office was in the middle of nowhere and you had to drive at least 10 minutes to get anywhere. I always brown bag it as a matter of course no matter where I work (cheaper, healthier, I love cooking), but I thought it was a huge omission to not have food options in-house at a company in a semi-remote location.

          2. all aboard the anon train*

            Yeah, I meant to say in my earlier comment that I can see wanting a cafe onsite if you’re in the suburbs. And I know if I ever made that switch from working in the city (not likely), I’d want to know there was somewhere I could grab lunch if I forgot mine at home.

            But working in the city, I wish more recruiters would talk about which subway lines are near the office and if there’s commuter reimbursement. That’s way more important to me than some of the other non-essential perks like bagels every Friday.

            1. Allison*

              Yes, very true, and even with an office that’s accessible via public transit, I’d wanna know about flexibility. Will I be adhering to strict hours that have me taking the train at the same time as everyone else or can I offset my hours a little to avoid that crowds? If I’m late due to a subway-related delay, will I be in trouble or will they understand it was out of my control? If the transit system breaks down, or the weather threatens to be so bad that any commute would be miserable, will there be an option to work from home that day?

              1. Patrick*

                I know this is just hypothetical but I would be really offput by those questions from a candidate as opposed to more generic questions about office culture and flexibility.

        2. alter_ego*

          yeah, and at least in my office, the onsite gym cost $110 a month, in a city where $30 a month gym memberships abound. If they paid for it, *that* would be a perk.

          1. K.*

            My friend’s company gym costs something like $50 a month and it’s priced differently for different employee levels. The higher up on the corporate ladder you are, the cheaper it is, natch. I’m sure only c-suite folks use it – everyone else can find cheaper memberships elsewhere. (The company is smack in the middle of downtown – there are lots of options.) So ridiculous.

            1. Katie F*

              That’s a gym that the higher-ups designed specifically so they’d be the only ones to use it – that’s the only reason I can imagine for that kind of pricing structure. Honestly, it’s sort of clever of them – write off the purchases as a business expense, then they get their own private gym because it’s not affordable for anyone else.

              1. K.*

                Yeah -$50 a month is what it would cost my friend, who’s mid-level. No idea what it costs entry-level folks. Regardless, it’s ridiculous. This is a HUGE company, too – they’re not hurting for money. They could give their employees a free gym.

            2. inkstone*

              Wow. I’d rather the company not even have a gym. I wonder who thought of that pricing strategy and who approved it.

      2. Just Another Techie*

        I went on a job interview once where the interviewer made a huge point of showing me the kitchenette, which had one sad coffee machine (and cheap nasty bitter coffee) and a dirty refrigerator for keeping your lunch cold. He made such a big deal about how awesome it was that they gave employees all-you-can-drink free coffee and I was like “Uhh, isn’t that normal?”

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            But common enough that you could probably classify it as normal, depending on your industry. Until I worked in government, every job I’d had before that had free coffee. Every job. And they weren’t all in the same field. It was cheap, but it was plentiful.

        1. Triangle Pose*

          So glad you said this! Basic provisions are normal! I will not be swindled into thinking they are special snowflake perks!

        2. zd*

          Free coffee is not universal (grrr) but still it is common enough that this is a huge red flag. If interviewers are making a big deal about “Free Coffee!!” “Air Conditioning!!” “Bathrooms with Flush Toilets and 2-Ply Toilet Paper!!” It usually means they have literally nothing good to say about the place. This is a good example of reading between the lines to identify bad workplaces.

    2. INTP*

      Agree on #1, and they also often have clever ways to restrict those benefits to only the hardest-to-recruit types of employees. Food service, housekeeping, and other support staff will be completely contracted out to staffing companies, lower to mid-level functional workers (HR, IT support, accounting, etc) will be hired on a contract basis for the first year of employment at an absolute minimum, and basically the benefits go to tech workers and management only.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yes, exactly. Lavish perks for the “valuable” and unbenefited contract positions for the hoi polloi is the new normal in a lot of companies. Yay for widening social inequality!

        1. Allison*

          Tell me about it. I’ve been a contractor for 2 years; I’m being payrolled through a 3rd party so I get basic health insurance, an unmatched 401(k), and I can slowly accrue some paid sick time, but everyone I work with gets paid holidays off in addition to unlimited vacation time, plus dental. It sucks.

          1. Anxa*

            It’s sort of terrible when benefits are so different among employees. I am a direct hire, but no benefits. It’s not that I mind being in a lower class on its own so much, as much as how the decision makers don’t seem to consider us at all. They are all about holidays, closings, etc. They get paid, after all. And they boast about it on top of things, as if we’re supposed to appreciate the pay cuts every time a new day off is approved.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      #2 it really should “be the best version of yourself” as compared to “be yourself.” That little change makes things a lot more clear. IMO anyway.

      Haha…I had “authentic” as one of my requirements in my online dating profile that I recently disabled. People do respond to those who are genuinely themselves and march to the beat of their own drummer. I meant “authenticity” in that sense.

      1. Windchime*

        Doesn’t everyone think that they are authentic, though? I wonder how many people know when/if they are being fake or inauthentic.

    4. Anonsie*

      I have found the onsite gyms and free food companies tend to pay more overall as well– at least among people I know who work at such places, that seems to be the trend. More PTO accruals, too.

      I used to be pretty snide about those kinds of perks until I started hanging out with a lot of people who work at the big grueling tech companies that seem to most like handing them out, and I’ve had to eat my judgements for the most part. Their offices have bean bags and crepe stands but also way better pay, more flexibility, and more time off than I’ve ever gotten in any of my supposedly benefits heavy gigs. I’m trying to change fields to get a slice of that right now.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I don’t necessarily have an issue with these things in general, it’s more than I have an issue when those perks are emphasized but the pay is bad. I’ve been trying to switch into a field that offers a lot of these benefits, but most of the places I’ve interviewed at have a salary point that’s less than what I’m making and less than market rate.

        I’d totally be cool with an onsite gym and crepe stand if the company is also offering great pay and health/commuter benefits.

    5. Artemesia*

      Remember the Shakespearean character who said ‘to thine ownself be true. . .’ was a total fool in that play.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I’m forever laughing at all the people who have Shakespearean tattoos or motivational posters with quotes like “to thine own self be true” or “some men are born great…” because they’re always quotes that are making fun of the speaker or not meant seriously.

        The way “to thine own self be true” has been twisted cracks me up because in the play it’s really just Polonius telling Laertes to go be his true self so Polonius can send a spy after him to see if Laertes’ “true self” is a gambling drunkard who hooks up with prostitutes. Good times.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep. And I’ve also had that line quoted to me by people who thought it was from Scripture.

        2. Chocolate Coffeepot*

          I have a Shakespearean Insults mug. One of my favorites is “I would that we were better strangers.”

    6. BananaPants*

      We have an on-site gym and are definitely NOT that kind of company. The gym was crappy and tiny until the corporate HQ relocated to two buildings away, then it was remodeled and is gorgeous (heated floors in the Italian tile showers! towel service! equipment that works!). We were the unintended beneficiaries of them jazzing the place up for the corporate folks to enjoy.

  2. AF*

    So if I decide never to get married, can I just get whatever money the employer would have given me for the wedding? That’s kind of giving a bonus to people based on marital status, yes?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I mean, I think the whole thing is a ridiculous idea, but different people get different dollar amounts of benefits all the time — people with expensive medical conditions who use more health insurance, people whose whole family is insured versus one person, people who get paid parental leave, people who get tuition reimbursement …

      1. the gold digger*

        people whose whole family is insured versus one person

        That always ticked me off when I was a single person. Basically, any married person who covered his or her family on the work plan was being paid more than I was.

        Now I cover my husband but my employer contributes nothing to his coverage. I missed my chance.

        1. Hotstreak*

          No kidding! I asked my employer if they would cut me a check for the difference. They said no, of course :).

        2. Windchime*

          Wow, that’s not true where I work. My coverage is free (to me). Others who have a family pay hundreds of dollars more a month (like, $6-700) to cover a spouse and kids.

      2. Kate M*

        I think the difference in this and something like parental leave is that it’s like a monetary bonus. I agree with one of the last quotes in the article – why not just give people the money and let them decide what to do with it? That way everyone gets the same benefit. Treat it as a bonus for people.

        I don’t think that the usage and dollar amounts of benefits always have to necessarily be equal – medical benefits are there to hopefully keep you in the best health possible (so for some to achieve that it’s one doctor’s visit a year, for others to reach that same level of health they need more extensive care. The purpose is to achieve the same level of health if possible.)

        I think paid parental leave can be evened out if people are able to use leave to care for sick family members or themselves.

        Tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment is a little harder to make even, but I guess it could even out if your end goal is to make sure nobody is in student loan debt at your company.

        But for stuff like weddings, just give everyone a bonus and be done with it.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        This was my first thought, too! I’ll take a bonus in the amount of an average wedding’s cost, please.

    2. Zooey*

      Or how about we all just get paid more instead of funding Ashleiyh in accounting’s destination wedding in Jamaica?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Federal law doesn’t prohibit discrimination based on marital status, although some states do. Even in those states, though, I don’t think this would trigger the law, any more than the law is triggered by covering health care costs for a family when someone is married but not giving that higher-cost benefit to a single person.

        1. NN*

          Could it be discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation if the person is somewhere where same-sex couples can’t get married?

    3. Evan Þ*

      And if I just decide to have a small reception at a low-cost venue, can I have the difference in cash? Please?

    4. Jodi*

      I mean, in a way, isn’t this similar to people who complain about the extra flexibility some offices give parents over non-parents?

      1. Mike C.*

        Extra flexibility as in parental leave policies or as in “all the single or folks without children have to pick up the slack from the folks who have kids” policies?

        1. Jodi*

          I mean it in the way of parents who “get to call in sick more” because they need to take care of children, parents who can leave early because they need to pick their kid up, parents who can never work a night/weekend event because of child care needs. (Also, want to clarify, not necessarily that I feel this way, but just that these are sentiments that have been expressed in previous conversation threads.) So more to your second point.

          1. Mike C.*

            Ok, I feel like those complaints are pretty legit. Management should be staffing at appropreate levels such that people aren’t taking on a ton of extra work based on how much their personal life matches an episode of “Leave it to Beaver”.

            With the wedding thing, ugh just call it a bonus, give it to everyone at a certain point (5 year mark? whatever) and call it good.

            1. Recruit-o-Rama*

              I am seriously asking this question, it’s not sarcastic at all because it occurs to me every time this subject comes up here (and elsewhere). What is the solution? Parents need flexibility. Should parents not work? People are going to have children for as long as people exist on this planet, and they need to have jobs and pay bills just like everyone else. I mean, I’m a parent…life just happens. I have covered for non-parents needs many times though, I don’t resent it, it’s part of being on a team. What is the real, actual solution to reducing the resentment that some non-parents have towards parents over the flexibility issue?

              1. Cat*

                I think it’s a couple of things:

                1) Allow flexibility for non-parents and their personal obligations too. Don’t make it clear that you think parental obligations are legitimate and non-parental obligations aren’t. (And places do do this.)

                2) Staff at a level that takes absences into account and thus means your people aren’t on the edge of over-burdened constantly.

                1. Recruit-o-rama*

                  I’ve worked at organizations which were the opposite. At one of my companies, there was a mandatory monthly all hands meeting. It happened to fall on Veterans Day one time and the manager (non parent) refused to reschedule because it was not a company holiday even though dozens of parents of school aged children didn’t have back up child care. These were remote sales people who would not normally have to have child care and it was kind of a one off. They were penalized for not attending the meeting but she gave them little choice. That manager was notoriously anti-child and I realize there is a distinct difference between anti-child and simply not a parent, but there is a certain amount of resentment among different demographics. I think flexibility should be a two way street, I wish people would just be respectful of each other. I am happy to cover for your dentist appointment, or your puppy’s vet visit, but I’m leaving early to go to a soccer game and I really don’t care about how that might make people feel. My family is vastly more important to me than my job, I hope that’s true for most people, whether they have kids or not.

              2. Aurion*

                The best way to apply the benefits to everyone, and not attach it to a particular event/marital status/parental status.

                So take this wedding bonus. For the perpetually single, it’s something they can’t take advantage of. Instead of pinning the money to a wedding, the company could give out generous bonuses after X years. Newly engaged want to spend their bonus on a wedding? Great! Singletons want to spend it on a vacation to Hawaii? Great! The number of people who can take advantage of the benefit gets much bigger, and the benefit isn’t attached onto their personal lives.

                Flexibility: parents have to leave due to happenstances, often involving children. Have flexible policies for everyone (as long as it makes sense with the position). Nathan ducks out because his son is sick, and Josh picks up the slack? Cool. Josh ducks out due to emergency dentist appointment and Nathan picks up the slack? Equally cool.

                Everyone has emergencies. Parents might possibly have more emergencies than the non-parents (if we assume equal statistical probability of parents and non-parents having other non-kid emergencies such as parent issues, pet issues, injuries, etc.) because they have to deal with their own emergencies and that of their kids. That might just be life, but parents should pick up the slack, work late, or pitch in on crappy work some of the time–they should not get to denounce all the crappy parts because they have kids. I don’t think everything has to be equal, but a good-faith effort towards being equitable is all that should be required.

                1. alice*

                  100% agree. Plus it feels a little like their treating their employees like children. “We’re going to give you this bonus, but only WE get to decide what you spend it on.”

                2. Mander*

                  I think the key thing is not being able to get out of everything that might be unpleasant or inconvenient simply because you are a parent. I haven’t experienced it myself but I’ve read plenty of stories from others where they were expected to work all the weekends and overtime, not have time off approved, get called in on short notice, etc. simply because they do not have kids whereas their colleagues who are parents were not subjected to the same de facto rules.

                3. snuck*

                  But this isn’t the intention…

                  They want something that *sounds good* on paper.

                  When you look at your workforce around you… how many people would actually take this up? Assuming some pretty normal conditions for a $20k bonus like this, it might be structured like:
                  – Must be a permanent employee, and have been with the company more than two years
                  – Must stay with the company for at least two more years, or pay back the bonus
                  – Must be in a non-entry/specialist position (ie important to retain positions)

                  Now look around you and see how many people would want to take it… and be capable.

                  Now the math says there might be one or two in your workplace a year at most that would take it up. Suddenly you’ve got massive publicity and funky cool family workplace relationship status, for a mere $20-40k a year. And employees who are freshly married are usually also freshly mortgaged and not looking to swap jobs anytime soon – this means the company solidifies that commitment to them and locks them in for longer.

                  I’m cynical.

              3. Mike C.*

                Oh, the solution is for management to provide enough staffing such that people who have others to take care (or themselves) of can do so in a reasonable manner. I’m not angry at parents for being parents, I’m angry at managers who aren’t flexible enough in their staffing and work practices to deal with these very reasonable and real life issues.

              4. all aboard the anon train*

                The resentment only comes in when it’s non-parents picking up the slack or being forced to do things parents don’t have to do. If a parent has a flexible schedule for a kid, non-parents should too because they have other commitments that don’t involve children.

                It’s more things like the companies we’ve seen talked about on AAM who give vacation preference or extra bonuses to parents, or who make the non-parents work late. Or who think non-parents should be the only ones to travel or take on the “harder” projects because a parent might be distracted. I have no problem covering for a coworker who has to take a child to a doctor’s appt, but if I can’t get coverage for a doctor’s appt or something, that’s a problem. Same with an employer saying Jane doesn’t have to go to an overnight conference because she has kids, but I do because I don’t, even though attending conferences was part of the job when we both signed on.

                Parents need flexibility, but non-parents do as well. Not having kids doesn’t mean you don’t have emergencies or other commitments. The solution is to provide flexibility for everyone, not just people who fall into a certain demographic.

                1. Jodi*

                  Exactly. Personal example: I was asked to work an event tomorrow night and said that I couldn’t. No explanation, just that I couldn’t, because I shouldn’t have to justify what I do with my weekends. Well the few parents who were asked used child care as their excuse (it was a reply all-type of exchange) and that was taken as finite, so I was asked again. I finally had to respond with “I’m actually celebrating my birthday that night” for the organizer to stop asking me. I’m just not cool with the fact that my “excuse” is taken with less seriousness as someone who needs to watch a child. Now I get that this varies by office, and some will be more accommodating to the work/life balance of people without children, but I’d hate to go through the rest of my career knowing that, unless I decide to have a kid, I’m never going to see the flexibility that my parent coworkers have.

                2. Jodi*

                  But then I guess this also just goes full circle back to Allison’s statement up top that “different people get different dollar amounts of benefits all the time.”

              5. BananaPants*

                I’ve never expected special treatment because I have kids, but at the same time I do need more flexibility than many non-parents. I can’t do business trips on very short notice because I need to arrange for babysitting, and every day I have a hard stop at 5:15 to pick the kids up by the time daycare and the after school program close – I can get the grandparents to do it, but I need to tell them a couple of days in advance. Given that most of my colleagues (all salaried) work 8-4:30 or 5, this has virtually never been an issue.

                I’m fortunate to have a job with work that is largely individual and self-directed, that can be done remotely when needed, and to have managers who let people work from home within reason for ANY personal matter – whether it’s me needing to bail one afternoon because school’s on early dismissal, or a coworker having to spend a morning waiting for the cable TV technician to show up. The boss does *not* care and takes advantage of the same flexibility himself.

                Certainly not everyone has this flexibility, and I’m glad to have it.

    5. KarenD*

      The bonuses-for-everybody deal would be a lot more expensive, though, unless they were a lot smaller.

      I mean, think about it. How many weddings does the average workplace see in a year? Our workforce is mostly between the ages of 23 and 35 (I’m a rare dinosaur; whenever I go out to the cube farm I feel like I should be bringing nap mats and cookies) and I think I’ve seen at most two weddings in any given year?

      I imagine the discussion of this perk went something like this: “Well, how many people are really going to be getting married? This won’t cost us much and it will get us some buzz.”

      1. Patrick*

        Yeah this was my thought too, my company is decently big and skews fairly young and I can count the number of coworkers I know getting married this year on one hand.

        The Boxed CEO honestly spells it out in the Inc article about the perk, it’s also pretty clear it comes from him wanting to feel like a big shot even if it started by helping an employee in an awful situation. Overall, while I’m at peace with the fact that benefits aren’t one size fits all the idea of a $20k benefit that you think only 10% of your staff will be eligible for is gross to me – kind of like the CEO saying he pays for employees’ kids to go to college. That’s awesome for those parents but again is just so disproportionate in impact.

  3. Mental Health Day*

    Yeah, as AAM mentions above, there are some benefits that some people are just going to naturally consume more of (health insurance, maternity leave, etc.). That I’m OK with. But, I frequently see companies nowadays offering things like pet insurance, student loan payment, etc.
    I’m sure those things are great for the relatively small group of people that can actually take advantage of it.
    Want to give me a real “perk” I will both benefit from and appreciate?
    How about improved processes and IT systems that reduce the amount of time I have to spend working?
    How about just paying more or giving larger bonuses?
    I don’t really want my employer directly involved in my student loan transactions, thanks.
    A rising tide floats all boats…

    1. Jinx*

      I would love me some pet insurance! :) I don’t have kids, and I spend more per year on my kitties’ health care than mine.

      1. Mental Health Day*

        Oh sure. All of these benefits will be advantageous to some people. I’m just saying I think it’s a bit of a smoke and mirrors job. As in, “we offer this huge cornucopia of benefits so don’t worry, you’re going to be well taken care of here.” When in reality, the benefits are so hard to use, limited in scope, or otherwise impractical for most people that it really doesn’t add much/any value for them.
        For example, I’ve worked for one company that offered very generous tuition reimbursement benefits. The only catch was it had to be for coursework that will assist you in your current job. How many people really want to work through academic coursework or an additional degree that isn’t going to help them get promoted or try something different? Of course, I get that the company doesn’t want to pay to educate people and then watch them leave for other companies. (There are better ways to avoid that I think. Like a payback clause if the person leaves the company within a certain amount of time.) But, in this particular company, the net effect of this policy was that very few people were willing or able to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement benefit, but the company still got to advertise that they offered it.

        1. Sharon*

          I agree. My company sends annual letters to all of us outlining our true cost to the company. It’s spun of course as “here are all the benefits we provide to you”. They include things like gym membership reimbursement and such. It kind of grinds my gears that they count some perks that I never use. Here’s an example: one of our perks is discounted airfares. Sounds fantastic, right? In reality, they’re only stand-by fares on certain airlines. I don’t think it’s super wonderful to plan a vacation, head to the airport and sit around for a day or two waiting for an open seat on a plane, so I’ve never used that benefit. I wish they’d replace it with something actually useful.

          1. Mental Health Day*

            You should send it back with the items you don’t use crossed out in the form of an itemized invoice. Ask when your reimbursement for those items will be paid. LOL

          2. BananaPants*

            We get a “total compensation” breakdown in our benefits site but it’s for each individual employee, so it only includes benefits I actually use.

        2. Mike C.*

          Wait, you couldn’t take courses in stuff that didn’t apply to your direct job, but applied to the company at large? That doesn’t make any sense at all! I get that they might want to limit certain majors to focus on what the company needs, but beyond that seems counter-productive.

          1. Mental Health Day*

            Yes, you read that correctly. There were people in lower level positions working on their MBAs, with an emphasis on the same industry, and they had to pay for it completely on their own. Official reason: the job you are in does not require an MBA, therefore these courses are useless for helping you in your current job.

      2. lfi*

        we have discounted pet insurance through my company, but it’s for cats and dogs only. exotics and small animals aren’t covered. oh well!

  4. Allison*

    #1, I’m sure a lot of young people who are up to their eyeballs in debt would love help with their wedding expenses, but this benefit seems to cross a line for me.

    1. Ama*

      Me, too. Weddings are such personal things and people get so judgy about other people’s choices — and feel entitled to express them — that it just seems like asking for trouble. I’m imagining someone having something “nontraditional” at their wedding and having to defend the expense, or two weddings that happen close together being compared against each other (“Jane only spent $500 on her wedding dress — Will’s bride spent $3,000”).

      On the other hand, this could lead to some epic AAM emails.

      1. Allison*

        Yes, very true, I think that’s part of it. As it is, I work in HR, and most of my coworkers are not people I’d even want to have casual conversations with about wedding plans, I would feel weird talking to any of them about it in a more official capacity.

      2. Alton*

        Very true. Not to mention the homophobic bosses who try to get away with not covering gay employees’ weddings, or religious employers who decide they’ll only cover the weddings of employees who are marrying within that faith. I could see it going awry.

        1. Cat*

          Well, it’d at least be easy enough to write the policy to include all marriages, period.

    2. Kristine*

      Hi there, young person who is up to my eyeballs in debt here. I got married within the last year, and I’ll be honest– if my employer had offered to pay for my wedding I would have turned them down. I would never want to deal with the nightmare number of strings that would come attached to that agreement. I would forever feel like I owed the company something and would always be questioning if I was working hard enough to “repay” them for what they’d put into the wedding.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Agreed. This is how I feel about it. Not that I’m getting married anytime soon (sigh) but if they offered to pay my loans, etc., I would feel like I’d been sold into indentured servitude.

    3. INTP*

      What young people who are in debt up to their eyeballs would love even more is a higher salary – but ridiculous schtick like this gets employers on “50 Best Employers” lists without actually having to pay out on the benefit very frequently, while offering a higher salary or lower workload does not.

      1. Kristine*

        Preach. Would much rather have a $20k salary increase (even broken up over the years) than a $20k wedding gift. My wedding didn’t even cost $20k!

        1. SimontheGrey*

          This! My wedding was in the $5-6k range and half of that was catering because we had out of town family and I wanted a real meal for them. We had the wedding we could afford (my parents paid for the DJ because he was someone they knew, my husband’s parents paid for the rehearsal dinner because my MIL wanted to pick the restaurant). I would not want my business paying for my wedding any more than they already do by giving me a salary.

    4. Chocolate Coffeepot*

      Am I the only one who saw this and immediately thought of Carrie and Mr. Big?

  5. Kate the Little Teapot*

    Re article number one –

    it’s called “gender confirmation surgery”. gender reconstruction surgery is not a thing. this surgery is paid through health insurance at an increasing number of companies including Accenture and it’s absurd to lump it into a conversation with paying for weddings. whether an employer agrees or not with the many arguments that this is a medically necessary procedure, the utilitarian approach is that some states, like California, mandate that it be covered, so it’s just the reasonable thing to do to extend that coverage to all your employees if you’re a multi-state/nation firm.

    1. Kat M2*

      Thank you for saying this. It’s health care for people who need it. It’s not something we should treat as frivolous.

    2. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

      I was just coming to say this too. This is basic healthcare, not remotely comparable to paying for a wedding.

    3. BethRA*

      It’s worth noting, too, that in many states gender confirmation surgery (or other gender confirmation-related care) is usually NOT covered by most health care plans. So I’d look at that “perk” as less “giving additional benies to a small group of employees” than “making up for some employees being unable to receive the same benefits as their colleagues.”

      And yeah, totally not frivolous.

    4. Anonsie*

      I don’t think the implication was that this is a frivolous perk, but as an example of how many companies are specifically making sure they have benefits to cover expensive medical procedures that are typically not covered by insurance plans as a way of trying to contribute to overall employee quality of life and well being. This is turn was an example of how necessary benefits being tied to the workplace create a situation where some very personal things can end up deeply tied to your employment, and the more employers specifically try to add these perks the more tied it becomes. Which is a real mixed bag, because the coverage is so vital but the connection to work is so undesirable.

      Gender “reconstruction” is sometimes (though not much, I even checked before commenting to see if this is used more than I happen to hear it and it looks like that’s not the case) used to refer to procedures for people who have ambiguous genitalia. I’m guessing the author was trying to blend this and “reassignment,” though whether this is wise is pretty hotly debatable.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I hear this a lot about companies that offer insurance that covers IVF. Since most plans don’t cover it, some people are tied to their job until they get pregnant and then feel they need to stay a certain amount of time since their job essentially “paid for” the procedure that let them have their kids. A lot of young people probably don’t remember but IVF used to be a hugely contested moral debate too, particularly with strictly religious folks.

    5. Elizabeth*

      Thank you. I hate that this is presented in a way that makes it sound like a fluffy perk as opposed to a healthcare benefit.

  6. credrefe*

    I’m glad to hear people are pushing back on drug testing. For some careers (pilot, school bus driver, surgeon), yea, this is a safety thing but for the rest of us, I don’t think it’s the employer’s business plus it starts of the relationship on the wrong foot. If you only want to hire people who don’t use drugs, then state that (“Drug users need not apply.”) or ask. Instead, in my experience, I’m never asked, just informed that this is one of the pre-employment requirements.

    Didn’t John Oliver recently discuss how credit checks do not tell employers anything about an employee’s trustworthiness? Another completely unnecessary intrusion.

    1. Slippy*

      Drug screens are much more effective than credit checks when trying to assess someone’s trustworthiness. Addicts have a nasty tendency to do more and more extreme things to fulfill their addiction which can easily include stealing from a till or selling company secrets or expensive equipment. Also it is a huge liability issue if there is an accident and the employee had illegal substances in their bloodstream, opposing council will love your no testing policy, after you settle. So considering what is at stake it makes absolute sense for employers to require drug tests.

        1. INTP*

          And many addicts use substances that won’t show up on a drug screen, or for which they have a prescription.

            1. Hotstreak*

              If you have a prescription for the medication, then testing positive for it wouldn’t disqualify you from employment (obvious exception of medical marijuana).

              1. Pennalynn Lott*

                Yep. I used to take Adderall for ADHD. It showed up on a drug test for a new job. I gave the screening company my pharmacy’s phone number (and I signed a disclosure document) and the pharmacy verified that I had a current prescription for it. Done deal, no disqualification. I imagine the same thing would happen if I had a current prescription for hydrocodone or oxycontin or whatever.

      1. credrefe*

        Is there evidence that company’s that don’t subject employees to pre-employment drug testing &/or random drug testing have a higher incident of theft or accidents that can be traced back to drugs?

        Separate issue regarding liability, but in my experience, mistakes and accidents are much more likely to be caused by fatigue. I work in an industry that often requires very long hours, sometimes for weeks or months at a time, yet no thought is every given to whether employees are getting enough time to sleep and recharge. Instead, when the mistakes are severe enough, the employee is simply terminated with absolutely no post mortem by the company itself into the role it’s culture played into things.

        1. Mental Health Day*

          This is absolutely true. I’ve read some very interesting studies equating the effects of fatigue with alcohol intoxication. But, it is legal to both buy alcohol and work employees to the point of absolute physical exhaustion. And if it’s legal, it must be moral. So, yeah, we’re just gonna ignore these two factors thank you very much.

        2. AVP*

          Besides, you can just stop using drugs for a few months while you’re interviewing and then start again once you’ve passed the test. Spot testing is rare in office jobs. To me, that’s one of the biggest issues with drug testing – it’s held up as a standard but it doesn’t really tell you much useful information, and it’s not reliable at all over time. [Not that it’s NOT a total invasion of privacy, I think it is.]

          1. Patrick*

            Depending on the drug it’s a few days not a few months – one of the worst things about drug testing is that most of the time it’s basically a test for pot use.

            I’ve managed in retail before so I’m not gonna say I’ve never had an issue with an employee coming to work obviously stoned, but in my experience alcohol and prescription drugs are way more likely to cause issues in the workplace.

      2. Artemesia*

        Drug tests are designed to detect one drug only — marijuana, which is harmless if not actually being consumed on the job. It is detectable weeks after recreational use. Dangerous drugs like heroin and cocaine are short term in detection so people can relatively easily defeat those for pre-employment screening.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          Not so. I just said in another comment that my Adderall showed up on a pre-employment drug screening. It just depends on what the company chooses to test for.

          1. Just Visiting*

            Yeah, but you could skip Adderall for a day or two and the test comes out clean. Same with other stimulants. I thought heroin and painkillers stayed in longer but I guess not? Marijuana is literally the only drug that lasts forever and is impossible to reliably wash out.

            (I take prescribed Ritalin and I’d strongly consider washing it out of my system rather than having to deal with getting an exception. I’ve heard of way too many cases where the testing company didn’t do their job and told the employer about the drug anyway. But I also don’t think I’d take any job that required a drug screen unless I was truly desperate.)

    1. AnonyMiss*

      That almost made me spit out my coffee… A friend of mine is just recovering from a marriage that lasted about 6 months. He can’t tell us that we didn’t tell him that we told him so.

    2. JMegan*

      That was my question too!

      Also, a big side-eye to the org mentioned later in the article, that makes their employees build their desks and chairs on their first day. I mean, I assume they’re talking about an IKEA kind of build, rather than a “saw your own wood” kind of build, but even so. I hope they are disclosing that in the interview, to give employees a chance to nope the heck out of there if they want!

      1. Nancie*

        If it is Ikea-style furniture, they’d better tell me ahead of time. I’d be less than pleased if I showed up and had to use crummy disposable tools, when I could have brought my rachet and driver sets from home.

      2. Sydney*

        That’s just stupid. I don’t care how “lean” a company is. Do they expect me to process wood to get paper too?

      3. esra*

        OMG yes. I read the article before it popped up here and just no to building my own furniture. I hate presumptive stuff like that, like yea, everyone is totally able-bodied enough to build a desk. Also, we’re all professionals. I think it’s reasonable in a professional office to show up and have your station ready for use, whether it’s a desk or office or work site or whatever.

      4. hayling*

        Especially if I had worn nice clothes, or even a casual dress!

        Also, I am extremely spatially-challenged. I could eventually put together a chair or desk, but it would take an embarrassingly-long time.

      5. Kate M*

        That combined with “we pay people well, but not like Google or Microsoft. Our focus is more on ownership.” Um, dude, I think the whole point of being lean on benefits is to be able to increase salary. For startups I get that you’re not going to be able to pay Google-level salaries, but it kind of sounded like he was saying “we’re not going to overly focus on benefits OR salary. We want people to feel ownership with the company.” Which, the best way for people to buy into your company is to pay them well.

        1. Anonsie*

          “You’re lucky to be a part of this organization and you shouldn’t want or ask for anything else no matter what” is very much a regional workplace culture thing around here, I swear. It’s an American thing, sure, but I’ve never seen it so prevalent as I do in the sound region.

          My last job, I sat in the middle of lights-off-only people but my low light vision isn’t great so I asked for a desk lamp. It took four months and an exceptional amount of hostility and back and forths (including several people coming to my desk to squint at it and see if I reeeaaally needed more light) before someone anonymously plunked what turned out to be an old, broken lamp on my desk one day when I was in a meeting. I think they got it from the trash. I dropped it after that and just dealt with not being able to read sometimes. This is totally typical around here.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Translation: “we’re cheapskates who expect our employees to be grateful to us for deigning to hire them and to treat us like faaaamily, because we’re so cool.”

        3. Mike C.*

          LOL, that’s an amazing thing to say.

          “And by ownership, you mean in preferred stock, right?”

      6. Anonsie*

        I know, I immediately made a note not to look at job listings from that place. You can reinvest perk money into salaries and that’s great, but don’t start getting all excited about how the worse the job perks are the better like somehow that makes any positive impact.

        I work around their offices and this is kind of a regional workplace culture thing though, I’ve noticed. Not usually taken to its logical extreme though.

    3. Triangle Pose*

      Ha, this reminds me that maternity leave questions for a coworker who was a paid surrogate on the side! Did we get an update on that or does anyone remember what I’m talking about? I’m a lawyer and between my many lawyer friends (some in labor law some not) this really stumped us! If you coworker takes the full 3 month paid maternity leave constantly but is getting pregnant as a paid surrogate for other familes, can do you do anything about it?

      1. BananaPants*

        My employer now offers a total of 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave to employees who give birth or consider themselves the “primary” parent in an adoption (a new parent who does not give birth gets 4 weeks). The fine print of the policy makes it clear that this benefit is for one’s own legal child only, implying that it would not apply to surrogacy. I assume that an employee who is a surrogate would get her 6 or 8 weeks of short term disability (at 60% of salary) and then either have to use FMLA (unpaid) for more time off or return to work.

  7. FLA*

    For the being authentic thing, I think it also relates to workplace culture. I work with a group of very friendly people – we take people to lunch for interviews because we want to make sure you are at least somewhat sociable. We often talk about weekend plans, families, etc. However, I’m basically an outgoing introvert, and a pretty private person – I don’t like sharing life details with a lot of people, even people I work with. The “what are you doing this weekend” question annoys me to no end, because sometimes I’m doing something that interests me, but I don’t want to tell my coworkers about, so I basically just lie. But I find that to be extremely exhausting because I’m a terrible liar and don’t want to have to keep track of who I told what to about what I do or don’t do with my free time.

    I also rarely initiate that “what did you do this weekend?” question with others, because I feel like it’s private, and I’m sure I look like the jerk who doesn’t care about her coworkers. It also muddies the line between being friends with my boss and being her employee.

    Two examples: my boss wanted to invite our team to a weekend picnic at her house, and I told her I had plans (which I did, but I also didn’t want to go regardless). She asked me what I was doing, because she was going to try to reschedule the picnic so I could go. I ended up having a very awkward conversation with her that I didn’t want to go to any weekend picnics at her house. She had just assumed that of course everyone would want to spend half of their weekend with people they already spend 40 hours a week with. This boss also unintentionally outed a gay coworker because she was asking too many personal questions. The coworker was moving to the area for the job, and moving in with her significant other who already lived here. The coworker had tried to explain that she was living with family, but my boss kept asking specific details – thinking that she was just having a friendly conversation – and the coworker ended up having to tell her that it was her girlfriend. Oops.

    1. Laura*

      Ooh I feel you on this. I don’t like going into details about my personal life and so far, it’s mostly been respected at my workplace. There were a few awkward moments with an overly friendly director, but it turned out fine. Today I was actually asked to serve on a board because I have a fair and impartial nature, which flattered me to no end. The important thing is to be consistent with your attitude, and soon people will start respecting you as who you are: someone who values privacy very highly.

      1. Sydney*

        I’m a nonsharer too. I usually just say vague things like oh errands and then cleaning and then puttering around the house. Really boring!

    2. Lauren*

      I hate this. I was jus notified that the dean is having a party at her house for a retiring colleague and they’d like me to go. I. HATE. THIS. I do not want to socialize with anyone I work with especially after work. I too am a very private person and while I work on being friendly I do not want to socialize in any way at any time with anyone from work. I dread going but I guess I have to. Maybe I can refuse the wine and food (“just water, thank you, I’m driving” and “going out to dinner with someone so I can only stay a half hour and thank you, that food looks delicious but I have to pass, maybe one olive, yum”).Yes, that’s what I think I will do and then I can go home and collapse.

  8. sam*

    I’m a little troubled by the first article’s inclusion of gender reconstruction surgery in the list of “perks” here – that’s not a “perk”. Not to get too deep into a political conversation, but if you’re a company that wants to provide comprehensive health benefits to transgender employees, that is part of the deal.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*


      And if you’re not a company that wants to provide comprehensive health benefits to transgender employees, please be up front about it, so I can not work for you, since you obviously don’t care about all of your employees, or about hiring the best people for the job no matter who they are.

  9. Anna No Mouse*

    I remember being in a Psych class in college and having a guy from China (I think) explain how ridiculous many Asians think the American need to be true to oneself is. In his culture, it’s totally normal to have a self that you show at work, a self you show to friends, a self you show to family and a self only you know. This idea of needing to be and act and speak the same exact way in all situations doesn’t compute.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with AAM’s perception that the author of the article, and the reporter who went around acting like Jim Carey in “Liar, Liar” are missing the point of being authentic. Some people are authentically schmoozers, and not because they are somehow more devious, but maybe they are more into pleasing people, and that IS their authentic self.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yes. Authentic and “a complete open book about every thought that wanders through your brain” are not synonymous.

      If someone is, authentically, kind and caring – then that might express itself at home with lots of hugs and cuddles for family members. At work, it might express itself by being responsive to coworkers and thoughtful about their business needs and deadlines, because _that is a kind and caring action at work_ and hugging Percival from accounting while he looks panicked…isn’t.

    2. Observer*

      I think that the author does get it. But, he’s right that a lot of it comes out in what you say and how you say it.

      And, while the two things are not the same, monitoring your speech is a very good model for over-all self-monitoring, which is what he’s referring to. he really does explicitly speak about self-monitoring. But, think about all the times that people have said inappropriate things, whether unkind, tactless, tmi or other issues. How often do people excuse themselves with “I’m just being honest”, “That’s just who I am”, “These are my feelings” or the like?

      1. OhNo*

        But there’s a difference between people being jerks and trying to backtrack and excuse it with “I’m just being honest!”, and people who are actually being authentic. It seems like the author is conflating the two.

        Part of being truly yourself, in my book, is to do it in a way that is respectful of everyone around you. If your “true” personality requires you to crap all over everyone in the vicinity, that not being authentic – that’s being an asshole.

        1. Observer*

          It’s not always so different. And sometimes you simply cannot speak your “truth” (or act it) without being a jerk.

    3. QualityControlFreak*

      In a new (at the time) friendship, I commented that I am a very straightforward person; what you see is what you get. New Friend observed that there is a whole lot more going on with me than I let people see. My response was, “Well then you don’t get that.” Your first paragraph really resonates with me.

      I agree “authentic” behavior will vary from person to person. I’m a barely-social introvert and my spouse is a fairly-social extrovert. What is authentic behavior for one of us would be totally fake for the other.

  10. DropTable~DropsMic*

    from the wedding article:

    “Beyond superfluous perks, companies are investing in the intimate details of employees’ lives, through egg freezing (Spotify), $4,000 in “baby money” (Facebook), and even gender reconstruction surgery (Accenture).”

    I am really uncomfortable seeing medical care for transgender people being treated as a superfluous perk. I’m personally in favor of single-payer healthcare–I think my healthcare is none of my employer’s business–but given that under the current system most Americans are reliant on their employer for healthcare, it’s pretty gross to single out trans people’s medical needs as being somehow frivolous.

    The rest of the article is good. I wish they’d left out that “even gender reconstruction surgery.”

    1. CM*

      Agree! Healthcare benefits should not be lumped in with random perks.

      I also think it’s weird that the article’s only comment on egg freezing is that it’s “intimate,” since “baby money” and surgery both address needs that people may have independent of work, while egg freezing as a benefit says to me, “You are expected to postpone parenthood if you want to work here.” Am I reading too much into that? It seems like the opposite of “baby money” (or the wedding money, which I think is way over the top) which is saying, “You’re going through a stressful and expensive time in your personal life, and your employer is supporting you through that.”

      1. DropTable~DropsMic*

        Yeah, egg freezing is also a personal healthcare need but it seems legitimate to call that one out because of the implication that you should be shaping your family plans around your career. Which would have been a good opportunity for the author to analyze how career paths tend to shape other life plans.

        The baby money thing is kind of interesting and I’d have to know more about how it works before having an opinion on it.

      1. DropTable~DropsMic*

        Right? The implication is that it’s some weird far-out thing rather than a medical necessity for many people.

    2. blink*

      Yeah. It’s a MEDICAL dealio. You can note by the “even” and by putting it last in the list, after “baby money” (which is what now? If I call my sexbot “baby” can I have some?) that they’re treating it like some ridiculous frivolity. It’s all in the phrasing. /wordnerd

  11. AnonyMiss*

    On #2 – be yourself, especially for a millennial, may be the worst thing to do. Statistically speaking, millennials are more likely than any other generation in the workforce to possess traits the more conservative, older bosses would despise: we have tattoos; we use recreational drugs or support their legalization; we are much more open-minded about LGBT issues. (Of course, there are millennials who don’t, but statistics don’t account for every individual.)

    So, I’m super progressive, I’m all for criminal justice reform, the abolishment of the death penalty, legalizing drugs, self-determination over our bodies (whether it’s women deciding about their pregnancies or the terminally ill opting to end it with dignity), the whole nine yards. I consider these beliefs pretty intrinsic to my personality.

    I also work in criminal prosecution.

    Probably, if my bosses had my full gamut of my political views, I wouldn’t have been hired. It would have been a shame, too, because despite my conflicting personal views, this has been a surprisingly great place to work, with decent pay, great coworkers, and a super-awesome boss. I’m also lucky that my day-to-day work touches little on issues where office policy and my political views come into a clash… I don’t generally feel compelling reasons against extraditions, particularly not in the types of cases I process them in – violent, serious crimes ranging from domestic violence to homicides.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think this is particularly generational anymore; there’s widespread support for all of those things in several generations above you too. Maybe in your case it’s more an issues of living in a conservative area of the country than an age thing?

    2. Oryx*

      I’m not a millennial and you pretty much described me and my friends, all of whom are older than me. This isn’t a generational thing.

    3. Rana*

      I was having similar thoughts; there were a few years when I was working in fairly conservative areas and there were sides of myself that I absolutely could not share with people who were not close, trusted friends, because my coworkers collectively had strong negative opinions about people who had different political and religious beliefs from them. It was easier to just let them have their assumptions and thereby maintain a congenial, if superficial, work relationship. It was not pleasant being effectively closeted at work, but the alternative was would have been worse.

      I’m Gen X.

    4. Alton*

      I agree with the others that this isn’t so generational. But I also think it’s important to remember that everyone gets to decide their own priorities (with the caveat that you may face challenges or struggle if you find yourself in a desperate situation). Someone who has a couple small tattoos might be fine with covering them up for work, but someone with full sleeves might never feel comfortable in a more conservative environment to begin with. And it’s fine to decide that for you, your political opinions are private. But I know people whose professional reputations are closely linked to their work with special interest groups. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if the first thing employers see when they google you is your work with an LGBT organization if that is a major part of your life and you don’t mind turning off homophobic managers.

      This is a very personal thing to weigh out.

  12. Katniss*

    My first thought about the second article was “don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for”.

    I might be listening to too much Hamilton.

    1. CM*

      Then again: I am inimitable, I am an original!
      On #2, I’ve realized during recent interviews that I err too much on the side of being candid. Nothing crazy, but I’m coming to the conclusion that rather than saying stuff like, “Here’s a reservation I have about the position, can you tell me your thoughts on that?” I should ask subtler questions that get at my concerns without directly expressing them.

      1. Katniss*

        That’s probably my favorite song in the whole production. Just so lovely.

        I do have the same problem, in that I’m very candid in day to day life with friends, and have to remember to turn that off in other situations.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        When I first heard that song, I had the disconcerting realization that “talk less, smile more” was actually part of my MO for making new friends/acquaintances. Although I would have put it in slightly more verbose form of, “You don’t have to be brilliantly witty, all you have to do is listen to people and seem interested.”

    2. Kristin (Germany)*

      Nope, sorry, does not compute! There is no such thing as listening to too much Hamilton.

    3. Kate M*

      I really think Burr has the best songs/lines in the entire thing. That and Leslie Odom Jr. is just perfection.

      1. alter_ego*

        I was really happy that he won the Tony over Lin Manuel. I think LMM is INCREDIBLE, but he’s not the best singer, and Leslie Odom Jr. as Burr is just…unspeakably great. And seeing LMM’s totally over the moon reaction to LOJ winning was the cutest thing. Not even a moment of dissappoinment for himself (I’m sure the 45 thousand other Tonys he won that night were somewhat of a comfort)

  13. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Considering how much drama I’ve heard of from parents who think that paying for the wedding gives them decision-making power over all aspects of it, I’d be very leery of this. Would they feel pressured to invite their coworkers, or their manager(s), or the CEO?

    1. Rabbit*

      Yeah, I just have this horrible picture of a company’s marketing team intervening on the wedding colors because it doesn’t match with the branding…

    2. K.*

      I actually don’t disagree with the idea that paying for a wedding comes with strings, even if it’s your parents who pay, which is why I’d want to pay for my own wedding should the time come – and would offer a big hell no to my company paying for my hypothetical wedding.

    3. Oryx*

      Maybe not ALL aspects, but if a parent is paying for a wedding (either in whole or part) they should get a voice in how their money is used.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        IMHO their opinion(s) should be considered because they’re your parents. But parents who insist on things that the bride and groom don’t want deserve to hear “Guess what? We eloped!” The couple should be ready to elope or have a casual picnic/BBQ-style reception.

        1. Temperance*

          I ended up mostly eloping because my mother had so many ridiculous and weird demands (and no $$ to back it up – she offered to pay for my dress so she could pick it out). No regrets here. I would have deeply regretted having the large, family-only, evangelical church wedding with no alcohol at the reception that she dreamed of. Oh, and honoring her on my invitation, at my reception ….. why yes, she’s a narcissist, why do you ask?

        2. themmases*

          I agree. I think this is a lot like being a guest and a host. As the person accepting (potentially a lot of) someone else’s money, you need to at least offer them some input. As the person being offered the opportunity, you shouldn’t accept.

    4. Gandalf the Nude*

      “Oh, we’re not doing a company picnic this year because Bruce is getting married this summer. And we can combine the holiday party with Janet’s nuptials in December.”

      1. Anon Millennial*

        My boss would throw some lavish wedding, invite himself and force me to wear pearls and a snow white dress. Then he would ask me about my marriage nonstop and give unsolicited advice. No thank you. I’ll stick with mediocre insurance and verbal abuse as my job perks.

  14. Turtle Candle*

    The thing that always gets me about “being authentic” is that it seems to rest on the assumption that we all have one, core, essential self, and that variation in behavior due to context is a sign of faking something, and that just ain’t true. Even very tiny children, who have hardly had time to learn a lot of complex social norms, often behave differently with (for instance) their grandparents than their parents. Is it that “toddler with grandma” is fake and “toddler with dad” is real (or vice versa)? Hardly–it’s that people display different aspects of themselves in different situations, and, critically, those are all “real” aspects.

    It’s like the bit the article mentions where the person told his editor he’d like to sleep with her and the small child that the beetle is dead, in the name of being unfiltered or something. The thing is, for the vast, vast majority of people, that would be actually acting less real. Most of us don’t want to make people around us feel harassed or awkward; most of us don’t like making children cry. Refraining from making everyone around me uncomfortable unless absolutely necessary is, fundamentally, part of who I am; saying whatever popped into my head and ignoring the fact that I was hurting people would be very, very fake indeed. Does that mean that I interact differently with small children than with adults, or differently at a party than at work? Of course. But that’s not inauthentic–I’d be working hard to fake something much more if I didn’t. It would be actual, conscious work to treat my parents and my best friend and my boss all identically.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yup, I code-switch many times a day. I speak to different coworkers differently, depending on what I have in common with them. Some I know very well personally, some I just like OK. Some I’ve carpooled with and hung out with outside of work. Some I’ve talk with for hours about our common hobby/interest. Some are clients that I know can blow things out of proportion, so I am very careful what I say around them. These are all my “authentic self”, so don’t you tell me how to be myself!

    2. K.*

      Right. Code switching is just a part of life. I have a work self and a personal self – several personal selves, because the way I speak to my parents is different than the way I speak to my friends. Actually, the way I speak to each parent is different, because of what makes each of them comfortable. My mother doesn’t like cursing, for example, so I don’t curse around her. My dad doesn’t care, so I speak to him differently (but always respectfully – I never curse AT him). Different situations call for different kinds of behavior, and it’s not fake to recognize that.

      I actually find “unfiltered” people off-putting because they usually use “having no filter” as an excuse to be rude. I don’t like rudeness.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        There’s this great bit from Anne of Avonlea; the first speaker is Mr. Harrison, who has a tendency to ‘speak his mind’ in often-insulting ways, and the second is Anne herself:

        “Well, well, I’ll try and not mention it again since you’re so sensitive. You must excuse me, Anne. I’ve got a habit of being outspoken and folks mustn’t mind it.”

        “But they can’t help minding it. And I don’t think it’s any help that it’s your habit. What would you think of a person who went about sticking pins and needles into people and saying, ‘Excuse me, you mustn’t mind it. . .it’s just a habit I’ve got.’ You’d think he was crazy, wouldn’t you?”

        I always think of that now with people who “have no filter” or “are just honest” and expect you to roll with it.

        1. alter_ego*

          I like that a lot. It’s also worth noting that people who are just honest and have no filter never seem to say things like “your hair is the bomb.com today, just being honest” or “you know me, I have no filter, so you’re just going to have to deal with me telling you that you’re my best friend in the entire world, and a seriously awesome human”.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Amusingly, there’s a bit about that in the very same scene. Anne points out that he always notes her red hair (which she’s sensitive about) but not her pretty nose; he says, “Well, I’m sure you know your nose is pretty,” and she says, basically, yes but I also know that my hair is red! So why do you always mention the one and not the other?

            If “I’m just being me” is an excuse for jerk comments, I’m going to come to the perfectly logical conclusion that “the real you” is a jerk!

      2. Jillociraptor*

        Absolutely. There are people who are excellent at naming the elephant in the room, and speaking up about uncomfortable things, and it’s not because they just blurt out whatever comes to mind: it’s because they’re mindful of context, power dynamics, history, and individual needs. They’re purposeful.

        There’s a senior person within my organization who’s very well-known for going off-script. He doesn’t often say offensive or even impolitic things (though both have happened), but it’s nervewracking every time he opens his mouth because it’s like he has no control over what he’s saying; just a total runaway train. I don’t find him inauthentic, but it hampers my trust in him as a leader.

    3. Gwen*

      Totally agree on your second point. I saw a quotation once that was something like “Your first thought is what you were trained to think. Your action is who you are.” A lot of people’s full unfiltered internal reactions are very strongly affected by social messaging and their own bad mood/whatever. It’s not “fake” to not inflict your every thought on the world.

    4. I'm a Little Teapot*

      *standing ovation*

      This is one of the wisest comments I’ve ever seen on AAM. The one above about the Chinese classmate who found the American insistence on “just being yourself” no matter what the situation weird is also great.

  15. Pearl*

    If my employer gave me $20,000 for a wedding, I would want to know if I could have a $5,000 wedding in the new house I just bought with a surprise $15,000 down payment. Venue costs!

    1. Cucumberzucchini*

      Just have venue be the new house! Rentals? Nah! New Furniture! Bar Service? Nope! Stock the bar!

      1. Pearl*

        I hadn’t considered having a bar in my new house, but I could probably use wine bottles in place of books on my shelves until after the wedding, haha.

  16. Q*

    My brother was just telling me about how hard it has been to find people who can pass the drug test. When asked in the interview if they can pass a drug test they always say yes but then the results come back no. (And he’s looking for CDL drivers so a failed drug test is an automatic no hire.)

  17. Rabbit*

    #1 – The CEO who makes his employees build their own desk on the first day…that was a little to much. I mean, I already think it’s a little annoying when a laptop isn’t ready, but not having an actual place to sit? Too much.

    1. snuck*

      It just makes me wonder what sort of crazy they have.

      If you are replacing someone do they make them pack down their desk to flatpack before leaving so you can put it together on your first morning?

      What about if you get in a short term hire? Or the receptionist… did they have to build their desk?

      It smacks of weird hipster grand gestures that mean there’s somethign missing

  18. Lauren*

    Perks that demand info about your personal life (#1) are potentially dangerous–and certainly intrusive. I’d never allow such information to go out. I once worked for Jordano’s, a large, local food distribution company, when they had a kitchen retail store. One “perk” they offered us seasonal employees was that they would pay for a taxi if we had gone out drinking and should not drive home. And weren’t they generous; you could use this as often as needed.

    I don’t often have a drink, and I never drink even a single glass of wine at restaurants to avoid that situation so it didn’t mean anything to me. But, wow, like I’d give them that kind of information.

    And as others have pointed out, the more they give you, especially things that you’d normally do in your private life like laundry, meals, etc., the more they expect you to never leave. Perks like those sound good, but they come with a very high price. Very.

    1. Mando Diao*

      My sister works for a well-known blog-ish site based in NYC. Internet-savvy people have surely heard of it. She was jazzed about the flashy, hip perks at first (green juice and healthy/organic snacks in the break room, free beauty and skincare products from PR packages) but she gradually found herself working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for less than $40k a year. IN NEW YORK CITY. She’s scared of what’s going to happen when the new overtime law goes through because they’re probably not going to raise her salary but she also doesn’t know how she’s going to navigate the pressure to stand out by working excess hours.

  19. AFT123*

    Regarding the “be yourself” article – the current “be your authentic self” trend really only applies if you happen to have the same opinions and viewpoints that are currently acceptable by society.

    If you happen to be more on the conservative side, hold traditionally “republican” views, or just generally don’t 100% agree with the crowd on things, nobody wants to hear your opinion. You will be an outsider at best, a pariah at worst (seriously – try telling people that you aren’t really into Beyonce and see what happens, haha). Being able to assess the people around you and adjust your persona to an extent to create the best outcome for yourself, while maintaining a balance between keeping true to your core values, is a challenging but immensely useful skill. The advice to always “be your authentic self” doesn’t allow for people to learn this skill. One can be genuine and authentic without revealing their core personality all the time.

    1. Temperance*

      I actually feel that being openly very liberal and atheist can make you unpopular. I don’t actually care that much, though – if the topic comes up, I’m not going to pretend to be a conservative Christian. Maybe I have an extremely pleasant personality or something, because this hasn’t ever really harmed me. I mean, I openly don’t like Beyonce and admit to being terminally uncool.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, what types of opinions are dangerous to freely express is extremely context-dependent, obviously. This isn’t a case of “liberals can be totally open but conservatives have to keep their mouths shut” or vice versa, across the board; it depends totally what area, industry, culture, subculture, etc., etc., etc. you’re in.

        1. Kelly L.*

          +1. “Society” is not a monolith. Look at how sharply divided our electorate is. AFT123, you probably agree with roughly half of the country on most topics.

        2. alter_ego*

          Yeah, I work in a weirdly conservative office right in the middle of a very very liberal city in a very very liberal state. You bet your ass that I’m not able to express my more liberal opinion here, and I’m EXTREMELY uncomfortable mentioning anything relating to my atheism.

          When my boss tells me not to get a coupe because then I can’t use a car seat and I may be single now but “who knows what can happen?” am I denying my “authentic self” if I just smile and say “I’ll think about it” rather than informing him that I would be getting an abortion the next day so it’s really a moot point, even if I’d say exactly that to a friend? I think it’s just called having tact.

      2. Artemesia*

        I worked for nearly 40 years in an area where not being ‘churched’ was a crime against god and man and being a feminist was an invitation to ridicule. I suspect that is more common than the other way around.

    2. Mando Diao*

      Absolutely. I imagine there are a lot of people reading this post who have decided not to express their ~authentic view that they don’t support drug use or legalization.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m getting really off-topic here, but I want to note that supporting drug legalization doesn’t mean supporting drug use, anymore than supporting legal access to alcohol means being pro-drinking. It just means you don’t think people should go to prison for ingesting those substances.

    3. esra*

      That really just depends on the crowd you’re in. I’m sure if you were loud and proud about your traditional “republican” views in a traditional “republican” area, you’d do just fine.

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      There are definitely places and situations where if you’d be a pariah if you’re on the liberal side and hold traditionally “democratic” views. I mean, I’m a liberal bisexual atheist and even in a super liberal city that makes me an outsider sometimes. There are so many people in the world. Not everyone holds the same views so someone is always going to be an outsider.

      Not to mention not every democratic and republican or liberal and conservative share the same views with the rest of the members of their party.

    5. JM in England*

      You’re spot on AFT123!

      What is essentially boils down to is:-

      SOCIETY: “Just be yourself………..”

      YOU : [Does so]

      SOCIETY: “No! Not like that!”


  20. Art_ticulate*

    I’ve never understood drug testing. Wouldn’t you notice during the interview process if someone seemed incapable of doing the job? Also, we don’t test for other harmful habits like smoking or drinking. I’ve worked with functional alcoholics, so why not functional recreational drug users? If their work isn’t good, address that. But I doubt most employers care if their employees drink to the point of drunkenness on their off time, as long as it doesn’t affect their work.

    1. Mando Diao*

      Lots of people deliberately stay clean while interviewing and then start using again after passing a drug test. We all know that interviews are not the full picture of a potential employee. for myriad reasons.

      IMO it’s an issue of long-term retention. If someone’s drinking started affecting her work, she might eventually be fired. It’s not that drinkers “get away” with anything that drug users don’t. Employers also often reserve the right to fire anyone after they’ve been arrested. Drug tests allow companies to avoid hiring people who are engaging in illegal behavior. I’m not talking about whether drugs SHOULD be legal. But since they’re not, companies aren’t wrong for opting to hire people who don’t partake.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But why just drug use? Why not also pre-screen job candidates for illegal gambling, seeing prostitutes, or all sorts of other illegal behavior? We single out drug use in a very weird way.

        1. Triangle Pose*

          How would you pre-screen illegal gambling and prostitute use? I agree with you overall the drug screen don’t provide helpful info, but it’s at least logistically possible to do a one time pee test for certain substances being present at certain times.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            My point is that there’s lots of illegal behavior that we all agree a society isn’t appropriate for employers to be screening for. It’s weird and pretty indefensible that we’ve decided we’re okay with drugs being an exception to that.

            1. Mando Diao*

              Not really. Generally speaking, gambling and prostitute-hiring aren’t happening at work. Drug screening is about avoiding the possibility that people might be intoxicated at work. As for the fact that the net also catches people who only use recreationally…personally I don’t have a horse in that race.

                1. Mando Diao*

                  I personally feel that weeding out drug use is a wise implementation of resources. :)

                  I have a heck of a lot of respect for you, but your opinions and politics are not inherently better than anyone else’s. Sure, we don’t know the back story on anyone else’s drug use, but you also don’t know the backstory on why I have no patience and tolerance for it.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Not a question of opinions being better or not, but of a strong belief that I and others who are otherwise law-abiding don’t belong in prison. Although if you think I belong in prison, then I guess I do think my opinion that I don’t is better.

                3. Sas*

                  This comment! AAM has it right. I agree. The way that it is all done and lauded by insurance companies. UGH, Barf! Since when has that ever been a good thing.
                  It seems ridiculous as a process. The tests indicate nothing. It’s similar to, as someone else stated, credit testing for a position.
                  Think about things outside of your small box, Mando. It’s something we must all do at some point. I have a friend that has anxiety and hated being handed those trash forms, you have one day to have this filled out, you must stand around for an hour waiting to be seen, to wiz in a cup. Wasteful. Wasteful!! No one thinks of those people.
                  The process is as pointless as credit checks for positions are. Also, doing this for positions that pay minimum wage. You shouldn’t have to do anything for a job that pays minimum wage. If anyone is paying that little for anything, they should get what they get.

            2. paul*

              Isn’t that part of what doing a basic criminal background check does? Employers sure as heck run those regularly.

              There’s no way to test for seeing a hooker or gambling via blood work after all.

              I don’t *like* drug testing because I think drugs should be legal, but I get not wanting to hire someone only to have them get arrested and go to jail. Waste of time and money that’d be!

        2. snuck*

          Why just drug use?

          Because it’s one of the few scientific tests that can be done that’s pretty rock solid. You can’t ask people if they are having an affair, or stole paper from the stationary cupboard, or are engaging in late night window peeping… because you can’t prove the truth of their answers.

          Drug tests are a flat rate cost, that is irrefutable. You pee in a cup, a dip stick says yes or no. The employer doesn’t need to guess whether you are lying.

          And why care? I guess assumptions are made about your ability to work after you’ve had drugs. Even if you are hours past the full effects there’s a good chance you are still affected to some extent. If you’ve had amphetamines the night before you’ll be sleep deprived and not functioning as well etc. Should this matter? Depends on the job and the safety considerations?

          I’m in the ‘manage behaviour and don’t assume you know the cause’ camp… if someone shows up stoned deal with them for that, if they show up hung over, tired and unable to perform their tasks manage that issue, if they show up and perform well then there’s no reason to get involved.

          (And a lot of people probably fail them not just because of marijuana, but also because many tests are sensitive enough to pick up other drugs later than most people realise… )

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Nope, most people fail them because of marijuana. They don’t pick up anything else after a couple of days. They pick up marijuana for 30-45 days.

            The fact that a test is available doesn’t mean it’s ethical or reasonable to use it.

            If you’re concerned about people’s performance, you can use performance testing, which will catch it if someone is under the influence of alcohol and legally prescribed drugs too, or even just compromised by something like fatigue, and it’ll catch it in real time — none of which drug tests do. And they do it without violating people’s privacy or getting into what they did at home on the weekend in the privacy of their own home.

            1. paul*

              How do you do performance test in an office environment, particularly during an interview with someone that’s untrained, and for whom there isn’t a baseline to measure against?

  21. MissDisplaced*

    #3 – Yes it is a problem. We have a division in a legal-marijuana state. There have been employees let go for failing a drug test over a very, very minor injury (they were not high on the job, but still tested positive). The tests do not tell “when” the marijuana was used, unfortunately, and this makes it difficult for employers when it comes to hiring and firing.

  22. Argh!*

    “Be yourself” is nonsense at work. You assume a role based on what others expect you to do. If you are being paid to be helpful you have to be helpful even if you don’t feel like it. If you are paid to go out on stage and sing jazz standards you have to go out on stage and sing even if you would rather be at home watching Netflix.

    There are 168 hours in the week, that leaves 128 hours for us to be self-indulgent which is plenty.

    1. Mando Diao*

      I work in the Hasidic community. Everyone is totally nice (if detached from the world at large) but I’m soooooooo not about to let my freak flag fly at work.

    2. Slippy*

      Yeah “be yourself” is bad advice for the work environment especially if you are a nudist.

  23. Alton*

    The thing about “being authentic” is that it’s so vague, and people tend to project the own experiences onto the idea.

    Code-shifting is a valuable skill that almost everyone uses to some degree. But aside from really egregious stuff like talking about your sex life at work or going on political rants, this is something that can be extremely context-specific. I feel like a lot of people who come from fairly mainstream backgrounds are more likely to assume that authenticity just means saying whatever you want, without considering how it can be different for others.

    I’m transgender and bisexual. For me, “being authentic” can mean doing things that most people take for granted as normal, like mentioning if I have a partner or wearing clothes that match my gender. There are risks associated with this, and I’ve chosen at various points to stay closeted for my own security. But I’m also realizing more and more that in the long run, I don’t want to hide such major parts of who I am. I’m a private person, and I keep personal and professional stuff pretty separate (I don’t even like talking about my hobbies at work, because I’ve had coworkers who looked down on stuff like video games). But being a minority, there are basic things about myself that I can’t really hide or compromise on without a sacrifice.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think that the people who are saying that “authenticity” is over-rated are all completely part of the dominant majority. And, of course, to some extent you HAVE to be “authentic” if you are going to stay sane. But.

      The big but is how far you go with that. It’s not just what you say, but how you behave. To take a frivolous example. The “authentic” me has absolutely zero patience with Taylor Swift and I can’t imagine why she’s such a star. I’m never going to pretend that I love her. But I’m also not going to walk around showing disdain for coworkers who do enjoy her work.

    1. really*

      The photographer thinks down to earth is invitations hand-sewn onto handkerchiefs? Maybe the cows confused her.

  24. Wilton Businessman*

    My BIL has already been married three times, I can see him getting divorced and then remarried just to take advantage of his “benefits”.

    To me, it’s about as useful as maternity leave; something I’ll never use.

  25. AW*

    Huzar says that they don’t offer perks so that the company stays frugal and scrappy (although they do have a beer keg in the office). To convey that message, he requires new employees to build their own desks and chairs on their first day of work.

    UUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH! My G-d, I think I strained my eyes with how hard they rolled at that.

    As for #3, several states have already proven that drug testing welfare recipients is a hilarious waste of money. I don’t have any sympathy for companies that have a hard time finding someone willing to submit to a drug test. There are a few jobs where this would make sense but across the board?

    1. Observer*

      Well, the guy is an idiot. There is a difference between perks on the one hand and giving people the tools they need to do their jobs and playing to their strengths on the other. You can be frugal and scrappy while not giving perks. It’s very hard to do that if you waste people’s time on things that can be more effectively and efficiently be farmed out. Talk about sticking to core competency!

  26. Julie Noted*

    Here’s a workplace perk that would make a company stand out from the crowd:

    A no arseholes policy.

    A workplace that refused to hire arseholes and also refused to promote incompetents would have potential staff crawling over broken glass to interview there.

  27. Anon Guy*

    Re #3, to me, a company that drug tests indicates a company with an overall authoritarian management style and not someplace I want to work. I don’t use drugs or alcohol, not because of any moral qualms, but because I tried them in college and don’t particularly like the effects.

    However, even though I *CAN* pass a drug test doesn’t mean I’m willing to take one. If a company talks about how open and great they are, but my first impression is being asked to pee in a cup, I’m going to go elsewhere. Luckily, I have the technical background that I can do this. Not everyone is so fortunate.

  28. Dust Bunny*

    I’m pretty sure that “be yourself” is a term that is misused and misinterpreted pretty much every time. I’m myself at work, but I don’t need to be all of myself, all the time. All Of Myself wears weird stuff, is kind of grouchy, and would rather associate with all cats, all the time. Work Myself wears what is presentable enough but still comfortable, doesn’t swear, and knows that, no matter how impossible or dumb this client is being, the high road is for me not to bite back. People who use “being authentic” as permission to abandon tact and cut people are juvenile and self-centered.

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