should I take the blame for my manager’s mistake, CEO wants to reimburse us for political contributions, and more

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

1. Should I take the blame for my manager’s mistake?

A task I do at work entails printing out batches of client forms and entering each into our system. The first batch I did included 50 forms. I got half entered, and the other half I was researching issues, when my supervisor took them because he was worried a coworker might be entering the same forms. The next day, he said it had been taken care of and I didn’t need to do anything further.

Fast forward a few months. Turns out that batch was never completed. When I first found out, I was *very* confused and said maybe I didn’t print them (I had printing problems once, though have since learned to do it correctly). After I printed and read them, I realized they were the ones I had been doing research on that my supervisor took. I told him, “These were the ones I had been doing research on—I guess they got lost in a pile somewhere.” I was afraid to directly blame him because I thought he’d get mad at me for pointing out he’d done something wrong, especially since I didn’t have proof.

Today I stumbled upon all the emails related to the research I was doing, so I know *for sure* I had printed them out and worked on them. Now I’m feeling crappy and bitter because I realize I’m probably getting the blame (my supervisor wants me to make lists of all the forms I receive and mark them as I complete them to track them, as if they don’t trust me to get them done now).

Should I keep quiet? Should I clarify if someone mentions it? Should I tell my supervisor that I realized it was definitely the ones I gave back to him when I email him an update on my progress?

If your manager is generally a reasonable person and able to admit his own mistakes, he’d want to know this. You could simply say, “Do you remember that batch of forms that we found had never been completed? I just came across some old emails that made me realize that these were the ones that you asked me to give to you, because you were worried that Jane might be entering the same ones. I gave them to you in May, and you told me I didn’t need to do anything further with them. I think that because several months went by between then and when we realized they weren’t processed, we both forgot that. But I know that that incident made you concerned about whether there might have been an issue with my systems, so I wanted to let you know what I figured out.”

On the other hand, if he’s not generally reasonable or able to admit his own mistakes, then this may not be worth doing; you’d need to weigh it against how onerous the new procedures he’s asking you to use are.

2. CEO wants us to make political contributions that he’ll reimburse us for

I work for a very small consulting firm that mostly does strategic planning for the public sector. Our CEO is very politically active and is regularly a commentator on a certain popular conservative news network. My personal politics are very much on the other end of the spectrum, but politics doesn’t enter the work we do on a day-to-day basis. However, the CEO has just expressed interest in supporting the reelection of a local politician who we’ve done work for and would like to do more work for in the future. He doesn’t want to make a contribution in his name or our organization’s name, but instead has asked each of us to make individual contributions that he will reimburse us for.

Even if I support this particular politician, I feel extremely icky about the whole thing. Is it as big of a deal as I think it is? I feel like I can’t just go along with this and need to push back. What’s a tactful way of doing this without appearing not to be a “team player”? He really thinks this is just the way the world works and it’s not a big deal. Maybe I’m the one being naive. Help!

It’s extremely icky, and it also violates campaign finance law. If that weren’t the case, I’d tell you to just say, “I don’t want to mix politics and work” and hold firm on that. But given that he’s talking about a serious legal violation, just point that out: “We actually can’t do that — it’s illegal to reimburse campaign contributions, and there are big fines and even jail time for doing it.”

You might show him this too.

3. After a promotion, I’m doing my new job and my old job

I was recently promoted at work, finally doing the work that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I originally started at this company as the office manager, and when I was offered the new job, they told me there would be a bit of overlap while they searched for someone to take over my old position. Totally normal, right? Well, that was two months ago. I’ve been doing both jobs for that long now, with no end in sight, since the second person they offered the office manager position to has turned it down.

Everyone at the company has been pretty supportive, picking up the slack and offering to help, but I can’t do both jobs for much longer. I’m working longer hours than I care to, both areas where I work are suffering, things aren’t getting done, and even though everyone knows the situation, I’m afraid that the half-assery is making me look bad in the eyes of my new team leader. I’m not being invited to meetings in my new department and I’m not being asked to help on new projects where I think I really could contribute. Not to mention, things around the office that could be taken care of by a full-time office manager are being neglected and making my coworkers cranky.

What are my options? Should I give them an ultimatum? I don’t want to do anything rash because I really like the new position. People have suggested that I ask for both salaries while they continue to search, but that doesn’t seem right since I’m not fully doing both jobs. Besides, I don’t want to be working this much — I just want to do my new job, and blow everyone away like I know I can. What can I do?

Yeah, getting both salaries isn’t likely to happen — in part because you’re presumably not doing the entirety of both jobs the way they’d be getting done by two full-time people, and in part because employers just don’t do that.

Instead, talk to your manager. Say this: “I’ve been happy to help cover my old job while someone new was hired, but at this point it’s been two months, and the strain of being responsible for both jobs is building. It’s not sustainable for me to keep covering both areas much longer, and I’m concerned that I’m not able to do either job well while I’m doing both. That especially concerns me with the new role, because it’s important to me to have a good start in it. Could we look at other options for covering the office manager work, like bringing in a temp?”

If they resist that, then explain that there’s no way for you to do everything from both jobs in X number of hours (which should be the number of hours you want to work, not the number you’ve been working) and ask to talk through how to prioritize within those constraints. (You might get better results if you come with your own proposal for what you will and won’t do during this period, even if just to give the conversation something concrete to start with.)

4. Job offers, travel, and notice periods

I am currently employed, and always job searching. I recently applied to a few places, not expecting to hear from them for a while or at all. I booked a trip for a few days towards the end of September, from a Friday to a Tuesday. I cleared the time off at my current job.

I got a call last week for an interview on August 30. I know that this particular employer moves quite slowly in their hiring process so I was thinking I’d be able to delay a start date with them until past my trip. Today I got a call to come into another place for an interview. I know this employer can move quickly, because I’ve actually received an offer from them in the past. My concern is whether it is acceptable for me to mention the travel plans if an offer is extended. And how can I properly give my current employer a full two weeks? My concern is that if I give my current employer a full two weeks, it’d have to be after my travel, which would push my prospective start date to past a month from the initial interviews.

Yep, if they make you an offer, explain the travel plans and negotiate for that time off as part of your offer negotiations. It’s also reasonable to ask to push the start date back somewhat in order to be able to give your current employer a full two weeks of you being there (as opposed to having you away for part of your notice period). Waiting a month from offer to start date isn’t terribly unreasonable in most jobs; it’s actually pretty common.

{ 67 comments… read them below }

  1. FD

    The CEO has just expressed interest in supporting the reelection of a local politician who we’ve done work for and would like to do more work for in the future

    Ugh, ugh, UGHHH! I don’t want to get too political, so Alison, feel free to delete this if it crosses the line, but this sort of thing is a big part of why things get so screwed up in the US.

    Not your fault OP, of course. Unfortunately, this CEO is unlikely to think he’s doing anything wrong (“Everyone does it, it’s just networking!”) and may react badly to pushback. I would probably start job searching, in case there is blowback on you.

    1. Hannah Rossiter

      The point is that the CEO wants the OP to break the law. Even if the CEO doesn’t think it’s wrong it’s still illegal.

      1. FD

        Yeah. But I’ve known people with this attitude, and they’d say it’s not a big deal. They’d say that it’s one of those laws that everyone breaks, like speeding a bit.

        1. PollyQ

          They might say that, but the courts disagree. This is the same behavior that got Dinesh D’Souza convicted of a felony.

          Well, except that he wasn’t coercing his employees to do it.

    2. OP #2

      He even put the request in writing by sending it in email! I didn’t bring up the legal issues but did decline to participate. I wrote more in a post below.

      Assuming he had just asked for us to make contributions without being reimbursed, I still would have been extremely uncomfortable, especially if it is a politician or campaign I’m not on board with personally. But apparently that is totally a thing companies can do in post-Citizens United world. Just crazy and totally messed up.

      I’m not in immediate risk of losing my job, but this sort of thing makes me realize that I don’t have a future with this company. I’m just unclear how widespread this is — like, is it just more in my face because I’m with an extremely small company? Something I didn’t know before sharing this story with my mom was that when she worked for a mid-sized bank, she had been pressured to donate to a bank-friendly PAC. The execs couldn’t understand how you could be senior in the company and not support bank-friendly candidates.

      1. neonsparkles

        This post has resulted in my first ever comment (longtime reader!). I work in campaign finance compliance and this is a big no. Even asking is not ok. Labor unions with membership have different rules (with lots of stipulations!), but a company really can’t ask you to donate to someone.
        If they reimburse you that’s even worse; contributions in the name of another are illegal and the media and public love making an example of people in these scandals.
        I can’t believe he put it in writing! I mean, I’m never surprised by the stupid things ppl do when they think they’re above the law, but still! You could let him know he’s pretty much begging to make the press circuit and tank his career with that action.

        Make sure to keep yourself covered so you don’t get taken down by his actions.

        1. OP #2

          It’s been really interesting to learn where the lines are — so is it that companies can’t ask you to donate to a particular candidate but can ask you to support a PAC or particular legislation – monetarily or through participation in event/letter-writing/etc?

  2. boop

    1. What a weird thing to tiptoe around. “Oh hey, do you still have those forms you confiscated back in May? It turns out Coworker didn’t input them after all.”

  3. techfool

    1. I would say something because it may dent my reputation if I don’t say anything. Otherwise I would just let it go.
    I would also explain less and stick to bare facts but that’s just me:
    “I’ve just realised those missing forms where the ones I gave you in May. You told me at the time I didn’t need to action these. They’re completed now and I’m continuing to track the forms as requested. Let me know if you’ve any queries. Thanks.”

  4. Bianca

    #1–It is so frustrating when you get the blame for something that wasn’t your fault. This has happened to me a couple of times–once I was on vacation, and the group met and decided to blame me for a mistake that I didn’t make. I was furious! However, the new procedure may not be a personal attack on your work abilities or a statement about their trust in you. Mistakes happen, whether they are by junior or senior people, and it is reasonable that after a mistake happened, they’d be looking for a way to prevent it from happening again. It may be that they just realized they needed to keep better records of what had been done, regardless of who made the mistake. Also, if you are now tracking all the forms you complete, that protects you from being blamed for something you didn’t do in the future.

    1. eplawyer

      This is what I was thinking too. Boss took the forms because he thought they were being double entered. Clearly a system needed to be set up to make sure that was not happening. It is possible that everyone who works on the forms is now being required to track them just to avoid double entry or overlooked forms because it is believed someone else entered them.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Exactly. Putting a new system in place isn’t a punishment, it’s a way to vindicate yourself, OP #1! And it takes a long time to learn what to document, and when, and how, so that the documentation doesn’t take over all of your time, which it certainly can! But since your management is instituting this requirement, you don’t have to worry if it slows you down, because you’ve been told to add this extra task to your process. That’s a good thing! It took me a long time to learn to document quickly, effectively, and efficiently and still have time for everything else on my plate.

      But now you know that the next time something out of the normal process occurs, consider sending an email to your manager clarifying/recapping what happened and why. For example “I just wanted to check that you were going to take care of the second batch of forms, and I can move on to other tasks unless you let me know if you need me to work on them again.”

  5. OP #2

    I was stressing about this like crazy because it didn’t take long for me to figure out that reimbursement for political contributions is illegal – so there’s no way I was going to do it. I ended up just sending a simple email back (yes, my CEO was even careless enough to put the request in writing) saying I wasn’t comfortable participating and hoped he understood. I’ve come to peace with the idea that this job isn’t going to work out long term and that sitting out these kinds of activities will likely limit my growth here. I wasn’t worried about there being any immediate blowback just because my primary work is under a 2-year contract where I basically work full-time on-site for a client — and I can’t just be replaced unless the client chooses to let me go early.

    He responded that he appreciated me thinking about it and coming to a decision I felt good about. I’m not sure I totally buy that because he went on to say he’d like to give me more context and describe his broader political thinking next time we’re together in-person, and some stuff about how it’s a very personal decision driven by passion/best interests of a team. Yeah, that last bit makes it definitely sound like he doesn’t see me as a team player and is super lame — I work my butt off not just doing a full-time job on-site, but contributing to other projects, writing proposals, setting up new systems to facilitate efficiencies, etc.

    Oh, and this experience has also made me realize another really crappy thing — apparently as part of the Citizens United decision, companies can legally ask and track their employees contributions to political campaigns — even make it a requirement (just not as reimbursable expense). This is definitely eye-opening and makes me even more frustrated with the political situation here in the US than ever. Ugh!

    1. chocolate lover

      Good for you for pushing back. You’re right, that “best interest of the team” comment is a load of bull.

      I didn’t realize companies could now require that! That gives me the creeps, though I don’t generally donate to political campaigns anyway. But still. Ugh.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s not quite accurate — they can’t require it. The FEC prohibits employers from coercing political contributions from employees, and they define coercion as “the threat of a detrimental job action, the threat of any other financial reprisal, or the threat of force, to urge any individual to make a contribution or engage in fundraising activities on behalf of a candidate or political committee.”

      So they cannot actually require it. However, they can encourage it, and that alone can feel like inappropriate pressure, given the power dynamic.

      More here:

      https://www.insidepoliticallaw.com/2012/10/17/allegations-of-employer-coercion-of-political-activity-are-on-the-rise/

      http://gunster.com/2016/02/can-employers-require-political-action-from-employees/

      1. lazuli

        Ugh, from that last link, it looks like employers in places where political affiliation is not a protected characteristic can require political participation (though not financial contributions), though:

        Since a landmark decision in 2010, corporations have had significant freedom to promote and even require certain types of employee political participation. It should not come as a surprise that many employers have taken advantage of that freedom in extreme ways. For example, some employers have mandated employee attendance of workplace meetings urging support for candidates, political events outside of work, and even to actively participate in a candidate’s campaign.

        That’s seriously gross.

        1. Greg

          Yeah, as skeezy as the CEO’s behavior was, at least it was blatant enough that it could potentially be stopped. But as Michael Kinsley once said, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal. It’s what’s legal.”

          Also — and I’m trying not to make this too political (but probably failing) — what really pisses me off is senior management pushing employees to support candidates whose policies would be very good for management, but maybe not so good for the workers.

          /soapbox

        2. OP #2

          Thanks – This clarification makes me feel slightly better. I’m glad donations can’t be required, although in practice I think unless a company is blatantly saying “there will be consequences” – it’s kind of difficult to prove that abstaining from making a donation won’t be used against you. Or are they not even allowed to ask employees to make contributions to a candidate?

          It is still definitely gross that other ways of political participation can be a requirement.

        3. stevenz

          The Citizens United decision is always characterised as taking limits off corporate campaign donations. The side effects of that decision, and most major decisions, are often as bad if not worse than the headline ruling. It’s the same with legislation – they are full of loopholes, minor-sounding limitations that are far-reaching, and special interest benefits. It’s hard, if not impossible, for the average citizen to ever find out about these until they bite them in the… as the LW is finding.

    3. neverjaunty

      In other words, he wants to lean on you in person, where there won’t be a written record of what he said or how you responded.

      He may not be able to fire you, but a hostile CEO can certainly do all kinds of things to make your employment unpleasant and encourage you to quit. Since he’s acting illegally and pressuring you to do something illegal as well, it would be a good idea for you to quietly make an appointment to see an employment law attorney to get some advice.

    4. Gene

      You’ve told him no, you’ve told him why, and you don’t see yourself there in the long term.

      IMO, it’s time to take those emails to your local US Attorney’s office. This guy is blatantly breaking the law and will continue to do so if there are no consequences. I enforce federal laws and I LOVE slam dunks like this.

      1. Greg

        In theory, I agree with you, but I would warn the OP that in the vast majority of cases, whistleblowers do not benefit from their actions, even when their accusations are validated.

        I hate to be this cynical, but the sad truth is that if an employee learns of any legal malfeasance on the part of their employer, the best course of action is to leave the company as quickly as possible, especially if staying further will implicate them in that wrongdoing (which at least doesn’t appear to be the case here).

        That said, I would recommend taking some steps to protect yourself. Document absolutely everything. Forward the CEO’s emails to your personal account, and if you have an in-person conversation, type up your notes immediately afterward and put that in a time-stamped email as well. And yeah, maybe schedule a consult with an employment lawyer.

        But proactively reporting on him is a very big step, and while you would be very courageous for doing so, you are under no obligation to put your career at risk to expose this guy.

        1. OP #2

          Good advice – will definitely be super proactive about documentation. This case was very small – he was asking everyone for a couple hundred each for a total of about $1000. It was totally skeevy that he was trying to cover up that he was really behind the donations (more about perception reasons, I know he wasn’t trying to exceed the allowable contribution limit). If it comes up again with other candidates, I will be much more likely to address the legality head on. I think I’d want to leave before officially reporting.

    5. stevenz

      The really ugly part of this is that he will keep a scorecard of who donated and who didn’t. He will definitely have different views of people based on where they fall on his list. He’s despicable.

    6. Cyrus

      I’d suggest forwarding the e-mails to the FEC. I don’t know what address specifically but they probably have some kind of a tip line.

      If you’re concerned that it could be traced back to you, then don’t do it until you have another job, and do it from your personal account, of course. But other than the risk to your job I don’t see any reason not to.

  6. AdAgencyChick

    OP3, are you still reporting to the same person in your new role? Or do you have a new manager? If, as I think is likely, it’s the latter, get your new boss on your side! She’s unlikely to *want* you to be doing office manager tasks. And although she probably isn’t the person who would decide whether a temp gets hired for the office manager work or your old position is backfilled, she probably is a person who has the standing to go to your old manager and say, “This isn’t working for me. I need OP 100% on my projects, so starting September 15 she’s no longer going to be available to do her old role.”

    If you’re still reporting to the same person as before, then I’d do Alison’s script, backed up with specifics (“in order to do both jobs, I’ve had to let X, Y, and Z slide and I’m still working 50 hours a week”).

    Good luck, OP. I’ve been in this situation a few times — in advertising, when a copywriter leaves one account for another, the old account *always* wants to hit up the copywriter for extra projects so that they can take advantage of her content knowledge. I have usually succeeded in getting rid of the vultures by, as mentioned above, going to my new manager and making her aware of how much the old team is asking for (this works best if done in a neutral tone, with no value judgments). Usually the new manager gets pissed off, because she was looking forward to having someone new working for *her*, she marches over to the old manager, and says “hands off!” The old manager then pouts for a few weeks, but they hire someone else and get over it.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      PS, as a result of my own experience, I take a fairly dim view on people noticing or caring how their inaction affects other people. Your management is not hiring to fill your old slot because they don’t see a reason to, right now. Everything’s running smoothly if not perfectly. Hiring is a pain in the ass, it has all kinds of potential to go wrong, and then of course when you do make a hire, that’s one more salary you have to pay.

      I’m not saying management is *consciously* thinking, “Let’s screw OP over and make her work overtime so that we don’t have to hire someone!” But they certainly aren’t consciously thinking of the effect their inaction has on you, and they won’t until either you or your manager causes it to become *more* inconvenient to leave the slot empty than it is to fill it.

      1. LizM

        I’m in exactly that position right now. There are 2 people in my position on our org chart, the 2nd person got promoted over a year ago. They still haven’t filled her position, I’ve been covering both jobs. We’re getting by, but it’s not sustainable, and I’m getting burnt out, and also losing my credibility. My job relies a lot on relationships, and I don’t have time to maintain those relationships. But my supervisors don’t see that, they just see that deliverables are being completed.

        What finally got them off their behinds and starting the hiring process was when our headquarters office offered me a temporary assignment working for them. My supervisor couldn’t really say no based on who was asking and the fact that it came with a temporary pay raise for me. I think it finally made them realize I’m a desirable candidate, and that I was serious when I said I couldn’t do both jobs long-term, and if I leave for good, they have zero back up. All of the sudden, hiring for the position is our division’s highest HR priority.

        What this taught me was that complaining about how failure to fill positions affects me personally isn’t compelling. I have to make it about the organization’s needs, and managers have to see real consequences of leaving positions vacant.

  7. Diluted_TortoiseShell

    #3 I feel for you. 5 months in and still doing both jobs. Unfortunately in my case my new boss wants me to do the old work. It’s extremely valuable work that needs to get done. I’ve been pushing back, and finally I just started stepping away from items and dragging them out (not to just drag it out, but I stopped working crazy hours). My boss is being pretty passive aggressive about wanting both, and whenever I bring up the fact that I just don’t have capacity for all of these, and I am working off of the priorities we discussed I get the old “Well. Make it work” speech. : <

    1. Jennifer

      Yeah, I am doing both jobs half time over the summer–at least!–while the remaining person on my old team is on medical leave. Supposedly she’s returning after Labor Day, but unfortunately I keep having a very bad feeling that coworker isn’t going to be coming back any time soon, given that she had surgery for health issue #1, apparently needs another surgery that it doesn’t sound like she’s told management about, and then her husband had surgery and she has a sick mother to deal with. And either way even if she returns after Labor Day I will still be doing two jobs until at least October because of cross training + “busy season” starting. They have no end date set at all and I was told if she doesn’t come back this will continue indefinitely since I am the only person permitted to do certain things and they don’t want to train temps on anything hard. New boss is supposed to back off of assigning me too much in the meantime. I don’t have huge workload from him, but there are a lot of meetings…
      Oh well, as usual none of this is under my control so I just have to accept it.

  8. Blue_eyes

    OP 3, if you had given two weeks notice and left the office manager job they would have figured out some way to make do without you 6 weeks ago. It’s time for your company to do whatever they would have done in that situation and let you focus 100% on your new position.

  9. Mimmy

    #1 – One part I’m a bit unclear on: When your supervisor first took the forms, did you tell him that you hadn’t entered them because you were researching issues?

    Either way, having you track the forms doesn’t mean that he doesn’t trust you to get them done – it’s a way to track who worked on which forms to prevent this sort of confusion in the future.

  10. Temperance

    Re: political contributions:

    It’s because your CEO doesn’t want HIS name and HIS image tied to this political candidate, most likely. Don’t do this, especially if it’s against your own beliefs. You also don’t want it to be publicly available knowledge that you supported this politician, and it’s so incredibly unethical and skeezy. I think your CEO is kind of a sleezeball, OKAY a big sleezeball, for requesting this.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Eh, I think it’s probably more likely to be classic bundling — an effort to gin up far more contributions that the law would allow him to make on his own.

      1. MichaelA

        Pretty much always this.

        Something else to note is that if the campaign in question is being run even halfway professionally, they’d be horrified by this. I run campaigns for a living (and come to this blog mostly to fantasize about a world where sub-100 hour work weeks are normal and you have stuff like HR), and I can tell you that the financial benefit of illegal bundling is vastly outweighed by the damage an FEC or OCE investigation will do (purely in terms of public opinion, if not actual legal consequences). We have to file detailed financial statements on a regular basis with the FEC, including contributors employers’, and while people do get away with things, something this large and organized would come out pretty quickly (not least because your opponents’ campaign has access to the filings as well, and will comb through them for problems if they’re halfway decent).

        None of this is to say shady things don’t happen – especially, counter-intuitively, on small-dollar low-stakes local races where people aren’t paying as much attention and an extra $25,000 actually makes a real difference – but this is a pretty stupid way to do it.

        1. MichaelA

          Ugh, no edit button, huh? Sorry about the wildly random apostrophe placement, like, everywhere.

        2. the gold digger

          Yes to this. I prepared the filing statements when Primo was running and if I, who didn’t even know that law at the time, would have thought it weird if all of a sudden, he got ten contributions from people who all work at the same place (because you have to identify your employer on the contribution envelope), I am sure the people in the elections office would as well.

        3. Karyn

          Oooooh, completely OT but now I want to like, interview you about your job. I’m writing a novel where one of my characters is a campaign manager, and although I have an above-average understanding of how campaigns work (thanks in part to my political science degree), I could probably stand to learn 30,000x more. Oh, if only I’d listened to my instincts and moved to DC rather than entered law school…

          1. MichaelA

            Feel free to ask (assuming Allison doesn’t mind it being off topic)! It’s a weird little world that most people know nothing about (and often think they know a lot more about than they do). Probably the biggest misconception is that the candidate is in charge of the race – in reality, being a good Congressman/Senator/Governor has nothing to do with being good at running a political campaign, and on healthy races they’re given their marching orders by the CM, just like everyone else. It’s actually a super weird dynamic, where the candidate (and sometimes their advisers) initially hires and ultimately can fire the CM, but answers to them the rest of the time (though with a dysfunctional candidate that obviously can change, and on very large campaigns there’s often a division between the CM, who does day-to-day management, and someone with a title like Chief Strategist, who does longer-term planning). Meanwhile, the Campaign Chair generally has zero decision-making authority, and just knows a lot of people who can donate a lot of money. It’s all pretty strange!

            As I alluded to above, it’s interesting reading this blog because it really highlights how massively different professional norms are in my field versus most other lines of work. Even leaving aside the obvious stuff like the hours, the entire culture is just utterly different; there tons of things that happen on campaigns that would never fly in a normal workplace, and vice versa.

        4. OP #2

          Yeah this is a super local, super low stakes race. The company I work for is under 10 employees. I do know he’s not bundling — he didn’t want any contributions in his name or the company’s name. He figured no one who might use that information would recognize the names of employees (not that this makes it any better).

          That’s interesting about contributors’ employer information being required. I’ve only made a few political contributions in the past and can’t recall whether or not I put that information down. What if someone just doesn’t report who they work for — do you ever really know?

          I would say overall that my boss is willingly oblivious to these sorts of legal issues. It sucks, because he’s great in many other ways, and does really great work that I think is incredibly important.

          1. the gold digger

            There might be a threshold – you only have to report it if the contribution is over a certain amount. I think these laws vary by state (for state-level positions – the federal reporting is a true nightmare where I think they assume every candidate has a CPA who understands election law).

            1. zora.dee

              If you leave the ’employer’ space blank, it’s basically the responsibility of the campaign at that point to ask for that info or return the donation. Unless they want to be super lawbreaking and make up their own thing for that space in their FEC filing forms (like self-employed, or unemployed). So, I guess if the campaign is run by super unethical people, no one would ever know.

              But any smart campaign people are going to want that information to be accurate, and those are the only two things that have to be provided: Name and Employer, you don’t have SSN’s or something to check the info against. But like MichaelA said above, the campaign staff might be super pissed if they found out CEO was trying to do this, because the consequences would come down on them.

              In federal races, I believe the threshold to put Name and Employer is $5, but it might be different for state/local races. But I doubt “a couple hundred” is below the threshold.

              As for being “willingly oblivious” .. if he’s not going over the max threshold, he probably won’t go to jail, but it is still illegal to try to hide where a contribution is coming from, so the campaign, and he could still get in serious trouble. Maybe he would care more if someone pointed out it could tank the campaign for his beloved candidate? Even if he doesn’t care about consequences for himself.

            2. MichaelA

              Frankly, a campaign at the Federal level *does* need to have someone who understands accounting and election law (a CPA isn’t a requirement, though it can be helpful). That’s pretty bare-minimum stuff. If you can’t swing that, you shouldn’t be running for higher office.

    2. OP #2

      “It’s because your CEO doesn’t want HIS name and HIS image tied to this political candidate, most likely.”

      This is actually it. He wasn’t using this to exceed contribution limits, but wanted to make it harder for anyone who might “not like him” to use it against him or the candidate — I’m far removed from all this, so I’m not sure what the back story is. It’s just incredibly sleezy.

      1. Gene

        Local politics (I’ve worked for local governments since 1982) makes what we see on the current national stage look like a kindergarten spat. I remember one election in the small town Mom lives in hinged on whether or not the Public Works Manager should have bought new uniform shirts for his crew, and whether they were the “correct” color. That was in the ’90s and it still can start an argument over morning coffee at the stockyard cafe.

        1. MichaelA

          No kidding! It’s like what they say about academic politics – the fights are so vicious because the stakes are so low. It also doesn’t help that at the local level (outside of big cities) most campaigns can’t afford to hire professional staff, so candidates and their friends/family tend to make most of the big decisions, which is sometimes fine and sometimes disastrous.

          Then there are all the weird quirky little elected jobs nobody pays attention to, like County Highway Superintendent, that turn out to make $315k a year…

  11. Annoyed

    I find it interesting how many people write in with questions where the answer is simply “talk to your manager.” Are there really that many people out there who can’t figure out, “I’m having a problem with my job, perhaps the first thing I should do is talk to my boss”?

    1. Lance

      In a lot of cases, I’m not sure it’s a matter of ‘should I talk to my boss’ so much as it is ‘what should I say’.

      1. Kas

        Or “is it even reasonable for me to have this problem?” Or “are there facets of this situation that I haven’t thought of?”

    2. Jenny

      I’ve always appreciated that Alison’s answers are more complicated than that – there is information that helps people to understand why things might be happening, which parts they might be able to impact, and suggestions on approach. I’ve been a reader since her first year writing and even though my career has advanced to a place where I can “predict” the answers like you can I find I still read because it’s helpful for me to understand what my staff or colleagues might be concerned about and because her advice is helpful to people on all sides of the question

      1. Annoyed

        I appreciate the nuance that Alison provides in her answers, and a lot of writers state that are looking for help with how to approach their boss. At the same time, OP3 concludes:

        “What are my options? Should I give them an ultimatum? I don’t want to do anything rash because I really like the new position. People have suggested that I ask for both salaries while they continue to search, but that doesn’t seem right since I’m not fully doing both jobs. Besides, I don’t want to be working this much — I just want to do my new job, and blow everyone away like I know I can. What can I do?”

        At no point does she even hint that “perhaps I should talk to my boss about this” has ever crossed her mind.

        1. Annoyed

          I want to add that it’s always just been intuitive to me at every job I’ve ever had that if I had a problem with something, I would talk to my boss because that’s what she’s there for. I realize some bosses are less approachable than others, but that always seemed to be the logical thing to do.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’d assume that “what can I do?” covers the possibility of talking to her boss (and that it’s not that it’s never crossed her mind), but it’s really normal for people not to be sure what to say or even if it’s okay to initiate the conversation.

          1. Annoyed

            This is a great example of how we all read into the letters. Talking to your boss is such an obvious first step here, so I assume that if there is a reason she is concerned about talking to her boss, she would provide it. Or if she doesn’t know how to approach her boss, she would specifically ask for that advice. Of course, we all know why you should never assume.

    3. Queen Anon

      For a lot of people “talk to your boss” is the obvious answer but, for any number of reasons, not a practical one. If one’s boss is vengeful, unreasonable, or a do-nothing (or some horrifying combination of the three ), “talking to your boss” isn’t a helpful suggestion. I think that’s often when people write to Alison. People, unless they’re brand new employees, know what their bosses are like, and when talking to them will be effective and when it won’t.

    4. Colette

      Well, there are also a lot of people who do talk to their boss (or HR) when it’s an issue they should handle themselves (e.g. A coworker who whistles while they work). It’s not always obvious where the line is.

  12. Milton Waddams

    #1: Managers will often bring along subordinates who make them look good as they climb the promotion ladder, so from that perspective, taking blame can be useful. On the other hand, though, this is putting a lot of trust into your manager who will have to protect you from getting fired, and their managers, who you hope are clever enough to realize who was really at fault. Without those two anchor points, taking blame is a good way to get quickly fired by an indifferent executive staff who only looks out for their own interests, unfortunately.

    The ideal is a corporate culture that doesn’t revolve around blame, as CYA culture rarely produces anything of value.

    1. DoDah

      Says who? I work for a very successful tech company. Our product is very well regarded. And we spend at least 2 meetings a week strategizing to CYA our Marketing VPs blunders, bullying and general lack of knowledge.

  13. Norman

    re #3 — I wonder if OP is involved in the interview process. If she is, removing her from that process is probably a good idea. It’s way too easy to come across as “this is the way to do the job I’m interviewing you for,” which will turn off most applicants. Not a criticism of OP, it’s really hard not to do that.

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