refusing a job duty on ethical grounds, company wants me to show them another employer’s offer letter, and more

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

1. Company wants me to show them another employer’s offer letter

Company A made me an offer. Company B asked me to let them know if I receive any offers while they are waiting on the management team to make a final decision. I emailed Company B and told them that Company A made me an offer. Now Company B is asking to see my offer letter. (I didn’t share the amount with them, so they’re not looking for verification of anything I told them.)

Is that normal? It makes me really uneasy to forward a copy of my offer. If Company B is interested in me, shouldn’t they make me an offer based on my experience/fair market value – not someone else’s offer?

No, it’s not normal. It’s weird and inappropriate. I’d tell them that you don’t feel comfortable sharing a confidential offer letter from another company with them, and that while gave them a heads-up because they asked you to, you don’t have Company A’s okay to share the details of their offer.

The way they respond to that will tell you a lot about how they operate — if they push back or imply you’re lying (!), that’s a company that’s likely to be a giant pain to work for. You want to work somewhere that trusts you and doesn’t ignore professional conventions. So if that happens, that’s a huge reason to take the offer from A if you otherwise like it.

2. Can I refuse a job duty that I ethically object to?

I work in a restaurant. I am also a vegetarian. My boss has told me that he is going to make me kill live lobsters. I am repulsed by this idea as it is against what I believe. Am I allowed to refuse? And if I do, what retaliation can he take against me? Please help!

Ugh, I’m sorry. You’re allowed to refuse, but they’re allowed to say it’s a requirement of your job and fire you for refusing. The exception to this would be if you could show you had a bona fide religious objection to doing it, in which case they’d probably have to make a religious exception for you.

But even if your objection isn’t religious in nature, it’s worth talking to your boss about it anyway. You could say something like this: “I understand that this is part of the job, but as a vegetarian, this isn’t something I feel I’m able to do. I’d be willing to take on a different task instead if there’s something else who can take this one, but this one would be really at odds with deeply held beliefs of mine. Can we figure out an alternative?” Sometimes firmly pushing back like this will solve it. If it doesn’t, then at that point you’d need to decide if you still want the job under these conditions — but hopefully you won’t need to.

3. We have to add our photos to our email signatures

I’ve just found out that my manager is planning to have our photos taken so that they can be put on our email signature.

I’m extremely uncomfortable about this, as I’m not at all photogenic and dislike photos being taken of me anyway. We already have our full name and job titles on our email signatures, and I just think it’s unnecessary. I have first-hand knowledge of how the rest of the company views our department and know that certain departments have a negative opinion of us and have been known to make snide comments that are quite personal.

I’m not sure whether there is any point trying to push back on this without seeming like I’m being difficult for no reason.

On a side note, a coworker has also mentioned that this could make it easier for customers to find our details on social media, and although this isn’t what is concerning me, I’d love to find out what your thoughts are on this.

Ick, yeah, I wouldn’t like it either. For one thing, it’s cheesy and a fake form of friendliness. And second, yeah, if you have work with people who like to make snide personal comments, (a) your coworkers kind of suck and (b) I don’t blame you for not wanting to further expose yourself to that. I don’t know if it would make it easier to find you on social media (I guess it would make it easier for a customer to confirm they found the right person since they could match the photos?) but if so, that’s valid too.

How do other people in your department feel about it? If you can get a few people to push back with you, you’re likely to get more traction than if it’s just you objecting.

4. My employer doesn’t offer a 401K

About a year ago, I accepted a position in my dream industry and essentially doubled my salary in the process. I love the work I’m doing and the small business feel of the company (I’m a corporate America escapee!), but I’m struggling with some of the benefits that my employer offers — or doesn’t offer, in this case.

Coming from corporate America, I always had a 401K and was also smart enough to begin investing in an IRA straight out of college. Now that my salary is higher and my student loans are almost paid off, I’m wanting to contribute significantly more to my retirement. However, my employer only offers a company-matched IRA. Based on tax laws, I’m limited to $5,500 in IRAs each year, which means that I can’t contribute to any other IRAs without getting penalized.

I want to bring this up to our company president, but I’m not sure how to handle it. None of the other employees understand the difference between a 401K and an IRA, so I know I can’t rely on a buddy to back me up. It’s also strange because we don’t have anyone in HR, payroll, etc. A contractor handles our paychecks and insurance, which is always a mess anyway (paychecks get forgotten, our health insurance cost seems fishy, etc.), and we work in one big room, so nothing is really private. I know I shouldn’t feel like I’m overstepping the boundary since my future is at stake, but I’m relatively new and took this job with the understanding that there was no 401k. Is it worth bringing up, and can I do it in an email?

You can indeed bring it up, and it’s not overstepping boundaries to do it! It’s valuable feedback about your company’s benefits. Not only do IRAs have fairly low contribution limits, but you might also point out that the contributions may not even be tax-deductible for people if their income (or their joint income with their spouse) is over a certain amount, which can be a huge drawback to IRAs versus something like a 401K.

I think it’s fine to use email for this if your company president reads and is responsive to email. Otherwise, I’d raise it in person.

5. Notice periods that include holidays

I’m interviewing for new jobs and looking ahead to what my notice period will look like, since I want to leave my current job ASAP. With the holidays approaching, I’m curious if you know whether I have to be paid for holidays that my current company is closed for if it’s at the end of my notice period? For example, for Thanksgiving the company is closed on Thursday and Friday. If my two weeks notice would end on Friday, can they decline to pay me for those days? Would adding the following Monday into my notice change things? I am in Colorado and the U.S. corporate office is in New Jersey.

It’s up to your company. If you give a two-week notice period that ends the Friday after Thanksgiving, they have the right to say, “Since Thursday and Fridays are holidays anyway, let’s have your last day be that Wednesday.” They have the right to do that even if you propose the following Monday as your last day. Basically, they can set your last day whenever they want it to be.

If you’re concerned they’ll do that, a safer way would be to give have your notice period run a full week after Thanksgiving, which would probably make them less likely to shorten it. (At this point, of course, it’s moot since by the time I’m printing this, Thanksgiving is already a week away. But the same will apply to the December holidays too.)

{ 408 comments… read them below }

  1. Jennifer*

    I hope nobody ever forced me to put my picture on my email. We get enough angry clientele that I do not think it is a good or safe idea.

    1. Maxwell Edison*

      Ugh on having one’s photo appear in an email signature (or anywhere for that matter). I’m not ugly per se but I do not photograph well, and back at ToxicJob they forced us to go through a photo shoot for some annual report or something. It was horribly stressful.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I’ve been thinking about past picture debates on here. We discussed whether an employee (absent safety concerns) can be forced to be photographed for marketing materials. In that discussion there was a consensus that having an unhappy employee in a photograph shows and it ruins the photo so they should just let you out.

        Recently, a billboard (!) went up advertising my local urgent care on a busy urban road. State highway but not limited access highway. It has the doctor standing in the middle, flanked by his nurses and assistants. The two closest to him look warm and welcoming. There is a third that looks so p!$$ed off and miserable. My husband and I joke about it every time we drive by. We don’t want to get a shot from her!! I bet she’s a lovely person who was just angry about having to appear on a billboard! She signed up to be a nurse not a model. I will say the marketing idea works though. There are several urgent cares in the area and the nice warm looking doctor and staff would make me want to go there over an unknown group of people.

        1. Maxwell Edison*

          The miserable-looking nurse may well be the best one. At our medical office, one of the lab techs is this big, fierce-looking Russian woman who will bark, “Sit here!” at you…and when she draws blood, she’s so good at it you don’t feel a thing.

              1. aeldest*

                Me too.

                Also clearly the commentariat on this blog is simply better than other people, because this is the only place I ever see references to that song, and none of my coworkers or friends ever get my references to it :(

        2. Whats In A Name*

          The pissed off nurse makes me laugh. Mainly because every single nurse I know would be like WTF?!? if they had to pose for a billboard shot.

    2. 14 years*

      We have pictures on our emails, but I think they’re only visible within the company. They’re not in the signature but above and below the email like as part of outlook . It’s weird; I don’t understand it, but now I want to know if others can see them.

      1. Keener*

        14 Years -the photos you mention is an outlook feature. At both companies that I’ve worked at where they have the photos as part of outlook the photos have only been visible internally.

      2. Susan C.*

        We have those too, they work as Keener said – and I’m actually a fan (despite being, er, quite un-photogenic as well) because I’m pretty horrible with putting names to faces, and our company is very geographically spread out. So, without those, I’d probably regularly re-introduce myself to people I work with frequently and already met half a year ago…

        1. Michaela T*

          I agree, for internal purposes I like to have a picture on Outlook, or a staff directory, or something that I can use to match names to faces. I wouldn’t want it to show up on external communication, though.

        2. j*

          I like it for that reason as well. A previous job was with a company that had many small local offices, bigger regional offices, etc. I’d interact with many people only by email and phone, and maybe only meet them once a year at meetings or conferences. They used the same photos that were on employee id badges and they were only visible internally.

        3. Jean*

          I’m so bad at faces. I did print out our staff listing with pictures when I first started here but there’s still a few I have trouble with. I work at a school so my “lovely” picture is in the yearbook. Bleah.

      3. Jane D'oh!*

        AFAIK Outlook only shows the photo internally. We are also forced to use it, supposedly to cut down on phishing and to prove the validity of the sender. I don’t like being made to do it, but I wasn’t given a choice.

        1. Gaia*

          Incidentally, they don’t actually cut down on phising. We had an incident last year where someone made it look like our company CEO emailed asking our accountant for a wire transfer. The email had his picture and everything. It looked completely legitimate. The only thing that triggered it being “off” was that the CEO would literally never do this.

      4. Gwen*

        We have this too, and it’s so weirdly pointless. We have a staff of 30…we all know what everyone looks like…

      5. General Ginger*

        It wouldn’t bother me for internal purposes — especially if I were working somewhere really large, it would actually be helpful. But I wouldn’t want people outside the company to see them.

      6. Elizabeth West*

        At NowExjob, ours were only on IM. Nobody outside could see them. It helped to have a picture since there were so many employees, many of whom you only talked to online or through email.

      7. Alienor*

        I think they’re only visible to other people who use Outlook. We have that too, but when I email my personal account from my work account, I don’t see the photo.

    3. ginger ale for all*

      We had photos of us taken and another employee PhotoShopped me. He changed me from a brunette to a redhead. I couldn’t say anything because he did it as a gesture of friendship and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. On the bright side, I now know what I would look like with red hair (not bad, jmo). He also smoothed out my rosacia affected skin so I looked ten years younger.

      1. Karo*

        Ugh, I hate that. I’m not photogenic but somehow someone making “improvements” to me without my asking for them is worse than having to see the same awful picture over and over.

        1. many bells down*

          I have a prominent scar on my upper chest and EVERY TIME it’s been visible in a formal picture, the photographer has edited it out without consulting me. Drives me nuts. But I’m so used to the scar it never occurs to me to tell them not to beforehand.

      2. Camellia*

        Lots of red flags here for me – “gesture of friendship”, “couldn’t say anything”, “didn’t want to hurt his feelings”.

        This sounds controlling and manipulative; he’s changed you to what HE wants without even asking? Please take your power back and tell him that is NOT okay and take it to your manager or whoever you need to talk to, to have it changed back. And watch for other examples of stepping over a boundary with you.

        1. JMegan*

          Yeah, I’d feel icky about that too. Obviously I don’t want to tell you (ginger ale for all) how to feel, and if you’re really truly okay with it, that’s fine. But if you’re not okay with it, please know that a) it was inappropriate for him to change your hair colour without your permission, and b) you are absolutely allowed to speak up about it and have him change it back.

          His feelings are not more important than yours – after all, it’s *your* hair!

      3. Jessesgirl72*

        Did he do it purposely, or did he just really not notice the difference? I know, it seems obvious, but there are scientific studies backing up the fact that (in general) women see more colors than men do, for instance.

      4. Moonsaults*

        Changed your hair color? Are you sure it wasn’t just him trying to edit the photo and due to filters it gave you a red tint to your hair? Or did you suddenly have fire engine red locks? That’s bizarre behavior if it was something to purposely change someone’s features drastically.

        Touching up a photo is fine enough but taking it upon yourself to go further than that, they’re creepy.

    4. RVA Cat*

      If external clients can see the pictures, there needs to be a policy in place to fire clients who use the pictures to harass employees.

    5. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      I love our office email photos! They are only available internally though, as a feature of outlook that shows photos on the bottom part.

      I am HORRIBLE with names, so it’s helpful for me to be able to easily “put a face” with the name. Also sometimes I send an email to someone I haven’t met before, their photo pops up, and a few days I run into them in the hall and I get to be all like. “Mr. Vital to My Project! Hi! I’m Diluted nice to meet you! Have you had a chance to look at X?” 9 out of 10 times I get an answer on the spot and can move on with my project which rocks!

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        My husband had it at his last job, and it was really helpful since the company insisted on the name that is on the birth certificate, but they employed a lot of people who had, for example, their Asian name on their birth certificate, but had chosen an “American” name, as is the custom, either when they came to the US as kids, or as they reached the age to want/need one. So if you needed to send an email to “Bob” you had to remember the name he never actually used in the office… The pictures helped know you’d remembered right.

        They just used the ugly pictures taken for the security badges, and everyone’s was equally bad.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I wish we had photos on our intranet phone directory. Then you can go look at them if you need or want to, but you don’t have to have them all the time.

      3. YawningDodo*

        I struggle with remembering names and learning to recognize faces, so having photos of everyone in the internal directory at oldjob saved me some embarrassment – if I wasn’t completely sure who I’d been talking to (because they were relatively new, because they were in a different department and I didn’t see them often enough to learn their faces, etc.) I could zip back to my computer and look them up. I missed that a lot at my new job, though thankfully our staff is smaller here and now I’ve been here long enough to have reliable recall on nearly everyone.

        That’s a different thing from putting photos in email signatures, though. I’m super okay with having my picture on an internal directory to help other employees identify me. I’m not super okay with a photo of me being sent out on every email, internal or external, both because I don’t think I photograph well and because I feel like it would make me look less authoritative to patrons (both because I’m a young woman and because my own bias is to assume that people who include self portraits in their emails are salespeople doing a fakey friendship thing).

    6. JessaB*

      Yeh I was about to go all Gavin de Becker on this idea and NOT because of the usual reasons we recommend the Gift of Fear on this blog.

      This is NOT safe. Mr B used to work for the phone company in Florida. Now in Florida you have a lot of people who have guns either for safety or hunting (the National Forest there has deer and the Everglades have gators.) More than one person over the years had threatened to go after him or the phone company technician coming to their property with firearms. Yes the first thing they did was call the local Sheriff or Cops, but still.

      I would not like to be the person going down to my car alone if we had a crazy client and they had a picture of me. This is a NOT good idea.

      Also what if the photo identifies a trait that people discriminate against? How do you handle the client that just found out that Hana was an Orthodox Jew, or an Hijabi or Asian, or a Sikh woman who chooses to turban, or a Black Woman, or is disabled and the disability shows, and doesn’t LIKE that.

      It’s a phony way to look friendly and has way more problems than it’s worth. There is rarely a valid business reason to do this – the one where Time Warner/Spectrum sends a picture of the technician to persons receiving service calls to let them know exactly who to expect so someone doesn’t knock on their door pretending and rob them, is a good example of a valid business reason. But beyond – you are expecting Sam and this is what Sam looks like, I can’t see others. I’m sure there are, but I’m also sure they don’t require every single interaction by email to show a picture.

      Also from an IT standpoint that’s a lot of extra bandwitdth.

      Also what do you do about the employee that is being stalked/threatened?

      1. Pari*

        clients/customers stalking employees happens really really infrequently. And when it does happen it’s usually an ex significant other.

        And companies already deal with clients/customers discriminating with ethnic sounding names or accents. They have to deal with them by law.

        The opposition to it to me sounds more like personal insecurities or just the discomfort of losing the anonymity that comes with working behind a computer.

        1. Mustache Cat*

          It being infrequent doesn’t mean that employees shouldn’t be concerned about it. JessaB just provided actual, concrete examples of ways that her husband has been threatened as a result of his job, so your insinuations of “pesonal insecurities” or the “discomfort of losing anonymity” are unfounded.

          1. Pari*

            Hiding your face from business contacts is really not a proportionate reaction to the off chance risk that one of those contacts is a stalker using it nefarious purposes.

            1. Ellie*

              But even if it is personal insecurities does that really make it less valid?
              I’m not really losing any anonymity as my full name will still be on my email signature, I’m not sure why people I will never meet personally need to see a horrible version of my face.

            2. Natalie*

              There’s a difference between hiding one’s face and not giving it out to every single person whether or not they asked or care.

              1. Ellie*

                I agree. There’s also a difference between my actual face and the thing that is produced by a camera lens.

    7. Charlotte Collins*

      A “recruiter” keeps contacting me. Her picture is in her email. She must be a busy lady, because I’ve also seen it on several websites as a stock photo.

  2. neverjaunty*

    LW #1, what the heck is up with Company B anyway? They’re dragging their feet, you told them you have an offer, and now they want to see the letter while they still haven’t made a decision? Unless are offering you a jillion dollars in salary and offering you a palanquin carried by attractive manservants for your commute to work, I’d back right the heck off now.

      1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

        The palanquin is draped in red silk embroidered in gold thread. The manservants wear uniforms of the same cloth and gold torcs stamped with the company logo. The interior is padded, with an audiophile-quality sound system.

        Some employees prefer the palanquin to be replaced by a gilded carriage drawn by unicorns in silver barding. Special arrangements can be made.

    1. Joseph*

      “what the heck is up with Company B anyway? ”
      I was wondering the same thing. I’m really trying to think of a decent reason why they’d want another company’s offer and I really can’t. Thus far, my potential ideas for their motivation are as follows:
      (1) they want to continue stringing this out and want to use A’s letter to help with that
      (2) they were hoping to underpay you and want to know your salary from A to know if that’s still a possibility
      (3) they have no idea of what their own salary range is and want to use A as a guide to what you’ll accept
      (4) they don’t trust you and think you’re lying about the other offer
      (5) they’re so dysfunctional that the hiring manager wants to use A’s offer to get HR/senior management actually moving on preparing your offer letter

      1. hbc*

        I could totally see 3, 4, or 5 happening in my company before we managed to grow enough to keep one of the big bosses out of the day-to-day. Maybe still 5, depending on which department you’re in. And yes, it would have been an accurate sign of a particular brand of mild dysfunction (one which I am completely honest about in interviews).

        I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to deal with it, especially with an offer in hand.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        I could see any of these, and none of them are positive from the OP’s perspective. I agree with neverjaunty — unless there is something that obviously makes this job the greatest job the OP has ever interviewed for, I’d “thanks but no thanks” the heck out of there once they demanded to see the offer letter.

        1. Artemesia*

          Yup. The correct response to this request (unless you really don’t want to take the job that has been offered) is ‘I won’t be able to share confidential material from Company B, I don’t think that is ethical. I have decided to accept their offer so will need to withdraw from consideration for this position.’

    2. OP #1*

      Sorry, I meant to respond to your comment but it published below. Yes, this is not a good sign and I’m pretty disappointed since I really liked Company B.

      1. M-C*

        It is disappointing indeed when people show themselves to be such asses.. But really, you should be thankful for the interviewing process, and count yourself lucky you found out what weirdos they are before you committed. Accept that Company A offer very graciously, OP, it’s clearly the best option..

  3. Asian J*

    #3 If I received an email from someone and it has a picture of them in their signatures, it would seriously weird me out.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        I think the rep for the company that manages our retirement accounts has a photo in her monthly email bulletins. It’s mostly okay in that context but it seems sort of sales-y to me so I guess it would depend on what type of emails are usually sent by the OP.

      2. Phoebe*

        Yeah, our sales people do this, too. I hate it. On the other hand, when I worked for a medium-sized family-owned company my training materials included a sheet with everyone’s photo, name and title which I found to be a really useful reference.

      3. JessaB*

        Real estate agents might be another reason to add to my post above about valid reasons to use photos. They go into people’s houses and show you around. Knowing what they look like is probably a plus in their business. It’s fairly easy to put on a suit and look professional and if I wanted to rob or attack people looking for houses, it’d help if they had no idea what the agent looked like.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          My husband is a realtor. He says the reason they display their pictures so prominently is, they have to use their broker’s name in advertising rather than their own. (So it has to say Keller Williams or whatever, not the individual realtor’s name). But they are trying to build a personal brand, not just get you to go to any Keller Williams agent. They *are* allowed to include a photo, so that’s how they get you to think “Bob can sell my house” rather than “a Keller Williams agent can sell my house”.

      4. Episkey*

        Yes, I work for an agent and we both have our photos in our email signature — and of course it’s not only internal. I’ve worked for my boss for over 3 years and have never had an issue with this, but I understand some people are more concerned than others. I feel like it’s actually helped in some instances — a few times when I’ve gone to meet a client for the first time, they say, “Oh I recognized you immediately, you look just like your picture!” and it seems to put them at ease.

      5. Natalie*

        Possibly because it’s a sister industry, it’s also common in commercial property management and brokerage. But in that case it does serve a purpose – if someone walks into your office and says they’re the property manager or the maintenance person, it’s probably good to know what that person actually looks like.

    1. Pari*

      Does the concept of LinkedIn weird you out? I think it’s actually kind of cool especially if you have people whom you always interact with but never have an opportunity to meet them in person. It personalizes the person on the other end of that email if that makes sense.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It’s a little different in that someone has to go looking for your LinkedIn profile, whereas with this plan everyone you email gets shown a picture of you. Kind of overly personal, IMO. But our company did have a directory at one point with our photos, but it was only on our Intranet. And since we do a lot of cross-team training and consulting I found it useful, although I think a lot of other people didn’t like the idea.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              That’s kind of what I was thinking — with some vendors or members of the public, it’s bad enough that they have my email, I don’t really want to give them any more information than necessary! It doesn’t help that I’m the only person that I have ever found with my first and last name.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          You don’t have to use a photo, but it reduces your chances of being hired if you don’t have one- probably wrongly, but it does.

      2. Liane*

        ” It personalizes the person on the other end of that email if that makes sense.”

        If I have to deal with people who already make snide comments about me and others, I don’t want to give them the chance to “personalize” things even more.

        I got enough of those “personalized” comments in middle and even high school, because I loved fantasy and SF at a time (70s, pre Star Wars, very-pre-Harry Potter) when it wasn’t IN for *anyone*, especially women/girls, to enjoy those, on top of getting very good grades. In other words: Teen-Liane = Meanness-magnet.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      At LastJob, one of my co-workers had a picture in his email where he was always looking at you, like a creepy painting on the wall.

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      I and several of my coworkers have our photos in our email signature/profile photo (we use gmail). No one is *forced* to but no one has ever said anything. I would be seriously weirded out if that weirded someone out.

  4. T3k*

    Related to #3, it’s also too much hassle to keep photos up to date. My first job out of college employed just 6 people. They had a small photo section near the bottom of their site and included a group photo on their facebook page. Thing was, they changed employees with such frequency, there was no point in it. I was there for under a year and in that time my name was on the website, but no photo had been taken, 3 employees came and went, I was then laid off, then they lost 2 more employees within the year (and probably gained a couple more since then).

    1. T3k*

      Forgot to mention, the photos on the site didn’t use a template to add/delete one person, so the person would have to edit the single image with everyone on it to add/delete someone, instead of a template where they could easily remove/add however many people they wanted to.

    2. Joseph*

      It’s not really that much hassle – two minutes to swing by your cube and say “hey T3k, we’re doing photos on Friday”, five minutes on Friday to take the photo, then another five minutes for your IT guy to upload it…but it needs to be something that you’re focused on doing.
      If you have one employee (HR?) dedicated to handling it every time you hire someone (and pulling photos every time someone leaves), then it’s perfectly doable, but it’s one of those things that easily goes by the wayside if you don’t make a point of it.

    3. Jane D'oh!*

      Plus, if you work in an industry in which people tend to stay in jobs, you end up with a 50-year-old guy with an e-mail photo from when he was freshly hired after graduation.

      1. Nerfmobile*

        Oh yes. My company has a lot of long-timers, and I currently work with someone whose photo is from about 15 years ago. It’s also a horrible photo, but he can’t seem to even get it changed.

      2. Sadsack*

        We have photos on our badges to enter the building. Sone people have been here 30+ years, so they have a very old photo, but it still looks like them.

      3. many bells down*

        Someone mentioned real estate agents above; I worked for one, oh, 15 years ago now. He’s still using the same photo. And it was at least 5 years old when I worked there.

        Like, he’s still a good-looking guy. Just take a new photo already!

      4. Cath in Canada*

        They just recently took down the wall of photos from our reception area. All were from the day each staff member was hired; some were very old. There was quite the display of hilarious mullets and unfortunate facial hair!

    4. Christine*

      At one job I was told the photographer is here. Wasn’t prepared, didn’t know it was taking place and I take terrible photos. This was for the departmental website. It was internal, but I felt like I looked horrible and hated that was the first impression people had of me.

      Couldn’t a photo in the signature fill up others e-mail boxes quicker?

  5. MadGrad*

    For the vegetarian OP, I’don’t say the biggest part that needs to be considered here is what your role is at the restaurant. If you’re a server/manager/FOH, then yeah, you can maybe get out of it your boss is reasonable. If you work in the kitchen though… I mean, at that point it becomes a probably important part of your job that you can’t do. If that’s the case, I don’t think you’ll be able to work around it without seriously harming your performance, if at all. Might be worth moving on.

    1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

      Yeah, I hate to say it because obviously “just find a different job!” is such blithe, facile advice but at this point I’d at least start seriously looking.

    2. ginger ale for all*

      There was a somewhat similar situation in the news years ago in my state. There was a local pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for Plan B for a teen girl who had been viciously raped and beaten. His beliefs would not let him do that part of his job. The chain pharmacy had to set a policy that there would always be someone who would dispense birth control on duty. They were able to come together with a plan to allow the pharmacist to have his beliefs and the public to have their prescriptions. I wish I could remember more but I think it would be googleable if people are curious.

        1. Julia*

          I tend to agree, but let’s not throw that pharmacist who made a girl’s horrible experience even worse and a vegetarian who opposed to what I assume is boiling lobsters alive into the same pot.

          1. anon for this*

            Most true chefs don’t put live lobsters into a pot, but will use a knife to the head (which is a much less painful way for them to go)

          2. sunny-dee*

            Uh, actually, the dude was just pro-life. There are some situations where there are no good options. The same rule that allows him to opt out allows people who oppose the death penalty to refuse to dispense medications for executions. I don’t agree with everyone’s moral positions, but I truly respect and want their ability to follow their conscience (especially for things like the death penalty, where the state will compel participation without a conscientious objection). That’s the same freedom that allows me to follow mine.

            1. Temperance*

              I vehemently disagree here. There are many good options. In that particular case, the pharmacist refused to dispense the necessary medication to the patient, and he refused to give her information about other pharmacies that might have it, which was his job duty. He wasn’t doing his job, ergo, someone more qualified should have been able to.

              There is a vast difference between refusing to participate in executions and deciding that your own morality trumps someone else’s rights.

            2. Retail HR Guy*

              He wasn’t following his conscience. He was insisting that OTHER people follow his conscience. That’s an important difference a lot of religious people don’t seem to grasp.

              You don’t want to look at porn, get a tattoo, drink beer, have a coffee, marry someone of the same sex, or draw Muhammed? Fine. Don’t. Whatever.

              You want to use whatever power you have to ensure that OTHER people can’t do any of those things? Now you’re a grade-A jerk and you seriously need to knock it off.

              1. Evan Þ*

                No, he wasn’t. I assume he had no problems with someone else in the pharmacy standing next to him and dispensing the Plan B. He said he didn’t want to be involved with it. Yes, that can have some knock-on effects, which’s why the pharmacy had to set a policy that there’d always be someone around to do it – but at root, he wasn’t saying anything about what other people should do.

            3. an anon*

              Do you feel the same way about pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control, which 1/3 of women in the U.S. take?

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                To me the difference is that no one is making *the pharmacist* take birth control. He’s just filling a prescription. When I worked in a big retail store that sold camping goods, I didn’t like ringing up bullets and don’t have weapons in my house, but no one was asking me to go hunt, so I did it.

                I assume that the OP has no objection to letting the customers eat the lobster or bringing it to the table but to participating in the killing of them. To me there’s a big difference.

          3. Kathlynn*

            My biggest issue with the pro-life related “refusal of services” rights, I as a cashier do not have the right to refuse to sell condoms (not that I would), smokes, or lotto tickets, and AFAIK, it’s the same in the US.
            Why is this right preserved for women’s health decisions (The pill and other menstruation managing methods aren’t just about birth control, there are other health reasons, like PCOS, to be prescribed them), when it is not for other preventive methods or addicting substances/goods.

            1. Chinook*

              The difference between refusing to sell condoms or lotto tickets and refusing to sell Plan B is that those who believe in the latter firmly believe that the use of Plan B is purely to end a life (and an innocent ne without a voice at that). The same right to refuse to dispense euthanasia drugs here in Canada (where doctor assisted suicide is legal) is also contentious, especially because it is a) a relatively new change to a scope of practice so no one who became a pharmacist even 2 years ago would have known this would be a requirement and b)it is such a small part of that scope that a pharmacist could go years before having to do so.

              What it comes down to is that those who are against it are morally against prematurely ending any life and believe that life begins at conception. From that perspective, how can you think it is right to require someone to do something that they legitimately believe can only result in the ending of a human life?

              1. The Strand*

                That’s a very slippery slope, though. What if my pharmacist refuses to give me Clomid, because I might get pregnant with three babies rather than one baby, and might decide to terminate one or two? If he or she can make a premature judgment on my use of Plan B the day after I have unprotected sex, when I may not even be pregnant, what is to say she won’t make other premature judgments – maybe she’s vegan and objects to my medicine being made from eggs, even if the efficacy is greater; or that it was previously tested on animals. Does she have a right to refuse to give me my flu shot, or the experimental drug that may extend my life – and to then refuse to refer me to someone who will?

                What especially troubles me about the specific example is that this is a teenage rape and assault victim, whose life might be at risk if she carries a baby to term; as someone who did not consent to the act that made her pregnant, and was savagely beaten, she is equally “innocent”. Her voice was taken away from her.

                I support his right to his values, but this is a life-altering decision for the young girl and he should not be making decisions for her. He can regret his choice to help her, it’s true, but we’re talking about her lifetime responsibility for a baby, if born, also. So his refusing to refer her elsewhere says everything to me about him interfering in her life and her decisions. That’s victimizing her all over again. If it is true that he refused to give her alternative locations, or even a phone number to talk to customer service, that goes beyond refusing to fill and having your colleague step up.

      1. Temperance*

        I remember those cases. It made me so angry. That man in particular was especially terrible, and refused to even tell that child where she could go to get the pill.

    3. Violet Fox*

      I’m a meat eater, and I find killing live lobsters squicky, and it would make me uncomfortable if it was suddenly part of a job as well. I think AAM’s advice is right on point, and offering to take up other duties and have someone else take the lobster one shows that you are not trying to get out of doing work in general, and you are more then willing to work hard, just not that one thing please.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, but if she works in the kitchen, they’d have to have someone else scheduled with her every shift in case someone orders lobster. If she’s the only one who says no and there are a lot of kitchen staff, it might work, but if not, scheduling would be impossible.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m thinking, though, that if it’s a place that serves lobster, it’s not like a small diner with a single person cooking — they likely have a fuller kitchen staff.

            1. Allison*

              I pass a tiny Italian place on my way to work in greater Boston that serves lobster. Or maybe just lobster rolls . . .

            2. Science!*

              Every where in Maine serves lobster, even the ice cream parlors :) It’s rare to find a place that doesn’t at least have lobster rolls.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I picture those smaller places buying cooked lobster rather than keeping a bunch of live ones in their little kitchens and cooking them as needed. Is that not the case? I’ve never been to Maine.

                2. blackcat*

                  They do indeed. Or some, at least. I’ve been to a diner-like place that just had a big tank out back. Presumably they were a summer-only business.

                1. fposte*

                  Oh, lots of places sell live lobsters. But Whole Foods decided they wouldn’t do that any more–except in Maine. Must have live lobsters in Maine!

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            The kitchen staff might only be 2-3 people, though, and everyone is busy. If this is added to her tasks, it’s to give her more responsibility. If she refuses to do it, even if they allow it, she is frozen in her position as the lowest person on the line.

          2. Colette*

            It might be, or it might be a more exclusive place. If there are, say, 20 people who do the OP’s job but only 2 work at one time and the OP is the only one who objects, there’s no issue. If 3 of the twenty people object, scheduling becomes much more complicated.

            I think she can still ask, but she should give some thought to whether it’s a reasonable thing to ask for where she works.

    4. Purple Dragon*

      Another thing to consider is – is your manager a reasonable human being ? I ask this because when a place I volunteered at was having a Christmas lunch for the homeless, the guy who ran it, who had multiple “greatest guy of the universe” awards decided that I had to cut up the sausages, about 1000 of them, as the only vegetarian onsite that day. I could have cut any number of vegetables but he made me do it. If there wasn’t several hundred people on the way I would have told him to shove it but I didn’t want to leave everyone in the lurch. I still to this day do not understand his reasoning. Several people volunteered to do it instead but he was adamant. If you even suspect that your boss might be of the same ilk you might need to be careful with how you word your request. FWIW – I’d probably throw up and start crying, then I’d probably try and release them ;) Pretty much guaranteed to get me fired.
      Good luck OP – I’m sorry you’re in this position.

      1. CeeCee*

        Perhaps it is just the way that the OP worded the question, but I felt (upon reading it) that it was a similar situation. I don’t understand why, but I have known more than one person who was of the mindset that because someone had a particular viewpoint on something they needed to be “broken” by doing something against it. And some people abuse power to make this point. “Oh, you’re a vegetarian. You, and only you, have to do all the butchering today even though there are several other people that can do it.”

        It’s sad, honestly, but I’ve seen it happen to many times to know that it’s definitely a thing. OP, I’m sorry you’re being put in that position.

        1. Moonsaults*

          When I read the OP I was thinking it was exactly that way. “Boss” found out that OP is vegetarian and is like “LOL well good for you, now you get to kill lobsters because I’m /that asshole/ who doesn’t respect your POV.”

      2. Temperance*

        I would have told him to shove it and left, and made sure the org knew why. He’s an asshole on a power trip.

      3. Pommette*

        Have we worked for the same guy?

        I volunteered at soup kitchen some years ago. Similar story: as a vegetarian, I got assigned all of the meat-related tasks (slicing pieces off a roasted chicken to make sandwiches! decorticating chicken carcasses to make stock! etc.).

        I wasn’t advocating against having serving meat: our clients really needed good (nutritious and comforting) food, and for most of them, that meant meat. I just didn’t think that I should be the one preparing it, especially when there was so much other food to prepare, and when there were other people who would have been happy to work with meat. I honestly think that our supervisor’s motivation was akin to yours’. I was the worst person for the job (I had no experience working with meat, but a lot of experience with everything else we had to prepare), I was the only person who really didn’t want the job… but I was always the one who ended up tasked with it.

        Either way: good luck OP. I hope that you can find a solution that works for everyone!

          1. Pommette*

            I did, eventually.

            It took me longer than it should have to realize that quitting was an option, and that there were places out there where managers would actually try to work with, rather than against, their volunteers’/employees’ values and aptitudes.

      4. Camellia*

        Wait, you were volunteering? The one time I volunteered for something food-related I simply said, no, I’m not going to do that, so-and-so (who had already spoken up) can do it, and that was that. What about this situation am I misunderstanding, that meant you couldn’t do this?

        1. OhNo*

          Sounds like the person in charge of all the volunteers was on a power trip, of the “do this or leave – but if you leave you’re a horrible person who is leaving these vulnerable and needy people to fend for themselves” variety. It’s messed up, but I’ve seen this happen in quite a few different places.

        2. Pommette*

          I was young at the time, and seriously lacking both confidence and experience. Another person would have navigated the situation differently.

          I had been clear about preferring not to work with meat. Others had been clear about being happy to do it. So when I got tasked with the job… I couldn’t see a way to express myself more forcefully without walking out. I stayed because I wanted to keep working with this organization, and hoped that the volunteer manager would eventually let me work on other tasks. In retrospect, that was never going to happen: this person had given me the job because I was vegetarian and they were on a power trip (so the situation was a lot like the one PurpleDragon described). I eventually stopped going, and didn’t really look for an alternate place to volunteer. In retrospect, I realize that I should have left on the first day, and should have found a better place to volunteer.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          Yeah, I’ve volunteered at events that include food and once got assigned to watermelon slicing duty. When I said that I actually *hate* watermelon and could I please switch with someone doing literally any other duty, it wasn’t a problem at all

          (Yes, there are people who hate melon, including watermelon. People always seem absolutely astonished when I say this. But I’ve met a few others over the years :) )

        4. Purple Dragon*

          I think I didn’t walk out because of the guilt trip (letting hundreds of homeless people down – at Christmas) and the fact that I’d brought several friends with me that day who ironically spent hours cutting pumpkins.

          Maybe it was a power trip but I’d also inadvertently offended a friend of his because I didn’t know who he was. He apparently was a pretty famous retired rugby player and I had no idea. He was appalled and actually asked my friends if I really had no idea, or if I was pranking him. *sigh*

          The charity is no longer open. The guy who started it allegedly embezzled money and the place lost all it’s donations and funding and closed down. I say alleged because I think there was probably about 25% fact and the rest was a media beat up fuelled by an individual I had worked closely with. He wanted both the private sector and government funds to go to a religious organisation instead. It was a mess. I did figure out early on that he was a snake. He spent my first night in the food vans telling me how incompetent the people running it were.

          The guy who was running the organisation had huge dreams and passion and could get things done, but keeping proper accounting was not his strong point. If he did spend money on personal items I believe, even though he was a bit of a jerk, that it would have been in ignorance, not malice. This is not a popular opinion in Australia !

      5. Old Grumpy Guy*

        I also immediately suspected that this was a boss making the vegetarian do it, rather than a specific condition of the job or need of the kitchen.

      6. The Strand*

        That’s terrible. What a horrible human being – if others volunteered, I’m guessing CeeCee’s idea of him trying to “break you” is on point.

        I wish no one had to work with bullies like that.

    5. SMT*

      The theme park I work at (for two more days!!!!) works with a church program where college students come for the summer and work in the theme park, in addition to doing some spiritual classes and (I think) volunteer work. Part of the program is that they cannot sell alcohol, which limits the venues and roles we can schedule them for. We make it work, but when we get a few call ins it is really difficult to get some of our venues open (2/3 sell alcohol) with the staff that we do have.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        Yeah, but that’s probably a legal requirement rather than an ethical one. In most states, legally you can’t sell or serve alcohol until you’re 18 (some you have to be 21).

        1. Elsajeni*

          If they’re college students, though, most are 18 or older and at least some would be 21; it sounds like it’s actually a specific requirement of their program, beyond legal age restrictions.

  6. David St. Hubbins*

    Ugh. The photo thing. The company where I work has some issues, but at least they don’t make us do this. Some people do, but it’s not a requirement.

    There’s one guy in the company (in a different office) who has the same name as a certain TV character. His profile picture is that character. At least I’m mildly amused when I get an email from him.

  7. katamia*

    Ugh. I hate the idea of having my photo in my email signature. I’m another one of those people who just doesn’t photograph well–among other things, I blink even when there’s no flash. I think it’s really weird to ask people to do this, and I can’t imagine that you would be the only person who had a problem with this unless your department is extremely tiny. I’d bet money your coworker who mentioned customers finding you on social media also doesn’t like the idea, so you could try starting with them.

    If your company has issues with people’s inboxes filling up, you could also make the argument that the pictures would take up a lot of space and make people’s inboxes fill up even more quickly.

    1. Ellie*

      Hey, I’m the letter writer of this one. Thanks for your comments- we do actually have a problem with inboxes filling up quickly so that’s a really useful point!

      1. Yetanotherjennifer*

        I was also thinking about this. Unless email systems have a way of only storing one copy of duplicate files then you will be storing each and every image. One image (or several with replies) per email, times the number of employees, times the number of messages per month. And it’s cumulative. You could assume at least half of those emails will be saved. Sure, each image is small, but it adds up fast. There’s bound to be some sort of formula out there for this. You will have increased IT costs in managing the increased load, and most visibly, increased real costs in server space. Although, unless that cost is divided out between departments, your manager may not care that IT’s costs are increasing. But IT will so there’s a potential ally. Good luck!

      2. Purple Dragon*

        I use this one to get out of putting our company banner on the bottom of my emails – for some reason the company seems to think having a huge banner with our latest product launch is the best thing ever.

        I’d also point out that if your emails are going externally you can’t be sure how they will render. A lot of programs will strip the embedded picture and make it an attachment. Then sometimes emails will get shunted into a holding area because of the attachment. Then a lot of companies have size restrictions on receipting emails. If you’ve attached – say a spreadsheet – and your picture – that may block your email from being received for being over their limit. My companies limit is insanely small – it really does need to be revisited.

        Hope this helps and the idea gets overturned.

      3. AndersonDarling*

        Hi OP! I’d check if they are using the Outlook feature for pictures. Then it will only be on internal emails and it isn’t actually part of the email, it’s just part of the Outlook ribbon.

        1. Ellie*

          Yeah thanks everyone. I’ll definitely be checking to see if these are internal only although this would still not be ideal because of the other departments. I do send a lot of emails to clients though so I suppose that would make it slightly less horrible.

      4. Ama*

        If your manager is the only one advocating for photos and it isn’t a company wide thing you might also check and see if your company has a policy for formatting of signatures — I know mine has extremely strict guidelines on what information is and is not allowed (individual photos being one of the “not allowed” items).

  8. Augusta Sugarbean*

    #3 Alison, in cases like this when you recommend getting a group of employees together to push back, how do you envision that happening? One spokesperson going to management? A group meeting? A bunch of individual meetings? Or will it depend on the workplace or issue?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Depends on the issue (and how serious it is) and the workplace. One easy way to do it is if you have regular team meetings, since you can bring it up there while everyone is present, and multiple people can chime in. Sometimes it makes more sense for multiple people to each bring it up individually with the manager. If you do that, you can be transparent about the fact that you’ve talked; you don’t need to make it seem like it’s a coincidence that everyone’s raising it — it’s okay to say “I was talking this over with Jane and Fergus and realized I think X.” You generally don’t want to speak for Jane and Fergus, but it’s okay to acknowledge you talked about it, and that that was part of developing your thinking on it. For something more serious, you might say “a bunch of us have concerns about this. Could we set a time to sit down as a group and talk it through?”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Should have added: I’m not usually a fan of one spokesperson going and talking to the manager one-on-one on the group’s behalf. There are probably some limited times when that makes sense, but in general it’s less effective. The manager is likely to wonder why a spokesperson was necessary, and how accurately other people’s viewpoints are being represented, and if the person is really speaking for everyone else they say they’re speaking for.

        1. Emma*

          Also, if there’s one spokesperson, they can be an easy target. That’s true even if there are other people in the room silently agreeing – it can be easy for people to see the vocal one as somehow the ringleader, pushing the others into agreement, instead of as a person genuinely speaking for the group.

        2. hbc*

          We have a self-designated spokesperson here. He thinks he speaks for the group, but mostly he’s just asking for things that he wants and *assumes* that everyone else wants/needs. I learned pretty quickly to make sure that other people had the same idea before taking even one step towards what he was asking for.

    2. Tomato Frog*

      Thank you! I have had this question at the back of my mind for probably years and I never remember to ask it when the subject comes up.

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. I would hate photos too. That said, an internal Who’s Who would be handy as it is good to know what the senders of emails look like!

    1. Agnes*

      Yeah, I’m on a couple systems where a photo is optional, and it actually is quite handy for putting together a mental picture of who is sending what. I would try to avoid “I’m not photogenic” as a complaint – presumably the idea is people better know who they’re dealing with, and in that case it doesn’t really matter whether you look good or not.

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      Agreed- I have a lot of meetings with people who I don’t know, and seeing their picture in Outlook is insanely helpful in literally finding who I’m supposed to be talking to.

      I do think Outlook’s feature for photos is much better than an email signature though, I would certainly oppose having my picture on external emails.

    3. Temperance*

      Why would that be a benefit, though? I don’t really care what people who are reaching out to me look like.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Actually, our company’s photos of new hires and the photo directory (all internally posted) have helped me chat in person with the person I’ve been emailing back and forth. Emails and IMs are less personal, which is why we have flame wars and trolls online more so than in real life. Personifying the text you see helps fill in some of the gaps that we normally fill with nonverbal communication (body language, facial expressions, etc). So once you talk to someone even for a few minutes, you get a better feel for the subtext of their textual communications. It’s the same reason it’s so much harder to participate in a phone conference than if you all meet in person.

        That said, I wouldn’t want my photo in my email signature. It feels….smarmy.

      2. MoinMoin*

        Internally it’s nice to know this new-to-me name in some department I usually don’t work with is the same person as the lady I always say hi to in the elevator. Or it’s nice to help make sure you’re emailing David Andersen and not David Anderson, who gets really teed off when people are constantly emailing him thinking he’s the other guy.
        For external communications I don’t see much benefit.

        1. SJ*

          Yep. I started a job about 2 months ago at a university and our department is about 160 people, plus we’re spread out all over campus, so I’ve been meeting people once and then forgetting who they are when I see them again weeks later. Apparently we used to do some directory with photos but stopped, and I really wish we still had one! I’ve been trying to write down physical descriptions in the org chart I have, but it’s not the same.

      3. If My Cat Were a Human*

        My last organization had an internal staff directory complete with photos. It helped me identify who I was emailing, since there wasn’t a lot of inter-department socialization, but I could recognize the other person as someone I made small talk with in the elevator, seen at an event, etc. It was also handy to use after large meetings, when you meet a lot of new people and may not catch everyone’s departments or job titles.

      4. Annie Moose*

        One example is when I worked closely with someone on a lengthy project, but never met him in person. After the project finished, he took me and another couple of project members (who I had also never met in person!) out for a celebratory lunch. Only problem was that I had absolutely no idea what the guy looked like, and vice versa! So I was able to look in our internal directory at his picture, and thus avoid the awkward wandering around the restaurant, looking for someone who looked like they were waiting for someone.

  10. Nico m*

    #3. wow why would any reasonable person do this?

    Could a friendly outside recipient (customer, vendor) etc make a fuss?
    File sizes, antivirus or spamfilters not liking it, or even just plain mockery?

  11. Kathlynn*

    One thing about the picture issue. It could open up the possibility for discrimination, if the people who are getting the emails don’t know the senders.

    1. Violet Fox*

      This so much this. It also opens up the company to a lot of potential liability if the people discriminated against are chased to their personal social media due to the pictures.

    2. Pari*

      meeting those people in person opens up the same issues. We wouldn’t avoid them because of that would we?

      1. Natalie*

        Well, plenty of people never meet face to face, so it’s not like it’s inevitable. But even when people do meet, the meeting presumably serves some actual purpose. There’s no real benefit to putting photos in a signature block.

          1. Natalie*

            I’m sure some of them do see a benefit, that doesn’t mean it actually exists. Bad management ideas that are supposedly going to raise morale or what have you are pretty common in my experience.

            And if there is some small benefit, it’s still worth weighing that against potential downsides. When meeting face to face is necessary, the purpose likely can’t be achieved any other way, so it probably outweighs possible negative outcomes. That’s why they’re not comparable.

            1. Pari*

              Meeting face to face isn’t usually the only option. It’s frequently done in an effort to build professional relationships. I would imagine that putting a name to a face in an email is aligned with that same effort.

              1. Natalie*

                Yes, that’s why I began the sentence with “WHEN meeting face to face is necessary”.

                Sometimes it’s necessary, sometimes it isn’t. Having a photo in an email is practically never necessary. Claiming that these are exactly the same and that scrapping the latter means scrapping the former is disingenuous.

          2. EmmaLou*

            Companies have seen a benefit in trust falls as well. We could always take an AAM poll to ask how many people find those actually beneficial.

      2. animaniactoo*

        But we would be actively choosing when and how to meet them, not be thrust into a room of people that we haven’t had the time to assess our shot of being accepted in.

        And there is a long history of women or people with ethnic sounding names using first initials rather than their first names to get their foot in a door BEFORE the potential discrimination can sideline them. The idea that a photo could expose people to the same sort of discrimination in a business setting when it is not really necessary to know anything about the person you’re dealing with other than that they are capable of doing what you need done is not a nonsense concern. When you already face discrimination on a regular basis, you find relief in *not* opening yourself to it when it’s not necessary and allows you to do your day-to-day job without dealing with the hassle of it. That people may found out later – hey, whatever. Maybe it’ll change some ingrained prejudices. Maybe it won’t. But at least it didn’t stop you from being able to do your job to start with.

  12. Newish Reader*

    #5: You might want to check any company policies relating to holiday pay. Where I work the policy is that you need to be paid (working or using PTO) for the workdays immediate previous and following any holiday to be eligible for holiday pay. Anyone giving notice with my employer wouldn’t be able to give notice and have their last day be a holiday.

    We have many December retirees and resignations actually plan their last day to be in early January so they receive the Christmas and New Year’s holiday pay (we close between the two holidays with most of those days being paid holidays). They would rather work the first workday in January as their last day than lose the pay for multiple holidays.

    1. NK*

      Was just coming here to say this. I think every company I’ve worked for requires your last paid day to be a working day.

      1. sstabeler*

        It might depend on how you leave- last company I worked for ( it was a temp job) they realised I had worked there for long enough that either the law or company policy gave me the right to notice before the end of my job that a permanent employee would get. Since they only gave me notice on my last day, they paid me an extra month’s salary to cover the notice. Since I had no idea, they probably could have skipped it, but they didn’t. As such, I suspect some companies might allow it, but I wouldn’t count on it.

  13. Oviraptor*

    OP 2:. I am really sorry this is happening. I am not a vegetarian, but I absolutely wouldn’t want to kill the lobsters either. Seriously, I would be in tears the whole time. (And still wouldn’t be able to kill them).

    But your letter reminded me of the time my parents and I were in the car and passed a Red Lobster billboard with a HUGE lobster on it. I asked my dad if we could go to Red Lobster for lunch – but only to free the lobsters! Sadly, he thought that would be an expensive lunch ( or possibly a side trip to jail). We didn’t free the lobsters.

  14. Erin*

    #2 I a really sorry.
    I used to work for an organization which decided to open a farm. We were notified that our desk jobs would at that point include rasing and killing animals, as well as field work (literally, in the fields). Our vegetarian objections were met with “but we’ll treat them nicely before we kill them”. They still haven’t actually done it, but I am so glad I no longer work there.

    1. Sigrid*

      That is so bizarre. Were you in an industry that had anything to do with agriculture? Or food? Or was this decision as completely random as it sounds?

      1. Liz*

        It does sound like a terrible decision, but I have to admit that I laughed at the idea of management randomly deciding to do it.

        “I think we should get a second microwave for the kitchen. Oh, and we should also open a farm.”

      2. Erin*

        No, not even close, it was a non-profit for persons with disabilities, and those often fund themselves through small businesses. Some choose farming apparently. Nevermind that none of us had any idea of what to do.
        I actually had some experience, but nothing on paper and definitely was not going to kill pigs!

    2. :-D*

      I was picturing desk job to farm job (which is bizarre and amusing when you’re on the outside) but figured I was just assuming it was a desk job before. But no, I re-read, and there it is: desk job.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This is so bonkers I wonder if they expect you to work your desk job in pearls and heels, then go out and feed the chickens in the same outfit so Lassie can come tell you Timmy fell down the well again….

    3. Temperance*

      I would have probably quit on the spot, because there is no link between office work and working on an actual farm. Gross.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Yeah. I am not a vegetarian. I have no moral objection to killing animals to eat them. However I have no desire to do that *for a living.* If I did, I would have gone into a different field of study!

        1. JessaB*

          I don’t either and I don’t necessarily even have objections to doing farm work, I just can’t anymore. My disabilities would prohibit that. There’s a reason I work desk jobs.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Actually, I worked for a farm a few jobs back, and I’m a computer geek who works a desk job. This was a farm (potatoes, onions, corn, apples), not a ranch (livestock), but there can be a strong link between office work and a farm. And on really beautiful spring days, my boss would find some reason to need to travel from the office to one of the farms so we could be outside to enjoy it.

        1. k*

          But you didn’t do the actual farming, correct? Like there where farm hands for that and you did computer stuff? I can see easily how a farm would have an admin side with desk jobs to run the business side of things. But this poster made it sound like the desk job people where expected to do their jobs as well as start doing farm work. I’m just so baffled by this one.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I was baffled too. We did get to eat things we grew, but everything we grew was plant matter, not animal.

            On one nice spring day, my boss did have us measuring a road (for GIS?) I actually think the main reason was it was a beautiful day, and he found some bogus reason for us to need to be out walking on a quiet dirt road. We had a super long measuring line, but I think it was all just a cover.

      3. Erin*

        That’s when I started seriously looking for a new job.
        It worked out a bit differently in the end, but I didn’t stay much longer.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Maybe they had heard about gentleman farmers and thought, “We could do that.” They all wanted to be Mr. Knightley…

    4. Moonsaults*

      I’ve done a lot of stupid tasks over the years as a bookkeeper that I know tons of other people would object to in the “that’s not my job” sort of way, nothing touches on actually being told that now my job is to kill anything O_O

    5. AW*

      Am I wrong in thinking there must be regulations about this sort of thing? Like, you can’t just go around slaughtering animals, you have to be trained for that, right?

      Also: How “nice” could they really have been planning to treat these animals when the plan was to have them cared for by people with zero training for this whatsoever? Like, I used to work for a guy who did mostly management work but used to do work “in the field” but that doesn’t sound like it was the case here, especially for the vegetarians.

    6. K*

      Okay you NEED to come back and follow up on this. What the heck industry were you in that suddenly adding a farm made sense? How does this work? Like does Carl from accounting go muck out the chicken coops when he’s done with this month’s books? I need answers.

    7. Erin*

      It was a non-profit for persons with disabilities. They can have some small business activities as self-funding.
      Apparently in the UK small farms are popular.
      It wasn’t in the UK, but the idea sounded practical, you know, rural tourism and the like. Never mind that none of us had any training and some had no desire to actually do that, sometimes you don’t get a say.
      But like I said, it’s been a while and they are still not farmers…

  15. Loopy*

    I once worked somewhere that had our ID photos in emails, not in the email signature per say, but attached to our email address- so the picture showing up was automatic.

    One coworker requested it to be turned off because she firmly believed people responded differently to her with the photos there since we were both fairly young and they could see that. It’s definitely something to consider- people have all sorts of biases, even if they don’t realize it.

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      Absolutely. I look younger than I am, and if I were to include a picture of myself in emails, it would be career suicide.

  16. Akcipitrokulo*

    LW1 – from experience of a company that did this to me – run away. Fast. Do not look back.

    The recruitment agency had never heard of this before, and told them no – they pushed back – eventually there was a compromise where the agency confirmed that I had been offered £X by other company without showing the offer.

    It left a bad taste in mouth, but for other reasons – mainly avoiding night time shifts with 9 month baby – I took the job.

    Worst career mistake ever.

    Pay wasn’t in bank account on last day of month – I queried – was told “Oh, (ceo) must have forgotten to go to the bank.

    They changed my start date so I missed out on 3 weeks wages I could have used.

    They left one office without giving the landlord notice – they found out when we walked past landlord-provided reception desk carrying our personal effects.

    And don’t get me started on what they thought they could get away with in terms of providing a place for expressing breastmilk, or the arguments with landlord of second place, or the way they screwed one of our neighbours over storage, or their refusal to let my hours be 0855 – 1655 instead of 0900-1700 (I was in a non-time-sensitive, no customer contact, IT role…) which made an hour’s difference in my travel time due to the way public transport worked…

    Or the fact I had TWO manager who, depending on circumstance, reported to each other, and who didn’t like each other much…

    Yeah, it’s a red flag. If they are willing to go so much against what is expected, it’s a red flag. If they expect other people to be so dishonest, they probably would do the same thing themselves.

    Run away! (Unless there is something that would make it worth ignoring these warning signs.)

    Never so glad to give in month’s notice … they did yet another office move to outwith my acceptable commuting distance which was my excuse to use in interviews.

  17. eplawyer*

    The pictures in the email signature sounds like someone heard this happening elsewhere and thought it would be a good idea to make your department seem more “friendly.” Look we have pictures, you know who we are, just like your best friend. Which for some industries, you want that image. But it is not a blanket good idea for everything.

    Could the other departments be making fun of your department because you have a manager who is looking at ideas like this instead of making sure he has a well-functioning department?

    1. Ellie*

      Possibly they are but the particular examples I can think of are just making fun of people’s name or something equally irrelevant and pathetic.

  18. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP #4, would it help to point out that there’s a $5,500 yearly contribution limit on IRAs, and an $18,000 limit on contributions to 401(k)s, with no overlap? Or talking to the brokerage/agent who does the IRAs for your company? Not offering a 401(k) at all is a huge negative to me, almost as bad as not offering health insurance.

    Actually, now that the ACA has been enacted, this might be worse!

    1. anon for this*

      Even without company sponsorship, you should spread some of your investment money into a Roth IRA (which you can open on your own) to have multiple options to take money out later in life. Assuming Trump does as he has advertised, in many cases tax rates will be lower next year allowing you to put money in after tax and withdraw everything later in life tax free when taxes are most likely going to be higher for you (taxes are among the lowest in our country history and increased salary from increasing job responsibilities)

      1. fposte*

        Roth IRAs are often a good option and the OP may have one, since people don’t always differentiate when they’re talking about IRAs. But whether you should or even could have money in a Roth or not depends on individual income and tax needs; it’s not an across-the-board truth that everybody should have one.

        1. Anonymous of course*

          I agree on opening a Roth. But I have decided that there are really few cases where not having a Roth makes sense. The biggest advantage is that you are not forced to take money out like you do with regular IRAs and 401(k)s. And that can be very helpful in passing money on to dependents. And especially if you have a spouse. This gives the survivor extra money when they will need it the most.

          1. fposte*

            I think if your tIRA isn’t deductible it’s a no-brainer. But if your tIRA is deductible, it can make sense to convert later.

        2. DCite*

          And also some people are also ineligible for them. Roth limits are also based on MAGI, which is adjusted-gross income with a lot of deductions added back into it (including student loan interest, tuition breaks, IRA contribution, etc.).

          We would not have been able to buy our first house without my Roth as downpayments in the DC area are so insane. The mortgage payments are pretty close to rent, even including taxes and reasonable wear and tear, but the downpayment is an absolute killer for regular folks with no benevolent relatives. A relative opened a small Roth for me as a college graduation gift, and I’d contributed to it as much as I could (even when that was $20/month) for years. When we went to buy the house, we partially funded the downpayment by draining every penny I’d put into it over the years (but, as required by law to avoid tax penalty) leaving the accumulated earnings in the account.

      1. fposte*

        And sometimes that’s better anyway, given how many 401ks/403bs have high costs and bad options. But I can understand wanting to at least have the option.

        1. Brett*

          I can’t stand those annuity-based 403(b)s. They provide the same tax advantage as tax-deferred annuities outside the plan, but with higher fees and poorer return, and almost always with no matching anyways.
          What’s the point of even offering those plans?

          1. fposte*

            School systems are the worst for those. It’s hard to find a plan that *isn’t* from an insurance company.

  19. Elysian*

    #4 – Not all IRAs have the same limits. If your employers has a match, it might be a SIMPLE IRA, which has a higher contribution limit than a Roth or traditional. It’s not as high as a 401k, but it is 12,500 this year, so much higher than 5,500. Might be worth looking into the specifics of the plan a little more.

    1. Mskyle*

      Yeah, if there’s a match it sounds more like a SIMPLE – I contributed the max of $12,500 plus 3% match to my SIMPLE IRA this year, and $5,500 to my regular IRA. Not as nice as a 401k that lets you contribute $18K but better than nothing.

      Even if you don’t have an employer-sponsored tax-protected account to contribute to, though, you can always put the money you would be contributing to a 401k somewhere else in a regular taxable brokerage account.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      Yeah, it sounds like a SIMPLE IRA to me too. If it’s not, it should be. And they’re easy to set up. Other options for OP#4: If you have a spouse, you can contribute in their name as well. If you have qualifying health insurance, you can open a Health Savings Account and it will convert to a traditional IRA when you turn 65. You could also make your contributions Roth if you’re in a relatively low tax bracket. The contribution limit is the same, but you’ll have tax-free dollars in which will be more valuable than taxable dollars.

      It might be worth the time to sit down with a fee-based financial advisor and has out your options.

      1. Barbara in Swampeast*

        Health Savings Accounts (HSA) remain HSA. You can not contribute to an HSA after you turn 65, but you can continue to use it to pay for medical costs without paying taxes on the money.

    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      I’ve worked for small companies most of my career. I suspect the cost of a 401(k) is what drives smaller employers to SIMPLE IRAs instead, and given there isn’t any dedicated HR or payroll personnel, it’s one more thing for someone to administer (albeit payroll/HR outsourcing companies are well versed with it).

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, this was going to be my comment – 401(k)s are expensive and require a lot of maintenance, especially if you go with an unbundled plan (which most small companies do) that will require hiring a third-party administrator and generally requiring trustee involvement for a lot of the plan’s activities. It also entails a much bigger audit and compliance burden than a SIMPLE. I’d prepare yourself to be told no, because opening a 401(k) isn’t a quick and easy decision and may not make sense for a small company, even though it seems like an obvious benefit to the employees.

        1. Elysian*

          Exactly! If they IRA that the OP hasn’t isn’t a SIMPLE for some reason, that would be a much easier ask than a 401(k) and would have the higher contribution limit, so even if that isn’t the current plan, it is worth suggesting.

          1. LBK*

            I’m not even totally clear how an employer would contribute to a non-SIMPLE IRA, unless they’re just doing some kind of manual “off the books” setup where they route money to an account on your behalf but it’s not an official contribution/match.

            1. Elysian*

              Agreed. I am not a tax or benefits professional, but I also can’t think of an on-the-books way for that to happen. That’s why I strongly suspect this is a SIMPLE, which might mean a happy bit of misinformation for the OP since she’ll get to contribute more!

    4. Quinalla*

      Yes, was going to say it is probably a SIMPLE IRA which has much higher contribution limits. If they don’t have a SIMPLE IRA, I’d suggest one as they are much more cost effective for small companies. My small company had one and it was actually kind of nice because I could invest in anything that was offered through ETRADE (where it was set up), so much less restrictive than a 401K.

      And if there is nothing else you can do, you can always do a taxable investment account. Not as good as an IRA, but still a way to save.

  20. Unpopular Opinion Puffin*

    Vegetarians and vegans shouldn’t apply for jobs in the restaurant industry if their dietary restrictions are going to lead to concerns about doing their job.

    A vegetarian who has concerns working in a restaurant where they have to kill and serve lobster but makes no mention of concerns about serving other meat/fish also strikes me as a mental disconnect – by serving meat, whether you butchered it yourself or not, you are equally responsible.

    Deliciously marbled culpability steak, mmmmm.

    1. Myrin*

      The vegetarian thing seems to be a bit of a straw man since – unless OP works in what is, apart from the newly acquired lobsters, a vegetarian restaurant – the problem doesn’t seem to be the handling of animal products but the direct killing of an animal. I’m a meat eater and I wouldn’t be comfortable with that, either, especially if it was suddenly sprung on me like that (which is also why I think the whole framing of the topic as an “ethical issue” isn’t quite correct, or, hm, at least not the angle from which to look at this – a lot of people would have a problem with killing something themselves not because of specific ethics in their thinking but because of the yuck factor).

      1. Rachael*

        I agree with your statement about not wanting to kill anything either. I’m a meat eater, too, and I would quit if I was asked to directly kill anything. Just not something that I would want to do.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Everyone who eats meat but loves their pets has a mental disconnect. And there are plenty of people who eat meat who would blanch at killing a cow or a pig themselves. Regardless, we don’t need to judge the nuances of her beliefs; that’s not what she’s asking for help with.

      1. Bwmn*

        While I completely agree on not judging the OP for the nuances of her beliefs in this situation – I do think it’s worth mentioning that having a read on her manager and industry is important. Because if it’s an industry where there’s a higher likelihood of facing that kind of opinion – that’s helpful information.

        I happen to have some vintage coats that have fur collars. I also work in an industry/organization where it’s on the line of “omg, you’re wearing that here”. So while I’ll wear the coat to work (and then have it discretely hanging away from view” – I’d never wear the coat on a day where I knew we were doing anything that would involve being outside in a group. And in cases where people assume it’s fake, I don’t leap to correct them. I’m comfortable with my position on the issue – but I’m aware that for where I work, it’s an issue that has some stronger feelings.

        Killing or not killing a lobster in a professional kitchen – depending on the nature of that kitchen, being aware of the attitudes that you’re facing is relevant.

      2. HannahS*

        Yeah. It’s not odd for someone to be uncomfortable killing animals. If a meat eater isn’t comfortable working in a slaughterhouse, we don’t generally condemn them for not having integrity. It’s a fact of modern life that butchery is detached from eating.

      3. Trout 'Waver*

        I wouldn’t describe that as a mental disconnect. Some animals are food, some animals are companions.

        1. LBK*

          Not to speak for vegetarians/vegans since I’m not one myself, but that distinction seems pretty arbitrary to me (especially since there’s crossover – plenty of people have pet pigs and there’s places that do eat dogs).

          1. fposte*

            Our cognitive places to land often aren’t bright lines, though, especially when it comes to what’s okay to eat. And lot of slaughter choice is about culture signaling rather than the experience of the animal (what’s interesting about the lobster stuff is that a lot of writing about killing lobster is willing to state upfront that boiling vs. pithing likely doesn’t make much difference to lobster; it’s more about human self-image).

          2. paul*

            And I wouldn’t take that person’s pet pig and make bacon, but that’s more out of respect for that person than the pig.

            I don’t have moral objections to people eating dog either, providing the conditiosn they’re raised in and the method of killing them are humane.

          3. Newby*

            Lots of ethical distinctions seem arbitrary to others who draw the line differently. While I personally would not have a problem with pithing a lobster, I can understand why someone else would. Many ethical issues have a continuum and everyone draws the line at a different place. That does not make their positions invalid or arbitrary, just based on different principles.

        2. Lemon Zinger*

          Agreed. I am perfectly able to love my dog and appreciate him for his role in my life while simultaneously being grateful for the chicken in my fridge.

          1. fposte*

            Though our exemption tends to be species by species–most (though not all) dog lovers find dog meat upsetting, and horse lovers often freak out about horse meat.

            1. YawningDodo*

              Usually, yes. It gets messy when you make exceptions within species, and in some ways I regret having inadvertently done so myself because it can get uncomfortable. In other ways I don’t, because it forces me to make more conscious choices about how I relate to animals as a meat eater. I shy away from buying rabbit fur or meat now that I have pet rabbits, but I also accept that I have family members who keep rabbits for meat, and I still wear the winter hats made of rabbit pelts that I bought years before getting pet rabbits. If my relatives served rabbit to me, I’d probably eat it, same as I eat the beef they raise despite having met their cows, but my own rabbits (and any other rabbits that are kept as pets) are completely and utterly off limits, the same way my dog is.

              I would never, ever judge someone who looked at that entire mess and decided that the only way they could be okay with themselves would be to abstain from meat entirely.

              1. AnonAnalyst*

                I would never, ever judge someone who looked at that entire mess and decided that the only way they could be okay with themselves would be to abstain from meat entirely.

                Yup, same here. I’m not a vegetarian but I am well aware that my feelings about what is “acceptable” food vs. “non-acceptable” food are strongly shaped by culture and my own experiences. I’ve made my peace with the disconnect in my thinking, but that’s mostly out of necessity: I’ve tried going vegetarian several times but it hasn’t been sustainable for me due to other health issues.

              2. fposte*

                Yeah, I don’t sweat the horsemeat myself. But I think it’s really common to draw the lines less granularly–and I’m with you in understanding why some people just opt out of eating any of it.

        3. Jaguar*

          That’s because it’s not a mental disconnect. That line of reasoning leads right up to, “if you’re okay with eating meat, you should be okay with cannibalism.”

          1. LBK*

            If there isn’t a mental disconnect, what concrete differences do you see between the animals we keep as pets and the ones we eat, beyond cultural tradition?

            1. Jaguar*

              Personal preference. I don’t see why there needs to be a “concrete difference” between animals to determine what they will and will not eat. I don’t have a mental disconnect because I won’t eat Hawaiian pizza or wear polo shirts by choice.

              It’s worth noting that there are people who will eat animals they keep as pets (not necessarially the specific individuals that are pets) and there are others they won’t eat that they don’t keep as pets but other people will eat (horses, skunks, snakes, etc.). It’s also worth noting, if you want to go from a natavist perspective (which I don’t personally like), there are apex predators that while they are perfectly capable of eating certain animals nevertheless do not – specifically, they tend not to eat other predator animals, but there are other individual examples as well. It seems foolish to me to accuse a lion of having a mental disconnect for eating a gazelle but not a cheetah.

              1. LBK*

                It’s not just personal preference, though, because there’s an emotional and ethical element. Not liking polo shirts because you think they look bad on you or you find the material uncomfortable doesn’t carry the sort of moral weight we as a society have placed on harming animals that we’ve categorized as pets. Presumably you’d feel a little weird about eating a cat, right? But there’s no special quality about a cat that makes it worse to eat one of those than it is to eat a chicken, aside from the fact that we’ve culturally humanized cats.

                That’s where the mental disconnect is: that we care a lot more about certain animals being harmed while being perfectly fine with others being killed for food, and we’re able to comfortable compartmentalize those two sets of animals even though they’re all just animals and that distinction is completely arbitrary.

                I’m a meat eater and cat owner myself, so I’m not trying to say this from a place of judgment. But it’s disingenuous to say that there’s anything emotionally tying me to my cat as a pet but not to chicken as my dinner is desensitization and being able to just not think about the fact that a chicken is no less of a living creature than my cat is.

                1. Jaguar*

                  I don’t think preference and emotion/ethics are, to any extent, exclusive ideas. Most of your post seems to be predicated on that, so that’s where I am with my argument.

                  As for the sliding scale of animal worthiness, I think it’s pretty obvious that we value some animal lives more than others. Absolutely is one animal “less of a living creature” than another. Again, it’s an extreme example, but I would assume you’re more bothered by the taking of human life than the taking of chicken life. We can keep sliding that down. How do you feel about swatting a mosquito?

            2. Emma*

              Why is cultural tradition not good enough, though? And I say this as someone who doesn’t care one whit that some people eat horses, cats, dogs, or rabbits.

              The thing about food is that it’s often very visceral, where your ideas of what are and are not food are set really young. (That’s not true for every individual, but it is in general.) Why is that not a good enough reason?

        4. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, no. Cats and dogs are food in some parts of Asia. Pigs are reportedly smarter than dogs. It’s a totally arbitrary distinction. They are all worthy of not suffering hideously.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            There is a pretty clear-cut line between animals bred for companionship and animals bred for consumption. Also vegetarians seem to put more value on animals that are more human-like, which to me seems like an arbitrary distinction.

            Also, characterizing the other side as promoting hideous suffering doesn’t really leave any room for discussion or opposing view points, does it? I don’t think anyone wants animals to suffer, regardless if they’re pets or food.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              People who don’t eat meat for ethical reasons don’t agree there’s a clear-cut line. You think that because you’ve been raised to believe that, but it’s not obviously the case to everyone.

              We’re getting way off-topic here but this one really gets under my skin.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                Actually, I believe that because I’ve thought about it a great deal, and obviously come to a different conclusion than you.

                The assumption that meat eaters are unethical and are pro-animal suffering really gets under my skin.

                1. Emma*

                  The assumption that meat eaters are unethical and are pro-animal suffering really gets under my skin.


                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s objectively true that buying meat from factory farms means you are purchasing a product based on pretty horrific animal suffering. I think that’s an ethical issue, but again, agree to disagree.

                3. sstabeler*

                  that’s not the fact you eat meat, though- I am a meat-eater (and incidentally, do draw the line between animals bred for consumption and those bred for companionship- if an animal is a pet, dont’ eat it (except possibly in a “if you won’t eat it, you will starve to death” situation) but -regardless of species- if the animal has been bred for consumption, don’t treat it badly, but I have no moral issues with eating the meat.

                  I guess it’s that provided the animal hasn’t been mistreated, I see it as the moral issue is that killing and eating a pet deprives someone of that pet’s companionship, while meat animals don’t.

                4. Hrovitnir*

                  It’s not necessarily true that because you eat meat or do not think it’s inherently unethical to do so that you eat factory farmed animals.

                  I appreciate the choice to abstain from eating animal products, but I find it frustrating that so often these discussions determinedly mix up the ethics of factory farming with the ethics of eating animals at all. They’re not the same thing.

                5. sstabeler*

                  I live in the UK, but I agree that there is an ethical issue with eating factory-farmed meat. Personally, I avoid it. I just don’t think it inherently unethical to eat an animal, considering that animals eat other animals all the time. As such, the problem with eating a pet is that someone loses a much-loved companion.

                  I do appreciate you consider it inherently unethical to eat meat. However, I do find it offensive that it is believed I condone animal suffering when I go out of my way to avoid factory-farmed food.I would not force a vegetarian to eat meat, and if thye were vegetarian on ethical grounds, I wouldn’t eat meat in front of them, but please don’t lump me in with people who don’t care about animal suffering.

      4. paul*

        Why is it a disconnect to love my dog and eat a cow? Hell, I’ve had a pet rabbit but I’ll also eat rabbit meat (tasty!).

        A personal connection to one type of animal, or one individual of that species, doesn’t preclude not viewing them as equal to human, or viewing them as a food source.

        And the only reason I’d blanch at killing a cow is it makes a mess. Blood *everywhere* when you drain the carcass.

      5. The Strand*

        Several of my pets must eat meat or go blind. They evolved to eat meat; so did we. Humans domesticated some animals to be our food animals, and others to be our companions. Most of us don’t eat elephant, gorilla, giraffe meat anymore than we eat other people. Likewise, I will eat some meat, but not others. I don’t see the mental disconnect.

    3. CeeCee*

      I’m not sure I entirely disagree. I am a meat eater, but if you told me to go out in the field and butcher a cow I don’t think I could do it. Sure, I could work on a farm with the animals, but butchering one myself would go a bit further than I’d like.

      I think the same time applies here. If OP is greeting and seating customers, and occasionally bring food to a table, she would most likely be fine for her job. Sure, she doesn’t eat meat but I’m sure she acknowledges that other people do. Telling her that she’s going to have to kill a lobster might be a bit further than she signed up for though.

      1. Pari*

        There’s a pretty big difference between killing a crustacean which is a relatively clean process compared to an animal that has human looking blood and organs.

        1. CeeCee*

          Absolutely. I, personally, have no problems cooking a live lobster because of that exact reason. But it may not be entirely different for a vegetarian. Lobsters still have eyes. And that alone might be enough for a vegetarian.

      2. Natalie*

        Heck, I would try my hand at slaughtering a cow if there was someone to teach me how to do it correctly, and I would have a problem with the lobster thing. I don’t think it’s okay to boil them alive, simple as that.

        1. nonymous*

          From my reading, the most humane approach is a few minutes in the freezer (numbs the lobster) followed by a knife to the head (quick).

          But for OP2 it might be as simple as asking coworkers if they’re okay with trading tasks before bringing it up to manager. Of course OP2 should volunteer for what coworkers perceive as really icky tasks, but the onus is on her to find a solution that doesn’t create work for manager.

    4. hbc*

      Let me guess, you also make the argument that vegans are hypocrites because of all the bugs that end up crushed by the harvesting machine.

      For some reason, I’m reminded of the interview with the reader who worked as a receptionist/greeter at a legal brothel. You can be okay with specific tasks related to an activity without being willing to personally take on all aspects of that activity.

      1. neverjaunty*


        I don’t see anyone arguing that if you eat hot dogs at the ballgame, you should have zero problem marching into the slaughterhouse and cleaning out fresh intestines for casing your own self.

    5. Cordelia Naismith*

      I think this is a little disingenuous. It might be illogical, but you can’t deny that there is a huge emotional difference between serving cooked meat to somebody else and actually slaughtering a live animal yourself.

    6. Not Karen*

      It sounded to me like the lobster thing was a new task introduced after OP got the job, not on the lists of tasks they knew about originally.

      I’ve had a couple jobs where they didn’t tell me certain things until I showed up for my first day that had I known about sooner, I probably wouldn’t have taken the job. (As it were I managed to get away with not doing these certain things, but I don’t recommend that approach.)

    7. Parenthetically*

      Mmm, no, I don’t think so. I know a great many omnivores who would jib at killing an animal. OP#1 simply has another layer of objection to performing the task. Besides which, people are allowed to have lines they won’t cross.

    8. KellyK*

      “Vegetarians and vegans shouldn’t apply for jobs in the restaurant industry if their dietary restrictions are going to lead to concerns about doing their job.”

      I think this is overly broad. I’ll agree that you shouldn’t accept a job where you’ve got ethical concerns without first finding out that those concerns aren’t likely to be an issue. But you can’t adequately predict every possible concern before it comes up.

      It seems a little ridiculous to tell someone who doesn’t want to kill animals not to apply as waitstaff or a dishwasher in a restaurant that doesn’t even serve lobster, because both the menu and their role might change at some point. We don’t know what the OP’s role is, how long they’ve been there, or whether “kill lobsters” was something they should have reasonably expected to be part of their job when they started. So, we shouldn’t assume that they took the job cluelessly or in bad faith.

      1. Artemesia*

        I suppose there are people who enjoy killing animals but most don’t. Why should the OP get let off the hook so that someone else has to do it. And kudos to the restaurant for killing lobsters before throwing them in the pot.

        1. Emi.*

          Well, the OP objects for ethical reasons, which is different from just not enjoying it or even being really grossed out by it. That’s something an employer should make more of an effort to accommodate.

        2. LawCat*

          If it’s for moral/ethical/what’s right and wrong in the universe kind of reasons then they may be required by law (in the US) to make an effort to accommodate OP.

        3. KellyK*

          Because she has an ethical problem with it, and it bothers her significantly. If they can accommodate that, they should. It may be that they can’t.

          There’s a difference between not actively enjoying an aspect of your job and finding it both morally wrong and viscerally repulsive.

    9. Barney Barnaby*

      “A vegetarian who has concerns working in a restaurant where they have to kill and serve lobster but makes no mention of concerns about serving other meat/fish also strikes me as a mental disconnect – by serving meat, whether you butchered it yourself or not, you are equally responsible.”

      You’re conflating “being able to tolerate, even if one doesn’t like it” with “having no ethical qualms or squeamishness.” I do not enjoy looking at meat, and it bothers me in a way that vegetables don’t, but I can tolerate it. Killing the animal is a different issue that exceeds my tolerance level.

      If someone were okay with a job that required them to travel once per year for a conference, but not one that required 50% travel, much of it international, would you also say that person has a “mental disconnect”?

    10. Anony*

      I completely agree that a vegetarian or a vegan should not seek employment in an establishment that has meat if they are offended or think it is unethical to do certain tasks. Additionally, it’s not like the restaurant is doing anything different from other restaurants that serve seafood.

      I see no problems if the OP mentioned these things when being hired, and the restaurant was will to accept that they would have to make concessions. However, working in a restaurant that does not follow the dietary guidelines of the OP means there is a chance of tasks being assigned that are non animal friendly. This actually applies to all jobs. We had a lawsuit years back about a JW refusing to put out Christmas stuff when they were specifically hired to help with in the Christmas season.

      I also understand that everyone has things they cannot do and this is fine. Just state that you are not comfortable doing the job, see if there are work around, even suggest some. But ultimately be prepared to find a different job if things do not work out.

  21. A. Nonymous*

    LW #4 – Have you considered just going to another company to do your retirement funding? It’s definitely easier to have it thru your work, but if you can afford it, a professional setting up and diversifying for you can make a big difference. I know it did for me, it’s also a huge weight off my shoulders because they take care of a lot of little details that I’d rather not muck with.

    That being said, I wouldn’t call anyone “smart” for being able to save money right after college. That’s a huge boost and you were lucky to be able to. Not that you’re a bad person or anything like that, but there are a great many people who don’t have the money to spare for stuff like that and it doesn’t make them “dumb”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m sure all she meant there was that she was smart to do it compared to people who are able to afford to and yet don’t, which is true. I don’t want to nitpick her wording on that.

      1. A. Nonymous*

        Noted, I’m a bit cagey about that due to some work I do to help people get out of really nasty situations financially. I apologize.

        1. Ellsbells*

          I thought the same thing and wondered if I was being too sensitive. Not all of us can afford to start putting money into an IRA right after college even if we’d like to, and it doesn’t mean we’re not smart. But yes, it’s best to assume that she was comparing herself to others in her financial position.

          1. nonymous*

            And not everyone has the financial education to take advantage of this opportunity even when it’s available. I’ve done some volunteer work recently where it really hit home that while our clients were making poor decisions from the economic perspective of a middle-class person, they were also demonstrating amazing juggling skills (that I would be a complete failure at) when it came to patching together support from multiple sources.

      2. Shazbot*

        Well I’m happy to nitpick the wording, because along with “nobody else knows what a 401K is” sounds a whole lot like a case of I-Think-I’m-The-Smartest-Person-In-The-Room, and first of all that isn’t likely to be true, and second of all no one likes that person.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          If you’ve never had a 401(k), how would you know what one is? They’re cryptic if you’re unfamiliar with them, and there’s a large portion of the financial services industry that makes money off them being tough to understand. I work at a company that offers a somewhat generous 401(k) and even here most people don’t understand it.

          Also, being smart for saving right out of college doesn’t logically imply that you’re not smart for not saving right out of college. I think we’d call anyone who lived on a budget and spent less than they earned smart, regardless if that money went to savings, reducing debt, charity, or supporting loved ones.

          1. Kate*

            +1 – Yup, this is exactly how I feel. Investing in your future can be terribly confusing. My first job out of college was grad school where they certainly didn’t offer a retirement plan, and it never occurred to me to try and set one up on my own with what little money I was making. Even now that I have a 401K, I feel like I’m not doing what I should be to maximize my benefits (seriously, this is the stuff they need to teach in high school), so I, for one, would be grateful (and not at all insulted) if one of my coworkers spoke to management about trying to improve our retirement benefits.

          2. Emi.*

            I don’t understand what a 401(k) is, beyond “You can save for retirement and I think there are tax benefits.”

            1. Elysian*

              From the user perspective that’s pretty much the sum of it (plus sometimes employer matching contributions), but the tax benefits are a pretty big deal. And unlike some other tax-benefited retirement vehicles (ROTH IRAs) there isn’t an income limitation, so everyone can take advantage of a 401(k).

              But, the tax benefits are a really big deal. You get to make the contribution pre-tax, it lowers your taxable income, and you don’t have to worry every year about paying capital gains/claiming investment losses/taxation of investment dividends. Those things can get really complicated, so the tax benefits are a pretty huge draw for 401(k)s.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                It’s even more complicated than that. Some 401(k)s allow Roth contributions, and you can backdoor Roth an IRA contribution even if you’re above the income limit. It gets complicated fast. I recommend going to a fee based (charges by the hour, versus charges commission) financial planer to get advice if you’re confused. I would also recommend “The Four Pillars of Investing” for anyone getting started with investing.

            2. fposte*

              In addition to what Elysian says about the considerable tax benefits: it’s common (though not invariable) to get an employer match, where they put money into your retirement account if you do. And sometimes a big retirement plan can get you lower costs than you’d get privately (though that is, to be honest, not all that common, because there’s a lot of money to be made off of employees).

        2. LBK*

          I spent 3 years working in a department whose sole purpose was assisting people with 401(k) withdrawals. I have a lot of firsthand knowledge about just how uneducated the average person is about 401(k)s, and I really doubt the OP is underestimating her coworkers’ comprehension. A disturbingly high portion of people who actually have 401(k)s know absolutely nothing about them aside from it being some kind of special account that their employer might put money into for them. For instance, I’d give a very conservative estimate that 50% of the people who called in were surprised to hear that there were tax implications to cashing out a 401(k) under retirement age (and a lot of them didn’t care and just want to get their money and run – complete disregard for the purpose of the account).

          This could be even more true depending on the age range and tenure of the people the OP works with, since the ubiquity of 401(k)s is relatively recent as they’ve come to replace pensions. If the OP works with a lot of people who’ve only worked at that company for decades, they could easily have never really encountered a situation where they’d need to know what a 401(k) was.

        3. OP #4*

          You sure do gather a lot about a person from a few words posted online!

          Firstly, I’ve had this conversation with ALL of my coworkers, and each of them have stated they do not understand what a 401K is. That’s not a reflection on their intelligence. That’s simply what they’ve told me. I don’t claim to be the smartest person in the room, especially since I learned from other posters that the contribution amount is different for this SIMPLE IRA.

          Secondly, as Alison stated, I was saying that I was smart to save for retirement compared to people who are able to afford it and don’t save for retirement. Isn’t that true? Any other time I’ve posted online about saving for retirement, I get slammed for not saving enough. So yeah, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I bust my butt, budget like it’s my job and work very hard to save for retirement. I’m not sorry if that offends you.

  22. Workfromhome*

    #2 I think you better find another job.
    Even if you take the advice and are excused from putting the lobster in the pot you really need to consider if this solves the issue?

    Do your vegetarian beliefs prevent you from actually putting the lobster in the pot yours of but allow you to stand next to the person who is putting the lobster in the pot? So they allow you to move the tank of live lobst rs to a position where someone can put them in the pot?

    If the restaurant kills any type of animal or if it uses meat from animals that have been killed elsewhere it’s a very small degree of separation from you actually dropping the lobster into the pot and you standing by and watching someone else do it.

    If it’s that important you would be better off at a vegetarian restaurant.

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      It’s a very small degree of separation between actually killing an animal and… not killing an animal?

      I’m gonna have to disagree with you completely right there.

      1. Workfromhome*

        So you believe there is a big difference between being the one with the knife in your hand and standing next to the guy with the knife in his hand while standing passively by and watching him do it? The question is is the OP opposed to killing lobsters or are they ok with killing lobsters as long as someone else has their hand on the knife. BTW I have never seen lobsters killed before cooking them. We lived near the docks when I was young and my parents still to this day get live lobster and plunk them Intro a pot of boiling salt water. I’d never seen it done any other way. Weird.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          …Yes? I’m not sure why this is even an argument. There is a big difference between performing an action with your own hands and being there while someone else is doing it.

          We don’t need to suss out exactly what the OP is opposed to and demand that they come to a logically sound set of rules for what they believe in. Vegetarianism is not a strict set of beliefs- it’s very personal. There are people who don’t feel comfortable touching meat or having it in their house. There are people who will pick pepperoni off of pizza before eating it. There are people who eat fish, but not meat. It is not the OP’s responsibility to defend their beliefs to us or their manager, and it’s not anyone’s place to criticize their beliefs.

          This boils down to a really simple question: the OP is not comfortable performing part of their job. They want to come to an arrangement with their boss about not having to do this specific task. It’s like making cold sales calls or debt collection or plunging the toilet or something like that: some people are comfortable doing it and some aren’t, and it comes down to whether the business can allow the employee to not perform that task.

          1. Parenthetically*

            “We don’t need to suss out exactly what the OP is opposed to and demand that they come to a logically sound set of rules for what they believe in.”

            Yes thank you!!

          2. OhNo*

            “There is a big difference between performing an action with your own hands and being there while someone else is doing it.”

            Bingo. By Workfromhome’s logic, the only way to be a truly ethical vegetarian would be… to never let anyone else ever kill an animal ever, I guess? Because even if it was happening halfway across the country, I think that would still qualify as “standing passively by” while someone kills an animal.

            People’s ethical beliefs don’t have to 100% perfectly consistent and judgement-proof to be valid. People are allowed to put boundaries on their ethical concerns that allow them to get through the day. We may not agree with where they put those boundaries, but we don’t always have to.

            1. Emi.*

              Moreover, someone can have an ethical obligation not do something without having an ethical obligation to intervene if someone else is doing it. To take a silly example, I believe that it’s wrong to call people rude names, but I don’t go around correcting everyone who does that in Youtube comments.

        2. KellyK*

          Whether Emilia Bedelia or I think there’s a big difference or not isn’t the point. The letter writer considers it significant. Everybody who’s opposed to something that’s widely acceptable (in this case, killing animals for food) gets to make their own decisions about their boundaries. If we continue your argument, the vegetarian also shouldn’t work at that restaurant as a waiter if they’re not in the kitchen at all, because they’ll still have to carry the cooked lobster out to people. For that matter, they shouldn’t even work there busing tables, because the money people spend on meat is going into their paycheck. The fact that someone draws a line in a different place than you would doesn’t make them a hypocrite.

          1. paul*

            Yes, she can set her own boundaries, but in this case she’s asking a place of employment to have a work around for those boundaries.

            To me it isn’t much different than a checkout clerk at a grocery store that doesn’t want to ring up booze or condoms for moral reasons. It’s part of the job.

            1. KellyK*

              If it had been part of the job when she was hired, and she’d had a problem with it, but had not said anything and had taken the job anyway, I’d agree with you. But what’s wrong with asking an employer *if* they can accommodate a moral objection that hasn’t previously been an issue? They might not be able to, and she might have to choose between killing lobsters and finding another job. But that’s for her and the employer to figure out, not for us to just assume is the case.

              “Other duties as assigned” is a giant gray area, and anyone can accept a job in good faith and late be asked to do things they aren’t comfortable with.

            2. Elsajeni*

              Plenty of checkout clerks can’t ring up booze, though — usually because they’re too young to do so legally, but I’m sure there are cases of cashiers who have moral objections or who feel that a religious stricture against drinking also prohibits them from selling alcohol — and we generally, as a society, have agreed that that’s fine as long as they can direct you to a different register or call someone else over to finish the sale. I don’t think the employer is obligated to accommodate the OP’s objection, but if they can, I think it would be the right thing to do, and I see no reason at all that she shouldn’t at least ask.

    2. fposte*

      I think that’s a logical fallacy, though; perfect and complete consistency isn’t required for an ethical system to be valid. The other element is that the OP is talking not just about ethics but repulsion, so proximity will make a difference.

      (I also think we may be talking knife death rather than boiling, which is considered more humane but is a pretty aggressive intervention.)

    3. Jayn*

      From the way the letter is written it sounds like this restaurant kills the lobster just before cooking (which is apparently something some people do), which would make it more hands on. Even if you don’t have philosophical issues with it that can be squicky for some people. I would probably be a bit blindsided if that was asked of me because it’s not a practice I’m familiar with and wouldn’t be expecting anyone to have that duty.

      1. fposte*

        I just watched a Saveur video on how to do this and squirmed more than I would at chicken slaughter–there’s something about the knife to the head combined with the insectlike appearance of the lobster that’s just got a high cringe factor for me.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yep–that’s why if you are allergic to shellfish you should think twice about trying anything made with cricket (you can buy brownies made with cricket flour btw). There’s a decent chance you’ll react to the cricket if you react to the lobster.

    4. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      I’m a hunter who loves deer, and I still do not like killing lobsters.

      For me, the issue is the way in which it is killed. With a clean shot, my deer does not suffer. If it’s not clean, I do everything in my power to end it quickly and painlessly for the deer.

      With Lobsters in the US, they are put alive into a pot with a minuscule amount of water and steamed alive. You have to hold the lid down against an animal fighting to get out of the hot water as it steams alive. It’s pretty damn horrific actually.

      When I cook my own lobster, I first add a generous amount of baking soda to their water. This drives out the O2, and the lobster passes out and dies while asleep. It’s actually how the NSF recommends killing fish for experiments as the most humane way to handle them. I personally do not taste a difference.

      1. Episkey*

        Alton Brown did a show on this once, I seem to remember he said the most humane way to kill them is to put them in the freezer for a bit (because it slows down their system) and then take a knife and split their head. Eeek. My mom is Italian so it’s a big tradition for us to have lobster on Christmas Eve but we all decided a few years ago that we wouldn’t do it anymore…I’m actually a pescatarian (I mainly stay vegetarian but will eat some seafood occasionally) — my parents are not but even my mom couldn’t take killing them anymore.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I have butchered a deer by myself (on the kitchen table–it was already quartered), but I draw the line at killing them. Obviously if it were the zombie apocalypse (or the non-zombie apocalypse even), I could do it if I had to. But I just don’t want to.

        I didn’t know that about the baking soda. I think I’d rather it passed out than to have to shove a knife in it or shoot it.

      3. Mephyle*

        I remember reading many years ago (in Reader’s Digest, perhaps) about the best alternative being to drown them in a bucket of white wine. The person said it was the best because they die happy and their meat is relaxed. I’m not sure whether it was a joke or not.

      4. The Strand*

        I have never been able to eat a full lobster; it grosses me out, but strangely, I am relieved to hear that people can kill them more humanely.

  23. Amber Rose*

    LW #3: Maybe sell it to your boss as a client convenience thing? For people who access their email on their phones, loading a picture in every email from you will use up data and probably slow everything down. You don’t want to annoy customers.

  24. WellRed*

    LW #4 I know this wasn’t what your question was, but, “paychecks get forgotten and our health insurance seems fishy”???
    That is, in my book, a BAD sign of how the company is run.

    1. paul*

      That is a “run, don’t walk” situation. Either very sketchy or very incompetent or both. There’s literally not a good option.

  25. Coffee*

    3. My company is doing this too, and I’m also against it. They are adding employee pictures to our Outlook profiles. Does anyone know if this would also increase the file size of emails, or would that argument only apply to pictures added to email signatures? I’m also worried about biases, but I’m afraid that concern won’t be taken very seriously.

    1. Judy*

      I think that is different. Those photos are “directory” photos on the outlook server. Only the people on the same server see them, and get pulled from the server when the email/calendar event is viewed. That’s also why you can see the directory information (job title, phone#, etc) when you hover over their photos in the lower panel.

      I’m pretty sure this is how it works, a co-worker changed his profile photo (was a photo of him in a tux, now him with his baby) and all of the old emails have the new photo.

      1. fposte*

        I think we’ve had people write in before who didn’t realize the Outlook server was only local, though; OP, is there any chance that this is what’s happening in your company?

    2. CAA*

      Outlook directory photos are not part of the email signature, so they do not affect the size of your emails and they are not visible to anyone who is outside your organization. Also, they do not appear in non-Outlook email, such as the native mail apps on iOS or Android devices.

      It may be hard to make a case that this type of photo leads to bias, since it is only visible to your coworkers who are already interacting with you via email.

      1. Coffee*

        I’m not sure what they’re doing then. My company specifically said this was for external recipients to be able to see. Is there any way they can do this with the Outlook profile?

        1. Audiophile*

          CAA is correct, it wouldn’t be visible outside of Outlook or the messenger program. I worked for a large company that stored employee photos in the Outlook directory, but I know if I sent an email to own personal email, or someone else at the company sent an email to my personal email that photo wasn’t visible.

  26. Allison*

    #2 I feel you, I’m not a vegetarian and I think lobster is delicious, but I don’t wanna be the one killing it, it’s just unpleasant! Just like I’d rather not kill my own cows, chickens, fish, or shrimp. I think others are right that you may have to find another job that wouldn’t have you doing this, because if you don’t do it during your shift, someone else has to, and that can complicate scheduling matters. Always worth talking to your boss, but be prepared to find a new job. Chances are, you’ll be fine at any restaurant that doesn’t serve lobster.

    #3 I feel you as well, I’m terribly unphotogenic, especially when it’s just some marketing lady snapping a cell phone pic of my face. Not to mention, I’d worry that my e-mails would be more likely to trigger a spam filter if they had a picture in them.

  27. Judy*

    I (and I’d assume some others) did push back on a company’s 401k once. When I joined one F50 company, their 401k was through a very high cost provider. I signed up, but I also sent a note to the person at the company who managed the 401ks. Within a year of my hire, they had switched to a low cost provider. I’m sure my note wasn’t the thing that started it, but I hope it did add to the pressure.

  28. Merida May*

    A question for # 2 – how did this come up? Are you brand new and they’re working on figuring out where you fit? Is this a new menu item or a special that’s just around for the season? Did someone leave and now you’re filling in for them? I’m just trying to figure out how much of a hardship this would cause if you brought this up to your boss, and what restructuring your job to not include this task might look like. This is something you’d want to think about before you broach this. In my experiences with kitchens there’s a pretty rigid assignment of job duties, and it’s frequently based on seniority. If you’re new, you’re probably doing the stuff that the more experienced cooks don’t care to do, so re-assigning the task might inadvertently give you a lot of grief depending on the person who is taking it over. With the wrong mix of personalities your work shifts could very well be miserable – know your kitchen. You absolutely have the right to object to doing something you have a moral opposition to, but the onus might ultimately be on you to find another job where this is a non-issue.

  29. AndersonDarling*

    #1 When I was reading the letter, I didn’t think there was anything unusual about asking to see the offer. My thinking is that the company wants to give you the best offer, and they want to know what the other company is offering so they can top it. I guess it sounds a bit sleazy to see the offer, but there are candidates that lie about having other offers to try to get more $$ or to speed up the process.

    1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      Uhhhhh. If you don’t trust your candidate is being truthful about compensation offers then don’t hire them. The answer isn’t to ignore conventional boundaries and try to gain confidential information about competitors benefits packages and offers.

      If you think everyone you hire is “lying” trying to “pull a fast one on you” or is just a greedy $$ grubber … then you should not be hiring folks until you can de-personalize the hiring process and work through your trust issues.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I can understand that point of view, but I’d also be cautious. I remember reading AAM letters where candidates have asked about faking another offer.
        I wouldn’t be offended if I was asked to disclose the offer letter. I would think of it as part of the negotiation process. If I received two offers at the same time, and my first choice offered considerably less than my second choice, I’d tell my first choice about the second offer. If they asked to see proof of the offer, I wouldn’t think twice about sending it. But I have a position where salary is all over the place and there are many places that have no idea what to offer.

        1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

          And AAM clearly stated not to lie and be an untrustworthy individual. Finding out someone lied in their offer stage is a fireable offense, years down the line, just like padding a resume.

          I think a key piece being ignored here is, it’s not your offer letter to share. Companies compete with benefits and part of that is keeping the offer secrete. Knowing that this is apparently common enough in some areas that you don’t see a problem giving competitor A the details of company B’s benefits and compensation package I can see why I am starting to run into more and more companies refusing to offer written job offers and/or refusing to send written benefits packages.

          Ultimately, it’s bad for the employee if employers can’t “trust” to give a benefits package to someone for fear of them turning around and giving it to a competitor.

        2. neverjaunty*

          You probably should think twice about sending it. A company that provides you with an offer letter is not expecting you to rush out and hand it to the competition.

        3. Fact & Fiction*

          I mean, it’s ridiculously easy to fake an offer letter showing whatever amount someone wants. This really offers zero protection if someone thinks a candidate might be lying.

        4. Sas*

          “I remember reading AAM letters where candidates have asked about faking another offer.” And what this company is doing by demanding to view a private letter furthers this situation. They are hopefully hiring a person not a robot, learn to treat that person well. Manipulation (demands on wage ranges included) (borderline abusive techniques) is NOT RIGHT.
          “If they asked to see proof of the offer, I wouldn’t think twice about sending it.” If you did, you were had. Move along.

          “The answer isn’t to ignore conventional boundaries and try to gain confidential information about competitors benefits packages and offers.” Right. Seems like BIGCompany could hire someone to do the job well. S py ring out.

        5. AnonAnalyst*

          I also have a position where salary varies widely, but most companies are aware of this and have determined the market value of the duties they are actually hiring for. I’ve had companies ask what they would need to offer to make their job more attractive to me, or ask how the offer compared to others I’ve considered. But none have ever asked me to produce an offer letter.

          Ultimately, it is up to the company to determine how much they are willing to pay and whether they are ready to move ahead with presenting an offer to a given candidate or not. You go in expecting that the candidate is being honest, but frankly, it shouldn’t change your offer or timing much because you should already have a range in mind of what you’re willing to pay. If you don’t know what the position is worth, that’s on you. If you have a lot of great candidates turning down offers, it’s a sign that you need to revisit the compensation for that position to ensure it’s in line with the market.

          I would give some serious side eye to any company that demanded I send them my offer letter for another position. First, that’s just a bad way to start a business relationship with someone you are trying to establish a longer term partnership with. You’re basically telling them that you don’t believe what they’ve told you. Second, that offer is most likely marked (or at least assumed to be) confidential from the company that gave it and for the review of the candidate only. Even if the candidate were willing to send it on, if the company that provided it found out it would likely damage their relationship with the candidate. Asking the candidate to send it over to “prove it” is just so out of line with business norms that it would be a serious red flag about how that company operates.

  30. mskyle*

    OP#4 – I responded to someone else’s comment below but I just wanted to reiterate – I strongly suspect that you have access to a SIMPLE IRA, which has a separate contribution limit from a Traditional or Roth IRA, though not as much as a 401k (it does have some other nice benefits, like much simpler rollovers). Since your company is kind of lax and vague about payroll/HR stuff you probably weren’t correctly informed about how this works.

    I recommend just asking someone at your company who seems to have their act together how the company IRA plan works. Like, “Hey, do you know how the company IRA works if I already contributed to my Roth/Traditional IRA this year?” If it really does work the way you think (i.e. you are limited to $5500 that you were already contributing anyway), see what you can do about getting the ball rolling on setting up a 401k or SIMPLE IRA (SIMPLEs are popular with small/new businesses because the overall administrative costs are generally lower). Fidelity has a good low-cost SIMPLE IRA plan.

  31. Pari*

    I’m curious why did you mention religious accommodations for the lobster question? The op didn’t mention religion at all. It almost sounds as though you’re insinuating the op should claim it’s a religious belief.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Because some people’s vegetarianism is part of their religious beliefs, and other people have religious beliefs about shellfish, and if it was one of those things, OP would have those grounds to object. OP didn’t say one way or the other, so it’s reasonable to mention the possibility in case it is.

      1. Pari*

        Possible but I would think the op would have mentioned that as most people know there are laws about religious accommodation

        1. Kelly L.*

          I wouldn’t count on every layperson knowing the law about everything, having read this blog for 5 years or so :D

          1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

            Totally agree!

            I did not realize that disability was a protected class and the nuanced ways in which it could and could not be enforced until I started reading this blog!

          2. fposte*

            And if Alison *didn’t* mention it, then there would be a flood of comments pointing out that there could be a religious element and an accommodation might be legally required. Damned if you do…

          3. LawCat*

            Agree! Someone may have what is legally a “religious belief” as well and not know it because they don’t self identify as religious (they may couch it in terms of ethical/moral beliefs.)

    2. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      If you go back even to yesterday’s post you can see several examples of Alison doing exactly what she did in the shellfish post. She commonly clarifies the ways in which employers can and can not enforce rules.

      OP: I am being told I can’t carpool… is that legal?

      Alison: Yes. Unless you are being told you can not car pool because of your sex, religion, race, age, or disability.

      It doesn’t mean that Alison is suggesting that the OP cry “racism” but it’s useful for OPs to understand avenues available to them that employers must comply with if it is relevant to them.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yes, this, and also, Alison tries to make these answers useful to more than just the letter-writer. I think most of us have had the experience of reading an answer here and being able to also apply it to our lives. In this case she is making sure that her answer won’t be mis-applied by someone who feels they have to compromise their religion or quit – *in their case* they would not apply this answer because the involvement of religion changes the answer.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Or, just explaining what the restrictions are in case someone w/ some other “can they make me do this against what I believe” question comes along.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I was laying out her options, and said the exception to the ones I listed would be if she had a religious objection. That’s making the answer complete, not “insinuating she has a religious belief.” (But who cares if it were insinuating that? It seems like an odd thing to take issue with. Plenty of vegetarians do indeed have religious reasons for their vegetarianism — it’s really common.)

  32. PeachTea*

    #2, while my restaurant does not cook lobster, I don’t exactly see how there’s a way around this if you work in the kitchen. Even if there’s more than one person in the kitchen, everyone usually has their own job. There’s someone on Line, someone on Grill, someone on Prep, someone on Fryer, someone on Salad, etc… If those employees have to be pulled off their station every single time a customer orders a lobster, their section will fall behind, ticket times will increase, customers get angry, etc… It is not as easy as simply switching sections in the moment (especially if you’re not trained for the other section). If the fryer switches you then gets burned or even ‘clawed’ by the lobster and he was never trained for that position in the first place, that’s a workers comp nightmare. If upon switching, you get splashed by hot oil from the fryer, again, workers comp nightmare. There really and truly is more to think about in a kitchen than just who puts the lobster in the pot (and are you comfortable finishing the dish once the lobster is dead anyways).

    I would suggest asking to train for a different section of the kitchen. Otherwise, I really don’t see how you can refuse. If that is your section, cooking lobster is 100% a job requirement.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Exactly. And even then, she is limiting herself. If she’s “now” being asked to do it, it’s because she’s being given more responsibility instead of being stuck on the bottom. Even if they accommodate her, she is making sure she never gets off the bottom.

      She will just be happier working someplace that doesn’t serve lobster or anything else that is killed on site. It doesn’t mean she or the restaurant are right or wrong- it’s just not a good fit.

      1. Myrin*

        You’ve said this above as well and I’m not really following why you assume the OP is “at the bottom” to begin with and why, if that were true, the task of killing lobsters alone would move her up significantly. She could also “get off the bottom” in some other way doing something else that gives her more responsibility that isn’t killing a lobster. But again, I don’t see anything to suggest that the OP might not as well be a seasoned and experienced professional.

  33. TootsNYC*

    #3, the photos in the emails.

    JennaB said this: “Also from an IT standpoint that’s a lot of extra bandwidth.”

    That’s what I’d wonder.

    if the purpose it so people can identify you when they need to walk over and speak, then having your picture on a phone directory on the intranet would be enough,no?

  34. Pari*

    Have you seen a business benefit to having your picture out there even though there is technically no need for it? And have you encountered any stalkers that make you wish you would have never put it out there?

    1. an anon*

      I think it’s different for a freelancer/business owner/consultant, who is selling herself and her own expertise, to have her photo out there vs. an employee of a company that is selling the company’s own product/services.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t know if I see benefit to it or not. But the answer to your second question is yes.

      I’d also appreciate it if you’d tone the aggressiveness you’ve had in the comments today down a bit. Thanks.

  35. Former Retail Manager*

    OP #4….While you can raise the issue, as Alison mentioned, I don’t believe it will be well received. You knew there wasn’t a 401k when you took the position with this company. It also sounds like the company compensated for the lack of a 401k and great health insurance by offering you a substantially higher salary than you were making at your previous employer, assuming you weren’t grossly underpaid at your previous employer. If that is the case, then I would argue that you are getting a fair deal.

    Because it is a small business, the high costs of offering 401k’s is likely too much for this employer to bear, hence the current IRA offering, which is sounds like is a SIMPLE IRA. I work with small businesses every day and in my 6 years of doing so, I have only seen 1 small business that offered a 401k. They’re simply too costly to administer. And virtually all of these small businesses pay their employees above market rate for their positions to compensate for the lack of typical corporate benefits such as 401k’s, access to FSA’s, and better quality health insurance. This is the trade off that you often make when working for a small business. As other commenters mentioned, I’d definitely request information from your employer to confirm the type of IRA the company has and the contribution limits and look into a Roth and non-IRA investments.

  36. Swistle*

    For #2, about wanting to refuse a portion of a job for ethical reasons, I’ve found it especially helpful to volunteer to do something that no one else wants to do. It seems to effectively remove the element of “Maybe this employee is just making an excuse to get out of an icky task” while simultaneously making it easier to find another employee to swap tasks.

  37. Matt Warden*

    Re: #4

    You doubled your salary, and you’re complaining that your employer isn’t also paying the administration fees of a 401k? Are you unable to dedicate a savings or brokerage account to retirement savings over and above your IRA contribution limits? If you’re afraid you’ll raid the account, buy CDs.

  38. Moonsaults*

    I have one vendor that has pictures in their email signatures and I hate it. Whereas I do like having a face to someone I’m working with, I don’t like it being in the form of some head shot >_< It makes it seem even more ridiculous if they're using it in a business that's largely internal.

  39. Jules*

    #1 A long time ago, when I was working with an interesting boss. He calls this maneuver, getting market intel. Less experienced employees would actually show them to us.

    #3 My spouse had to do the picture in email signature. This is a guy who hates looking in the mirror. He just shrugs it off as part of the job and moved on. Outside of that, he actually likes where he works. It’s worth noting that he works in a tech company as the support person. So I don’t know if this is a customer support/marketing norm but some companies actually do it.

  40. AW*

    On a side note, a coworker has also mentioned that this could make it easier for customers to find our details on social media

    If they’re thinking of reverse image search, then they don’t need to be concerned. That really only works for finding where else the same image is used online. I just tried it and “visually similar images” didn’t turn up other photos of me or even photos of people who looked like me. Just other head shots.

    I think Alison’s point of being able to confirm they found the right John Smith is legit but being able to find someone with *just* the photo won’t work unless that person decides to use the photo the company took of them on their social media accounts.

  41. cobweb collector*

    LW #2

    I wouldn’t say “because I’m a vegetarian” there. That makes it sound like being a vegetarian is the root cause of not wanting to kill animals when actually it sounds like it’s the other way around. Instead I’d say “I don’t want to kill another living being. In fact, I don’t even eat meat! Is there any way we can get X to do that?”

  42. OP #1*

    I followed Alison’s advice and wrote back to Company B. Granted it’s only been a few days, but there’s only been radio silence. It’s a shame because before this situation arose, I was really interested in Company B. I suspect they aren’t interested in me any longer or they’re dragging this out until after the Thanksgiving holiday to buy more time. Blergh.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      That’s unfortunate. But at least you’re learning something about them before you accepted an offer and started working there?

    2. Chriama*

      I feel like if company A is a decent offer and you risk losing it if you don’t act soon, I would get back to B with a deadline. Something like, “I was wondering what your timeline is. I need to get back to [Company A] by [date], but you guys are really my first choice. If you’re not able to speed up your process I completely understand, but I will be accepting this other offer if so.” I don’t know if that’s too passive-aggressive or something. I just want a way to say “hey, you’re not the only company on my radar and radio silence is as detrimental to you as it is frustrating to me”. But maybe at this point you should just cut your losses. These guys are being weird. If it’s HR being weird maybe you can reach out directly to the hiring manager, but otherwise just leave.

  43. Nanani*

    Re: Photos

    In addition to personally being uncomfortable with it, point out that this is NOT normal, that a lot of email clients crop out the signature anyway (especially in replies), that it could make your messages go directly to trash/spam, and that it could make your message unopenable for people on limited internet access, like roaming with spotty wifi.

  44. Chris D*

    #2: I would phrase your objection in a way that doesn’t rule out religious grounds, so you can keep that door open if your boss doesn’t seem reasonable and you want to pursue it.

    1. cobweb collector*

      You can’t make up a religion on the spot – that’s not how it works and vegetarianism is not a religion. Unless OP is a practicing Hindu, that’s just not going to work.

  45. paul*

    I’m lucky when it comes to photos; I have terminal RBF, and some minor facial scarring that photographs highlight (I tend to scar with thin, shiny lines that glare if there’s flash photography involved). I’ve found out after the fact that my image has been cropped out or obscured in most group photos our agency uses. And I am *so* glad! I’ll never understand why some companies want to do that.

  46. A.C. Stefano*

    #5, I had an underperforming coworker who tried this. She was already on a performance plan, and tried to set her last day as December 26th (we got Christmas and day after off that particular year). So she would have gotten 2.5 days paid as part of her notice, and she was very upset (as in, walked out the day after she found out) because our company cut it short to the Tuesday before Christmas. And she could not figure out why no one was sympathetic, because she was under-performing so much.

    So, honestly, I’d really expect them to cut your notice short if you try to set it around a holiday. I can’t think of why a company would pay you for a holiday when you’re not planning on coming back, you know?

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