wearing a fake wedding ring to a job interview, coworker bosses me around, and more

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

1. Should I wear a fake wedding ring to a job interview?

My boyfriend is moving for an incredible job opportunity, and I plan to join him within the next year. It’s too far a distance to keep my current job, and I would only move once hired elsewhere. Boyfriend and I do not want to get engaged until we’ve had a chance to live together, but as a young professional woman, I fear the image I’d project to future employers wouldn’t be received well. Let’s be honest…“moving for my boyfriend” just doesn’t sound very good. In addition, I’ve been at my current job for less than a year, so I’m afraid I’ll seem flighty to potential interviewers. Boyfriend and I are deeply in love, and there’s no way I’d even consider this move unless I was certain of that.

My question is this – my plan is to refer to him as my “partner” in interviews, in order to convey the seriousness of this decision. I am considering wearing a fake ring in interviews to really drive that point home, without having to actually talk about it. I wouldn’t keep wearing it once hired, but since it would (hopefully) be inappropriate to ask me about my marital status, I feel like it’s not the most terrible thing to do. Is this idea crazy?

Yes. It’s totally fine to refer to him as your partner; that’s what he is. But deliberately wearing a ring to mislead people is … well, it’s a little weird and it’s also unnecessary. Loads of people move with their partners these days; it doesn’t sound flighty (although I agree with you that “moving with my partner” sounds better than “moving with my boyfriend”).

Most interviewers will neither notice the ring nor care about it. But if anyone does notice it, they’re likely to assume you’re married, which is then going to be odd when you start working there and have normal small talk, in which it will likely come out that you’re not married. I suppose they might assume it must have been a non-wedding ring, but at that point, why even get into this convoluted thing?

It’s fine to move with a partner. Don’t over-think it.

2. My coworker bosses me around and mothers me

So I started a new job about three months ago, and it has been the worst three months of my job life. My coworker, “Betty,” and I both work the same exact job, but Betty says that she has been a teapot admin 10+ years. I am in my late 20’s and she is in her late 30’s. I am certified for my job so I know what I am doing. Since the day I have been working here, she has been told she is not my boss, but she continuously bosses me around. One time, she went on vacation for a week and then came back and searched through everything that I had processed and picked out every little mistake that I made. She even wrote a book. She went and bought a journal and started writing down every little mistake (my boss and I already resolved everything) but she wanted to be the one to tell me. I had told her I already talked to our boss about it, but she said she just wants to be helpful. It is just very condescending because the little mistakes I make are often repeated by her. One day, I forgot to lock a cabinet and she scolded me for it, but the very next week she forgot to lock the cabinet.

She also tries to be a mother figure when I am uncomfortable with it. One time, our department went on a lunch and I ate some corn. She told me to show her my teeth to make sure that I had nothing in them. I am self-conscious about my teeth and I told her that I already checked and was good to go, but she kept insisting in front of 15+ people. There are more examples but it would be too long. What do I do? I’ve tried to stand my ground but it just doesn’t seem to work.

The next time she acts like it’s her job to spot and correct your mistakes, say this: “I’m confused. My understanding is that we’re peers. Why are you checking over my work?” Depending on her response, be prepared to follow up with, “Unless Manager has asked you to monitor my work, I’d like you to stop doing that.” If she tells you that she’s just trying to be helpful, say, “It’s actually not helpful. I work directly with Manager to get feedback, and you’re often repeating things I’ve already discussed with her, or even correcting things that I’ve seen you later do yourself. Since we’re peers, I’d prefer that we relate to each as peers. Can you do that going forward?”

From there, make ample use of phrases like “I have this covered on my own” and “I don’t need help with this and prefer to handle it on my own.”

And with the mothering stuff — short-circuit in the minute it happens. If she does something again like trying to check your teeth (!), say this: “What?! No, that’s really weird. We’re both adults.” And if she continues pressing you: “That’s a really weird thing to say to a colleague. I’m going to pretend you didn’t.”

With all of this, you need to hold firm. You’ve said that you’ve tried and it hasn’t worked, but I think you need to push back harder. She’s way, way out of line, and I suspect you might be letting a worry about seeming rude prevent you from being as assertive as you need to in the face of this kind of boundary violator.

3. Company gave us gifts that destroyed our phones

The company I work for had an all staff meeting this past week, and the marketing team handed out phone fans to everyone. It’s a little fan that plugs into your phone’s charging port and runs off the phone battery. The problem is that a large amount of people are now experiencing phone issues. Some people’s phones won’t hold a charge, while others’ phones are completely dead, won’t turn back on. I am one of those affected by this and my phone isn’t repairable and I need to buy a whole new phone. My $500 phone is useless and I just bought it last year.

Would the company be liable to pay for the new phone since it was something that they handed out that caused the damage?

My hunch is that they wouldn’t be liable for damage caused by a gift, but this isn’t a normal part of labor law and I’m not a lawyer, so hopefully readers who are will weigh in and give you an answer with more certainty behind it.

That said, regardless of where the law stands, the company should recognize that this is a morale disaster and should take responsibility for what happened, including covering the cost of repairs or replacement for people who need it.

4. Refocusing on work after the death of a parent

My father died late last year, after a year-long battle with cancer. During the course of that year, I took quite a bit of (sporadic) time off work to help Mom take care of him and spend the last times with him that I could. My workplace has very generous sick and annual leave, which I rarely use – even taking more time off than I probably had in all years combined previously, I’m nowhere near maxed out on leave.

My workplace has been wonderful throughout the entire ordeal. Their response was, “You do what you need to do. Your family comes first; don’t even think about this place.” I realize how rare that is, and I’m deeply appreciative.

For the most part, I work independently. I’m the only person in the organization who does most of what I do. I kept up with work fairly well, although I did miss two deadlines the week Dad died. (I had done the prep work but wasn’t in the office to do the final implementation, so there was a delay.) My director waved this off and said it was fine. I also missed one of the goals I had set for myself for the year, but did get all regular work and assigned tasks completed.

I have always tried to keep personal and work stuff separate, but I know I was somewhat “off” last year, with everything going on. I’m working hard to recover from that now, and I want my director to know that I’m focused on doing my best work. Instinct tells me to not make promises about how great I’m going to be – just work and deliver, and let that speak for itself. Furthermore, I’m still grieving, so I’m afraid I would become emotional if I do discuss it with my director – something I hate at the best of times, but absolutely inappropriate at work.

As a manager, would you want an employee to say, “I realize last year wasn’t my best, and I’m working on overcoming that,” or would you rather just see the work? (For what it’s worth, I still had a glowing performance review.)

Honestly, with a long-time employee (which it sounds like you are), either would probably be fine. But if you pressed me to say what I think the absolute ideal way of handling it would be, I’d suggest something like this: “I want to tell you how grateful I am for the flexibility you gave me last year while my dad was sick. You allowed me to have fewer stresses in my life at a very stressful time and to take the time I needed to spend with him and my family, and I’m deeply appreciative. I also want to tell you that I know that the situation impacted my work at times, and I’m now working on getting back to my normal level of reliability.” (Note that there are no promises of future greatness there; you don’t need those, just a simple acknowledge that you’re aware it did sometimes impact you, and that you’re getting a handle on things now.)

If you’re afraid you’ll be too emotional to say this in person, it’s the kind of thing you could put in an email. The message here is the important thing, more than the medium.

And I’m sorry about your dad.

5. I was accidentally overpaid — should I offer to pay it back, even though my company hasn’t asked me to?

I left my previous company for a smaller local company, but was enticed back by a couple of coworkers and my manager. In the process, I was given a pay increase and change in job title. I was rehired back in March of 2016. In November, I looked at my pay slip to get ready for taxes and noticed that my salary was $1,600 higher than what they had offered, but I didn’t think anything of it and didn’t question it. Hindsight is 20/20…

My manager was doing my annual review and noticed it and questioned whether I thought something was wrong with my salary. I truthfully answered no, but told her I did notice it was slightly higher than what we had agreed upon and told her I noticed it in November.

I’m a truthful and honest person and feel that my employer has treated me very well, and now I feel like I did something wrong by not saying something when I noticed it. I told her to not give me a raise this year if it wasn’t supposed to be that high, but she shrugged it off and said not to worry about it.

My question is, should I ask to pay it back by wage garnishing or paying a lump sum or should I leave it alone? I don’t want my reputation to be tarnished because I didn’t say something about it. As I said, I believe I am an honest, truthful and ethical person, but from my manager’s and VP’s perspective, it may not seem that way.

If she shrugged it off and said not to worry about it, you can probably take that at face value. $1,600 probably isn’t a huge deal to them.

But for peace of mind, you could go back to her and say this: “I feel uneasy about realizing I’ve been getting slightly overpaid. Is there anything I need to be doing about that?” If she tells you no a second time, I think you can move on without worry; you’ll have taken the initiative to check back in about it, which will make it clear that you’re not try to get away with anything.

{ 369 comments… read them below }

  1. bb*

    5 – My company would take this money back and possibly discipline you. A direct manager would not have the authority to say it didn’t matter either, that decision would rest elsewhere. Not sure this is helpful to you at this point but it is BIG DEAL . . . at least to me and where I work.

    1. JessaB*

      And even if the manager did have that authority, I’d want it in writing, because otherwise at some point someone might do an audit and start taking it back even though I was told it didn’t matter. I’d want to make sure the people responsible for checking those numbers are told to let it go. Especially in case that manager leaves at some point.

      1. Anon13*

        I was going to say the same thing about having it in writing! Something similar happened to a friend of mine and she did eventually have to pay it back. It was about $1,800 (they had inadvertently paid her about $150 extra a month for a year) – not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, but she would have much rather paid them $200/month for nine months than get stuck unexpectedly paying $1,800 at once nine months later. We were in our early 20s at the time and living in an expensive city, so she didn’t have a lot in savings and it was really difficult for her to pull together the money.

        1. MicheleNYC*

          One of my friends continued to be paid from our old company for about 3 or 4 months. It added up to $10,000. It took her calling them 3 times and another month for it be fixed because they had to work out the tax part of everything. It was a mess. At least she was smart and put that money in her savings account.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Ugh, the tax aspect! My husband had his duty station moved to NYC, which has a higher COLA top-up than our area. It wasn’t that much, and he didn’t notice it — I did. It took another couple of paychecks to get it right, and then they made him a resident of another state and started deducting taxes for that state instead of ours. It was a mess, and we could never get my husband’s numbers and his employer’s numbers to match up, and they were unwilling to explain theirs.

      1. BWooster*

        I don’t know. If the OP had raised it when she noticed, it would be absurd. The fact that she noticed and said nothing would at least be worth a conversation, I think.

        1. nofelix*

          This is why I did a double-take when she volunteered that she noticed in November. 100% in this situation say that you hadn’t noticed.

          1. me again*

            But with the holidays, half of the office is usually gone in November and December. I could easily see this being a “oh, I should mention that” and then getting distracted and completely forgetting.

            1. Artemesia*

              The point is she should never have admitted it. It isn’t that unusual to not be absolutely clear on one’s monthly salary given deductions and all that. Having not brought it up when she should, she should not indicate that she knew all along.

              1. me again*

                But she didn’t “know all along.” She started in March and noticed in November.

                I don’t think 2 months is that long to bring up these things when it is during the holidays.

                1. BWooster*

                  I completely disagree. It doesn’t make sense to put off for two months a question about one’s pay, holidays or no. Wouldn’t it seem odd to you to wait two months to raise an issue with an underpayment?

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Also agreed, and I don’t think the lag time factors in. OP disclosed when given the opportunity; it’s her company’s job to pay attention and ensure they’re paying people the correct salaries. It’s also unclear to me how long the gap was between noticing the discrepancy and the annual review. For all we know, this could have been a brief delay, or it could have been a few weeks (I doubt it was months since we’re only in January 2017).

      3. INTP*

        I can’t tell if the individual paycheck was $1600 higher than it was supposed to be or it was just paid as though the annual salary was $1600 higher, but if it’s the former I don’t think discipline would be out of line. In that case, the difference would be pretty obviously a mistake and deliberately ignoring the mistake a significant theft, while that amount divided over a year would be such a tiny difference that it would be easy to assume it was just tacked on to make paychecks a more even number or something.

        1. BWooster*

          It sounds like the latter. I still don’t think it’s worth a discipline, but I don’t think it would be out of line to at least ask something like “You mentioned that you noticed the overpayment in November. Any reason why you didn’t raise this before now?” Wouldn’t you at least want to know the answer?

          Honestly, if it were me, I’d have taken it to HR the moment I discovered it. Not because I’m some super ethical person, but because in cases like this, the company is entitled to repayment and I would want that to happen as quickly as possible.

          1. Teclatrans*

            Well, if that is the year’s total, it comes out to about or less than $200/month or $100/paycheck if paid twice a month. I think seeing that and going, “oh, hey, they gave me a slightly higher salary, that is neat” isn’t really out of line. In that context, plus her boss saying oops, the pay is off, her saying “Oh, yeah, I noticed the slightly higher salary back in November and just assumed you had bumped me up $1.00/hour, oops” is fine. Not the most strategic of responses, but fine.

            Of course, if the discrepancy is $1600/paycheck then that would sound a lot different.

    2. Ren*

      My former employer was notorious for saying overpayment was no big deal and then sending in a collection agency months later with dire warning even when you’d offered to pay back immediately by cheque. :( I’d put the extra in a savings account and don’t touch it unless you get something in writing

    3. Goreygal*

      Yeah…in places I have worked (large private or semi-state organisations) the noticing and not immediately flagging it to HR & payroll would be deemed “gross misconduct” and could even be a sack able offence.

      1. MK*

        I don’t know, “gross misconduct” sounds like over the top to me. Also, it depends on the amount. Noticing that you are paid 1,000 more every month and not saying anything? Yes, that’s kind of dogdy. If it’s 10 more, I can understand someone thinking it’s no big deal.

        1. fposte*

          It sounded like it was either $1600 more per year or $1600 more per that part year from her hire date to November. Either way, we’re talking one hundred and change per month; I think it’s legitimate to mistake that for noise in deductions at a lot of pay rates.

          1. babblemouth*

            Yeah, I don’t verify my paycheck in details every month – just a quick glance to make sure there aren’t any glaring errors. In general, I assume the payroll people have a much better understanding of the various deductions that are coming straight from bruto salary. I only do a thorough verifications once a year when I get around to doing my taxes.

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            Exactly. Whenever I get a raise or change my pre-tax deductions, I try to estimate how much it will be, net, and I am never terrible accurate- ballpark, but not enough that I’d $50 or less a pay period would flag it to me, either way.

            1. mskyle*

              This was especially true for me when I worked at places where we got percentage-based salary increases, not dollar amount increases. Your starting salary might be a nice round number, but after a few 2.5%-4% increases, you’re going from making $47624.63 annually to $48,815.24 annually… as long as I was getting *more* I generally just assumed the payroll office had it right.

          3. Anon13*

            Yep, something similar happened to a friend for an entire year (she got about $150 extra a month, so $75 a paycheck). She didn’t even notice, and neither did the company until they were working on her W-2. A lot of people don’t look at their paychecks all that closely.

          4. Parenthetically*

            Yup. I don’t even register how much my paycheck is month to month. It goes in the bank account. Maybe that makes me a bad planner, but I don’t think it’s at ALL unreasonable to not notice a hundred bucks or so per paycheck.

            1. Sarah*

              I agree. But the question isn’t “Can you be disciplined for not noticing?” (Probably not!) Rather, it’s can you be disciplined for noticing and not bringing it to anyone’s attention. That’s a very different situation.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                You can be disciplined for either. But that does not mean it is good business practice. If it is an egregious amount that would be obvious, sure – but in general, if a company makes a mistake, it’s bad practice to discipline the employee who did not make the mistake for not correcting the mistake quickly enough. Here, OP didn’t run and question the extra – an extra that isn’t huge, fwiw – but was certainly straightforward about it when asked. It’d be bad management to “punish” for that.

              2. MK*

                My point was that in certain circumstances it would be reasonable to notice and say nothing, if the amount is small (or a small % of your salary), I would notice if I started getting even 1 euro more every month, but if it was anything up to 100 euros, I would probably assume it was a change in what is being withheld (taxes, suscriptions, etc.). I might make a note to ask about it the next time I contacted payroll, but I wouldn’t immediately get in touch with them.

    4. hbc*

      I’m astonished by the number of responses that indicate the employer comes down so hard on this. How about not making so many payroll mistakes that you can have a reputation for *any* kind of response on the matter? Sheesh. But no, let’s push the responsibility for checking the math onto the employee and punish them for our mistake.

      If the business was on such a shoestring that it desperately needs that money, it should have kept a closer eye on the books and noticed within a month or two.

      1. Karanda Baywood*

        Exactly. And with so many payroll departments having automated online sites, many employees might not even check, because the funds go straight to their checking accounts.

      2. BWooster*

        “I’m astonished by the number of responses that indicate the employer comes down so hard on this.”

        I just looked over the comments and only found one comment mentioning gross misconduct, and that was in relation to how these things are handled at the commenter’s company. Are you seeing some comments that I am missing?

      3. Zombii*

        That isn’t how money works. If you deposit cash at the bank, and the teller counts it wrong, and you end up with an extra $50 in your account, the bank is definitely going to correct that error when they audit the totals. It doesn’t matter whether the big, evil corporation “needs” the money or not, the fact is that money doesn’t come from nowhere and everyone has a responsibility to keep their books accurately.

        You have no way of knowing how this was/is/will be resolved on the business side because you’re only considering the employee side of things. Unfortunately, most people (even managers) don’t consider the business side, and that’s what leads to issues with repayment later on.

        Right now—and until/unless payroll sorts it out on their end—this shows to them as a mistake that needs to be corrected. Whether that’s corrected by taking the money back or adjusting the amounts to show it was payed accurately is on the corporation to decide but either decision would be a reasonable one (although I do think it’s better for morale for employers to do the latter for small amounts that employees wouldn’t have reasonably noticed until doing their own audits/taxes).

    5. Lady Blerd*

      My employer wouldn’t discipline you but take back any amount due in one swoop regardless of the amount and no matter who is at fault. We mitigate this by protecting part of the salary but I won’t in détails. In any case OP should raise it with her payroll office, it’s best she be proactive about it plus it will allow her pay raises follow their normal course.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Yes, this is my experience. I would get an email telling me they’d made a mistake, and then the overage would disappear. My dad had it happen with his pension once, and it had gone on for so long, that they had to take amounts out monthly. (and then they screwed it up that way, and paid back what they’d shorted him in one check. The company handling it is a mess)

        1. Zombii*

          My uncle recently changed employers and his previous employer (for the past 30+ years) has a policy of paying out retirement funds by check when someone leaves. He got a check for the full amount, then 6 months later got an additional check for $40k with no explanation, which shocked both him and his wife.

          He refuses to contact his employer because “if it’s the company’s mistake, he gets to keep it.” His wife believes the same. I think something really unfortunate is going to happen once the company does an audit, especially if the money gets deposited into his new 401(k), and he has to try to get it back out.

          Tl;dr: If there is ever a financial mistake in your favor, get it corrected immediately, and get the resolution in writing—preferably from the payroll department. (And don’t put the money somewhere it would be difficult to get it back from; that won’t save you.)

      2. Chinook*

        “My employer wouldn’t discipline you but take back any amount due in one swoop regardless of the amount and no matter who is at fault.”

        Having lived through a payroll error which ended in zeroing DH’s pay (which turned out to not actually be an error but the clerk not actually reading our paperwork clearly before dinging us in error), I can believe that this happens. This was the Canadian government (but long before the Phoenix fiasco) and there was, and still is, no way to notify someone when they are correcting an error and, if it wasn’t for a very kind head clerk, we would have bounced our first month’s rent in our new city.

        It also makes me grateful that the second time they found an error (someone gave DH to much money for his retirement move and we didn’t question it because the rules were unclear and the person giving it to us should have known the details) that neither of us were working for that arm of the government because it could have meant zeroing his pay for months in order to pay them back. As it was, we emptied out every savings, piggy bank and returnable bottle stash we could find so they wouldn’t figure out how to do it through DH’s current federal department employer.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I understand there are companies that do what bb is describing, but for folks who are calling this gross misconduct or a fireable offense, please know that there are many other companies/industries where a marginal overpayment—caused by the company’s own poor payroll management—would not be cause for discipline, much less for termination.

      1. Not A Morning Person*

        Sure there are companies who would handle it as such and decide it’s not a big deal….as long as the overages got paid back. In most organizations that I am familiar with, if an employee notices an error, it’s the employee’s responsibility to bring it to the company’s attention. Concealing an error would be considered grounds for discipline at a minimum. Depending upon the circumstances, it might lead to termination….but then how would the company get their money back?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          There are also a lot of companies that don’t request the money back, especially if it’s a relatively small overpayment ($1600 is fairly small when spread over the year). But most companies I know that require repayment work with their employee to figure out an appropriate payment plan or offset.

          Most companies I’ve counseled and worked at—with the exception of governmental entities— would not terminate/discipline someone for failing to raise an overpayment issue like the one OP described. It’s also unclear to me if OP “concealed” the overpayment since s/he disclosed it in a fairly timely manner.

          I’m bringing this up to highlight that norms are very different for different sectors, employers, and jobs. I think it’s important to know that what may read as “worthy of discipline/termination” in one field is not necessarily a standard that applies outside of that field.

          1. Addie Bundren*

            She didn’t disclose it–her manager noticed it and she admitted she had noticed it earlier and NOT said anything.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I don’t know how helpful it is to OP#1 for us to debate this, but OP did disclose the overpayment after the manager raised the general issue of OP’s salary.

              A late disclosure is still a disclosure, even if it’s after prompting. Given that OP’s manager didn’t say, “Hey, did you notice you’re being overpaid?” and instead asked if she noticed anything generally off with her pay, it’s reasonable for OP to have disclosed at that time. I know that might sound like a meaningless distinction, but there’s a difference between flat out lying, omitting information, and delaying the release of information. We don’t know how long OP would have waited to disclose, but it’s not really important to OP’s specific situation.

      2. Mazzy*

        I think the consensus on AAM is that overpayment aren’t about deal and that it isn’t your responsibility to check your check. I am going to push back on that because it’s never been my experience. You need to be responsible for this stuff, you need to check your pay to see if they are taking out the correct taxes and then take note if the amount changes. Talking bout salaried roles here. Yes tax rates can change so the bottom line might, by you should notice that too

        1. Mazzy*

          And maybe this is my bias but as someone who handles money and finances at work, I’d definitely be underwhelmed by an employee who didn’t look at their pay or had no idea how much taxes they pay or what their pay should be. So maybe not discipline them, but I’d pause before handing them the next autonomous project. Just saying

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’d never say that it’s not your responsibility to check your paycheck — it is — but I’d never discipline someone for not noticing a small discrepancy. With deductions, it’s really easy to not realize something is wrong as long as the amount isn’t huge.

        3. Addie Bundren*

          Yes, I’m genuinely shocked by the cavalier attitude about this. There are absolutely workplaces that will take this very seriously (as I said earlier, I know people who have been fired for not reporting overpayment, and it wasn’t at a place that would have appeared to be especially strict)–ESPECIALLY given that the OP admitted she noticed and didn’t say anything when she first noticed. I’m blanking on how that isn’t an ethical issue. It’s amazing (as in, it actually amazes me) that the manager in this scenario is letting this go (especially since it seems like it could easily become her problem, if HR approved the original, lower salary and not a higher one), but that will not always be the case, and when it’s not, there’s a lot to lose.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think that’s an accurate synopsis of what people are saying—it’s a strawman argument.

          Folks are saying that if the company makes the mistake, it should not discipline the employee for not catching that company’s mistake (and have recognized that different sectors/jobs differ in their approach). Folks have also said that reasonably diligent employees could miss an overpayment of ~ $100 or less, that they would generally err on the side of disclosure but understand why OP may have delayed in this instance, and they’ve said that it’s ok for the company to ask for repayment.

    7. Girasol*

      Set the money aside in your account and don’t spend it for at least a year. I learned the hard way that when someone says, “It’s okay, that money is yours!” it can still be clawed back as one huge amount at the most inconvenient time. You can’t take anyone’s word that the matter is over and done. Don’t just get the manager’s statement in writing but also set that money aside for a good long while.

      1. always in email jail*

        ^I was going to say this exact thing. Make sure you have it on hand for a year. If they ask for it, no big deal, you have it set aside. If they don’t, you have a little extra fun money in a year!

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        Yeah, the person saying it is fine might not have the authority even if you think they do. At one job, I had a certain benefit premium not deducted for at least a month. I told HR. They said oh, don’t worry about it. We will deduct the correct amount next pay period and this pay period will just be on us. I was later involved in reviewing HR and mentioned the benefit mess ups. Turns out the owners never knew about the mess ups and did NOT authorize her to waive the payment. Further, under the contracts with the benefit providers, the payments could not be waived. We had it taken out the next pay period, 6 months later. There was some warning and we were told to go to the boss if it created a hardship to make a payment plan.

      3. BWooster*

        “Set the money aside in your account and don’t spend it for at least a year.”

        There’s nothing really magical about one year. A company is entitled to clawback at any time.

        Don’t set it aside and wait a year. Write a check for the amount and mail it, with receipt, to whoever processes payroll at the company. Retain copies of the cancelled check.

        1. Zombii*

          I was wondering about this. Anyone in accounting or financial law know if there’s a of statute of limitations-type thing for correcting overpayments? (I tried to look it up, but my Google-fu is weak.)

          My guess would be ~7 years, but that’s just based on how long financial records have to be retained for tax purposes (but I know the amount of time for filing a wage claim against the employer much less than that).

    8. Addie Bundren*

      I know people who have been fired for this. For those saying discipline would be “ridiculous”…well, that’s just not how certain companies see it. I would advise anyone to report overpayment IMMEDIATELY in the future, and if your direct manager shrugs it off, call payroll/HR. It won’t matter what you think is fair if they see it as theft.

  2. krysb*

    #5. Talk to whoever handles your pay information. One of my employers did this to me (started me off at a higher pay rate than they had meant to), but they didn’t feel like changing it, so they let me keep the raise. At my current employer, when I was hourly, they had accidentally overpaid me, but I brought it to the attention of my manager and the person handling HR and payroll (we were a much smaller company then). As JessaB above stated, your manager many not have the authority to deal with this issue. When paid a salary, it’s easy not to notice that your take home pay is slightly higher, especially if it’s only $1,600, which is $60 if paid bi-weekly.

    (Personally, if it were me, if they tried to reprimand me for this mistake, I’d start hunting for a new job.)

    1. Kheldarson*

      I agree on talking to the pay person. It could be a simple coding error. I got overpaid at my retail job once. I had switched from nights back to days and my overnight differential didn’t get removed. Noticed after a few pay periods, told HR. They unchecked a box, told me the pay was mine to keep for their error, and all was fixed.

    2. sstabeler*

      at a minimum, I would really want something in writing from the company that said “yes, X can keep the overpayment of their salary” or similar. Why? Because then, if they try to claw it back later, that would at a minimum prove you were acting in good faith in treating that money as yours free and clear, and far more likely would actually bar them from clawing it back.

    3. Mookie*

      One of my employers did this to me (started me off at a higher pay rate than they had meant to), but they didn’t feel like changing it

      Found my dream job. I’d love to work for slackers too tired to stop overpaying me.

      1. Allypopx*

        I feel like my employer would be likely to do this because of the morale implications, depending on what the difference was.

        1. Anon13*

          Same with mine. Sure, if it was huge, they would likely let me keep the accidental overpayment, then roll it back, but if it was $1600 a year, they would likely not worry about it and possibly lower my next planned raise.

      2. MashaKasha*

        I once received an extra paycheck at an OldJob, panicked, and tried calling the corporate HR (a VERY large nationwide company) and the Finances. Both pretty much yelled at me to get off the phone and stop bothering them. “It’s an off-cycle paycheck”. – “Yes but why did I get it?” – “How would I know? It’s an off-cycle paycheck.” – “Do I get to keep it? Will I receive my next scheduled one?” – “We don’t know, it’s an off-cycle check, I already told you. ask your manager.” and of course, my manager knew nothing about this. I held on to that money for another year until I left the company and they took it back at that time. I have a suspicion that, if I hadn’t left, they wouldn’t have taken it back, not for morale or other reasons, but just because it wasn’t worth the hassle to them. I was still afraid to touch it. I felt that, if I spent it, they’d eventually come for it at the exact moment I’d have no money to pay them back with. Though I admit it is easier to set a single paycheck aside than to set the extra pay amount aside each time it comes in.

        1. Natalie*

          At my old job the boss used to hand out the bonus checks (which were about 1 paycheck’s worth), but one year a temp just handed them out from the envelope unthinkingly. I emailed payroll in a panic, thinking I’d been paid twice.

      3. krysb*

        Ha! So, this was my legal assistant job. We had already agreed on the starting rate, but Tom, the partner in charge of this, accidentally put me in at the post-probationary period rate, so I received that pay and did not receive a raise after my 90 days were in.

    4. Hlyssande*

      My little brother once got started at a higher rate than he was supposed to and when they found out, they not only bumped him down to their actual starting rate, they majorly docked that rate to make up for their mistake. But see, that rate he started at was the one they told him about when he took the offer. =\ It was such crap all around.

      1. MashaKasha*

        What? Why was he supposed to start at a lower rate than he’d accepted in their offer? Major crap all around, indeed.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That is awful, and please know that in some jurisdictions it’s also unlawful to garnish wages that way.

      3. LabTech*

        If they didn’t inform him anywhere that his pay would be lower than the offer, they can’t legally doc his pay retroactively – all they can do is lower it after telling him that the pay would be lower moving forward. (AAM crowd correct me if I’m wrong.)

    5. Lily in NYC*

      Same here – I didn’t realize my starting salary was 5K higher than we agreed to – I had differing amounts of overtime in my pay stubs so I never noticed the difference. I would have been very upset if they had reprimanded me for their own mistake, especially considering I never even noticed (it turns out it wasn’t even a mistake; the recruiter simply told me the incorrect salary).

      1. Anon13*

        Yep, I feel like this is especially difficult to notice for anyone who is non-exempt and works any overtime, anyone who is hourly and works a different number of hours each pay period, and anyone starting a new job or getting a raise.

    6. Lora*

      Oh boy. I worked for one place who had a grossly incompetent payroll accountant who mysteriously never got fired no matter how many ridiculous errors she made and tried to cover up, then blamed on other people. Nobody actually knew who she reported to – it was someone offsite at a campus that handled more administrative stuff, and she refused to tell anyone, so you couldn’t escalate it even if you wanted to. HR wasn’t allowed to help, they were told it was outside their jurisdiction.

      Eventually even the management gave up and told us we were responsible for double-checking our own pay stubs instead of holding the payroll group accountable for repeated screw-ups. I asked a couple of Finance higher-ups: they said it’s very hard to hire good people for Payroll because it’s sort of an entry-level type position that most good accountants don’t stay in for long. It’s boring and unglamorous, not unlike being a technician is in my field. There are some good ones, but eventually they want to go back for a MBA or something, work their way up to Comptroller or whatever.

    7. A.N.Mous*

      I just want to reiterate that your direct manager may not have the authority to waive this off. I work in the section of HR that does the calculations for overpayments. Sometimes people are overpaid and the superiors don’t think it’s worth recovering, but it’s often up to the budget/trustholder which may not be the boss.

      I don’t know what the laws are like where OP lives, but here we need permission to claw back your pay, but we don’t need permission to recover it off your next paycheque(s). The employee is ALWAYS notified of the overpayment and their options for paying. Recovery also includes calculating how much you were overpaid including taxes and other deductions so there may be a delay between reporting the overpayment and being contacted about it again.

      Also, there is a variety of ways an employee may end up being overpaid. Some are the employer’s fault and some the employees. Ideally, no one would ever be overpaid but it happens (just like mistakes happen at every job). Even the best employers have more overpayments than the average employee is aware of.

    8. just popping in*

      Yeah, if nothing else, check that you were actually overpaid. I just got my W-2 for 2016 and did a doubletake at the gross wages, which is slightly higher than my actual salary. Turns out it was a quirk of the calendar, where because of how the holidays fell, the last paycheck of 2015 actually got cut in 2016.

  3. Someone*

    OP#3 — Make sure this is escalated. Usually marketing gifts with company branding on them are also handed out to customers and clients, so they absolutely need to know that this is a bad gift and could cost them both money and good will. They also need to raise it with their vendor ASAP.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. This should be brought as a group to leadership; the company should fix this or make sure the vendor of this product does.

    2. Jeanne*

      Someone made the fans and would possibly have liability for the broken phones. You don’t say if anyone has asked if your company will help with covering the cost of the phones. The first step is to go to managment together and ask. If they refuse, you may be able to pursue the manufacturer yourself.

    3. SophieChotek*

      I agree. Good point. If I picked up a free phone at a convention or someone times reps are handing out things like this in the mall — the Social Media backlash would be awful. They need to fix employees phones too — but definitely need to get on top of this!

    4. lawerformerITnerd*

      This also needs to be told to IT immediately.

      It’s possible there’s also a virus issue.

      Legally, liability is murky as it was a gift and not something given to them they were required to use part of their job. (At least in the jurisdictions in which I practice).

      As a lawyer, I don’t view this as a legal issue so much of as a PR nightmare.

  4. snorkellingfish*

    #3, this isn’t legal advice or anything (especially since I’m not American and I don’t know about American labour law including the specific rights you might have as an employee or other statutory causes of action you might have), but my hunch is that it’s possible that your company could owe you compensation for negligence, but only if they’ve actually acted negligently. Key to that is if they had any reason to think that the fans would do damage. For example, did they buy them from a reputable supplier or off an unknown on eBay? If they did their due diligence and bought what they thought was a good quality product that happened to be faulty, that’s a different thing to if they knowingly gave out something from a dodgy source (even if they didn’t know what the dodginess might entail–to me, it seems foreseeable that cheap electronics from an unknown supplier could have electrical faults that cause various sorts of damage to other property or injury to the people who use them). Of course, legal rights aren’t the only issue here: there’s a cost on the employee side to suing your employer, and there’s a cost on the employer to damaging the morale of their employees. If all sides are reasonable, it tends to be more productive to start from the context of both sides wanting to make things right rather than the context of legal rights. (Of course, that isn’t a given.)

    …You might also have a cause of action against the seller and/or manufacturer of the faulty fans. Of course, that requires you to identify them (easier if your company bought from a reputable company, harder if your company bought from some unknown on the internet). It also has all the costs associated with legal action, which is always a pain for small claims. Still, if the seller is someone in your jurisdiction, who can be readily identified and who has the assets to pay compensation, an angry letter of demand (especially one from a lawyer) can sometimes get results. If your coworkers were also affected, there might also be a prospect of working together. Of course, that would all go smoother with the assistance of your company, which knows who it bought the fans from and which actually has a contractual relationship with the seller of those fans. So, again, your company would probably be your first port of call, and the first step to broaching whether any compensation would be possible.

    1. neverjaunty*

      The OP should definitely talk to her employer first. Beyond that, hunches are no basis for legal advice.

      1. snorkellingfish*

        Fair. I just wanted to make really, really clear that I’m not giving legal advice, because at law school I was told enough stories of lawyers getting sued for giving off-hand advice that missed some cause of action or other. I know that I don’t have the information–about the facts of OP’s case or about the specific ways that the law has evolved in OP’s jurisdiction–to give proper legal advice. I was just letting the OP know that it’s a “maybe” rather than a “no”, but that they’d need actual legal advice to confirm.

        That said, as you and other commenters rightly point out:

        1. Legal rights aren’t everything, if using them could damage OP’s ongoing relationship with their employer; and

        2. The costs of legal action could be more than the value of the phone.

        So a good cause of action wouldn’t necessary be the key issue anyway. So, you’re definitely right to point OP back to talking to their employer first regardless.

    2. lawerformerITnerd*

      In my US state, it would depend upon whether they knew or should have known the item was faulty and whether it was a gift or something used for employment purposes.

      The issue is, as always, $500 worth of damage is not usually worth suing over.

      This is one of those issues where even if you are legally 100% owed, you will not want to take it to court.

      The best thing is to take it back to the management, particularly so they stop handing them out and so they address any viruses or other damage these things may have caused.

      Some of you may say “virus”?!?! If it has a USB or an interface, you can put a virus on it. Never, ever accept USB sticks from anyone for free unless you are 100% certain they bought it from a reputable manufacturer and virus-checked it.

    3. stevenz*

      I think this is a bit heavy-handed, maybe in the “as a last resort” category. Problem with whether they knowingly gave out the item with a defect, is that you would have to prove that they knew about it. That would take megabucks in lawyer’s fees. (Note the Volkswagen case, to take an extreme.) I would give the company the benefit of the doubt in this case and work with them on a solution. (They might be really embarrassed.) It may be just a software fix, but diagnosing the problem and the fix should be their responsibility.

  5. Hot Pink Squirrel*

    Why someone would feel the need to have a fan on their phone is beyond me to start with, but…

    This sounds like a bad idea all the way around. Phone charging ports are not designed to power other things. Data communication works both ways, but regarding any significant current draw they are one-way by design.

    Don’t most people want their phones to last longer on a charge? Why try to share that power with other devices anyway?

    Quick google search turns up several reports of damage.

    +1 to Someone’s comment, better due a full recall.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      Yeah I flipped over to Amazon and this is apparently A Thing, this kind of product (I’m with you – why?). Some of the Amazon reviews for the ones I clicked on have the exact same complaint as the OPs.

      1. A Bug!*

        I did the same. It’s an extremely common complaint and it looks like most of the different fan products on Amazon are produced by the same manufacturer with different branding. Whoever purchased those fans must not have done any research. And depending on the circumstances that’s not necessarily blameworthy, mind. But someone along the line screwed up, whether it’s the person who bought the fans or the salesperson who sold them to OP’s company.

      2. Cherith Ponsonby*

        I can tell you why I have a portable fan – this morning it was a humid 33 degrees C (about 92F) before I even left the house, and my commute is a 1km walk and a 20 minute train ride (potentially air conditioned) and a five-minute wait to get off the underground platform (definitely not air conditioned) and then another 1km walk at the other end! But it’s a little USB desktop fan, small and light enough to wear around my neck(*), and I run it off an external power pack.

        (*) You will need: one USB desk fan; one neck strap; two bulldog clips; one ample chest. Secure neck strap to fan frame with bulldog clips, rest fan on ample chest, point fan at face, bask in admiring glances from your fellow commuters.

    2. Sam*

      After growing up in Texas, I can more than understand why someone would find this kind of apparatus convenient! I’ve known people who bring small, handheld fans to outdoor events, but this would be a lot more efficient and easier to carry around – assuming, of course, that the battery drain wasn’t exorbitant and, you know, it didn’t kill your phone. Seems like a thing that’s good in theory but the execution needs some more work…

      1. Anon13*

        I have one and I like it! It’s good for sporting events, picnics, etc. I’m with you, it’s convenient! Necessary, no, convenient, yes. And, on mine, the battery drain isn’t too bad at all. To each his/her own, but I like it.

      2. SophieChotek*

        I have one too — but it’s actually just a little regular battery operated one. And now that I think about it, I have no idea what it is. These novelty promontional things so often seem to get used once then stashed away to be forgotten.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I’ve seen similar USB-powered fans for desks, I could see how it’d be useful in that way, but I kind of agree about draining your phone’s battery faster.

    4. Garrett*

      Yeah, I was in an airport in South America last month and it was hot. One guy had the fan and I was jealous. Although, glad I didn’t get one. They sound like a nightmare!

    5. Sas*

      ” Don’t most people want their phones to last longer on a charge? Why try to share that power with other devices anyway?” Ha The situation is unfortunate though

    6. MaddieB*

      Never ever power an object with your phone charging port. Especially on devices where the battery cannot be changed. That little fan would have gone straight into the garbage bin.

  6. Rogue*

    Just wanted to say I loved this line “That’s a really weird thing to say to a colleague. I’m going to pretend you didn’t.” I will so be saving that for future use.

    1. Artemesia*

      I thought this was exactly the right tone as well. This is not something to be tactful about when it is repeated. One weird interaction, meh. But the repeated meddling needs firm response. She is WAY out of line in every way. When she returned from vacation and went through your work like that, I hope you took that to your boss.

      1. #2LetterWriter*

        I did take it to my boss once I had enough for her to reprimand her on and our boss had a sitdown with her soon after I wrote this letter. It has improved a little for now but we shall see how it turns out. She still does some small things but today I have been using some of Alison’s advice and it actually is working. I realized I haven’t put my foot down hard enough because I was trying so hard to fit in and didn’t want to make enemies right off the bat. Lets cross our fingers!

        1. CM*

          Nice! On the “mothering”: learn to just say “NO.” “Come here so I can check your teeth.” “No.” “Don’t you need a sweater?” “No.” No explanation, no softening required. Just no. Try it. It feels so good.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      I thought so as well – such great wording that I’m also saving for future use. Can drop the “as a colleague” for non-work situations too! My worry is: I’ll have forgotten this gem when the right time comes to use it…

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        “That’s a really weird thing for you to say to me.” It works for so many situations.

    3. Anon13*

      I’ve used similar lines before, with great success! “Why do you ask?” when asked an inappropriate question is usually effective, too.

      1. Spoonie*

        I use that all the time. It gives me more time to think of my next response (barring absolute shock) and can also save the other person a bit of embarrassment in case what they said didn’t get phrased the way they intended originally.

      2. Sprinkled with Snark*

        I have been using “Why do you ask?” for as long as I can remember, and I ALWAYS get amazing results. It works really well when people ask you direct questions that are on the rude side. They either think for a moment and realize they sound rude or intrusive and correct themselves, (about 99 percent of the time), or they double down and actually continue being rude. That’s when I tell them “That’s a really (rude, weird, stupid) thing to say to me and that’s none of your business.”

        But I really like the “I wish you wouldn’t have said it addition!” That also works when the question isn’t a question but a statement or a demand for something as weird as show me your teeth. It’s also much nicer sounding then the “Oh, HELL no,” which probably would have been the first thing I would have blurted out.

  7. AJ*

    #1 – I don’t see a problem with wearing a “fake” ring as long as you don’t call him your husband in the interview or say that you are married. I disagree – I notice wedding rings all the time, but maybe that’s cuz I’m detail oriented and I like jewelry. Plus your hands are gonna be on the table at some point so you’d think someone would notice. I can see why Alison says not to, but I think if it gives you confidence go for it. If you get hired and someone asks you directly if you are married just say “not yet”. I think as long as you don’t lie you’re fine. And don’t tell your new employers about it being “fake” after you get hired. You could also wear it on your middle finger or right hand ring finger, or wear a more simple band. If you think about it, it’s not really fake any way – you are committed to moving with your partner and living together. Hey! Maybe he should buy it for you! ;)

    1. Jeanne*

      I just don’t understand why the ring is needed to interview for a job. The interview should be about job skills. Say you are moving because your partner’s job is here. A professional interviewer will move on and talk about things other than your relationship.

      1. MK*

        The ring isn’t needed for a job interview. The OP is considering wearing one, because this job hunt involves relocation, so it will be normal for interviewers to ask why she is looking for a job in a different area, and she worries that “I am moving to be with my boyfriend” will come across as slighlty immature. And whether we like it or not, moving to be with a spouse conveys a certain gravitas, so she thinks she will come across better if she gives the impression she is married to the partner for whom they are relocating.

        That being said, I don’t think it’s a good idea and most interviewers won’t care. Perhaps it will be better to say she is moving for personal reasons and only get into the “boyfriend/partner” issue if she is asked to elaborate.

        1. MadGrad*

          If LW is really worried, ditch the ring idea and take agency in the decision to move. “My partner was offered a great opportunity here and we were interested in the city, so we decided to make the move”.

          If they’re going to seriously judge you for this, I’d consider it a flag that they might not be very caring or considerate as an employer.

          1. Epsilon Delta*

            Another way I’ve heard people describe it (in fact I think I remember AAM suggesting this wording in the past), is that you are moving to be closer to family.

        2. INFJ*

          Yes, agree or disagree, people at my company have questioned candidates’ interest in our position/field/industry if they were moving and job searching only because their spouse/partner found a job in the new location. Part of that is because it’s unusual to find candidates who are truly interested in our position and aren’t just looking for a “foot in.” So, OP’s concerns are real.

          I agree with Epsilon’s suggestion below of using the wording “moving to be closer to family”

    2. TheLazyB*

      I wouldn’t ever notice a wedding ring. Hands on the table or not.

      I would however think wearing a fake one was massively weird if it ever came out. I agree with Alison; OP1 is really overthinking this.

      1. Julia*

        Weird story time: The day before my interview at my current workplace, my then-boyfriend gave me a ring as an early Christmas present. It wasn’t meant as an engagement ring, maaaaaaybe a promise ring, but in his culture, it’s pretty common for women to have “boyfriend rings” or couples to wear pear rings.

        Weirdly enough, the interviewer noticed and asked about it. In now-fiance’s and workplace’s culture, it is pretty common to disclose personal details such as dependents or hobbies (!) on the application, and mine clearly said unmarried, but I was wearing sparkly band on my left ring finger. So the interviewer looked at me, looked back at the application and asked “you’re not married, are you?” I declined and that was the end of it. Granted, he may have never noticed my ring and just asked for any other reason, but I assume it was about the ring.

        I never claimed to be married, I don’t think I mentioned moving there for a boyfriend/partner/etc., I just told them I wanted the job. I wore that ring every day and yet sometimes people would ask me months or years later if I had gotten marrid because they noticed I was wearing a ring, and they were sure I hadn’t worn it before. (I really did wear it every day.) People are just weird sometimes.

        1. MK*

          Eh, I don’t think it’s weird for people to ask if you are married when they see you wearing a ring in the finger that culturally wedding bands go. Also, people don’t pay that much attention to others as we think; it’s possible that they asked you months later, because that’s the first time they actually noticed the ring you wore every day. Or that’s the time they felt you comortable asking you a personal question.

          1. Julia*

            I just said that because some people in this thread claimed a ring would go unnoticed anyway. It may, but it really may not.

            I also wanted to say it’s not a lie to wear a ring on that finger when you’re not married. It would be a lie to claim you were married, obviously.

            1. MK*

              Of course it’s not a lie, especially since cultural norms can vary. In my culture, engagement rings aren’t traditional (though they are more popular in recent decades). The original custom is “plain band on left ring finger=engaged” and “plain band on right ring finger=married”; any ring that has even a suspision of design/stones is considered simply a piece of jewelery, no matter where it’s worn.

            2. TheLazyB*

              I said that purely as a counterpoint to this in the comment I replied to:

              Plus your hands are gonna be on the table at some point so you’d think someone would notice.

              I didn’t say no one would ever notice; I just think that the majority of people wouldn’t.

          2. Sarah*

            Yeah but it is pretty illegal in a job interview context!! When we do interviews were are heavily warned never to ask about or even hint towards significant others, kids, etc. unless the candidate brings it up.

            1. Natalie*

              It’s not illegal to ask about marital status or children. For one thing, those aren’t protected characteristics federally, nor in most jurisdictions. For another, the only protected class it’s explicitly illegal to ask about is disability.

              It’s *unwise*, but not against the law.

              1. Tequila Mockingbird*

                Not true – the question is not explicitly prohibited under federal law, but the EEOC says that employers may not refuse to hire married women or women with children IF it hires married men or men with children, and that therefore employers should never ask non-job-related questions about marital status.

                In addition, many states DO have discrimination laws making that type of question flatly illegal.

                1. Natalie*

                  The EEOC does not prohibit asking questions, they say you can’t use the information, which makes asking unwise but not illegal.

                  And if there are state regulations explicitly prohibiting the questions (not just making decisions based on the answers), please cite them.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The questions themselves aren’t illegal, but using the answers is, so the EEOC advises against asking them. The act of asking isn’t actually illegal though (except with disability questions).

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  You’re both correct. Federal law does not protect against discrimination on the basis of marital/familial status. But, the EEOC advises not asking questions because you can’t use the information in hiring (and if you can’t use the info, why would you ask for it?).

                  Additionally, a minority of states have adopted antidiscrimination laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of marital/familial status (including whether one has kids), but those laws exist primarily in states that generally have good protections for employees.

            2. Julia*

              In my case, it was a different country where they ask that all the time. (And yes, women are discriminated against in the workplace.)

        2. Tequila Mockingbird*

          Asking “You’re not married, are you?” raises a huge red flag about this workplace. It’s common knowledge not to ask questions about marital status during an interview. Employers might be trying to find out if your relationship could have a negative impact on your work. Even a seemingly innocent query like “Do you wish to be addressed as Mrs., Miss, or Ms.?” is bad form.


          1. Julia*

            It was a different country where applicants usually disclose their dependents on their applications. This does lead to discrimination against women, and it is still somewhat expected that women retire after marrying, but I have never had problems due to that at work other than that one guy asking if I wasn’t worried I wouldn’t find a husband if I didn’t hurry up at my age. (Not even 30, btw.) So yes, this workplace did have a lot of problems – the whole society has, but so does the US – but they didn’t violate any laws of their country.

      2. BananaPants*

        When we got engaged, I bought Mr. BP an inexpensive titanium band. I figured that he’d spent a serious chunk of cash (for him at the time) on an engagement ring for me, I might as well get him a sign of our commitment until we got hitched 18 months later.

        At the time titanium wasn’t anywhere near as common a material as it is for men’s wedding bands today, and it had a blue-plated center. Even when he wore it on his right hand people assumed it was a wedding band! It didn’t bother us that the assumption was made, but he’d usually explain that it was his “engagement ring”.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        How likely is it that the person asking her to fill out those forms will be the same person who interviewed her and noticed her ring?

        (I don’t think the ring is a good idea, but I don’t think this is the reason.)

      2. Kinsley M.*

        Well, I’m married and all of my tax withholding is Single, 0. So that’s not exactly an indicator either.

        1. Judy*

          At least in the US, I’m pretty sure you’re required to declare if you’re married in your hiring paperwork if your work offers certain benefits. There are legal requirements with pensions, 401ks and life insurance that must go to your spouse upon death unless your spouse signs a notarized agreement that those benefits can go to someone else.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Yes. Retirement plans need to know your legal marital status. Tax forms don’t.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That’s not accurate—Form W-4, which most folks fill out when they are hired, asks for your tax filing status. While that status may not match your marital status, it’s a required disclosure.

          2. Natalie*

            I don’t believe that’s accurate – we have 401ks and life insurance and I don’t need to know anyone’s marital status. They name the beneficiary of their choosing, which does not need to be a spouse. For a 401k they don’t have to name anyone, and if the died intestate the law would decide what happened to the account.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                Spouses have rights to retirement plans, and often (for example) need to sign off on designation of a different beneficiary, so not knowing marital status can be a legal minefield, depending on the plan. Maybe not for yours, but as a general rule.

                1. Natalie*

                  The 401k company handles all of that directly, though. We just deposit the money in the account. Very few companies hold and manage their own 401ks.

                  Anyway, the point is that it’s *not* a given that your work is going to ask your marital status.

                2. Lily Rowan*

                  I just signed an offer letter online that then asked for my marital status! Which I’ve never seen before, but I get it.

                3. Judy*

                  I generally don’t pay attention that the 4th out of 10 pages I just handed to HR goes to the 401k company and the 5th goes to the insurance company. I just know that the stack of papers I give to HR that are due in the first week on the job include that question.

                  I’ve always carried the insurance for our family, so I have to give a copy of our marriage licence and the kids’ birth certificates anyway.

                4. Jadelyn*

                  Our 401k plan requires a notarized waiver from the spouse if a married employee wants to name someone other than said spouse as their beneficiary. So…if an employee is married, we know about it.

                  That said, the person administering 401k is not the person who interviews everyone, so it still wouldn’t really matter from that perspective.

          3. MicheleNYC*

            I know for my 401k that if you are married they automatically make your spouse the beneficiary. If for whatever reason you do not want your spouse to be it, the spouse has to sign a document stating they agree. I believe it has to be notarized.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Yes. There are actual federal laws about beneficiaries and benefits, etc, and marriage. But as Rusty noted, the people handling those things are usually different so at least in that respect it would not come up. Payroll/HR person managing the paperwork to get you enrolled and registered with benefits is not going to be the person you interviewed with who noticed (or didn’t notice) your wedding ring.

              But it doesn’t make sense to wear a ring or invent relationship that is different than the one you actually have just for an interview. Interviewers aren’t judging your personal choices (or if they are, run away), they’re just trying to understand whether you’re interested in setting down roots where they are.

        2. BananaPants*

          Yeah, my state W4 has my withholding set as as Single because the state department of revenue services recommends doing so for married couples with combined income over a certain threshold, to avoid having too little tax withheld. It’s the exact same withholding as for a single person.

          (My federal W4 is a perpetual mess of trying to dial in the right number of exemptions. Every time we have a kid, or Mr. BP’s job changes, we start all over with the adjustments worksheet and the Godforsaken Two-Earner/Multiple Jobs worksheet.)

          I’ve never had an HR person notice or care what’s on my W4s.

    3. seejay*

      Seriously, it’s not needed. Unless this is the 1950s or she’s applying at a religious institute where an unmarried woman shouldn’t be living with with a man (gasp), then there’s absolutely zero reason to pretend anything. People move with their partners all the time. Their legal status of married versus unmarried is irrelevant.

      Some people are married and don’t wear rings. Some people are married in other religions or have other customs to signify that. Many people live with a partner for 20 years and never get legally married. And a lot of people in these types of situations follow their partner when they move for a job and just say “I’m searching for a job here because my partner just moved here”. It’s seriously not that complex and convoluted. There’s no reason to pretend or fake anything.

      1. Myrin*

        As always, I’m loving Alison’s directness when it comes to questions like this.
        Letter: Is this idea crazy?
        Alison: Yes.

        Although I personally wouldn’t say it’s “crazy” so much as “quite weird” as well as “completely unnecessary”.

        1. seejay*

          Exactly, it’s completely unnecessary. This is where the K.I.S.S. principle applies, really.

          Don’t over-think it. Just apply for jobs, wear whatever jewelry you’d normally wear, and don’t bother with any sort of pretend story. Just tell the truth, no one’s going to get their knickers in a twist. Well, unless it’s a religious organization that has requirements of their employees (and possibly by extension their families, like we’ve seen in other letters), but if that’s the case, that’s a whole other kettle of fish problem to worry about and beyond the scope of the initial question.

          1. Karo*

            I generally agree, but you really do have to think about your jewelry as it helps set the tone of your overall appearance. If you normally wear ear spikes and a septum piercing, you may want to consider toning it down for an interview in a conservative industry. Also, as a counterpoint to some of the “I wouldn’t notice a ring” comments, I was once asked about my (rather modest) engagement ring, and it really threw me off. I don’t want to talk about my husband in an interview, so I’ve taken to wearing a simple gold band instead of my sparkly wedding ring. To each his own, but it’s worth thinking about.

            1. Bonky*

              Cuts both ways. I’m interviewing this week, and I had a candidate with a septum piercing come in just today. She’s interviewing us for fit as much as we are her: as it happens, we’re a workplace where nobody would blink an eyelid at a septum piercing, and her wearing it to interview means we all know we’re on the same page if we offer her the job.

              1. Jadelyn*

                That’s how I feel about my tongue ring. I used to take it out for interviews, but these days I wouldn’t. If the company gets twitchy about a tongue ring, it’s probably not a great culture fit for me.

                My VP actually used me as an example when talking with the manager of a newly acquired credit union about our dress code. They were much more conservative than we are, so he was explaining that as part of our org they need to loosen up for hiring people with tattoos and piercings and said “a member of my HR staff has a tongue ring, for example”. The VP of branch ops (who I work with fairly frequently) was there with him and turned to him all confused, like “Wait, what? Who?” She had never noticed mine, lol.

      2. Mookie*

        Right. It’s not a moral failing to be in a romantic relationship serious and committed enough* that you are making life-altering plans together as a couple. Many such couples never marry, but this is the sort of behavior that sometimes precedes marriage. You are not failing yourself as a professional woman by having a relationship, LW. Really. You are okay! Find that job, make that move, and have the best life possible!

        *likewise, there’s nothing wrong with fun, casual relationships, either, and being in one or twelve at a time does not reflect badly on you or make you seem immature

    4. Angelica*

      OP#1 can have confidence because they are doing something completely normal and understandable, not because they are wearing a piece of jewellery to fake something.

      It would be utterly bizarre to me if someone wore a ring to feign an engagement at an interview. I’d have serious concerns about that person’s judgement.

    5. Sam*

      A fake ring is overkill in this situation. I would almost certainly notice the presence of a ring, too, and if I found out it was there to intentionally mislead, I would find it super odd and be put off by the implication that relationships aren’t serious unless marriage is involved.

      Seriously, citing your partner’s job is completely sufficient as explanation for your move.

    6. Agnodike*

      My spouse and I lived common-law for almost ten years before we were legally married; throughout that time I referred to them as “my spouse” or “my partner” and never had anyone question it. If the worry is that the company will think the OP is moving for a relationship that may not last (and that therefore they may leave their job), “spouse” should cover it. Plenty of people who are legally married don’t wear wedding rings (my parents don’t, for example), either out of preference or necessity (metal allergies, work constraints, etc.) so it’s not like wedding-ring-spotters are infallible guessers of marital status.

      1. fposte*

        The problem with “spouse” is, as neverjaunty notes, it signifies a legal status that isn’t going to be supported by the paperwork you file.

        1. Boris*

          That really depends on where you live. I haven’t had to file any paperwork with my marital status at my workplace.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              You don’t have to file for exemptions. (I have found that if I take the exemption for being married (much less the dependents), the IRS starts harassing me about tax underpayment.) I’m married, but my tax forms don’t indicate that and haven’t for the past decade.

            2. Marcela*

              I set single in my forms. I was explained it was possible and it seemed better. Nothing about my husband but his contact information.

        2. Agnodike*

          In my case, my spouse was, in fact, my spouse, since we had been living common-law for the required period in my jurisdiction. Since I don’t know where the OP lives, it’s very possible that “spouse” would indeed be a legally accurate term for a live-in partner. (I also have never listed my marital status on any tax forms at work, since in Canada there’s no such thing as joint filing.)

          Regardless, if in OP’s jurisdiction “spouse” would be inaccurate, “partner” conveys much of the same meaning.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            In the U.S., you do not form a common-law relationship simply by living together for a certain period of time, though this is a common misconception. Some states allow common-law marriages, but there is no waiting period – all you do is start living as a married couple. This specifically includes “presenting yourselves to the world as married,” so if you’re calling yourselves boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/significant other (basically anything other than husband and/or wife), you do not have a common law marriage in the U.S. I know it’s different in Canada.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agree with fposte—unless you’re in a state with common law marriage (there very few that do, and almost none allow it based on length of cohabitancy, alone), don’t refer to your partner as your spouse.

        “Spouse” has a discrete legal meaning, but it’s also commonly understood to mean “person to whom you’re married.” I have never met anyone who referred to their partner as their “spouse” without being married to that person. It’s as strange as calling your partner a “husband” or “wife” when you’re unmarried.

        1. a different Vicki*

          The only people I’ve known to use “wife,” “husband,” or “spouse” without being legally married were in committed relationships with people they couldn’t legally marry (because of their partner’s gender, or because they have more than one committed partners). For example, I know a lesbian couple who had a religious wedding first, and then got legally married when Massachusetts made that possible.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Agreed—I’ve heard that, as well, but usually there was some kind of public solemnization, even if there wasn’t a marriage license.

    7. moving right along*

      i totally agree that LW#1’s situation *should not* be a big deal or raise any eyebrows, but having been in the same situation, i can say from experience that she should prepare for some crappy questions. when i left my job of 2+ years to move for my boyfriend’s (of 6 years) master’s program, my boss said- direct quote- “so you’re choosing him over me?” and my coworkers said everything from “you should break up with him” to “he’ll probably leave you after he finishes school.” granted, this was at a fairly conservative, southern investment firm with plenty of dysfunction (i.e. lots of old ladies thinking they’re your mom), but still- prepare for weirdness.

      you gotta do what you gotta do! it’s going to work out great. (for me- i got a much better job with less intrusive coworkers, and we got married). and i found that moving to a new place together makes you stronger as a couple because you really have to rely on each other. wishing all good things to you!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m sure you know this since you’ve described OldEmployer as dysfunctional, but your boss was out of line and really weird. All of the statements made show a complete lack of understanding re: boundaries, and those statements border on harassment (not the legal kind, but still).

    8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP#1, definitely don’t wear a ring to create a fake signal that your relationship is “serious.” First, it’s none of your employer’s business, and in a minority of states it’s unlawful for the employer to take into account your marital status as a consideration for whether to hire/not-hire you. Given that you know it could mislead interviewers, I think it’s better to go with a non-misleading approach.

      But also don’t do it because it’s really weird. As seejay noted, this isn’t the 1950s/60s, so trying to signal that your relationship is authentic/serious by wearing a ring is outdated, can create more problems for you later (e.g., if you actually do become engaged/sorry), and is totally irrelevant to whether you’d be a good employee.

    9. Elysian*

      When I waitressed I wore a ring to stave off annoying customers who would try to leave me their number. Those types of people noticed; it worked. I don’t think its necessary here though. No one should be hitting on you at your job interview, and it just makes for a complicated story if you get the job and have to eventually wind things back.

      1. seejay*

        Yeah see, *this* might be feasible. I remember doing this when I was younger and would go to the bar to ward off being hit on myself (when I wasn’t interested in being picked up at the time), but again, different scenario. It’s really only relevant if you’re interacting with people regularly and being hit on is a common problem of the job.

    10. EmmaLou*

      I noticed in the related post links that there is an old story about a manager requiring her employee to wear a wedding ring even though she wasn’t married. Alison, did you ever get an update to that basket of nutty?

    11. stevenz*

      As AAM implied, once you say – or strongly imply – you’re married you’re always married. I used this tactic in order to qualify for a mortgage when moving for a new job – extra income and all that. It got a bit awkward at times but nothing daming. Still, I didn’t like the deception especially among friends. The kicker though was that when we decided to part company we had to get a divorce! (Eventually the mortgage broker figured out that we weren’t really married but it didn’t make a difference. I still got the mortgage.) (And she still has the house!)

  8. Generation Catalano*

    #4 You seem to be judging yourself very harshly. Is it possible you are expecting your employer to judge you against the standards you set for yourself? They’ve been kind and human to you – they clearly get why your work has been impacted and I don’t think you need to do anything except focus on finding a way to settle back into work.

    Do you really need to tell them this at all, or are you maybe looking for reassurance that they get it? Because it sounds like they already do.

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  9. Drew*

    #1: Agreed with everyone else; you’re overthinking this. No one at work will care that you aren’t married to your partner when you say you’re moving with him.

    #2: I would be even more direct than Alison here; your coworker has forfeited the right to courtesy. An icy “Excuse me?” is about the right tone for the personal questions (with the stress on “excuse” escalating with repeated incidents). For work concerns, I’m a big fan of “Manager and I have discussed it and it’s settled,” adding “I’m going back to my work now” if that doesn’t solve it.

    #4: It sounds like your managers aren’t concerned and I think Alison’s script is perfect. I’m very sorry about your dad.

    1. Karanda Baywood*

      I like your suggestions for #2.

      “Why would you even ask me that? It’s so inappropriate.” is also a favorite when the boundary is severely breached.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        A variation that also works is, “Wow, that’s inappropriate.” I like it because it doesn’t require a conversation; you can say it and walk away. (Sadly, I’ve worked with people who hear the initial question and completely miss that it’s rhetorical.)

  10. A Person*

    #2 Since she is noting your mistakes and such, could you start doing something similar? Everytime she calls you out on something, you write it down in a notebook. It might tip your manager from ‘She’s just trying to be helpful’ to ‘She’s actively being an ass’.

    That said though, I’m a little worried about the manager’s reaction. I was in a bad work situation where my peer co-worker controlled over me and I couldn’t go to management because control-over was their management style. I’m not saying this is the case for you, but it might be worth making contingencies with that in mind.

    #5 Definitely follow up and get whatever you need in writing.

    1. Julia*

      She’s not just being an ***, she is spending work time on duties that aren’t hers but their manager’s.

      1. Cartimandua*

        Yup, in fact I’d respond to her claim that she’s being helpful with: “Your input isn’t needed on this. All you’re doing is wasting your time, my time, and our manager’s time.”

        1. Sharon*

          Also, watch out for gaslighting. This “I’m just being helpful” is one foot into gaslighting, so don’t let her go any farther with it!

    2. Purest Green*

      I had told her I already talked to our boss about it, but she said she just wants to be helpful.

      I think that line is the reaction from her coworker rather than the manager.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That was my read, too—I think that sentence refers to coworker’s reaction, not manager’s response.

      2. Sprinkled with Snark*

        No, that’s the co-worker’s response. OP had mentioned she had told the woman more than once this had been discussed with the manger in some way or another, yet she continues on. The “manager” isn’t telling her she just wants to be helpful, the ‘co-worker” is using that as an excuse to continue to oversee her, and yes, control her in some way too. What is the point of writing down the mistakes in a notebook if she wants to be helpful? If she really WAS helpful, she would point out the problem as it occurred and it would be over. Writing it down in a notebook is simply intimidating.

        I had a similar experience to this in a part-time job I had in college for a few months. I only worked two mornings a week answering the phones in a large insurance company, mostly transferring callers to claims or agents, along with two other people. It was really easy work, and I got really good at it very quickly, and soon my manger was talking to me about coming to work for the company full-time, which I couldn’t do as a student. After that, my co-worker “Marge” who worked full-time and was in her late 50’s or so, started to do really weird things to me. She would tell me to do things like go to the supply closet and get copy paper or pens. The next day my manger told me I DO NOT leave the phones for any reason, and I have no business “snooping around” in the cabinets. It became nearly impossible to figure out if what Marge was saying to me was company procedure or not. Marge, also, used every opportunity to try to “embarrass” me in front of other co-workers too, asking me “WHY would you do x or y?” And I’d say, “because you told me to do x or y,” and she’d either deny it completely or say, “I told you to do x or Z, not x or y.” I’m so glad I left that job in a hurry and never looked back.”

    3. cncx*

      i had a coworker who also took notes on all my mistakes, perceived or otherwise. this person would then send an email to my boss, with boss’ boss on cc !!!

      i started calling out his mistakes in writing to our boss. when he said “we need to work things out amongst ourselves, no need to get boss involved” i was like , “ok you start”

      1. Artemesia*

        If I got this from a subordinate I would have the little nit on the carpet so fast your head would spin. If a subordinate has a real concern with a co-worker, I would expect them to come to talk to me about it and I would expect it to be something serious that impacts their own work. If I got CCed on an email where one co-worker was chastising another whom she was not supervising, I would be doing whatever the equivalent of ‘writing up’ was in my workplace. This is way out of line and a manager should put a halt to it.

      2. Anonforthis*

        I swear that this is what a co-worker did at my last job. I don’t know if the boss told her to “keep tabs” on me, if evil co-worker wanted to get me in trouble or what. Plus I would (stupidly) confide in her and she would totally tell the boss because the boss would address issues out loud and once she sneered/growled at me. (She had her own issues.) Evil co-worker had the mentality like, “I got in trouble for x, y, z and so should you!” That place was so bad. So glad to be out of there!

  11. Anon3*

    L2-people like her simply don’t listen, the next time she says or does anything, just smile, say thanks and end the conversation. Don’t engage.

    L3- I worry about adding apps to my phone, let alone some odd item, not a good idea. I think the company is liable, they should confirm the safety of a product before giving as gifts.

    1. #2LetterWriter*

      I have been doing that for a while but she takes my silence and empty stare as a reason to continue since I “didn’t hear her”. It has been a mess. I talked to the boss lady and she sat down with her so I hope that works at least for a little bit.

      1. Natalie*

        This might be hard, but keep not engaging, even as she chatters on. Maybe that means you continue to not answer after you’ve said “Thanks”, maybe that means you try the broken record technique (“thanks for your concern” ad infinitum). If you respond after pestering, you’ve just taught her that she has to pester you to get the engagement she wants.

        1. Sprinkled with Snark*

          I think “not engaging” is a mistake. I’m sorry, but sitting there in silence, or just staring, or saying something completely undefined as simply “Wow” exhibits terrible communication skills. Telling her directly, and repeatedly, “Please don’t do this again,” in whatever form you choose to say it in, is what’s going to get the message across. Don’t leave it to your co-worker to try and guess what you mean or try to use your silence as her justification to continue. You can even say, “Please don’t do THIS (specific) thing again, and then add a follow-up question like Do you understand what I’ve said? Am I making myself clear? Can you agree to this moving forward?” You can also tell her, “As I’ve told you before, or as we have discussed before, or as you have agreed to earlier, you weren’t going to continue double checking my work, or going through my things. I think we can work this out without me speaking to the manager again.”

          1. Anonforthis*

            +1 Some people just don’t get it- you have to point blank tell them. Ignoring it or sitting there in passive silence makes them think that you accept their behavior and allow it. I made the mistake of doing this because I didn’t want to get in trouble or start a fight, but being quiet made them not trust me and I just got bullied even worse.

            Other times it doesn’t matter whether you say something or not, you just have to either switch departments or find a new job.

            1. Julia*

              Sure, some people only get it after you have told them very explicitly. But how many times does the OP have to do that? Should she be forced to engage every single time even if she has actual work to do?

  12. Kate*

    #1 isn’t just unnecessary in my view, it could backfire big time.

    Certain age, wearing a ring, and moving your partner? In many workplaces, that would raise questions about how long you are going to stay because they wonder if you are going to get pregnant right away and leave.

    It sucks, I don’t think anyone would have to defend their reproductive choices, let alone pre-emptively. Just don’t wear the ring!

    1. Agnodike*

      Is your suggestion seriously that people in a particular age bracket who are relocating hide the fact that they’re partnered in case some hiring manager somewhere draws the conclusion that they might reproduce in the near future? 50% of pregnancies are unplanned; unless you’re hiring only people who can’t gestate, there’s no safeguard against one of your employees getting pregnant.

      1. Kate*

        Not that they hide that they are partnered, but don’t go out of your way (buy a ring?!?).

        I don’t think it’s justified, and I agree with you completely that it’s hardly a predictable situation, but going into a job interview, you have no idea whether they are a sane employer or not.

        I mean, you could say (and I might), that an employer that thinks that way is not an employer you want to work for anyways, but it sounds like that may not necessarily be the OP’s position. If it is, great! If not, she might want to think twice about the wisdom of this plan.

        1. LaurenB*

          I know what you mean – if you’re going out of your way to lie about something to avoid discrimination, why choose a lie that could just attract another form of discrimination?

    2. Oryx*

      If an employer is basing decisions on women of a “certain age” potentially getting pregnant and NOT hiring them because of that they are opening themselves up to a whole bunch of legal trouble.

    3. Mookie*

      Just don’t wear the ring!

      I hear what you’re saying, but lard almighty, this is impractical and grim. People marry, and sometimes they are fertile and can and want to reproduce. And sometimes they can and want to reproduce and they’re not interested in marrying at all. That’s never going to end. If we’re invested in accommodating pregnant people in the workplace and safeguarding, especially legally, incentives to keep them happily employed while raising their families, that’s a project I’m very much interested in and it’s going to be needed to tackle from multiple angles (starting with addressing wage gaps, improving access to reproductive planning, subsidizing child care, expanding early childhood education, incentivizing family leave, and so forth). Discouraging people from wearing rings because of sexist assumptions, not so much. I, for one, have no intention of letting the Mad Men win this one and successfully intimidate women out of their careers.

    4. Former Retail Manager*

      I agree with you….while it’s a terrible thing, I’ve personally known a couple of managers who considered this in making their assessment and, in both cases, chose to hire a male over a female, based strictly on their own assumptions. Mind you, these were retail management positions in which a 6-12 week maternity leave would have had a definite impact. I haven’t known anyone that this happened to in a professional position.

      That said, the ring is unnecessary. I’d stick with honesty. After all, you don’t want to work for an employer that would think less of you or your reason for relocating based upon your perceived marital status. Best of luck in your search for a new gig!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Please know that their behavior violates federal antidiscrimination laws. Unless the entire company is full of sexist miscreants, if I were a higher up and heard that managers made hiring decisions based on the perceived fecundity of women applicants, those folks would not be allowed to hire or manage.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          You and Princess Consuela are entirely correct but, as anyone who has hired knows, there are a million other “reasons” that the hiring manager could give for why they chose another candidate because naturally they would never put their real reason in writing. Any attempt to report what was told to me would have resulted in a he said/she said situation, out me as the one who made the complaint, and would have ramifications of its own since I could not prove what they said. And for what it’s worth, the company doesn’t exist anymore….long gone….so it’s all water under the bridge, but I had many experiences in my more than decade long career there that didn’t leave me with much faith in many hiring managers, this being only the tip of the iceberg.

          I have no doubt that discrimination in the hiring process is alive and well in many parts of the U.S., unfortunately.

    5. Troutwaxer*

      I always notice wedding rings, and sometimes wonder whether it’s a real wedding ring or something meant to keep the wolves at bay… I’d just go bare-fingered.

    6. Meghan*

      Not for nothing, but this is why I stopped wearing a (non-engagement) ring on my left ring finger (particularly in interviews). When I was a 2L applying to summer associateships in law school, I used to wear this silver and moonstone ring. It didn’t look like an engagement ring, but I wore it on the important finger. During an interview with a very well-known firm, the guy looked at the ring, and started asking questions about my relationship status, and flat-out asked if I was planning to have kids soon. Followed it up by saying “I know I’m not supposed to ask that.” I said, “No, you’re not,” and didn’t answer further. I filed a complaint with my law school (the interviews were being done on our campus and were facilitated by the school), and they made a stink with the firm, who replaced the interviewer for future interviews. But guess who didn’t get a second interview?

      Don’t wear the ring. I wouldn’t even go into detail about why you’re moving. Just say you’re trying moving to the area, and that’s why you’re looking for a job there. There are a myriad reasons for a need to move, and they don’t really need to know what that reason is.

      1. Rachel*

        I wear a ring on my 4th finger on my left hand and without fail people ask me about it when they first meet me, asking whether i’m engaged/married (I guess they wouldn’t ask if I were older but i’m only 22 so it stands out more than it would if I was at an age where lots of people were getting married). I don’t mind people asking, and for me the symbolic meaning of the ring is important enough that I put up with the questions, but it definitely gets a bit old sometimes having to explain that it’s from my boyfriend but no we’re definitely not engaged etc, so I wouldn’t recommend wearing one unless you’re prepared for questions and are happy to either explain your situation or lie to a prospective employer.

        1. Sprinkled with Snark*

          Once you’re older, and you’re wearing a wedding ring, then they will ask you about your children, or your “family.”

      2. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        FWIW – when that happened to me I played among and still didn’t get a call back, so you were probably SOL regardless

    7. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      This is a very real concern. It happened to me when I moved (to San Francisco of all places) to join my husband after we’d been married for a year. all my interviews were about my marriage and “plans”and it took me much longer to find a job than my resume would have suggested.

  13. Nessa O'Hara*

    1 – Just wanted to share with you that I moved for a boyfriend and I felt like it was a really lame reason, that I’d be judged badly for it and I was dreading telling my boss. When I did he said to me that moving for love was the best reason to move somewhere – may be a bit cheesy but it really stuck with me and I felt like I was doing the right thing.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I moved for my boyfriend, too, because he was starting grad school in a metro area 5 hours from where I’d been living, and I was pretty sure we were on the track to marriage. The good part was that it looked good for my career to be moving up to a bigger metro area, so I could add that in to my reasons. Nobody ever really questioned wanting to move from small town Kentucky to metro Chicago. :)

      But reader, we did end up married. (Almost 10 years!)

      1. INFJ*

        Good point. Depending on what city OP is moving from and to, it might not even be a question. The city I work in is notably The Place to Be for my industry, so it makes sense that most people either move here or went to school and stayed here.

    2. the gold digger*

      I was reluctant to tell an employer why I was moving from Memphis to where I live now. I had not yet married my husband and I was worried that the recruiter would think “moving for a boyfriend” was flighty, but when I finally admitted it, the recruiter was very happy. “We don’t get many people who want to move to [this city] just because they want to be in the city,” he said. He just wanted to understand why on earth I would leave someplace with a nice climate for the dang frozen tundra and high state income taxes.

  14. No Name Yet*

    #1: When my now-wife and I have moved for each other’s work/school but didn’t want to out ourselves in the interview, we said we moved for “family obligations.”

    1. Turkletina*

      When I tried that, the follow-up was always “Oh, so you’re from here originally?” and, since I’m not, I had to mention my partner anyway.

      1. No Name Yet*

        Yeah, I had that response too. I think I went with, “no, I’m not from here, but I have family here now.” When we were in a foreign country (and thus would have visa implications), it was trickier.

    2. mf*

      This. OP #1: You can say you’re moving for “personal reasons” or “to be closer to family.” I’d definitely say your boyfriend counts as family.

      1. Sprinkled with Snark*

        When I first read that, “to be closer to my family,” I thought that immediately implied that you had family from there, or you were from there originally and moved away, or are moving back because it didn’t work out or something, or maybe your homesickness was too great to manage, so that’s not always positive. Also, what are “family obligations?” anyway? Mom told you to move? A very ill parent? Dad wants you you to do the books on the weekend? It’s just so broad and vague, and I can’t imagine a potential employers at least wondering what those obligations might be. Again, it might not be positive either.

        People move for so many reasons–that’s where the jobs are, that’s where THIS job is and I’d like to work for your company, I love the area, this a city with a lot to do, this is the global center for teapot making in the world, I’m ready to move on from old job to new growth and opportunity, we love the area and would like to make it our home (partner implied), we would love to be on the coast/capitol city/quiet town/riverfront restaurant scene/ whatever.

        Not every single person follows their arrows based solely on who they might, might not, might not ever, or might WANT to marry. For some people, life calls to them in another way.

  15. Alton*

    Regardless of whether the employer is liable, the seller or manufacturer may be. This sounds like negligence on that level. The employer should know that this occurred. They may want to complain to the seller, and they may be able to get their money back.

    1. a big fish in a small pond*

      Totally agree – the manufacturer is liable, not the company, but as a manager I’d want to know this had happened and do what we could do rectify it through the manufacturer.

    2. Brett*

      The “flaw” is actually on the part of the phone manufacturer. Most phones are not designed to power devices off their charge port and will break every time you do that regardless of the device you plug into it.

      1. Allypopx*

        Doesn’t that still fall on the product manufacturer though? Phones aren’t designed for this purpose, and they’re manufacturing an accessory that doesn’t work with in the contexts it’s advertised for without causing damage.

  16. Raine*

    #1 — I would pretty much take it you are in a lesbian relationship if you used the word “partner” the way suggested here.

      1. Grey*

        It’s similar to OP #1’s issue. Nobody really cares but it might necessitate a correction during normal small talk.

        1. Anna*

          And again, who cares?

          When I was in college, one of my professors used “partner” to refer to her significant other and I assumed she was gay. And then I met her significant other and he was male and I reminded myself that partner is non-gendered and my assumption was my own stupid assumption and maybe I shouldn’t make those assumptions because I could come off looking like an ass.

      2. Mazzy*

        Doesn’t necessarily matter but in general it’s not great to lead an interviewer to believe you’re something that you’re not no matter what it is. If you can’t communicate one thing correctly by not recognizing that some words have conotations, what else did you misrepresent? Maybe something that mattered?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Maybe this is regional, but at least in my area, “partner” has become a common term for significant other of any sex. And I don’t think it’s entirely regional, because I’ve noticed it when talking to people in other areas of the county (although they’re all fairly urban areas, now that I think about it).

          That said, I agree with Anna on the who cares.

          1. ZVA*

            Yeah, I would say it’s common in my area too (the Northeast). For example, I had a female professor who always referred to her male significant other as her partner; I always figured she did it because “partner” sounded more professional or mature than “boyfriend”…

            1. INFJ*

              Exactly. My SO and I were living together 6 years before getting engaged. I liked using “partner” better because it sounded like someone I am committed to and live with; “boyfriend” made me feel like a high schooler.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      I would assume the same as well unless OP threw in “my partner” and later referred to said partner as “he.” And for those that say “why does it matter?” Well, I live in the South, where many things remain backward, discriminatory and unfair to this day. As a longtime Southerner, most of us assume gay/lesbian when we hear the term “partner,” myself included. While it’s not nearly as discriminatory here as it used to be, one would be naïve to believe that that mindset doesn’t still exist here (and is much more prevalent that you might think, although it’s kept much quieter than it used to be) and, depending upon who you’re interviewing with and what industry, it can definitely be a negative for a candidate.

      I certainly hope OP isn’t going to an area in which those beliefs are still prevalent.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        As a Bible Belt resident and mostly invisible GSM, that is a +1 in favor of calling my partner “my partner.” I do not want to work anywhere that would have that big a problem with me being in a same-sex relationship. I’d rather find it out at being rejected for a job than at being fired from a job.

        1. Natalie*

          Although bias doesn’t always work in such a linear fashion. Someone’s unconscious bias might be enough to keep them from hiring Jane Doe, but not so strong as to cause them to fire Jane Doe later. People are complex, in our negative qualities and our positive ones.

      2. Crispy*

        Maybe we live in different parts of the South – some people around here refer to this area as the buckle of the Bible belt – but I don’t think that attitude toward LGBTQ people and their relationships is kept very quiet at all. Quite the opposite, actually.

        There is a good chance I would assume an applicant using the word “partner” to describe the other side of his/her romantic relationship was in a homosexual one. I expect there is a much better chance others I know and work with would assume that and, though they are savvy enough to know not to say so, I believe OP would likely be viewed negatively as a result.

        No matter what, though, OP is over-thinking this. Don’t bother with a ring, use whatever term for your partner makes you comfortable, and ace the interview. Good luck!

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          I live in Texas, the DFW area to be more precise. Since it’s a larger city and more and more people have been moving here from other parts of the country over the last couple of decades, it seems to be becoming less socially acceptable to openly bash people based on their sexual orientation, or race for that matter, but it definitely still happens regularly, albeit behind closed doors and among like-minded individuals, and I have no doubt that discrimination based on that sort of thing still affects hiring to a fair degree. As you said, the people you know are savvy enough to not verbalize their assumptions and land themselves in hot water, but the negative views can definitely be there and acted upon.

          Various industries here still operate very much like a “Good Ol’ Boys” network. Even if you can get hired, getting promoted can be challenging and many longtime employees definitely encounter the glass ceiling….women, gays, lesbians, minorities, heck, single mothers…..it can be difficult for all of those groups.

    2. Allypopx*

      I regularly refer to my boyfriend as my partner, particularly in business conversations that we’re on the client side of (talks with landlords, banks, etc.) just because, like OP implies, it sounds more mature than “boyfriend”. When we get engaged I’ll switch to fiance and then to husband – but as relationship norms change, “partner” is more and more just being used as a way to describe those relationships that aren’t “official” but are meant to be taken with a certain weight and seriousness.

      I also live in the urban northeast so it’s almost certainly different in different regions but I believe language is starting to evolve in that direction.

      1. Allypopx*

        It’s not a comfortable truth but there are still a lot of places where that assumption could cost someone a job so it’s probably worth taking into consideration, depending on where OP is applying.

        OP may also not want to work at the kind of place where that would be the case but as some people above have indicated it’s not always avoidable.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Sure, but I think we should be careful of advising people to choose problematic approaches, or to unnecessarily worry, in order to accommodate bigoted conduct.

          There are places in the country where “partner” is assumed to mean LGBT, and there are hundreds of places in the country where that’s not the case (and several states in which workplace/hiring discrimination on the basis of real or perceived LGBT identity is unlawful). But even in areas in which there’s anti-LGBT bias, not all managers/companies are bigots, and ideally we should approach the job search process with the assumption that most places are not run by homophobes, and that if they are they would quickly out themselves.

          1. Natalie*

            “ideally we should approach the job search process with the assumption that most places are not run by homophobes, and that if they are they would quickly out themselves.”

            Eh, bias isn’t so clear cut that the world is neatly divided into “raging bigots” and “other”. Plenty of people who consider themselves fair and non-bigoted are still influenced by implicit bias. I know research has demonstrated it with names (ones that code Black American vs White American) and I’m sure it’s possible without demographic characteristics as well.

            That said, the LW is still probably overthinking it.

            1. Natalie*

              “without” should have been *with other*. That is, I’m sure implicit bias happens with other demographics characteristics as well.

              1. Allypopx*

                Yeah, and if the OP is worried enough about perceptions to be considering lying about her marital status, she may want to take all perceptions into account. (And also agreed she’s probably overthinking it.)

                I’m not saying this kind of bias is good thing, but I also don’t like to walk alone at night even though I know most people won’t attack me, and ideally no one would. And I’m certainly less likely to do it in certain areas than others. It’s not about tolerating intolerance or assuming the worst in people, it’s just about knowing how the deck may be stacked against you and using that information to prepare yourself.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Certainly, but the comments above primarily refer to explicit, not implicit, bias. I’m not saying be Pollyanna-ish, but I take issue with the idea that we should coddle bigoted hiring conduct or accommodate a system that reproduces inequality.

              For example, in the case of the black/white names study, which tested explicit (not implicit) bias, I wouldn’t encourage people of color to adopt “white sounding” names to improve their chances of making it past the paper cut. Similarly, I wouldn’t recommend to women academics that they adopt gender neutral versions of their names to appear male to peer reviewers and journals in order to publish more.

              1. Natalie*

                Ah, I’m not reading the above comments the same way at all, then – the idea that “partner” might code LW as GLB seems to be more about implicit bias than explicit. In which case, as LaurenB aptly put it above “if you’re going out of your way to lie about something to avoid discrimination, why choose a lie that could just attract another form of discrimination?”

                And as far as your second paragraph, that would be more relevant if the LW was in fact GLB and wondering if they should hide it. That isn’t the case here.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Ah, I see. I think the use of codewords is definitely a trigger for explicit, not implicit bias. Implicit bias is usually about deep-seated norms of which we’re not actively conscious. But being suspicious of hiring someone because they might be LGBT seems pretty explicit to me.

                  (I understand Lauren’s point, but as others have noted—you can’t predict which localities use “partner” in a particular way, so if the goal is to convey seriousness, “partner” seems more accurate than “boyfriend.”)

                  Re: the second paragraph, it’s also important not to indulge bias on the basis of perceived status. Anti-LGBT bias, in this context, is more analogous to having a disability—whether that identity is real or perceived, it’s wrong to make hiring decisions based on assumptions about a person on the basis of their identity.

                2. Anna*

                  I just read a thing that pointed out implicit versus explicit bias when it wasn’t even trying.

                  A headline that read: Why are all Black and Muslim killers “Terrorists” and all white shooters “mentally ill?”

                3. Natalie*

                  @ Princess, obviously, I’m not sure where anyone is suggesting bias should be indulged. The existence and possible effect of implicit bias is just something for the LW to *be aware of*. They will have to weight the various options they have to discuss this move and decide which one seems to be both the most truthful and least risky.

    3. JJJJShabado*

      When I would listen to Dr. Joy Browne’s radio show, when people called in asking for partner advicce, the default assumption that it was same sex (and that was usually correct) so I can see the sentiment here. Agree that it shouldn’t matter and interviewer shouldn’t (and likely wouldn’t) press.

    4. babblemouth*

      People definitively make this assumption when my boyfriend and I (F) refer to each other as “partner.” It was totally unintentional, and we noticed when we realized we were both getting some very weird questions that seemed aimed solely at confirming the under of said “partner.” So now we’ve doubled-down on the gender-neutrality just to mess with people’s heads a bit.

      1. Arielle*

        Yeah, I did the same when I was going on my boyfriend’s health insurance for a bit – it sounded more official to refer to him as my partner. Not to reinforce any stereotypes, but I’m also a woman with very short hair who wears a lot of plaid shirts, so I’m pretty sure assumptions were made. Now he’s my fiance, which I suppose is also a gender-neutral term if you don’t see it spelled out.

    5. Whats In A Name*

      I call my significant other my partner and we are opposite genders. We aren’t married. We are partners in every sense of the word, as are every healthily married couple I know.

      We just don’t have a piece of paper that calls us “husband and wife”. I wear a ring on my left hand sometimes, sometimes I don’t. This doesn’t have as much to do with the appearance of being married as it does with what I am wearing that day and if I’m in the jewelry-wearing mood or not.

      OP, do what you are comfortable with, not what you think others will be comfortable with.

    6. Moonsaults*

      Partner has become a standard for any couple beyond LGBT for a long time. So I hope you understand how very misguided that assumption is nowadays.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It’s not the standard everywhere, and particularly not for people of all ages. Trust me on this one.

      2. tigerlily*

        Which, in my opinion, is very unfortunate. I hate the use of partner to describe a romantic relationship. For one thing, the word is utterly unromantic, and for another it’s often incredibly confusing! Wife means one thing. Boyfriend means one thing. Partner can mean so many. My boyfriend and I do not own a business together, we’re not dissecting a frog together, we’re not chasing down criminals together, and neither of us are cowboys. Not partners.

        1. Student*

          That’s part of the appeal. In a business setting, the last thing I want anyone to think about is my “romantic” life, as it were. I choose the term specifically because it lacks any sensual overtones.

          I don’t want my boss or colleagues to ever think about me in those terms. When they think of my husband (who was for 10 years my unmarried “partner”) I want them to think of us sitting next to each other in suits, very businesslike, in a boardroom. Or as modestly-dressed and very serious cowboys or detectives, I suppose – I kind of like that, actually. I do not want it to conjure thoughts of the bedroom.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq*

          It’s nice to have a non-gender specific word for a committed relationship that doesn’t imply marriage the way “spouse” does, though, and I think a lot of people (myself included) appreciate the sense of equality that “partner” conveys. “Husband” and “wife” have a lot of historical assumptions attached that some of us aren’t entirely comfortable with.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          A lot of (straight) couples use “partner” in order to counteract heteronormative ideas regarding the comparative gender roles that a “husband” or “wife” plays. Additionally, because women were often legally subsumed under their husband’s identity when they married, using the term “partner” is a reassertion of the equality between the couple as well as an indication of their joint desire to work together in partnership, not in a weird socially-imposed hierarchy.

    7. Prismatic Professional*

      I’m from the south and use “partner” for serious relationships no matter the gender/non-gender of said partner. It’s seeming to catch on in the younger set – particularly to do just what the OP is doing – emphasize the seriousness of a relationship.

    8. fishy*

      I would too, though in my case it’s because I myself am part of the LGBT community and am used to looking for hints that someone else may be as well. Plus, that’s just what I’m used to – all the people I know who refer to their SO as their “partner” are gay.

      That said, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I might be a little surprised when I realized OP’s partner was actually a man, but I wouldn’t hold it against her or anything ;)

    9. GMA*

      This will certainly depend on where she’s applying for jobs, though. When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, I thought I had moved to some gay/lesbian hotspot because so so so many people would say “my partner” in passing. Turns out most of them were straight, and some of them legally married. It’s just a more common term out here than where I was in the Midwest. Now, when I hear someone here talk about their partner, I don’t make any assumptions.

    10. Tea*

      To be honest, I live in a super liberal area where LGBT acceptance is pretty much the standard, and I would make a similar assumption. It’s not always panned out to be true, and I certainly wouldn’t be asking leading gendered questions to confirm it, but 4 out of 5 times, when someone mentions their (non business) partner to me, they’re referring to a same sex partner. This may also be because I work with a fair number of older LGBT folks, married and unmarried, who got used to a certain way of referring to their significant other during times when it was really not as accepted. With people who are younger (and by younger I mean twenties to even early fifties), it tends to be a more even split between same sex and not same sex couples.

      That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with having a same sex partner (or my girlfriend would be having some words with me right now), or even anything wrong with calling your boyfriend partner, but if you’re putting a lot of thought into your choice of words and what sorts of meanings they might convey, that is definitely a possibility. While I think the chorus of people adding, “So what?” to the end of that question represent the…. well, ideal world we wish we all lived in, free of prejudice, being thought of as gay can and does trigger both overt and more subtle biases in people. Whether that’s something you want to factor into your decision is entirely up to you.

  17. STX*

    Background: I am a woman in a tech field. After college I moved to Texas to follow my partner (ie, my boyfriend) to his grad program, and no one at my interviews batted an eye when I said that’s the reason I was moving across country. It’s completely normal. If anyone assumed I was a lesbian, they didn’t mention it to me.

  18. Monday Anon*

    #1 – When I was conducting a long distance job search, I just said that I was relocating to New City in Upcoming Month and needed to find a new job. No reason for the move was ever given or requested.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      I did this as well. I was lucky that there was a branch of my company in the state I was looking to move, so they figured I was just looking for a cheaper living situation while staying with the company…which was also true!

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, I’ve never found it necessary to ask exactly why someone was relocating, unless it came up in casual/ice-breaker conversation. (I also work in DC, so I get a lot of people who wax poetic about how much they LOVE Washington and how exciting it is to work in the nation’s capital.) Is that a standard question elsewhere?

      I just find the whole process of buying/wearing a fake wedding ring necessary. It seems like going to effort to make up a story for no real reason.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It tends to come up. If you’re in D.C., you’ve probably never wondered why someone would want to move there (or maybe you wonder it on a daily basis, I don’t know). If you’re in other parts of the country, you may be more likely to ask “So what brings you here?” Especially if it’s a move that some would consider a “step down” – i.e., big city to smaller town, coast to flyover country, etc.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I guess I don’t really care? I need someone that can do the job and am not really concerned with why they’re here. Any of my employees could leave (and have left) at any time for any variety of reasons, including the very hard to replace ones. There are just too many variables to make that a significant factor in deciding to hire someone — if they move for a spouse, they could get divorced or the spouse could be transferred; if they move for the OMG-US-history-free-museums!! factor, they could quickly be put off by the high cost of living; if they move for the weather, they could eventually decide they miss snow/never want to see snow again; they could end up with sick parents and move back home to be back with them, regardless of their reason for coming here or desire to stay here.

          Could just be that DC is somewhat transient in nature anyway (lots of diplomatic families moving in and out, some jobs tied to which party is in power, ebb and flow of government contracting, etc.), but I can’t put in the mental energy to calculate who is likely to stay or go as part of a hiring decision when the calculus on whether or not they can do the job well is already a lot. I’ve been surprised before (two long-time, well-paid employees that were very close with their work teams and reportedly happy on both sides quit in one year on little-to-no notice to move cross-country with no job or family at their destination; two-year employee who ended up staying for five), and I’ll be surprised again, I’m sure. I ask for two years, minimum, but it’s not enforceable at all as we don’t do contracts.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            If it doesn’t matter to you, it doesn’t matter to you. But it does matter to some people. True, you never know when someone who seemed like a long-time commitment in the works will up and leave after a year. But if you really WANT someone long-term, some people want to eliminate the ones who seem to have a higher chance of leaving (“my wife is training at the nearby pilot school” or “I’ve never lived in a place with a real winter and I want to see what it’s like”) just to try to increase the odds of finding someone who will stay.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Sorry, I am explaining myself very badly – it’s been a long week in the DC metro. :(

              “I don’t care” was a poor word choice. I just think that trying to suss out someone’s longevity, absent something that is clearly a short-term commitment (like the pilot school example), is a crap shoot and trying to factor that in (in the majority of candidates I see) isn’t worth the effort. Not because I don’t want people to stay long term — I do very much want long-term, high-quality employees. I talk about my need for a minimum 2-year commitment and the value that it provides both to my organization and the employee as part of the interview process. My experience simply tells me that estimating their shelf life isn’t something that their reason for moving gives me a ton of insight into (again, absent some really red-flag response). One of my best, longest-term employee’s line is that she came for a weekend party her college friends were throwing two decades ago and never left. :)

              I also think trying to ascribe motives to others, like whether or not someone is wearing a wedding ring, increases the chance of making a hiring decision based on something other than objective facts of their candidacy. OP’s plan to wear a wedding ring has already been construed in the comments in several different ways (sign of increased commitment, concern that she’s leave to have a baby soon, etc.). I know that I’d rather a handful of my interviewers have as little personal data off which to make potentially biased assumptions.

  19. SeekingBetter*

    #3 Is it just me or am I the only one who learned what a “phone fan” was today? I then proceeded to google it to find out more and it looks like some Amazon reviewers aren’t too happy with the fan killing their phones!

    1. Myrin*

      Same here, and when I googled it just now I realised that I’d imagined something quite different!

  20. VioletEMT*

    OP1, I wouldn’t even say “partner.” I wouldn’t say anything that implies that you’re moving for relationship reasons when you’re not married. My experience is that people will assume things are temporary. I would just say that you’re moving for family reasons. After all, Boyfriend is your family. They really don’t need any more info than that.

  21. Emi.*

    I’m confused. Why can’t you just say you want to move to the area? How does it matter why you want to live there? People move for family, love interests, weather, food, museums, transit systems, shopping, …

    1. fposte*

      Because the job wants to know if you’re going to put down roots here or if you’re just claiming you’ll move because there’s a job on the table. This is especially true if the job is in an area with notable challenges–like brutal weather or intense culture–and the applicant isn’t from an area with that. People who move on a whim to an area they’re unsuited for are flight risks and unhappiness risks, and most employers are trying to minimize those risks.

      1. mskyle*

        It’s also good for the employer to know that the partner is on board with the move – I used to work at a university in a not-particularly-attractive-to-outsiders city and we had real trouble retaining faculty due to their spouses not being able to find work in the area. An applicant with a partner/spouse who already had ties to the area would have been regarded as a big plus (I’m not sure we ever had such an applicant :/).

        1. Triangle Pose*

          Your university didn’t ever employ these spouses? I’ve seen universities that are in not-particularly-attractive-to-outsiders cities employ trailing spouses – admin staff, project management, etc.

          1. fposte*

            In my experience, funding for that is really variable, and it’s dependent also on relationships between the department that wants the main person and the one that would hire the spouse.

          2. Julia*

            That only works if the spouse is okay with/qualified to be admin staff etc. What if they’re specialised in something your University and area cannot offer?

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That’s certainly true, but I’m with Emi. A person can also talk about her desire to put down roots in the area without mentioning her relationship status, and I’d opt for the path that requires divulging the least information about my personal life.

        1. fposte*

          It’s an understandable choice; it’s just that that may not be the more convincing motivation to a prospective employer, so it may factor into the hiring decision.

    2. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

      I moved for horses! :) For most folks, this makes no sense whatsoever, but for people already in the area, they totally understand. Neigh!

  22. mcr-red*

    #2, I have a similar problem, in that a co-worker “corrects” my teapot work, which isn’t for mistakes, but for his particular style/look. He isn’t a boss, though he is friends with the department manager, we are on the same employee rung. I’ve brought it up to both the department manager and my big boss, and I’ve been told he’s just “being helpful.” It’s common for someone to check teapots before they go on to sales for mistakes, but we’re not talking about mistakes, we’re talking “That’s blue and I don’t like blue so I’m changing it to red.” I’m the only female in my particular department, though my big boss is female too, and it’s really bugging me because I make way more teapots than Mr. Coworker does, which big boss acknowledges and department manager acknowledges in a way because he throws a fit if I use PTO because someone else has to do all the teapots I do.

    1. Sharon*

      The entire team that I currently work on is like this and it drives me batty. We produce and maintain documentation for external customers to read, and as such we have a review process prior to publication. That’s fair and reasonable. But instead of looking for mistakes, they pick your word choices to death. I’ve literally never been able to get one simple sentence through the review board because everyone puts their spin on it and then tries to re-word it to avoid that spin. The only way we actually get anything out the door is because the two senior people assume their spin is the most understood by customers so whatever they say goes. I had to abandon my work ethic of trying to do things right the first time because it’s just not possible here. I’ll never write a sentence right the first time because I’m not in the head of our senior people so they will re-write it. Every. Time.

      1. Sparty*

        This happens to me every time I have to help put together our board deck. The 4 C suite executives all get in a room to review the deck and we’ll change the same wording 4 different times on every single slide. It’s such an aggravating process, but at the same time I am able to learn a lot of information that helps me do my job so in the end it’s worth it.

      2. mcr-red*

        Ugh, I don’t know if I could handle a whole team of Mr. Coworker! My sympathies!

        I don’t know if it would bother me less if he was senior, but he’s not, I am! (At least in terms of years at company, if not in position – we’re equal there) And also the fact that they will give me 12 teapots to do in a shift, and could I also make coordinating teaspoons to go with those, and Mr. Coworker will get like 5 teapots to do in a shift, and then will go over and fiddle with everything I just did, changing the color and style to what he likes. I’ve asked my big boss and the department manager if there’s something wrong with how I do the teapots and they say no. And “that’s just how he is,” “he’s just being helpful,” and one memorable time, “It keeps him busy.” Then give him some of my teapots!

        1. Artemesia*

          Wow. If he is less productive and needs to be kept busy meddling, I’d be escalating this. ‘If he needs to be busy, why don’t we have him produce more teapots rather than meddling with mine? He isn’t being helpful he is undermining my work. I need to have this stop.’

          1. mcr-red*

            Ooh, I like the phrasing, Artemesia, “undermining my work.” Maybe that could help get it through to them!

      3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        I work in a similar environment. Everything is approved by committee so it turns into an ego thing for each person on the committee to “contribute” by making changes — even if the change is completely unnecessary like changing “many” to “several”. We do the comma hokey-pokey on a regular basis — take the comma out, put the comma in, take the comma out and shake it all about. The most infuriating part is when, at the end of the process, the worst offenders complain about how long this is taking.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      “If there’s nothing wrong with my teapots, how is this extra layer of work helpful?”

      1. mcr-red*

        When I point that out, that’s usually when I get the “that’s just how he is.”

        Interesting note: At one point, we were slammed with teapot orders, so big boss had to fill in to help. Mr. Coworker did that to her too! She pointed it out to me, and said, “I got Mr. Coworker’d too, MCR.” And that was it.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I wonder what they’d do if you spent an equal amount of time undoing his “corrections?”

          1. Artemesia*

            I would so do this. The only rational response to ‘that’s just the way he is.’ is ‘well having someone meddle with my work is annoying and will cause me to reduce productivity while I change all his meddling interfering changes back to the way I want them. That is just the way I am.’

            And I would so be undoing the corrections. (of course since I assume these are writing tasks and we are talking about picking editing, you do need to reflect on whether his changes do in fact improve the product, but if not, I would be changing them all back again.)

          2. mcr-red*

            I would, except that I’m the only Teapotter that works Shift A, and the rest of the Teapotters work Shift B. All of the teapots are collected at the end of Shift B and sent to sales. So by the time I see my now changed teapot, it’s on the salesfloor and I can’t take it back.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I guess you can’t suggest that it would be more efficient to send your teapots to Sales at the end of your shift…

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m sorry—this is obnoxious and poor management, and I’m sorry you’re being subjected to working with a busybody. :(

  23. blu*

    I like the approach for #2, but I would remove the words “like” and “prefer”. I think you need to say “Unless Manager has asked you to monitor my work, you need to stop doing that.” I think with someone this tone deaf and insistent on repeating this behavior, you can’t phrase as a request.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      “I will now educate you on the difference between helpful and annoying. If I ask you for help, and you graciously assist me, then you are being helpful. If I don’t ask you for help and you offer unwanted assistance, you are being annoying. Now, in this particular instance, are you being helpful or annoying?”

      “Good, now I will educate you further. The end state of your being annoying is that you will always be the last person in the entire frickin’ universe I will ask for help. We will continue your education on these issues until I am satisfied that you understand.”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I think a lot of people won’t actually say the thing I’m suggesting saying if I use that kind of line, because it’ll just sound too rude to them and they won’t be able to picture themselves saying it in real life. I don’t think I would personally say it! It sounds much ruder. OP can hold the same boundaries without “you need.”

      1. blu*

        I think it comes down to tone, it doesn’t have to be rude, but I think saying I’d prefer makes it sounds like your are offering her a choice. You can even just say “I need that to stop”. I’m just saying, I think you need to be declarative, because clearly this person had demonstrated she doesn’t care about the preferences of others.

  24. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I’ve used the terms “partner” or “spouse” in an interview before. My wife does the same. We live in Minnesota, which is very blue but still can be socially conservative, and using “partner” usually means the person is LGB. So consider where you live, OP 1, and if that assumption would be made and how it might affect you,

    Also, my wife is bi, so it bugs me when people sort of exclude bi people from discussion of same sex relationships/marriages. Yes, they do have them! OTOH, though, she doesn’t seem to understand that she has/had “passing” privilege in a way I never did. She says anyone can pass as straight if they squelch themselves enough. But she doesn’t seem to realize that she at least had the option, when dating, of finding someone that she wouldn’t be afraid to hold hands with in public, or that she can pass as straight when alone. I totally can’t.

    Sorry for the rant.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I guess I know enough people in the UK and Australia that when I hear “partner,” I don’t assume it’s a LGB relationship. But from the comments here today, apparently many people in the U.S. do make that assumption. I’d really like it if more male/female couples used the word “partner.” It’s so common in other parts of the English-speaking world, and it sounds much more mature than boyfriend/girlfriend.

    2. PK*

      I had the same thought as a LGB person myself. Saying partner in certain places of the country could cause an assumption.

    3. Brogrammer*

      It honestly surprises me when bi people don’t realize they have an easier time than gay people when it comes to passing as straight – I mean, seriously? Unless I make a point of telling people otherwise, they assume I’m straight because I’m a dude in a relationship in a woman. And I’m not closeted at all, quite the opposite.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        My SO is bi, and also not closeted – he’s quite open about it on his social networking, but there have been times when people have commented on his Facebook posts with things like “Are you gay? I never knew.” And this dates back to before he was with me, so it’s not because of that.

  25. JB*

    #2- Ugh, sorry about your coworker, she sounds like the worst. I also have trouble calling out boundary violations, I eventually realized in these types of situations I was feeling pressure to respond immediately and sort of smooth over their rudeness, or else I would be the rude one. Or that if I did say something more direct, I might go overboard and respond too harshly. So I just sort of rushed through some overly gracious response, then after the interaction was over, I was mad at them for the original boundary violation and then mad again because I felt (socially) trapped.
    My therapist reminded me that it’s not rude to not respond *immediately* to someone. You can just take a few seconds before you speak, which gives you the benefit of time to think about what you actually want to say, and the double benefit of letting her words really hang there and letting her really hear what she just asked you. So if you’re not feeling ready to call her out when she’s mothering you, remember that there is also power in silence.
    Also, walking away! I can completely picture giving her a blank look and walking away to your desk after the corn-in-teeth incident and having that be effective. Sometimes the absence of joining her in the conversation she’s trying to lead you into is message enough. And I love Alison’s advice for stuff to say when you feel really ready to call her out. Good luck!

  26. Oh hey that was me 5 years ago!*

    #1 –
    5 years ago I was you! My (now husband) boyfriend got into graduate school very far away and we decided I’d go with him, and we’d live together. I was 22 at the time while I was interviewing, and I was very self conscious about the fact that I’d been working for only a year (already a ding against me for being ‘flighty’ as you say), and that I was moving for a boyfriend. PLENTY of 22 year olds have ‘serious boyfriends’ but not tons of them end up marrying said boyfriends. (FWIW, my parents thought the same thing and were very adamant that we needed to get engaged before I relocated away from all family and friends and a great job… we didn’t, but we did soon after I moved up!)

    I ended up referring to him as my fiance, because we’d discussed that we’d be engaged by the time I moved/started a job. I never got questions about why I wasn’t wearing a ring. I ended up getting a great job, and actually started before we got engaged – and when we got engaged a few weeks later I casually mentioned it to my boss at the time, that I’d just been nervous to say ‘boyfriend’ in an interview, since I was only 22.

    I don’t think at the age I am now, 27, if I were relocating for a boyfriend I’d have felt quite so self conscious about it. I think it was just the fact that I knew I was very young, and leaving my first (and GREAT) job after just one year, for a boyfriend. I knew he was The One, but I also knew that plenty of 22 year olds think that! I didn’t want any potential employers to think I was naive; so I just said fiance to quash that feeling within myself.

    1. Oh hey that was me 5 years ago!*

      To follow up I realized I should clarify – I got a lot of ‘why are you moving to X city’ and ‘why are you leaving this job, several states away, after just one year’ questions. So it naturally came up that I needed to explain that I was relocating for my fiance’s career (I didn’t specify graduate school, because I didn’t want potential employers to think I was just a finite amount of years employee)

      1. Chinook*

        “I got a lot of ‘why are you moving to X city’ and ‘why are you leaving this job, several states away, after just one year’ questions. ”

        One interviewer saw my resume and asked if I was either a)on the run from the law or b) a military spouse. I now use response “a” when colleagues ask about my varied job history and “b” for interviews.

    2. Rachel*

      I’m in a very similar situation right now, i’m 22 and basing where i’m going to live after university on where my boyfriend will be accepted into a masters program, and i’m always so conscious of how people may perceive that, even though I love the place we are going to be as well.

      1. Oh hey that was me 5 years ago!*

        I think it’s slightly different since you’re graduating from University. Plenty of students relocate to a new city after graduation. If you were already in a job, and then leaving a job after a year to relocate, that’s when I’d worry more.
        If you do get asked ‘why are you moving to X city’ you can choose any answer like ‘I just graduated from University and this city has great career opportunities/I have always wanted to live here/fill in the blank here.’ You absolutely would not need to say ‘My boyfriend got into a masters program here’

    3. Julia*

      Wait, your parents thought the possibility that your relationship might not work out (in their eyes – it obviously did, yeah!) means you need to get engaged sooner? So you’d get married sooner and be stuck with someone you don’t work out with?

      1. Oh hey that was me 5 years ago!*

        No, they thought that I shouldn’t move for Just A Boyfriend. Like, if I was willing to make the commitment and move states away, give up a great job, not knowing a soul but him – and him being very busy in graduate school – that he should be on the same page and make a similarly big commitment, too.

        1. Oh hey that was me 5 years ago!*

          They definitely thought it would work out! They just wanted to see that he was as committed to me as I was to him :)

  27. Jax*

    I’ve worn a “wedding” ring since I was 18 years old because I take public transportation regularly and found that it cut down significantly on the amount of unwanted male attention. I have never had an employer question me about being married or not being married or asking about the discrepancy if I mentioned a boyfriend or partner. One time HR pointed to my ring and said “oh! Are you married?” and I said no and she responded she just wanted to make sure my paperwork was correct and that was that. It is not my employer’s business whether or not I am married and so far none of them have tried to make it their business. I don’t feel like you owe that deep of an explanation as long as you are applying for these jobs in good faith that you’ll be there long term.

    1. Monday Anon*

      I too have never had an employer question me about being married or not being married, and it’s never even crossed my mind to ask someone that when I’m sitting on the other side of the interview table.

  28. Sarianna*

    What struck me about OP1’s letter is the phrasing compared to Alison’s. There’s a big difference between “moving for” and “moving with” even if they result in the same action!

      1. Sarianna*

        Moving ‘for’ someone implies you are moving and that they are the reason: you are moving primarily for their benefit rather than your own.

        Moving ‘with’ implies partnership and mutual benefit: one or more partners are moving in order to live cooperatively and/or interdependently.

        Similarly, “I cleaned the kitchen for him” vs “I cleaned the kitchen with him.” The kitchen was cleaned either way, but the implication of motivation and actions is very very different.

    1. Anonaday*

      Leaves the question of what to do if you are “moving for” open, though – perhaps to close the gap on a LDR. Could always punt to “moving with” even if it’s not true, I suppose.

      1. Sarianna*

        In this instance, it could certainly be an implied ‘in,’ as in ‘moving [in] with my partner.’

  29. BadPlanning*

    OP4 — 5 years ago, I could have written a very similar letter. From your letter, I suspect that you have high capital built up at work (people think you are a hard worker — and if they notice anything amiss (bigger “if” than you realize here) then they attribute it to some difficult and understandable circumstance). This is the time to “spend” it — like an emergency savings fund. I used to wonder if I even needed to do my job if no one noticed at crappy I was doing it at time. Now that time has elapsed, I think I was doing a better job than I thought and most people probably didn’t really notice and those that did kindly made allowances (banking on the “I know she’s good at her job, I’m sure it’ll get better”).

    At the risk of unsolicited medical advice, if your company offers an EAP with covered counselor visits, I’d suggest using up the “free” sessions if you haven’t already. I know some readers have had a bad experience with their EAP programs, but when I finally told myself that “suck it up” wasn’t a good grief coping strategy, just the 6 (I think it was six or close to that) sessions for grief counselling really helped me along.

  30. Slow Gin Lizz*

    #4 – You say you are nowhere near maxed out on leave time. Do you have enough that you could take some time off from work? I am not a counselor but I do know that being away from work can be a great way to recharge and refocus when you get back. I’m not suggesting you go on a vacation unless you really want a change of location – even having a full week at home to not worry about work issues could be helpful. Or spend time with your mom or other family and friends who would be a comfort.

    And I’m really sorry about your dad.

    PS I hope you have stopped worrying about the deadlines you missed the week your dad died. Any compassionate human would realize that you had more important things to worry about that week.

  31. Moonsaults*

    Op #1 I literally just moved a month ago to follow my boyfriend a couple hundred miles away. The only thing people care about when you’re relocating is that you’re dedicated to the move. I’d focus on that aspect and not about the personal relationship part.

    It’s a difficult situation to be in and I wish you luck on your journey!

  32. snake juice*

    I totally understand #1’s anxiety. I just went through the exact same thing. My bf got a new job a state over and I saw the relocation as a great opportunity to leave my home state and to enter a greater job market. I didn’t wait to land a job before relocating, however, and the move was so short notice I didn’t have anything lined up before I moved. I went on tons of job interviews and needed to answer the “Why did you move?” questions, which I hated. My move was as much for me as it was for him, but I hated giving him all the credit. I also didn’t want to sound like a person who would drop everything and uproot my life, which I worried was an impression I gave, when in reality my previous employer was completely in the know throughout the entire process.

  33. Sarah*

    OP#1 – I found your letter a little funny because in my industry married women are frequently advised not to wear their wedding rings during job interviews, and never to mention a partner or kids. (I wore my wedding band but not my sparkly engagement ring when I interviewed, and did get 2 offers.)

  34. nnn*

    LW1: If you do want to wear a ring but don’t want to create the confusion Alison described about leading people to think you’re married, you could wear a fake engagement ring instead (i.e. a band with a stone rather than a plain band). Then when you get married, you could replace it with your actual wedding ring.

    Tangentially, I recently discovered that my co-workers think I’m married. I have no idea why – I don’t wear any rings and haven’t even been in a relationship for years. So I just corrected them and it doesn’t seem to have any consequences.

  35. Brett*

    Just wanted to note that this is a normal and well known problem with powering any device off your phone charge port. It is not the device has an issue; modern phones simply are not designed to do this and will break.

    iPhone lightning ports are particularly infamous for this. Running the charge port backwards to power the device will literally fry the charge circuit.
    Not sure this changes any liability around, but another reason the company needs to act on this immediately. They were giving away swag that is known to cause these problems. (Just make sure they don’t hand out flash drives and photo frames next.)

  36. Christine*

    5. I was accidentally overpaid — should I offer to pay it back, even though my company hasn’t asked me to?

    Sharing a story — in the early 1990’s I worked in banking. We cashed the town’s paychecks. We had a cop that banked with us, that got a weekly paycheck around $900. He got a check for $9,000.00 and he went wild. He knew he got overpaid. He had to get a loan to pay back the town. Not sure what happened with him at work, but it cost him more in the end with the interest on a personal loan. We were shocked, automatic assumption that he would have been honest being a police officer. But if they had fired him, they wouldn’t have gotten their money back.

  37. OP 4*

    I’m OP #4, answering a few questions.

    I have taken some time off, especially around the holidays (yard work is very therapeutic), but I’ve realized I need to plunge back into work, to be productive and feel like I’m accomplishing something. I function best when I set expectations and challenges for myself – which may be the key point: maybe I let *myself* down more than them. (eyeroll at myself)

    I did have a conversation with my manager and a teammate this morning – not a formal meeting, but during discussion of other things, something was said about a specific project. I made an offhand remark about “Last year I kind of slacked with all the other stuff, but I’m starting (that project) tomorrow.” We briefly discussed my plans for the project, and the conversation moved on. I also volunteered to take on an additional project if needed, and they sounded enthused about that.

    So maybe it’s something like BadPlanning mentioned, just use of professional capital.

    Thanks, all.

  38. Student*

    #1 – Contrary to AAM’s assertion, studies of hiring and salary disparities show that people with hiring power do often take note of whether you are married.

    Women who are married get hired at lower rates and get lower salaries than single women. Men who are married get hired at higher rates and get better salaries than men who are single. There are variations to this by field; these are some broad generalizations, YMMV.

    So, don’t wear the ring and you’re more likely to get hired.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It actually depends on your age. As women grow older, they are more likely to incur a “marriage” and “child-less” penalty when compared to their married peers.

  39. J*

    Assuming OP 1 is a woman, really don’t overthink it.

    Because if you want to go down the trail of wearing a ring because you feel that moving for your boyfriend isn’t sufficient, the next step is wondering if wearing the ring while appearing young and female and married gives the employer the notion that you might be looking to start a family soon. And then when you have a child, will you have more and quit your job because now you don’t make enough to cover childcare or need more flexibility.

    It’s a long, slippery slope and you can make yourself mad that way. Best to let it be.

    Good luck with the job search and enjoy your new town!

  40. IANAL (ex-Consumer Rights adviser)*

    If the phone fans were just a gift and not a work tool, it’s not employment law, it’s consumer law.

    (I’ve advised people about their rights under consumer law for a non-proft, but I am not a lawyer. This is general information, not legal advice. Laws and precedents vary wildly from place to place, so contact local lawyers or consumer rights organisations in your area for more specific advice.)

    Under consumer laws, an item must be fit for purpose, work as described, and be safe to use. The phone fan manufacturer/supplier is liable if the product cannot do what they say it can when they sell it to you (or rather, to your company, who I’m assuming bought these things), and liable for even more damages if using it damages your things or turns out to be dangerous. That part is pretty basic breach of contract stuff.

    The fact that it’s a gift to you has no bearing: you still have a contract even if no money changes hands. Your company bought these phone fans, then gave you phone fans for you to use as phone fans: they should have been fit for purpose and safe to use. (This is basically the same as those companies that got sued for handing out freebie toys that turned out to be choking hazards.)

    The exception to that is if the phone fan instructions clearly said something like “Only use if ABC/do not do XYZ” and you ignored that; then you /may/ be liable because you ignored the instructions (if the instructions were reasonable).

    There may also be some useless but scary sounding phrases like “We’re not liable! You’re not allowed to sue us!” in the small print that you/your company can and should ignore, because it’s often been overturned in court, but fradusters or ignorant people still put it in. It doesn’t matter how much legalese they try to scare you off with: if (for example) your tumble dryer sets itself on fire, you can sue.

    Your company should also check their insurance; some policies /may/ cover them for stuff like this, if it’s comprehensive enough. If that’s the case, they can let their insurer run the claim and reimbursement process. If you have personal insurance that covers this, claiming off that will usually be faster and simpler, and let your insurer worry about claiming back off whoever they choose to go after.

    In situations like this, there can often be a chain of liability and legal claims: you claim off your company, they reimburse you; they may then claim off their insurer, who goes after the retailer/distributor, who then claims off the phone fan manufacturer. Ideally, your company would pay all the individuals (for company morale if nothing else), and then put in a big claim for all the damages, because if you have to do it as an individual it will be a nightmare, tbh.

    Your company may try to refuse responsibility and send you off to sue the phone fan people individually, but in most areas it is pretty well established under consumer and safety law that companies are liable for damages caused by gifts they give out. (How hard you push them on that point depends on whether you think they might retaliate against you [which would then come under local employment rights]. Going in as a group with your coworkers may give you more leverage.)

    It doesn’t matter if the manufacturer or retailer is based in another country; you (by which I mean your company or an insurer) can sue them in your local court system. Unfortunately, the retailer or manufacturer may well vanish and/or collapse into bankruptcy, so realistically, getting money out of them can be very difficult even if you win.

    The basic priniciples of consumer law are fairly simple, but how it’s interpreted by judges depends on local case law: each case won or lost in your area can set a precedent. New cases are constantly setting new precedents. You really do need to contact local lawyers or consumer rights organisations in your area for more specific advice on that.

    I’m sorry you’re in this mess, and I hope you can get it sorted out. Good luck!

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