employer doesn’t want me to support any other charity, my employee doesn’t use enough words, and more

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

1. Employer wants me to agree not to support any other charity

Thanks to your tips and advice, I have been offered a full-time job at a nonprofit, charitable organization. I have received my formal offer, but before I accept I have a question about the statement I am required to sign. It reads:

“Upon the acceptance of employment at *nonprofit name* the employee agrees that they shall not volunteer for, donate to, promote, facilitate, organize, or otherwise have involvement in any other charitable, nonprofit, or fundraising event that is not related to or run by *nonprofit name*. If any employee is found to have donated to, volunteered with, worked for, or otherwise had involvement in any charity besides *nonprofit name* they will be subject to immediate dismissal without notice or severance. No exceptions to this policy will be made under any circumstances.”

I asked for clarification after I received this statement and I was told they want employees who are committed to their mission and don’t want their employees distracted by any other kind of charitable work. It was confirmed to me that any kind of donation or volunteering with any other charity or nonprofit would lead to me being fired without exception. They also assured me this is a normal practice in the nonprofit world and that it is a standard statement. I finished my classes in December and didn’t need any credits this semester, and my college graduation ceremony is in the spring. I have never had a job besides working in an ice cream store at a camp over my summer holidays when I was in high school and college. This statement raised a red flag for me and I just wanted to know if it really is a standard requirement for nonprofit employment.

Noooooo, it is not a standard thing at all. I’ve worked in nonprofits my whole career and now coach nonprofit organizations, and this is not a thing that normal organizations do. It’s not normal at all.

I’m actually more alarmed that they they’re trying to convince you that it’s standard than that they have the policy in the first place. If they’d said, “Yes, this is unusual, but our reasons for it are ____,” then at least they’d have some credibility. But now not only do they have a bizarre (and rather horrid) policy on this, but they’re also lying to you about it being normal.

It’s none of their business if you donate to or support another organization, and it’s a really odd thing to try to control.

2. My employee doesn’t use nearly enough words

I supervise a person who doesn’t use enough words. For instance, “Hey Suzie, what about that invoice?” she will exclaim over the cubicle wall out of the clear blue sky. I have to then ask, “What invoice?” She responds, “From McMaster.” I have to then ask, “Which one?” There are 20 a month.

Sometimes, she will stand up and look at me and with an inquisitive expression, and she will say, “Remember that…” and then she just trails off waiting for me to complete her thought. The whole time she is looking me square in the face. I have to say to her, “Please finish your sentence.” Sometimes, I get more clues and sometimes I get, “You know, that thing.” Regardless of how she responds, it’s like pulling hen’s teeth to get all the information I need to understand what her question and/or need is.

It’s making me crazy. I have never encountered this before. It goes on like this for days, when all the while I’m trying to focus on my work. An immense amount of time is consumed with me trying to understand what she is asking. I would like to counsel her on this poor form of communication, but I’m not sure how to say it.

The basic formula when you want to give feedback on something is to name the issue, explain the impact, and explain what you want the person to do differently. So in this case, you could say something like this: “When you approach me to ask questions, you often assume that I know the context that you’re referring to, so you’ll ask me about ‘the invoice’ without telling me which invoice you’re talking about, or you’ll just say a few words and wait for me to finish your thought. It means that we end up spending extra time going back and forth as I try to figure out what you’re referring to. Going forward, can you make a point of giving me complete information in your initial question? So instead of ‘the invoice,’ you’d say right up-front ‘the Nov. 15 invoice from Warbleworth Inc.’ Can you try working on that?”

This is such an odd habit that I’m not confident she’ll get it without more coaching, so you should be prepared to coach in the moment too. If she starts with “the invoice,” stop her and say, “This is an example of what we were talking about. Can you take a minute and figure out what info you need to give me so that I know what you’re referring to and we don’t need to go back and forth with lots of questions?”

3. Did my cousin mishandle this negotiation?

I’m relatively new to the professional working world, so I had a question about something my cousin faced recently.

She graduated this past May with a degree in engineering and got an awesome job offer in Texas (we live in Michigan) with a company that she interned with this past summer. Because she was moving so far away, they offered to pay for her moving costs. They also said that in place of a higher salary, they’d give her a company car. She was okay with it and went on planning her move. A few weeks before her move, her contract still hadn’t been finalized and they were backpedaling on the company car part. She didn’t have a problem with bringing her own car down there but wanted the pay compensation in place of it because of the way previous negotiation conversations had gone.

My parents and I were talking about it and they said something along the lines of our generation expecting to get things even though we hadn’t earned them yet. I tried to explain from my cousin’s point of view that the company car was one of the bargaining points in deciding her compensation. I know that a lot of people look down on Millenials as just expecting things to be the way we want but not all of us are. My cousin worked very hard for her degree, internship, and job offer.

Was my cousin right to continue to negotiate when the company car didn’t come through? Or were my parents correct in making a general statement about “our generation?

Your parents are wrong. Your cousin was offered the company car in lieu of more money. When you’re offered something in lieu of money, the implication is that money would have been appropriate to expect. So when the car fell through, so did the “in lieu” part, thus reopening the question of what salary was fair. It made perfect sense for your cousin to ask for more money at that point, and in fact it would have been pretty negligent of her not to!

Good for your cousin for advocating for herself. (And really, whenever you hear someone painting an entire generation with the same brush, meet whatever they’re saying with some serious skepticism.)

4. Company is pressuring us to leave positive ratings on Glassdoor

My company (where, frankly, the morale is quite low) has a terrible Glassdoor rating. Our CEO gets a lot of negative feedback. The recruiters are struggling and we need to hire at the executive level (or just below). Recently I have noticed more positive reviews that are all shorter and not very detailed. I suspect some employees have been asked on a one-to-one basis to help our ratings.

Today everyone received an email that appeared to be a Glassdoor app asking people to rate the company. My gut feeling is that this is inappropriate. We have a lot of non-native English speakers, and I especially worry that they would feel coerced. I am curious to know your thoughts on this.

Yeah, they should stop trying to manipulate their Glassdoor rankings. People rarely appreciate being pressured to leave positive reviews that they don’t actually stand behind, and it’s going to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. Plus, it’s not even in the company’s interest to have a bunch of fake glowing reviews out there; they want to hire people who know what they’re getting into and are okay with it, since people who feel hoodwinked will leave more quickly. A transparent conversation with candidates about the company’s problems and how they’re addressing them would be a better hiring strategy.

You could discreetly let your coworkers know that they’re not obligated to rate the company, and that since the site is anonymous, in theory your company shouldn’t be able to track who did and who didn’t.

5. Interviews are being scheduled for the promotion I applied for, and I don’t have one

I recently applied for an internal promotion for a job I have been acting in for two months. I put together a good quality application that I had vetted by my referee, who does a lot of hiring. I have a large amount of very relevant experience, but it’s likely that for the level of the job, more extensively experienced applicants came along.

I am almost completely certain that interviews have been booked for in two days time. While not overtly marked, it is clear to me from accessing calendars I need to for booking appointments that they are happening and I don’t have one. I have not received any update on the process from my supervisor.

I am disappointed I haven’t been shortlisted, but what hurts more is that interviews have been scheduled and my supervisor hasn’t let me know that I was not successful in obtaining an interview. At the moment, it is just the two of us in our department and has been for the last few months.

I feel like my contributions as a team member are not being valued with the courtesy of telling me that I haven’t been successful reasonably promptly, but I also want to handle this whole situation as professionally as I possibly can. Am I being unreasonable to feel like I’m not being valued? Can I ask for an update on the process to trigger the discussion? How do I handle providing feedback that I am disappointment about the way the process has unfolded?

You’re making a lot of assumptions here! It’s entirely possible that she wants to talk to outside candidates first before she talks with you. That’s particularly true if you’re a strong candidate, since by talking to the others first, she’ll have a better sense of where she might particularly want to probe with you. Who knows, she may not even feel she needs to do a formal interview with you in order to consider your candidacy. But there’s nothing here that indicates that you’re out of the running.

Why not just ask her? You could say, “I have the sense that interviews might be getting scheduled, and I hoped you could give me an update on the process and when you think I should expect to hear about any next steps.” Hell, you could even say, “Could you let me know if I’m in the mix of candidates you’re considering?”

{ 436 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    With regards to the Glassdoor reviews, you can also let the company know what’s going on, or leave you own review starting with the phrase “my employer is requiring us to write these”. If you’re approved, it could have a very interesting effect!

    1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      Yup! If ever there was anything that belonged in a review, this is it! And they won’t know who it was as everyone got them.

      What absolute idiots they are. Trying to control Glassdoor reviews in this situation is like telling people to stop bleeding instead of treating a wound.

      My employer is amazing. To date I’ve only met one person who doesn’t like working here. But there are some negative Glassdoor reviews and they gave me a really useful insight into the types of people that would or wouldn’t be happy here eg one complained that they should do less of [thing I think is important] and more of [thing I think is not important].

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yeah, if I read even one review that said that the employer required or pressured employees to write GOOD reviews (rather than just encouraging them to post honest ones), I’d pretty much ignore every other review and stay faaaaar away.

        1. Antilles*

          I would assume all the good reviews were fake and all the bad reviews were real. Because if I see a couple reviews saying that employer asked for it, then all the good reviews are suspect. However, the company presumably wasn’t asking for negative reviews, so clearly those are fully legitimate.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            That’s true, but I was thinking (and not explaining, kind of like OP#2’s problem!) that if I couldn’t trust any of the positive reviews, then I’m assuming that the legitimate reviews are 100% negative. So no matter what they say, that’s pretty much a hard pass for me, so at that point there’s no point in reading further, I’d just move on.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Is there a way to report to Glassdoor that a company is pressuring its folks to leave reviews? It seems like they should have a built in process for users to flag bad behavior. (Can you tell I have never used Glassdoor?)

      1. Sherm*

        In their Terms, they have a link you can click on if you believe Glassdoor is being used against its terms. And the terms indeed include that you can’t post anything “defamatory, libelous, or fraudulent; that you know to be false or misleading; or that does not reflect your honest opinion and experience”

      2. Puffyshirt*

        Glassdoor actually offers a tool to email the entire company workforce to ask for reviews. Our HR department debated it briefly, but couldn’t come up with a way to word the request without sounding either desperate or like a mandate, so we skipped it. Glassdoor offers awards and heavy marketing to entice employees to come up with more reviews.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      That was my thought as well. Companies from Yelp to Amazon are cracking down on fake reviews because it makes them less reliable. Report it to Glassdoor.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, my first thought would be to write a Glassdoor review whose first sentence is, “candidates should know that Teapots Inc is soliciting employee reviews on this site.”

    5. Bigglesworth*

      My own company did that. They reached out to a select few that they thought would give good reviews and asked them to post on Glassdoor. When I heard about that, I posted my own very-much-not-positive review and said something along the lines of, “Don’t ask your employees to post positive reviews and deal with the company’s problems.”

      The stand-in HR Director responded and said that it was false information and was sorry I felt that way…right…

      1. Bigglesworth*

        I guess I should clarify something. What I posted was essentially, “Don’t ask your employees to post positives reviews here. If you fixed the issues, there wouldn’t be anything to complain about.”

    6. Eric*

      Yeah! This is great! Do this.

      Fake Glassdoor reviews are so obvious that I don’t know why companies even try. I’m a pretty credulous person and I can smell them from a mile away. If people are unhappy at the company then they write really inauthentic glowing reviews like “The only con is that there are no cons” or “I’m learning and growing my skills TOO much!”

      So for the sake of folks even more gullible than me, you should start off the review by “Management here at CompanyName is requiring me to write this.” :)

      1. Retail HR Guy*

        Seems like an incarnation of the toupee fallacy. You have no way of knowing how many times you’ve been conned by a fake review.

    7. The Awesomeness*

      “Jimmy’s Teapot Emporium is a great place to work. They don’t beat us much, and if you’re good, you get to go to the bathroom once a day. “

    1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      Or buy food for your local food bank. Or donate unwanted clothes. Or adopt a pet from a shelter and donate money or pet food or other goods.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Or donate blood! Or drop your change in the Ronald McDonald House thing at the register when buying fries! Or buying Girl Scout cookies! I find this so, so weird. I work for a non-profit (a school), and doing so has inspired me to donate to related charities. It hasn’t taken away from the amount of money or time I donate to my employer, though – it’s not like if I stopped donating to those other places I’d decide to donate all that to them instead. For many people, charitable contributions aren’t a fixed sum; if I decide to donate (especially small amounts) I often give up something else that wasn’t charity.

        1. Mags*

          Or volunteer for your alumni association or donate to a school. And if you ever have kids, they might be involved in charities through school (e.g. our school does two physical activities for charities every year for which the kids collect pledges — the fundraising is not mandatory, but I normally donate).

          1. Mags*

            Actually, our school board is itself a registered charity, so if I agreed to that, wouldn’t be able to volunteer at my child’s school.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Or any civic/fraternal organization, local government, foundation, labor union, religious organization, educational or scientific organization, community development organization, etc., etc. I think they meant to write this with only public charities in mind, but it’s written so broadly that it could apply to all nonprofits and to all for-profits that may be facilitating fundraising or other efforts to benefit charitable nonprofits.

              1. No-no No-no No-no Batman*

                It’s so badly worded and all encompassing! I mean, there have been some natural disasters recently, and it really sounds like this stupid rule means that if you helped with rescue efforts, food and clothes and blankets or clearing rubble, you could be fired for trying to save people’s lives.

                That’s before we even get to people with seriously ill and/or disabled kids trying to raise money for holidays, equipment or respite care. Are they actually going to say, “So sorry to hear your child got diagnosed with X and desperately needs money for Y – you’re fired!”


                And I agree with Alison: I’m really disturbed that they lied to you. If it were me, I would even put that up on Glassdoor, because a nonprofit asking for that level of control over my other activities (and also lying about it to inexperienced staff!) would be a total dealbreaker for me.

                1. Erica*

                  I’d also be So Not Cool with the fact that they apparently chose not to mention this AT ALL during the screening / interview process, but sprang it on you with the offer letter. If it’s really non-negotiable, how about mentioning it up front so people can self-select out?

                2. IANAL (I argue nightly about llamas)*

                  Is it bad that I’m really interested in seeing what a lawsuit about this type of clause would look like?


                3. Kyrielle*

                  Yes, all of this, especially the not mentioning it during screening/interview. What a weird, creepy, controlling vibe. I’d be worried what else they might try to control, honestly.

                  Under these terms, I couldn’t donate food (including at the library during food-for-fines), couldn’t give a used book I no longer cared about to the library or household items I wasn’t using to Goodwill, couldn’t give blood, couldn’t chip in to my kids’ and friends’ kids’ various fundraisers….. My memberships in certain local attractions are also partly or wholly tax deductible, that is they count as donations, but I’m not doing it purely to give a donation but because I want the membership – technically I think even that is in violation. Ridiculous.

                4. Erica*

                  Of course I rather suspect that the reason they don’t mention it up-front is that they realize that their candidate pool would dwindle to nothing if people could self-select out (that is — they know this is unreasonable). They’re counting on sucking people in through the sunk-cost fallacy — “well, I’ve already spent two months on two phone screens and two in-person interviews, so…”

                5. Erica*

                  (I also wonder if this would even be enforceable, given how invasive and controlling it is, so I’m also wondering what a lawsuit would look like…)

                6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I can’t imagine this being a good/interesting lawsuit (sorry to be a downer!). It’s probably lawful for an employer to impose these kinds of broad restriction on outside activities, particularly because they have employees sign the agreement prior to hiring. But the policy itself is poorly written with lots of vagueness/indefinite terms, which could render it unenforceable as a contracts matter.

              2. Decimus*

                I think you couldn’t donate to a political candidate either, even one who was running to put your organization’s ideas into practice.

              3. Koko*

                And honestly, even when it’s other public charities, it’s off-base. I work in nonprofit fundraising and one of the first pieces of advice I was ever given was to pick a few causes I cared about and start donating to them, because I would never be able to put myself in the shoes of our donors if I didn’t know what it was like to be a donor. And it’s been so helpful over the years to see how orgs that I donate to treat their members, which has provided me examples of both things that wowed me that I wanted us to start doing, and things that left a bad taste in my mouth that I might never have considered until another org did it to me.

                1. Marillenbaum*

                  That is an excellent piece of advice! I would never have thought of that, but when you explain it, it makes so much sense. I donate to some causes for myself, and some because they are important to my mother, but the things I prefer are very simple: no more than 1 piece of mail a month, and don’t call me.

                2. Kyrielle*

                  Oh, this is awesome! I wish more places/people did it.

                  Then maybe I would never again get a “thanks for giving us money, please give us more!” letter.

                  Always leaves me trying to decide, not if I will give them money then (no way), but whether I care about their cause enough to *ever* donate again.

                3. Cactus*

                  Yeah, when I worked at a non-profit I was not only encouraged to volunteer and donate to other causes, I was given one of our end-of-the-year banquet awards because of the outside volunteer work I did. So OP1’s prospective employer is totally not normal.

          2. eplawyer*

            If you had kids, they couldn’t join girl scouts or boy scouts. Can you imagine that conversation? “Sorry, you can join scouts, Mommy will lose her job.”

            I don’t think this organization thought this through. Or they are weirdly controlling.

            Basically if they do this, imagine what else they will try to control. Nights, weekends, vacations. After all if you are truly dedicated to the cause you will give 24/7 to the job with no time off.

        2. On Fire*

          I’m a long-time blood donor, so that was my first thought. And the Salvation Army change buckets at Christmas… this is one of the most ridiculous policies I’ve heard of, as far as charities/nonprofits. It’s saying, “Be charitable – but only for us; you have to be Scrooge for everyone else!”

          I would personally decline the offer, and I would be very tempted to let people (family/friends) know why. I would also evaluate how much this particular organization does, and would definitely factor that into my future charitable donations to decide whether/how much this org gets.

          1. Kittymommy*

            He’ll I’d be tempted to take a picture of the statement (if possible) and send it to the local paper.

            This is so antithetical to the very premise of charities and non-profits it astounds me.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Forget the local paper, send it to Buzzfeed or something. Get it going viral on the internet, that’s gonna have way more reach than a local paper.

              1. Noobtastic*

                Yes, because frankly, potential donors need to know!

                Most causes have more than one option for charitable donations, so if you know that Charity A is hinky, you check out Charity B or C, and choose the charity that actually helps your choses cause the most. Like the recent kerfuffle about the “smile” charities. A or B, or E? It’s small, but it’s just starting up, and they seem way more ethical than the others. With enough resources, they’ll probably be more efficacious, in the long run. These are all considerations to make when choosing a charity, even after having chosen a cause.

                So, yes, please go public with this!

          2. Serin*

            Blood donation! I didn’t even think of that. “If you have spare time and money for nonprofits, we want you to give it all to us.” “OK, how about blood?” “Blood … um … we’re not set up to handle that … but don’t you dare offer it to anybody else!”

              1. Noobtastic*

                Does the boss with the sick brother who needed an organ transplant work for this company?!

                I forget – liver or kidney?

        3. Noobtastic*

          OMG! I just realized! My local theater, to which I have held season tickets since they started up, is a not-for-profit enterprise!

          I’d have to miss my monthly plays! Bye, bye, date night! Oh, no!!!!

          That settles it. No signing this contract!

      2. Band geek*

        Or buy Girl Scout Cookies. No employer should micromanage your finances like that. That would be a deal breaker for most.

        1. Emelle*

          And the way GS Cookie sales have been done for the last few years, they are direct sales with no returns to the offices. Parents are financially responsible for the cookies they order, so no cookies for your kid in scouts.

        2. Noobtastic*

          You can take away my Thin Mints when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands, and my deep freeze has gone the way of the dodo.

      3. Violinszing*

        This would mean no ‘toys for tots’ or Salvation Army ‘angels’ – no aspca, maybe even no pta?

      4. Kathy*

        What about a donation in memory of someone. When someone passes, the family sometimes request that donations be made to a certain charity. I can imagine not donating to what they requesting and instead donating to my employer. If that isn’t tacky, I don’t know what is. I would think that the person was trying to suck up to their employer via my loved one’s death

      1. Cary*

        Probably not since any charity is included in this ridiculous overstepping clause not just religious charities.

        1. Cary*

          … but it’s a good point about how silly and convoluted the rule is since it naturally raises those kind of questions.!

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          But a tenet of some faiths is tithing to the church, and this would prevent that. I agree that the intent is probably not religious discrimination, but it can still be illegal even if it’s accidental. Kind of like how a rule that said “you can only dress in company-branded t-shirts, even on weekends” could prevent people from attending religious services where other dress codes are required.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Also it sounds like doing things like teaching Sunday School or serving coffee after church would get you fired, since that’s volunteering… wouldn’t even just attending services count as “being involved with” the church?

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I don’t think attending services would count, but the rest (Sunday school, serving coffee, contributing to a church picnic) sounds like it would be prohibited. These folks are creepy.

          2. Noobtastic*

            My church not only requires tithes and offerings (yes, that’s AND, meaning you give 10% tithing plus you give a variety of offerings, on a case-by-case basis), it also has almost all of the church positions filled by lay-members. I mean from the bishop right on down to the nursery leader. In fact, they did away with the paid janitor job, and now they have members come in on a rotating schedule to clean the chapel. Not to mention all the various service projects that happen all the time. We even have service if someone dies, or gets sick or injured. If you sign at a funeral, it’s free, and a service and you wouldn’t be able to do that, then, either!

            It may be that Cary is right, and it would not be considered religious discrimination, but I think that a job requiring that you basically quit your church in all but name has got to be illegal in some jurisdiction, or other.

            Maybe in Utah.

        3. Lord of the Ringbinders*

          Right, but some protected groups might be disproportionately affected. It’s not just who is affected but to what degree.

          1. Anna*

            This. People tend to forget that a policy doesn’t have to state explicitly that it’s discriminatory in order for it to run afoul of anti-discriminatory laws.

        4. JeanLouiseFinch*

          I think it would be illegal since many churches practice “tithing” as part of the religious practice. I know my religion (Judaism) expects charitable donations for many causes and practicing charity for those causes is considered to be part of the practice of the religion. This would mean that the nonprofit is interfering with or discriminating against certain religions. That is illegal.

          1. Judy*

            Many churches also practice “works”, “service” or “mission” as part of the religious practice. My church has planned and sponsored mission events, like serving at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, plus we encourage each other to be involved in other mission service. Most people at our church are involved in something, whether it’s scouts, habitat for humanity, environmental, education, equality, justice.

      2. Retail HR Guy*

        Yes. Illegal because it discriminates against the religious but also illegal because they announced that they will be refusing to follow the law when it comes to reasonable religious accommodation (“no exceptions”).

    2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      I have to say I’m dying to know if they actually think this is normal or are knowingly lying about it.

      I’ve freelanced for charities in the past, work for one now and have also volunteered. None have ever said a thing about not donating to or helping other charities, ever.

        1. Bolt*

          That is exactly what I am thinking. Chances are the person who proposed this came from an organization that did this so claims that everywhere does it… eapecially if this person created the policy in both organizations!

      1. Kj*

        I suspect that the person who told the OP this has drunk the kool-aid and believes that it is totes normal. Just like my boss tried to to tell me my company has “great maternity benefits” since you can use your own banked vacation and sick time to get up to one month of maternity leave paid! She believes it is true and ignores that even in the US, that is not considered a “good maternity benefit.” People who have worked at a place for a long time tend to believe the lies, because they have so little exposure to outside working norms. I’d assume that is at play here.

      2. CoveredInBees*

        I used to be a fundraiser for a non-profit (and worked at many others) and charitable work/contributions outside of the organizations was supported and encouraged (not specific groups, just the general practice). The support for the mission was working there. Anyone doing that work in the for-profit world would be much better paid. No one was there for kicks.

    3. Mookie*

      First thing I thought of, along with innocuous, everyday stuff, like donating canned goods or buying books / candies / cookies off of schoolchildren. Or participating in alumni events. Or performing court-ordered community service. Or canvassing for political parties. Or working polls.

      Bananas are normally good (Guy Fieri wouldn’t lie to me), but this shit is rotten.

      1. Mookie*

        Or belonging to and donating time to professional organizations. Or, if working a second job, belonging to a union or guild. The sticking points here are virtually endless.

        1. LavaLamp*

          This is weird. I wonder I they’d even be upset if you shopped through Amazon Smile. That’s just way too much control to have over another persons life, and frankly charitable donations should not be any employers business unless there is a true conflicting interest.

    4. LesleyC*

      It’s so bizarre; it feels like something dreamed up by a manager or consultant that is completely unfamiliar with nonprofit/charity work. Like, it seems like they think they’re issuing a standard non-compete clause–but that’s not a thing with charities.

      1. Koko*

        Except non-competes are about going after mutual business, not being a mutual consumer!

        The for-profit equivalent of this would be something like Walmart telling their employees they can’t shop at any other stores.

        1. Retail HR Guy*

          We have the inverse of that. Our employees are unofficially not allowed to shop at Walmart. (Any other competitor is fine, but Walmart is over the line.)

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I worked at a grocery store that set this rule about its Competitor. If you were caught shopping at Competitor you were automatically fired.

    5. Temperance*

      I don’t think that it does, actually. I think it’s far overreaching, and very wrong, but churches don’t seem to be included in the list of orgs. One could make a good argument that they are not coded as a charitable or nonprofit org under the tax code. ;)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Most churches are nonprofits under the tax code, and many are 501(c)(3)s. Not all of them are charitable organizations.

      2. Justme*

        I was able to claim donations to my church on my taxes. So, some are charitable organizations or nonprofits.

    6. Working Mom*

      I total agree – I have worked in non-profit and this is not normal, at all. In my personal experience, it is normal for the NPO to require employees who solicit donations to donate whatever the “annual standard” is, so that they can “stand behind” what they are asking for. For example – if the organization asks people to donate $100 for a year – that is the “amount to support XYZ annually” – then the org may ask each employee who is in a fundraising role to also donate $100 annually. I personally found it annoying, because usually in NPO you’re not making all that much money, but I understood the concept behind it, and in the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge deal.

      1. neverjaunty*

        It IS a huge deal. It’s forcing employees to pay back some of their earnings. The amount is almost beside the point.

          1. zora*

            Yeah, when I was ‘encouraged’ to do this for an employer who was barely paying us above minimum wage, that $60 / year actually was painful and caused me to overdraft my bank account more than once. I think it’s a horrible practice to officially or unofficially expect employees to give cash donations to the org they work for. But it does actually happen, and it’s slightly more reasonable than this prohibition policy.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yes! I hate it when the university I’m working for asks for donations. They are my sole source of income. I’m just giving them their own money back.

    7. Openly Geeky*

      Right! I’m wondering if this could be considered religious discrimination, against those whose religions require them to donate.

    8. Karen D*

      There are some situations where limits on charitable activity are rational. Journalists are discouraged, for example, from charitable activity that might create a conflict of interest. But the cure for that is to stick to an approved list of charities, always get pre-approval and avoid leadership roles.

      The policy OP describes is weirdly harsh and self-defeating. There’s so much cross-pollination between charities in my community; in fact, collaboration with other nonprofits is one of the things our local United Way scores for when evaluating partner agencies.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I was going to say that I thought this was a UW thing. An NPO I worked for said to only give to partners in the UW or the NPO itself. Then they point blank said, “There is only so much money that people will donate. If you give it to someone not in our circle then that cuts into our income.”

        While they did not follow up on actually checking what people were doing, the statement was still put out there for all to hear.

    9. Chalupa Batman*

      I had never thought about how many things I do regularly that could be considered volunteering or charity donations before this thread. It makes me uneasy how many people might accept a job with this organization thinking they don’t donate or volunteer anywhere else anyway, only to run into quandaries later if the employer finds out they tithed, donated to a relief fund, or helped out with a school event.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I’m not sure this general language wouldn’t hit even less obvious things than that – our local zoo, science museum, and Japanese Garden are all non-profit, and I believe the memberships are tax deductible (definitely for the zoo and garden). I…they’re not really “events” but I think they might run afoul of this clause. And all I want is to be able to take my kids to see the animals, learn how the world works (or pelt each other with ping pong balls launched from air tubes, more likely), or get away from my kids for a half hour to enjoy some calm (and to not be pelted with ping pong balls).

      2. JustaTech*

        Or how about this: in my city you aren’t allowed to throw away clothes in the trash anymore; everything, not matter how stained or holed, has to go to one of the clothing charities (who sort it and send the useless stuff to be recycled for fiber). What if you lived in a place like this and worked for a company like this? Talk about between a rock and a hard place!

    10. Bwmn*

      I’m a bit off on my legalese with this – but if the statement says that you can’t contribute to another 501c3 – then that would exempt most places of worship. I think……

      That all being said, the statement is still crazy when you consider the number of people who give via alumni associations, their children’s schools, coaching little league, donating blood – etc etc etc – it’s a truly bizarre blanket statement.

    11. No presents for me*

      This would get me fired just for accepting my Christmas present from my parents! (They typically ‘adopt’ an animal at the local zoo in my name. I end up with a certificate, a plush animal and a “meet the zookeeper” day. For amusing context, I’m in my 50s.)

    12. JC*

      I run the fundraising department at a nonprofit. This is completely bizarre and not normal AT ALL. Nonprofits are working together for social good. We can’t accomplish our mission by refusing to engage with others. For me, as someone who works in and strongly believes in philanthropy, signing this would be a total deal-breaker.

      *end mini rant*

      1. A fly on the wall*

        Another place this could run afoul of laws (or at least good sense) are the reserves and various other volunteer organizations.

        Can you imagine the bad press if a charity required someone to stop being part of a volunteer fire department, for example?

    13. zora*

      this is SOOOO not normal. These people are crazytownbananapants.

      I have worked for many nonprofit organizations and in every single one, most of the senior staff have other causes they are also involved in, whether with donations, volunteer hours, or even often times running a small organization on their own time. In fact, many of the Executive Directors of organizations have had other causes they cared about and supported.

      These people are awful, run far away and find somewhere else to work. I guarantee there are other things these people are completely unreasonable about.

  2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    #1 Dear goodness no, this is not normal. And it’s really weird, not least because of the sheer range of charities/non-profits out there, and the fact that supporting them can be a really personal thing that people do as a result of difficult experiences, like losing a family member.

    1. Artemesia*

      We’ll if you are not giving to other charities, you will have no excuse for not giving and giving and giving to the organization you work for. This one smells to high heaven.

        1. Chocolate lover*

          I don’t donate to my employer on principle, I don’t feel right basically giving back my salary.

          1. Mona Lisa*

            This is how I felt when I worked at the awful non-profit. We could sign up to have a percentage of our paycheck given back to the organization or United Way, which was a sponsor of the org. It felt so weird to me that they were essentially asking for me to give a portion of my salary back!

            1. M-C*

              And very frequently in non-profits you’re already donating quite a bit of virtual salary you’d get by working elsewhere..

              1. The OG Anonsie*

                This was how I always thought about it when I worked in nonprofits as they were all of the dramatically underpaying variety. The pay cut I’m taking to work here and the fact that I bust my hump anyway is my donation to you people, if you want my money you’re gonna have to give me enough to start with that I can actually spare a recurring donation.

          2. Marillenbaum*

            Precisely! I used to work at my alma mater, and when I would get the begging letters from the alumni association, I would remind them that 1) I’m already giving the university my labor in exchange for salary, and 2) even if I weren’t working for them, they won’t get a dime from me until I finish paying off my student loans at the very least.

            1. The OG Anonsie*

              Oh my gosh, my university actually called current students and their families in an annual phone drive every year and asked for donations. My mother got taken off their list after the first time they called her while I was still a student and asked for donation money because her reaction was not friendly.

              The best part is that when you were like “dude no I’m already paying you guys to attend right now I don’t have any money” their canned response was to go “oh no we understand that money is tight for students, so we do accept one-time donations as low as $150.”

              They also pitched donating to the alumni association as the intro to our commencement ceremony and the crowd actually jeered angrily. Being that this was a massive state school, it was quite a sound. Warmed my black little heart to hear all the families tell them to get stuffed like that.

              1. Noobtastic*

                “”we do accept one-time donations as low as $150”

                When I was a college student, there were times that I would literally have to wander the parking lot, looking for coins, just so I could do my laundry. Thank goodness I was on the cafeteria meal plan!

                At those times, I would have been hard pressed to make a one time donation of 150 PENNIES!

                Seriously, what sort of a charity sets a lower-limit on the donations they’ll accept? And a lower-limit in the triple digits, yet?!

                Someone needs to tell these people the parable of the widow’s mite. I don’t care what religion you are, or aren’t, the principle is the same. Poor people can’t afford to donate as much as rich people, and so any donation from a poor person, no matter how small, costs them more, in opportunity costs, than it does for a rich person. So don’t tick off your poor donors!

                As for college alma mater donations, at least wait long enough for the recent graduates to feel some positive results from getting the degree. If they are still living in crap housing, working food service or retail, while paying student loan debts, waiting for that degree to actually pay off with a good-paying job, then don’t hound them for “gratitude” and donations they can’t afford. Give it at least five years after graduation before you add them to the contact list for donations.

                And making a pitch for money as the introductory speech? I don’t care what event or function you’re at, you do NOT begin it with begging. You just don’t. That’s for the intermission closer, if anything. “If you’ve enjoyed the first half of this event, please consider making a donation. Details can be found on page three of your program.” Make it simple, make it dignified, and make it respectful of the donors, so they actually want to give, rather than feel guilted into it.

          3. Rachael*

            Right! It looks to me that the non profit (in addition to usually accepting a lower salary in order to support the mission) also wants you to only donate TO THEM. The first thing I thought when I read it is that they basically want to “own” your financial contributions to charities. It just reminds me of when I volunteered for a non profit years ago and I couldn’t talk about donating household items or money without the Executive Director grilling me about who I was going to give it to. They felt that they had the “first right of refusal” (or acceptance in this case). I would never work in a non profit that forced me to only give money to only THEIR cause because they do not own my finances.

        2. Lynxa*

          You CAN’T donate time to your employer. (Well, technically you maaaaybe could if you were doing something other than your ordinary job, but that’s a fine line to walk and not worth the risk)

      1. INTP*

        Yes, I should have read these comments before posting below. I think massive pressure to donate is coming later.

        At the same time, from what I hear it’s tough to get a first paid position in the nonprofit world, so I wouldn’t blame the OP for taking it. (Not saying she should, either. I just think in the context of a first job out of school it’s not the obvious no it would be for someone who already has a job or the experience to get a better one.)

        1. Peter the Bubblehead*

          What is the probability of telling the people interviewing her “I would like to take the job, but I refuse to sign that form. It’s too vague and non-enforceable.”

      2. Sfigato*

        In your experience is it normal for people to donate to the charities they work for? I’ve worked for a few, and I was never asked to donate time or money to them. I don’t know how representative that is, though – only one actively requested donations from the general public (the other two were funded by large grants and didn’t do individual fundraising).

        I’m on the board of another charity, and beyond the expectation that I donate and fundraise for the org, there’s no discussion of my other charitable work or giving.

    2. Is it Performance Art*

      It’s really strange. A lot of non-profits like the idea of their employees working for and donating to related causes. I’ve worked at places (including non-profits) where they liked to brag about how their employees gave to charities X,Y and Z even though the company hasn’t given a dime to those charities — they think that having such generous employees makes the company look good and generates good will. In fact, I’m pretty sure that sometime in the past 10 years an oil company ran a bunch of ads about how their employees were such avid volunteers and donated lots of their own money to charity.
      I’d also wonder how they’d handle someone donating to another charity in your name. You can’t control that and asking a charity to prove where the donation in the name of Jane Smith came from would at best result in laughter.

      1. GingerHR*

        I worked for a not-for-charity, and we were actively encouraged to use our volunteering day (it’s a pretty common thing here in the UK – costs the company very little and looks good) to work elsewhere – so they paid us for a day to support another charity or worthy cause. They also benefited massively from corporates sending staff in on team days to do a day or week more of volunteer work – you have to share that love. Generally non-profits / charities know that volunteering and public support is what makes their world go round (the place I worked for would not have run without massive volunteer support and financial support from the public) – they aren’t so mean-spirited as to think they are the only ones that should get it.

        1. GingerHR*

          Obviously I worked for a not for profit / charity, not a not-for-charity. This non-profit’s approach has clearly scrambled my brain so much I’m incoherent.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP#1, this is a super weird and in-no-way-normal policy, and your spidey sense is bang on. I’ve spent 90% of my working life at nonprofits, and this is not in any way a standard or even common practice (i.e., this isn’t a practice among a sizeable minority). If anything, most nonprofits* encourage their employees to volunteer and/or serve on the boards of other nonprofit and civic organizations. So this is definitely a red flag, and I would want to know their reputation with other organizations and with their current and former employees before accepting an offer. But if you can afford it, it may be worth passing and focusing on other prospective employers.

      * Caveat: There are some non-profits which, because of funding limitations, may ask you to limit your volunteer or freelance/consulting work, but they’re extremely rare (and usually don’t have a blanket ban on all charitable activities—certainly not on donating!).

      1. k*

        This one really has me baffled. I work for a nonprofit and can’t imagine my employer or a potential future employer having this policy. I know many coworkers donate and volunteer with other organizations. I actually think it’s an encouraged thing, it can be very helpful for employees to have connections and relationships with other organizations.

        1. Artemis*

          I agree, I see this as a huge red flag for this organization. In my experience working in the nonprofit sector, good organizations encourage their employees to get involved with other charitable organizations. This benefits not just the employee, but the nonprofit itself and the wider community. Having employees involved with other organizations can open the door to collaborations and constructive networking, and can help advance the nonprofit’s mission. I’d be seriously concerned that any organization with a policy like this would be really isolationist, which is a pretty backwards way of approaching nonprofit work.

          1. Bwmn*

            In addition to the isolationist nature – given the widespread realities of what this could involve (no alumni giving, no buying girl scout cookies, no giving blood, no donations of used clothing), it reminds me of one of those policies that could be pulled out at any time to penalize someone and could imply that there are “trap” policies at the organization.

            Basically just something that can be used to trip someone up who they want to penalize….cause I struggle to imagine any HR department actually wanting to police who’s visiting a blood bank over the weekend.

        2. Christine*

          1. Employer wants me to agree not to support any other charity
          To me, an employee that is volunteering elsewhere could make some excellent professional contacts, learn from the other organizations, great networking for the charity, serves as a representative as said non-profit, etc. I think someone volunteering elsewhere might bring fresh ideas to their job, other view points, perceptions that would help them perform better

          I’m wondering if they are afraid that someone volunteering elsewhere might jump ship if a paying job opens up the other charity they might be interested in. Another thought also … they may be doing a lot of things that are “not quite right” and if employees are volunteering elsewhere, etc., they may recognize it. Could this non-profit have a bad reputation with others in the same business, in the same region?

      2. Sfigato*

        The weird thing about this is that it would limit the orgs effectiveness – it’s often helpful for staff to be involved in other charitable organizations in terms of networking, collaboration, and reputation.

        1. Christine*

          I agree with you. Could it be they don’t want employees bringing ideas from other organizations? It sounds like they wish to operate in a fish bowl.

    4. JeanLouiseFinch*

      What about the obituaries that ask you to, for example, donate to cancer research in lieu of flowers? Ugh. The consequences are endless.

      1. Retail HR Guy*

        No going on a field trip with your kid as a parent chaperone.
        No dropping unneeded items off at the Goodwill.
        No more Thin Mints or Samoas.
        No buying anything at a bake sale.

    5. INTP*

      IA that it’s weird, and I feel like it might mean a massive push to donate money and unpaid labor to the org is coming later. I could see this policy being created as a response to diplomatic explanations people give when declining to donate, like “I already have donated my full charity budget to groups of my choosing.”

    6. hayling*

      I worked at a nonprofit and echo the “this is not normal” sentiment. We were a nonprofit but not a charity (although we had an associated charitable fund), and we actually volunteered as a company at several other nonprofits. When I did a charity 5k, my boss donated to my efforts. I’d stay far away from this company (and post about your experience on Glassdoor to warn others).

  3. Anon for discussion of my undewear*

    The first one is completely ridiculous.

    By their wording, you could be fired for belonging to a church, helping with your kid’s band fundraiser, donating to the Cancer society in lieu of flowers at a funeral, or giving old clothes to Goodwill.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        You should probably not donate your underwear, regardless of your employer’s feelings on the matter.

    1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      Or going to a wedding where the couple give charity donations instead of favours. (We send out a lot of pins for these.)

    2. Marzipan*

      One of my spare-time hobbies is making crochet blankets for an organisation supporting the parents of stillborn premature babies. Of course it’s a distraction from my working life – it’s a hobby! It’s supposed to be a distraction! But this employer is setting up a weird distinction where if I spent my time crocheting for friends and family, it’s fine, but spending the same amount of time doing the same thing for charity is a fireable offence. That makes no sense.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I feel like your example really highlights the dog-in-the-manger absurdity of the prohibition, too. Probably the OP’s potential employer has no use for afghans, or for the lasagna you might make for a soup kitchen, or for the old shoes you might donate to Goodwill, or for the blood you might donate to the Red Cross. So it’s very controlling to say no one else can have them.

        (Not that I think it’s okay for them to claim all financial charity either. It’s not their business.)

        1. Candi*

          ..The “Dog in the Manger” fable is a perfect illustration of how absurd this place is being.

          Here’s another thing: When I get the money, would I be able to give a couple of $5 movies to the dental office me and my kids go to?

          See, my doctor and dentist offices are part of a large non-profit with offices all over the county. (They are friggin’ awesome!) So would giving the dentist’s office a couple of movies so they aren’t playing the animated “Home” movie (Earth invaded by cowardly aliens) and “Bee Movie” over and over be a forbidden donation?

          (As for why I want to give them new movies… my son and I have an issue where our teeth are abnormally soft regardless of care. Cough.)

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes, this seems truly bizarre. could JUST about understnadit if the non-profit was (say) a charity for the homeless and the restriction was that you must not volunteer for or directly promote another charity for the homeless, but even there I would expect it tobelimited (for instance, if you worked for a local organisation hat shouldn’t stop you promiting events for a similar, National group)

      1. OhNo*

        If there were geographical or mission-related limits to which organizations you could donate to, I could kind of understand. I would still think it was over the top, but I get non-profit organizations not wanting to fight other, similar orgs for money. But that doesn’t sound like the case, which just makes me more confused by the whole idea. Why on earth do they care so much about where their employees donate? Something must be deeply weird at this place.

  4. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    (I feel weird making multiple comments instead of putting them together in one post, but people talked about preferring it this way on the open thread, so here we are.)

    #2 Sorry to zero in on your example, but you could also change how you respond to her. I’d stop saying: what invoice? as that’s not getting straight to the issue. I think I’d also want to know more about what’s going on before trying to coach her. Does she really think you know?

    It does sound unbelievably maddening…

      1. Why Don't We Do It in the Code*

        Since you bring it up, I was thinking about this very commenting issue recently! I was going to ask Alison her opinion on whether people should separate comments by post or jumble them together. I think, the comment collapsing feature works much better when sub comments are about one topic. If I’m less interested in topic 3, for example, I can collapse the conversation on that and still see all the other comments on topic 5. You can’t do that with multiple topics in one comment. Just my 2¢. (Way OT, I know)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’ve gone back and forth because I hate looking like I’m hogging the wall, but I totally agree. I find it way easier for folks to respond to each OP separately so that the threading/comments are cleaner.

          1. Fiona the Lurker*

            As a reader and occasional commenter, I just want to add my vote for this mode of commenting; it’s easier to read and follow if the topics are generally bunched together – and seeing an individual commenter’s name popping up repeatedly in different places has never really worried me at all.

            1. Mookie*

              I think I’m a weirdo because I kind of like it when regular commenters who appear especially thoughtful and persuasive to me compile all of their initial thoughts about the letters in one comment. I think it’s because I try not to form opinions too quickly about letters (barring really egregious stuff) with subjects I know little about until I’ve read the consensus from wiser, more experienced people (coupled with Alison’s thoughts). But I could see how doing so might make for nightmare-ish, labyrinthine threads.

            2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

              Well I found it frustratingly laborious to do so I’m going back to just combining them. I read and comment on mobile so there’s a lot of scrolling involved.

          2. Mental Mouse*

            Amen, separate replies for separate discussions. Not only does it make it easier to follow each discussion, but if some comments are collapsed, I’ll miss any “mixed” discussions therein unless I go through and click Every Single Link.

        2. Nic*

          As a comment reader who occasionally comments, I also prefer this system. It allows the conversation to more easily stay together on topic.

          1. BioPharma*

            I personally would wish each of the 5 questions would be separate posts for the same reason, but I’m sure Alison has her reasons for combining them!

            1. Zombii*

              Failing that, I would appreciate if the first 5 comments were just #1, #2, #3, etc, and everyone threaded down from each. It seems unnecessary to read the same argument taken up 4 different times throughout the comments because their starting points were posted around the same time, and even more unnecessary when a specific commenter copy/pastes their insight to each thread.

              This seems like a “participating in discussions of different topics” vs “me making my feelings known about all the topics” controversy though, and I understand why comments will never be standardized by topic.

    1. A.C. Stefano*

      If it’s anything like my job, it can be. Someone will chat in and be like, “I’m having issues with X.” And when I try to ask questions, they give one-word answers. It makes me want to STRANGLE people.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – I have a few employees who do this too and it drive me absolutely crazy. One thing that’s helped is to tell them “I know you know which teapot you’re referring to, because you only produce a few each month. But from my perspective I have a team of 16 people who are each producing 3-4 teapots a month, so I really need you to help me by not assuming I know what you’re talking about.”

    I think it’s somewhat a matter of empathy – they’ll do better if they can see these things from your perspective as well as their own.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Sometimes I’ll kind of do this, mostly with my husband. It drives him crazy. It’s not because I think he knows what I’m talking about, though – more that I start talking before I’ve fully formed my thoughts in my head. So I’ll remember there was something I wanted to do, and say, “Have you seen my…” and not remember what I wanted.

      If this is more the case with the OP’s coworker, then maybe the coaching should be more around “think through your whole question in your head before starting to talk” – or even asking the coworker to write down questions before/instead of asking them. (This might or might not be reasonable depending on the kind of question involved.)

      1. Gen*

        I have a form of aphasia and I do this all the time sadly. I’m well aware that I’m failing to finish my sentences though and I do try to apologise around it. I was told at one job to email all requests rather than trying to speak to anyone because it frustrated them so much.

        1. Teclatrans*

          This has happened to me more and more over the years (along with saying the wrong words without having any clue that I did so). So much sympathy.

          1. Siberian*

            Ugh, me too. Along with having a much, much harder time remembering names easily. I was just telling a coworker that when I was younger another colleague told me that I had a mind like a steel trap. No one would say that anymore. It stings. I want to say that I didn’t used to be like this! And I’m still smart, I just can’t access my information like I used to. :(

            1. Anon for Can't Think of a Word*

              I’ve had this problem and realized it was due to sleep deprivation from my moderate/severe sleep apnea. It’s gotten better after nearly two years of using a CPAP machine.

              I think it’s one of those symptoms, as is irritability, that we often are slow to realize is caused by a condition or medication.

              1. Sam*

                This is interesting – lately, I find myself struggling to recall words and phrase things well on the spot. I’m only 32, but I am chronically sleep deprived (and thus physically exhausted) and mentally exhausted due to mental health stuff. I’ve wondered if that it be the cause. I’ll have to talk to my dr about that. Thanks!

        2. seejay*

          I’m on a medication for migraine management and it makes me forget words. I’ll stop mid-sentence because I can see the word in my brain, I know the sentence I’m trying to say, but I can’t actually articulate one specific word that I want. It just farts out of my head at the time. My coworkers understand, fortunately, but it is maddening (at least for me). Sometimes they can figure out what I was trying to say but if not I’ll spend a minute or two running sentences around in circles until someone can figure out what I was trying to get out.

          It’s really terrible when I’m trying to write something and I get stuck and have to rewrite an entire paragraph because I can’t figure out the one word that ties it all together because my brain chased it off. I’ll spend 5 minutes going through a thesaurus trying to jog my memory for it then just give up, trash the paragraph and rewrite it in the hopes of either finding the word I lost or just redoing the whole thing.

          1. Gen*

            Yes, mine is like this, I can see the concept of the missing word in my head but can’t articulate it and usually can’t force the sentence past the word. It’s especially bad if I have to leave a room to speak to someone. Talking around the concept helps sometimes, or for writing a thesaurus website can help because you can click through associated words but a lot of the time the word is gone for hours. I’m lucky that when I write fiction for a hobby my cowriter is fluent in ‘Gen’ and can usually work out what I’m stuck on, but most coworker relationships aren’t that close

          2. Not a Mind Reader*

            The “missing word” syndrome – I have this too and never considered it might be tied to my migraine meds.

            But this is NOT the same thing as OP is describing. I also have a colleague who doesn’t give enough information. I have had to explain to him more than once that even if I just walked by his desk, I did not read his computer screen, and I have not been involved in the running discussion in his head, so he needs to go back to the beginning of the conversation and start over when he wants my input.

            1. Just Jess*

              Seconded. We should always hold a little compassion for people with different communication styles. However, it sounds like the coworker from OP#2’s letter is the “you should know what I’m talking about and I want an answer quickly so I’m not going to waste time giving you details” type. That’s different from not being able to find a particular word or losing the second half of a sentence.

              As annoying as they are, I hold a little compassion for the “read my mind!” type folks because they will never consistently get great team and direct report performance.

              1. Noobtastic*

                I think you can usually tell who is struggling to come up with a word or phrase and who wants you to read their mind. The first group usually wave their hands, or point at objects, or shake their heads, or say, “… THING!” The second group just sort of stare at you, expectantly.

                I totally sympathize (and frequently am a member of) the first group. The second group is simply maddening.

          3. Serin*

            Oh, I have the mild, middle-age-related version of this, seejay, and it drives me nuts.

            Last night we were talking about women changing their names when they get married, and someone asked whether men ever did this, and I brought the whole conversation grinding to a halt while I said, “They do if they marry a member of Spanish … grr … not royalty, not hierarchy, not monarchy …” So now instead of talking we’re playing Word Association To Help Serin Remember The Word ‘Aristocracy.’

            … but honestly, if I were the LW’s co-worker, I think I would owe it to my boss to have a little conversation where I said, “I’m aware that I have a tendency to lose words, and this is what I plan to do about it.”

            1. Cath in Canada*

              This is what recently caused me to forget the word “panda” and have to say “bamboo monkey” instead. My husband thought it was hilarious, especially because I did my postdoc on primate genome evolution and 100% definitely know that pandas are not monkeys.

          4. DaBlonde*

            One of the ways I know that a building headache is a migraine and not tension or lack of caffeine is the fact that I will lose my nouns.
            I end up asking for the thing with the holes for the spaghetti, then I go take my medicine.

        3. Office Plant*

          My first thought was that it could be something like this. Any time someone has a quirk, it’s good to consider that it might be related to a medical condition or something else that they have little control over. If I were LW, I’d try to get used to the person’s way of communicating. If it was creating enough problems that a conversation was necessary, I’d begin by asking questions about it. In a friendly enough way to give the person a chance to explain whether or not they can change, and possibly why (discussing medical conditions at work is a sensitive issue). Probably better to ask about it than to judge or say anything behind the person’s back, but I’d really try to adjust instead of going there.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        that’s a good point. I was referring more to the vagaries than the unfinished sentences, but this is a good strategy on the sentences. I think I do it sometimes with my husband too. And then he finishes my sentences which drives me crazy, because he’s usually wrong ;)

        1. Sam*

          I had a college roommate who spoke very slowly and dragged out her sentences. Sometimes there would be a 10-15 second pause mid-sentence, and just when you assumed she had lost her train of thought entirely, she would resume right where she left off. It was hella annoying. Eventually I started finishing her sentences to speed things up, which I’m sure drove her crazy, too. (At least I usually guessed correctly!)

      3. Future Homesteader*

        I’m very guilty of this, too, both at work and at home. For me it’s a combination of not thinking things out, and failing to remember that my boss is not in my head. The best way I’ve found to deal with it to write it out, making sure to include details (exact dates and times, full names of people involved, what the question is, and any relevant context). It helps me a lot, and as the more I write it down the more natural it becomes to ask things with all of the information. I’m really good about doing it in emails, but for me that doesn’t translate to the moment when I knock on my boss’ door.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        That sounds like just thinking out loud type of thing. If I were the Op, I’d ask the coworker to email her the question so as not to interrupt/distract her. Maybe her written comm is better?

      5. The OG Anonsie*

        Yeah that’s the thing– I do stuff like this constantly, I start to say it and then it’s gone :/ But I am aware (and the folks lower in this thread sharing some similar things are aware) that I’m not giving the person I’m talking to everything they need to hear yet and communicate that. This is an entirely different animal from the chronic vague-er who is intentionally not attempting to put the effort into communicating and letting it be the listener’s problem. Whether coaching will help is going to depend on what the source is for this woman, but I highly suspect it’s the latter and not something like what we’re experiencing based on the details given.

      6. Zombeyonce*

        I do this with my sister all the time and it works out because we can somehow read each other’s minds and finish thoughts 90% of the time. That being said, I wouldn’t expect anyone else in the world, especially not a coworker, to be able to know what in the heck I’m talking about with no context. I am definitely guilty of starting to talk before I’ve figured out what I’m saying with my husband, too, but usually if he just stands there staring at me I can finish a sentence eventually.

        OP#2’s coworker may just need a long blank stare after initial coaching.

    2. Taiga*

      I had a co-worker who would do this, and I tried explaining to her that I can’t understand her when she doesn’t finish her sentences. She complained to our boss that I was mean and I got a talking-to. She did not improve.

    3. Bryce*

      It’s a bad habit that I find comes from interacting with a sibling or close friend who basically shares a brain. With my twin brother, for example, we think along the same lines so easily that a conversation just needs a lynchpin word every once in a while to make sure we’re still on the same track. Drives my mom up the wall, mainly because I forget we can’t do the same thing and will end mid-sentence out of habit.

      1. OhNo*

        I have this issue a lot, too, but I developed it under less pleasant circumstances. I’m never allowed to finish a sentence when I converse with any of my family members (they’re… problematic), so I never really learned how or when to finish my thought. I also have a tendency to fill silence by asking follow-up questions until the person I’m talking to interrupts me, because that’s the dynamic I’m used to: a response is always required, and until you get it, you’re expected to keep talking and “explaining” your position/question/thought. It’s a heck of a thing to try to work through (but I’m trying!).

        Anyway, my point is that this may just be a bad habit that the coworker developed over a long time, and may take a while to break.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        That sounds like me and my older sister. We joke that we have a Vulcan mind-meld, and it can be frankly weird for people who see us together having a conversation that consists of sentence fragments, movie quotes, and internet memes.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          “sentence fragments, movie quotes, and internet memes”

          You have just described every conversation I’ve ever had with my sister.

      3. AnonEMoose*

        When my maternal grandmother and one my aunts were still alive, conversations in the kitchen on family occasions were probably incredibly frustrating for anyone who wasn’t us. No one would finish a sentence they started, and very few requests to be handed something or inquiries about the location of something ever named the item in question.

        My mother, sister, and I still do the same thing, of course, but it’s probably a bit easier to track with fewer of us involved. My brother in law, at first, had to be looking at us to know which of the three of us was talking. He’s gotten used to it now.

        My best friend from college and I can have entire conversations with a few eyebrow twitches. Fortunately for his sanity, my husband finds this fascinating.

      4. LpUK*

        My dad gets very frustrated playing games like taboo or pictionary with me, my Mum and sister because he never understands any of our clues to each other – they’re all rooted in family events and conversations that happened 30 years ago when he was away travelling for business. He thinks we’re cheating because in what world does ‘ pregnant women should never wear these’ mean dungarees?

    4. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      I’ve been thinking about this and I think it’s kind of two issues rolled into one problem experience. Firstly there’s the issue of not knowing what they mean and secondly there’s the disruption involved when they interrupt your work with vagaries. That makes it seem like they lack understanding of the fact that it’s disruptive to others.

      I sometimes forget my point halfway through a sentence so I try to stick to email.

    5. Djuna*

      +1 on empathy. I used to work as a technical coach in a computer company, and part of my job was helping employees find the answers when they were on tough calls (this was over 20 years ago, we barely had a company intranet).
      Because I didn’t listen to their calls, I needed them to outline what they needed so I could help them.

      So many people would materialize at my desk and just blurt a sentence fragment (“leaky spout!”) at me, wait expectantly, and then get impatient when I asked them to clarify. I understood that they were on calls and thus it was time-sensitive, and that *they* knew what they needed, but I often had to explain that I had no way of knowing which specific leaky spout scenario they were asking about unless they gave me some more details.

      I ended up asking some of them to take a minute to put their question together before coming to me. There was a little resistance but it didn’t last long since they got better answers, more quickly, when they did that. It was a “more haste, less speed” problem, if I’ve ever seen one.

      1. Hibiscus*

        Maybe like a preprinted form would help? “Unless you have all these bits of info, I can’t help you, Jane. “

    6. Ange*

      One of my supervisors does something like this. He comes along, says “can you do” and then leaves without finishing the sentence.
      We basically have to not count that as an instruction until he comes back and finishes the sentence, which doesn’t always happen.

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh I had a boss like this. It was like he didn’t believe in nouns. I had him come up to me on a Friday morning and say “I need you to … with the database … Fergus’s thing. And I need it by 4.” And *poof* off to all-day meetings. So I was left to dig around in the various folder until Fergus arrived, and he didn’t know what Boss wanted either. After talking with the entire department I guessed (correctly) but it was incredibly stressful for no reason.
        And because of the boss dynamic you couldn’t ask too many questions without Boss thinking you were questioning *him*.

        1. Noobtastic*

          I hate the people who think that asking for clarification is questioning *them.*

          Once, I worked in accounts payable, and I was just getting started entering some expense requests. Now, I don’t know who designed the form, but they had a place for an approving manager’s signature, but NO space for their printed name. I was new, and had not learned all the managers’ signatures, but I did have a list of all the people who had authority to approve expense reports, and the dollar amount up to which they had the authority to approve.

          One day, about three days into this job, I got an ER with a squiggle on it. I called the person who submitted the report, and asked who had signed the approval. “Jane Thompson”. I responded. “Oh! She’s right here on my list, up to $50,000. Thanks!” And I started entering the information.

          About 30 seconds later, an email popped up. It was from this guy, to Jane Thompson, CC to me, saying, “Noobtastic is questioning your right to approve my expense report!”

          Fortunately, I saw it right away, and responded with a CC to my own manager. “I wasn’t questioning Jane Thompson’s right to approve anything. She’s right here on my list, with authority to approve up to $50,000. I was questioning whose signature this was, because I can’t read it, and we have no line on the form to print the name of the approving manager. It’s only my third day here, and I don’t recognize all the signatures.”

          Fortunately, Jane Thompson and my boss worked it out, but I was sweating bullets for a while, there.

          In fact, it was not too long until they updated the form to include the printed name of the approving manager.

          I had a similar situation early in the same job. We had one code for business meals in town and one for business meals out of town. I was new in the area, as well as to the job, and I called the person to ask “Where is X-location? Is it within 15 miles of our office?” He was incredulous that I did not know that X-location was a two-hour drive away, but this guy was more understanding when I said that I was new to town, had no idea where X-location was, and I just needed to know whether to use 6201 or 6204 in the code field. I told him the code for out-of-town meals, and said I’d use that one, thanked him, and hung up. He did NOT get any managers involved, because he knew I was not questioning his right to eat lunch when he was out of town on business.

          Don’t even get me started on the attitude of the twit who put in his ER for a trip to Greece, with all Grecian receipts, and did not include any information about exchange rates. I not only had to look up the exchange rate, but since I knew that exchange rates actually change daily, I had to look up the historical data for the exchange rates, compare the dates, and figure out each day’s dollar amount, separately. For for some reason, confirmation of the dates (are these dates in month/day format or day/month format, because it’s mid-April now, and I’m not sure if these are from the first week of April or the first week of March?) sent him off on a screaming fit.

    7. The OG Anonsie*

      I dunno. I have known a couple people like this over the years and, god help me, I lived with one for a long time. There was no degree of explaining that they were making me do all the work and expend all the effort of making *their* communications work that lead to any difference in behavior. They always seemed to have a very firm belief that they were very easy to understand, and if I was having any trouble it was my problem for not paying attention or “getting” them or whatever.

      Because that’s essentially what’s happening: They need you for something, but they’re placing all the responsibility of even understanding that onto you and making it your problem. It is really psychologically exhausting for the recipient by design. The vague-er doesn’t want to have to have that role/responsibility and is going to silly lengths to stay out of it.

  6. Artemesia*

    #3 I grew up in a time when at least in my family we were pressed to not be demanding. I grew up with the idea not that I should go after money that I deserved but ‘what you need’ or ‘what is enough for you.’ This idea that having been bait and switched on the car, she should be a nice girl and just go along and pay her dues is very much the environment that the WWII generation laid on their children. It took me a lifetime to overcome it and I am sure a lot less rich than I would be if I had not had that mindset. Women I think are particularly expected to be nice and accept what they are given and not ask for more. Her boss may be counting on her being passive. It is one of the reasons for the wage gap for women. Your cousin should absolutely expect money ‘in lieu of’ the promised car. If at all possible she should walk away from the job if they don’t do it. If not she will be living with being cheated as long as she works there.

    #1 I’d have to be starving to work for an organization that thought my charitable choices were any of their business. This place is being run by loons. I cannot think of a single reason for such a rule (a rule that forbid donations to similar charities maybe). I’d also wonder if they were expecting me to tithe my salary back to the organization. Beware any organization that wants you to kick back your salary, especially a low salary, to them.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      ’d also wonder if they were expecting me to tithe my salary back to the organization. Beware any organization that wants you to kick back your salary, especially a low salary, to them.

      Yes! I work for a school (non-profit) and we’re asked to donate a token amount (like a dollar) so they can say “100% of our faculty support the school!” (silly but relatively harmless overall) and to volunteer for one or two weekend events a year. That’s all. We are the employees, not the donor pool.

      Heck, we spent an inservice day last spring doing things like planting trees and delivering Meals on Wheels.

      1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        I don’t think you should even be asked to volunteer at weekend events. Told about the opportunity? Sure. Asked to? That feels a bit coercive due to the power balance.

        Someone at my organisation announced in a training session that it would so great if everyone took part in at least one of our fundraising events. It was just a passing coming but was totally not okay. I very politely tore them a new one, as several protected groups would struggle to take part and it’s completely inappropriate to have said that.

        1. Liane*

          I don’t see where volunteering for the weekend events, assuming they are for the school, is odd. In the US, public school teachers (not sure about those at other kinds of schools) are expected to do things like work school events, coach/sponsor clubs, buy class supplies and the like.

          1. the gold digger*

            I think (I hope!) teachers get paid for coaching and running clubs. And they should not be expected to buy class supplies. I suppose that could be considering “volunteering” in the sense that the teacher says Fine I’ll do that, but they should be paid for their time.

            1. Hope*

              As a former teacher, let me just say, teachers would LOVE to be paid for running clubs/etc. But “volunteering” is required as part of the job, esp. in a high school where there are dozens of activities. Some schools do give tiiiiiny stipends to teachers who do coaching, but that’s it (and considering the amount of time it takes up, you have to really, really love whatever you coach, because you’re not really going to get any downtime during the season). Even if you don’t coach, you’re often expected to work at least some of the games (and on days like that, I was at the school by 7:20am, and didn’t get to *leave to go home* until 9pm or later–which is a 14 hour day, and of course teachers have to work during lunch, too). Just one of the many things teachers do that pretty much everyone takes for granted.

              And don’t get me started on the buying class supplies thing. If people had any idea how much $ teachers spend on school supplies every year, they’d never bitch about buying their own children’s supplies ever again.

              I loved my students, I loved teaching, but I hated a lot of the other stuff that comes with teaching in a school in the US because teachers are taken for granted. And I don’t see it getting any better in the near future. People who stay in teaching for the long haul are amazing, and I can promise you, they’re not being paid a quarter of what they’re worth.

              1. Jayn*

                Nova Scotia teachers have been doing “work to rule” for a few weeks now, and initially the province even closed the schools because of “safety concerns”. Which suggests to me that they rely way too much on teachers going above and beyond, but of course others just see it as slacking off and hurting kids.

              2. Bibliovore*

                Former school teacher here.
                Nope, nope, and nope.

                Bought my own supplies. check- a couple thousand dollars a year.
                Did not get paid extra for after school clubs, overnights, and professional development.
                Supplied food for the kids who did not have lunch/snack/ or were dropped off early and/or stayed late.

                From what I can tell this is perfectly normal.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  It is very common. It is not “normal” in the sense that it is not OK and shouldn’t happen.

              3. Candi*

                Then there’s when a teacher gets approved for a coaching stipend, and then the administration goes, “Oh, wait, nope.”

                Happened in our district a few years ago with a teacher who agreed to coach a sport… Soccer, I think. Near the end of the season they said, “Oh, wait, you shouldn’t be getting paid for this since you don’t have (never before mentioned cert/qualification). Give it back.”

                Teacher goes to union. “Oh, yeah, they can do that, and it’s totally okay. What do you mean you don’t have $3,000 up front?” She managed to arrange a payment plan with administration all on her own, but it still sucked.

                (The teachers’ union here tends to cozy up to and side with administration all. the. time. Argh.)

                As for the supples thing… I’m a little more sympathetic in this specific district, since the school board tries very hard to earmark funds to help out with the classroom supply issue. But for several years parents had to supply a heavy amount of materials, including copy paper. About… twelve years ago now, the school board member in charge of managing funds for the district had to leave for undisclosed reasons, and the guy who wrote the checks moved out of state. This left the piggy bank, purchasing decision power, and check writing authorization in the hands of just one person.

                Checks and balances. Really.

                That person completely blew the budget for the next couple years, which including cafeteria and office supplies as well as that for classrooms. Favortism for suppliers providing kickbacks and bribes was cited in the reasons for dismissal. The end result was a huge red gap it took eight years to really cover from; that’s when they stopped asking for copy paper and hand sanitizer for classrooms. (I don’t know where/if the union was in all that.)

                When people complain about teachers/schools asking for help with supplies, I tell them to talk to the school board/education department/union (theirs might well be better then ours)/legislators. It’s not the teachers’ fault at all.

          2. Newby*

            It’s not volunteering though, it is part of the job. It would be reasonable to have a requirement to chaperone X number of school events not during school hours. It would not be reasonable to expect all teachers to volunteer their time for the school.

          3. Backroads*

            I’m a teacher in the U.S. Any outside-of-school projects are in my contract from the get-go. I refuse to buy school supplies with my own money and I don’t know any teacher where buying supplies with own money is required. It’s mostly a terrible habit teachers and communities have gotten into.

        2. Annonymouse*

          If you have multiple events on during the year (say 10) and you’re told you need to participate in at least 1 then I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

          Being told you have to do all of them or having which one selected for you is not reasonable.
          Or if it would be a real struggle to be able to then I agree it isn’t fair.

          But then again I’m picturing things like a food drive or toys for tots for charity or a workplace open day – things that should be easy to join in as opposed to X department all running in a marathon or the one marketing person who keeps being “volunteered ” to attend job fairs every month.

      2. blackcat*

        When I taught at a private school, I think I once donated 50 cents to count for participation.

        I had to do all sorts of weekend events (chaperoning dances, being there for open houses and/or fundraisers), but that was all written into my contract. As in, I was expected to attend X many weekend events of the following types per year. They were assigned on a board in the faculty lounge, and everyone was free to trade to get the weekends they wanted off. It was a low enough requirement (maybe 3 events total all school year?) and enough faculty (~40) that it was always easy to find someone to trade with. I liked that it was a transparent job requirement.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The “generational entitlement” argument is annoying, but this anecdote really frosted my cookies. It’s clear that it was completely reasonable for OP#3’s cousin to reopen negotiations, and OP#3’s parents are doing everyone a disservice by criticizing her cousin. The fact that the company is trying to run a bait-and-switch is not cool (even if they didn’t mean/intend to), and it’s right to push back.

      But I very much agree with you, Artemesia, that the “entitlement” disapprobation seems to be particularly strong when it’s directed towards (young) women. There’s dozens of studies on the ways women are socially conditioned not to negotiate (and how that contributes to the wage gap), and I think it’s really admirable that OP#3’s cousin is standing up for herself.

      1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        Sidenote: I love ‘really frosted my cookies’.

        It’s not demanding to ask for what you were told you would get. It would be demanding to ask for a personal maid or a diamond encrusted pony or something but it’s not demanding to ask them to simply honour an agreement.

        1. Annonymouse*

          I agree. It’s like the company saying “we can give you an extra 5k or a car”.

          When it became clear there wasn’t going to be a car it was entirely reasonable to ask for the money since it was part of the deal to start with.

          Those parents don’t seem to have realised that employee/employer relationships have changed.

          It used to be “take what you can get and don’t make waves. Who cares if you’re happy as long as you’re getting paid.”

          It is now “I want to make sure I’m in a job that’s the right fit for my skills with an opportunity to grow and be challenged. I also want to work with people I can respect and trust. ”

          Due to the current economy it is somewhere between the two – but people still want the later even if they settle for the former.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yes! The salary minus the 5k/car might not even have been lowballing it on the employer’s part, but that’s what they offered and that’s what the potential employee was considering. It’s not “entitled” to hold them to that offer.

      2. Czhorat*

        Yes, “generational entitlement” a weird, offensive, and not very bright concept. This case in particular is crazy i that, as Allison and others have said, she’s asking for something which was already offered to her.

        Even if that weren’t the case, negotiating a salary is not “entitlement” in any negative sense. It’s your responsibility to look out for yourself and try to get the best compensation package. You’ll never get anything – a raise, a promotion, a job, a higher salary, etc – without asking. Perhaps even pushing a bit.

      3. Katie Bear*

        Off topic, but I hope to God that’s a reference to the movie “Troop Beverly Hills”. Probably my favorite guilty pleasure.

          1. Noobtastic*

            My favorite part was when she went on a water binge. Empty water bottles everywhere! Not empty liquor bottles. Water bottles.

            Granted, drink too much water, and you actually can overload your kidneys and cause damage. But it was just toooooo hilarious.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh man, I wish it were a “Troop Beverly Hills” reference! I sadly lifted it from my first-grade teacher, who looooved deploying this as her ‘favorite “curse” phrase.

      4. Temperance*

        I think at least some of it is tied to the pervasive and weird idea that women don’t belong in the workforce, so anything we get is a “gift”, more or less, since men are the ones supporting families.

      5. Karen D*

        My dad had this “don’t rock the boat/take what you’re offered” mentality. But his attitude turned around in a hurry after serious gender-based pay inequities were uncovered at both my first and second jobs. (It was really bad at the second job – across the board, salaries were at least 20 percent lower for female employees.) Years later I heard him giving my niece tips on how to negotiate and encouraging her to make sure she was paid what she was worth :) You go, Dad!

      6. emma2*

        That anecdote confused me for the same reason – it’s one thing to demand something that wasn’t even offered to you, but in this case, she was *literally* entitled to the money in lieu of the car. The parents who criticized her for asking for it are wrong, and sound straight up mean.

        Also, as someone pointed out in the comments, even if it weren’t part of the original salary, there is nothing wrong with negotiating salary in the first place. Kids can definitely act entitled sometimes, but this is not an example of that.

      7. TT*

        OP #3 here. Thanks for all the support in this. My parents aren’t typically the type to stereotype but they seemed to feel pretty strongly about up this one. GOod news is, she got the raise and is loving her job now.

        1. Mental Mouse*

          That was for #3, if it’s not obvious by context. Another reason not to “cross the beams” in discussions.

    3. Chaordic One*

      You are so very correct about it being a generational thing. The WWII “Greatest Generation” that grew up during the Great Depression and then fought World War II initially had lower expectations, and then after WWII those expectations were (for the most part) greatly exceeded. They had the good luck to grow up during what was mostly a booming economy and they had the benefit of strong union support. It certainly wasn’t a perfect time (especially if you were female, a member of a racial minority, or if you were LGBT).

      But things really are different now and you do have to be more willing to stick up for yourself and not let yourself be taken advantage of than you did in the past.

      1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        And yet these are the same people who often think you should aggressively follow up on applications, which actually IS entitled and pushy…

        1. Liane*

          Yes. But previous generations often give advice that is either outdated or was never really useful outside of a few odd niches. I think Alison has several “Don’t listen to your parents!” articles.
          Come to think of it, I wonder if one of the reasons many college career centers give out wrong advice is that these things were standard or useful when the advisers–or their bosses–were first job searching?

          (And another vote for “Frosted my cookies”)

    4. Trillian*

      ‘Know your place’ and ‘you deserve what we give you’ started well before WWII. I was raised similarly in a family just moving into the middle class (in the U.K.) firmly dissuaded and even punished for articulating my wishes. Lost ever so many opportunities because ‘we didn’t think you were interested’ (and it never occurred to them to ask). Why did they think I was working my heart out to prove myself.

      (Isn’t frosting on cookies a good thing?)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Frosting is good, but someone depriving you of the opportunity to frost your own cookies is bad :)

  7. Turanga Leela*

    OP #1, this is super weird. I know of nonprofits that ask employees not to serve on boards of other nonprofits, and I have lawyer friends at nonprofits who aren’t allowed to do pro bono work (on the theory that they should be putting all of their professional time into their organization’s mission). But I have never, ever heard of a nonprofit telling people not to donate their money elsewhere. How you spend your money is none of their business.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ugh, the only time it’s ok for a nonprofit with lawyers to request that their employees refrain from pro bono is if they’re funded by the Legal Services Corporation, and even then, it’s a stretch. In all other cases, a prohibition on pro bono is bad policy, and it’s not an industry standard among other legal nonprofits.

      1. blackcat*

        The BigLaw firm of one of my friends requires approval for ALL pro bono work done by lawyers and paralegals in the firm. They don’t ban it, but they to require folks to touch base with their pro bono office (and they have a large pro bono staff). In practice, she doesn’t know of anyone who hasn’t gotten approval for their work, but she does know of someone who nearly lost the job for not checking ahead of time.

        My friend said it’s because years ago, a lawyer was doing “pro bono” work that was something like defending a a child abuser affiliated with a church (maybe they were actually defending a church from a lawsuit? It was something involving a church and child abuse).

        I can see why a firm would want to be able to prevent an employee from doing work that makes them look bad, and so it wouldn’t surprise me that non-profits employing lawyers would do the same.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Firm folks often require their folks to clear their pro bono with their coordinator for many reasons, including running conflicts and ensuring that the firm can later brag about the pro bono work their people are doing. And some firms allow their associates to credit their pro bono hours to their annual billable hour requirements. But it also makes sense from a reputational and client relations perspective to clear cases, first. (Temperance could prob offer better insight since she’s a pro bono coordinator at her firm.) Nonprofits can of course request clearance for the same reasons, and they may want to weigh in if they think a case/client cuts against their mission.

          But clearing your work isn’t quite the same as banning pro bono, which is an insane position given that the ABA and most state bars encourage 50 hours of pro bono per year. The notion that “all your professional time” should go to your employer is an overreach. Sure, don’t work on your pro bono cases while you’re at work. But if you’re handling them on your own time, there shouldn’t be an issue other than your employer worrying about work-life balance and burnout.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            The notion that “all your professional time” should go to your employer is an overreach. Sure, don’t work on your pro bono cases while you’re at work. But if you’re handling them on your own time, there shouldn’t be an issue other than your employer worrying about work-life balance and burnout.

            I agree with you 100%.

          2. Temperance*

            This is exactly right.

            Most large firms require pro bono, at least for associates, and almost all give billable hour credit for pro bono. We want you to do pro bono! We also really, really want to make sure that you aren’t taking on cases that will make the firm look bad, cases that don’t meet the ABA definition of pro bono (because we are a business, and we should be charging people who can pay for our services), or cases that you personally don’t have the expertise to handle.

            Because of the nature of my job, I have many contacts at legal services orgs. They tend not to do much pro bono work, with the exception of a clinic or two, as a burnout prevention strategy. Their caseloads are often extremely high, their cases are often quite difficult, and their clients often have issues in their lives that makes the representation challenging. I think it makes sense to encourage limiting pro bono as a method of self-care.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I hear you re: burnout. I don’t think legal services attorneys should be pressured to do pro bono, but I also don’t think they should be barred from doing pro bono. Ideally we would address burnout by funding those organizations to hire more attorneys and decrease caseloads, as opposed to trying to limit staff’s charitable outside activities and volunteerism.

            2. Candi*

              Temperance, thanks. This answers a question that’s been bugging me for literally years.

              Several years ago (definitely after 2010), I read an article that interviewed a lawyer at a big firm. (It said.) The lawyer made a comment of “pro bono? What pro bono? We gather all the hours our clients haven’t paid and write those off as pro bono.”

              That never sounded right to me. Your comment outlines all the things wrong with that statement. I’m glad my gut was right.

              I’m hoping since he was fairly young, he just didn’t understand how that all worked.

        2. Temperance*

          I work in the pro bono department of a BigLaw firm. We do require people to run any matters by us before moving forward on them, because, frankly, a lot of what people consider “pro bono” just … is not pro bono. (Because someone cannot afford our fees, does not mean that they can’t afford any lawyer.)

          I could rant about this topic for days. It is not comparable to a full-on bar of any involvement with a nonprofit. It’s to protect the firm’s reputation and the firm more generally, since we have malpractice insurance considerations to worry about here.

        3. Cat*

          I’ve always assumed that this is a combination of needing to clear conflicts and because the firm’s malpractice insurance could be on the hook. It’s never bothered me.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Also, cynically, because BigLaw firms generally want to publicize the ‘nice’ pro bono they are doing to boost their bragging rights in the community.

            1. Temperance*

              Oh that’s absolutely at least part of the reason. It’s not a secret, though – we own it. We also use it as a business development tool, since many of our paying clients like pro bono and it helps us to build key relationships.

    2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      I’ve just had a look through our policies and there is literally nothing about donating time or money to other charities – including anything about our legal peeps doing pro bono work elsewhere.

      The only vaguely connected rule I could find is not to give your own individual gifts or donations in the organisation’s name.

      1. Not Karen*

        If you are a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, you aren’t allowed to use the Mayo Clinic name if/when giving out medical advice outside of work.

  8. Stan*

    #1 seems like a conflict of interest or morality clause gone bad. I’ve worked for a couple of non-profits that had similar clauses in the handbook, but were more to the effect of “you can’t volunteer, etc. for any organization that is contrary to the belief/mission of this organization.” The clause made sense, especially at a faith-based non-profit. A blanket ban on volunteering, etc. except with your employer seems ridiculous. (Plus, possibly a way to get more hours out of employees without pay.)

    1. Mabel*

      And I think I remember reading on AAM that it’s not legal to require employees to volunteer at the same non-profit that they work for.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, if they’re non-exempt, you’d have to pay them, in most cases (unless you’re volunteering in a capacity quite different from your paid role and it’s truly voluntary).

    2. MK*

      I don’t think placing restrictions is unreasonable altogether; the problem is the scope and detail of this. If they were asking that you not volunteer or donate to charities that have a conflicting mission with theirs, OK. If they want you to stay away from “rival” charities, fine. If they stipulate an amount you can donate, so that you are not basically working to support another charity, maybe not totally unreasonable. But a blanket ban on any charitable activity?

      1. No-no No-no No-no Batman*

        Yeah, or if they’d said “do not share our confidential or proprietary info or use our resources or equipment” I would understand that and support that – but this sort of “do not do anything for anyone else ever” statement is just overreaching

      2. Stan*

        I could also see some reasonableness in a policy regarding approaching donors so that you don’t have employees attempting to poach donors to support related or “rival” groups.

        In attempting to cover their bases, #1 buried them, lit the field on fire and then dropped a bomb on it just to be sure everything was covered.

        1. MK*

          Even a policy that forbids the employees to approach the donors about any other charity wouldn’t be out of bounds.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yeah, I can totally see if you’re working for the Coalition to Support Blue Teapots that they might not want you donating money to the Committee to End Blue Teapots or the Coalition to Support Green Teapots, but to say you can’t donate or volunteer for Coffee Lovers United makes no sense.

      4. SarahTheEntwife*

        Even the donation amount thing doesn’t really make sense to me. Maybe you care about both organizations’ missions but have professional expertise that only one of them needs. Unless it’s a competing/conflicting charity, a nonprofit shouldn’t care whether you’re donating to another organization or spending your salary completing your stamp collection.

    3. Hershele Ostropoler*

      This was my thought, along with the idea that they’re flexible abiut enforcement: they crafted the policy to be as broad as possible so they don’t have to prove an actual conflict or figure out how to deal with a situation that isn’t a direct conflict but clearly cannot stand.

      That doesn’t explain why they told the LW that it’s standard in the non-profit world when it isn’t.

      1. Observer*

        Well, not only did they tell the OP that it’s standard – which is a totally false statement, they also say that there are NO EXCEPTIONS. So, would you remotely trust someone with such a ridiculous clause who is also making false statements in justification, to act with any level of good faith?

        Also, this doesn’t read at all like an 0ver-broad morality or conflict of interest clause. What’s more they actually told the OP that that’s not what it is. Rather they want to make sure that their employers have no other interests in their lives. I didn’t make that up- that’s pretty much what they said.

        1. Hershele Ostropoler*

          “No exceptions” could be emphasis; it can seem pointless to have this policy and then say “but don’t worry about it, we selectively enforce it” (though I can also see why one *would* say that.

          The red flags for me are “this is because we don’t want you to have interests outside the Teapot Trust” and the outright false claim that such a thing is standard. The first could conceivably have mutated from something sensible over a sufficiently long game of telephone. The second is inexcusable.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Eyes wide open, OP. They are showing you how they operate. This will not get better once you are working there.

  9. robot*

    #1: This is a really weird policy. It reads like someone adapted an unbelievably draconian no moonlighting policy to apply it to all volunteering and donations, which just doesn’t make any sense. The no promoting/organizing clause might make sense, if they’re concerned about it seeming like their organization is endorsing the works of these other nonprofits, but there’s no reason that simple things like volunteering or just donating money should be a problem, especially not as a blanket policy that applies to all their employees, as opposed to, say, just directors or people very high up. As written, this applies to something as mundane as buying a museum membership (if they’re at least partially tax deductible, that’s a donation to a nonprofit), which is so beyond what your employer should care about that I don’t know why they care.

    I mean, I work for a company with a fairly intense no moonlighting policy, and any technical work that I do elsewhere needs to be approved, even for charity. But 1. it’s limited to technical work, so it’s not overbroad, and 2. depending on what I wanted to do, it’s totally fine: I just need to get approval.

  10. Maxwell Edison*

    #2 – I’d love an update on this. I know someone who does this sort of stuff from time to time and I haven’t been able to figure out how to get him to stop. Maybe you’ll have better luck.

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I broke someone of this by simply looking at them and not responding until I got a more detailed question. I work in a kitchen and someone just saying “Where is that thing?” doesn’t cut it.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        Same here. In my case, it was someone in my personal life, not a colleague. I got sick of trying to fill in the blanks myself, so I just stopped and waited for her to add details or finish her thought – and I told her that’s what I was doing. It hasn’t stopped completely, but it’s definitely decreased, and changing my response also helped me to feel less frustrated.

        1. Red Reader*

          My fiancé: “Hey, do you know what happened to the …..? *trails off expectantly*”
          Me: “… the end of your sentence? Nope. Try again.”

          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            I’ll have to remember this, but I’ve been with my husband for 19 years today. Eventually, you know the end of the sentence or at least I do. LOL

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I have said, “You have to put your words closer together, I am dozing off between phrases.”

    2. Bryce*

      In my case it’s been a matter of recognizing the bad habit for what it is, and having some close friends/parents aware that I realize it’s an issue and willing to point out when I do it.

    3. JJJJShabado*

      I would consider myself guilty of this sometimes (e.g. I would definitely say something about the invoice without proper context). I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing things like that, but I can tell when there is confusion and then I give more context or when asked, I know to give nore context. (I’ll usually say, sorry, this needs more words, you don’t have all the context in my head). In my experience, that was easy enough to learn. When I start talking, I don’t always have a firm grasp of what needs to be said, and not all thoughts and ideas come out.

    4. Serin*

      The spouse’s family is terrible about this, and he’s now used to both me and the kidlet saying, “Nouns! We cannot complete your request until you provide us with nouns!”

      1. she was a fast machine*

        Love this! Gonna have to remember it next time my fiance starts going on some vague pronoun-filled sentence.

      2. Trillian*

        Line from a radio play, actor to her partner as he turned off the radio on a long winded news reporter — “Hey, I was waiting for the verb!”

    5. krysb*

      Totally off topic, but I saw your username and started singing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Please tell me that’s where your name is from.

        1. krysb*

          Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is a Beatles song – the catchiest, most upbeat song about a serial killer out there.

  11. Panda Bandit*

    #3 – The company mishandled the negotiation, not your cousin. It’s very bad form to try to stiff your new hires.

  12. Augusta Sugarbean*

    #1 Just another datapoint: I’ve worked at a nonprofit that’s been operating for nearly 40 years. I’ve been with them for a decade and this was never a condition of employment. Not normal.

  13. Temporary name change*

    No 1 is also pretty tone-deaf to the kinds of people who are drawn to non-profit work in the first place. Clue: it’s not unusual for them to want to donate their time and money to a range of causes outside of work. Either because they are cause-conscious (if that makes sense) or because maybe you work for one org you care about and support others in other ways.

    My grandboss volunteers as a chef at a local homeless shelter. One of my peer colleagues walks shelter dogs as well as having her own doggo. There’s a manager in another team who volunteers at a suicide crisis line. These are some of our most brilliant and dedicated staff. If you don’t hire these kinds of people, you miss out.

    1. A person who has worked at both good and crap nonprofits*

      BINGO. This is just so, so messed up and PETTY that it reeks of entitled management that just issues edicts with no consideration for the effect on staff AND has no one in place that can effectively push back. I recommend that you decline this job!
      And, I bet that senior management donates to other charities – like churches, memorial donations, and school fundraisers – ALL THE TIME and no one calls them on it! One rule for the little people and another for the important people!

      1. Mookie*

        Good point about who can afford to donate, particularly because charitable non-profits (v. lobbying groups whose policies are dictated by a wealthy elite) tend to serve underserved, overlooked, vulnerable communities who need more volunteers and donations, not less. And while the amount of money donated in the US is growing per capita, it is only keeping pace with an increase in wages and a decrease in unemployment but holding in the US at a more-or-less steady 2 percent, largely contributed by individuals (although, as the link demonstrates, donations do not account for the bulk of a non-profit’s budget).

        US-centrically, were this common, it’d also have a chilling effect on hiring and recruitment, given that the non-profit industry is not very diverse to begin with, especially in leadership roles, and income disparity in many parts of the US and among certain Americans is growing while employment in non-profits correlates with gender and with economic and educational privilege.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        That fits with what I saw. The pay disparity between front line people and higher ups was astronomical. And yet the org had no money. hmmm. So we were supposed to donate and volunteer. I worked like I was three people. I figured it was up to them to figure out how to leverage that. When they started telling me where I could and could not donate I said, “go ahead, try to stop me.” grr. I got pretty burned out on all charities. For years all I would donate to was individual fund raisers such as a cancer patient or house fire victims.

    2. babblemouth*

      The large non-profit I worked at for several years actually encouraged people to volunteer in other places, as it helped understand the difficulties our own volunteers faced. On top of that, it’s just good movement-building.
      This is such a bizarre and counter-productive policy, it boggles the mind.

  14. jesicka309*

    OP #5 – I encountered a very similar situation at my old job when I was applying for internal promotion. – trying to book a meeting with my team lead & noticing some weird 1 hour meetings in his diary in our interview room. It turned out that the first few interviews were more of a screening interview, and because I was internal & a likely candidate, I had been fast tracked to the second round with the bosses (as opposed to the first round with HR & the team lead).

    Obviously this may not be the case for you as well, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing to miss the first round of interviews.

    1. OP5*

      I’m really glad it worked out for you jesicka, that’s great news! Unfortunately there were just more qualified applicants for the role.

  15. Observer*

    #1 As you can see, this is NOT normal. Please also take what Alison says about their credibility seriously. The claim that this is normal practice is NOT TRUE. This is NOT a “standard” statement by any stretch of the imagination.

    So, either the place is run by lunatics or liars or some mix. Because for anyone with experience in the field to believe this, they need to be divorced from reality. If do know that this is not true, then they are telling you something they know is not true. Unless you are desperate for a job, please don’t take the job.

    1. MK*

      It’s also possible these aren’t people experienced in the field? Maybe this is a pretty new organization or currently run by people who are also pretty new in non-profit work and are making it up as the go along, or following bad advice. In which case, the OP should run even faster.

      1. Observer*

        Well, the place would have to be run exclusively by a bunch of newbies who are not terribly reasonable people and who are not taking advice from any competent people. So, yeah, that’s an even better reason to run.

  16. Laura*

    On #1… I think it’s not only rather quite odd, but also… I’m pretty sure the only way it would work is completely reliant on an honor system… it’s a ridiculous policy and doesn’t seem entirely enforceable.

    But it’s mostly a weirdly ridiculous sounding policy.

    1. MK*

      Constant policing of donations isn’t possible, no, but it would mean that you could suddenly be fired for cause at any moment. And other activities are more visible,you could be found out at any time.

        1. Colette*

          They see you with something you got for donating, someone hears you mention your child’s fundraiser, a coworker is behind you at the cash when you donate to the store’s charity drive …. They wouldn’t catch everything, but you can be fired if they hear of anything.

          1. Chriama*

            Oh, ok. I understand the needing to police normally casual acts. I was thinking more along the lines of if there’s a cause you really care about and usually donate to, it’s not hard to make it anonymous. But you’re totally right than anything you might do without thinking about it is now subject to more-than-normal scrutiny.

            1. fposte*

              Yup. Campaign donations are usually the first thing I encounter when I trawl Google for old school friends.

        2. MK*

          Some charities also publish lists of their donors to recognise their contribution; you can ask that they not do that, or donate anonymously, of course, but it turns a simple, well-meaning act into a covert operation. And I imagine it would be galling to have to ask yourself “could this get back to my boss”, every single time you want to do something for charity.

    2. Siberian*

      I can easily imagine scenarios in which you could get caught donating to or supporting another cause, but I live in a town of about 50,000 and I run into people I know at least a third of the time that I’m doing errands. What if someone from work saw me dropping clothes at the charity thrift store, attending the blood drive, running in the charity 5k, participating in fundraising events at my kid’s school? This would make me so paranoid. I would have worried less back when I lived in a major metropolitan area, but where I live now, I’ve used the same therapist as a close coworker, etc.

  17. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Reminds me of the new employee orientation where we were told “You cannot hold stock in any company that does business with (our) Corporation” …which was a major multi-faceted manufacturer – which, in turn precludes you from holding stock in ANY company because (our) Corporation does business with the entire world – certainly most of the Fortune 500!

    It was later explained = “a four percent or greater interest in any company that does business with (our) Corporation”….oh – teensy little detail.

    But I was with one company – that barred us from holding stock in any competitors. Conversely, I did go to work for another very large company that competed against two major elements in mine and my wife’s portfolio. I voluntarily divulged this and asked … “no that is no problem (Whew!)”

    1. Chriama*

      That’s kind of crazy though, and I’m tempted to ask the ‘is it legal’ question. It seems like at least some financial regulatory body wouldn’t like the idea of a blanket ban on purchasing stock through the open market. And I would be ok with you being forced to divulge any conflict of interest (such as owning a large/controlling share), but pretty much any large company will have large competitors that can be found in most mutual funds — or would it be ok as long as you weren’t holding the stock directly?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Definitely legal, and likely wouldn’t bug financial regulators—they’re focused on market manipulation and insider conduct.

        1. Susan C.*

          Seconded. The (publicly traded) multi-national that now owns my employer sends out *very* detailed newsletters on what and when we’re allowed trade in the stock market (e.g. black-out periods leading up to the release of our quarterly numbers). I imagine they wouldn’t go to those lengths if the regulators weren’t quite keen on it.

          I mean, why would they mind? Their job is to avoid fraud and abuse, not consumer protection.

  18. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #5 – perhaps it’s true, they might not have scheduled you for an interview because your acting experience in the position effectively serves as the first-level interview.

    I’d inquire. You deserve to know WHERE you stand, and management also might like some ascertainment that you are interested in the position that you’re working in.

    On the other hand, if they’ve made the decision to pass over you for it, this may be viewed as confrontational, but (obviously) you might have to make a career decision if you’re not considered a candidate. If they’re going to pass you over, they might feel queasy over letting you know now – because – you’re doing the job, probably effectively, and they can’t afford to lose you at this time!

    Also, be careful not to find yourself in a position where you are there to support the new candidate (and pick him/her up when they fall off the horse, so to speak) …. it’s not helpful for your career to end up as a “permanent backstop” for a position they should have given you.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      An even halfway decent company won’t view it as confrontational to inquire about where things stand (and I don’t want to encourage the OP to think she needs to worry about doing a perfectly normal thing).

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it’s really about tone. If you ask in a non-entitled, non-emotional, somewhat upbeat way, it would be hard for a company to view the request as confrontational. Even if you failed at moderating your tone, it should be ok to ask. If I had an employee who was in a similar position and feeling low or worried, I’d want to know as a manager so I could cut short their misery / spiraling.

    3. OP5*

      Unfortunately we have a rigid process here and I simply wasn’t shortlisted. I was concerned about looking like I was trying to shortcircuit a normal process so Alison’s response really put my mind at ease.

      Honestly, I can say without being a supremely overconfident jerk that they can’t afford to lose me. There has been massive turnover in my department and previous employees left without documenting their jobs with me currently performing the functions of multiple roles and no time to write up procedures. There is another job at my level that has been vacant for over 12 months I’ve been covering as well as part of the higher level job and my own. And that is part of the reason that I don’t understand why I didn’t make the shortlist, particularly when my feedback has been that there wasn’t anything further I could have done and that my application was good.

      Hopefully the new candidates are as experienced as I’ve been told and I won’t be propping them up aside from a normal adjustment period for them in taking on the job. Beyond that I’ll be keeping my head down and getting my job done, and trying to learn as much from them as I possibly can.

      I currently believe I’ll continue to be assigned higher level work at present because of my skillset so that is good at least.

      1. OP5*

        To clarify – I have been taking on the higher level duties since it became clear that the job would become vacant as someone needed to be able to perform the role. I have officially been A/Promotion for 2 months but taking on the key functions for the last 8.

  19. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. So putting your loose change in a collecting tin for the hospice, and getting a sticker would be a firing offence?

  20. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    My understanding of No.1 is this: My mother passes away from cancer and if I ask for donations in her memory to the local cancer society, I can be instantly fired. Run far away from this job.

  21. Why Don't We Do It in the Code*

    Hhhmmm. The policy in #1 says involvement in a “charitable, non-profit, or fundraising event” is prohibited in the first sentence but then says “involvement in any charity…” in the second. Is it involvement with actual events or any involvement whatsoever? Prohibiting any involvement is just unrealistic and ridiculous.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m pretty sure it’s referring to “any involvement” in any charity, at least that’s how it reads as written.

    2. Chriama*

      I think they meant any involvement with a charity, whether for specific events or as a general volunteer. But that’s really a distinction between “huge overreach” and “huger overreach”.

  22. Otter box*

    #1 – This rule is so far beyond the pale of what is acceptable that I’d turn down the offer and tell HR (or whomever you’re in contact with) *exactly* why. I also think it may even merit a detailed review on Glassdoor or a similar site – I certainly would not want to donate to any nonprofit that placed such draconian restrictions on its employees’ freedom of speech and association. FWIW, I work for a medium-sized NGO based in Washington, DC, and this is 100% NOT normal. I donate to 4 different organizations monthly, volunteer at a 5th once a week, and am a member of the performing arts center – all encouraged by my organization. This policy effectively bans everything from tithing to your church to helping your kid sell candy bars for their Little League team, and is *not* okay.

    1. Chriama*

      Other people have mentioned religious discrimination due to tithing. I think this is something the department of labor would like to hear about, and that’s where I’d start. I don’t think they’ll change their minds just because you tell them you’re turning down the job and a scathing glassdoor review has the potential risk of being traced back to her if the company is small/doesn’t have other reviews. Either way though, this is such an overreach that I’m sure parts of it are illegal and I would want to make sure they’re reported to someone who has the power to do something about it.

    2. NOPE*

      I also work for a non-profit (and have worked for several others) and agree it’s far more common for the organizations to encourage, rather than ban, this sort of behavior. I’m encouraged to donate to my organization, sure… but there’s also a staff-run newsletter that highlights local volunteering opportunities every few weeks. Because we’re all working to support our community. And why not do so outside of work in our spare time or with our spare money. The fact that this company wants to dictate how OP spends their free time is absurd. And incredibly selfish.

  23. Joanna*

    Perhaps you could make a point by donating to a civil liberties/free speech org in their “honour” and having the acknowledgement card sent to them?

  24. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    #5 It’s fine to ask, and a bit thoughtless of them not to realise you’d see it in their calendars.

    I apologise for the downer but in a previous job a colleague acted up in a role and was not considered for it as she was too good at her existing job. I think it’s completely reasonable to want to know what’s going on and not at all confrontational.

  25. Drew*

    OP#2, I think you can capture two birds with one lure here. At least for me, the interruption would be as annoying as the fact that you aren’t getting enough data to minimize its impact. The script I would use in this case would go something like, “Wakeen, I really appreciate that you’re asking for help when you need it. It would help ME a lot if you could send email when you need help rather than trying to catch my attention in the moment. That way you can be sure your question has all the salient information, and I can hit a stopping point and give you a more considered answer. If I need more information, I can ask for details without putting you on the spot or interrupting your train of thought.”

    That’s…softer than I would like to say (“STOP INTERRUPTING WHAT I’M DOING TO ASK HALF A QUESTION!!”) but I think is more likely to get useful results in the long run and has the advantage of not making you ask Wakeen over and over to complete their thoughts in front of all their coworkers. It also gives you something concrete to point at if the pattern continues: “Wakeen, do you see this email here and this one here and that one over there? Each one of them lacked some crucial detail that I needed to answer your question, so I had to go back to you to get it. Can you make more of an effort in the future to include all the necessary information in the *first* email you send? Thanks.”

    1. Beezus*

      This is an important point. I have a couple of coworkers who start questions via IM with a “hello” followed by two minutes of typing as they formulate their actual question. The first IM breaks my focus and then I can’t get back to what I was doing while they type out the question, because I know I’m going to be interrupted again any second. It feels too small to bring up, but it’s annoying.

      1. Chriama*

        I have a coworker who will type ‘hello’ and then nothing until I respond back to her initial greeting. I get not wanting to feel like you’re interrupting but for me it’s easier if you write the whole message and I read it when I have a minute than to expect me to break my focus and engage in a real-time conversation with you.

        1. Mental Mouse*

          That sounds like she’s doing a “ping”… basically checking if you’re available for interactive chat. But that’s wasting one of the advantages of computer messaging, namely that messages can wait for you to deal with them. (Admittedly, that works better with E-mail than IM.)

      2. Quaggaquagga*

        Oh, this really gets to me too. I have a lovely coworker, but she messages me like this:
        Colleague at 11:39: hey
        Colleague at 11:39: quaggaquagga
        Colleague at 11:39: i have a question

        I did ask her to please collect her entire question into one message a little while ago, but she’s slipped back into her old habits again. Maybe I should also learn to ignore messenger alerts a bit more?

      3. Ramblin' Ma'am*

        My *boss* does this! And getting an IM from my boss that begins, “Hey…” followed by the two minutes of typing naturally breaks my concentration…

  26. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #5 – a little more – if you have not indicated an interest in retaining the position you’re currently fulfilling in an active role – it’s important that you make it known.

    Your management will know , at best, that you ARE interested in the role rather than return to your old one and it also forces discussion within management = “Betty’s doing the job, she’s doing it well, and wants the permanent position. If we go to the street, and pass Betty over, we may lose her”…

    1. OP5*

      Hi TAFKAA2, thank you for your comment!

      I have definitely made it very clear that I wanted the job, I spoke with my boss about my desire to take on more responsibility and secure the job on more than one occasion. Also about 6 months ago when it was clear that the job was going to become vacant I met with her to ask whether there were any specific skills I could be building and developing further which would make me more competitive as an applicant.

      My feedback has been that my application was ‘excellent’ but that there were just candidates with more experience. The amount of work and high level work I’ve taken on in my time here is huge and I’m going to be honestly looking at other options from this point.

  27. A-nonny-non*

    1. You say you’ve tried raising the issue by saying things in the moment like “Please finish the question” but this feels quite subtle and open to interpretation to me. Has that come across to them as you pointing out a problem behaviour you want them to change, or as you being collaborative, trying to be helpful to them as they think things through? Talk to them more formally. Raise the issue in a way that makes it clear this is a problem that needs fixing.

    2. Different brains work in different ways, and sometimes people who are simply overworked find it hard to brain, so maybe put a big reminder post-it in their line of sight, or print out an enquiry form for them to use as a checklist, or even buy a pad of the things for them to fill out. Or a decision tree or mind-map, or whatever works for them as a reminder. Point them at it next time they pop up with a sentence fragment instead of a question.

    3. If gentler approaches don’t fix it, get firmer and stop rewarding bad behaviour. Blank them completely – no eye contact, no helping them towards an answer, no words at all – until they’ve formed a complete question with all the info you need to answer it. Then, smile and be positive and even thank them and praise them. (Sincerely! Don’t mock them.)

    Yes, #3 sounds like dog training and I know some people hate that, which is why I’m only suggesting it as a last resort when all else has failed. It’s not about punishment; it’s about consciously using your body language to reinforce your message. People notice and trust body language most of all, then your tone of voice, and the words you say come a poor third place. Which can make body language a very effective tool when you use it consciously and consistently.

    1. Mookie*

      At the same time, creating an elaborate gate-keeping ritual such colleagues have to complete to secure cooperation from you could appear obstructive, manipulative, and a time-waster to a third party who witnesses or hears about it.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am not very patient. I could learn to be more patient.
      But in the end, if there was not an improvement in speaking habits, I would tell her to leave and come back once she had her entire question thought out. Not up to me to do her job for her. I would send her away each time she did not complete her sentence/thought.

      OTH, this would be after several discussions and I would warn her what this last step would be if she failed to show improvement.
      Being able to communicate with others is a big chunk of any job. Perhaps she could email her questions or she could write out her questions before asking me.

      We all have brain farts. I think the closer we work with someone the more apt we are to notice their brain farts. If I am working closely with someone, I have no problem with a half dozen brain farts per day. I would not even notice that. I have that many myself. I do believe that putting up with each other’s brain farts is just part of working well with others.

      OP, I don’t know how many times a day you are seeing this. It could be that she interacts with you three times a day and loses words every time. So 100% of the time you are looking for her words. That is way too much. Maybe you intimidate her for reasons that only exist in her head. Maybe she is overwhelmed by the job. Maybe she has an on-going at home problem that totally drains her mind. You could try asking her if she is happy or comfortable at the job. That might offer her an opportunity to get something off her mind.

      But really, holding down any job requires people to have organized their questions and have the questions thought out. I would tell her that it’s not a waste of time conquering this skill as she will use it for the rest of her life.

  28. beetrootqueen*

    1. Nope nope nope that’s nuts. I’ve worked at nonprofits most of my life and none if them have ever said something like that. In fact most of them especially ones that have linked up with other charities love a bit of cross pollination between them. This rule is really vague,broad and frankly kinda gross

    1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      I also wonder how it is supposed to work. I mean, I have my Amazon account linked up to Amazon Smile to donate some small fraction of purchases to a charity. I have the Walk for a Dog app on my phone that makes donations to a pet charity of my choice when I register a walk. It seems really overreaching for that kind of passive charity participation to be included.

  29. Mirax*

    WRT #1, I feel like with the exception of explicit insider trading-type conflicts of interest, my employer has no place to dictate how/where I spend my money, *even if* I am donating to a competing organization. Once they’ve deposited my salary, that is my money, and they stop having any say over what I do with it.

  30. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, they are completely incorrect or lying about this being standard for non-profits. I’ve always worked in NFPs and have never heard of anything like this. It’s for more common for NFPs to sort of unofficially encourage their people to be as engaged as possible in many NFPs.

    Example, I used to work for the Chocolate Teapot Museum. My boss told me about a volunteer opportunity at the International Strawberry Teapot Museum that would help me build a particular skill. This is what is common/standard in NFPs, not what this company is doing.

  31. svedin*

    #2. My boss does this to me several times a day. When she starts speaking it’s like she started the sentence in her head and doesn’t realise that I didn’t hear that part. It can be very annoying but I try to take a human approach to it. We have so many projects and pieces moving at the same time, so if I can’t make a reasoned guess, I either don’t respond or tell her straight out that I don’t know what she’s talking about. We move on quickly, no real harm done.

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I hear you. I once had a boss that, for real, flew into my office one day and said, “She said we can do this, because that’s how they do it down there, as long as we have all of the things.”

      You have exactly as much information as I do on what he was referring to.

  32. Nervous Accountant*

    #2—I think I kind of get why she does that on her end. If she’s a newish employee (new to the company or to working in general), this is something thats on the forefront of their mind, while not realizing that the othe rperson is working on a multitude of things so they won’t get the context immediatley. Hopefully what I said makes sense.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, it does make sense. She could be a bundle of nervousness and she could just be trying to blurt out whatever, because at the moment it’s the most important thing in the world. BTDT.
      It is a good idea, OP, if you can figure out what might be driving the behavior. Nervous, worried or anxious people don’t finish sentences. And people in grief can find it very hard to talk in full sentences. It may take more than one discussion but I think you should still insist that she work on this matter.

  33. PepperVL*

    Another point about #1 – if anyone who works there is the kind of person to itemize deductions on their taxes due to the amount they donate, this policy is costing them that tax deduction.

    Additionally – and more likely to apply to OP1 as she’s new in her career – many thrift stores are charities. So if she doesn’t have a full work wardrobe, she had better hope she can find one she can afford at a big-box store, because buying pieces at Goodwill is out.

    Honestly, I’d be tempted to be super snarky about it. Show up with a bunch of non-perishable food items & drop them off in the office of whoever enforcers the policy. “Here’s my weekly food pantry donation! Where do I get my receipt?” Lug in a bag of old clothes and electronics and ask for a receipt. Ask when the next blood drive is. Demand they provide me with Thin Mints. It’s not likely to happen due to the balance of power inherent in a job, but it’s a nice thought.

    1. fposte*

      Buying from Goodwill doesn’t count as a donation, though–a donation is only above the actual value of the goods.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        True, but whoever dreamt up this cray-cray policy might consider even buying at a charity thrift store giving aid and comfort to the enemy! :D

      2. PepperVL*

        But buying from them could be facilitating or otherwise having involvement with them, so there’s still a risk.

  34. Imaginary Number*

    Regarding #1: Is anyone else thinking that there might be other shady things going on with this charity? I can’t imagine what sort of thing would lead to banning employees from donating to another charity (except, probably, a nonprofit run by a cult.)

    1. MuseumChick*

      That was my first thought or they just don’t know what they are doing. It happens a lot where people with a passion but not training in NFP work end up in high ranking position (particularly at smaller places but it happens at larger ones as well). So, if I give them the benefit of the doubt, they have someone working there who cares a lot about the mission but doesn’t understand NFP work, as no formal training or education in it, who come up with this policy and has no reference for who inappropriate it is.

      1. Chriama*

        Yup, that’s what it sounds like to me. They’re new, fairly small, and not run by people with lots of professional experience. I’d honestly worry that this would be present in other things – e.g. expecting you to work lots of unpaid overtime, miss-classifying you as exempt or trying to give you time in lieu, ignorant of other labor laws, and basically expecting you to conduct your life as if the only thing of importance is the organization and all your other needs and wants, from paying your bills (late pay or unpaid overtime) to your health (long hours, interrupting your vacation, little/no pto or punitive policies like forcing you to use it on days the office is closed) to your relationships (not having any true time off) are secondary or totally unimportant.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Exactly. This happens all the time in the museum field. A small group of people who are really interested in subject X start a museum dedicated to subject X. But they don’t have any training or knowledge in things like museum collections management, fundraising, exhibit design, educational programming etc. What’s worse is they are often very resistant to change. I’ve been in the position of being someone who’s brought on to help with those things but getting nothing but a brick wall when I try to change things to be in line with industry standards.

          I advise the LW to turn down the position unless she is really desperate for a job.

            1. Noobtastic*

              Even if she’s really desperate for a job, this is not a long-term job. Take the job, take the paycheck, and spend all your available down time looking for a job with a company that is not wackadoodle.

              Although, if you can last for a while, before you’re desperate for a paycheck, it might be better not to even have this company listed in your work history, at all.

          1. Ashie*

            This happens in animal welfare, too. Very passionate people with zero experience or knowledge in anything outside of animal care.

    2. the.kat*

      Yeah, I don’t know about shady things. I can picture a well-meaning but uninformed fundraiser running into a coworker who is passionate about another cause one too many times, snapping and throwing down this rule. I can imagine some conversations about, “Fergus shouldn’t be allowed to raise money for another nonprofit here at work!”

      At my nonprofit, there have historically been some issues in the past with our involvement with similar nonprofits leading to a donor shift. An excited coworker sets up an opportunity for our nonglamorous but still important nonprofit to partner with a much more glamorous nonprofit. At the end of the successful partnership, lots of our donors really like giving to the glamorous nonprofit and continue to do so, instead of giving to us, losing us some important donated income.

      So, no, I don’t see it necessarily as a shady thing. Instead, I see a reactive policy that’s gone too far. If OP#2 hadn’t already pushed back, I’d say they should try to do so, but I’d just cut my losses instead. It sounds like this zoo is being run by the monkeys.

      1. Observer*

        This is SO far over the edge, that it’s hard to see it as a well meaning but legitimate thing gone wrong.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Thank you for correlating the two- the ban plus other shady dealings.
      Yes, the time I saw this there was lots and lots of shady stuff going on and people were headed to jail the last I knew.
      There is a reason why this npo needs to have such tight control over every damn penny. OP, seriously take caution here. Sooo many people are saying this is not normal. I thought that it was legit when it happened to me, but I did not like it one bit. I refused to play along but I kept my opinions to myself because that seemed wise. A while later newspaper headlines were all over the place. Take care of you, OP.

  35. boop the first*

    1. Wow, they must get pretty sick of employees lugging old household junk to work every now and then.

  36. Michelle*

    OP#1- I have been working at a nonprofit for 15 years now and they encourage us to donate and volunteer for other nonprofit, charitable organizations.

  37. Delta Delta*

    #1 – today I am going to donate some used clothing and household goods to our community thrift store, return some books to the library, snowshoe through a park, and buy some Girl Scout cookies. Good thing I don’t work at OP 1’s possible employer – I’d get fired immediately for being a participant in my community.

  38. Imaginary Number*

    At first I thought: “Okay, maybe they recently had an incident where someone was volunteering for a super-shady “charity” on the side whose mission was white supremacy or something.” But then the “no exceptions ever” didn’t make any sense.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Actually, one thought I had was that someone at this NFP had once worked with someone who had to Save The World all on their own, and so solicited their coworkers relentlessly and/or volunteered so much it interfered with their work, that sort of thing. And the favorite tool of a lousy manager when dealing with extreme problem behavior is to create an overbroad blanket rule that bans everyone from all types of activity that just one person took too far.

  39. Blue Anne*

    #2 – Thank you for writing in about this. I work with someone who does the same thing, with an added tone of “You should know exactly what I’m talking about.” We have the same title and duties but she’s in her 50s and has been doing this job since I was 13. I think it’s her way of reminding me of that. It drives me nuts.

    I’ll try Alison’s wording.

  40. Kj*

    #2: I’m concerned if this is a relatively new thing that it could be due to a medical change of some sort. Although I know it isn’t strictly your job, maybe when calling out the behavior you could express concern for the employee’s health? The onset of dementia and a number of other conditions can be indicated by changes in cognition/’losing’ words and ideas. It would be a kindness not to assume this is JUST a communication problem, as it might be much, much worse. I’d not say “you might have dementia,” but maybe if you have an EAP at work, suggest the employee seek help through it for “communication difficulties.” The person at the EAP will be better equipped to handle this conversation’s gory details, which leaves you free to focus on its effects on you.

    1. Not That Jane*

      I was coming here to say this exact thing. The severity of this problem as described sounds to me like a possible neurological or cognitive issue (and I’m a teacher, so I have professional experience with spotting potential learning disabilities). I think I’d start the conversation with the employee by naming the problem, then asking for her thoughts before making any requests. Her response would tell me a lot about whether this was a habit/quirk or something less easily changed.

  41. CDM*


    Every question, every work story boils down to Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.

    Your co-worker is giving you one of those pieces of information, i.e. What = invoice, and expecting you to fill in the other five.

    It could help if you give her that list and remind her that she needs to give you at least three of those pieces of information before asking you to fill in any of the others.

    Who – Winkleworth Inc
    What – Invoice
    When – November 15

    Then she can ask you Where, Why or How.

    There may be some cases where a question can be asked with only two pieces of info – “How do I process these invoices that differ from the usual due to Why?” But in most cases, you will need three answers from her before you can provide her with one.

    And that gives you a script to use every single time. “What about that invoice?” “I need two more pieces of information from you.”

    It works (and may be more or less effective) even if you don’t give her the list, but keep it handy for yourself.
    “What about that invoice?”
    “For who?”
    “Winkleworth Inc”
    “November 15”
    “What do you need to know?”
    “Where is it?/How do I process it?/Why was this handled differently than usual?”

    If you keep following the same script with her, she may (or may not) start giving you the information before you even ask. It should, hopefully, reduce your frustration once you have a routine for extracting the info you need from her in an efficient way.

    Good luck!

    1. Trillian*

      I’d be sorely tempted to get that printed on a bunch of business cards and silently hand her one in response to each half question.

    2. Anon for this*

      This is a good strategy.

      I’m in this same boat–I have a manager who (a) will suddenly cc me for the 18th message of a 19-message chain, and I have to catch up and figure out what she wants, and (b) when asking me questions in person, seems incapable of using a specific noun. “Did you send The Packet to him?” OK, which packet and which him?

  42. Anomanom*

    as to #2. I have successfully used the phrase “I’m going to need all the words.” Usually it makes people laugh and realize that they are not giving all the directions. I also like to tell the story of working at a restaurant where the bathroom was up the stairs and around the corner and not easy to find. People would ask you where the bathroom was, walk away while you were talking, only hear the “up the stairs portion”, then have to ask again 5 minutes later when they were upstairs and lost. It’s a metaphor for life, you need all the directions if you are going to find something, don’t just assume you know where they were going with it.

    1. TheLazyB*

      That’s where you start answering with ‘after you go up the stairs’ so they are printed to expect more info. Prob wouldn’t always work but would increase the odds.

    2. Noobtastic*

      It’s like Indiana Jones and the Ark of the Covenant.

      “But wait! There are more instructions on the other side of the medallion!”

  43. NonprofitHR*

    Regarding Question #1: That’s completely bizarre. I do HR for a large nationally known non-profit, and I would say 80% of our staff are actively involved in supporting other non-profits. The types of employees who love a mission, usually have bleeding hearts for many causes. I would never dream of telling them to only support us. Bizarre.

  44. BadPlanning*

    As a recovering “blurt out the middle” person — the two things that helped (are helping) me reform are my coworkers being relatively blunt,
    –Er, I think I need more background
    –What was the context of this?
    –Whoa, whoa, start from the beginning.
    And general blank stares of confusion.

    And frankly, a couple moments of self-awareness. One of my parents seems to play half the story in their head and then blurt out the middle to me. I didn’t realize I was doing the same thing until someone was pretty rude back to me a couple times ( along the lines of, “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”) Rudeness aside, I did have a moment of, “Oh no, I’m doing Parent Trait that I hate. Must stop.”

    1. Manders*

      Yep, I sometimes end up starting my sentences in the middle of thoughts–it’s a learned habit, but it can be unlearned with effort.

      Some other things that helped me are:
      * Emailing instead of popping up and speaking
      * Having scheduled meetings I could prepare for by bringing notes
      * Sitting further away from my boss so I can’t turn to him and start speaking without putting in a little effort to walk to his desk
      * Sharing a Trello board with my boss so my notes about projects were in one place and I didn’t need to re-ask the same question

  45. Antie*

    #2 Sometimes a simple approach is most effective. Perhaps you could adopt a non-judgmental catchall phrase, like “that’s incomplete information,” to repeat ad nauseum. Every time she comes to you with half a thought, she gets the same exact response. She will figure out that if she wants an answer from you, she has to bring complete information. You really don’t need to teach her as much as you need to train her, much in the way she has trained you to engage with her by talking in half sentences.

    1. fposte*

      That’s not really managing, though, and it feels really punitive to the person on the receiving end. The other problem is that this isn’t an uncommon problem with people’s cognition, not just their expression; just telling her this isn’t right isn’t going to give somebody like that any tool to make it right in future.

  46. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Re #1: In addition to being very out of the ordinary, and deeply problematic on its face, this policy also tells you a lot about how this organization operates. Nonprofit work isn’t done in a vacuum, and no organization can do it all. An organization that perceives all other organizations as competitors (for your time, money, and attention) — rather than partners, supporters, co-conspirators — isn’t going to be doing its work very effectively in the long run.

  47. Mark in Cali*

    My first job out of college was working for an educational touring theatre company where they paid us a laughable amount per week (I think it was like $250), we were on the road all the time, and when we were on the road we would have to stay in their office and do things like clean the windows (they thought they were clever and called them OSTs or Office Support Tasks).

    Then we had a meeting one day where the ED got in front of all us actors and announced the new “membership program.” We were all so naïve, stupid, young, clueless, and bleeding heart liberal-actors that we felt pressured to sign up and gave up a portion of our measly paycheck back to this awful org.

    A quick lookup on their non-profit tax form and we could see the ED was making well over $100k a year. With less than 50 actors on staff and the cost of that membership she could have easily taken it out of her own salary. She also had a boat.

    After I left I heard things got worse and she actually stood in front of the group and told them how she makes her own yogurt to save money. I believe she was announcing a pay cut or something.

    This is also the same woman who was infamous for hear yearly presentation on how “I’m at the top and see things you don’t see so don’t question me,” but then gave everyone the opportunity once a year to sit in her chair and tell her what should be fixed. Little did I know it was just a way for her to get the scoop on troublemakers and deal with them.

    So tempted to name this awful org . . . Bring back public shame!

  48. Meg Danger*

    #1 – Nope. It is actually very, very common for high level non-profit employees to volunteer for the boards of other non-profit organizations (barring conflicts of interest). Probably 1/3 of my orgs BoD work for other local human service agencies. Heck, I serve on the board of another local non-profit (mission is education-related), and I am a fairly low-level employee at the organization I work for (mission serves seniors and PWD). I also volunteer to run a program at a third local non-profit (mission is to eliminate racism). The list of organizations I support financially in my year-end giving seems to grow every December (especially year-end 2016 given our political forecast).

  49. Kathlynn*

    I vaguely recall the US has laws regarding political parties and employer interference. (like employers to some extent can’t dictate what their employees support.) And aren’t political parties nonprofit organizations? I don’t remember what the law regarding this actually is. But if anyone else remembers, would the not volunteering/participating/donating rules violate it?

  50. Bend & Snap*

    #2 I do this to a very mild degree and it’s a product of being very focused on my current project. Instead of doing excruciating coaching, can you tell her to just start at the beginning?

    With my boss, it goes like this:
    Me: I finished that thing and they liked it!
    Boss: Great!
    Me: Can you get me the X so I can get it rolling?
    Boss: Refresh me on what exactly you need and what for?

    And then I realize I’ve started the conversation with him in the middle instead of the beginning. I’m a lot more conscious of it now.

    If that doesn’t work, try asking her not to come to you until she’s ready to articulate the who, what, when, where, why, how for you to understand what she needs.

  51. LoFlo*

    LW 1 – I worked many years with a national non-profit that is an umbrella agency for charities in my last job. They were very protective on what other non-profits the employers could partner with. Their reasoning for this was that they did not want donation fatigue when the annual drive came around. Also giving directly to an agency under their umbrella diluted the share of the contribution they got.

    1. Observer*

      Even that is not standard – and it is several orders of magnitude less invasive and sweeping than the OP’s letter. And, it doesn’t even affect their employees.

  52. animaniactoo*

    OP#1 – Good on you for being able to see that this wasn’t logical despite their claim of standard and looking for more info.

    OP#2 – Professionally, my favorite phrasing around this “Would you like to unpack that thought?” Personally – and if you think the employee would accept it, I use “I need you to use your outside-your-head voice” for in the moment prompts.

    OP#3 – Perhaps you might liken it to a sale for your parents. They go to the store. The salesman says “and we’ll throw in this great benefit for you also”, and your parents agree because with the additional benefit, they agree that the item is worth the price. They go to finalize the contract and the sales guy says “Actually, I misquoted you on that additional item, you’ll have to pay X extra for it”. Do they give up and pay X extra? Try to backup and say “Pardon me, we agreed to this price because you were including that. We’re not willing to pay this price without that, so either you need to come down in price, or go back to including that as per our original agreement”? Or what? Would they be within their rights to do so?

    Then relate it – company asked her to accept less value than they were initially offering. Why should she shrug and say “okay” without at least attempting to get it back?

  53. Maya Elena*

    OP3: Interestingly, in thia case I’d think your cousin’s personal efdoet and qualities are irrelevant. Even if she had had this job handed to her on a silver platter and she felt privately like it was her birthright, after coasting in college for four years, the main point is that the company promised something, failed to deliver, and was called out on it. The cousin handled the negotiation as a competent adult. Done.

    It would be different if she were lamenting about how she *felt* she should have been offered more money because she worked *so hard* and wanted the job *so badly*, etc. There certainly are people like that (hence the Millennial stereotype) but adult parents should be able to tell the difference.

  54. Siberian*

    OP #2, when my young son asks for things in a rude way I nicely and neutrally say “I’ll be able to hear you when you ask politely.” It’s the most effective way I’ve found to get him to immediately change his tone. I think that phrasing directs his thinking to “she’s giving me a clear path to achieve my goal of acquiring the cookie” or whatever. I wonder if a modified version of that might work here, like a polite and neutral “As soon as you have the details ready I’ll be happy to help you,” a supportive smile, and an immediate turning back to your work.

    1. fposte*

      If she were a co-worker, maybe. But since the OP is this person’s manager, she really needs to be specific about the behaviors she wants to see in her staff, and it can’t be assumed that somebody like this knows what “the details” are.

      1. Siberian*

        Well it sounds like the OP is able to eventually get the details but has to keep dragging them out of the employee. So the employee does know the details. And clearly if the employee is talking about a particular invoice, she knows which invoice she herself means. I guess my suggestion is that this technique can be a good way to shut down the kind of discussion where you have to keep dragging information out, or keep correcting and correcting someone. You make it clear with your response that certain kinds of approaches will not net any engagement. I’m not saying that the OP shouldn’t also have a direct separate conversation about what she wants going forward from her employee, but if the behavior persists this can be a possible technique for redirecting it with minimal effort on the OP’s side.

  55. mccoma*

    #4 “since the site is anonymous, in theory your company shouldn’t be able to track who did and who didn’t.”

    They can know if you did or didn’t and maybe what you did from the company computers. Anything from a company computer can be known by the company if they are competent.

  56. GK*

    On #5: there may be a company policy in place that requires they evaluate outside candidates for the position you are in before they can offer it to you permanently, ensuring they did their “due diligence” to find the appropriate person for the job. It’s rare, but it isn’t also unheard of.

  57. Nobody Here By That Name*

    #4: My company did that, in response to its horrible Glassdoor reviews. HR sent out a note, followed by the CEO, which said that they would never ask anybody to LIE, of course, but surely EVERYONE wanted to talk about how much they loved working here, RIGHT?

    Total Streisand effect. There was an uptick in positive reviews, sure. But all the positive reviews were very obvious plants (think “I love working here, it’s better than Cats, I want to work here again and again…”). At the same time there was also a huge uptick in negative reviews which were much more detailed about all of the problems to be had here – reviews that never would’ve been written if HR and the CEO hadn’t given the link out to hundreds of employees who previously hadn’t even known we had a Glassdoor page to begin with.

    Womp womp.

  58. AnonEMoose*

    Reading #1, it occurs to me that, if I worked there, I wouldn’t be able to work on the science fiction convention for which I’ve volunteered for years now. And I wouldn’t be able to run games at a local gaming convention, as this counts as volunteering for the convention. Under those conditions, I’d only accept the job if it was that or starvation/homelessness. This is not normal, and not ok.

    My current employer isn’t a non-profit. They require all employees to disclose whether they serve on the board of any nonprofits, and which ones if so, but that’s about it.

  59. she was a fast machine*

    Oh #2, I feel you! Both my brother and my fiance are like this and it drives me absolutely nuts to try to figure out what on earth they’re talking abt. I’ve had a bit of success retraining them to speak in complete thoughts and sentences, but Allison is right, it’s super hard to fix because they just don’t have enough awareness to realize not everyone thinks the way they do. I’ve had some luck approaching it from that side; basically, explaining that different people think differently and what makes sense to you and seems to be a no-brainer might not be the same for everyone else. It’s worked for me, but obviously my personal experiences have a different dynamic than in a workplace.

  60. I Refuse to Donate to Work*

    Am I the only person dying to know what the nonprofit in question is so that I can be sure to never give them anything? Also I’m just nosy.

  61. she was a fast machine*

    Also, OP1, if you really are interested in this job, perhaps it might be worthwhile to ask the org to clarify their terminology, i.e. if you happened to participate in a religion where tithing was required, would that cause you to lose your job? And kind of probe it out, and help them realize that their policy is potentially illegal. Ideally it’s not a malicious policy, just one borne of pure ignorance, and this might help you figure it out.

  62. Professional fundraiser*

    OP1, I am a professional fundraiser who has worked for several (functional and not so functional) non-profits in the U.S. As Allison says, this policy is absolutely not normal. And as some fellow commenters have shared, many non-profits encourage employees to be involved in volunteering/donating to other causes in the community. I really do see this policy as a red flag to run in the other direction. If the employer is trying to control how you manage your private philanthropy, I can only imagine what other ridiculous and controlling policies they apply to the workplace. If you can afford to job search a little longer, I think it will be worth it to look for another opportunity. Or at the very least, see if you can connect with some current/former employees to find out more about what the work environment is like. Best of luck!

  63. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, if you have or are going to turn this job down, and the organization is one larger than its local area, would you please name it.

  64. neverjaunty*

    OP #3, I’m betting your parents heard ‘she gets a car’ and then stopped listening. Why, in our day, nobody offered us a free car! You kids are spoiled! blah, blah, blah.

    Try framing it in get-off-my-lawn-ese, about honestly and trustworthiness and fair dealing. “Dad, don’t you think that if a company makes a promise to Jane to get her to work there, that the company should keep its promise?” “But Mom, you’ve always taught us to deal fairly with others and keep our word. Shouldn’t hiring managers do the same thing?”

  65. marymoocow*

    #2 – I have a coworker who does the same thing. A few times a day she’ll say “Hey Mary, the form for XYZ, right?” She doesn’t even use a full sentence. I usually say “What about the form?” and she’ll follow up with “Is the form for XYZ still the correct document?” About half the time she says instead “This student asked about the program – that’s the XYZ form, right?” It’s completely maddening when she assumes I heard the first part of her conversation and asks me to jump right in. I like Alison’s advice, but is this something I could say as a peer instead of a supervisor?

  66. OP5*

    Thank you so much Alison for answering my question!
    I do have an update. I intended to book a meeting with my Boss the day before the interviews and I came in to a calendar booking for an afternoon meeting that day.
    My boss met with me and said that my application was excellent, there were just other candidates with more experience than me, and the only way to get it is the long way (e.g another 10 years and significant previous experience in the role or the one above it elsewhere).
    It’s still pretty disheartening to not even snag an interview, but committed to continuing to excel in my job. I’m still disappointed about how it was handled as I should have been told the day after shortlisting according to company policy, but my boss has offered me some training to earn further relevant qualifications fully paid for by my organisation and I’ve discussed reviewing my current position for a small step up and she seemed receptive so all in all it was a positive conversation. I also was able to get feedback that there isn’t anything further I need to be working on at the moment, aside from a few small interpersonal things – related to being ‘too friendly/chatty/bubbley’.
    Funnily enough in retrospect I’m glad I worked it out before the discussion. I’m not great at advocating for myself or being blunt with what I would like, so it gave me time to steel myself against being overly emotional about it.
    Thank you again Alison, your advice was spot on.

    1. City Lights*

      Congratulations on having that conversation and having it go well. I do question what your boss said about the only way to get experience is the long way. 10 years is just too long. No one needs that much experience in a job in order to qualify to do the job one level up. The proof is that you have been able to handle both jobs on an acting basis for a significant length of time. And, of course, significant experience in the job above yours or in the job another level above that would qualify someone… but, why would such a person take a lateral or downward move. That part doesn’t ring true… perhaps there is more to the story.

      1. OP5*

        Thank you for your kind words City Lights. I am glad it’s over and at least I know. I’m rallying my arguments to get my position re-evaluated.

        It is entirely likely that there are other reasons playing in to the issue (possibly even that I have raised before that my position isn’t paid competitively and I would like it re-evaluated) but I’d drive myself crazy speculating so all I can do is take it at face value. I am surprised myself at the information I’ve been given about the calibre of other applicants and their interest in a significantly lower position.

        All I can think of is that the timing just wasn’t right for me this time and I’m working hard to accept that. It’s unfortunate and it sucks but there’s nothing more I can do about it except continue to rock my job and look for other opportunities or a way to get a payrise to better reflect my day to day work.

  67. EvilQueenRegina*

    It’s interesting that you posted #2 now because it reminded me that I forgot to reply to the recent post about the rambling co-worker. I have a co-worker who started out as the rambling co-worker when I first knew her. After a while, our manager gave her feedback that sometimes she overanalyses things and goes into too much detail, and told her not to babble on the phone. This is a co-worker who takes everything very literally, and she ended up going too far in the other direction and now there have been times when her messages have been so vague that people don’t understand them.

    For example, she was asked to chase up several pieces of advice for a report once, but found that the spout advice had already been returned weeks ago. When she replied to the email about this, she left out the vital words “spout advice” so the co-worker she sent it to didn’t understand what she was getting at and had first asked what it was all about, then after someone else tried to explain but also didn’t quite understand, replied “We’re still waiting for the lid and handle advice so not sure why I have had this!” and our manager had to step in.

    I accept that this isn’t one for me to handle. Since I work next to her I very often do know what she’s on about and can translate, but I know sometimes people can’t. It gets frustrating.

  68. Cheshire Cat*

    OP2: As someone who will sometimes lose my train of thought, I can assure you that it’s very frustrating from your employee’s pov, as well as yours! What I do in those situations is to take a deep breath and then ask myself: if I were writing a newspaper article about this, what information would need to go in the first sentence? What other information does the person I’m talking to need?

    For example: “Lannister & Co. is asking when we are going to send them payment for their invoice #12345 from Jan. 15. You entered it into our invoice tracking software, but it’s still in the approval queue. Can you get me an update? You know how the Lannisters always pay their debts and expect their clients to do the same …”

    Obviously I don’t work with invoicing, but you get the idea.

    This works better in writing at first, since you have more time to think about what to say. I was able to speed up the process over time, so it doesn’t slow me down in meetings much anymore. (There are always those “senior moments” …)

  69. The Awesomeness*

    #2 My mother does this. She just begins her sentences somewhere in the middle, and gets irritated when we don’t know what she’s talking about. Or she just stops. Then I wait a few seconds, before I walk away. Then when I’m somewhere on the other side of the house, she starts talking again, so I have to go all the way back and say “What?”

    It’s my mother so I have to be polite.

  70. Dust Bunny*

    2. OMG, did my mother start working for you?? She is the QUEEN of unfinished sentences, incomplete ideas, running dialog devoid of identifying nouns, and picking up conversations that we started two weeks ago. My father thinks I’m psychic because I can keep track of what she’s talking about, but it’s unbelievably annoying. Unfortunately, I have a lot of sympathy but not much advice since I haven’t yet figured out how to get Mom to do the work of filling in her own information.

  71. Buffy Summers*

    I’m a little late to the party, I know…but regarding #1, how is that enforceable? (this may be covered above, but I don’t have time to read through all the comments right now). My understanding of that would be that I am not even allowed to give money to the church I belong to. However, tithing is an important part of my belief system. For them to forbid me to donate money to my church would be discrimination, wouldn’t it? Or am I completely ignorant of the law?
    Further, I couldn’t actually even really attend church, could I since that would be giving my time to another non-profit/charitable organization, right?
    Good grief, I’d love to see someone take that on in court.

  72. Noobtastic*

    #1 – I’m really curious. Does going to church count? Paying tithes and offerings? Teaching Sunday School or leading the youth group on Wednesday night? Hosting a Bible study circle?

    This is just so bizarre. I’d run away, and run fast. Either that, or take the job, for the money, and start looking for something else, right away. When you have a new job lined up, and don’t need the paycheck from this wackadoodle “charity,” (I’m not sure they know the meaning of the word, really), then you can choose a charity you really love and support, and start supporting them. Blatantly.

    Then, when they fire you, hire a lawyer, because depending on your local laws, this contract they want you to sign might actually be unenforceable, and you might be able to get severance.

  73. Grumplestiltsken*

    OP4, I’m reminded of an old story I read once. I’d copy and paste it if I could find it, but my googling failed me, so I’ll attempt to do it justice.

    Once, many years ago, two brothers were making plans–a cruel new dictator was coming to power. The elder brother was fleeing, but the younger chose to stay behind. There were rumors of a secret police force, and they were worried that their letters would be intercepted and that the younger brother would be punished or even killed if he spoke out about the hard times he would have to endure. The brothers made a pact–the younger brother would write letters to the elder, and if he used black ink, all was well, and if he used blue ink, he was in trouble.

    Several months later, the elder brother finally got a letter from his younger brother. He was relieved to see the letter written in black ink:

    Brother, everything is wonderful here! Our new president is proving to be a sage, merciful leader. The jobs at the factory pay very well, and we work reasonable hours. There is enough food, and we want for nothing. In fact, the only thing we cannot get in stores are blue pens!

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