a fired employee’s wife is asking for his job back, negotiating when you’re happy with an offer, and more

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

1. A fired employee’s wife is asking for his job back

I recently had to terminate an employee for the first time. My supervisor and I followed all necessary steps, so it was not out of the blue. “Fergus” was given a final written notice when the issue was first discovered (timesheet padding). While we gave him the benefit of the doubt, he admitted to committing to the offense twice because he was unclear on the policy. All parties agreed this would not be an issue again or it would result in termination, and he signed this notice.

When the offense was committed again, we knew we had to follow through. My supervisor and I pulled him into the office and explained the discovery very professionally, let him go, and explained next steps. He did not get defensive at all, just apologized and said he understood.

Within an hour, Fergus’ wife wrote in to both me and the other supervisor. She stated that she had some health challenges arise recently, which she described in detail, and that Fergus was caring for her during the most recent timesheet padding incident, which is why it had occurred. It seemed that she was completely unaware this had happened at least two times prior to the termination. She begged for her husband to get his job back.

While my heart goes out to them both, I know the decision was right. I’m shocked his wife would write in on his behalf; I felt it was inappropriate. Would you reply to the wife? If so, what would you say? This seriously seems like a marriage miscommunication, but I am not sure I should be the one telling the wife that it was not the first time her husband had done this and that he was well aware what would happen if it occurred again. We’ve been really accommodating when people at this workplace have had personal things come up, so I’m surprised he didn’t just ask for the time needed to care for his wife if it was needed. It definitely would have been granted.

Yeah, that’s pretty boundary-crossing of her, and it’s definitely not your place to explain to her that this wasn’t the first time the timesheet forgery happened, or that her husband had been warned not to do it again.

I’d either ignore the message or, if you feel too callous not responding at all, respond with something like, “As I’m sure you can understand, we only discuss personnel matters with employees themselves and not with third parties. Because of that I’m unable to respond further.”

2. Should you negotiate when you’re really happy with an offer?

I recently received and accept a job offer that I’m totally over the moon about. The company, work, and pay are fantastic, and I’m super excited. However, I’ve been reading a lot on this site, and it seems that it is really considered a poor decision not to negotiate salary.

When I went in to interview for this position, I did a bit of research and came up with a rough estimate of the average pay for this position with my experience, which was a little higher than what this position usually pulls down in my location. My old company comes up rather short salary wise, so this was already a significant bump. So when they asked about my salary requirements, I gave them that number. When they came through with the offer, they offered me significantly more than I had asked for as a base pay, with an additional rather large annual bonus on top of that. As this was beyond my wildest expectations, I did not attempt any further negotiation, but accepted the offer (honestly, the work and company are so great that I’d have moved for the same salary I had at the old place).

I’m wondering now if this made me look bad in some way. First, that I didn’t even ask for close to what they were paying, although it is way higher than anything I found while researching, even within this particular (lucrative) industry. Then that I didn’t counter their offer in any way (although I don’t see how I could when it was already so much better than what I asked for). I’m probably just being paranoid because this is such a great opportunity and I don’t want to put a foot wrong, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

No! You handled it perfectly. You don’t ask for more money when an employer offers you more than you already asked for — that would look really bad and like you were playing games. If you get more than you asked for, that’s a very successful negotiation, and you can accept it and feel good about it. More here.

3. Manager tried to influence our answers on anonymous company survey

I work in a large corporation that conducts surveys of workplace culture and employee morale several times a year. Participation is technically not compulsory but is expected. Responses are in theory anonymous, but given how finely the data is segmented, it’s possible managers of smaller teams could work out who probably made undesirable responses.

Recently my manager gave us a lengthy talking to about how people giving low ratings had a negative impact on the department, how they would take low ratings personally, how extensive the discussion of any sub-optimal results would be and that they expected us to raise any negative feedback we intended to put on the survey with them personally prior to doing so. They swore they weren’t trying to influence what we put on the surveys but I find that extremely hard to believe.

I have a range of concerns about the department’s culture and practices, some of which I don’t think talking to my immediate manager about will help. Given that’s the case, how should I approach the survey? Express the full extent of my frustrations and risk repercussions? Give responses just high enough to stay out of trouble? Opt out of the survey entirely? Complete it but alert someone higher up the management hierarchy about what’s happened? Something else?

I’d only be honest if you know with a high degree of confidence that your company is fair and well managed and that it handles concerns about managers well (and discreetly). Otherwise, I’d write that you don’t feel comfortable answering candidly in this format … which itself is a tip-off that something is wrong, but delivered in a way that you can defend if you ever need to.

And yes, you could definitely tip off someone higher up that your manager basically tried to intimidate you and your coworkers into being less than fully candid.

4. Can I talk to my manager about a transfer?

I’m a community organizer for a large city agency. I’ve fallen out of love with my job—truth be told, I don’t know if I ever really loved it. I dislike my job responsibilities, public-facing requirements, and the tasks that I do daily, and I feel incredibly unappreciated. Looking at my coworkers and managers, it’s clear that they love the job, and my enthusiasm is nowhere near theirs. I gave it a good try—three years—but it’s not something I see myself doing for very much longer. However, I really like the agency that I work for and the people here and would like to continue working here.

Several of my colleagues from my same department have been “transferred” from my specific job class into other positions/openings. I say “transferred” because there may be extenuating circumstances I’m not aware of that led to the change— needless to say, they used to do what I do, but they now work different jobs.

I want to ask my manager if I can be transferred into another position, either within the department or elsewhere in the agency. I don’t know what other positions are available within my department or the agency. We are fairly isolated in terms of job experience across the agency—there’s no cross-training or inter-department work that would expose me to other jobs. And I’m terrified that if I mention that I’m not interested in being a community organizer anymore, they’ll end up letting me go altogether. My manager and I have an okay relationship. Is there a way to raise this subject with her tactfully and professionally? At this point, since I don’t have a specific positon in mind, I really just want to know if she’d be open to helping me move into another job at some point down the line. I need some kind of light at the end of the tunnel to keep my spirit up right now. And what should I do to better prepare myself to talk to my manager (have potential positions in mind already, talk to HR beforehand, etc.)?

I feel that my three years here have been positive. I’m a decent organizer—all my yearly reviews have been good, and my manager has remarked my growth and adaptability. Other project managers and staff think highly of my work. I’m not someone who jumps from job to job—I’ve just reached a point where I dislike this job and don’t want my frustration showing up in my work.

It depends on what your manager is like. If she’s a reasonable person — not volatile, punitive, or generally a jerk — then yes, you could talk to her and let her know that you’d like to stay with the agency but are interested in moving to a different area of it. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be fired for saying that.

However, before you do that, you definitely need to do enough research to have a fairly clear idea on what types of jobs in your agency might be right for you. Saying “I’m really interested in moving to X or Y” is going to be a more constructive conversation than “I want to do something else but have no idea what it is.” The former is something your manager can potentially help you with; the latter doesn’t leave her with anything concrete to say in response. (And if you’re asking for her help, you don’t want to imply that she should do the work of figuring out the right role for you.)

5. I’m afraid my vindictive employer will haunt me forever

My workplace is not a happy place. The benefits are very good and I’m rewarded (promotions, raises) but there’s a dark underbelly. For these reasons (not enough space to explain here!) we’ve had massive retention issues – losing about 40% of our already small staff. Current leadership (which is unlikely to change) has gone so far as to openly threaten everyone with being fired on the spot if they are discovered to be job searching.

I’ve reached my limit, so I’m taking the risk and looking for a new job. I’m a saver, and so I’m lucky that if I was fired I could afford to not work for a while. However, I am very scared about actually being fired because I don’t clearly understand how that would look to future employers when doing formal or informal background checks. It is my understanding that a new employer could call my old employer and find out when I started, when I left, and that I was fired. I fear that I may not be given the opportunity to explain it, and worse, if I am allowed to explain it, I’ll just be the one that sounds crazy.

I’m afraid working at this small, vindictive, family-run employer will haunt me forever. Do you have any advice or thoughts? Is this legal, and are my concerns about future impact valid?

If you’re fired for job searching, you will just explain that to future potential employers — as in, “They have a policy of firing anyone who is found to be job searching, which is what happened to me.” You will say it calmly and without bitterness (although bitterness is warranted), and you will not sound crazy.

For what it’s worth, though, they probably won’t find out you’re job searching until you’re ready to give notice. It’s pretty typical for people to be able to keep their search on the down-low (assuming you don’t subscribe the billboard-as-resume approach).

Oh, and not that you need to be told this, but they really, really suck. That’s an absurd policy. You aren’t their captives, and if they want to keep people around, the way to do that is to make it an attractive place to stay, not to try to scare people into not leaving.

{ 262 comments… read them below }

  1. Leah*

    For OP #5, would you recommend them explicitly telling any prospective employers that their current employer will fire them if they are job searching? A former coworker asked a place that she was interviewing with not to contact our workplace but they did anyway and it hurt her standing in the office. Or would that information be too much?

    1. Mike C.*

      I think that’s plenty reasonable. “My current employer has a policy of immediate termination for anyone found looking for work elsewhere.” Also, anyone fired in this way should still qualify for unemployment insurance. OP, please write something up on Glassdoor so word gets out about this insane policy.

      The folks your former coworker was dealing with were completely irresponsible though. You never contact a current employer out of the blue to begin with, and especially after being explicitly told not to.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed—it sounds reasonable to flag this request when applying, if no other reason than to CYA and hope that the prospective employer is reasonable.

      2. Mookie*

        Yes to both pieces of advice in para 1.

        Hiring managers (well-vetted) took this very seriously when I mentioned a similar policy operating at my then-current employer and were able to find a work-around until making an offer, at which point one went ahead and with my permission verified employment, without seeking a reference, and the other didn’t feel the need to do either. And once well-removed from that incredibly shite employer, I did make their policy of retribution against job-seekers known within the broader community. It’s something I’d absolutely look for on a Glassdoor entry and I don’t think there’s any reason not to mention it — the company has already burned bridges with people and references from them shouldn’t be taken seriously, so they have no carrots to dangle. There’s nothing they can do to stop or discourage people from telling the truth once they’ve actually put that policy in place and then acted on it. It should haunt them the rest of their days.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Very glad that 1) you got out, and 2) you got the word out about those jerks!

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I think it’s reasonable, and OP can use it to explain the need for a before- or after-hours interview if that would help.

    3. Annonymouse*


      It’s widely understood you don’t contact a current employer unless you have permission/they are on the list of references the candidate supplied.

      If you don’t need to talk to a manager ask the candidate for a coworkers details (one the coworker can presumably trust to both give a good reference and be discreet).

      If you insist on talking to a current manager, unless the business is going to go bust and is doing mass layoffs, you aren’t going to get it.

      Even a reasonable boss is going to be put out that they’re hearing an employee is looking to leave from someone outside the company and give a surprised reference at best.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Even in a good work place, I think contacting the current employer is fairly crappy. My current job was offered to me contingent on their speaking with my then-current manager, and while I wasn’t actually worried, I could see a lot of scenarios where that would backfire terribly.

      2. BananaPants*

        Mr. BP applied for a job last year at a hospital well-known worldwide, where standard practice is to require a reference from one’s current manager, in addition to other references. He agonized over tipping his hand to his boss that he was looking for a new job, and eventually went ahead because the interviews went really well. It was a very awkward conversation and he suspects that his boss gave a less-than-enthusiastic reference to avoid losing another employee (several others left the company in the preceding 6 months and ended up at this hospital).

        He hasn’t been penalized at work for making it known that he was looking and he got a higher-than-average pay increase in the meantime, but if it comes up again he would not provide a reference for his current boss until he’s accepted a (contingent) offer.

    4. OP5*

      OP5 here. Thank you for starting the follow-on conversation about this, I was wondering about that too! The thoughts below along with Alison’s answer do make me feel a bit better about the whole situation. For now (since I still have a job) it makes sense that I won’t have to actually discuss it until a bit down the line in the interview process. If I do end up getting fired (and then my resume reflects an end date for my employment) I do wonder if it’s something to put in a cover letter or discuss in a phone screen – but I’m going to hope for the best here!

      1. Bwmn*

        As someone also looking for a job, a lot of background check companies these days have the opportunity for you to provide first paycheck/last paycheck stubs or W-2’s or other ways to confirm present employment without directly calling. So should this come up, I think a willingness to share that information can achieve the background check piece in what has been standard with a few processes that I’ve gone through already.

      2. Czhorat*

        I really don’t think you’ll get caught. While most employers won’t fire you for job searching, most don’t really want you to leave either. It’s the kind of thing which is almost always at least somewhat discreet.

      3. zora*

        I would recommend bringing it up in the phone screen, or even when(if) scheduling the first in person interview. Not in the cover letter, that’s too soon.

        But then you would want to bring it up again at the moment you are actually handing your references over. You can mention it a couple times at different points in the process, because you are often talking to different people at different stages so you want to make sure everyone knows.

    5. Qmatilda*

      I once interviewed while working at one of those “walk you out the door if they know” sorts of places. At the second interview when they talked about when I could start, I simply said, “my firm’s policy is to walk employees to the door when they give notice. So, while I would give two weeks as a professional courtesy I would almost certainly be available immediately.”

    6. LBK*

      This policy is kind of laughable. “You’re trying to leave us while we’re short-staffed? Well, in that case we’re going to fire you immediately, still leaving us short-staffed but without any transition time to try to get your work covered. That’ll show you!”

      I mean yeah, you obviously get dumped off the payroll early, but at least you’re already job searching, and since you got fired it’s pretty tough for them to deny your unemployment.

  2. Casuan [formerly AstroDeco]*

    OP1: You gave your employee fair warning & you did the right thing by firing. Whatever the reason, timesheet padding is a form of theft & not to take action towards an employee who is doing so is sending the wrong message.
    If you do respond to the wife, Alison’s suggested wording is good; probably I would respond just to give some closure to her, as it were. Health issues are stresssful enough & the courtesy of any reply would be a kind thing to do.
    The right message for your employees is what you already said: that your company tries to accommodate employees in need. If you don’t think the employee you fired understood that, then you should make it a point your staff knows they can always ask for special accommodation if needed.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree. I know it probably sounds a little cold, but I think saying you can’t discuss with third parties is probably the cleanest response, even if it has a bit of a stark “tone.”

      I’m going to give the wife the benefit of the doubt that she’s not scamming you and that her email to you was out of desperation. If that’s the case, then I think it would be kind to reply, but I also agree that you can’t tolerate wage theft and that firing Fergus was the only course of action available.

      1. Casuan [formerly AstroDeco]*

        *This is just to say it came to mind for the paradigm. I’m not insinuating that I believe it to be true. I don’t.*
        Gotta admit, scamming came to my mind, too. The scam could be desperation & not a health issue at all or even the sacked employee posing as his wife.

        Even if this were true, OP did the right thing. If you respond & the wife responds to that, you can ignore it.

        Perhaps one someone can suggest a good closing sentence to Alison’s suggestion?
        eg: “…I’m unable to respond further. This decision can’t be appealed.”
        or something like that

        I was trying to think of something kind like “Best of luck with your health” although that phrase is stupid & anything else I can think of sounds sarcastic &or unkind.

        1. Dizzy Steinway*

          I don’t think you actually need a closing sentence – nice idea but there just isn’t anything that quite does the job. I’d say keep it brief.

            1. Casuan [formerly AstroDeco]*

              Czhorat, ROFLMAO!!
              In fact “…I’m unable to respond further” is really a closing in itself.
              As Princess Consuela said, keeping the tone “clean” is probably the best option. Well-intended phrases can easily backfire, especially if the recipient isn’t a personal acquaintance.

              :::shuddering at the thought of a business correspondent closing with “Hugs & Kisses:::

      2. Karanda Baywood*

        I don’t see a scamming element in the wife’s message at all. What makes you think that?

        It sounds like she’s ill, upset and stressed, nothing more.

        1. Artemesia*

          It is an Email; they don’t know if you are a dog on the internet. Could be the employee; could be there is no health issue; could be the employee’s mother etc etc.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t know if she’s scamming or not. I assume she’s not and that she’s genuinely distressed, which is awful and deserves sympathy. But there’s always the possibility that someone is being less than honest in their communications, and I included my caveat just because I’m cynical and jaded :)

      3. oleander*

        Just a clarification: “wage theft” refers to employers withholding rightful compensation to employees (not to to employees defrauding their employers). Wage theft is a serious problem for some low-wage workers (notably in the fast food industry), and something that labor rights groups like Fight For 15 are organizing against.

        Just pointing it out because I think it’s worth reserving the term “wage theft” to refer to this serious, under-reported problem, and not muddying the waters. There’s already too little general awareness about what wage theft is and how widespread it is.

        1. LBK*

          Interesting – I didn’t know there was a specific legal definition for this. I’ve always heard it used the other way, where it refers to an employee somehow gaming the system to inflate their paycheck (often used interchangeably with time theft). Thanks for the lesson!

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I am so sorry! I know the legal difference but had a total brainfart and used the wrong term. I truly appreciate the correction—this was a serious phrase screw-up that I should not have made, and I did not mean to misrepresent a real and serious problem for vulnerable workers.

    2. Gaia*

      Agreed. Padding a timecard is theft and it calls into question the employees integrity in all other areas. Once when they didn’t understand a policy? Okay. If they seemed sincerely contrite I could move past that but I would be watching a bit closer for other issues. But if it happened again after that? Nope, there is no coming back from that.

      1. OP #1*

        Yep, and the first two times he told us exactly what he was doing when he remained clocked in and not and work. It was made so clear, and he did not seem surprised at all when he was terminated.
        Our time system would be easy to cheat, but so far, we have had little to no issues with dishonesty. I think there is a lack of integrity with this fellow; he works independently so there could have been many times he did it on other occasions, and we just hadn’t noticed.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I would feel uncomfortable not replying at all, so I would definitely send something along the lines of Allison’s suggestion. I think including “I am unable to respond further” makes it clear both that you won’t give any more information and that you won’t enter into any further discussion, so I think you would be fine to then not respond to any further communication from her.

      I didn’t immediately think ‘scam’, maybe because we had a similar situation. In our case,an employee (who was good at their job when they were focused, but very, very high maintenance) resigned. We accepted the resignation and a few days later got a letter from their spouse asking us to allow them to withdraw their resignation.

      We responded to the spouse to say we couldn’t discuss the issue with anyone other than our employee, and we did also respond to the employee to explain that the resignation had been accepted and we would not be agreeing to re-employ them. But in that case they had not yet left, as they were in their notice period. I’m not sure whether we would have spoken to the (ex) employee if they had already left. In our case, we knew that the employee had some mental health issues so we were trying to tread a line between not involving he spouse in an inappropriate manner, but also accepting they had genuine concerns, and also trying to ensure that our employee was kept informed in an appropriate way.

      1. OP #1*

        That’s tricky! I’m seeing more and more from this blog that spouses get involved way more than I thought.

        1. Sally*

          We had a remote employee “retire” with two weeks’ notice (really going to work for a competitor). He didn’t want to talk about retiree benefits/COBRA, 401(k), etc. But paperwork covering everything was provided to him pretty much immediately after he gave notice. The day following his last day, his wife called me screaming that they had no medical insurance – I calmly referred her back to her husband as he was provided the information he needed – in writing. She called back a few days later about his last paycheck and vacation payout and a few days after that about payment of an expense report (he had about 6 months’ worth of expenses that he hadn’t turned in earlier). Funny thing is that we found out about his new job pretty quick and within a year he wanted to come back to us. No.thank.you.

          1. LBK*

            How odd – was there any particular advantage to saying he retired? Different benefits he could access? Or was he just uncomfortable saying he was quitting?

            1. Sally*

              He had been passed over for a promotion and suddenly announced he was retiring. We suspected something else was going on as usually people talk about retiring beforehand. Fergus did not and really didn’t want to discuss any of the preparations. He had another job lined up with a competitor and didn’t want us to know. Evidently there was a waiting period for benefits at the new place that he didn’t understand until he started there.

      2. Artemesia*

        I had a fired employees wife come into my office to beg for his job back. I don’t think it is that unusual an event.

    4. Antilles*

      The right message for your employees is what you already said: that your company tries to accommodate employees in need. If you don’t think the employee you fired understood that, then you should make it a point your staff knows they can always ask for special accommodation if needed.
      Yeah, this is really the thing. For something serious like health issues, most reasonable managers (even many unreasonable ones!) are willing to give some flexibility if needed as long as you ask ahead of time. Particularly since he was explicitly put on notice about timesheet accuracy before.

      1. OP #1*

        Yes, this! We are so accommodating, and he had worked here long enough to know that. Also, the health challenges were apparently a new development, and he had done this at least 2 times (maybe more!) prior.

    5. Grey*

      Additionally, explaining the termination will make it appear as if the decision is still negotiable and you’ll only get additional pleas in response. It’s highly unlikely she’ll reply with “Oh, ok. That makes sense”.

      It’s best to end the debate before it even starts.

      1. LBK*

        Totally agreed – you can’t approach this like there’s a conversation to be had. If she purely wants to know why he was fired and doesn’t want to debate you about it, she can ask her husband.

    6. OP #1*

      Well said! I initially felt bad hearing of her challenges, but like many have said, it may or may not be true. I am writing back to give her closure, but keeping it concise and clear.

      1. Czhorat*

        You seem to be approaching this well.

        You are not without kindness and empathy, but keeping the understanding that some things can’t be fixed. The employee was caught, warned, understood the consequences — and then made the same mistake again. I feel bad for them and their family, but your loyalty also needs to be to your employer.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        I don’t think you should feel bad. Dealing with health issues can be very stressful for a family, but that isn’t an excuse for “padding” timesheets. That’s when you go to your manager and say “Hey, my wife has been having a lot of health issues lately. Is there any flexibility I can have to my schedule for the next few months?” which, hopefully, would lead to follow-up questions like “What would you like that to look like? We would like to find a way to accommodate you without having your work quality suffer.”

      3. Anna*

        I think you can assume she’s being honest and still not be swayed. This is clearly a conversation that needs to take place between her and her husband. You can’t be responsible for the consequences of what seemed to be a second chance.

        This reminds me of something I just learned about. The whole Brad’s Wife thing that happened last week on Facebook and other sites.

      4. Bagpuss*

        I think you can feel bad on a personal level, but still recognise that firing him was the correct and appropriate thing to do.
        Also, there is a massive difference between someone who does something once, when they are under stress and panicking, and someone who doe the same thing repeatedly even after being warned. He didn’t get fired because his wife is sick, he got fired because he made poor choices even after being warned.

    7. I am now a Llama*

      It is also fraud. If this was done as a government contractor, there would civil as well as criminal penalties involved.

  3. Casuan [formerly AstroDeco]*

    OP3: I’m wondering if these surveys aren’t more about evaluating managers than they are about identifying concerns & addresssing them. Have you ever noticed any positive changes from survey results?
    If you do notify someone higher-up, that could be a risk. If your colleagues have the same concerns as you do then there could be power & safety in numbers.
    Personally, I’d probably opt out of the survey all together. I’m not keen on survey like you described.
    Please let us know what you did!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP#3, at ToxicJob they made us fill out “anonymous” surveys for our Exec Director’s annual review. The Board also circulated a “climate” survey to gauge staff morale in the wake of a series of people quitting, and staff described the culture of retaliation and fear at the organization (and why they had not raised those fears with management because of prior retaliatory firings). Results from both surveys were shared, without redaction or name-scrubbing, with the leadership team, which was composed of the same managers who’d been retaliating against employees. And then the Board couldn’t understand why they had zero participation during the following year’s climate survey.

      Which is all to say, be very very 115% sure that your responses will be anonymized. Although it’s reasonable to ask employees to bring issues to you before sending them up the chain, the fact that that isn’t happening indicates some kind of breakdown in the manager-supervisee relationship. Frankly, I don’t trust your managers—the fact that they’ve told you they’re going to take low evals “personally” already indicates that they’re not capable of approaching the issue in a professional and appropriate way.

      I’m a bit of a jerk, and if I knew someone higher up than my boss was going to read my responses, I’d be tempted to provide a synopsis of the “talk” your managers gave you and your coworkers about low ratings to explain why you didn’t feel comfortable filling out the survey. But again, I’m a jerk, and my suggestion wouldn’t really help you if it got back to your bosses.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        This is horrifying.

        Really they should make it anonymous to start with so you don’t have those worries in the first place. Ours is (it’s hosted on a third party site).

        1. Clewgarnet*

          My employer’s survey is anonymised, but includes demographic details. Depending on how many of these demographics get passed to the manager, the only woman on the team, or the only person in a certain age bracket could be very obvious.

          OP#3, I was in exactly your situation. Where other departments were scoring ~80% satisfaction, mine was lucky to hit ~20%, and our manager made exactly the same sort of statement (along with telling us we were reading the questions wrong and we were actually all very, very happy).

          We continued to be honest, and I’m fairly certain that was a contributing factor in the manager being reorganised out of the company.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes. We have to do an annual diversity survey (requirement from our regulator)
            It’s hosted on a 3rd party site and we get anonymous details back, but we are a relatively small organisation so it wouldn’t be difficult to identify individuals.

            When I send the link round I do take care to tell people that:
            – I will chase everyone about completing it, because I don’t know who has or hasn’t, I can only see the number of surveys completed
            – We have to ask them to complete it because the regulator says we have to
            -they are free to mark and (or all!) of the questions as ‘prefer not to answer’
            – we would appreciate it if they answer honestly, but we will not be making any attempt to identify responses.

            but in our case it is less sensitive in terms of managers knowing who said what, not least because almost anything the survey asks about it stuff we already know

          2. Lablizard*

            Wow, management pro tip for your boss: If you have to tell your employees that they are happy when the data says otherwise, you are probably doing something wrong

            1. Clewgarnet*

              Considering one employee was hospitalised for stress and suicidal ideation, they really, REALLY weren’t happy.

              1. Lablizard*

                Hot damn. I am glad that manager has been reorged out of your lives and I sincerely hope is now in a position that manages no one

          3. Dizzy Steinway*

            Ours only asks which of two offices we work in and which pay grade we are on.

            1. Liane*

              At the last place I worked that had these, I didn’t really trust how anonymous they were–even though there was only one of the current managers I didn’t respect or like. BUT: It was online, supposedly aggregated by a third party–yet they knew who had done it. One of my supervisors was even more skeptical. She told me she put all 5s (on 1-10 scale) and “Neither Agree/Disagree” on ythe whole thing. I did more of those than usual, myself, and didn’t write much in the open response sections. Think, “I’m fine” and “Nothing stands out.”

          4. PB*

            “… along with telling us we were reading the questions wrong and we were actually all very, very happy.”

            I had that experience with my old employer. The director actually called a mandatory all staff meeting, sat us down in the room, told us we were “getting a reputation for complaining,” and that we needed to stop complaining. She later tried to say that losing 300 staff members was not a retention problem(!), and didn’t understand why anyone thought it was. At the time, our current staff was around 300.

            And now I’m in a much better place.

            1. FN2187*

              Yes, the same thing just happened in my organization. While the complaints were valid, the method of complaining was inappropriate (think outbursts and screaming fits in the breakroom). Our grandboss called us all to a meeting basically said, “I am awesome, suck it up, deal with it, and if you don’t like it, the door is over there.”

              Did I mention I am currently job searching?

            2. Sam*

              …how does one even begin to say that doesn’t constitute a retention problem? Other that bold-face lying, of course. I’m kind of impressed.

          5. TC*

            A very similar thing happened to me years ago. I was working for a large organisation, and while many departments were ranking very well, we struggled to meet 25% or so. We got this huge lecture on why are we so unhappy? Why didn’t we tell anyone? I just remember we all looked at our grandboss dumbfounded, as our complaints were well known (our boss used to do all of our work. It was like being in 4th grade and not being allowed out to lunch until the teacher marked your maths quiz), and they shouldn’t have needed an anonymous survey to know what the problem was. It was just that they were now being shamed by the rest of the organisation.

            I left shortly after. The entire department was on anti-depressants, me and a couple of other younger people were lucky we could quit because we didn’t have to support a family or a mortgage.

          6. Observer*

            At least your org did something useful with the data.

            This guy sounds like a winner….

          7. Jadelyn*

            Damn those demographic details…they’re so useful from a data perspective, but so damningly identifying for small teams! If you take my team – 5 people – and look solely at length of service, you’d know almost right away who’s who. Even for larger teams, if you include length of service and, say, age, you’d still be able to figure it out.

        2. Artemesia*

          One should always assume that these things are not anonymous regardless of promises and processes. It is precisely the places that need negative feedback that routinely violate these standards of anonymization. I have a friend who fired a consulting client over this. They were hired to guarantee anonymous results to employees — ‘a third party is doing this, so you can be frank, we won’t have access to raw data.’ The company then demanded to know precisely who had said this or that and wanted all the raw files and identifiers. My friend refused and fired the client — but I bet plenty of people do what it takes to keep the money coming in.

      2. Gaia*

        My current job has us email our boss’ boss with feedback for our boss’ annual review. They do a lot of things right but I’m not sure how they expect to get candid feedback in an email from me to them about my boss.

          1. Former Retail Manager*

            My husband has been casually job searching and looking to make a change into a more white collar environment. He didn’t know what 360 feedback was. I told him to eliminate those employers from his search without a second thought.

            1. Colette*

              I don’t understand what the issue with 360 feedback is, assuming you work for people you generally trust. It’s the only way for upper management to know what employees think of their managers.

              Of course, if you don’t trust anyone in your management chain, the problem is not with the feedback mechanism.

              1. Lablizard*

                Agreed. As I said in my prior comment, I like the 360 process and have received valuable feedback from it. If the evaluation process is done poorly and their is retaliation for honesty, the workplace is the problem, not the 360 evals

                1. Observer*

                  That’s true. And in that case, you don’t need 360 evals to provide opportunity for retaliation, either.

                2. JustaTech*

                  Well, depending on the size and distribution of the organization 360 reviews can be a huge amount of work. I had a VP who tried to implement those, only to discover that he had to do one for literally half the building. Sensibly he scrapped that plan.

              2. Former Retail Manager*

                The 360 feedback I’m referring to not only goes upward (employees expressing concerns about managers/upper management) but also laterally, in which you are evaluated by your peers and sometimes even customers/clients. Evaluation by peers is the component that I personally don’t care for. I believe it opens the floodgates for peers that want to trash their co-workers to either make themselves look better or to be vindictive. And depending upon how similar my job is to my co-workers can greatly influence their understanding or lack thereof of how and why I do my own job the way I do, so I don’t particularly care for their feedback unless it relates to something that needs to be corrected in how I assist them or improvements that may need to be made in that arena. And if that were the case, I’d argue they should address it with me long before an annual survey.

                As far as surveys go, I have no issue with truly anonymous surveys about immediate and upper management and I agree that those can provide management with valuable employee feedback if they’re taken seriously by all parties.

                1. LBK*

                  I think there’s plenty of cases where peers can provide valuable feedback that a manager wouldn’t be able to because they aren’t “in the trenches” with you every day the way a coworker would be, and there’s plenty of places where this works well without acting purely as an opportunity for sabotage and gossip.

                2. Lablizard*

                  That is the kind of 360 we have. Up, down, and around. My co-workers have good insights because we each have a role in R&D and my work impacts theirs and vice versa. They may not be able to judge what I am doing in the lab, but they definitely have insight into my overall performance.

                  As I said, I like 360 evaluations and find all the levels of feedback useful. However, my workplace is functional, my co-workers/internal partners/employees are professional, and my boss is reasonable, so they work. I can easily imagine them being a sh*t show in other workplaces

              3. Whats In A Name*

                Agree. I worked for a company that did 360 reviews and kept the contributors anonymous unless they requested to be named (which they did at times, for both positive and negative).

                I really liked the feedback and used them as an opportunity to learn/improve in my position and professional demeanor if necessary. But I worked (mostly) with people who I trusted and respected at that time, so maybe that is why my experience differs?

              4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, 360 feedback isn’t inherently objectionable. It can be done well or poorly, like anything, and it’s often more of a time suck than it’s worth, but it can be useful when it’s done well.

              5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I agree—it’s not the tool that’s a problem, but rather, how it’s used/implemented.

          2. Sans*

            Actually, it works at my current job. My boss’ boss asked all of us for candid feedback. And this feedback was communicated to my boss without naming names. My boss took the feedback well and is trying to work on areas that she needs to work on.

            I realize this is rare – that I actually work with sane people – but it’s how it could work when it goes right.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, and it can be the biggest way for bad managers to be discovered. You shouldn’t ask for it in an email though, like the person’s boss above did. It should be private conversations with assurances about how the info will be used.

          3. BananaPants*

            We got burned horribly by 360 feedback around 10 years ago – our struggling manager was being coached by his boss in an attempt to salvage things and his boss made us do a 360 review, assuring us it would be anonymous. It was anonymous in the sense that our names weren’t tied to ratings and comments, but demographics were reported, and with only a half dozen direct reports it wasn’t difficult to figure out who was who. I bore the brunt of it, because as the only woman in the department my ratings and comments were automatically identifiable – for my male coworkers he had to guess between 2-3 different people.

            Everyone in the department was “punished” for giving honest feedback. We all got poor performance ratings despite meeting objectives, a newer employee left the company rather than deal with this manager, and I got zero merit increase that year and was set back 2 years from an expected (and deserved) promotion. Within 6 months the struggling manager was given the coup de grace and “promoted” into a role with no people management responsibilities. When we got a new manager, he commented that after having read our performance reviews he expected us to be incompetent! He eventually figured out what our previous boss had done and made it right, but I’ve refused to be involved in 360 reviews since then.

        1. Lablizard*

          I’m always candid in mine, but maybe my work does 360 better than most? My feedback is one of 14-17 (depending if we are fully staffed) and anonymous. On a personal note, I like getting 360 feedback because staff is around me more than the boss and have noticed issues the boss would never see. Although maybe I an just saying this because my 360s have been constructive criticism and issues I hadn’t known about but recognize as something to work on?

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            Agree- I really like it. The key is that you have to trust the managers to de-identify your comments if needed. In my case I write it a touch vague in case they don’t. But the feedback is invaluable- I learn something valuable every year.

          2. LQ*

            I got to do one this year and I really liked doing it. I don’t have any direct reports, and I think I can only guess at who 2 people are. One who told me what he was saying (it was overall fairly kind) and one who says the same thing about me all the time and made her distaste of me getting into the program clear to anyone who would listen.

            It was helpful, and it was actually some of the most helpful feedback I’ve gotten from my boss (bosses aren’t anon.). It was mostly what I expected but a few things I can change up and a few things I can focus on more.

      3. OP#3*

        The survey is run by an external professional research firm so the results are anonymized. Problem is if managers are able to guess the anonymous data points. Say you’ve got a team of 15. A manager might know that there’s 4 people who are usually too lazy/cynical to complete such things and 5 people in the team who are fans of the manager. That doesn’t leave many people left who could have made the negative response.

        1. Lora*

          Yeah, nearly everywhere I’ve been there have been sufficient details to figure out who said what. At ExJob the management was genuinely surprised that 90% of us were disgruntled enough to look elsewhere – they thought at least half of us were sorta OK. They only knew for sure that one guy was new enough not to be grumpy yet. That’s been literally the only time they couldn’t figure out who said what. Sometimes they can figure it out from your comments, the way you write, if they are familiar with your writing style; most places I’ve worked have a lot of Chinese, Indian and Russian scientists and they can tell by the cadence of your writing, misspellings etc from people who have English as a second language.

          1. Julia*

            My grad school once did an “anonymous” survey that asked for the participant’s country of origin. I was the only German in the programme. I actually put a snarky remark about that on the survey, but never heard from them about it.

        2. LQ*

          We had a similar thing for our org. Our org has a union so no one was afraid of getting fired for it. Some people were really negative. The managers who were already people to work on making things better got a lot out of it and made things more better. The managers who were like what yours sounds to be. If you trusted your manager that they really did want things brought up ahead of time and they’d address them, then yes, that would be great. But I feel like once you are claiming that so loudly and often…you don’t really want to fix the problems, you want to make them vanish.

        3. NW Mossy*

          I had a direct effectively announce herself in a feedback survey with some very specific barbed remarks in the open comments sections. I never said anything to her about it, and for all I know, she still feels exactly the same way. But she’s willing to put a positive face on our ongoing interactions, so she’s free to think black thoughts in her heart of hearts as long as she’s pleasant to me and others.

        4. Lily in NYC*

          I am in a tiny dept. and stopped being honest on surveys once I realized they are broken out by department. Yeah, it’s anonymous but in name only. It is ridiculously easy to figure out who wrote what when you only have a 7-person dept.
          Also, my sister’s agency tells everyone that the surveys are confidential, and they are. But people assume that means they are anonymous, which they aren’t. They are simply confidential. Shady!

          1. Jadelyn*

            I don’t feel like it’s “shady” if they’re being honest that the surveys are confidential. Other peoples’ assumptions and conflating of “confidential” with “anonymous” isn’t the survey-takers being shady, it’s other people misunderstanding words.

        5. pomme de terre*

          I’ve run many internal surveys for a few orgs, and while it obviously happens sometimes (yikes, this thread!), mostly the managers — especially the C-level folks — want the big picture stuff. They’re not asking for you to say you’re a man who has been with the company less than two years and works in the Miami office because they are trying to drill down to Fergus, the only relatively new hire who’s a guy in Florida. They’re looking to aggregate the data in different ways to get different POVs and observe large trends: the men rate the benefits package highly but the women do not; people who’ve been hired in the last two years have a different morale level than the longtimers; or HQ views the leadership team favorably but satellite offices do not.

          Obviously from reading this thread, some employers misuse internal surveys a lot. It’s really shocking, Because in my experience the decision-makers emphatically did NOT care about playing process of elimination to seek out and destroy the squeaky wheels. It was sort of eye-roll-y to them and me, especially when I worked in tech where people tended to be both self-important and (correctly) aware of how hard it is to be truly anonymous online.

          Like, yes, it would be technically possible for IT to track the exact work station of the person who said “Wakeen the CEO is a butthead!!1!” in his employee satisfaction survey. Or someone could Venn Diagram their way to the realization that Fergus in Miami is the complainer. But Wakeen really, really doesn’t care what an individual entry level programmer thinks of him. (He does care if ALL the entry-level programmers are unhappy and job-hunting, though.)

        6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Honestly, OP, if your organization does reviews the right way and you trust your boss’s bosses, then I think it’s worth being open and honest (of course don’t be caustic—feedback should still be framed in a professional manner if possible). Although I shared a nightmare situation, it was also at a ToxicJob. In functional workplaces, I’ve felt comfortable giving anonymous and non-anonymous feedback because the process is handled in a fair and sane manner. At good workplaces, managers don’t take it personally wen they receive critical feedback.

          Is the research firm going to aggregate/summarize the feedback? If so, it adds another layer of anonymity to survey participants that may make it worth it to share your observations. Or I guess the other option is to pressure the 4 “lazy/cynical” coworkers to submit surveys, even if their responses are bare bones.

      4. Paea*

        I recently decided not to participate in a similar “anonymous” survey — only to be hounded with emails reminding me that I hadn’t yet filled out my survey.

      5. SophieChotek*

        We’ve had discussion before about how anonymous these surveys are, etc. on open-thread, so I apologize as I know I’ll repeat myself. In my experience only–mine was similar to what the OP had–how the data was segmented, managers could totally figure out if they had a smaller team who wrote what, or make educated guesses at least. (I agree with what PCBH says about “Although it’s reasonable to ask employees to bring issues to you before sending them up the chain, the fact that that isn’t happening indicates some kind of breakdown in the manager-supervisee relationship.”)

        For instance, when we did our surveys, our manager came to each individually after she got the aggregated resulted and grilled us all on the areas that we got low scores on: “Why do you think we got such a low score on this?” I think to some degree she was trying to get some genuine feedback, but I know she also wanted to know who was writing it. For instance, one question was something to the effect of: “I know I can rely on my team-members.” And we got a low score. And I said (because I had a reasonably good relationship with her, and frankly I had given it a low score), something to the effect of, “Well some people (I didn’t come out and say I personally had) probably gave this a low score because you know Cersei is always late or calls in sick at the last minute, so even if people aren’t directly affected by her, everyone knows, so that probably affected their ranking.” I could give some other examples of questions we got low scores one, and she grilled me on why I thought we got low scores.

        I think she mainly asked me and on other co-worker, because we’d been there the longest. (And that co-worker and I had discussed our answers, so I knew what she had given to, in a general sense and why).

        Ironically, this was also the last year we were allowed to write qualifying comments; I think HQ got way more “complaints” than they wanted (!) so moving forward when we got future survey we could only give a numerical score, not write any additional comments.

        I definitely would report the “talk” the managers gave, if you think it will help. But if this is coming down fro higher-up…it might not do any good. Like with the survey I was talking about, my sense was corporate wanted good numbers, so they could boast about “85% of our employees are happy working here” sort of thing to their share-holders or whatever.

    2. OP#3*

      In theory they are meant to identify and address concerns. The surveys and the resulting extensive conversation has resulted in a few nice small initiatives but rarely solves any substantial problems

    3. Surveyed to death*

      We have to do this type of survey at my job. One, we have like fifty different sites across a few brands, and as it asks which site brand and role you have, it’s pretty easy to narrow down who said what as a big department at a big site might have 6 people in. Back of house and front of house staff are further split out in my role so it’s pretty easy. We get a booklet telling us how to fill it in. This year it said something like when answering the questions relating to if you go home exhausted, please note tired is not exhausted. You go home tired. Um, no, if I think I go home exhausted I go home exhausted. I might have a desk job but it’s a very mentally draining one and if that renders me exhausted, I get to decide that. Not this stupid book of instructions you gave me with the pretty fricking self explanatory survey.

      Further to that, not sure if this is how it works for other people’s work places but we get a sheet with the good and bad comments on to review at the end. And we have a game we play of trying to guess who said what. And to be honest, we in my department have a pretty good track record of getting these guesses right. Now, that’s no big deal to me because I’m at the point where I own my comments and I don’t write anything I wouldn’t stick my hand up and claim anyway. I’ve been here long enough that in local law they’d have to manage me out properly so by the time they did that, I’ve been one foot out the door long enough that I’d be sorted before they got rid of me. But just bear it in mind if you’re being up front on the survey that even anonymous isn’t always as anonymous as you’d like.

      That also means that in so far as it applies to my immediate manager, I can’t be honest at all because current manager knows me well enough to know what sounds like me. The survey makes it clear what department and mostly what position I hold. So I would never be warts and all honest on those questions because I have to work in close proximity to them until I leave and current manager is one to take stuff person.

      I guess the take home in all that is know your workplace, know how willing you are to own your comments in case colleagues/management spend time attributing them to people, and know how/if you’ll be punished if they’re successful. I’d be a bit strategic here as nothing has ever improved where it matters here from the back of these. We get some touchy feely benefits now but the biggies like pay, hours and holiday time haven’t ever really changed.

      1. kbeers0su*

        I’m dumbfounded that they thought they should delineate their definition of tired v. exhausted for you. If you’re tired by the time you leave work that is concerning, because you still have life happening outside of work that requires you energy. So that’s still an issue….

        1. Jadelyn*

          Add to that, some people’s definitions of tired/exhausted will differ based on their personal circumstances. I have depression and a chronic pain condition, so I get tired a lot faster than most people. To me, going home tired *is* going home exhausted, because my energy is lower to start with and even being kind of tired leaves me too drained to take care of my home life properly that night. To someone who’s in great physical condition with no impairments, they might go home mildly tired, but still able to do stuff, so they’re going to define that differently than I would.

          1. JustaTech*

            I wonder if the company is trying to get people to say “tired” rather than “exhausted” because there might be safety ramifications to exhausting your employees. Like, if you work them to the bone and they crash their car trying to drive home, is there liability for the company?

      2. Artemesia*

        Everyone who knows a group well can ‘hear’ the voice when reading a comment. Open ended comments are easy to ascribe to someone (of course not always accurately — but fairly so)

    4. Ama*

      I’ve told this story a few times here, but at a former (very large) employer, we were once sent a survey for a potential bike share program where one question encouraged us to list all the times we might possibly use the bikes. The way the question was worded, I, and many others, included not just our normal commute times, but times when we might occasionally need to come in late or leave early due to appointments, or the occasional Fridays in our quiet period when people took half days, etc.

      Two weeks later, a snarky all staff email went out from the VP of Personnel lecturing us all on how our office hours were 9-5 period and far too many offices were closing early on Fridays. It was clear they were getting that info from the bike survey data. Even though they were completely misinterpreting people’s answers it still left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth that answers we provided in good faith were being used against us.

      I refused to do any surveys for the employer after that, but not too much later someone nominated the employer for the Forbes Best Companies to Work For list and as part of that process, another anonymous survey (run by Forbes) was sent around. I still refused to participate, but since we mysteriously never heard about the Forbes list ever again, I have a feeling more than a few people took the opportunity to exact some revenge.

    5. Lore*

      My favorite survey story ever: a long long time ago I temped in the offices at Radio City, and was in the marketing department during the Christmas season. They did audience surveys, and had tried various incentives over the years to get audience members to participate–candy canes, dollar bills, you name it. This year they wanted to offer a discount coupon to the following year’s Christmas Spectacular–but they didn’t have the coupons available yet. They wanted to mail them out when tickets went on sale the following year, and therefore they needed to collect name and address information. My job was to proofread the order for the survey forms and then coordinate the ordering and delivery of them.

      The survey said ANONYMOUS in big red letters at the top. No one–literally not one of the ten highly paid staffers in the department, all the way up to the director–could understand why I raised this as a problem. I tried three times to explain it, and the best I could get out of them was “Well, anyone who wants to be anonymous won’t put their information down.”

    6. ZuKeeper*

      I used to work for a company where we had to take these “anonymous” surveys. (And it’s not anonymous at all when I have to tell you what dept. I work for and if I am full or part time. The moment I tell you I am full time, I’ve narrowed it down to one of 4 people. Throw in department and yeah, it’s very obvious who is filling out this survey, since only department heads are full time.) The manager would nag until everyone took it and then we would not hear another word about it until the next go ’round. The survey itself asked if the manager had discussed/followed up on the results, so that was always a “no”.

      I finally got to the point where I was very honest in my replies, because at that point I didn’t care if I got fired or even retaliated against. If retaliation had happened, I would have just quit. It might have even been the shove out of my comfort zone that I needed to leave that crazy place sooner, haha. Oh, the regrets that I didn’t leave sooner!

  4. Dizzy Steinway*

    #1 Alison is right: it’s best not to discuss this with a third party. Also, I realise this is going to make me sound terribly cynical but you actually don’t know if the story is true, or if his wife is making it up, or if it’s him or someone else pretending to be his wife.

    What you do know is that he forged his timesheet and you gave him fair warning before firing him.

    1. Jeanne*

      It crossed my mind that it could be fake. Fake or not, I think it would be good to respond using Alison’s wording. Hopefully that will put an end to any begging emails.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      My guess is that he told his wife he was fired for faking the timesheet the one time it got him fired, but not about the other times. So for her it’s an out-of-the-blue firing for the first mistake he ever made.

      Assuming OP is correct that time off to care for an ill relative wouldn’t be a big deal, then it could be she’s providing an excuse to make his one-time slip-up seem more sympathetic, or that he has a weird reluctance to ask for help. The better to ask forgiveness than permission theory.

      1. OP #1*

        I do believe she thinks it’s the first time, sadly. We are a small department, and many accommodations have been made for other employee’s situations. He knew this.

    3. MissGirl*

      I really needed this post today. I accepted a new job yesterday who offered 20K more than my minimum. Of course, I totally undervalued myself with my minimum due to insecurity and fear. I was debating if I should’ve negotiated but I accepted as is. It also has a great benefits package.

      1. Artemesia*

        My daughter recently accepted a job without negotiating and she has negotiated every other position she has had. It was just a great offer with excellent benefits. Being happy with the offer and knowing it is not a lowball in the market or organization is plenty of reason to be happy and not argue about it.

    4. OP #1*

      The other manager and I considered this. And if you are now the sole provider, one would think you would take your job all the more seriously.
      What I did not consider is it could be him writing in as his wife. Now that would be twisted!

      1. Mookie*

        Seriously. You don’t look stupid or amateurish at all, LW2, and they’re not judging you for not pushing back against an offer more generous than you expected. (As Alison suggests, it’s awkward and counterproductive to knee-jerk counter-negotiate when unnecessary.) You landed a great gig — you did that. Pat yourself on the back for putting together a great CV and nailing your interviews and earning that unexpectedly awesome salary. Good luck with it!

        1. Lance*

          Exactly. The only thing negotiating numbers further is going to do, when they’ve already beaten your initial given numbers, is make them start to not take you as seriously. You did everything perfectly, LW2; now go and enjoy your new job!

    1. Emi.*

      Congrats! Also, if it helps to let go of the “but I should have negotiated” feeling: You did negotiate. You threw out a number, and they offered you more. That’s basically highly successful pre-offer negotiating. High five!

    2. Purest Green*

      Yes! In addition to congratulations, I’d also like to add that it’s nice to read a letter where something good happened.

      1. Sans*

        When I was interviewing for my current job, I was trying to escape a high-pressure, low-pay job. I had taken that job in 2009, at the depths of the recession, and I had to take a massive pay cut at the time. But that’s what you do when you’ve been unemployed for six months and the economy is tanking.

        Two years later, I was demoralized and just wanted out. I didn’t even care if I got more money, I just wanted a better job. So I gave a number $5000 more than what I was earning but would have settled for the same salary I had. They came back with an offer $5000 MORE than what I had asked for. Now – I’m still earning less than if I hadn’t been layed off in 2009, so sometimes I think I should have negotiated. But like OP, they gave me more than I asked for. And at the time, it was an extra $10,000 and escape from a job I hated. In the end, I’m happy I’m here. Sounds like you found something you can be happy with, too.

        1. Naruto*

          #2 DID negotiate, and so did you.

          When you make an offer and the other party accepts (or exceeds) it, negotiations are finished and you have an agreement. If you try to “counter” their acceptance, you are negotiating in bad faith or signaling that you don’t know how negotiations work.

          You might mean you wish you had negotiated HARDER – e.g. by setting your initial offer higher. That’s fair and you can learn a lesson from it. But it’s really important not to think of your actions as a failure to negotiate, because you did, and moving the goalposts after they meet your demands will make you look bad and may make the other party walk away.

          1. Judy*

            When you set your initial salary requirements, you aren’t really negotiating then. At that point, you don’t know anything about 401k match, health insurance premiums (or even types).

            My starting salary at my current job was pretty much identical to my previous job. But here, the 401k match is 2% more, plus the health insurance premiums are $400 less per month, with a 90/10 policy with $300 deductible. Old company had an 80/20 plan that was a HDHP. My total compensation is significantly more.

            A co-worker moved to another company for a 15% raise, and ended up back here in 6 months, at his old salary. He says he’s financially better off.

            1. lfi*

              same here. i’m vested immediately with my higher matching 401K, i get money for not taking health insurance (since its through DH), and they pay half my commuting costs. plus i now work a set 8 hour day. amazing.

          2. Zathras*

            Yes. It can feel like you did something wrong,

            I think when a company comes back with more money than you asked for, that can be good sign that they care about paying enough to retain good people. Someone at the company saw what you asked for and was like “What? We can’t pay them that, they could get more from someone else and will jump ship as soon as they do. Offer them at least what Fergus makes.”

            Could you have gotten more if you had asked for it initially? Maybe, but remember when you threw out the first number you did it without the information that they were actually willing to pay $5000 more than that. It’s easy to second guess now, but you have more information now that you didn’t have then.

            I think really the only time it might be OK to ask for more in that situation would be if a) you hadn’t yet seen anything about benefits when you threw out the first number AND b) the benefits they offer are terrible, or at least significantly worse than what you are currently getting. So you could go and say “my initial number was based on my current benefits with X vacation days, etc. – now that I’ve seen your benefits package I think I would need a little more.” And even that is a little dicey because they DID give you a little more already. Also you’d need to approach it with the attitude that improving the benefits (e.g., more vacation days) would be an acceptable alternative to more money.

            1. Zathras*

              I don’t know where the rest of my first paragraph went – there was another sentence in there along the lines of “but you didn’t.”

    3. MonteCristo85*

      OP#2 here….

      Thanks for the comments. I couldn’t bring myself to negotiate when it was so much better than I expected, and I’m glad to know I didn’t do anything “wrong”. I was a little concerned that maybe it made me look bad that I didn’t ask for enough to begin with, but since they went ahead and hired me anyway, I guess it couldn’t have been too bad.

      1. SJ*

        OP, I was in the same situation about 6 months ago when I was offered a new job. I had been making $40k at my old job, and at the end of the in-person interview, my would-be bosses asked what salary I was looking for. I said $50k, but when I got the offer, they offered me $55k. I was so taken aback that I was offered more than I’d asked for that I wondered if I’d under-sold myself too and looked bad — in retrospect, I think I did under-sell myself, and now that I’ve been here for about 6 months, I understand that they’re big on paying people what they’re worth in order to keep them here. So I think they were just giving me what I didn’t fully understand I should ask for.

        I was thrilled with the offer and totally excited about the job, so I didn’t want to negotiate. My dad (who generally gives great advice that’s very in-line with AAM’s) said I should counter with $60k, but I thought, like Allison said, that it would look like I had been playing games if I countered with an even higher offer. I went with my gut and accepted the offer of $55k, and I’m really glad I did. (And my dad, in retrospect, realizes I was right.)

      2. jj*

        Same thing happened to me at my current job! I asked for a range of $60-70k (going up from $45k), they initially told me I could be in the middle of that range. So imagine my surprise when I got the job with an offer of $79k. The HR person called me to tell me, and while I was gasping for air on the other end from shock, he told me, “They really wanted to make sure you accepted the offer!” So I did, over the phone, right then and there, which I’m sure goes against some rule. But I figured they stepped up in a big way, so I wasn’t going to make them wait on me accepting a job I knew I was perfect for.

        You deserve it!!

        1. Minerva McGonagall*

          It’s not a rule that you can’t accept on the spot, just that you shouldn’t accept without thinking it through and making sure you understand what you’re accepting. In many cases you can do that thinking in advance of the offer, especially companies that have HR review the benefits package with you as part of your final interview.

          1. jj*

            Yes! I should add that I had a very good grasp of benefits, bonus structure, etc prior to that phone call. Sometimes when it’s right, it’s right!

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP#2, it was a really shrewd move (in a good way!) not to try to negotiate further when you were provided with a compensation package that exceeded your expectations. Usually if a job applicant opens with their preferred salary and the prospective employer tops that amount, it’s difficult to explain why the amount you suggested is no longer “good enough” without looking a bit disingenuous (caveat: there are of course exceptions—for example, if the compensation package is below the expectations you had in mind when you suggested your preferred salary or if there’s a material difference in cost of living that you did not know of during the original conversation). I think trying to reopen the negotiation could have negatively impacted how the employer sees you, whereas right now the employer feels like they paid a fair amount for a high-quality candidate who was honest and well-qualified.

        So I think you get credit for negotiating, and you get bonus points for knowing when to call vs. when to hold. That shows sophistication and a grounded understanding of the offer and acceptance process, not naivete!

    4. Security SemiPro*

      The department I work in has a general unwritten policy of figuring out what a position is worth to us, making some adjustments for background and relevant experience of the candidate we want, and adding in what amounts to the first year raise before giving an offer. We don’t really negotiate back and forth, we start with as generous an offer as we can put together.

      Part of it is not wanting to do rounds of negotiation, part of it is wanting staff to start (and stay!) excited and happy to be with the team, part of it is wanting to have a compensation model that doesn’t rely on negotiating strength when you were hired. It works for us.

      So I would hope that candidates who get offers larger than what they told our recruiting departments they were looking for didn’t feel like they did something wrong! We want you on the team! Here’s money, when can you start?

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, I don’t think Alison really pushes this point as much as other job advice people do, but there does seem to be this weird shame around not asking for more money after the initial offer. If you’re happy with the money, and it’s more than what you asked for and more than what your industry norm is, there is absolutely no reason to ask for more again. I’m hoping this is indicative of a company that actually seeks to properly compensate well-qualified employees instead of see how little they can pay them to not leave.

      1. Zathras*

        I think the advice has been overly generalized to “always ask for more, in every job offer situation.” It’s really most applicable in the case where company is the first to mention any numbers at all. In that case it’s often smart to ask them once to come up a little bit, just to see if they will.

        But often there is nuance – they came in at the top of the advertised range, or you have enough experience in the field to know that the offer is already really generous. Maybe the offer is good enough, and you know the hiring manager already spent a lot of political capital just to create the position for you. (This happened to me when I took my current job.)

        Ultimately if both parties leave the table happy, the negotiation went well.

        1. Wheezy Weasel*

          I think the advice is out there because a lot of employers will offer below-market salaries and hope people accept without negotiating. However, not all companies do, and those that don’t are perhaps unfairly dealing with that perception. In my own experience, my wife was offered her first and third jobs drastically under market (20-30k) but was able to negotiate with a single counteroffer to an acceptable range. Just a week ago, she got an unexpected raise from her current company to keep her pay comparable to market salaries, so this company is actively looking to satisfy their employees vs. saving a few thousand dollars.

  5. Dizzy Steinway*

    #3 I’m sorry, this is terrible. The right answer to low morale is never to tell people to pretend it’s higher (because that’s, like, so great for morale?) and if you want people to raise feedback you need to introduce safe ways of doing that e.g. staff reps, ability to raise things anonymously, etc. Good employers take comments from these sorts of surveys seriously.

    To me it sounds like your manager is not the only one at fault here as your company is inappropriately muddling two things. They shouldn’t be collecting staff comments and also analysing the scores so finely that it discourages candid, qualitative insights into what people really think. Instead of rating which department said they had the best morale, they should be looking at what their body of staff are happy with and what they want to change.

    1. JustaTech*

      My corporate overlords run “company culture” surveys for the whole international organization. I’m always a little bit suspicious about the regions that get 100% participation, given that those regions tend to be parts of the world with a reputation for shady business practices.
      North America usually has the worst participation rate and the lowest satisfaction score, which makes sense because the overlords are awful and it’s all over the NA news.

  6. M_Lynn*

    #4: Organizing is HARD, and I think it’s probably more common to see people only do it for a couple years instead of for life. Not many people do the same job for their entire lives these days. As you’ve seen-lots of people have moved on and your letter didn’t indicate that they’re all pariahs so there isn’t much to fret about. This is a great opportunity to think about what skills and roles you do want to do, and ask your manager for help in getting there. I think phrasing it as “I don’t want to do organizing anymore” isn’t as helpful, and your manager probably doesn’t need to know all that you dislike about your current job, so phrasing it as eagerness to do something new would be more graceful. And as Alison said, you really need a clear idea of what you’re looking for but if you really can’t figure much out beforehand, ask your manager about other people’s careers paths that she’s seen. She may have some knowledge on how people effectively pitch their organizing skills and experiences in other roles.

    1. J.B.*

      Yes, when you see people move on within the organization there is probably an assumption that they won’t do the specific organizing job forever. Those people are a great potential resource! See if they will go out for coffee and talk to you about what they do now and what they like or don’t like about it.

    2. Former Organizer*

      Yeah, OP #4. Burnout is a real thing, even among people who love organizing, and it’s (relatively) rare to find someone who’s been a full time organizer for decades without moving on to something else. There’s so much churn and turnover in that kind of position.

      I recently made the switch from being an organizer to something else within the same organization, and it was entirely because of the support and assistance of my then-supervisor. They took the time to talk with me about things I was interested in doing, kept an eye out for internal openings, and even helped forge the brand new opening that I ended up moving to. I don’t know what your boss’s background is or if they’ve been an organizer themselves at some point (mine was before becoming a director), but it wouldn’t be uncommon and they know the deal. It’s a hard slog, and if you have a solid organization, they’ll want to keep people around and in the movement, not lose good people to burnout.

      Definitely don’t frame it as “I hate organizing,” approach it more as, “I’m interested in growing toward [stuff you’d rather be doing], let’s talk about how to get me there,” but it’s a totally normal thing.

  7. peabody*

    #3 lie. They can’t handle the truth! The CEO at a company I worked for once wanted us to give high marks on a survey for a local best places to work type rating. Apparently a lot of people used it to vent and he scolded us. He wanted the award, not a great place to work. Forced surveys aren’t about you.

    1. Anon just in case*

      Same here – we were pressured to do an internally run happiness survey to help the company win a great place to work award several years running.
      It soon came out we could be identified by our workstation IP addresses.
      Only the happy people participatyed, and the company got the award twice. Results were published as bar graphs at meeting, and the negative answers were criticized… resulting in pushback at the meetings.
      Participation plummeted, the award no longer was won, and the survey went away.

    2. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

      I completely see your point and would never scold anyone for just lying like a rug on what appears to be an ego-boost for upper management.
      However I still prefer Alison’s advice of bowing out of the survey (or as much honesty as you feel you can share without being punished).
      Given that your department was pressured into answering a survey a certain way, the responses will be of no use whatsoever (unless it’s just to pump the management’s tires).

      (Formerly Another Emily)

  8. Repton*

    #3 reminded me of something that happened at my company..

    Every year, we do an engagement/enablement survey. Results are usually not-too-bad (it’s an ok company). Last year, they decided to make the overall company results a factor in determining our end-of-year bonuses.

    So, at survey time, my boss sent out an email, saying: “please answer honestly, but these particular seven questions are very important so please give them a top score, oh but also please answer honestly”

    Later, when the results were in, all were amazed, for it was a big improvement over last year!

      1. J-nonymous*

        Eh. I mean, it’s not honest, but it was a fairly easy way for employees to give themselves a better bonus. So I don’t have a huge issue with the boss encouraging people to juke the stats.

  9. amy*

    About LW1 — I’d also make sure that the employees are aware of FMLA and guidelines for using it.

    1. Gadfly*

      That doesn’t help if an employee needs money (perhaps to cover all the bills that come with an illness?) All it gives you is a bit of unpaid leave.

        1. Gadfly*

          If the employee was doing it for time, FMLA would help. If for money, it does nothing here.

          1. Gadfly*

            Also, people who suggest FMLA a lot, I have found have rarely actually used it. There is a LOT it doesn’t cover. Like with family–a wife should count if she is in bad enough condition. But siblings or grandparents don’t, even if dying and you are their only family. Like other federal laws, some states have beefed it up. But many have not.

  10. OP#3*

    Thanks for answering my question Alison!

    I did end up doing the survey. I also only answered quantitative questions and left qualitative ones alone to reduce chances of revealing my identity. I was fairly honest, but rounded up where I had mixed feelings. Honestly, I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do and what I’ll do next time. I found out after I wrote to Alison that the survey results for the entire team not only impact managers’ bonuses but team member bonuses as well so I felt bad about rounding down and having a probably small but nevertheless real impact on other team members bonuses. Seems like a messed up way to do things because it risks punishing team members for culture problems caused by management. Also seems questionable to present the results as though they are objective but to have hidden monetary and non-monetary incentives for positive answers.

    I mentioned the pressure to a more senior manager as a side note in a conversation about some different issues. That comment very promptly found its way back to my manager who swore again they weren’t trying to manipulate our answers.

    1. hbc*

      Wow. There are so many things wrong with basing your bonus on your team’s happiness, I’m just…flabbergasted. I can understand your attitude being part of the review (coming at every bump in the road like Eeyore doesn’t help), but punishing you for recognizing those bumps *while asking you about them* is awful. And even if you meet their Pippi Longstockings ideal and are radiating rainbows and glitter, you get dinged because your coworkers were grumpy the day they filled out the survey? I have no words.

      1. OP#3*

        It’s not the only thing that counts towards the bonus (I think it’s a fairly small fraction). But whether it’s all of it or a tiny bit of it I’m still unsettled by it working that way

    2. MuseumChick*

      Wow, this is a terrible way to do things. Honestly, I would start job hunting, this places sounds badly managed and toxic.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*


      “We’ll pay you more, but only if you’re happy. Unhappy? No bonus for you! Now get happier about your lower/lack of bonus money!”

      The complete absence of logic or common sense boggles the mind.

      1. OP#3*

        I think there’s some weird logic that it encourages everybody to contribute to creating a positive culture and living the brands values and all that. Problem is, there’s only so much lower level employees can do to override problems coming from higher up

    4. Lora*

      These people are terrible. I would bail over this. Your income is dependent on a Would You Like Fries With That attitude with your boss and never hinting that anything might ever be wrong? How are they supposed to get better if they don’t address problems? Ugh. That’s a cesspool, you can’t grow or make any accomplishments because you live in the best of all possible worlds already? Not cool.

    5. LQ*

      That’s so weird. Do you think your manager was serious about not trying to manipulate the answers? I mean at some point he should just stop saying that, or doubling down harder because, obviously he wants it.

      It’s so messed up that they alter bonuses based on happiness. That’s a great way to never find any actual improvement.

      That said, I think I’d do the same as you on quantitative vs qualitative.

    6. NW Mossy*

      Memo to companies: If you’re tying compensation to specific desired responses on a survey, the validity of the data you’ve just collected is zero. You could have had one intern mark surveys for each person in the company and achieved the exact same result.

        1. Observer*

          Someone should send the guy an anonymous note explaining that it’s incidents like this that insure that people will NEVER be fully honest.

          I know, more fantasy than reality. But I’m amusing myself with thinking of how to do this – print it, so you can’t be given away by your handwriting, etc.

  11. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#4….the red flag, for lack of a better term, that jumped out at me in your letter was your statement that your relationship with your manager is “okay.” While I’ve never been in your situation, I’ve worked with many who have, and I’ve found that in situations like these, you really need a GREAT relationship with your manager and ideally they would be someone who would sing your praises to the other departments. Especially considering the unique nature of your current position, the other department managers can’t really rely on job performance alone. Having a personal and sincere recommendations from your current manager would be a great asset.

    All that said, I don’t have anything to add to Alison’s advice. Framing it in the way that Alison suggests may well give you insight into how far your manager is willing to go to get you where you want to be. The only thing I personally would do, would be to try and talk to at least a couple of the folks that transferred out of the department and find out how and why. And if you do that, I wouldn’t do it until after you speak to your manager and frame it as positively as you can with the assumption that anything you say may eventually get back to your current manager and any future manager. Best of luck! I know the feeling of not loving what you’re doing.

  12. Spunky Brewster*

    This is so timely. I just attended a conference where workplace culture was one of the major topics. Most of what we talked about was how to assess culture from an internal auditing perspective. The takeaway regarding surveys – they are but one data point and are often so poorly designed and executed that nobody should rely on them exclusively for this purpose.

    I’m so sorry that you experienced pressure to give false answers!

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Maybe a bit off topic…if so apologies, but if you have any links to any publicly available articles or other resources on the topic of assessing culture from the internal auditing perspective, I’d love for you to share them. That sounds super interesting to me!

    2. Internal Audit Manager*

      I’d be curious to hear more about this too. Our current survey…is not taken seriously.

  13. AdAgencyChick*

    #4, why not talk to some of your former colleagues who are in other roles now? Find out how they got their new gigs and, at least as important, what they like and dislike about their new gigs. Then you’ll be able to approach your boss more informed.

    1. Sarah*

      This is a great idea. Offer to buy them coffee and chat about both how they managed the transfer and what other jobs in the organization are like. If these folks worked with your current manager, they also may be able to share insight on whether the manager was supportive or not, and/or if there were other people in your org who were particularly supportive who you could reach out to.

  14. nnn*

    OP #4: If you haven’t done so already, you could talk to the people who have already transferred about how they managed to transfer. If it’s more appropriate to personalities and context, you could approach it like an informational interview.

  15. MuseumChick*

    OP3, how large is your department? How easy would it be for your boss to figure out which was your survey? I would be inclined to do what Alison said, stating on the survey that you don’t feel comfortable responding in this format, or if you are from a large department where it would be extremely unlikely your boss could pin point your exact survey, putting this lecture you got on the survey itself.

    Side note: (I know I’m preaching to the converted here) Toxic bosses SUCK.

  16. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP#5, here are some of Alison’s earlier advice specifically on quitting an abusive or difficult employer.

    https://www.askamanager.org/2014/08/i-cant-get-a-job-because-of-a-mistake-i-made-at-17-resigning-when-my-boss-will-explode-and-more.html (#2)
    https://www.askamanager.org/2014/12/update-whats-the-best-way-to-resign-when-your-boss-will-explode.html (update to the previous post)

    Here’s hoping you get to use that advice sooner rather than later! (Meaning you find a new job, of course.)

  17. ilikeaskamanager*

    #1 please respond to wife telling her you cannot discuss the matter with her. I feel a lot of compassion for her and figure this might have been out of desperation. The courtesy of a reply, even one saying you can’t tell her anything, at least puts closure on this communication.
    Assuming the facts are as presented, I think this husband is pretty horrible all around. Defrauding his employer, apparently not being honest with wife, jeopardizing a job he probably really needs…….not a stand up guy.

    1. Freya UK*

      Assuming the facts are as presented, he sounds desperate rather than a bad person :( If his wife is unwell it’s no doubt putting extra pressure (financial and otherwise) on him – either he padded the timesheet on purpose due to the desperation, or it was accidental because he is distracted, and he won’t have wanted to worry his wife with any of this (which while foolish and misplaced, doesn’t make him a bad person).

    2. OP #1*

      The health challenges were a new thing, so the two times prior, he actually admitted what he was doing when he stayed clocked in. I think it comes down to a lack of ambition and thinking he could work our cushy timesheet system. We could probably use some reform there, but also, if you want your job, be professional and honest.

  18. Jessesgirl72*

    OP2: The rules about negotiations definitely is not that you should always ask for more. The rules are that you should research the going rate, and ask for more if you are unhappy with the offer. You researched it, and they offered you more than market rate! That is awesome.

    There was a discussion just a few weeks ago about how some companies honestly give you their best offer, and aren’t interested in playing games. You aren’t the only one who’s gotten confused about this. So don’t think you “failed” if you don’t ask, or if you ask and they don’t budge- judge the offer by market rate, not by back and forth, or lack thereof!

    Congratulations on the new job!

    1. MonteCristo85*

      OP2 here…

      Thanks! I was a little concerned that maybe it made me look bad that I asked for so much less then they offered, but they hired me, so I guess not! LOL The funny thing is that my mom told me to ask for the amount they ended up offering, but I couldn’t find anything to back up that ask, so I ignored her. This is why you should listen to your mom! :D

      1. Czhorat*

        They already hired you. The time to worry about “looking bad” in the job search is over. If you did look bad you’d still be looking.

  19. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1 – It feels heartless, but Alison is right. It was the employee’s job to raise the issue with you (if indeed that is the issue; the possibility that the wife is fibbing is certainly there) before he was termed. “Hey, I’m dealing with a critical illness in the family, boss — can you help me with X, Y, or Z?” Having his wife raise it after the fact doesn’t actually make a good argument for why the employee should be rehired.

  20. RVA Cat*

    The internet wonders – was Fergus in #1 actually Brad’s wife from Cracker Barrel?

  21. Kindling*

    At my university dorm, they gave us anonymous surveys to give feedback on our RA (resident advisor). I think the story was that she was supposed to just receive a general summary of the responses, but she was friends with someone in the office where they compiled them, and they showed her the full surveys with only the names removed.

    Fortunately I missed this meeting because it conflicted with a night class, but she called a long group meeting to read specific negative responses from the survey aloud and interrogate the group about who wrote what. Fun!

    1. anonderella*

      haha, the only contact I had with my RA in college was
      “please be less obvious about smoking weed.”
      “do you need any more weed?”
      “how long have you kept a pet cat in your dorm room?”

      I don’t know where I’d start on a survey.

      1. Sarah*

        “Please stop setting the kitchen on fire!”

        Also the time I left an open jar of peanut butter in my room over break and came back to an ant infestation…

      2. Kindling*

        I was a little more uptight in university and I imagine my survey would’ve been like “my neighbour is smoking weed and keeping a cat they’re not supposed to and you’re not doing anything about it.” ;) Though nowadays I don’t really care.

        But even now that I’m a bit more mellow, she really was doing a bad job of RA-ing, which you could probably guess from the ‘calling-a-meeting-to-berate-people’ thing.

    2. Noah*

      In my dorm, that would have led to a few (totally justified) “you’re not the boss of me” responses from the residents. Most of us would have just gotten up and left.

  22. Murphy*

    OP#2: I didn’t negotiate at my job either, though my husband was psyching me up for it. I was changing careers, so the job was already going to be a huge pay bump. I had in my mind a number, X, but then I thought a slightly higher number, Y, might be good. But they offered me Y. So I said please and thank you and left it at that. No reason to negotiate if you’re happy. The important thing is to know what you want, and make a case for it if needed, but you got it without having to do that.

  23. Robin B*

    #1— Years ago my husband found himself in a similar situation, having to let an employee go after multiple warnings. The following week, his wife stormed into the office, hung up the phone he was using and held up a paper bag.

    She yelled “You want the food off our table, here it is!” And she took two fully loaded hotdogs from the bag and threw them at my hubby, splattering ketchup, mustard, etc. everywhere. They called Security and she fled.

    The next spring at the branch manager’s annual luncheon, all hubby’s fellow employees were served steaks. They brought a special, silver-domed entree dish to hubby and when they lifted the lid, he found 2 loaded hotdogs. At least the company had a sense of humor.

    1. SophieChotek*

      I hope he still got a steak too? (Wow…that must have been an interesting story for your husband to come tell you about!)

    2. AMT*

      I have a feeling that this story is going to go down in AAM lore. A year from now, we’ll all be saying, “Sure, your assistant got huffy when you fired him, but at least he didn’t go full hot dog!”

    3. Lora*

      This is priceless!

      I have so many questions that will never be answered quite apart from “what on earth was she hoping to accomplish, other than personal catharsis?” Hotdogs for dinner at home? Were they chili dogs or with sauerkraut or what? Just two? When you’ve made the decision to respond to your spouse’s firing with a food fight, of all the things to throw, why hotdogs? Do you go for the food that would create maximum injury (e.g. ghost pepper chili with lots of hot oil/grease) or something that will create maximum mess / ants (e.g. soft serve ice cream, raw eggs or weird-colored cake frosting) or that smells horrible for ages (e.g. durian) or what?

      1. Tomato Frog*

        My main question is how do you maintain that level of commitment to throwing hot dogs at someone for so long? I get firing off a self-righteous email. But she had to make the hot dogs, pack them up, get in the car (catch the bus?), drive all the way there, get out of the car, storm into the building…. I just imagine her practicing her line the whole way there.

        1. always in email jail*

          Right?! I have so many questions. did she personally make the hot dogs, did she buy them, did she have this plan in her head when she made or procured the hot dogs or did she already have the hot dogs in a bag to take home and decided to make a detour?

      2. Robin B*

        We will never know all those answers…… but I don’t recall there being chili. Definitely ketchup and mustard, as I called the cleaning service. (It was all over his desk chair and carpet too)

          1. Lora*

            Hahahaha OK that is a bit more comprehensible – spur of the moment thing.

            Note to self, check out nearest food truck offerings and dress accordingly.

          1. Czhorat*

            A free hot-dog is a free hot-dog. Even if you do get hit in the face with it.

            [this is not real advice. Listen to Jessegirl72. Don’t eat the food the crazyperson threw at you]

  24. AMT*

    This isn’t about today’s letters, but I just saw a news story about a college kid who booked a flight to Sydney, Nova Scotia instead of Sydney, Australia that reminded me of yesterday’s “accidentally flew my boss to Italy” letter: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-thursday-edition-1.4047704/a-tale-of-two-sydneys-dutch-teen-tries-to-visit-australia-but-ends-up-in-nova-scotia-1.4047709

    According to the article, as hard as it is to believe, plenty of people have made that mistake.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Alison has asked us to keep comments on topic; you could post that link on yesterday’s post (although I believe it has already been shared).

  25. DropTheDatabase*

    #2 not negotiating – I’ve been wondering about this too. I started a new job a few months ago that I love. When I was researching salary, I found that 70k-80k was a high range for my skills and experience, and what would be more in line for me is 60k-70k. However I gave my employers the 70-80k range because, well, I wanted more money (I was already making 60k). They offered me 68k and I took that without further negotiation. I was pleased with that at the time, and it’s still a pretty good bump for me, but should I have pushed back? This was a transfer to another department at a large state university, so I kept all my benefits/PTO. I’ve been really happy but I guess I have this nagging feeling like I should have negotiated for negotiation’s sake. I think at the time I also didn’t want to make waves, and figured HR wouldn’t let them offer more anyway (I am very familiar with our HR’s salary policies and like many universities, they are stingy).

    1. Cube Ninja*

      You answered your own question here with “what would be more in line for me is 60k-70k.”

      If you’ve done the research and they offered in the higher end of the range you’ve found appropriate for your own skill set, it’s hard to get upset about that! Conversely, it would be odd for an employer to get upset at a candidate overshooting by a few thousand bucks on salary. There’s a bit of a disconnect here though I think between expectations and reality – you asked for 70k as the low end and accepted 2k less because you found market rate for your skills to be in that range. Could you have pushed back? Sure, I suppose, but you’ve provided several reasons why you’re pretty sure the salary they offered was fair.

      Don’t second guess yourself. :)

      1. Czhorat*

        Yep. You got what sounds like a fair deal. You aimed a bit high and they came close. There’s nothing wrong with that.

        It isn’t a game; you needn’t answer every offer with a counter-offer in an attempt to “win”. When there’s a deal on the table which is fair to everyone then it’s time to take it.

    2. Sam*

      I was in a very similar situation and still wonder this. The salary for my promoted position was a bit lower than I expected for the work I’d be doing, but on the other hand…it was still a 50% increase over the previous salary (I essentially had a teacher’s salary before. It was not great.) and I couldn’t imagine the university’s HR letting them go any higher. But I was also jaded from a previous hiring experience at a different university where the department offered me a figure and then HR made them lower it because it was too much of a jump from my previous salary – nevermind that cost of living was about double in this new location. Even though they didn’t reduce the offered salary a huge amount, I turned the job down on principle.

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      This is an interesting discussion.

      When I first started at my company I was THRILLED at the starting salary (errr low 40s). I was desperate for a job and frankly, I would have been happier with even lower.

      Now I’m scared this has pretty much “ruined” me forever? My company is notorious for underpaying us, but I have other reasons keeping me here. I’ve gotten good increases over hte last 2 years, but this time I want way more–like at least market value more. I’m already practicing/bracing myself for pushing back.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        It *CAN* hurt some if they’ve level set yourself low. BUT – if it’s your first job, it won’t hurt unless you are there 6-7-8 years at the low end. You may have to jump ship to get the amount of money you want – AND – if your site pays on the low end of the scale, as you say – you may have to.

        When I was out of work (1990) I had to accept lower pay – but declined ridiculously low offers because of the damage it could do to me long-term.

        For those of us in the IS/IT/computer world – back in the 70’s-early 00’s, that was a fact of life and a normal means of career advancement.

  26. Julia*

    #5: So their way to make sure they’re not losing any more employees is … to fire employees?

  27. Czhorat*

    OP5 – I’m not sure how you think they’d find out. In my experience, job searches don’t get back to ones current organization. Most prospective employers know that it’s a delicate topic even if you don’t work for an insane organization which will fire people for just looking. Unless you get into the habit of uncharacteristically show up to the office wearing your good suit and leave early with a vague and unconvincing excuse there likely won’t even be suspicion until you hand in your resignation letter.

  28. TotesMaGoats*

    OP #2-I didn’t negotiate when I switched to NewJob. The offered salary was already a 20K bump and appropriate for the role and my experience. I did confirm that my pre-planned vacations would be honored but other than that, I was happy with the offer. No need to negotiate. I think we’ve been told we should always try to negotiate but I don’t see the point to do it just to do it.

  29. I am now a Llama*

    OP #3. My parent company had the dubious distinction as being the worst place to work in the country. This year they moved up 1/2 a place and are tied for worst. When the news came out there was uproar and lots of management meetings, but nothing really got done.

    I would just respond back as Allison suggested and just put “I don’t feel comfortable answering candidly in this format…” in the survey.

  30. I Like Coincidence*

    Wow, half of these posts were like replicas of my professional life!
    OP #5 – I worked in a toxic office, where half my department was let go or put on PIPs following a dramatic exit of one VP and the hiring of a new VP who wanted to clean house. (I was one of those put on PIP – despite literally no warning, I even checked my personal file to make sure I hadn’t missed something, but nope… no warnings documented) Fortunately…

    OP #2 – While trying to keep my job under the PIP, I was looking for a new job and was offered a great opportunity for a lateral move that paid 10K more than my current job. I accepted with no hesitation. They offered me the job and I accepted it immediately. I think they were pleasantly surprised.

    OP#4 – I am still at my (not so new) job and looking to transfer. I’ve been in my career for awhile and I think I’ve hit my plateau and it’s time to move on to other pastures. But, I like my company and it’s a good stepping stone for the second half of my career aspirations, so I’m hoping to make the transition in about a year. Fingers crossed.

  31. BananaPants*

    OP #1: It’s unfortunate and it sounds like you gave the employee opportunities to turn it around before the firing. If you respond I would state simply that you can’t discuss personnel matters with anyone other than the former employee and that the termination will not be reversed.

    I suspect the employee’s wife is under some stress due to medical concerns, if they’re in the US they’ve lost their insurance coverage or have to find a way to pay for COBRA, he may not be eligible for unemployment because he was fired for cause, and she’s unaware that he was given several opportunities to stop the time card fraud that got him fired. I feel for her, but begging for him to get his job back is both inappropriate and highly unlikely to actually work.

    1. Observer*

      Losing your job and insurance is a “qualifying event” that allows you to get insurance on the exchange, though. So, for the moment, they should be able to manage insurance. And, if he can’t find a job, they should become eligible for medicaid. Not a great situation, but they should be able to survive.

      I still feel bad, since the options are not great. And losing your primary income when one spouse is sick stinks. But the OP doesn’t have too many choices.

      1. OP #1*

        We only just started offering health insurance with the new year, so since the employee provided his own insurance up until then, he did accept the job and function with privately held insurance prior to that. Because his wife was so detailed in her email, I do know that her condition is required to be covered on the exchange.

  32. OP#4 - City Employee*

    I am in your position right now, working for a large department (a City Parks & Recs employee) for a large U.S. city. I am a program coordinator and also am really not a good cultural fit for this department. I also want to transfer out to a completely different department- but be careful about talking to your supervisor! I have called the City HR office to ask any questions about a transfer (not the HR within my department)…City employees are gossip hounds, and you don’t want it to get around before you are ready. I call from my cell and not my office line. I also have a trusted work reference (a colleague in my Division) who will vouch for me, but have checked the box on “do not contact my current supervisor”. I get good reviews on my evals, and I am sure my boss thinks we are a great team, but in reality it is very toxic (due to the mismanagement of my particular boss). I would rather keep everything as quiet as I can until I give notice. No need to rock the boat until you are ready to jump out!

      1. OP#4 - City Employee*

        Apologies…my situation is just too darn close to the writer…it is addressed to OP#4

  33. chocoholic*

    Back in the early 2000’s, I had a fired employee’s wife call me at home at 8 or 9:00 at night demanding to know why he had been fired. I did not tell her about the porn that we found saved on the server. I also emailed my boss and the fired ee’s boss to let them know of the phone call I had received so they could keep an eye out for me in the parking lot in the morning, lest this lady decided to show up in person the next day. Yikes.

  34. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Yes, the employee in the first letter should not have padded his time card and such- but his wife’s life and health shouldn’t depend on how well her husband works, if that’s where they get affordable insurance. Many people can’t afford COBRA, and definitely not paying out of pocket for care.

    I know people, myself included, who will become uninsurable if current law changes, have preexisting conditions excluded, or even die without affordable care. I would also risk losing my license to practice law if I lost insurance and thus got into too much debt. Of course, if this was the case for the wife, the employee should do a great job. But people are human.

    So, OP1, try to put yourself in the shoes of the ill spouse, and have empathy and compassion, even if you can’t share details with her.

      1. Lissa*

        Yeah, I think everyone here is agreeing that compassion is good — I don’t think OP1 needs to be exhorted to put themselves in the shoes of the ill spouse, they already seem to be an extremely empathetic person and trying to do the best they can! I understand the insurance situation can be terrible but buying OP1 a ticket for a guilt trip isn’t really useful here….

        1. OP #1*

          Thanks! Firing someone was definitely not on my bucket list. It’s sad when someone is giving many chances to improve but still chose to take advantage of the system. I feel for the ill spouse and did respond compassionately, but at the end of the day, the employee needed to be his own advocate on the front-end and operate with integrity. We can’t help with what we don’t know about!

    1. slick ric flair*

      This really is completely out of the context of the letter. Yes insurance shouldn’t be tied to employment – but you can’t not discipline an employee for breaking serious rules just because society has problems.

    2. OP #1*

      I totally agree; this is the bummer part. However, we only just started offering health insurance with the new year, so since the employee provided his own insurance up until then, he did accept the job and function with privately held insurance prior to that.
      Because his wife was so detailed in her email, I do know that her condition is required to be covered on the ACA.

  35. AFRC*

    OP#5 – I am sorry – I was actually fired from my first full-time job for job searching. The big boss said they wanted people who were totally loyal to the job, so of course, firing anyone who entertains the thought of leaving (even when there was virtually no room for advancement, and terribly low salary) is a great way to gain loyalty (that was sarcasm).

  36. Workfromhome*

    We had a pretty big issue with these surveys at my former job. The environment was pretty toxic with more than a few people leaving. The surevey was supposed to be anonymous but asked for your manager name and years with the company. Since some managers only had 3 or 4 reports it would have been very easy to know who wrote what. Most of us simply decided we couldn’t risk it and didn’t participate. Then we started getting individual emails from HR saying ” you have not filled in your surevey”. We asked them “if it’s anonymous his do you know I havent filled in the survey?” They tried to spin it as if they could tell if you replied or not but not tie tour name to the response.
    I simply ignored every survey.
    I got questioned once by a manager “How can you expect us to fix what’s wrong if you don’t do the surevey.” I simply said can you give me some examples of people who have been removed or major things that have been changed based on the survey.” As you can expect the answer was silence . They left me alone after that.

  37. MS-DOS EFX*

    Re: #4 – I’m curious, how would this advice change if the manager in question IS volatile, punitive, and/or a general jerk?

    Asking for a “friend”…

  38. EvilQueenRegina*

    #1 reminded me a bit of a time at The Real Office when we decided to stop putting work an external contractor’s way – we used to hire this electrician to do electrical jobs for the elderly/disabled/vulnerable (we ran a handyperson service and used specialist contractors for some work that required a professional). It started before my time and I never got the whole reason but apparently there were a few concerns about the customer care provided by Wakeen the electrician, and it got to the point where the decision was taken to use him less. After a while, Wakeen’s wife Philomena cornered one of our handymen in a DIY store and asked why Wakeen wasn’t getting any jobs any more. It happened that at the time we did need more help on electrical jobs so we started using him again.

    But there were more concerns about his manner towards customers, and finally there was one incident where it came out that one property he’d visited had potentially lethal electrics and Wakeen had failed to flag this when he had recently done some work there, so after that we felt we couldn’t send him anywhere. Once again, his wife cornered one of the handymen in the store, saying things like “Can you go and visit and cheer Wakeen up?” In the end our manager officially wrote to Wakeen explaining why we weren’t using him again and that was the end of that.

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