coworkers rely on my work to fund our barbecues, annoyed by salary negotiations, and more

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

1. My coworkers rely on my work to fund our barbecues

I work for a smallish company, but we have two office locations. My office location also has a warehouse, which I run. Two years ago, the boss of my office came up with the idea of an office barbecue in the summer for everyone, which my boss paid for with the company card. He said it was for office morale.

The first year was great, and we had several that summer. Last year, not so much: we only had two barbecues. The first was because a coworker was leaving, and the boss once again paid for it. After several weeks, the boss approached me and said that the next barbecue won’t happen until I scrap the old batteries in the warehouse for money. He said that the money from the scrapped batteries would go towards the cost of the barbecue. Which I did, but I was only able to get up enough money for one barbecue last summer.

My concern is that he will have the same expectation of me this year too. It takes me a year to get up enough batteries to scrap for money and this is a minuscule portion of my overall job.

Several of my coworkers know that this was the case last year and are already hinting. It is causing a great deal of worry and stress for me because whether or not all my coworkers get this summertime treat depends on how well I recover these batteries. I am also worried about how to this will impact my relationship with coworkers because they could begrudge me not working harder. I have toyed with the idea of putting my own money towards the barbecues but I really cannot afford to. I would like to speak to my boss, but he is rarely available or present. Is this an unfair expectation to put on me or am I being silly?

It’s not inherently unreasonable to say “we’ll use the money from scrapping batteries to fund summer barbecues, so how many we do depends on how much money that produces.” But yeah, it’s not really fair to frame it as “whether or not we have barbecues hinges on how well Jane handles the batteries.”

Don’t put your own money toward the barbecues in an attempt to relieve the pressure! Just be straightforward with your coworkers: “I only have a limited amount of time to spend on scrapping the batteries and I have a bunch of higher priorities I need to deal with first, so I can’t make any promises.”

You should also say a version of that to your boss: “I only have a limited amount of time to spend on scrapping the batteries and most of my time needs to go to X and Y, so I want to make sure you know that the batteries might not be a good solution for funding the barbecues. Last year I barely scraped together enough for one so if we want more than that, we’ll need a different solution.”

2. Should I tell an ex-manager how annoyed I am by a salary clusterfudge?

Last summer I left a job I really liked, with a manager who was a great mentor and friend, under really tough circumstances. (They turned my full-time position of two years into two six-month contract positions, and it stunk and caused me a lot of burn-out and anxiety.) For the next six months, whenever Former Manager and I talked, he brought up the possibility of my coming back. Every. Time. He brought it up in every conversation.

By the winter, I got over enough of my lingering resentments to say that I might be interested. As my replacement’s contract wore down, we started planning for me to come back. But it hit a snag: When we got to the money conversation, I asked that the salary be based on the job responsibilities. I was pretty sure the woman who’d done the role after me was making more than I had, due to some internal algorithms. My manager wanted to base my wages on what I’d earned previously and he dug his heels in.

When I tried to ask questions like whether it was negotiable or if it was a secret internal calculation that was final, he’d say the calculations shouldn’t feel like a secret. When I asked to see something explaining the math, he said it was an internal document he couldn’t share externally but that I’d had access to before so why was I even asking. Finally, I asked if it was the best offer he could make me, and he responded, “I can’t negotiate with myself.” I got angry that he was being so obstinate. I felt betrayed and frustrated, and needled in a very gendered way (women don’t negotiate but they also get punished when they do!). So I chose AGAIN not to take the job.

Former Manager and I hadn’t been in touch until this week, when he sent me a nice, short email for my birthday. It’s appreciated. What I’d rather have is some kind of apology or at least an acknowledgement that he was being a butthead. Am I off-base? I’m prepared to own up to my own problems communicating and stubbornness as things got tense. What can I say, if anything, to indicate that I don’t want to burn the bridge but that I still resent the way he treated me?

What’s the outcome you want here? If it’s just “I want him to know that he was being a butthead” … well, in general people have a low rate of success with getting other people to realize that, at least not without a longer conversation than probably makes sense in this context.

I totally get being annoyed by how he handled this; he was a butthead. (“You’ve had access to this document before so why are you even asking?” is particularly ridiculous.) But your refusal to accept the offer communicated your displeasure more effectively than anything else could, so that message has been delivered.

At this point, I’d just send a gracious thank-you back for the birthday email and not get into what happened previously. Of course, if he ever mentions wanting to hire you again, you’d have a great opening to address how things went last time. But otherwise, I don’t think you have anything to gain by reopening this.

3. Who pays for lunch at an informational interview?

I have set up a lunch meeting to talk to someone who works in the field that I am interested in. This is purely in informational interview and the person I am talking to would not be involved in hiring decisions and I am not even sure I will be applying where she works. I was planning on paying for lunch since she is doing me a favor by meeting with me, but I don’t know if that would come across as weird. I have never met her before and she is meeting with me because her boss asked her to give me more information about what it is like to work in her field (lunch was her idea, not her boss’s). I am probably overthinking this, but I just don’t know what is standard.

You should pay, because she’s meeting with you as a favor to help you out.

If you’re young, she may end up insisting on paying anyway (as a sort of paying-it-forward-to-young-people thing), or she may insist on it anyway, but at a minimum you should offer and be prepared to pay.

4. What to say to a stranger who mentions a serious health issue when turning down work

I solicit lots of freelance work from experts who evaluate teapot designs, and the culture of the field is that it’s normal and necessary for me to write to eminent figures whom I’ve never met. People turn us down for lots of reasons, and I make a point of being upbeat and grateful that they took the time to refuse (because I’ll probably ask them again down the line, and just to be pleasant!). But what’s a good response when someone refuses by oversharing about a medical matter?

If it’s “I have a cold,” I wish them a speedy recovery, but that doesn’t work for “I’m in declining health,” or “I’m on leave for chemo treatments,” or “I have mild dementia now.” Just letting the remark pass seems blithe and unkind. Is there a good way to address a stranger’s serious or terminal conditions (for both professional and human reasons)?

With something like chemo: “I hope your treatments go well and you have as easy of a recovery as possible!”

With something more like declining health where there’s no likely recovery: “I’m sorry to hear about your health, and am sending you best wishes.” (“Best wishes” is so bland and blah, but I’m drawing a blank on anything less cliche-sounding. Some cliches are often-repeated for a reason though.)

5. Telling company to revoke my IT access during our legal dispute

I am currently embroiled in a disability discrimination legal dispute with my company; I am on involuntary unpaid leave during this dispute (which is part of the reason for the legal action). No “is it legal” questions here — my legal team says it’s pretty much not (we’re not in the US and employment law is much stronger here) but we’ve got to go through the sloooooow court processes to dispute it.

What I have is an awkward etiquette question. I am a high-level IT professional — the kind that has permission to do things like delete the entire database *and* all of the backups. And I’ve been on unpaid leave for months and *still* have access to all of these things.

Obviously I would NEVER do anything to betray this position of trust, but well, frankly, it’s pretty crap info sec practice. Precisely because I have a high level of professional ethics, I want to tell someone to please revoke these permissions for the coming months when the legal stuff is likely to get nastier before it gets better. (Also, I have a little bit of paranoia about this coming back to bite me in the ass somehow, like someone discovering I still have permissions when something they don’t understand breaks then trying to blame it on me.)

The trouble is that I have no idea how say “hey could you take away my permissions” without somehow implying that I might actually do something terrible if I still had them or that they might. For what it’s worth, I assume I still have permissions because a) our info sec practices are legitimately crap and no one has thought about it, b) all the legal problems are coming from HR and not my department, who I think are hoping this will all magically blow away so I can come back to work tomorrow, and c) there’s no one in the company above me who could do this, so they’re going to have to ask one of the junior staff who report to me to do it — so far there’s been radio silence to them about why I suddenly disappeared and the optics of this request are kind of bad.

You should be able to just be straightforward about it: “Hey, I’ve noticed that I still have permissions for XYZ and shouldn’t since I’m on leave. From a security standpoint, we should remove my access for now. Thanks!”

However, since you’re working with a lawyer, run this by her first. She should be in the loop on any communications you’re having with the company while you’re on leave.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 197 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Re: letter #5 — I removed some comments questioning how the OP knows she still has access, implying she did something wrong. She explains in the letter (“for what it’s worth, I assume I still have permissions because a) our info sec practices are legitimately crap and no one has thought about it”), it’s not what she’s asking for advice on, and the site rules are worth a review.

    1. LW5*

      I appreciate this.

      People seem really hung up on this so just to clarify, I still get administrator system alerts by email that I would not get if my access had been deactivated. (I have not received an email notifying me that my password has been expired or similar, which this program does automatically, so they haven’t taken some leser step like that.) They know I have access to this email account and in fact expect me to check it for communications from them, their insurance company, etc. (Whether or not that’s a good idea is a whole other kettle of fish.)

      1. hbc*

        That leaves you (or your lawyers) a pretty solid opening to say something. You can speak up about that being why you *suspect* you still have access, or they can raise the issue from a compensation perspective: “OP5 is supposedly on leave and not doing work, but receiving work-related emails on an account to which you are sending other communications that s/he needs to see. If s/he is reviewing access changes, that could be defined as work requiring payment.”

      2. Mookie*

        (LW5, just to say: very good luck to you regarding both this dispute and your career going forward, and kudos for being conscientious here.)

      3. BRR*

        What about something like “I’ve been receiving system email alerts. If it hasn’t happened yet, my access should be revoked to align with best practices.” Of course run this by your lawyer.

        1. Anonymous 40*

          I really like this approach. The LW’s phrasing above would work as is for an explanation: ” I still get administrator system alerts by email that I would not get if my access had been deactivated.” It brings up the issue of access without raising the same questions commenters were asking here.

      4. Czhorat*

        Is there honestly a reason you need to do this? If you don’t return to active employment with them after the legal fight it isn’t your issue. If you do, you can bring it up then.

        It’s also entirely possible that they have fixed it, unbeknownst to you. My concern with bringing it up is it could create the impression that you’ve been snooping, even if you’ve not been. In your shoes, I’d just ignore it. Keep all communication to the minimum required to deal with the legal dispute.

        1. Czhorat*

          I misread your comment. Given that you have proof that you do have access, you’d be best if saying something through your lawyer or with their advice.

        2. BethRA*

          As for LW’s “need” to do this – it’s a way to protect themself if something bad does happen on the network. LW can’t be accused of shenanigans if they don’t have the access to cause shenanigans.

          1. Czhorat*

            As I said, I misread it as an assumption that there’s access. That he’s seen proof means that he has access means that there’s a real possibility it can be public and that, with unequivocal proof, he has a pretty clear duty to be transparent on this for their perception if no other reason.

      5. paul*

        I’m amazed that people have a hard time accepting the idea of crappy info sec processes; they’re sadly common.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Right? The OP’s letter doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m surprised that others are surprised.

          1. Junior Dev*

            It’s one of the cultural divides between people who work in tech and people who don’t, I think. There’s​ a lot of poorly protected information in the world; to the extent that it’s safe, it’s usually because it’s not worth anyone’s time trying to get into it. Even with good infosec practice, there’s no 100% guarantee of anything, there’s only reasonable risk management.

            Now, if it’s your job to know how malicious actors might get into information in order to stop them from doing so, the flip side is you often see all the ways bad things could happen even in seemingly innocuous situations. It’s part of my job to make computer systems more secure; that means I have to understand the ways they could be insecure. But to people who don’t deal with those issues on a daily basis, all this can sound like scary hacker talk, or at least be hard to understand why someone could have good intentions yet still see opportunities to do harm.

      6. Leenie*

        Hi LW5 – My only advice would be that the communication should probably come from your lawyer, just for your own protection. Once attorneys are involved, that’s usually best practice. Sorry you’re going through this!

      7. Anonymous 40*

        This is very helpful in understanding the issue, so thanks for elaborating. I was thinking they could just deactivate your account temporarily, but that won’t work since you need to keep access to email.

        Also, I really respect your integrity here. I’ve fought losing battles to improve infosec practices in several IT departments I’ve worked in and this is a perfect example of why organizations need tighter processes around account management.

      8. ThursdaysGeek*

        I really hope you come back and give us an update – after you’ve had the lawyer contact them about the access, and again after this whole ordeal is over. Good luck – you sound like someone I’d be happy to have as a co-worker.

  2. neverjaunty*

    OP #2, since this guy was a complete butthead and hasn’t acknowledge it (and, as AAM says, is unlikely to), I would not reply with a “gracious” thanks. A polite but brief “thank you” is enough.

    There’s a whole gendered pattern of behavior that so often happens in circumstances where a dude is a butthead like this:
    1) Dude behaves like a butthead.
    2) Woman on the receiving end finally has enough.
    3) Dude DOES NOT acknowledge his buttheadery, much less apologize, but makes some kind of nice or cutsey gesture.
    4) Woman is then supposed to forgive, or at least pretend to, and responds warmly to the gesture.
    5) Dude goes on his merry way, never having admitted that he behaved like a butthead.

    I would skip steps 4 and 5.

    1. Jeanne*

      You’ve got it. Definitely skip steps 4 and 5. Reply, don’t reply, your choice. “Thank you for the birthday wish” is all that is required by etiquette. I’m not sure etiquette will make any difference in how this guy treats you. I know that’s not the point of etiquette. In this case, I’d probably go with If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.

      1. Mookie*

        I also like a dry “Cheers” here, sans punctuation. Something about leaving off punctuation makes ejaculations (erm, if you will) feel a little acerbic and LW2 has reason to feel that way.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          You’re so right! Which has the unfortunate effect that when people who are just slack with punctuation email like that I’m left going “was that dismissive or just them?”

          I vote for “Cheers [no period]” also. :D

        2. Apollo Warbucks*

          I had to look up the meaning of acerbic
          (especially of a comment or style of speaking) sharp and forthright.
          tasting sour or bitter.

          I know you meant the first, but I laughed way to hard at the second.

          1. Mabel*

            Thanks for pasting the definition. I right-clicked and looked it up, but I hadn’t switched to the other tab yet to read it. Now I don’t have to.

        3. Emi.*

          This is the basis for the Ha Ha Shutdown, taught to me by my college roommate. When a guy is flirt-joking with you by text and you’re not having it, you reply “ha ha ha ha ha” or similar–the key points are (a) no exclamation point, (b) more “ha”s than normal, and (c) spaces between then “ha”s, which is also acerbic for some reason. Works every time :)

          1. JamieS*

            Interesting approach. Personally I like the bluntly tell the guy I have no interest in them approach.

              1. JamieS*

                Yes being direct about your expectations does work. At the very least it saves you time if the company isn’t willing to budge.

                1. JamieS*

                  Sorry, I thought this was a reply to another comment I made. Ignore the second sentence, I stand by the first.

            1. Emi.*

              Yes, although that doesn’t always work as well when he hasn’t clearly expressed interest. I find the Ha Ha Shutdown works better when he’s being passive/covert, especially if he’s likely to deny it.

        4. Poohbear McGriddles*

          Pretty sure Acerbic Ejaculations opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in the 90s.

        5. Future Analyst*

          YES! An un-punctuated “thanks” also does the trick, with bonus points for no capitalization.

        6. Alienor*

          Fwiw, my 18-year-old daughter and her friends say that for their generation, it’s the opposite – if you end a message with a period, they read it as stern/yelling/mad. V. important to text back “ok” instead of “Ok.” :)

          1. Emi.*

            I’m your daughter’s generation, and I think it depends on the message. “Ok.” is more curt than “ok” with no punctuation, but “Thanks!” is friendlier than “thanks” with no punctuation.

          2. BeautifulVoid*

            I think there was some video going around recently about how a husband could tell how angry his wife was with him depending on whether she replied to his texts with “Okay”, “Ok”, or “ok”. If memory serves, there might be a t-shirt too, with accompanying translations about what each one means. (For both the video and the t-shirt, “Okay” means everything is fine. “ok”…not fine at all. ;) )

            1. Happy Lurker*

              Teenage daughter says
              okay = real good
              ok = good
              k = curt acknowledgement

              No punctuation in my child’s life, clearly.

    2. Zip Silver*

      If it makes you feel better, men do that to our male friends too. Move forward without really addressing whatever the issue was. Women aren’t really treated differently in that regard. I’ve seen guys who have been in fist fights Wednesday go hang out with each other on Friday (granted, the fight thing was in college, but the forgive and forget thing doesn’t go away with age)

      Although, ideally OP would be able to separate a dispute over a salary negotiation with a hiring manager from a happy birthday email from a “great mentor and friend” (her words)

      1. Roscoe*

        Exactly. That’s how I am with my friends. We can have an issue one day and be fine another day. I don’t think he is being a jerk for not wanting to rehash it. It’s just how some people, and a lot of guys operate. The negotiation didn’t work, so you move on. No sense in letting it affect a friendship

      2. Hrovitnir*

        I think the “pretend nothing happened” can be an excellent way to go depending what it was. You got in a fight you’re pretty confident you both feel bad about? Cool. You mess someone around then try and be buddy buddy? Related situation but not identical – how douchy that is is going to vary a lot. Given the power differential and cowardly way of refusing to negotiate here I don’t have a lot of time for the dude.

      3. OP#2*

        Thanks for noting this thing I left out, Zip! Yes, I would like to be on good terms with the old boss because, aside from this interaction going south, he believed in me as an employee and allowed me to learn and grow a ton in the role and in a field I was excited to work in. Also, like, to be a reference. We were a really small team and very close, so it’s weird that I haven’t shared a bunch of recent life events with him, including a wonderful new job. Maybe combing through everyone’s great comments will help me sort out the right words since Alison was appropriately frank about my question as-written!

        1. Jeanne*

          I understand what you’re saying but I believe you need a little time and space. Were you really close or were you close because you spent all day together? I left a job. Out of those I thought I was close to (about 15 people), I find I really only want to continue with two of them. Of course politeness is in order if you want to keep the reference. But if you give it a month, you may figure out who you truly want to keep in touch with. I see your boss as such an unequal friendship.

        2. Whats In A Name*

          But I think pretending like it didn’t happen will help you get to this goal. He was a butthead and if he doesn’t realize it asking him to acknowledge it might then put in a wedge. I am not saying that is the ideal, but it’s probably the reality.

          I’d just say “thanks” to the birthday wish and not push it any further. He may have totally forgot it.

      4. neverjaunty*

        Setting aside the many, many times I’ve seen men magnify a perceived slight into a huge conflict and steam about the other person failing to acknowledge they were a butthead–

        There is a difference between letting something drop, with everyone understanding “we’re letting it go”, and the kind of often-gendered insistence that one person play warm and fuzzy.

    3. The Bread burglar*

      I’m confused. I thought you said you suspect the woman doing it now receives more money than you did?

      How are you sure this is gender related? Maybe he wants to bring you back at your old salary because he hasnt run this idea by anyone else and has no power to negotiate a higher rate for you?

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        It may or may not be gendered, but it is definitely a butthead move.

        If he doesn’t have decision-making power, he should have said that he had to run it up the food chain, and, if he wants the LW to work for him again, actually do so and negotiate with TPTB. If the request is refused or too low, he should tell the LW the best offer he was able to get.

        1. The Bread burglar*

          True. He definitely behaved like a butt head.

          But I just wonder if he was asking for ages and she kept turning it down if he hadnt presented it to someone above him now (or ever) about it.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Then there would have been no need to be evasive and play games when the OP asked questions. Also, she knows this dude and we don’t; might be worth trusting that she has a better sense of whether gender issues were at play, rather than reflexively hunting for any other possible explanation.

            1. Emi.*

              Ehh, I can see him being evasive just because he doesn’t want to cop to being a gender-neutral butthead. If the OP’s gut says it’s a gender thing, that means more to me than just that he was being evasive.

      2. Seenow*

        Also you said it was a contract position which typically pays more but doesn’t include many of the benefits that non-contact employees get. Was that taken into consideration?

        1. Newby*

          I was wondering the same thing. Even so, his response sounds off. If the contact position made more because of the lack of benefits, he could have easily said so. Explaining the difference between a full time position and a contract position is not confidential information.

      3. Catch 22*

        The part that she feels is gender related is the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t position women are often in with respect to negotiating – not the fact that the person currently getting a higher salary is a woman.

        Also, even if your proposed reason why he won’t budge on salary is correct, then, well, he’s still a jerk for not either being open about that or, I don’t know, actually doing something to see if he could offer a higher salary.

      4. JamieS*

        I don’t know if OP’s former manager consciously acted like a jerk because OP is a woman but I agree with the OP that in general women tend to have a tougher time negotiating than men. However, and I know this isn’t a popular opinion for many, I think women are often part of the problem. Specifically how women tend to communicate. Speaking in generalizations women tend to ask for permission and take a more passive approach while men tend to be more assertive and demand their worth.

        Case in point, according to her letter, the OP asked if they could negotiate instead of stating she had to have a high salary to come back. When setting the tone of a salary negotiation there’s a difference between something the the effect of “I’m interested in coming back but I won’t be able to do so at the salary you’re offering so we need to come to terms on salary.” and “do you think I’d be able to negotiate my salary?”

        1. hbc*

          But the other side is the penalization of women when they speak just as forcefully as men. Like, how many men do you know who are called “bossy”? How many women?

          Studies upon studies have been done to prove that there’s no level playing field in terms of negotiation. If you send a man and a woman in to a car dealership with the precise same script to use, the man will get a better deal on his car.

          1. JamieS*

            Honestly I think a minority of women sometimes go too far to the other extreme and are too aggressive in their efforts to not be seen as a pushover but in general I agree there’s more unjustified push back for women. However I also think part of the problem is people expect women will be more passive which won’t change as long as women continue to meet that expectation.

            1. Rakket*

              That’s exactly the problem, though – in a lot of our experience, the sweet spot between “too passive” and “too aggressive” doesn’t actually exist.

        2. Carla*

          I think the OP first demanded she be paid more, based on her job responsibilities, and the manager said no, because it’s based on a calculation.

          Overall, I disagree with the point you’ve brought up. The problem is that there is an institutionalized wage gap where women are frequently underpaid compared to men in similar roles. A woman can’t sell herself as well as a man–she needs to be a few levels better, because she’s not just negotiating a salary, she’s attempting to negotiate around social biases. So, suggesting that women are part of the problem because they’re not as assertive is silly–the problem is that sometimes women need to be twice as assertive (but not too assertive!) to even have a chance at the same salary. This isn’t an issue that stems from communication, it’s an issue that stems from an overall undervaluing of the work women do.

          If I’m in a weight lifting competition with another person, and we are both the same size and the same strength, but I’m lifting 250 lbs and the other person is lifting 150 lbs, the problem isn’t that I didn’t train myself up to be stronger. It’s that I had more weight to lift.

          1. JamieS*

            Why are women underpaid? Part of the reason is women are less likely to negotiate and be more passive when we do. You may not like that but as long as that’s the rule and not the exception women won’t have 100% pay parity and it’s up to women to change the rule.

            Yes there are other biases that can be in play, I never claimed otherwise, but that doesn’t negate what I said.

        3. OP#2*

          Thanks for asking! Part of the problem was that, when I started with the organization 5 years before, I was given a contract and allowed to believe that the salary was based on an internal calculation and not negotiable. I can’t remember if it was explicitly or implicitly stated, but I was young, intimidated by the Big Organization, and excited about the job, so I didn’t press. Two years later, when I joined the new team and my responsibilities changed dramatically, my wages were still based on that original number. The longer I worked there, the more I heard both that salaries and contractor rates were nonnegotiable and also that I should have been negotiating all along.

          I signed three contracts with the former boss referenced in the question and never negotiated. Before signing a fourth, I tried to have a gentler conversation rather than outright ask ARE YOU UNDERPAYING ME?!?! I kind of expected similar courtesy given our relationship, which is why his reaction was so surprising.

          I still have no idea what was negotiable there, but I’m in a new job that offered me more than I initially asked for, and when I asked, “Should I be negotiating this still?” HR used words like “fair” and “equitable relative to your peers with similar experience.” So I guess I learned a lot even from that crummy interaction!

        4. Sketchee*

          Yes I had trouble following this negotiation initially and took a few re-reads to get those details.

          Why not just say “This is the number that I’m willing to accept, here are the market values. I’ve researched from competitive companies in the similar jobs in the industry.”

          How they internally arrive at the numbers and how he explains. That wouldn’t make me want to accept less if my research shows that it’s not a great offer.

          Although I might understand better where he’s coming from if we follow the same logic. That’s not a requirement for salary discussion for me as long as we are able to create a Win-Win situation. If it’s not a deal, then oh well just business.

          I don’t really see how this negotiation made sense from either the manager or LW’s view. How the calculations are arrived at within internal budgets? Not interesting. If I was splitting the bill at a restaurant with a friend, I wouldn’t need to know their internal budget. It’s just what I know I’m supposed to pay. (Not a perfect analogy overall, but on the budget point..)

      5. OP#2*

        I’m not sure it’s gender related, and have no reason based on our past relationship to think he’s explicitly sexist. But knowing that traditional salary negotiations and the expectation of them end up underpaying women (like me!) and being in a place that had vague positions on negotiating at all (I commented below about this), my feminist hackles were raised about the crappy systems that he was leaning on to stonewall me.

        1. HR Dave*

          To me, the telling piece is when he said “I can’t negotiate with myself!” This signifies that he was WILLING to negotiate, but you didn’t give him a negotiation. Saying “is this the best you can do?” and asking for the math is not negotiating. I don’t see anywhere that you asked for a salary you thought was reasonable based on the position and were turned down. The quote referenced above says that that’s what he was looking for – and what he never got from you.

          Yes, he’s a friend and mentor. But in this capacity he was acting in is duty (fiduciary and otherwise) to the company, and it would have been poor practice to, in his words, negotiate with himself. Obviously all the information I have is from this letter so there may well be other things at play here. But that’s what it looks like from here.

          1. Whats In A Name*

            Yes, this is kind of where I went to. That he was willing to discuss something specific if if the OP had come in with a request and some data to back it up (market comps, work history, work load, etc.)

            Also, when he said it was based on a calculation I was thinking the current stated wage was the discrepency of full time vs. contract worker.

            A FT employee at the company I work with might get paid $50,000 with a benefits package that is valued at 22% of their salary. So when they hire a contract employee into a similarly rated position they pay them an annualized rate of $61,000 ($50K + 22%). It seems like more but once you get into all the headaches of self-employment you realize it’s not really. So it is literally a calculation.

          2. Misc*

            Yeah. I can see other ways it could have gone but i used this exact phrase once trying to arrange a contract bid with a personal friend who I knew would probably accept whatever I said but I didn’t want to screw over but I didn’t want to give them an unjustified rate but I didn’t want to low valley them and have them burn out on me/never take any more work… it was hard enough keeping the work/personal separate without also needing to coach them through giving me a realistic quote that we could then negotiate directly.

            1. Misc*

              Low ball not valley :D
              But basically, I needed to know what THEY could do/required so that I could decide if that was worth it to us, not do all the work of arguing both sides to reach a perfect compromise of actual value vs what I thought they wanted vs what the company would pay.

    4. Roscoe*

      Well, the reason I think its a bit different is because there is a mentor and friend relationship here outside of the working one. Even if OP thinks it has to do with her gender, the fact is, this person was her friend before negotiations went south. She can still want to preserve their friendship despite not wanting to work for him again. And if this is the case, I think being gracious should be part of it. Some people are very good at separating parts of their lives. Others aren’t. But I wouldn’t say she shouldn’t forgive him personally for something he did in more of a professional situation.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Why wouldn’t a polite “thanks” preserve their friendship? Nobody is suggesting she tell him to die in a fire.

        1. Roscoe*

          If you are friends with someone and they send you a one word reply, its kind of implied that you don’t really want to deal with them. I mean there are a bunch of responses above about being terse.

          1. neverjaunty*

            If this were a social friend without all the backstory of how this guy behaved toward the OP, sure, but that isn’t the situation.

    5. Om noms*

      Brilliant. I am going to remember this. It’s not just men and women– it’s true anywhere there’s a power imbalance.

  3. Jeanne*

    #1, Please don’t use your own money for the barbecue. Don’t let the boss blame you when it’s not your fault. I have to wonder if boss ever had permission to use company money for the barbecue. I’m sure boss earns more than you. She can use company money (from batteries or other sources) or she can use her own money or everyone can skip it. Be honest with your coworkers. Feel no guilt.

    1. Mookie*

      All of this. LW, investing your own money to feed and boost the morale of your co-workers is not your responsibility and is a system that will never be sustainable. Nipping this in the bud now (send your manager an e-mail, since he rarely visits, acknowledging that his solution is not possible under the present conditions) will spare you having to prioritize BBQ!!1! over other, more pressing duties and will relieve you of the burden of having to ‘solve’ a problem countless corporations encounter every day. Your manager can delegate the role of battery-selling to other people or he can figure something else out. This company sounds like a private, for-profit enterprise, and you are not responsible for providing them with charity. Drawing a line in the sand won’t just benefit you, but everyone who comes after you, as well.

    2. Susan*

      Yeah, I think using the money from the batteries for a barbecue is questionable. Some people at my old job got in big trouble because they sold some scrap metal (which they had been told to throw away, so the company didn’t even have any plans to sell it) and used the proceeds to buy food for the department. I think someone may have even been fired for it.

        1. evan*

          Depends where you live. In my jurisdiction selling scrap of any kind whether it be batteries or scrap metal without banking the proceeds through the company bank accounts could earn you a criminal conviction if the company came looking. Wouldn’t matter how you spent it if you didn’t put it back through the company books and have the official approval of HO to spend it and the paperwork to prove it.

          In this case it’s not going to the company, it’s going to a social event for the employees. If it was going to the company they could spend it on tax or maintenance or whatever they chose to spend it on. If the money comes in and is diverted outside the company accounts to a barbeque then in most companies I have worked in, (absent a written permission letter etc), this would be seen as potentially fraud. This is because the company is not getting to choose how the money is spent mainly cos they don’t know about it. While this is a strict interpretation, I’ve seen people terminated for (eg) selling the batteries and giving the cash to their boss (who then spent it on a barbeque / popularity gainer) when if they’d just banked it through the company accounts, the company probably would have funded the bbq anyway.

          If you aren’t sure, get your boss to put it in writing so you are covered. If they hedge, then just say you aren’t comfortable without a written authority. If you don’t get a written authority then at least you know where you stand.

          1. Bagpuss*

            could this not be addressed by getting the scrap merchant to pay by cheque payable to the company, and provide that to your boss?. That way, you’re in the clear and boss can deal with any internal issues.

          2. Elsajeni*

            But this assumes that they’re not already doing it through the company books and with approval, which I don’t think there’s any evidence of in the letter. As you mentioned, it’s totally possible to sell the scrap, put the proceeds in the company accounts, and then have the company approve the boss to spend that amount on a barbecue; I don’t see any reason to assume they’re not doing it that way.

          3. Yorick*

            I don’t think we have evidence that the money is diverted away from the company, just that the amount raised this way will be used to fund barbecues

            1. Steve*

              Actually I do think from the story that the very reason the battery money is being used is to get it done outside the normal system. You get money for battery “cores” for recycling (similar to getting a soda can deposit back) and you can take it as cash. At least the OP and his boss are being more ethical about it than the people I’ve seen who just kept the money for themselves.

          4. TootsNYC*

            There’s no indication that’s what’s happening.

            The OP sold the batteries, the company got the income, which is not part of an expected revenue stream. All of the expected revenue has been assigned to a role already (covering normal expenses, providing profit).
            This unexpected revenue isn’t assigned, so the manager/company/boss can do whatever he wants with it without interfering with those expense/profit expectations.

          5. Statler von Waldorf*

            Yup, I have seen companies audited by the CRA (Canada’a IRS) and got nailed for tax evasion for failure to declare scrap metal sales as business income. Yes, it’s quite possible that the company is doing things by the book and is declaring this, but in my experience, most small companies just don’t. It’s a fairly easy and safe way to avoid some business taxes, and I’ve never met a small business owner who wanted to pay a penny more in taxes than they had to.

        2. Susan*

          The people at my old job didn’t keep the money, either. They basically did the same thing as letter #1 — they used the money to fund department pizza parties. I don’t think OP #1 is doing anything wrong, because she’s doing what her manager told her to do, but “just following orders” isn’t always enough to protect someone if it turns out that the manager is not going through the proper channels to fund the barbecues. I suppose it’s possible that this is all above board and approved by the company, but I don’t get that sense from the letter.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I have no idea what kind of batteries are involved in this, so this idea may not be safe or sane.

      LW, could you propose a yearlong company battery drive where people drop batteries off in a designated place and the number received would dictate the number of barbeques? That way you don’t have to do the leg work and the reason that only one barbecue happens is transparent. It might go over better than just asking for cash donations because it wouldn’t feel like paying for what was once free.

      1. Catalin*

        I love this idea. It may be the perfect solution to a lousy situation because 1) it puts onus on the entire company to contribute and 2) makes it clear that the battery-bbq connection takes work that should (honestly) never have been the LW’s to begin with.

      2. Nephron*

        I was thinking of something similar while reading the letter. If these are special batteries like from a car, or some type of collected scrap. You might mention getting small assistance on this task, can IT improve the website so people who might have the batteries know you guys scrap them, if there are people outside the company that email you about the batteries can someone help manage those emails, or can people look around and explore the places that you are selling them to so you can get the best prices without as much time researching.

      3. Jessesgirl72*

        Yeah, OP runs the warehouse, but surely she can’t be the one and only person capable of doing this? And year ’round, instead of trying to do it all in the summer seems more reasonable, as well.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Also–now might be the time to set up a system for selling them that’s more automated and easy to maintain.

      4. Lora*

        Yeah, something like this. I would go for complete transparency, via mass email: “several people have asked me about summer BBQs. The BBQs are being funded by Battery Scrapping Project, so if there is any way you can contribute to the Battery Scrapping Project – batteries, putting the batteries in a truck, inventory adjustment, etc – please contact me. The more people help, the more batteries we can scrap, and the more and better BBQs we can have! Thanks in advance for your help!”

        If nobody helps, or there’s not enough help, or people are hinting but not being useful, you can always say, “yeah, there isn’t enough money from Battery Project this year to support BBQs, but if you want to organize a potluck I’ll be happy to bring the seven-layer dip” or whatever.

      5. TootsNYC*

        Or, get some coworkers to help you deal with the logistics of selling the scrap batteries.

        (I’m also wondering–maybe part of what’s going on is the boss wants you to get those batteries out of there more frequently, and this is an oblique way to do it.)

      6. Alli*

        If they’re normal household batteries, instruct people to put a piece of electrical tape over each end to prevent fires.

    4. Adlib*

      Yeah, I’m wondering since that during the first year they did it they had “several”, if too much company money was spent on it, and boss’s boss said no more unless there was some way to get extra money to fund them.

      My office is starting a monthly or bi-monthly office event that we all have to take turns at suggestions and organizing them. If no one volunteers for a month, the office manager will just pick someone. Not a fan.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Really this is on the boss for hyping the bbqs so much that people are clamoring for them. He needs to either find a different way to fund them or manage employee expectations appropriately.

    5. Electric Hedgehog*

      Why not recommend a potluck, and Boss can pay for the meat? That’s what my group generally does for our thanksgiving celebration.

    6. Liet-Kynes*

      And if the damn coworkers want multiple barbecues, they can kick $20 in for the general fund or bring some buns and hot dogs their damnselfs.

  4. TheGuyWhoWouldInvestigateYou*

    OP #5, Don’t do anything. Anything you say will draw further attention.

    Whatever you do, don’t check to make sure you have still have access. Just assume they disabled your account. There is no good explanation for why your account should be logging in. If, someone does decide to question your access or look to see when you last logged in, if there is any sign of login activity during your involuntary leave there will be a major investigation and you will be presumed guilty. There is very little you can do to prove you did NOT do something. Companies with “crap infosec” are even worse. Although they may not have the logs to prove you did anything (if you didn’t), it won’t stop them from being suspicious of you and possibly attributing something to anyways.

    1. KR*

      Could OP frame it like, “It occurred to me we might not have a policy in place to address this kind of unique situation. I would recommend asking Belinda on the IT team to disable my account for the time being from a security standpoint.” As long as she doesn’t try to log in, she still covers her butt by suggesting it and signals to the company that she has their best interests at heart.

      1. Newby*

        Run it by the lawyer obviously, but maybe she could contact whoever is temporarily in her position to say something like “It looks like I will be on a leave of absence for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure if you have done this yet, but please make sure that my accounts and permissions are deactivated.”

    2. Gen*

      I absolutely agree. I accidentally logged into the system for a job that had let me go ‘temporarily’ because they never changed the password for the role and I’d foolish hadn’t deleted it from my keychain when I logged out and deleted my browser history for the last time. I was only legged in for about a minute before I realised and didn’t move past the welcome screen but it was enough for me to never be able to work there again because it was just too suspicious looking. It would almost certainly look worse since OP is out on unpaid leave and lawyers are involved. Maybe mention it to the lawyers but don’t go anywhere near their systems

    3. Mookie*

      Any insight into why a company involved in a discrimination suit wouldn’t be advised by their legal team to pull this kind of access immediately? How negligent are they here?

      1. LW5*

        I KNOW RIGHT

        This is why I kind of feel like I should say something, but maybe I should just let sleeping dogs lie.

        To be honest, I’m not sure the people in HR who have the bugbear about my disability have done much actual talking to lawyers. Very little they say passes legal muster.

        1. neverjaunty*

          You have a lawyer – ask her.

          The last thing you want to find out is that you did (or didn’t do) something that is going to be used against you, and that your lawyer got sandbagged because you never mentioned it.

          1. Bagpuss*

            This. Speak to your lawyer, and then (subject to her advice) send a letter either from you or from her saying something along the lines of:

            “As you know, I currently still have access to my work e-mail account which you have been using to communicate with me in relation to [claim]. I have noticed that I am also receiving administrator alerts to that account. As I am currently on leave I have, of course, not accessed the requests or the system, but the fact they are being sent to my account suggests that I would still have access to the database and [whatever you would have access to] but also that these alerts may not be going to, or being actioned by, [whoever is currently dealing with IT.]

            For those reasons I would suggest / request that you arrange for my admin access to be suspended pending my return to work or any other outcome of the current process”

            That way, you are making it clear that you have not accessed anything and you are making a very clear request. But un it by your lawyer first and see what they say.

        2. Sara without an H*

          LW5 — Tell your lawyer what you’ve told AAM, and then follow her advice. Your employer sounds criminally stupid, and stupid people in packs can be dangerous. Get legal advice before you do anything and document absolutely everything.
          And here’s to a happy outcome of your case.

        3. TootsNYC*

          actually, this legal question is exactly why I think you SHOULD have your lawyer send them a letter alerting them and asking them to turn off that access.

          God forbid you should reflexively type in a URL, or start one URL and have it autocomplete to the company’s, and you not notice!!

      2. Anonymous 40*

        Lawyers are THE WORST about this kind of stuff unless they deal specifically with technology issues. I was once the IT guy for a legal office of about 30 people where they insisted on keeping everyone’s network and voicemail passwords in a spreadsheet. That included everyone with network admin access – me and the consultants who backed me up when I was out. In three years the biggest concession to security I was able to get was keeping the spreadsheet in a folder with restricted access. Not even a password on the spreadsheet.

    4. CanCan*

      Also, if you’re thinking that they don’t have logs and so will not know whether you tried to access — you might be asked under oath whether you tried to log in while you were on leave and why. So just don’t access it anymore – even to check.

  5. Anne (with an "e")*

    #1 I would very clearly explain the situation to the people who are making hints. Then, I would suggest that if they really want a company barbecue so very much that they could all chip in equally for the event.

    1. Luke*

      There is some research to the effect that a woman is more likely to be negatively perceived for negotiating a salary.

      Regardless of ones gender, it should be noted: if you negotiate salary ,be prepared for an unhappy response by the employer. Some hiring managers have a strange definition of “appropriate compensation”,and will not react well to a candidate negotiating in good faith. Consider it a warning of things to come had the position been accepted.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Please be kind to commenters. Thanks.

      Lots of people get burnout in jobs they love. They’re not mutually exclusive.

      1. Not Australian*

        Totally agree. Not wanting to sidetrack the discussion at all, but it’s easy to slip into the unconscious habit of ‘making more of an effort’ in a job you love or, conversely, keeping something in reserve in a job you’re iffy about. Burnout can therefore be quicker in a job where you’re actually happy, because you may neglect to pace yourself appropriately.

        1. Mookie*

          Great point. It’s not a sign of moral weakness or deficiency to burn oneself out and it’s not always possible to find employment where being overworked is uncommon. Being informed that your full-time position is going to turn into a temporary contract would make plenty of people anxious, and particularly those who love the job and want to make the unexpected inconvenience of this change work.

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Truth. The only job that burned me out was the one where I was so passionate about the work that I a) put up with a lot of institutional dysfunction that made me miserable and b) pushed myself to and occasionally past my limits. I stayed at it twice as long as I should have. It still breaks my heart that I left that work, but my head is much healthier.

        1. OP#2*

          Not sorry I missed the original comment but thanks to all of you for your kind words and commiseration!

  6. MommyMD*

    LW explicitly states he/she still has access to the login. I think it’s not in the best interest of LW to brush aside the very REAL possibility that employer will ask how LW knows this. The best course may be to say nothing and stay completely away from employer’s sites. This is not to accuse LW of anything, it’s just a probable scenario. Theguywhowouldinvestigateyou gives excellent advice. It sounds as if he has first hand experience in these investigations.

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      If it was me, I would tell my lawyer my concerns. Odds are they could figure out a way to ask about it that wouldn’t drop the OP in hot water

    2. Mike C.*

      There are tons of passive ways of knowing that one has access to things, such as passive notifications and automatic emails.

      I can’t for the life of me understand why people are so hung up on this. It’s 2017, technology is complicated and customizable. This isn’t strange or weird in any way.

      1. paul*

        It’s not strange or weird but it’s also not a bad idea for the letter writer to engage in a healthy amount of CYA.

    3. neverjaunty*

      No, the best course is for the LW to talk to her lawyer.

      You know that thing your patients do where they say “oh by the way, I have X symptom which I forgot to tell you about for six months”, and X is a pretty big deal in terms of diagnosis and treatment? Telling the LW to do nothing is the equivalent here of telling a patient not to bother their doctor by telling them about X.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 It can be really hard if someone unexpectedly reminds you of a stressful time, especially if the situation went unresolved in some way and thus left you without closure. You might feel ambushed, for example.

    How you feel is understandable but Alison is of course right: it’s unlikely you’ll get him to see he’s been a butthead. There’s no perfect solution here, just the least-worst one you can find.

  8. Aloot*

    #3: I wouldn’t say anything until the legal matter is concluded, one way or another. It’s just too big of a risk that they can spin “hey guys, I can still access this stuff” against you.

    Them having shit practices doesn’t reflect on you (unless you wrote or cowrote the guidelines?), and if something *does* go wrong and they try to pin it on you, they should have other ways of finding out if you really did. (I don’t think court is going to accept “She did it cause she still had access!” as actual evidence.) It also means that they have to declare themselves how shitty their ITSEC is.

    If you have to though, not only should you run it by the lawyer first, but the lawyer should be the one who tells them.

    #1: Speak up now! Ask your boss if the plan for funding the bbq is the same as last year, and if he says yes, let him know your concerns! The more time you give him that hs plan for last year might not work so well this year the better it is.

    As for your coworkers, next time one hints at you, tell them that you have a lot of tasks at hand (“Yo, I’m a busy person!” – use the phrasing Allison suggested) and that they should bring it up with boss, not *you.* You’re not the organizer, you’re just a fundraiser!

    And yeah, do NOT use ANY of your own money on this! You think it’s going to be just this year, but you’ll be setting the expectation that this is the way that things will be done from now on.

    #2: If you want to remain on friendly terms, just send him a “thanks for the best wishes!” and leave it be. If you try to confront him in some way about his butthead behavior he might just double down to save face/out of misguided principle.

  9. Akcipitrokulo*

    #5 – if in the UK, maybe lawyer asking company, as a matter of course, if they are complying with DPA regarding your access?

  10. Mookie*

    “I can’t negotiate with myself.”

    This guy is so ridiculous. “I wish I could but I’m glad I can’t because I said so, that’s why.” What is he even trying to say here?

    1. neverjaunty*

      I think he means “I’m not going to bid against myself”, which is the thing in a negotiation where the other person doesn’t counteroffer but tries to get you to unilaterally change what you’re offering. It makes no sense in this context, though.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, “negotiating with myself” is a thing but it doesn’t apply here. It’s something you manipulate people into doing by being noncommittal/acting ambivalent about their current offer, thus pressuring them to come up without explicitly declining or asking for more. But the OP did explicitly ask if that was the highest offer he could give, so he wasn’t negotiating with himself at that point, he was negotiating with her.

      2. AnotherHRPro*

        Yes, this is what I wanted to point out. I think the OP missed the part where she actually counters the offer. In negotiations, you don’t just ask if you can get more money. You ask for a specific amount. “Sorry, I can’t accept the position for $X. Would you be willing to do $Y?” If the OP didn’t actually counter, that is why the ex-boss said they were not going to bid against them self.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Sure, but instead of acting like he did, assuming he really wanted to hire her, he could have asked her what it would take to get her on board.

          It was a game of chicken and both of them refused to flinch. OP was trying to find out how much the person replacing her had made, and wanted them to match that. The ex boss was trying to get her back at her old salary, and wasn’t really trying to negotiate either.

        2. LBK*

          I got the impression that she was trying to get more info that would allow her to come up with a better number and he was being cagey about it, so ultimately she ended up just asking if even could do anything (or, basically, was she wasting her time even trying). I’d agree with you if she’d opened the negotiation that way, but it sounds more like this was the conclusion of the negotiation after she got frustrated with the rest of the conversation.

        3. Yorick*

          I mean, sometimes. But I got a decent increase by saying “that’s lower than I expected” and the hiring manager offered to go back to HR for a counteroffer. If I had said that and he replied in a very negative way, maybe I wouldn’t have been as interested.

          1. AnotherHRPro*

            It may work sometimes, but in my opinion it is more effective to be specific. Otherwise you are shifting the power back to the other party. It is always good to be upfront on what you want vs. letting someone else have to guess what you want.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      “And yet, you are. Because half of you wants me, but the other half doesn’t want to pay what it takes to get me. Let me know which half wins.”

    3. Lora*

      “You’re not negotiating with yourself, you’re negotiating with ME. So basically your answer is No, it’s not the best you CAN do but it’s the best you’re GOING to do.”

      This guy sucks at negotiating. I bet he thinks he’s awesome and taking such a hard line and trying to talk someone in so many circles they get dizzy and just agree to his nonsense.

      And the calculations should not feel like a secret? They ARE apparently a secret, either show your work or get outta town.

      Does he even know how negotiations work, in general?
      “I would like you do to a thing.”
      “I might be able to do the thing. What are you offering?”
      “We’re offering a one-time payment of 2 tons of expired fishsticks and a merit-based bonus of a ketchup bottle.”
      “Hmm, that’s not going to work for me. I was hoping for at least some money.”
      “I can’t negotiate with myself.”
      “Uh…what? What’s the deal with the fishsticks? How did you come by two tons of expired fishsticks?”
      “Well, it’s not a secret.”
      “It’s very mysterious, is what I’m saying.”
      “You could have found out why, when you used to work here.”
      “I really don’t recall any fishstick-related business though…”

      “Happy birthday!”

      Like…what in tarnation is this nonsense?

      1. OP#2*

        HAHA thank you for the laugh. I *wish* there had been merit-based ketchup bonuses or that I had been this eloquent.

  11. BRR*

    #1 in addition to saying it might not be a big revenue generator, can you ask for help with the batteries or other duties if you still have to do it?

  12. Emi.*

    #4 I think “I wish you all the best” sounds less cliche than “I’m sending you best wishes,” partly because “sending” wishes is an awkward phrase (Do they come with tracking and delivery confirmation? What do you do when they arrive?) and partly because “wish you X” is more flexible (you can wish someone luck, good health, speedy recovery, safe travels, good grades, etc etc etc) so it sounds less like you just plonked a Phrase down.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Although I agree with the slight awkwardness, I think this is also one of those situations where you shouldn’t let fear of saying something awkward keep you from saying anything at all. This is an awkward situation, but I think one where a quick acknowledgement is important. I’ve recently been dealing with some logistics around a sudden death and needed to take some time off work. When I mentioned it to my supervisor she commented that she’d dealt with the death of a family member not long ago and to take the time I needed. “I’m so sorry for your loss” sounds stupid and inadequate, but I’m sure that people dealing with loss are used to it, and it seemed cold not to say anything at all.

      1. Op4*

        This is more or less where I’m at! I appreciate the reminder that they’re probably hearing “I’m so sorry to hear that” several times a day, and while it sounds lame to me, they aren’t necessarily looking for genuine human connections.

        (Though–since some folks have made objections to the term ‘overshare’–some of them *do* seem to be looking for genuine human connections, but I guess it’s not up to me, someone who has never talked to this person before, to provide that.)

        1. Newby*

          It is also possible that they are trying to signal that they do not want to be contacted again. If they are fielding a lot of requests for freelance or other work and physically can’t do it, spreading the word that they are ill helps cut down on those requests.

  13. Czhorat*

    On salary negotiations, one of my best former bosses said he had one bit of advice in asking for a raise, and it was too late for us; negotiate the best salary you can when you start because you’ll never get a really big jump from that.

    This feels a bit like the same concept taken to an extreme; even though you’d left, he feels that your value has been set at your old salary.

    I don’t think it’s inappropriate for you to say “I was uncomfortable with how the salary discussion went when you talked about hiring me again. I didn’t feel that you handled it as respectfully or professionally as you works have with a new candidate” and see how he reacts.

    1. Zathras*

      I like the language in your last paragraph but I think I would only say that if he brought up the subject of hiring you – I wouldn’t bring it up out of the blue, and I wouldn’t say it at all unless you’re willing to risk your relationship with this guy. Because it’s a reasonable thing to say, but he’s already shown you that he’s not super reasonable on this topic.

    2. LBK*

      Obviously this is anecdotal so take it with a grain of salt, but three times in my career now I’ve been given pretty substantial off-cycle raises within the first year of starting a job because after seeing me work, my manager decided my starting salary was too low. This was under three different managers, too, so it’s not like I just lucked out and found one nice person.

      Now, I’m sure the argument is that I lost out on higher pay during the months before those raises, so I should’ve negotiated for more from the start, which is fair. But it’s also harder to negotiate when the person is only going based on what they’ve learned from you in a very short hiring process vs actually seeing the quality of your work; I don’t think I could’ve convinced them to go up as much as the raises ended up being, so in the long run it’s probably worked out the same or even better.

      Just one data point to consider, especially if you’re someone like me who can pick things up quickly so that I can provide a lot of value to the team early on (ie long before it gets to annual review/raise time).

      1. Koko*

        Yeah, I think what Czhorat’s boss said is a general but not fast rule. Our HR department has people who approve new job descriptions and periodically review existing ones, and determine the median value for that job, with metro area adjustments. The job has to pay +/- some percentage of the median, and the deviation from median should be justified by the employee’s tenure and/or work quality. I’ve gotten 2 large bumps in 5 years, in one case because I was an inexperienced new hire who shattered all my stretch goals so they bumped me from below median to above it, and in another case because after a couple years I’d begun doing my job at a significantly higher level so they promoted me in place with a new title and a rewritten job description that was priced at a substantially higher pay rate.

        That said, I know the reality is that most companies aren’t so methodical about fairly determining compensation and want to just give COL increases or throw out 3% here, 5% there as a pat on the head.

        1. LBK*

          Totally agreed. I think the safest/closest you can get to a blanket version of the rule is as Czhorat says, that you make your biggest increases when you change jobs, but it’s not universal. I’ve made waaaay more from raises than I have from job changes. In fact, a few of the job changes I made were increases in salary but still effectively pay cuts because I was moving from teams that were maxing out on lucrative bonus structures to teams that didn’t tie monthly/quarterly compensation as directly to sales performance.

      2. Chriama*

        Same with my company, it’s the first and only one I’ve worked with since graduating. Salaries were frozen for a couple years after I started but I got back to back substantial raises within about 8 months once they unfroze.

  14. Antilles*

    OP#2: The brutally unfortunate truth of the situation is that there’s nothing you could possibly type in an email (or say in a phone call) that would result in you getting the kind of honest recognition of errors and admission of “I was a horrible jerk” that you’re hoping for. *Nothing*. No matter what you say or how eloquently you say it. The absolute best you can hope for is a half-hearted “sorry you feel that way, but (lame excuses)” non-apology. More like, he’d completely blow it off (you’re just upset that you couldn’t negotiate more salary), take it as some sort of insult (I did wrong? Me? No, no, let’s talk about how you were wrong to expect an enormous salary bump), or some other response where he doesn’t even acknowledge your complaints.
    Just reply with a casual “thanks for the birthday wishes” and leave it at that. It stinks, but your best response here is to just take the high road so you can keep him as a professional contact/reference/etc.

  15. Falling Diphthong*

    OP4, I don’t think it’s fair to call this oversharing. The fact that there is no suave rejoinder to “I have dementia” reflects that it sucks, not that it cannot ever be shared.

    “I have a cold”–> you might try next week.
    “I have dementia”–> take off lists for future work.
    “I am having chemo”–> don’t call for a good number of months.

    Giving the reason is the freelancer putting a hard line on follow-up contacts, forestall any pleading with them to take it just this once, etc. Somewhere in the archives I think there’s a letter from a woman whose manager managed to get into her chemo treatments because why couldn’t she do useful work during them? If they are giving you a five-minute rundown on the exact shades of their nausea that’s oversharing. But telling you the medical reason for their current freelance schedule is being upfront about how non-negotiable this is.

    1. C Average*

      Yeah, I agree with this.

      My sister, an archivist, had cancer last year. (She’s cancer-free and doing great now.) Before her illness she was kind of a force of nature in her field: she put together grants, collaborated on articles, sat on boards, volunteered extensively ftrelated causes, etc. All this in addition to a full-time government job.

      When cancer struck, she had to scale waaaaay back on the optional stuff, and she went to part-time intermittent status at her job. She didn’t enjoy disclosing her condition, but it was really the only way to bow out of her commitments and avoid taking on new commitments without looking unprofessional, flaky, etc.

      I think “Good luck, I’ll be thinking of you” or something similarly bland is just right in these situations. Cancer patients and other people facing serious illnesses are getting plenty of Real Talk from their friends, family, and medical team.

    2. CM*

      Yes. I would say, “Thanks for responding to my request. I’m sorry to hear about your health issues, and wish you the best.” This tells the person that you heard them and will respect that they are not available for a while ( or maybe ever) by not making additional requests.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I agree that it’s not necessarily oversharing, but this level of detail isn’t strictly necessary, either. Or shouldn’t be. You should be able to say “I’m not accepting this type of project right now, while I deal with a health issue, but I should be back in the game by January” if you don’t want to say ‘I’m having chemo.” And if you don’t want to tell people you have dementia, you really don’t need to say anything beyond “I’m no longer doing this type of work.”

    4. Op4*

      Thanks for replying! That is a sensible reframing. (I was imagining sad old Oxford Dons in their one-bedroom tower apartments wishing they had made time for children because their colleagues have stopped asking about them and now they are desperate for human contact.)

      Though for what it’s worth, there’s often a *lot* more info than that (the dementia one in particular had a lot more detail and pathos). Perfect strangers have also told me in detail about their protracted custody battles, contested parental care situations, and reasons for leaving the monastery. I have a weird job.

      1. Chinook*

        OP4, could these people be responding in such detail because they feel guilty about turning you down? I have had that happen when looking for volunteers where almost everyone who turned me down would often feel like they needed to give a valid excuse for saying no to my request. My responses ended up being something along the lines of “I understand” combined with “‘no’ is a complete sentence, no explanation is required.”

        Luckily, because it was a group of Catholic women I was calling, I could also add “We will keep you in our prayers” if called for because “I will be thinking of you” just seems so inadequate when told of someone’s bad personal circumstances, which is probably why it feels so wrong to you.

        As for them giving you more details than you expected, I came across that too the odd time because the person was either a) an oversharer or b) living alone and lacking human contact for a certain time (I have been known to do that when it has been a couple of days at home alone). If they fall into category b, I suspect they will remember you taking your time to listen to them and be open to helping you in the future if they are able to.

      2. CM*

        That’s interesting. I’ve had that happen a couple of times in a similar situation (nonprofit asking people to do stuff). I think sometimes people have nobody to talk to and feel like they can’t bring up these difficult situations, so while they have an opening to talk about it, they take the opportunity to unburden themselves.

      3. Bea*

        When my beloved former boss was diagnosed with early onset Dementia, he told quite a few random people. He was a typically morbid fellow who would also tell me things like “When I get worse, you can’t let me do X, Y or Z anymore!” And I’d sit there in my 20 something year old haze like “…Oh dear of course not…” while thinking “But who am I to stop you, you grouchy turkey!”

        So in some cases, when it’s severe issues like a terminal illness or absolutely bonkers story of custody battles, it can very well be that they’re at their breaking point and don’t have a filter on there anymore.

        My advice is to always respond kindly enough of “I’m so sorry to hear that” and if it’s something that can and will probably get better, of course wish them a speedy recovery but otherwise just be kind and feel free to keep the responses short. They are doing this out of fear and anxiety, they don’t really expect strangers to say much back other or to have a magic cure in their pocket.

  16. Zathras*

    #1, I think you should also talk to your boss about the pressure people are putting on you, as long as you trust your boss to handle that without making you the bad guy. And you should definitely not make up the shortfall out of your own pocket! This isn’t about you failing in some way, this is about people having unfair expectations of you, which is your boss’s fault.

    One thing your boss could do, which you might suggest to him, is set a date for a BBQ and have a backup funding plan to cover any shortfall. Maybe that’s his own money, maybe the company will pitch in a small amount, or maybe he would ask all attendees to chip in $5. (The last option still kind of sucks, because not everyone has $5, but if people genuinely enjoy the event they might be OK with it.)

    Alternatively, I have no idea what is involved in scrapping the batteries, but if it’s something anyone could easily be shown how to do, maybe other staff could pitch in? Obviously this doesn’t work as well if the task requires lots of safety training or is highly skilled.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      #1, I think you should also talk to your boss about the pressure people are putting on you, as long as you trust your boss to handle that without making you the bad guy.

      Sounds like the boss is one of the people putting some pressure on the LW, so I wouldn’t expect a lot of support from that end.

      1. Zathras*

        It’s not clear to me if the boss just told OP #1 that the battery money would fund the BBQ, and left it at that, or if he’s also leaning on her to hurry up and raise the funds. The boss is certainly the cause of the pressure either way, but he may genuinely not realize the position he’s put OP in with her coworkers, especially if he’s usually not on site.

        But even if he’s also leaning on her, if he’s otherwise reasonable, you could still go to him and say “look, this is putting a lot of pressure on me to do this one task which from a business standpoint is really low priority. I very rarely have time for it because there are only so many hours in a week and I need to prioritize business-essential tasks X, Y, and Z. I feel like I’ve been put in a position where if I prioritize doing my job well, the BBQ might not happen, and people will blame me for it – is there something we can do to address that?”

        It’s also not clear to me whether part of the problem is that there aren’t enough batteries to scrap. She should also point that out if that’s the case.

        I feel like there’s always an unspoken “unless your boss/coworker/company/etc is totally unreasonable” tagged on the end of most advice given here.

  17. Jessesgirl72*

    Op5: Whatever communication there is between you and the company needs to go through your lawyer. Full Stop.

    I’d be afraid of being blamed if something broke too. Have your lawyer ask them to remove your credentials, citing the emails you’re still receiving.

    1. LW5*

      The local process from a government level strongly emphasises “self-representation” for the first couple of rounds of attempted intervention. (It’s my understanding, the intention is to provide more layers than the US has, where there’s pretty much nothing between ‘hope your company is reasonable’ and ‘take them to court (or threaten to and hope they back off)’ in many cases. So while I am working with lawyers, all the communication is still directly through me.

      I am not sure why it didn’t occur me to ask her about the IT stuff. It seems really obvious once someone says it, but it’s easy to get caught up with a million things happening at once.

  18. Employment Lawyer*

    5. Telling company to revoke my IT access during our legal dispute
    Tell your lawyer and she’ll deal with it. We handle this stuff all the time.

  19. itsallgood*

    LW -5 insist that your permissions be revoked, because you do not want to be implicated if something coincidentally happens to the database or other important information while you are in a legal dispute. Have your attorney make the request in writing to the company.

    1. Op4*

      Yeah, this is super important. (As the LW probably knows) Old, unused accounts with really sensitive permissions are tempting targets for hackers. If their security setup is “kind of crap” in general, I’d worry a lot about someone getting into an old admin’s account without anyone noticing.

      1. LW5*

        Yeah, these two things are what I’m worried about. Combined with the fact that with me gone, there are only junior people overseeing that system, the risks are even higher.

  20. CM*

    OP #3: When the check comes, you grab it and say, “I’ll get it, since you were nice enough to spend your lunch hour giving me advice.” If the other person says, “No, no, let me,” you can say, “Please, you’re doing me a favor and I’d like to at least buy your lunch,” but if they are obviously more senior or more wealthy than you, or if they know you are unemployed, you can also say, “That’s very generous, thank you.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      Yes, be strongly ready to pay that bill. Just reach out for it as though tit’s the most natural thing in the world, as though NOTHING ELSE ever occurred to you.

      Now, a senior person might say, “let me get this; I can expense it.” I would.

      But I would also notice if you hesitated a little as though you were hoping I would pick it up. And it will count against you a little.

      So–in a way, treat it like a date or other social engagement . You invited, and you are hosting, and you don’t want your guest to have the slightest thought that they’re supposed to pay. So step up quick and firm.

      Then, if they do say, “Why don’t I pitch in,” or “why don’t I pick it up,” you should say, “Oh no, my treat. I invited you.” THEN if they sort of insist, you can be a little surprised, and use CM’s, “That’s very generous, thank you.”

      You just don’t want to look at though it EVER crossed your mind that your guest might pay for the meal.

  21. Rusty Shackelford*

    For #1, it sounds like everyone assumes the LW doesn’t have time to scrap the batteries. But It takes me a year to get up enough batteries to scrap for money suggests there may just not be enough batteries available.

    1. EW*

      Yes. I don’t think scrapping batteries actually takes a long time (LW does it once a year, I’m assuming all at once). I think it just takes time to accumulate them and the LW doesn’t have any control over the amount that is accumulated.

    2. WS*

      This was how I read it too, especially with “After several weeks, the boss approached me and said that the next barbecue won’t happen until I scrap the old batteries in the warehouse for money…..and this is a minuscule portion of my overall job.”

      It sounds like the company might go through X batteries in a year, which are stored in the warehouse until LW has free time to scrap them. I wonder if X is the same from one year to the next, then it could be that no matter how well LW recovers the batteries there just won’t be enough money regardless. If that’s the case, could you explain to your coworkers that the funding problem comes from there not being enough batteries and not your ability to scrap them? That should put the pressure back on your boss to come up with alternate funding, rather than your coworkers hinting at you about the batteries.

  22. Jessie the First (or second)*

    LW 5, please just talk to your lawyer about it. Because you are involved in litigation with the company, you should never be contacting them on your own. Even if you think it is not related to the litigation, you need to talk to your lawyer about it.

  23. User1*

    #2- based on what you wrote, I’m not sure your former manager was being a butthead, or that it has anything to do with gender. Sounds to me like he just doesn’t know how to negotiate. You don’t say if you countered his salary offer with an actual number, just that you asked for more information. He certainly doesn’t have to provide with info to bolster your salary position- that is something you should come prepared with. If you didn’t throw a number at him based on your own research, and instead asked if that was the best he could do, I can understand his response of not wanting to negotiate with himself. That is a good rule in negotiation- don’t move off your position without hearing a number from the other side, otherwise you’ve just reset the baseline from which actual negotiations will start.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I tried to make this point above, but you did it much better. It is not up to the ex-manager to tell the OP what is the max he can spend. It is up to the OP to actually counter the offer with a specific dollar amount. It sounds like both got frustrated with ineffective negotiations (which is understandable given the close relationship – I think it would be harder to negotiate money with someone you care about).

    2. Shadow*

      Yeah the op could have made a better case instead of just saying “show me how you computed so i can show you how you’re wrong”. It may have made no difference but it’s much better to explain what factors you used to come up with fair salary. If she’s knew the other lady made more then she should be comparing things like years of experience and skills.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        But if she hadn’t worked there before and had those connections, she wouldn’t have known (suspected) the person she was replacing made more and it would be very unlikely that she’d ask a strange manager to show her the calculations on how they came up with the salary. That is just information that’s not normally shared.

        1. Shadow*

          It’s kind of a gamble to base your desired salary on what someone else made. It’s much better to base it on what your skills/exp command on the open market. Because that’s really all that matters -whether they can be competitive with what other employers would pay for you skill set

          1. AnotherHRPro*

            Agreed. It is actually irrelevant what someone else was being paid. If they were being paid much less, would you want to base your negotiation on that? What really matters is what you want to be paid and if they are willing to pay you that.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I wouldn’t say it’s irrelevant. It tells you what they’re willing to pay for a person in that position. Not necessarily *you,* of course, but when they’re offering you $X to inspect teapots, it’s helpful to know that in theory, they’re willing to pay $X.5 for a teapot inspector.

              1. TootsNYC*

                yeah, isn’t “what someone else was making” part of the info that helps you determine what the market value IS?

                Because, what is market value, except, “What other people get paid for this job.”

  24. Amber Rose*

    Generally, I have never been able to get a butthead to admit to being a butthead. I have, once or twice, been able to shame them into stopping the butthead behavior, but I have never received an apology. And honestly, it’s better that way. The apology thing is just what my inner Pride wants. The side of me that wants to respond to every slight by utterly crushing and humiliating the other person, to regain my honor.

    Thing is, pride isn’t terribly useful here. Crushing your enemies and hearing the lamentation of their women (so to speak) doesn’t pay the bills or get you very far career-wise anymore.

    I play a game called Katamari when I’m angry. It’s cathartic.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Ah yes, Katamati. It is so wonderful to build and build and hear the shrieks of oeople stuck in your ball of WTF.

      I just play Bioshock Infinite. Sending a hoard of flaming crows is just so satisfying.

  25. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: Why are they expecting you to py it this year? I get that last year money was tight that you guys had to scrunge money for TWO parties, but shouldn’t your boss have the funds for THIS party?

    Something stinks and it ain’t the fishies. I would put your foot down now and make a trip to HR if they keep pressuring you after.

  26. Ihaveregrets*

    I once drove downtown to meet someone for an informational interview. 2 hours out of my day out of the goodness of my heart. He didn’t even offer to pick up my (cheap) sandwich and it was so awkward I ended up offering to buy his coffee. I was perfectly pleasant and I gave him lots of useful information but I have no desire to ever see him again, and he’ll always be ‘the guy who didn’t pay for my lunch’.

  27. Noah*

    OP #5: On behalf of lawyers everywhere: DO NOT TALK TO YOUR EMPLOYER. If this really concerns you, talk to your attorney and let them deal with it.

  28. Bea*

    A former employer of mine was huge on company BBQs, they are fabulous and extremely cheap…so I’m shocked that they’re being so ridiculous about it, what a real bummer :( We had 30 employees and it was under $100 to have a BBQ for us all. I know from being the one who picked up the food, the supervisor would grill it up, it was fantastic and yes, everyone was thrilled every time it happened.

    If they’re all fans, I’d try to work the boss to buy the meat and tell everyone that the rest was pot luck style.

    Cores get $75 back around here, so I am guessing perhaps the company is so much bigger that I’m skewing numbers in my head trying to wrap my mind around it.

    Also you can write off the cost as employee relations, so it’s not like the money is not being accounted for.

    That aside, I echo everyone saying do not use your own money on this! I would be forth coming about the company no budgeting for it any longer and possibly asking around about pot lucks. I had former coworkers who would grill at lunch and everyone pitched in one way or another because the company didn’t have any sort of idea about treating their employees to little perks like that. It goes a long way to keeping a good staff around in jobs that are typically high turn over.

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