should I tell my ex-boss he’s driving away assistants, aggressive good-morning greeters, and more

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

1. Should I let my ex-boss know he’s driving away new assistants?

In February, I started working part-time at a custom furniture company as an secretary/personal assistant. I had a lot to catch up on because the previous assistant had to leave to take care of a sick family member. It was rough adjusting at first, especially since my boss’ business is very small but busy. He was often in the shop working on projects and I would be in the office handling the administrative side. It was a trial by fire, but I quickly got the hang of things and my boss praised me for my efficiency and professionalism, even calling me the best assistant he’s ever had. I ended up getting a full-time job in my field but when I left, I found my replacement and he wished me luck on my next job. He said (jokingly) that one day he’ll expand his business to where he can hire me back.

A month later, he called me to tell me the new assistant was not a good fit after all. His complaints were the person wasn’t proactive enough and was making too many mistakes with clients and bill payments. He asked if I could find another replacement and offered to reimburse me for my time. I said yes because I could have used some extra cash. Again, I found some good candidates, he interviewed them, and he hired one. He paid me like we discussed and in my thank-you email to his new assistant (whom I was communicating with regarding payment details), I told her to feel free to email me for advice about the job.

Today, the new assistant emailed me that she intends to quit and complained my boss was too chaotic and demanding (he frequently gets angry at her for not knowing details that she is still trying to learn, doesn’t take the time to explain proper procedures, and ignores her when she tries to ask questions or clarify issues). I don’t blame her for leaving over this, but I didn’t have these issues when I started with him. This would be his second assistant in two months, and I’m betting he’ll reach out to me again to find a new replacement. I’m not going to, but I feel like I should point out that he is driving assistants away with this overly demanding behavior and impatience. Could I do that or should I just keep my mouth shut and let him have a rotating door of assistants until he figures out it’s not them, it’s him?

You could ask the person who emailed you if it’s okay for you to share her feedback, in general terms, with your old boss, explaining that you think it would help to understand where he’s going wrong. If she says yes, then it’s okay for you to point this stuff out to him. Otherwise, though, I don’t think it’s really yours to share — especially since your experience with him was different. In that case, though, you could still ask whether he might need to spend more time training people and answering questions and generally be more patient with them, given that he’s lost two assistants in two months. If you know first-hand that his standards are unusually high and his patience unusually low, and if you can see that it would be difficult for most people to work with him well even though you were able to, that’s fair game too — you could say something like, “You and I worked well together, but to be candid, I think someone would need to have a thick skin to do it — you can be pretty tough on someone who’s still learning, and (insert more details here). I don’t think it’s realistic to expect most people to thrive with that management style.”

But also — be sure that’s really the case before you say it. If you didn’t see the behavior that the second assistant reported to you, it’s possible that this really was about her being the wrong fit for the job, and that your boss would be fine if he hired someone more like you (resourceful and sharp, it sounds like). If that’s the case, he needs to reflect on who will and won’t succeed in the role, and figure out how to screen for that when hiring — but that’s a different issue.

Of course, none of this is your fight anymore, and you don’t need to get involved at all if you don’t want to. But it sounds like you have good will toward him and want to help him out, so those are all possible things you could point out to him.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. The guy who insists on saying “good morning” individually to everyone

This is a question of very little importance, just annoyance. For context, I am a millennial woman who works in a male-dominated field and the majority of my coworkers are older than me. In general, everyone gets along great.

I have a coworker who is a contractor who is probably 15-20 years older than me. He’s nice. But every morning he has to individually say “good morning” to everyone. I even have headphones in and he’ll wave his hand in front of me to say good morning. I appreciate the sentiment, but sometimes I am in the middle of something and don’t want to be interrupted. Others, I just haven’t had my coffee and am just not that cheery. I know I should probably just suck it up, but is this normal for some people to say hi to everyone individually?

I feel like nearly every office has one of these — the really aggressive “good morning” greeter who will insist on being heard, even if you’re clearly in the middle of something else.

It’s mildly weird behavior, but there’s really nothing you can do about it without looking like a huge grump.

3. Can I renegotiate salary once I see the benefits?

I received a call from a hiring manager a few days ago offering me a job at a really exciting company in an exciting role. I was asked what my salary expectation was, and in my excitement, and unpreparedness, I said, “I’ve expected to go down slightly in salary for this position, so it’s $40K.” I basically low-balled myself big time. He said that he’d check with his manager and get back to me.

He got back to me the week after and said they accepted the offer. I screwed up, but I told him my salary expectation and have to accept that — I’m a man of my word. I have no intention of renegotiating the base salary. However, I had not at the time seen the benefit package, and have yet not seen it. I’m wondering if there’s an opportunity here for me to renegotiate slightly and add a bit more to my salary?

I currently make $45K at my current job, but it also comes with a bunch of different benefits. What’s your take on this? If I receive the benefits, could I respond with something like, “I currently make $45K, and also have these benefits. Is there any way you can match the benefits?”

It’s really tough to renegotiate salary once you’ve agreed on it; it usually comes across like negotiating in bad faith. But you’re right that the benefits provide a different road in. If they turn out to be significantly lower than what you’re getting now, you could say, “I hadn’t expected the benefits to differ so significantly from my current job. I’m currently getting twice as much vacation and my health insurance paid for. Factoring that in, the salary we discussed would be much larger cut than I’d anticipated. Would you be able to match the benefits I’m getting currently, or adjust the salary to compensate?” (You can really only do this with the big items like paid time off and health care. It doesn’t work if it’s about a paid gym membership or smaller stuff like that.)

Just make sure you get that benefits write-up soon, because the longer you wait the more this will seem like going back on your word. Contact them today about it.

4. Company wants me to pay my own expenses on a business trip

I’m exempt at a small but growing business. This year we were asked to go to a two-week training in another state during our vacation. The company paid for the training, but we were expected to pay housing, food, and all other expenses. I explained this was a serious financial hardship and they offered to loan the money up-front and then deduct it over the next months. I ended up going as it was that or lose my job. I’m certain this will happen again next year. How can I handle this better? I truly can’t afford it.

That’s ridiculous. These are normal business expenses, and your company should cover them. They’re asking you to pay part of their operating costs, and that’s not okay. It would be like them expecting you to chip in to cover the receptionist’s salary.

Try saying this: “I can’t afford those expenses, so how should we handle this trip?” If they offer to loan you the money again, say, “No, I really can’t afford to take on that expense at all.” And then stick to that — don’t budge.

You’ll have even more sway if your coworkers say the same thing as you. Ideally you’d all point out that these are business expenses that other companies cover as a matter of course; in a “small but growing business,” your manager genuinely may not realize that.

5. Can I ask my boss to set up a social Slack channel?

70% of the people I work with work remotely. There is a home office that the rest of our team officially works out of, but those folks are often on the road and working remotely as well. We get together once a year in person, but otherwise we don’t see each other in person. We use Slack a ton, and hop into phone calls and screen sharing at the drop of a hat. This is a highly collaborative workplace. People get along well and work hard to be positive in all of our interactions, but it can be kind of weird to work intensely with someone without knowing what they even look like!

I think it would be helpful for us to have a Slack channel that would function as a sort of breakroom or water cooler. I would love to know if someone wanted to share a great recipe or if anyone had a recommendation for a toaster oven, that kind of thing. How can I ask my boss to create this without sounding like I’m looking for a literal channel to goof off? (My boss and I get along fine and I don’t have a reputation for goofing off at work and I’d like to maintain that.) I think it would help humanize our workplace and make it easier to cultivate positive relationships.

Is this a reasonable request? Our team works together really well right now as it is, but we are growing and have some new folks here who are still a bit shy about jumping into calls and Slacks because they don’t want to bother anyone. I also sometimes get a little cagey at home and I want to interact a little more casually with the people I work with for 50 hours a week! What do you think? Should I ask for a channel? If so, how should I phrase the request?

Sure, that should be fine to do (assuming you have a decent manager who doesn’t jump to negative conclusions about people). You could just say it this way: “Since so many of us work remotely and it can be hard to connect personally the way we would if we were all in the same place, what do you think about creating a Slack channel as a sort of water cooler to do things like share personal news, get a toaster recommendation, or so forth? I don’t think people would over-use it and it could be a nice way to help people feel more connected and engaged with our team.”

{ 338 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, is there any chance this is a cultural (regional, generational, hometown background, etc.) issue? When I was based more rurally, there was a cultural expectation that you greet every single person when you get to work. I’m from a super urban area, so I found this very weird until I figured out that—in some communities—this was just how they worked.

    You can of course still find him annoying. But sometimes finding an explanation for someone’s annoying behavior makes me feel less annoyed.

    1. HannahS*

      I’ve also known people who had below-average social skills and were committed to one specific form of Good Manners that they practiced regardless of any context or mitigating circumstances. You thanked the room, in general, for their overlapping congratulations on the toast you made? Nope, my acquaintance Sabrina will continue to shout-speak her compliment at you until you thank her, specifically. In situations like that, I tend to shrug it off, because I re-cast it in my head as, “This person is being polite to me in the way they know how, they don’t seem to pick up on social cues, and I’m not bothered enough to make this a discussion.” But if it’s completely driving you up the wall, I don’t think it would be out of line to say, “Hey Fergus, it’s great to see you in the morning, but when I have my headphones in it’s because I’m focusing really hard on something, and it’s difficult for me to have interruptions.” Then you can just greet him whenever you first see him on a given day.

      1. Myrin*

        Oh yes! One of my neighbours is like that, and while I don’t like him for reasons completely unrelated to this, it’s very obvious that this is something he taught himself/was taught as “polite” and so he does it. Unfailingly. I’ve known some others like this as well and while it’s astoundingly annoying compared to how little time it takes compared to the whole day, I’ve chosen to view it with amusement rather than annoyance just for my own peace of mind.

        1. Samata*

          heck, I have a neighbor I like who is like OPs co-worker. But when I’m running out the door at 6 a.m. if he happens to be getting his paper I can’t (ahem, don’t want to) exchange pleasantries.

          Can’t we just wave and be done?

      2. Mookie*

        I have certainly met, worked along, and lived with / through people like you describe, many of whom cling to their rituals but don’t necessarily expect others to partake beyond some measure of acknowledgement or a brief rejoinder appropriate in context. Sabrina sounds a bit more trying, but I agree that, in general, fussing over someone fussing makes for a bigger fuss for everyone, and provided they’re being well-meaning about it it’s not always worth fighting to “correct” someone’s ideas about decorum, especially if you’re not directly managing them.

        I think it’s worth pushing back in professional settings if and when it becomes truly disruptive, chaotic, or unpredictable. Anticipating and accepting a personalized morning greeting, provided it truly is morning and everyone is beginning their shift together, doesn’t really seem like a bridge too far, although the LW mentions it occasionally derails her train of thought or that she’s not cheerful enough to return the greeting. Would a mindless head nod + brief moment of eye contact do? Or is this colleague requiring further interaction?

        1. anonz*

          What about a coworker who insists on shaking your hand every time they arrive and leave? Even if that means twice within 20 minute time frame? And they don’t pick up on any cues that this makes anyone uncomfortable. At first it was amusing but now it’s … Invasive? How would you handle that?

          1. anonz*

            ETA: have already tried strategically having my hands full at every moment; being on the phone; being deep in conversation w/ another coworker. Nothing works.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Talk to them! Say, ‘In my culture, we only shake hands in greeting; shaking twice in once conversation feels weird. Can we try my culture’s [insert farewell action here] as our standard?’

              I’d say the same for OP: Talk to the person! Say ‘Please don’t say good morning to me if I have my headphones on. I’m using them to help me concentrate, and you can take them as a ‘Do Not Disturb’ signal.’ Most people who have worked in cube farms understand that people have DND signals. If you really want to be nice to him, you could point out that your generation often uses headphones as DND signals.

              1. De Minimis*

                #3 Send out a memo about how you want to save your throat and you don’t want to ruin it by saying good morning to all these sons-of-bitches….

          2. Mary*

            This is normal in parts of Germany and central Europe! I used to be in a choir where we’d literally stop for minutes whenever anyone came in late because they’d go around and shake hands with each choir member individually.

            Could you smile and lie and say something like, “Oh, my hands are really sticky – I’ll pass, thanks! See you tomorrow!”

            1. Myrin*

              I’m German and this seems really weird to me (both anonz’s 20-minute-timeframe and your choir example). I mean, I’ve gathered from this site that we are more generous with handshakes here than people are in the US and I totally shake hands when I meet someone and again when I leave, but not coworkers I see every day and certainly not when all this takes place in less than 20 minutes! That being said, you say “parts of”, so I must be from and hanging around those other parts but I certainly didn’t know that this was a thing!

      3. Florida*

        “This person is being polite to me in the way they know how…”

        I love this framing. This is a great way to think about this, and a lot of other situations as well.

      4. Allison*

        Up until very recently I took the subway to work, and sometimes a man with some sort of developmental or intellectual disability got on, he’d say “sit down! sit down!” until someone gave him a seat, and then he’d say “how are you?” to each person around him. If someone was too absorbed in what they were listening to, reading, watching, whatever, he’d repeat “how are you? HOW ARE YOU?” until they’d answer, and then he’d go on to the next person. I wonder if someone coached him to do this.

    2. Merida Ann*

      One of my coworkers tends to drop by around 10 or 11 most mornings to say “I’m so sorry I didn’t say ‘Good morning’ earlier, I’ve just been so busy running around to meetings.” And usually I didn’t even notice because I’m not a morning person and we all have different schedules and lots of meetings, and I don’t care about being greeted anyway. It just seems so odd to me that he would worry about that at all.

      1. Lindsay J*

        Some people would take offense, though.

        In my first supervisory job I had, one of the employees was upset with me when I first got promoted because I didn’t say “hello” or “good morning” to her when I arrived. It’s not like I did it to others and specifically ignored her, either – it just wasn’t something I cared about when other people did it and not something I did at all.

        But it was something she valued, I think, because it made her feel like we connected as human beings rather than just being two cogs that happened to be in the same machine. Thankfully, she was never shy about speaking her mind and told me she didn’t like it, it was easy enough for me to start doing, and the problem was solved quite easily.

        I bet your coworker either values the “good morning” similarly and apologizes because he would like someone to apologize to him if they didn’t get a chance to, or he worked with someone like my employee who got offended by it and now finds it easier to apologize than to risk offending anyone or getting lectured because of it.

        1. Doreen*

          I wondered for a second if I had replied already and forgotten! Almost the same situation -I was a new supervisor and greeted people as I passed on my way to my office. Someone got upset enough to approach me – because if she wasn’t at her desk when I passed by , I generally didn’t think to greet her individually when I saw her sometime later .

      2. who?*

        I used to have a cube next to a person who would get offended if I didn’t greet her specifically. I would say good morning to the group and she would always say “good morning, who” and repeat, gradually getting louder, until I said good morning to her again. Sometimes I would look at her, confused, and say “I already said good morning to you” but she never changed.

        I just moved into an office down the hall and have never been happier.

    3. Gee Gee*

      It’s just like the Seinfeld bit, about how you keep inventing new ways to greet people when you see them in the office hallways ten times per day. I rationalize that if this issue is universal enough to make it into an “everyman” comic’s material, I don’t need to sweat it.

    4. Jesca*

      I have worked all over the place. I work for a massive international company. It really does just come down to the person and their interpretation of what is polite and what is rude. Even within small towns, it varies greatly by person. Mostly people who are the most aggressive are people who feel personally affronted that you do not recognize their existence.

      Haha but where I work we always laugh at ourselves, because we as Americans are a lot less aggressive as a whole with greetings. If you go to some places in Brazil, they all stand up and hug every single person who walks in the room and exchange kisses. For every single person. Could be 50! Holy moly.

    5. Kyrielle*

      Also, the fastest way to get through this particular (good morning) interaction is often to look up, put a smile on, and either wave (headphones) or say good morning (no headphones)…and then look right back at what you’re doing. Acknowledging it at the earliest possible point will finish it at the earliest possible point. It can eventually get to the point of rote habit, and that plus reducing your annoyance at it (just by getting used to it and having a ‘routine’ for it) is likely to make the interruption as minimally-disruptive as possible.

      This is assuming you don’t choose to address it with him some other way, OP#2 – I haven’t read all the comments yet, but I’ve seen at least one viable approach to that also. But if you’d rather just deal with it, or think the culture of your office requires you to, then turning the response into a habit / quick routine (rather than having to actually think about it or respond in any way other than rote) may reduce the disruption factor.

    6. Serin*

      For headphone mornings, I wonder if holding up a sign that said, “Good morning, Kevin!” would still look sarcastic even if you did it with a big friendly smile.

        1. LCL*

          It’s only awkward because OP has taken offense to it. The ‘returning awkwardness to sender bit’ is a very recent and incredibly effing passive aggressive way of telling people they shouldn’t put up with jerk actions and throw it right back at the jerk. It is kinda misanthropic to act all put out and aggrieved because someone is offering a polite social greeting.

          And yes, I was that tiresome kid who went through the phase of not believing in ‘mindless social interactions because they weren’t sincere.’ It’s a stage many of us pass through on our way to independence, and very annoying and not something to be reinforced.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            *if* the ‘Return Awkwardness to Sender’ follows a conversation defining the awkward and asking it stop, or the awkward is clearly socially unacceptable (racist / sexist comments) then the Return is not passive aggressive. When done right, it helps people bridge social and cultural differences, making them explicit and understood, so that people can negotiate a compromise.

            After a conversation, it’s only awkward if they continue to insist on their way and no other. Such a person deserves the awkward they get.

          2. Myrin*

            OP isn’t acting “all put out and aggrieved because someone is offering a polite social greeting”, though.
            First, she acknowledges that hers is “a question of very little importance, just annoyance”, and annoying it sure sounds. Something can be technically polite but still incredibly annoying.
            Second, while it might be in OP’s case, many of the instances told in the comments here aren’t exactly “polite social greetings”, they’re weird or out-of-sync with general culture or even power moves or tone-deaf or attention-seeking or simply obnoxious and sometimes all of the above.

          3. Perse's Mom*

            It’s not a “polite” social greeting when he’s actively disrupting her concentration just to be acknowledged. It wouldn’t be polite for him to pull out one of her earbuds to say it if he saw her on the subway, it’s not polite here.

          4. Liz2*

            Interrupting someone who is giving every possible signal they want to be left alone is rude. People couch “But I’m just being nice” by playing on the letter of the law, not the spirit.

            I’m more likely to half look up, give a “hey” with weird eyebrows raised and immediately go back to what I was obviously doing.

      1. Robbenmel*

        Now I am picturing a person with headphones on with a big “Good morning, Kevin!” sign attached to the outward-facing side of the headphones. No need to even pick up a sign….

        1. Cherith Ponsonby*

          Hee hee. I would definitely do this if I had an otherwise good rapport with Kevin – I’m thinking of a previous coworker who was a nice person but VERY talkative, to the extent that none of the team really wanted to sit next to him because we’d lose half our mornings to chatter. A cheery “Morning, Kevin” sign on my headphones would not have been out of place (and is also an example of where an emoji / emoticon would be more appropriate than not!)

  2. esra*

    #5 re: Slack channels: We have a whole bunch of channels dedicated to people’s interests, everything from baking to anime to pet photos. It’s a great way to connect with people from other offices + really helps to build camaraderie.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I have some colleagues who work in other locations and we have recurring calendar meetings to catch up on Slack that we started with my manager’s blessing – might talk about work, might talk about baking or our pets.

      1. Saviour Self*

        Reading too fast this morning and missed that final “or” and had to reread more slowly to figure out why you were baking your pets.

    2. Slacker*

      As a default, slack sets up 2 channels for every team: #general and #random. (Team members can then create their own channels for an infinite number of things.) do you already have access to #random in your slack? That’s what it’s meant for, it’s actually built right into slack for the same reasons you mentioned.

      I work for a huge company that has an organization-wide slack but it took forever to get everyone onboarded into the corporate instance so I created my own slack team for my department last year. I set it up so anyone in our group could create their own chat channels (either open to everyone or private/invite only) plus everyone has the ability to DM or group chat. We have the default #general for generic work talk, #random for personal or funny things, several work related channels about specific things, and who knows how many private ones they’ve all created. (An example of a private channel would be a channel used only by people who manage a specific product, for example – where the rest of us would have no input/interest in the topic, so we aren’t invited to participate and don’t see it in our left panel menu.) not sure if you have to have admin rights to create channels… my team can just create their own.

      I feel closer to my coworkers because of #random. So many reality tv giphys and pictures of puppies and anti-trump memes to share and bond over!

      1. Oryx*

        I also work at a company with multiple slack channels for various interests and no we don’t have a #random channel. The #general channel is used for company announcements and then we are allowed to set up interest group Slack channels, which I prefer compared to just a #random channel. If I’m interested in a conversation about GoT I don’t want to have to sort through a million pictures of puppies to get to it. (Although, to that end, we do have a separate channel JUST for photos of our pets.)

      2. Nolan*

        My team uses #random the same way. We also use DMs a lot, most of my communication is with my manager in her direct channel, and we talk work and personal stuff in there

      3. k8*

        I was going to say– #random exists by default. if the LW’s slack doesn’t have a #random, it would have to have been manually deleted, right?

        1. Who Does Number 5 Work For?*

          #5 here. Our company is HUGE and there is a random channel but it’s dominated by employees from another division that have been using it forever, I don’t understand most of what is going on there. We’re a team of probably 100 in a company with 10k+ employees.

      4. The Cosmic Avenger*

        If #random is being used for something else for some reason, it should be trivial to create an #offtopic or #hangout channel for virtual water cooler conversations. That kind of socializing really does help cohesion and even facilitates work conversations when you feel like you can hear the other person’s voice in your head and you’re familiar with their communication style and quirks (like saying “good morning” every. Single. Time. ;) ).

    3. Lead Llama Sculptor*

      We have a large remote team and when we were building our Slack, we added a team building channel to use to help everyone get to know each other. Management adds stuff a couple of times a week like “Show us your pets!” or “What’s your dream vacation?” It really does help us get to know each other. We use the random channel frequently too for goofy stuff, and that’s encouraged by management because our jobs can be a little grim sometimes and levity makes it more bearable.

    4. K.*

      We have lots of Slack channels where I work too, although they’re mostly related to various work functions. But where I used to work, there were a bunch that were related to non-work things – stuff going on in the city/neighborhood, pop culture gossip, etc.

    5. EddieSherbert*

      We have the same kind of thing – it’s super nice! A lot of our coworkers are spread all across the US, and we have international offices that work closely with the main office.

      So we have a literal “Water Cooler” channel, along with ones for ‘nerd’ stuff, working out, environment, etc.

    6. LBK*

      I guess my only caution would be to make sure there’s an appetite for it among your other coworkers – feel like it could end up being kind of an awkward dead zone if other people aren’t inclined to participate.

    7. Snark*

      This is such a great idea – I’m in charge of a group of 7 remote workers, and I think this is a great idea. Like, do it today, great. Thanks.

    8. Princess Carolyn*

      I work remote part-time for a fairly large company and it has tons of channels dedicated to non-work topics. The guideline is to limit yourself to 10 minutes at a time in those channels.

      This also helps keep “water cooler” type stuff from clogging up the work-focused channels, which might be a more helpful way to frame this request.

    9. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Yep! I work at a relatively big company, and we have more than a thousand public slack rooms. Most of them are work related, but there’s plenty of social ones, as well as ones that allow people who share identities to hang out together (e.g. women, black people, and I recently made a poor-kids room as well). They not only help build the culture and build trust across teams, they often lead to new work projects and pieces.

    10. De Minimis*

      We have a “Random” channel and then we have some dedicated to specific programs/projects. The “Random” one is where we get all giphy with it.

      We have a lot of remote people, so Slack is helpful, though one of our comms people wants to get rid of it and just go back to e-mail.

    11. Brett*

      We have a very active pokemon-go channel on our slack, among many other such channels.
      It might be a social channel, but it actually ended up leading to a very popular internal data science paper!

    12. nonymous*

      I work with a group that’s very hesitant about tech for social engagement. If that’s the case for OP#5, one suggestion would be to frame it from a perspective of sharing travel tips/experiences. I mean, sure it’s cool to get a toaster recommendation? (idk, I don’t have a toaster) But what may be of practical benefit are things like restaurant recommendations or if there is some regional event that helps travelers plan better. For example, I know it’s a bad time to schedule a trip to XYZ city if certain coworkers are excited about a home game. Or coworker#2 plans for trips to coordinate with her husband’s work schedule and visits to family in the area, which would mean that I would end up giving up a bunch of minor holidays.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Wait, OP#4, not only did they force you to pay your room/board, but they made you attend training during your vacation? WTAF? This is so very very not ok. I can’t speak to your home state, but in mine, your company would owe you wages for the time that you were in training, credit for your “vacation days” spent in the training, and the full cost of your room/travel/board.

    1. Paul*

      My jaw damn well dropped at that.

      You want me to pay for this, and do it during my PTO? LOL no. Not happening.

      1. Noobtastic*

        And then, they say “Do it or lose the job.”

        IMO, this is the hinkiest hinky that ever hinked a hink.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Did they actually say that though?

          Not nitpicking, just there’s an important distinction between actually being told that or it simply being heavily implied.

          1. Op4*

            He said,” It’s a required part of your job. Go or you don’t have one.” It was pretty clear.

            1. Allypopx*

              Ignore my below comment about assuming best intentions. Your employers are jerks. I just sat here for a minute trying to find the correct expletive but just ended up sputtering in my head. They’re jerks.

            2. Antilles*

              If your boss was enough of a jerk to say it like *that*, then you’re probably stuck as long as you’re at this job. Alison’s script about how it’s a “typical business expense” is really intended for a boss who’s reasonable but misinformed – not someone who’s just a total jerk.
              Your options here are to either (a) find a new job before next year’s trip, (b) start planning now to save up the money to afford next year’s trip, or (c) call his bluff while fully expecting to be fired.

              1. Allypopx*

                Depending on how the contract OP mentions below is worded, option C might be the best bet on getting out of that reimbursement clause.

            3. Snark*

              Then I think you need to start intensively job-searching, and take him up on his offer, posthaste. This is an abusive, ridiculous employer and you need to leave. And I’d let the asshole know exactly why you’re leaving on the way out the door. It is not reasonable, rational, or ethical to make your employees shoulder YOUR business expenses.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                One of the great themes in updates is “I realized that you were right, I was working for a crazy jerk who wouldn’t change. So now I’m working somewhere else, and it’s so gloriously normal!”

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      And it’s not just like asking you to chip in for the receptionist’s salary. It’s even worse. It’s like hiring an extra receptionist for two weeks and making you pay for that. Because you already have housing costs on top of these ones.

      Are business travel expenses tax deductible in other countries like they are in the UK? By which I mean your employer would get tax relief on that money within set parameters. If so, they are screwing the LW even worse because they’re effectively paying more than the company would pay – and it may also be worth checking whether you can get any tax relief on the money you already spent.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          But most people don’t make enough money for individual deductions. And a lot of people don’t even make enough money to pay income taxes at all.

          So the LESS money OP makes, the more likely they are to be SOL. Which is messed up and a horrible statement on the company, labor laws, and our society in general.

          1. Karen*

            Where I am you need your employer to fill in and sign a government form outlining exactly what expenses you had to pay out-of-pocket to perform your duties. Some people have issues getting their employer to sign off or list the needed expenses – even though the employer loses nothing but a few minutes to complete the form.

            Even if you get it signed it is a kick in the pants that you only get a reduction in taxable income – not your actual expenses back. For me, if I had to pay $2500 for training travel, I’d only get $500 back at most depending on how my taxes worked out for the year. So I’d be out at least $2000 for the trip, not fair at all. And like you say, your personal tax situation could mean you have no room for refundable deductions!

            There is also the lingering issue that not all auditors will let expenses like this fly. Even if you ‘had’ to go to the training, it could be perceived as a vacation that happened to have training nearby. The auditor could tell you that they don’t feel that the expenses were legitimate for your job and deny the deduction (plus tack on some interest & penalties for you attempting to claim the deduction).

      1. Natalie*

        Unreimbursed business expenses are deductible in the United States, but there are some caveats. First, you have to have enough deductions to itemize rather than taking the standard deduction. 70% of US households take the standard deduction by frame of reference. Second, only the expenses that exceed 2% of your income are reimbursable. And there are some particular weird rules around deducting meals.

    3. Alison Read \'red\*

      Alison Green – Did you see the vacation part? I am asking only because you didn’t mention it in your response and as much as I _know_ the answer to; “Is this legal?” I gotta ask it! Is this legal? I realize vacation time is at the employer’s pleasure – as is your job… but really??? forced training while using vacation? If they didn’t have vacation hours available I would think the employer would be forced to pay for mandatory training, right? How does the fact the employee is exempt factor in?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I read it as “during the company’s vacation,” but on re-reading I don’t know why I thought that (other than it just being so outrageous otherwise).

        Anyway, few states regulate how employers handle vacation time. They regulate pay, but as long as it’s paid vacation, there aren’t a lot of laws regulating vacation. I’d bet money California is an exception to that, although I don’t know off the top of my head.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          You don’t have a right to a vacation in California. But if your employer provides vacation, they cannot make you use your vacation time/pay to attend work-related trainings/functions. It has to do with how we treat vacation time (as a form of accrued wages) vs. work time. California also requires employers to reimburse all required business-related expenses. Mandatory training, and the cost associated, would likely fall under the business-related expenses reimbursement requirement.

        2. Myrin*

          FWIW, I read it as the company’s vacation as well, simply because it says “during our vacation” and I doubt that that means that whenever someone in OP’s company takes their vacation, they’re sent on that business trip but rather that there’s a time where all workers are off at the same time, ergo, company’s vacation. You never know with such people, of course.

          1. Kat A.*

            The letter writer may have said “our” vacation because the other employees had to use their vacation time too.

            1. Myrin*

              Ah, you mean they were informed of the two-week training and then told to take vacation for that time? It doesn’t read like that to me (I’d expect OP to write something like “we were asked to go to a two-week training in another state, using our vacation time”, not “during vacation”) but you could be completely right!

          2. JamieS*

            That’s what threw me too. I wasn’t sure if it was a collective vacation or if the training is on going and everyone was asked to go whenever their vacation was.

        3. Op4*

          It’s not California and it seems legal here. It was also over July 4th, so I missed that with my family

          1. Jesca*

            You can still look up the laws. Not every state has laws regarding vacation in itself, but many states have laws surrounding what the employer must follow as stated in their company handbook at the time of the occurrence. Though honestly if they are this awful, they probably don’t even mention vacation outside of how it is accused and how you need to request it off. But, it might be worth looking into.

        4. HR Bee*

          I’m under the impression that training time is generally considered “worked” time and thus must be eligible for overtime, etc. DOL says “Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met, namely: it is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed.” If this was a mandatory training then it fails that test on at least one count and thus should be considered “worked” time, not paid time off.

          This may not matter if the OP is exempt, though. Pretty sure that rule only applies to non-exempt workers.

          1. HR Bee*

            I read below that OP is in education and this is over spring break, so this doesn’t apply. Please ignore!

        5. Brett*

          As a different take on, “is this legal?”

          Although OP is exempt and under contract, teacher contracts almost unilaterally do not cover the summer months. Which means that OP is on _unpaid_ vacation during that vacation time that is being used for this training.

          Even exempt and under a 9-month contract, is it legal for OP’s employer to require OP to do specific training at a specific time and location without pay? Seems like if OP worked those two weeks, then there must be a paycheck for those two weeks, even while FLSA exempt?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Unfortunately teachers are fully exempt from FLSA, including the minimum wage requirement (!). So the only real recourse for OP is (1) if State law provides otherwise, or (2) if the employee manual has a different policy on vacation and state law enforces those manuals as contracts.

            1. Brett*

              This actually explains something I had forgotten about, how districts in Illinois were getting away with having teachers work for no pay during the long budget stalemate. One of the districts near us simply stopped paying teachers at all for months on end. (Many others stopped paying for benefits like health insurance.)

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The answer is that it depends on your state and if you work under a CBA. There’s technically no “right” to vacation in the United States. But there is a specific way to calculate “work time” under the FLSA, and this certainly sounds like it violates those regulations (unless OP is in a position that’s exempt from FLSA protections, like teaching).

        But if you’re in a very worker-protective state, like California, and you receive a vacation benefit, in most circumstances a company would not be allowed to deduct vacation or force you to pay for mandatory training. In a less worker-protective state, you might not have the same coverage (e.g., you’d probably have to pay for your travel, etc., if the company were being really awful).

        1. Engineer Woman*

          Quite true that there is no “right” to vacation, but it is part of your benefit/salary package. They cannot (legally, in my opinion) make you use your allocated vacation time for work purposes. Example is if this wasn’t a business trip but just to tell you that your vacation time is now to be used for normal work. That is taking part of your benefits/salary away.


          And then there’s the self pay for hotel and meals – also seems illegal. Why stop there? You should also pay for your own computer or electricity you use, etc etc etc. At first, I read it ask “pay for upfront and get reimbursed later”, which I know can be a hardship already for some people. But just to pay outright it outrageous!!!

          1. LQ*

            It would be illegal if all those expenses brought your wage under the minimum wage, but yes, they can make you pay for all those things.

            Legally is not what seems fair, it is what someone lobbied for and got passed. (Sometimes in support of workers, like child labor laws were lobbied for, and sometimes not.)

          2. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

            Actually, I have a few friends who’ve recently been hired at places that require you to bring your own laptop. There seems to often be some sort of compensation, but not enough to actually cover the cost of a laptop. So, yay for that development? *sigh*

    4. Josh S*

      I also wonder if this is education-related where “during my vacation” = “during my summer break” given that it’s two weeks of training. Education has way weird expectations about things falling on employees, so it’s possible that the owner/manager doesn’t realize how out of whack this is, but…it’s TERRIBLE. There’s no way that should be on you to foot the bill. And if they want it to be a requirement of employment, they need to figure out how to include that in the cost of their business expenses.

        1. Julianne*

          Maybe, but it could be a case where that’s simply not a possibility. Some coworkers and I just attended a three day training in a city about 2.5 hours from where we live, and there was no option to receive the training at our school, or even at a closer location (say, within an hour) because the training provider was not able and/or willing (I don’t know which; arranging trainings is above my pay grade) to accommodate that, even though we had 12 teachers/staff attend. One could make the argument that that’s a poor business model etc., and I can’t speculate accurately about what that means for the future of the training organization, but it was, in fact, the situation we found ourselves in.

          I am not saying this was equivalent to the situation described in the letter, just making the point that training locations may not always be flexible, even if it would seem to make sense for them to be.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Hmmm, if you work at a school and it was a two-day training during your summer break, I don’t think that’s as outrageous as most people are reading it. (The paying for your own expenses part still is, though.)

            2. blackcat*

              Oh, this is what I get for not reading the comments. Yeah, that completely changes my outrage.

              Unfortunately, this is normal operating procedure for many schools. I find it less common that schools dictate a particular training, but A TON of districts don’t pay for any teacher PD. It sucks, but it’s all on the teacher. In basically every state (maybe except for CA), this is 100% legal.

              In private school land, it is FAR less common for schools to demand a particular professional development or even extensive professional development. So asking everyone to do a 2 week out of state training AND asking you all to pay for it is a bit much. But listing that as one of several options–including a local, cheaper option–and making you pay for it would be normal. There’s lots about teaching that sucks and is a financial burden, unfortunately.

              And FYI, 2 of 5 weeks *does* seem excessive to me. I had roughly 14 weeks “vacation”/year (2 weeks winter, 1 week spring break, 1 week random holidays, 10 weeks for summer), and my boss did kinda apologize for essentially forcing me to spend 6 weeks of that on a summer course at the local university. But it was local (enough to my house that I could walk!), and not remotely full time (it was a lab science course, so 6hr/week contact time + 2-3 hours/week studying). My boss still felt like that was a lot to ask given it wasn’t my choice (I was being asked to teach an AP science course outside of my specialty the following year… which I was woefully unqualified to do). He also gave me nominal “stipend” for doing the course ($500 or something like that). The main restriction to my summer was that I couldn’t travel for those 6 weeks (which really meant I had 3 weeks to do any travel that summer, since the first & last weeks of summer teachers were expected to be around).

              Anyways, my boss felt bad about taking 40% of my vacation time/60% of my summer for PD. And that was PD that was 1) paid for by the school, 2) so local that I did not even have commuting costs, and 3) general enough that it could help me get another job down the line (not that it has, but it was a useful experience in other ways).

                1. op4*

                  Its a school, I was just nervous when I typed it and didn’t want to be too identifiable. However, it does seem relevant.

                2. Kyrielle*

                  Definitely relevant, but I also admit I suspected it. It was “our vacation” and two weeks of it that made it seem likely, but also, teaching is one of those rare industries where asking you to pay for stuff most companies would supply is sadly normal. I was surprised to see it extend to two weeks of training in another location, but theme-wise it seemed to fit.

            3. The Queen of Cans & Jars*

              I’m guessing a charter school. I spent many years in charter school-world, and in that context, this type of situation doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. We were clearly expendable in their mind, and they liked to make it seem like we were ogres for not doing what they told us to because, “it’s for the children.” However, the CEO of the school I worked for was one of the richest businessmen in the state.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Ugh, OP this sucks because you’re right that the law is not on your side. But based on what your employer said to you, they sound like real jerks. I know this is SOP for many schools (public and private), but it makes me furious on your behalf.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, I spotted that as well. I would be talking to my state labor board.

      And job hunting like crazy.

    6. Jenny*

      I noticed that too! The financial issue is more serious, obviously, but I’m equally outraged that this was during vacation – and for TWO WEEKS! Here’s hoping they get more than two weeks of vacation for the year…

    7. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yeah, it’s like they stole from you twice: they made you spend your vacation and your pay on a business expense. It’s like you don’t really have [the promised amount of] vacation at all, if they have it earmarked for training each year.

    8. MashaKasha*

      Yes, that part jumped out at me too! What do you want to bet that the “small, growing business” only provides two weeks vacation per year, if that? So basically they gave their employees a choice to take an enormous paycut and no vacation days, or lose their jobs. I honestly can’t imagine how amazing working at the company would have to be in all other ways for anyone to want to stay there after that.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Just saw that it is two out of the total 5 weeks. Still, given how many extra hours the teachers work during the school year, forcing them to give up almost half of their vacation is nuts.

    9. blackcat*

      I came here to say exactly this!



      That isn’t normal!!!!! I do not have enough exclamation points to express how not normal this is!!!!!!

      The only example of it being normal (that I know of) is schools expecting teachers to do professional development over the summer (which is vacation according to most contracts). But at least that generally meets state requirements and such, so that if the teacher still gets credits on their license if they move schools/districts. Whether or not the PD is paid for depends on the district, but teachers also have to do X amount to maintain a license.

      1. op4*

        PD is certainly appropriate, which is why I felt like asking. Every other school I’ve worked at has paid for PD and the related expenses, so it was a shock when this came up. Also, this training is part of our principal’s ‘bigger vision’ for the school and actually won’t count towards our license renewal according to the state DOE. I’m fine with a few days here and there-thats part of what I signed up for as a teacher. But 15 days?

        1. blackcat*

          If it doesn’t count towards the license renewal, that gives you a big reason for pushing back on this, along with your coworkers. 15 days of travel expenses that won’t benefit *you* personally, is out of line for any school.

        2. LizB*

          OP4, is this a charter school? If it’s public, I feel like your union may have some things to say about you needing to pay for housing, etc. for this training. If it’s a charter (which I suspect it is, based on the “small, growing” description), you’re sadly probably SOL.

            1. Vin Packer*

              Only in the sense that they are supported by tax dollars. They are privately owned and operated, and not held to the same standards and rules.

              1. Xay*

                Not all charter schools are privately owned and operated. There are a few different models and some are expected to follow basic public school standards and rules for staff.

          1. The Queen of Cans & Jars*

            Charter schools are public, but absolutely non-union, which is why (speaking as a former charter school teacher) OP is most definitely SOL.

            1. LizB*

              Yeah, I should have said “district” rather than “public.” I’m aware charter schools are public; I’m also aware that they’re almost never unionized, so teachers generally have no protection from this kind of BS. I’ve never worked in one, but many of my friends have, and they’re all now happy to be teaching in our local district despite its faults.

            2. Lora*

              …All I can say is, my hat is off to you teachers, because if I had to deal with this level of shenanigans PLUS angry parents who are unhappy that Junior is merely average PLUS kids throwing temper tantrums and on their phones all the time PLUS the school shootings and whatnot, I would utterly lose my sh!t.

              One thing I learned the hard way: if anyone says that they are looking for someone with passion for the job, it’s because literally everything else about the job (admin support, infrastructure, pay structure, management etc) is a nightmare brought to life.

        3. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Two weeks JUST for your principal’s pet project? Oh Hell to the no! I also spent two weeks studying this summer and paying living expenses out-of-pocket (the courses are reimbursed, but living expenses are not) but a) it is voluntary and b) counts towards and improvement in my licence. This is horrible on the part of your principal. Are you unionized? They might help take up the fight if you are.

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      Yep! They basically stole their vacation time from them and are making them pay their way as well. They’re making money off their employees!

  4. Noobtastic*

    #1 – I agree completely with Allison.
    #2 – Try getting a paddle-ball set, and on the paddle write “Good morning.” When he comes around, wave it at him, so he can see the message, then get on with what you were doing. When you get frustrated, it doubles as a stress-reliever.
    #3 – I agree completely with Allison.
    #4 – WHOA! Wait, a minute, here! They expect you to do training for them, DURING YOUR VACATION?! And then they make you pay for everything but the tuition, itself?! No. Just so much no! Talk to every single person at the company who had to go through with this, verify that THEY had to go through with this (this is SOOOO far out in left field that I would not be at all surprised that they only screwed that way with you, because you gave off some sort of “I am naive and gullible” vibe), and take this fight to the boss together. Moreover, I think you should all demand to be paid back for these expenses. When employees have to take a business trip, standard procedure, across all sectors of business is 1) It is considered working time, NOT vacation, and 2) the company pays for the trip, and 3) any legitimate traveling expenses that the employee winds up paying out of pocket are promptly reimbursed by the company.
    I am not a lawyer, but there might just be grounds for a lawsuit, here. Please check with your local labor board. At the very least, you are owed for your vacation time. Forcing someone to work during their scheduled vacation time, and then counting it as vacation time spent? That’s so very, very dodgy. Pretty sure that breaks at least one law, possibly more. Possibly federal. Where do you live? Are you exempt or non-exempt? Exempts may be forced to work extra-long hours, and unpaid “overtime,” but they cannot be forced to work on vacation days, and still have the days deducted from their pool of vacation time. That was a HUGE no-no in my last job. Even when people willingly came in, just to check a few emails, because they wanted to keep on top of a project, they got chewed out by the boss, because of federal regulations. It could be industry-specific, but I doubt it. And seeing my boss’s reaction to that, I do believe it is very serious, and eh was afraid he’s get into really big-time trouble about it.

    #5 – I have absolutely no knowledge of this, so I’ll just agree completely with Allison.

    1. Op4*

      It was 8 of us. We ended up getting an Airbnb. What surprised me this most was several of my coworkers thought that paying for the training was a gift and we should be grateful they even did that much.

      1. Allypopx*

        That’s very sad, and you don’t have to drink that koolaid. It would be a kindness to try to enlighten them to the fact that that’s not how any of this works.

      2. Mike C.*

        What in the hell is wrong with your coworkers? That they should be thrilled to pay business expenses without an ownership stake in the business itself is absolutely nuts.

        1. Lala*

          Welcome to the world of teaching, where you have to pay for most of your basic supplies and are thankful if your administration gives you two boxes of paper to last your entire school year.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Yup, teaching: the only job where you steal your supplies from home to take to the office.

  5. LS*

    re: OP #2 I had an aggressive good morning greeter at a job about five years ago. Her quirk was that she would always say it in a tone that carried the subtext: “It’s rude that you didn’t say good morning to me first but I guess I’ll be the bigger person and say it anyway to teach you a lesson.” It drove me nuts! Even when I would actively TRY to say good morning to her first, she would somehow beat me to it.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Ah, see, you can’t beat these at their own game. Instead, I recommend* one of the following:
      “Well done, you found me. Your turn to hide.”
      “I have nothing left to teach you.”
      “Yesterday’s time was better.” (After first looking at your watch)

      *If you want a laugh. If you want to stay on good terms, you probably shouldn’t use these.

    2. INTP*

      I’ve had a couple of front door/building receptionists (not ones that interacted with my team in any other way) with the same attitude. It started when I admittedly didn’t say good morning to them while walking in at first after starting those jobs, which I didn’t realize was a faux pas, since I didn’t run around saying it to everyone else either, just to start a conversation or if we were stuck in the elevator or break room. I’ve now concluded that you always say Good Morning to the receptionist as a matter of course, even if office culture doesn’t involve saying it to anyone else. I’m not sure if this is universally expected or just my experience, but I figure it can’t hurt.

      1. LS*

        The man who works at the security desk downstairs at my current job actually did this exact thing to me when I started! He doesn’t work for my company, just for the building we rent an office from, and it’s a huge lobby so it never occurred to me that I needed to interact with him on my way in. Plus I always have headphones in because I walk to work. He did the waving-his-hand-in-front-of-my-face-with-a-loud-GOOOOOD-MOOORNING thing and I was so shocked

        But remembering my ongoing fued with the aggressive greeter five years ago, I decided to preemptively nip this one in the bud. Now every day when I walk in I immediately wave to him and shout “GOOD MORNING! HAVE A GREAT DAY!” He is super nice to me now.

        Anyway, I think you’re right that we should just always say good morning to people in positions like that.

        1. Specialk9*

          I think the rule of thumb is to notice, and greet, those people who others may treat as invisible or less worthy of respect. I’ve worked those jobs, and that attitude is demoralizing. Worth as a human being does not come from a paycheck or status, but many people act like it does. I always at least nod in greeting to gardeners, janitors, guards, receptionists, etc.

      2. Al Lo*

        I work super variable days (read: show up for work sometime between 10 and 2 most days, and that’s totally okay in my role), and my office is down the hall from everyone else. It’s pretty easy for me to slip in and have no one realized I’ve arrived, so I make sure to pop my head in and say hi so that the front desk knows I’m there. I used to neglect that most days, until a co-worker (who oversees the reception desk staff) pointed out that it was kind of frustrating for her. It just wasn’t on my radar; it wasn’t an intentional slight, but it made her life more difficult. Now I say hi or at least make eye contact and wave on my way by. There’s the occasional day when I’ll slip in unnoticed, but it’s way less frequent.

      3. MK*

        Eh, I see it as incredibly rude to walk right past a receptionist or a security guard and not greet them. A good morning in passing, or just a nod and a smile, or even a wave of the hand, simply to acknowledge that they are there.

        1. Mookie*

          I do think that varies, though, culturally* and otherwise. If you’ve business with someone in security or reception as examples, it feels “off” not to automatically exchange brief pleasantries before embarking upon that business, but sometimes I feel rude audibly intruding as I walk past if they’re visibly engaged in something. A bit like, as a customer, talking off somebody’s head when they’re stocking / cashiering / doing facilities work, and so forth. Lot of landmines here.

          Also, very difficult to gauge what the more demonstrably aggrieved Good Morningers are really up to and it can be exhausting trying to meet their expectations when those expectations are unclear, as LS describes.

          *Greeting people you know when coming across them unexpectedly in the street or city center in certain places is a faux pas, as I understand and have experienced it, an invasion of their expectation of personal bubble-style privacy, and is received as pushy rather than warm or friendly.

          1. Kyrielle*

            When walking past a receptionist or security person you don’t need to interact with, and especially if they’re busy, I usually go with a smile-and-wave. (Unless I know their personal style/preferences, in which case I do that.) That’s usually pretty safe, non-interrupting, and if they want to interrupt their current task to say hi, they can do so and you haven’t ignored them.

            And, interesting. I was going to say that greeting people you know when you come across them – briefly! – is generally polite, but then I realized I only do it in certain circumstances. Usually if they don’t see me at all I either don’t, or I smile at them enough to acknowledge; if they look at me and especially if they smile, then I’m more likely to greet. It’s like ‘open the door and wait’.

            I ran into my primary care doctor at a completely unrelated cultural event in the area. I greeted her. She told me later that she would not have acknowledged me at all, had I not initiated – because she’s my doctor, that could violate HIPAA. Even though we just smiled and said hi and talked about how awesome the event was for a few seconds and moved on. (I can see why – if someone knows her job – but it’s a stretch, and not a worry of mine.)

          2. schnauzerfan*

            Yes. This. At my work we have a front desk that is always covered. I greet whomever is working there if s/he is not involved with a patron or obviously concentrating on a task. It’s not just about being friendly though. Part of the job for people working at this desk is knowing who is in the building so calls can be transferred, etc. For the security guard types, it’s good to be friendly terms, especially if you might ever find yourself in need of an escort to your car, need your office unlocked, etc. And it’s important on our small campus for them to be aware of people who “belong” here and people who don’t. I also greet anyone I encounter on my way to my desk, assuming they don’t seem tied up (wearing headphones, glaring at a screen, etc.) But to go around bothering everyone? Yeah. That’s rude.

          3. Kate 2*

            As a receptionist/office manager I tend to get treated like a second class citizen a lot. Please, always acknowledge your receptionist, at least with a smile and nod, unless they ask you to stop. When you don’t, on top of the other insults and slights we have to deal with, it makes us feel like furniture or like you think we aren’t worth acknowledging.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              That’s exactly what I was going to say: being a non-greeted receptionist or admin feels just like you’re treated as a piece of furniture. And then those furniture-treaters come to interact with you when they want something. Fortunately for me, I work with people who always greet the admin, otherwise it would become very demoralizing very quickly.

              1. ChickenSuperhero*

                Yeah, when I was a receptionist (and worse, status-wise, a temp) one of the VPs would crow – like actually trumpet exultantly like he wanted everyone in the floor to witness his comedic genius – out his nickname for me: “Temp”. He’d go out of his way to do it, too. “Good morning, Temp!” It was so bizarre and dehumanizing. He wasn’t even embarrassed for not remembering my name, he took joy in my being too insignificant to remember.

                The thing was, he didn’t realize I was interviewing them for a permanent position too. I got another job, and they got a new temp.

        2. Temperance*

          I know our security guards at this point, so I stop and say hello on my way in. That being said, thousands of people work in my building, so not super practical otherwise.

          1. Catalin*

            I feel so important when the security guards greet me by name. If they greet me, I say good morning back. If not, depends on my mood. However, this is a) in no way an interruption of my work day and b) in no way an interruption of their work day. They have to process us on our way in for security reasons.

        3. MashaKasha*

          Likewise. if I am walking past a person, I will say hello.

          It does get awkward when I try to sneak out for a minute of fresh air at, say, 3:30 pm and the person at the front desk goes, “oh good-bye, have a great evening!” I always wonder how likely it is for things to go from there to the receptionist telling one of my managers, “oh yes, Masha left at 3:30, I said good-bye as she walked out”.

        4. INTP*

          I learned through experience that it’s perceived that way by some people, it just wasn’t intuitive for me at all. To me the most polite thing seemed to be to treat the building “service” people like receptionists the same as anyone else, and I didn’t greet anyone else just because I walked near their desks. It would annoy me if everyone that walked into the building or passed my desk spoke to me but I guess there’s a reason I wasn’t hired for a role like that, hah.

        5. K.*

          I agree, I think it’s really rude as well. I always say good morning* to our security guards. To me, not speaking to security guards, receptionists, janitorial staff, etc. comes across as though one feels as though they are above those people. The woman who empties the trash each afternoon is one of my favorite people here – we always have a nice chat (brief, because she has rounds to make) when she comes by.

          *I don’t always say good night since I sometimes exit through a side door that doesn’t have a security guard at it, but if I do go out the front I say good night.

          1. Kate 2*

            This! I always make a point of greeting the building custodial staff and the surprise on each of their faces the first time I said hello and smiled at them told me that pretty much no one had ever done that before.

            I remembered how it was when I was a sales associate, and now as a receptionist, and sadly a lot of people do think you are less than they are. Less intelligent, less hardworking, less of a human being. So I always greet the custodial staff, and I am extra polite to them and sales associates, etc.

            I do it because I want to make them feel good, the way I often wasn’t, but it does bring nice perks also. People are always willing to go the extra mile for you, they watch out for you and make sure you are okay.

        6. Bette*

          No. I work in a building with 10,000 people. The notion that the security guards need or want an acknowledgement from every single one of those people is laughable.

      4. teclatrans*

        Here is one way to look at it: for most people, noticing and thinking about you is an interruption from their job. If you walk past them while they are sitting at their desks and intrude into their mental space by saying hi, that is either welcomed or not based on their (culture/personality/busyness/relationship to you). But the job (or part of it) of receptionists and security guards is to *notice and think about you. Their desks are situated to face you, and so that you have to walk past them.
        And all of this means that whether or not you say hi shouldn’t be dictated by how you interact with other coworkers.

        I personally try to take the lead of whichever gatekeeper I am passing. If they not, I nod. If they say hi, I say hi. If they keep their head down or continue working on a project or talking to someone, I go on my way without acknowledgement. Etcetera. But yes, I turn my attention to them as I pass through their portal.

        As someone else mentioned, there is also a question of status involved in this interaction, different from if you don’t say hi to Charlie in accounting. Keeping your attention elsewhere while they pay attention to you because it’s their job is a dynamic that usually means there is an ‘important’ person and an ‘unimportant’ one. You may not feel this way — most likely because you are unaware that there is a relationship between you or you don’t understand the dynamic and are trying to extend courtesies that don’t mean the same thing under this dynamic — but it is inevitable that plenty of people who blow past the receptionist without a glance *do* think she is beneath them. And so your actions mean one thing inside your head and another out in the real world, when the context isn’t quite as you thought it was.

      5. Stranger than fiction*

        Ok, so what happens if they’re on a call when you get there? You have to go back later and be sure to say hello? They come find you to say hello?

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          No, you just smile and/or nod in their general direction, and/or perhaps give a little wave of acknowledgement, and you move on.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I was once chastised for my “attitude,” one example of which was that I didn’t say good morning to someone. When I asked if that person who complained said good morning to me, turned out they didn’t but that was apparently beside the point. (Also I walked too aggressively and my face wasn’t pleasant enough).

      1. Murphy*

        I worked there too! I have an “abrupt manner”, and I never said good morning to the receptionist. Nevermind that she worked in a loud crowded lobby, the hallway towards my office didn’t take me near her desk, and she was usually on the phone, but she felt the need to complain to my boss anyway.

      2. Kyrielle*

        For a little while, a friend of mine worked as a receptionist here. (She still works here, but no longer as a receptionist.)

        And so, when I walked into the building, I said hi to her. I hesitated to, because I didn’t want to interrupt her if she was busy, but – friend! So I did. If she was clearly busy (phone, etc.) then I waved to her.

        And I was interested to hear that sometimes she found it frustrating that most people didn’t. The lobby doors are a little heavy and it’s easiest to open them if you just shove the bar hard, and as it moves it makes a kind of cha-chunk noise. Having people do that all day, especially without saying anything to her, felt like people “slamming” angrily through the lobby, and also like being treated like furniture/potted plant.

        Now I make an effort to enter the lobby, when attended, a little more quietly, and I at least wave to the receptionist even if I don’t know them. Maybe the current person thinks that I am weird! But knowing how it felt to the person I did know, it doesn’t cost me much to smile and wave. I can see how a stream of people who don’t acknowledge you all day could really build up, and add the doors (which never bothered me, but I only hear them when I go through them, mostly!) to that and I can see how it would be A Thing.

      3. Allison*

        Me too! I forget if this was part of a PIP I was put on years ago, or just part of a monthly goals meeting, but my manager told me I had to say a full “good morning,” I had been saying “morning” and apparently that wasn’t sufficiently polite.

        1. Specialk9*

          That’s utterly ridiculous. Your manager was either a wackadoodle, or trying to ride you out of town on a rail. “You said ‘morning’ not ‘good morning’ so I assumed you were wishing me a BAD morning. PIP for you!’ That is truly nutty behavior.

          1. Allison*

            Well the PIP wasn’t due to how I greeted people, I had other attitude-related problems, although a part of me wonders if he just didn’t like me and was looking for any semblance of a good reason to get me legitimately fired, and the PIP was more of a CYA than anything.

    4. Gazebo Slayer*

      A few years ago I worked in an office where the HR rep, whom I fortunately seldom saw, tried to say hi to me in the hall one day and I was busy with something else and didn’t notice. After this, she decided I was stuck up and thought I was too good for her, and she insinuated this every time she saw me.

      She informed me once, through a person whose business it would NOT have been, that she needed to talk to me about a wage garnishment. Mystified, I went, and saw her grinning with glee. But the look on her face when I informed her the garnishment was for someone else with a ne a few letters off was PRICELESS.

    5. strawberries and raspberries*

      Ugggghhhhhh. I hate when people start weaponizing social niceties that are courtesies above all else. In my graduate school cohort there was this woman who had been a supervisor at her job for like 25 years and treated all of her classmates like she was OUR supervisor. One of the things I hated, hated, hated most about her was that she’d come into a room, see two people having a conversation, march over to them, and bellow “Good AFTERNOON, ladies” in this accusatory tone, effectively interrupting their conversation. Then when we were leaving class she’d approach people and do the same thing: “HAVE A GOOD NIGHT, EVERYONE” (like she was sneaking up on you and catching you at something). It was so clear that it was like 10% politeness and 90% YOU WILL PAY ATTENTION TO ME. Eventually I started openly ignoring her. Not only would I not say good afternoon or good evening back, but if she saw me across a room and started to make eye contact or wave, I would look right past her, and I could see it infuriated her. It was awesome.

    6. Allison*

      One of my coworkers did this for a while. She has since backed off on it, but her “good moooorning” carried the same tone you might use when saying “thaaank yooouuuu” when someone hands a child ice cream and you’re coaching that child to say thank you, like she was greeting me but also coaching me on professional manners.

      I honestly don’t understand people’s obsession with saying “good morning,” I don’t. It’s nice to say, but I don’t feel socially obligated to say it to absolutely everyone I see before 11AM.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ha. A couple of my co-workers were irritated by a new employee who would call up and launch directly into what she wanted, instead of leading with a polite greeting. They started interrupting her spiel with, “Helllooooo, Co-worker, how are yooouuu???” to try to “train” her into politeness.

        1. Allison*

          To be fair, when someone came by my desk and just stared at me until I made eye contact with him, and then barked out “anniversary plaques!” I was more than a little put off. I don’t actually hand those out, but people get confused because they’re just told “go to HR” instead of “go see Linda in HR” and I’m the first person they see, but most people at least say “Excuse me? Hi, I’m here to pick up my service award . . . ?”

  6. littleandsmall*

    OP #5: the last three companies I’ve worked for have had a “random” or “off-topic” channel/chat on Slack or Hipchat for non-work conversation, sharing gifs and interesting articles, etc. It’s a totally legit thing to bring up to your boss!

    1. littleandsmall*

      Also my current company is a small team of seven but we also have a Slack channel just for three of us to discuss Game of Thrones every Monday

    2. Joe*

      The first company I worked was around 25 people when I started. There was an all-staff email list that people used for both official and unofficial communication with everyone. As we got a bit bigger, people complained about staff@ gettgin too much traffic, so they created misc@ (as an opt-out mailing list) for miscellaneous other stuff, and staff@ was reserved for official communications. Then we got a bit bigger, and some blithering idiots started complaining about there being too much junk on misc@, and so they created another list, xtra@, for the stuff that was really, really off-topic. That went about as well as you’d expect.

  7. Bea*

    #1 I feel like we’re long lost siblings with the boss who can’t seem to click with an assistant that is not you.

    I have had two bosses that have the high demands and need a sharp assistant who’s ready and willing to jump when they say so.

    This most likely is from not screening your hires enough. You have a conflict of character here. If he’s like my former bosses, it won’t help at all to point out his difficult ways, he knows he has high standards , I’m sure. My boss had 3 assistants and a vacant spot for over 5 months until I saw the listing and applied. Then when I left about 2yrs later, despite my best efforts to replace myself, there was a turnstile set up again.

    He needs to just keep trying until he clicks. And I wouldn’t blame you for not continuing to help! I have had a bad run of luck finding the right fit myself and I’m not difficult to get along with. I truly think the last picks were duds and not anything he can fix by lightening up.

    1. RVA Cat*

      He could also factor in that his personality makes the job harder – which means he needs to pay more.

      1. Bea*

        Very true. My job of over a decade for a man who was not difficult but had a strong personality and a lot of needs was told by his retiring ops manager that if he wanted someone to stay on long he had to pay them well.

        I was paid well and given more money every time he added another task even if it was small.

        When I left, he was ill and his family was in charge. They thought they’d replace me with someone that would accept almost half of what I was making. Did not turn out for them.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Long ago, in a country far, far away, I worked as the admin assistant for a guy who treated me like crap, drove me to leaving after six months, and could not find my replacement after I left. You see, he wanted someone like me, specifically someone with a CS degree from one of the several specific schools, and relevant work experience. Add to it that we were a small town with few available candidates to begin with, and that word had already gotten out from my predecessors and myself about what a horrible boss he was, and… as of 8 months after I left, he still had no replacement.

      1. Bea*

        He sounds like the person I accepted a job from and quit after a week when I saw how insane her demands were. We hit it off originally but in her natural habitat of the office her insanity was seen immediately. I was also told by the person training me she liked to fire people for little to no logical reason. Turns out she was someone in they’re tiny community and I was relocating so had no idea to stay away.

    3. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*


      I was working as a receptionist/office assistant for a micromanaging COO. It was exhausting. When I started job searching, I interviewed with another COO for a position as her executive assistant. We met for what I thought was an interview only to discover it was simply a conversation to see if she wanted to continue considering me. She liked me and I knew I would never in a million years work for her because it was clear she was an even worse micromanager than what I was already dealing with. She sent me home from our conversation with homework – literal homework – including creating spreadsheets with specific data, an essay on why I would be the best choice and what it was about me that makes me the best person for this job, and she wanted me to complete some advanced level training on Excel at my own expense and provide her with the certificates before she would formally interview me. Oh, and she wanted that done within a week. While I had a job. I noped out of there so fast… and wouldn’t you know, that job was listed as open for another 6 months and was repeatedly listed off and on for about two years.

  8. Brendioux*

    Ugh I have some coworkers similar to #2 but they’re a little more… bizzare? It’s really the owner of the business and some managers, they’re all pretty aggressive, loud, attention seeking morning greeters. Fine. When it gets weird is when I say good morning first (I’m usually very low key and reserved so it seems to catch them off guard to be approached by me). they’ll smile and say good morning at a normal volume. But within the hour they’ll come parading through my (shared and centrally located) office and loudly say “oh good morning brendioux, I haven’t seen you all morning!” Every. Single. Time.

    1. Specialk9*

      What happens if you say in a normal but carrying tone “Really, you don’t remember seeing me earlier? I said hello and you said hello back. I guess I’m just super forgettable.” And then start making jokes about being The Invisible Man, whatever your gender. Nip that one in the bud!

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Seriously, do this. What kind of sh!ty game are they even trying to play here? I don’t get the objective.

  9. Lisa (no, the other one)*

    OP#2 – No real advice here, just empathy.

    When I used to work retail, occasionally I’d get scheduled for the opening shift (7:30/8am). Everyone knew I didn’t really “get going” in the morning until about 8:30…after my first huge cup of coffee. I compensated by busying myself in the back (read: away from other humans). Only one guy ever had a problem with it…a guy about 30 years my senior. According to the story, one morning I didn’t say “good morning” to him. He in turn sulked about it for a week, until our GM finally asked him what his problem was.

    We both agreed it was the most unnecessary, passive-aggressive overreaction in the history of ever.

    I still don’t talk to people before 8:30/9am…

  10. The Supreme Troll*

    For OP#2, I really think just a quick smile and head nod is all you really need to respond to the enthusiastic greeter when you are in the middle of doing something. I mean, really, it is not something that will take away from your time, and it is still a courteous response.

    1. Cercis*

      Except if she’s wearing headphones and concentrating she might not see him. He needs to accept that not everyone is going to be able to respond and just go along with his day. I’m pretty sure OP isn’t upset that he says good morning and wants a response, but instead is upset that if he doesn’t get the response, he gets aggressive about it and makes sure he interrupts her.

      I’d find it annoying and I generally like the “good mornings” from coworkers.

  11. Jenny*

    #5 I think it’s a great idea! I’ve worked on a remote team with something like this, and it made a huge difference. Did your company not keep the default #random or #general channels? They could work for that too, unless they’re being used for something else.

  12. Baba O'Riley*

    I had a manager who rejected any meal expenses that I submitted from business travel unless I could prove that it was from entertaining clients. Apparently, I was “taking advantage of her budget” with unnecessary expenses since she knew I didn’t eat during the day.

    OP4… I’m sorry. You win and that just sucks.

    1. Observer*

      What? You’re a vampire?

      Did she really expect you to not eat at all when you traveled on business, except to entertain clients?

      1. Baba O'Riley*

        I had some really unhealthy eating habits at the time and actually didn’t eat during the day (or much at all), which I guess she picked up on.

        Travel threw me off, though, and I tended towards more ‘normal’ intake. I guess because it wasn’t what I’d do on a standard day, it was taking advantage. I don’t even know, she was a great boss about so many things but so illogical about so many others.

    2. CMDRBNA*



      At my last job, I traveled more than anyone else in the office, and would regularly get pushback from our finance office for things like buying “snacks” or beverages throughout the day, disregarding the fact that we were working events, so you rarely got to eat an actual meal, and often the granola bar or whatever you grabbed from Starbucks WAS your lunch that day. Their argument was that they would pay for a MEAL, but not pay for a SNACK.

      Not sure how that is supposed to work – apparently just never get hungry during the day?

      They also wouldn’t reimburse for random stuff, like gum. I once got a call from our CFO trying to get me to come in to the office the day after I had MAJOR surgery to write them a check for two dollars for a pack of gum. I am not making this up.

      Their Glassdoor reviews make for hilarious reading, I must say.

    3. nonymous*

      I had a parent who was like that. The back story is that my mom (who did not grow up in the US) refused to acknowledge that I didn’t have access to a fridge at school. So she would send me off with leftovers which were quite disgusting by the time lunch rolled around. Consequently, I got into the habit of skipping lunch at school and just having a big snack when I got home. Subsequently there was a house fire and we ended up living out of a hotel for the several weeks it took to fix our residence. But since I didn’t eat lunch regularly at school, Dad refused to buy shelf stable foods I could eat during the day. His attitude was that under normal circumstances, he wasn’t stocking/paying for lunch foods for me, so why should he now? He also had a thing about drinking from water bottles, so no extra liquids either.

  13. Nico m*

    #2. For the next few days respond with an appropriate “good morning”in a random foreign language youve googled. After youve trained them to expect this you can then just mutter any old nonsense. Yoy will then have won.

      1. Nico m*

        Because “hairy bat sausages” in
        Serbian is the perfect response to an unsolicited “good morning”

  14. idi01*

    OP 2. I generally just give a thumbs up or a wave, if I don’t feel like saying good morning to someone who said it to me.

  15. Mookie*

    LW1, I agree with Alison’s game plan and stipulations — get permission from this person before sharing any of her feedback with ex-boss — and I understand that you’re not interested in any future short-term gig to find him another replacement, but if you’re keen on telling him and you truly sense that this second assistant is characterizing the situation more-or-less accurately, I’d give him an opportunity to tell you what he thinks went wrong if he contacts you. If his critiques are about sloppiness and errors, ill-preparation, and/or the inability to independently solve problems, those are precisely how a manager would approach and view a situation as the second assistant describes it. If he can articulate the problem, he should be able to work out how to mitigate against it through better hiring and screening, yes, but also better management. And it doesn’t sound like he does much of that, now or when you were working for him.

    Praise for someone cleaning up his messes (you, when you worked for him) is not the same thing as recognizing why you had to do so in the first place, or, indeed, how to prepare someone to do likewise in future. You navigated this situation nicely, but there are plenty of otherwise competent people who could perform just as well, but only with a little more support and guidance during their early tenure. If his goal is minimum oversight once an assistant has been trained, the quality and breadth of that training is all the more important to get right. Relying on trial-by-fire (out of laziness, ignorance, or lack of time) to substitute for good management rarely succeeds in the long-term.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I don’t see the point in OP#1 saying anything. It’s not going to work. It can be very difficult to find the right EA fit even with a good boss, and the boss is probably not going to take the feedback well or attempt to change his personality. I am an EA who has had very difficult bosses, and it’s up to me to adapt or find a new job. I’ve been able to learn to get along with a couple, and a few were beyond help so I quit.
      I think Alison’s normal advice of “Your boss is not going to change” is way better than trying to do anything about this.

  16. Excel Slayer*

    #2 – we had a guy who insisting on saying good morning to every single one of the 50-ish people that work in the building! Thankfully his boss *is* a massive grump to the point he almost takes pride in it, and told him to cut it out. So my recommendation is finding your local crotchety co-worker?

  17. Murphy*

    Our “aggressive greeter” is combined with the “TGIF” guy.

    Me in response: “Good morning.”
    Him: “It’s Friday, ma’am.”

    Me: “Good morning. How was your weekend?”
    Him: “Too short.”

    Me: “Good morning.”
    Him on a Wednesday: “Two more days.”

    1. MashaKasha*

      What, no “are we having fun yet?” or “is it Friday yet?” He needs to up his game!

    2. Arjay*

      Oh geez, I’ve been known to trot out “two more days” but mostly when I’m stuck making chit chat in the elevator for the mercifully short ride.

  18. annamouse*

    #2, I had a guy aggressively “GOOD MORNING” me in the lunchroom a few weeks ago. Apparently my mumbled greeting wasn’t good enough and he had to get in my space to GOOD MORNING at me again. It left a bad taste for like an hour. I didn’t even KNOW the guy.

    1. Rincat*

      One of my VPs did that to me recently. And I actually said good morning to him first…he just didn’t hear me because I tend to have a quiet voice. Then he said “good morning,” so I responded since I figured he didn’t hear me the first time, but he still didn’t hear me the second time! So he got up in my space (and he’s over 6ft, so not fun) and said “GOOD MORNING”. It was very uncomfortable. Now every time I see him, I make a point of startling him with a super chipper “GOOD MORNING!!!” while he’s making his coffee.

    2. Jesca*

      Yeah, the ones who don’t know me drive me nuts the most. When I started where I currently work, this strange woman working in another department passive-aggressively made a comment in front of me of how I never speak to her. I didn’t even know she existed! There are like a 100 people on this floor alone and I interact with maaaaaybe 10.

    3. strawberries and raspberries*

      My sister was traumatized by something like this at a birthday party when she was little. They were giving out balloons, and handed one to my sister. She was painfully, painfully shy and barely spoke above a whisper, so she said thank you but combined with her soft voice and the loud party she wasn’t really audible. The birthday girl’s mother, at the top of her lungs, yelled, “OH MY GOD, she can’t even say THANK YOU for a BALLOON?!” It was such an asshole power play move, and it absolutely did not encourage my sister to speak any louder.

      1. Specialk9*

        What a deeply unkind mean person. I’m going to guess that karma got her in the end though. Someone who is cruel to a shy neighborhood kid is cruel to lots of people, and someone is going to have taken the chance to do wrong by her.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – not only did you have to pay for this out of pocket but you had to burn 2 weeks of vacation time for it? Not just no, but hell no. No way. Nope.

    You might want to start looking for another job to hedge your bets if they say that they expect this or you’ll be fired. They’re being completely unreasonable but that won’t stop them from making the demands.

    Definitely see if you can get some of your coworkers on board too.

    Good lord, no. NO.

  20. Argh!*

    Re #2 “mildly weird behavior” is a great expression. There will be mildly weird behaviors in every workplace. You hit the weirdness lottery if a cheery greeting is the worst of your woes

  21. Allypopx*

    #4 I think the best course of action is, as Alison said, to assume they don’t know how egregious this is. Move forward under the assumption the company is acting in good faith and needs a reality check, as a growing business.

    You should push back as a group, and frame it as “obviously, this is a business expense, so the business is going to have to foot the bill if they want this training to happen”. Obviously. It’s ridiculous to think otherwise. Don’t move from that stance. Speak about it like it’s something they should know. Get everyone on the same page with that script.

    Given the full context of your letter you might not be able to afford to consult with a lawyer, but if anyone on your team has those means or connections, or if you could chip in as a group for a consulting fee, I’d recommend it. Particularly if they are making you give up not only cash money, but part of your benefits package.

    1. Allypopx*

      I stand by this advice for people who work for sane employers, but given further comments from the OP, this probably won’t work. Run far away from this place.

  22. AdAgencyChick*

    #2, this sounds like a person who also, when giving a presentation, will “good morning!” the group and keep repeating it until he gets a loud enough “good morning!” back, and then he’ll go, “that’s better!”

    To such people I say: Feh.

  23. Tim C.*

    #2 – At least he doesn’t try to hug you too. I lived through this as well but it was more than one person. A complaint was made to the boss. I had to suck it up and just consider it one of my things to do in the morning.

    1. Allypopx*

      I have kind of a huggy workplace and I’ve strongly identified myself as the one who doesn’t really like to be touched. That might make me the “mildly weird” one but that’s cool with me.

      1. K.*

        When someone I just met, especially in a work context, starts toward me with open arms saying “I’m a hugger,” I’ve taken to catching one of their outstretched hands, shaking it, and saying “I’m not” in a pleasant tone of voice. I hug friends and family; I don’t hug strangers or colleagues or vendors.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      If an older male coworker insisted on hugging me every morning… yeahhh, HR would have some MAJOR complaints.

      *insert “flames on the side of my face” gif here*

    3. Purplesaurus*

      No, no no no! Not wanting to be hugged isn’t something you should have to “suck up.”

    4. Cherith Ponsonby*

      When you say “a complaint was made” – the huggy coworker complained to the boss because you weren’t keen on being hugged every morning? I’m not doubting you, but that’s deeply weird.

  24. nohellos*

    A new guy started at my company about a year and a half ago, and absolutely insists on saying good morning to everyone. At a bar once, I made a joke about it, like “hey, I’m sometimes working and can’t break my attention, so I can’t always say good morning.” He acted liked I ran over his mother!
    He and I have had some interpersonal issues, and last we spoke, he brought up that conversation again! “You told me you hate when I say hi to you in the mornings,” he said.

    Thankfully, he has a reputation for being a drama queen (crying in meetings, getting upset, taking things personally), so no one really noticed this episode. AND he doesn’t say hi to me anymore! :D

  25. AdAgencyChick*

    #4, has the owner of the business ever NOT worked for him/herself? That’s the only way I can picture any boss thinking this is even remotely okay to ask of employees. (Not that I think they’d be right even if this were the case.)

    Since the trip has already happened and the damage is done, can you at least go back to your boss and negotiate on the basis of “you’ve effectively reduced my salary by $X” (and increase $X to whatever X would be before taxes, if you don’t make enough to take itemized deductions), so you think it would be fair to receive more vacation time or something else in exchange? Since they wouldn’t pay for a freakin’ business expense I don’t think you’ll get them to cough up something that actually involves an outlay of cash, but maybe there are other benefits you can get at least. (This is assuming you aren’t in California or some other state where you can go to the state labor board and make them pay you back.)

    And then next year, if you’re still working for these loonies by then — strength in numbers, as others have suggested. If you go to the boss and refuse as a group, it’s much harder for the boss to threaten “do this or lose your job.”

  26. Whoanelly*

    #2: I had one of these guys a few jobs ago. We did transcription, so we all had headphones on. We had two shifts, so he was leaving as I was coming in. He would walk around to all eight of us to say good-bye, and would stand beside you and get mad if you didn’t pause what you were working on and say good-bye. I got fed up with it fast, so I started ignoring him initially. Then he got into the habit of leaning his face in very close beside mine until I just became aware of his presence and said good-bye. One day he did that, and I made a big show out of jumping and shrieking and loudly said, “PLEASE don’t do that! It really freaks me out!” After that he made a big production out of saying good-bye to everyone else EXCEPT me, which I thought was hilarious and accomplished my goal.

    1. MashaKasha*

      It quite honestly would freak me out if someone put their face next to mine while I’m in my headphones and concentrated on my work. I wouldn’t even have to put on a show, I’d just genuinely scream in his face! What a doofus.

  27. Lizabeth*

    I had the opposite problem – saying goodnight. At the old office, the office squawker was in the back office (mine wasn’t near hers) and got her nose way out of joint because I didn’t walk back there to say good night when I left. Did it nightly for two weeks then tapered off to nothing – she never said another word about it (head hitting keyboard).

  28. Op4*

    Thank you so much for the comments so far. It’s helpful to see that I wasn’t off base on my thinking. A related question, if I can, we also have to sign saying that if we quit in the next 3 years we have to reimburse for the training. I signed (hadn’t found this blog yet) so I would guess that yes this is now enforceable. Am I right in this thinking?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Without knowing the wording of the contract it’s hard to say for sure, but in general those types of agreements are enforceable.

      OP4, the bigger issue here is that you’re working for a terrible place and should be working actively on getting out of there, unless there’s something going on that’s made you deliberately decide it’s worth it to you to stay there.

      This is the kind of thing that makes people unionize, by the way.

        1. blackcat*

          No, not true at all. In some states (mostly in the south), public school teachers cannot unionize by law. In almost all others, charter school employees are unlikely to be a part of unions (by the OPs language, I’m guessing this is possible). Charter schools use intense union-busting tactics. Private school employees are generally non-union (by choice).

          1. JamieS*

            What?! Do you mean a teacher can’t be forced to join a union as a condition of employment or that it’s literally illegal to unionize? The latter is incomprehensible to me.

            1. Natalie*

              I don’t believe it’s illegal to join a union per se (because that would be unconstitutional), but there are a handful of states where public employees cannot collectively bargain. Thus any teachers union is effectively worthless.

            2. Brett*

              In our state (Missouri), it is literally illegal for most public employees to unionize. (Only public safety unions and grandfathered unions ~100 years old are legal.) Teachers have a right to collective bargaining and can form a bargaining unit for the purpose of negotiating a contract, but that unit is not a union and functionally dissolves as soon as the contract is set.

              In practice, NEA chapters act similar to unions and often form the bargaining units, but they cannot intervene on behalf of members in any workplace matters like a union could nor represent members in any contract disputes other than bargaining. Strikes are illegal.

              1. blackcat*

                Yes, some states have these sort of weird hybrid systems. But it is 100% legal for states to say that public employees (inclusive of teachers) cannot form a union and cannot strike (and can be fired for doing a sick-out strike).

                Sure, it’s not illegal for a random teacher in such a state to voluntarily start paying dues to AFT or another union (freedom of association!). But they are often barred from collectively bargaining or (in weird hybrid systems) barred from having a larger union AFT bargain on their behalf.

                I read one really interesting piece a while back (which I can’t find now!), which traced the history of public sector unions. One of the points was that many states outlawed public sector unions when mostly female teachers started trying to unionize. They had been a-okay with unions in male dominated fields (eg public safety, as mentioned above), so weird exceptions were written to allow for some unions, but not teachers unions. Or, in other cases, public sector unions were outlawed when people of color started moving into public sector jobs once federal non-discrimination laws went into effect (those do apply to state workers). It was really interesting to read about how so much of the politics of unions in the 50s-80s wasn’t really about unions at all–it was about keeping women & people of color out of high paying good jobs (or preventing jobs those people were in from becoming higher paid).

                1. tigerStripes*

                  I wonder how many inventions, innovations, and other general improvements were lost to humanity or at least delayed because people of color and women had a harder time getting certain kinds of jobs.

        2. Just A Teacher*

          My guess would be private school or charter school. Many private and charters are nonunion and vigorously anti-union. My school did form a union over nonsense like that — and some more serious issues.

          Our administration tried to bring us back significantly earlier this year. We pointed out that our contract reads that they can require us to come in between Sept. 1 and June 30, but if they want us to require us to come in additional days than they need to pay us for that time – or give us additional time off. So they “invited” us to the training.

      1. Construction Safety*

        Except, of course, he’ll have to pay back the cost of his training to Messrs. Marley & Scrooge

    2. blackcat*

      Hey OP4, I’m going to try to offer a more concise comment than my ranting above, knowing now from the get go that you are in teaching.

      1) 5 weeks off for summer is not a lot. Asking for 2/5 weeks for the training is not really reasonable. 2 of 7 or 8 would be, and would be very normal.

      2) The above agreement is normal. My old employer had an agreement like that for PD costing over $10k, and they were generally super generous with PD. (Note: The over 10k basically meant that the school paid for a masters degree at the going public U rate in the state, so I think this was fair. It would be an asshole plan to get the school pay for your masters and then leave.).

      3) This is particularly normal if this is PD that is relatively general and/or will help you get or maintain a license. Many public schools will not pay for any PD at all.

      4) Normally, if teachers have to pay for their own PD/their experiences at PD, the teachers get to choose the PD (up to a point, largely dictated by licensing rules). 90% of my coworkers never did PD that took them away from their children. This was viewed as fine. I traveled a lot, but some of that was directly on behalf of coworkers who couldn’t travel (eg going to a large conference with the goal of getting TONS of free textbooks/etc for my department as we were looking to change our curriculum. It was not coded as PD for me, though, but rather as “curriculum development” expenses on behalf of my department). But I also lived in a relatively urban area with 2 public universities within driving distance–in more rural areas, travel will be more normal. So what your school is doing is outside the norm, but not far outside.

      5) All that said, your school sucks and isn’t going to change. Schools *shouldn’t* treat you this way. You describe this as a new “company,” so I’m thinking a charter school run by an educational management organization or a new private school. That makes it a very different ballgame than normal public schools. There are absolutely private schools out there that are FAR more reasonable. Unless you’re in a high demand field (HS physics/chem/AP math; ESL; SPED), I’d tough it out 3ish years to get experience, and then aim for a school that will treat you better. If you are in a high demand field, GTFO now. Register with Carney Sandoe or a similar agency; they will help you. If you are working for a for-profit charter or for-profit EMO, GTFO now, regardless of speciality. A school like the one I worked at (aka fancy prep school that pays well, treats teachers well, sends >10% of grads to Ivy League Schools) will not hire someone who has worked in for-profit education (excepting for-profit SAT tutoring companies & the like). Plus, for-profit charters/EMOs are some of the shadiest companies there are. They profit by taking money from needy kids. Don’t be a part of that.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      OP4, as a teacher do you have a contract? Or a union and a contract? In my state, teachers have both, and there are specific numbers of days teachers work. A school cannot unilaterally add more work days onto the teacher’s year under the contracts- which is what your school has done. So do you have a contract? SCOUR IT if you do for number of work days you are supposed to work. Scour it for any description of PDs, how PDs work and what the school is allowed to require of you. Your boss cannot unilaterally override a contract, so I’m here hoping you have one that specifies days to be worked, or at least that specifies that school-required PD obligates the school to pay for *all* PD-related expenses.

      If you do not have a contract, then get yourself to a new school district. Your boss and your school district sucks. :-(

    4. Kate 2*

      Think about it this way, if you stay, you will have to cover three years of extra training fees. If you leave now, you just have one.

  29. DCompliance*

    #2- The worst is being stuck in the elevator with the overly aggressive “good morning” person.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      That’s very subjective! I’d much rather be stuck in an elevator with a cheerful person than with a quiet grump.

  30. kimberly*

    It’s mildly weird behavior, but there’s really nothing you can do about it without looking like a huge grump..

    I’d be OK with this. I don’t mind looking like the office/hospital grump if it keeps people from aggressively greeting me.

  31. Observer*

    #2, as others have said, perhaps just a wave and smile would do.

    But, please get over the “well I haven’t had my coffee yet.” That’s jut not really a good excuse for an adult in the work place. Either get your coffee before you get to work, or figure out how to manage basic interaction with other humans even when coffee deprived. Even if your morning greeter disappeared tomorrow you would still need to be able to handle someone walking over to you and trying to interact with you.

    1. Liz2*

      If they had legit business, sure. But she is AT work, DOING work, FOCUSING on work and clearly sending all signals of that and to NOT be disrupted. You deciding your “hello” is a higher priority than that to the point of actively getting into THEIR personal space about it EVERY day is out of whack.

      The OP didn’t complain “Cause John wants the status of the reports he gave me.” I am sure they understand the PRIORITY of those things. The OP also didn’t say she couldn’t HANDLE it, but rather it’s an unnecessary nuisance (which it is).

  32. Dust Bunny*

    LW2, I say this as a massive introvert, not at all a morning person, and a coffee drinker: Get over it.

    Everybody has their harmless quirks, and if this is his, then, yes, it’s normal. For him. All you have to do is emerge from your mug of joe for a second to mumble, “morning!” back. The fastest and easiest way to make this not annoying is to change your attitude toward it. You know he’s going to do it, and I would guess he shows up around the same time every morning, so it’s not like it’s a surprise. Just roll with it and be glad he’s not a hugger or a prankster instead.

    1. K.*

      Agreed. This is a very, very minor annoyance in the grand scheme of workplace annoyances. It’s three seconds out of your day.

    2. Sue Wilson*

      be glad he’s not a hugger or a prankster instead
      I don’t think we should be using other ways people are boundary-pushers for standard of decency, lmao. “It could be worse” is a bad rationale for putting up with any behavior.

  33. Gee Gee*

    OP 4, I noticed via the comments that you’re a teacher. Not sure if you’re familiar with Pennsylvania teaching requirements, but per Act 48, PA teachers must complete continuing education in order to retain their permanent certificates. It comes to 180 credit hours every 5 years.

    Some districts use that requirement as a way to get out of paying for training: “Well, you can put this towards your Act 48, so you’re benefiting as well”. It’s resulted in a lot of shenanigans.

    Just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in this nonsense. Also, have you considered filing a grievance with the union?

  34. Random*

    #2 – we all have annoying coworkers. I have one that yells at her computer (yells is the wrong word, she speaks loudly), lingers at my desk, constantly asks if our boss is in his office or on the phone when she could easily pop her head in, and in general just bugs the shit out of me.

    1. Zip Zap*

      If only we had office mediators. Someone you could confidentially complain to and they’d pass it along to the person as constructive feedback.

  35. anonz*

    Re #2, Reposting in its own thread cause this is truly driving me mad—What about a coworker who insists on shaking your hand every time they arrive and leave? Even if that means twice within 20 minute time frame? And they don’t pick up on any cues that this makes anyone uncomfortable. At first it was amusing but now it’s … Invasive? How would you handle that?

    Have already tried having my hands full; being on the phone; being deep in conversation with another coworker; not making direct eye contact (to hide somehow??? idk). Nothing works.

    1. CMDRBNA*

      Tell them you only do fist bumps from now on!

      Seriously, that is weird, and disruptive and also really unnecessary. Shaking the hand of a coworker just seems bizarre. I’d probably fake a wrist injury or something to get out of it.

    2. Soon to be former fed*

      OK, that’s a little odd, I’ve got a forty year work history and don’t recall anyone I saw every work day shaking my hand. How about saying “Fergus, we didn’t just meet! Why so formal with all the hand shaking, I feel silly”, or something like that. Fergus doesn’t seem to have a good grip on everyday office norms, it’s worth a try to bring it to his attention. Or, just persist in not shaking, he will get the message eventually, just wait out your discomfort. Or, do the stupid handshake and murmur that Fergus is weird under your breath. I feel you though.

    3. Kyrielle*

      Where are they from?

      I ask because two years ago I’d have said this was _bizarre_.

      Now I work with a group in France and when the Big Boss from there is over here, he shakes everyone’s hand as he arrives and leaves, even to coming into individual offices to do it. Apparently this is very normal there from what other coworkers who have travelled to that office tell me. (Although I just realized, I don’t know if they meant “normal for France” or “normal in specific city where the office is” or “normal in that office”.)

    4. Sue Wilson*

      Just don’t shake his hand? Politely say goodbye and don’t do it, when they hold their hand out (I prefer another hand gesture that signals goodbye or hi, like a wave)

      Is this person going to stand there with their hand out? If so, ignore for a bit and then say, “I thought you were going Fergus/it’s nice to see you Fergus, did you need anything?” Are they going to grab yours? That’s the easiest, pull your hand out of the grip and say, “Please don’t grab my hand!” If they make it explicit that they wanted to shake hands say a variation of bartleby’s “I’d prefer not to.” “Oh I wanted to shake your hand on the way out/in” “Oh that’s nice, but I try to shake hands as little as possible, so I’ll bow out if you don’t mind”

      Like, no offense, but you’re going to have to be explicit, if cues aren’t working.

    5. HannahS*

      If you don’t want to have the “I’m not shaking hands anymore, Fergus” convesation, you could try this: when he interrupts you and holds his hand out, fold your arms across your chest (so no hands he can reach for), and nod politely while giving the appropriate reply, then turn back to what you’re doing. He might leave his hand out. It’s a game of chicken, really. If he says, “You didn’t shake my hand!” or, “We’re shaking hands!” you can give a polite decline, “No, thanks, Fergus.” “That’s OK, Fergus. See you next week.” Don’t take his hand.

  36. Joielle*

    I do think it makes a big difference for OP #4 that the job is teaching and the training is happening during summer break (the OP mentioned this additional information in a comment above). Two weeks is still pretty excessive, and the company (a charter school, I assume?) should pay the related business expenses, but at least the OP isn’t actually having to take vacation time out of her PTO/vacation bank for the training. If it were a shorter, local training I think that could be reasonable to require over summer break.

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      It may be different for the OP, but where I am teachers don’t have PTO or a vacation bank. I get a generous amount of sick leave, but that can only be used for illness and medical appointments that can’t reasonably be scheduled outside of school hours. Technically, it can’t even be taken for a sick child, although most principals take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” stance on that. If I want a vacation day that isn’t when schools are closed (Christmas, summer, March Break) I have to take it without pay.

  37. Soon to be former fed*

    Unpopular opinion alert. Finding offense, being annoyed, etc. when someone is just trying to be nice is not good. In a world where people are rude and insensitive, why is positive behavior overanalyzed and met with disdain? You do you. If Fergus’ morning greetings annoy you, feel free to disregard or grunt in return. But to want him to change doing something that is not wrong is, to me, not justifiable. Physically working with others requires letting all kinds of things roll off your back unless you want to be in a constant state of discontent. Ducking….

    1. Murphy*

      I would agree if it was just “good morning”, but he’s waving his hand in the face of someone who has headphones on and is busy because he hasn’t gotten a response, that seems like it’s crossing a line.

      1. Allison*

        Agreed. I wouldn’t mind if someone came by my desk to say good morning, or said it in passing, that’s a thing! But if someone and broke my concentration, they’d better have a damn good reason beyond just wanting to say good morning.

      2. Thegs*

        Definitely crossing a line. I’m the “good morning” person in my office, but sometimes the developers are too deep into their work to reply, and I let them be. If I say “good morning” and no one replies, it’s no meat off my bones.

        Also in counterpoint to Fed’s point, if OP should be expected to let annoying morning people roll off of their back, should annoying morning people (like me! :P) be held to the same standard and let people not acknowledging it every time roll off of their backs too? The point cuts both ways.

      3. Zip Zap*

        Yeah. He’s disrupting someone’s work. He’s interfering with the office’s productivity. He should know better.

        No one owes him a “good morning”. They do owe their employer the quality of work they were hired for and sometimes that requires focus.

    2. Whoanelly*

      There’s nothing wrong with saying good morning to the person you pass in the hall or the person getting coffee at the same time as you, but there is something wrong with needing to interrupt someone’s work just today good morning to them. It sounds like a weird compulsion.

    3. CMDRBNA*

      Nah, I agree with you. I used to be a pretty touchy person and would get irritated with people very easily. Now I’m a touchy person who gets irritated easily but hides it much better and I let things that used to irritate me roll off my back. I wish I’d figured this out years earlier. I try very, very hard not to assume ill intent of people.

      That being said, I do think that a lot of this is gendered in the workplace – i.e., a male coworker feeling entitled to his female coworkers’ time and attention, and female office workers expected to be “nice” in a way that men aren’t. And it sounds like some of that might be happening here given that the OP is a millennial woman and the good morning guy is an older man.

      That ALSO being said, I wouldn’t make this the hill I wanted to die on. I learned that if you have a problem with everyone and it’s stuff that is relatively minor, when there’s an actual, real issue you won’t be taken seriously.

      It really sucks that women are expected to be “nice” in the workplace in a way that men aren’t. I personally would love to work somewhere where you’re valued based on the quality of the work you do and not how “nice” you are but I don’t see that changing any time soon (I’m using “nice” in quotation marks because it’s not genuine niceness, it’s this performative friendliness that women are expected to display. I’m not by nature an outgoing or friendly person and I get really tired of having to fake it).

      1. Observer*

        Not EVERYTHING is about gender. According to the OP, he does this to everyone, not just the women. Which means that this is a case where this is almost certainly NOT about some entitled dude who thinks that women are in the world to serve him.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Though it might influence her reaction to him, and make it stronger than it would be for other people.

          I have a daughter who is 23, and I’ve noticed that she and her friends are far quicker to resent this sort of thing than I was.
          I didn’t think I had a right to object to lots of stuff like this when it WAS gendered (though I don’t think that now); they’ve been steeped in the idea that they DO have a right to object, and so sometimes I think my daughter reacts too strongly or interprets things in the wrong way. 9And I don’t mean I’m evaluating it like a woman of the 1950s or me in the 1980s; I mean even in my more assertive mindset of today.)

          1. SL #2*

            I’m around your daughter’s age and I react very>/i> quickly to situations like these to nip it in the bud. Part of it is my personal feelings about “harmless” sexism in the workplace, especially as a young woman of color. But part of it is because if I don’t speak up, no one else will and no one else will dare to. We have an intern on my team. I don’t want her to feel like she has to get that Diet Coke for someone even if it takes away from her actual job duties and assignments just because she’s young and female and it’s an older man making that demand of her. If she can carry that with her to her next job, then I’ve done my job.

            1. Observer*

              Sure. Refusing to play the “nice secretary” role when that’s not the job she’s being paid for is a very good idea, even if it’s not sexist. And if this is a matter of a guy who always asks the women around him, and not the guys, then that’s all the more reason to stand up to him.

              But, it’s important to differentiate between situations where there is a problem, and one that’s just mildly annoying. What the OP describes is the latter.

        2. Blank*

          Sure, but I’d say most people go through the world with an unambiguously-performed gender, and also unconscious bias is a thing. A man might not think he’s entitled, but that doesn’t mean his actions appear neutral.

          1. Observer*

            That’s all well and good. But when someone is treating everyone the same way, trying to make it about gender (or race or age or whatever) that’s not sensible, to say the least.

            We’ve seen lots of things that are pretty clearly gendered, even if the person behaving badly may not be doing it consciously. But in this case that just doesn’t make sense.

    4. NW Mossy*

      But at some point, giving the greeting and then expecting/insisting on an acknowledgement back kind of stops being about extending kindness and starts being about the greeter wanting to dictate the greetee’s behavior. Those who break into someone’s personal bubble (as in the OP’s situation) are getting very close to that line, and it’s not unreasonable to be annoyed by that.

    5. Grumpy and Sneezy*

      Why do you assume this co-worker is trying to be nice? It sounds manipulative and like a power play to me. If he was really “nice” he wouldn’t interrupt someone in the middle of their work to insist on receiving acknowledgement of his “greeting”.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I agree with much of what you say.

      However, etiquette has some boundaries as well. For a reason.

      Excessive friendliness is a tool used by con artists and other encroachers (on the spectrum from totally unconscious to quite calculated). So having an instinctive negative reaction to it is a reasonable survival skill.

      However, once you’ve had a chance to analyze the danger, it is wise to stand down when the danger is small or nonexistent.

  38. Machiamellie*

    Ugh @ #2. I used to work at a large insurance company and they had security guards at the front desk. One of them was rabid about saying good morning to each and every person that walked in.

    Now I have Aspergers but hadn’t disclosed that to anyone.

    I tried just smiling, making eye contact, and nodding, but he would keep verbally greeting me until I responded verbally. IDK, I just have a thing about not wanting to talk early in the morning. But nothing would do except a verbal response, apparently.

    I tried wearing headphones as I came in but he would still insist that I respond. Finally, one day I was having a really bad morning, and I just didn’t respond to his loud “good morning! how are you today???” (loud because of the headphones) He then said “I’M GREAT THANKS FOR ASKING!” I whipped my headphones off and said, “I wish you wouldn’t do that!” He shouted back at me, “well it’s really rude of you to not answer me!”


    I did complain to his supervisor and he stopped with the verbal greetings. I’m sure I’m completely in the wrong but it was seriously anxiety-inducing for weeks until this blow-up.

      1. Machiamellie*

        Everyone else always talked about how great this guy is, what a nice guy, and they just couldn’t believe I didn’t like him :( So I assumed the problem was with me.

        1. Kyrielle*

          But it can be true that he is a great guy to people who respond the way he expects and wants, and yet is a jerk to people who don’t. He isn’t *owed* the response he expects, though, so that’s not okay.

          I would probably get along great with him, never realizing there was a problem, because I’d respond with a good morning. And if he asked how I was, I’d say, “I’m fine, and how are you?” And unless he was an over-sharer or rude, I’d just make the pleasantry exchange and move on. He’d probably be helpful if I needed anything (because I was meeting his ‘expected behaviors’ and following the invisible rules he put on the interaction – and invisible rules are a Thing, but ‘You Must Respond Verbally’ is not a normal one in my experience – a smile and nod while looking at someone is normally sufficient). I’d think he was fine unless I actually observed him pestering/badgering you for a response, and then my opinion would change, but I’d have no idea he was like that when he *didn’t* get a verbal response unless I was there to see it (or unless you told me in detail, as here).

          My opinion, based on my interactions, would be an accurate assessment of his interactions with me. But not of his interactions with you, not a bit.

        2. Snark*

          Let me offer a bit of perspective courtesy of my wife, who reads social dynamics as a profession. There’s a certain type of guy who affects a kind of performative bonhomie as a social power move, putting pressure on people (often but not exclusively women) to respond in a certain way that grants him power. Usually, this is a guy who feels himself to be at a social disadvantage – class, race, salary, standing, something like that. A lot of people mistake it for genuine chumminess and respond to him as if he’s a great guy, or do so because that’s easier than snubbing him, but you nailed it, and he knew it, and that upset him.

          All a long way to say, I understand that being on the spectrum can erode your confidence in your skill at reading intentions and social interactions, but don’t doubt your read on this guy. He’s not a great guy.

          1. Friday*

            Wow, your wife is spot on there – I have definitely worked with dudes like this over the years. Nobody at my current company fits the bill though, thankfully.

          2. Zip Zap*

            I have made the same observation. It’s a pattern in society. I try not to judge or stereotype individuals, though…. Until I know them well enough to make those kinds of assumptions.

          3. Specialk9*

            “my wife, who reads social dynamics as a profession”
            Your Israeli wife… Reads social dynamics… For her job. Having lived in Israel, that utterly floors me.

            I love many things about Israelis, but found that anything said with body language or hint, even really strong, was literally not perceived; if it was not verbal, it was not communicated. (Though sub-cultures like Russian-Israelis, Ethiopian-Israelis, and Latino-Israelis were different.)

            1. Snark*

              Yeah. She’s a consulting psychologist. She spent large chunks of her childhood in New Mexico* when she was growing up so she’s not entirely Israeli, culturally. And having gone back with her to visit her dad’s family, I can only agree that Israeli society has the subtextual delicacy of a two-by-four to the back of the head. It’s got a lot of stuff going for it, but nonverbal communication is not it. And the bluntness can verge on fight-me rude.

              *to make a 300 year, novel-worth odyssey short, her mom is from a lineage of Sephardic Jews who fled into northern New Mexico and southern Colorado to get away from the Inquisition in New Spain, and 300 years later the family rediscovered their own Jewish heritage and some started practicing again. Really.

              1. ChickenSuperhero*

                Ha ha, yes, “the subtextual delicacy of a two-by-four to the back of the head” is exactly it. She continues to sound super cool!

      2. LCL*

        You were both in the wrong. Him for not being OK unless he received verbal acknowledgement. You for being that offended you spoke to his supervisor about it. Chill, people, it’s just a good morning.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I don’t think Machiamellie was in the wrong for speaking to his supervisor. If it had been just his insistent greetings, maybe, maybe not (this was causing anxiety!). But his passive-aggressive (and apparently loud, given the caps, to be heard over the earphones) pushing comment? That’s not professional.

          1. Machiamellie*

            Agreed – I’m self-aware enough to know that neurotypical people enjoy verbally greeting each other, so I would never complain to someone’s supervisor for it. But yeah, when he yelled at me and then called me rude, I’d had enough. Also, I’d worked as a security guard for that same company in college, so I had a great relationship with his supervisor anyway.

            1. Zip Zap*

              I won’t pass judgment because I don’t know any of the people in this story personally, and I know that being on the spectrum makes things different. But next time something like this happens, try asking the person to stop in a polite way, preferably early on, before getting angry at them. Try this script: “Hi John. I like to keep to myself in the morning. I appreciate the greetings, but could you please save them for other people? I like to just listen to music until I’m at my desk,” or something like that. If they’re not respectful after something like that, you’ll get a better response if you choose to complain about them.

              1. Machiamellie*

                Thanks for the feedback :) I never felt like I was allowed to say “please don’t greet me in the morning” because most neurotypical folks would see that as rude, silly, etc.

        2. Snark*

          Why is she wrong for being offended when someone badgers her and yells at her until she verbally acknowledges his pushy greetings, on a daily basis?

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, no. If you totally didn’t acknowledge him, he would’ve had a right to feel badly about it (but not to get aggressive with you). But you _did_, it just wasn’t verbally. Smiling, nodding, and making eye contact is pretty clear and normal and okay.

      But even _if_ it was reasonable of him to expect verbal acknowledgement (it’s not, though he can want it, because we can all want things – I want lots of things I may never get), it _still_ wouldn’t be okay for him to yell at you to clear the headphones, or to passive-aggressively say (at any volume) that he’s great, thanks for asking.

      You not answering him may or may not be mildly rude (depending: I would consider the visual acknowledgements ‘answering’ and sufficient!), but it’s certainly not rude on anything like the level of what he was doing, especially what he did at the end.

  39. Shadow*

    I bet the good morning thing is just his way of starting out the day on a positive note and trying to help everyone else jumpstart that positive vibe.

    Kind of like the making your bed in the morning accomplishment thing.

    You’ve got to admit, you might dread it, but it’s far better than hearing someone groan every morning about how bad life/work sucks.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      If this is a mis-placed response to OP#2, then it may be the headphones thing. I’m GenX, and I only recently realized (ie, within 5 years) that headphones were a Do Not Disturb signal. My *perception* is that this understanding is not universal and varies by generations and gender, with Millenials understanding it most and Silents / Boomers the least. Of course individual mileage will vary – my Silent mother would never interrupt someone with headphones on, except my dad.

      1. Allison*

        Millennial here, I don’t necessarily use them to signal “do not disturb,” but I do usually use them to block out background noise so I can focus, and I generally expect that if someone sees headphones on, they know I’m focused on something and wouldn’t be able to hear them if they said something to me in passing, so it’s best not to get my attention unless you need something.

      2. Kate 2*

        Yes this! I am the “Lost Generation” between X and Millenial and I get a lot of Boomers/Silents trying to talk to me when I have headphones on. On the bus, on the street, etc. Number one, I can’t really hear you. Number two, I have headphones on, clearly I want to listen to music, if I wanted to talk I wouldn’t have headphones on!

  40. Miss Elaine E.*

    RE: The “Good Morning” dilemma:
    Much like my earlier post about “Taxi”, the commentariats’ input reminded me of the late great Minnie Pearl’s “Good morning/pretty morning/Howdy” routine. (Sorry, I tried hard to find it online but could not do so.)

  41. Jules the 3rd*

    OP4: The fact that this is a school, and you were going for training during the school vacation, is a key piece of data. If you read AAM a lot, you’ll see a *lot* of ‘Education is different’ statements (and healthcare; healthcare is different too). Many schools have no funds for professional development but many states and districts have requirements for ongoing training. So, your boss may have been explaining a requirement that she doesn’t control.

    That said, can you ask your boss to offer local / online options? It’s still going to happen during school vacation, that’s standard, but maybe they can bypass the other expenses. You should also join professional teacher groups to give you a broader viewpoint on the education industry.

  42. Allison*

    Social niceties are nice – it’s in the name! It’s nice to say “good morning” and “hello” and “goodbye” at the end of the day. It’s nice to hold the door for people, to thank people for holding door or letting you go first, it’s a way to spread good feelings. However, some people put waaaaay too much stock in these niceties, they insist that everyone greet them properly and either sulk for days after, or get up in people’s space until they get the greeting they want. Demanding to be acknowledged can be understandable sometimes, but it’s not exactly friendly.

    Greeting people is nice, responding to a greeting when you actually hear it is nice, but getting aggressive about it makes it not nice and kind of defeats the purpose.

  43. Zip Zap*

    #2 – There are ways to subtly point out to someone that they’re being weird without being a jerk about it. Mirroring can help. Next time he does this, take off your headphones and loudly greet him back, waving your hand in his face. In a fun, friendly way. Or, at a well chosen moment, make a joke about it. Treat it like an endearing quirk. Most people will get the message.

  44. Cruciatus*

    #1 made me think of Murphy Brown and her rotating roster of new assistants.

    #2 At my office I’m fortunate that, sure, you say hi if you see someone first thing, but sometimes you won’t see anyone until later and you don’t have to go through the routine every time. I don’t always hate the social niceties or anything, but I would definitely hate knowing I have to wait until Bob says hi to me every day. But I would probably let it go.

  45. Sarah*

    I had an aggressive good morning coworker once. She went to HR at one point and said that I was causing a “hostile work environment” because I didn’t say it to get immediately when I walked in (mostly bc she was on the phone) and sometimes didn’t say it back (because I didn’t hear her). HR made me move offices while they “investigated”. It ended with her termination for many reasons in addition to this.

  46. Brett*

    I have found that this kind of behavior goes along with contracting sometimes, especially with companies that frequently convert contractors. It is a weird combination of “Hey, I’m an hourly worker and I am here now” and “reminding you that I contribute to the team”.
    I don’t get annoyed by it at all, and have learned to just wave people off as they approach if I have headphones on.

    I have a rather reflective window in front of me, while many others have mirrors mounted in their cubicles to avoid the whole hand-waving issue.

  47. Greg*

    OP#3: I get that people have lots of reasons for taking jobs, and salary may not be the most important criterion. Maybe you want a better commute. Maybe you need to get out of a toxic situation. Maybe you’re switching industries. But having seen numerous letter writers make comments like this in passing, I’m going to keep pushing back against the general idea that employees should so willingly accept a pay cut when they take a new job.

    For one thing, taking a new job is risky relative to remaining in your current situation. It’s completely reasonable that you should be paid more, not less, in order to take on that risk. Second, the time between when an employer makes an offer and you accept is when you have maximum leverage, and being able to cite your current salary is a really good leverage point. Just tell the hiring manager: “I really like this opportunity, but I’d hate to have to take a pay cut in order to come work for you.” It may not always work, but it’s certainly something most HMs should be sympathetic to.

    Third, and perhaps most importantly, it’s very important to your future earnings that you get as large a starting salary as possible. If you were to look at the list of salaries at any given organization at a specific moment and ask what the most important factor is in determining who gets paid what, it’s most likely not performance, or seniority, or promotions. It’s what their starting salary was. That forms the baseline for future promotions, bonuses and cost-of-living increases. It’s the unfortunate reason that, for most employees, the only way to get a big raise is to find a new job … which is exactly why you shouldn’t throw away that opportunity when you are switching jobs.

    Finally, it would be one thing if you were a high-priced corporate attorney going to work for a small non-profit, and you knew there was no way they could come close to your current salary. But in your case, this was over a difference of $5K! If they liked you at $40K and you told them you were making $45K, I think your chances would be pretty good that they’d at least match.

    Anyway, I say all this not to beat up on you — you recognize you could have handled it better, and there’s not a ton you can do about it at this point — but to remind you and everyone else that your current salary is incredibly valuable ground you should not so willingly cede.

  48. Hope*

    Re: Hellos in the morning: Interesting cultural difference– I work in France, and here it’s considered polite to say hello to each person in the morning, and terribly rude if you don’t. Before I got the hang out it I got reprimanded more than once!

  49. McDerp*

    OP#5: If Slack doesn’t work out, you might think about using Discord instead. There’s no need to involve your company officially and it’s a lot more informal already.

  50. Bossy Magoo*

    #2 – Hmmm…I work in an office of about 20 people and when I walk through the cubicle farm in the morning I say good morning as I pass each cubicle. Is that actually obnoxious? I feel like it’s brusque to just ignore everyone as you walk past them. On the other hand, when my assistant walks past my office for the first time in the morning and just storm past without saying anything, I find it rude. I’m a Gen X woman, if that makes a difference. I’m not saying every time I see someone I say good morning, but the first time of the day I do…

    1. Greg*

      I think what the OP was talking about was the people who say hi and then, if they don’t get a response (or if they don’t judge the response to be enthusiastic enough), repeat their greeting. I have a couple of those types in my office, and while it’s not going to push me over the edge or anything, I do find it mildly annoying.

    2. Cherith Ponsonby*

      Post-X woman here: I don’t think it’s obnoxious unless you’re expecting a response (and even then it depends on how pointedly you’re expecting it).

      I work in a semi-open environment (imagine an ellipse with bays of four desks each side radiating outwards) and people will often issue a general “good morning” / “see you tomorrow” as they walk past. The only times I ever find it annoying are when I’m already annoyed about something else.

      (What really annoys me is when I’m working on something, there’s a meeting in five minutes, and everyone walking past feels the need to remind me there’s a meeting. I know there’s a meeting! You’re early! If you stop distracting me I might actually get my work done and still make it in time! (The culture is such that you may skip a meeting if you’re doing important work.))

  51. blessedbeauty*

    Op #5 – I work for a small company where everyone works from home. We had a weekly Friday meeting where the first half is a general staff meeting (department updates, new announcements, etc) and then the second half is what we call our Fun Friday. Each week someone is in charge of some sort of game or activity, things like, list your top 5 movies, tell us about your senior year of high school, stuff like that. We also have had a weekly throwback rotation, each week someone shares some old photos and talks about them. It is a fun way to be social with the entire team. Granted, we have a small staff (less than 15) so this is doable, with a bigger team it may be hard. But if you have a weekly meeting or something, this could be a way to work in some social time with your staff.

  52. TootsNYC*

    4. Company wants me to pay my own expenses on a business trip

    Once upon a time, this would be an expense you could deduct from your taxes. So if there’s no other recourse, I’d be demanding a letter outlining that these expenses are required for your job.

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