how thankful should I be to my employer, bosses want to talk about my diet, and more

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

1. How thankful should I be to my employer for doing something they’re obligated to do?

I’ve been thinking about this question for a while, but Thanksgiving has brought it to the front of my mind: Just how thankful should I be to my employer?

It seems like my employer expects me to be a lot more thankful to him / the organization than I am. Here’s an example: last winter the furnace went out at my house. I live in employer-provided housing for the convenience of my employer (it’s normal in this industry), so it was my employer’s responsibility to replace the 25-year-old furnace. They did so promptly, and I was glad to have the heat back on!

A few days after the repair was completed, my employer put a copy of the bill in my box at the office with a “FYI” written at the top. Over the next few weeks, my boss brought up the cost of the repairs repeatedly. The unspoken but very clear expectation was that I should be exceedingly grateful that the organization chose to repair my furnace and to do so promptly. I seriously think my boss expected a handwritten thank-you note and a box of cookies.

I just … don’t feel that way! Of course I’m glad to live in a house with adequate heating, but my thankfulness for that is directed more towards God and the factors in my life that lead me to be employable than to my specific employer. I’m not surprised or overwhelmed with gratitude that my employer fulfilled his contractual obligation to provide me with livable housing, and it felt crass that he gave me a copy of the bill and repeatedly brought up the cost as if I owed him fawning adoration. Alison, am I off base here? Should I be more thankful to my employer, or is he the one being weird?

He’s being not just weird but fairly crass and rude as well. This would be like if your boss were constantly telling you that his profits were lower this year because he had to pay you your wages. To which you’d presumably be thinking, “No shit.”

Certainly a quick “hey, thanks for getting the furnace taken care of so quickly” makes sense to do, because that kind of thing is good for the relationship. But it doesn’t require you to install a plaque honoring your boss above the furnace or anything like that.

2. My bosses want to give me advice for my chronic illness

I have a chronic illness that is diet-related (think celiac but more obscure). I work very closely with the CEO and COO of my company and they know a lot about my medical issues. It would be difficult to keep the details from them, as we often dine with clients and my diet is very restricted. My illness has made it so that I always use all of my sick time for the year, but when I am at work, I get my work done, even though sometimes I look/seem sickly.

The problem is that both of them have started to comment about my diet in a “maybe if you ate better you would feel better” kind of way. Dealing with a chronic illness is really difficult to do while maintaining the level of work that is required of me, and their (very well-intentioned) comments are really stressing me out. Another factor that may be at play is they are both about the age of my father and sometimes seem to want to “parent” me.

Aside from never eating in front of them, which isn’t really possible, how should I approach this? We are a small company and we all care about each other, so I want to be sure that they know that I don’t resent their concern at all.

How about this: “It’s actually much more complicated than that, but I’m working closely with my doctor.” Or, “I wish it were that straightforward, but my doctor has been very clear that it’s not.”

Reasonable people will get the message at that point, but if it continues anyway, say this: “I really appreciate your concern for my health. I’m working closely with my doctor to manage things, and I really prefer not to talk about it too much at work.” If you’re comfortable with it, you could add, “It’s stressful to have to explain all the details, and I’m much happier just being able to focus on work while I’m here.”

3. I want to back out of a job offer after seeing the benefits

I verbally accepted a job offer last night. I was so excited about the opportunity and salary that I completely overlooked the fact that I hadn’t seen the benefits package. I know this is a rookie mistake and I take full responsibility for my actions. I had never received a job offer on the spot before, and I felt so flustered and unprepared. Moving forward, should I ever find myself in this position again, I will ask for more time and to review the full compensation package and for time to “sleep on” the offer.

The benefits — mainly, the fact that everyone starts with no paid time off and it caps out at 10 (!) days for even the most tenured employees after several years of employment (yes, that includes vacation days, personal time, sick time, etc.) — are nowhere close to what I would expect. Unpaid time off is not allowed. I currently receive close to four weeks off when all is said and done (floating holidays, personal days, etc.) even though my “vacation” time is technically two weeks. I work very hard but I value my time with my family, and no time off is totally unacceptable to me.

How do I rescind my verbal offer of acceptance? I feel very badly for accepting in the first place, and I learned a valuable lesson for next time. It is a shame because I would otherwise be very interested in the position. I don’t feel comfortable trying to negotiate since our philosophies regarding PTO are clearly VASTLY different.

Don’t beat yourself up over this — it happens. Just be straightforward about it: “I’m so sorry, but now that I’ve had a chance to see the benefits package for this role, I won’t be able to accept. I hadn’t realized the amount of paid time off you offer is so low. I currently receive four weeks of paid time off a year — which in my experience is typical for our field — and couldn’t leave my job for less than that.”

4. Employee only does well after I warn her about her work

I have a new hire who is six months in. She seems to only do well at her job when we have a conversation that she is on “notice” and things need to improve. Notice period ends — problems have resolved, and then a week later she’s back to needing her hand held again. This is my second go round at this and I’m getting alarmed. Advice?

Assuming these are serious enough problems to jeopardize her job, tell her that you need to see sustained improvement over the long-term and that if she doesn’t consistently raise her performance and keep it there, you will need to let her go. You don’t need to start the process from scratch each time; have one final conversation with her, and then if she repeats the pattern, stick to your word. (And if you’ve already spotted this pattern only six months in, it’s very unlikely she’s the best person for the job, so I’d assume you’re going to need to replace her.)

5. I never get thanked after spending time helping students with school projects

My colleagues and I were venting about this the other day and I thought your site might settle our fury. It’s pretty common in the world of library school assignments to be expected to visit a library, interview a librarian, and write up a sort of site visit report. My department is probably contacted every month or two by a grad student working on a similar project.

These interviews usually take about an hour of my time, and it’s not a terribly brain-intensive hour. (What’s your mission? What’s your reporting structure? What’s a typical day? Etc.) But without fail, I never hear from these students again after they leave. They know how to reach me! I even give them a physical business card at the end of the interview. Is… is a thank-you no longer expected? I mean, it’s expected by me (and my coworkers), but are we falling out of touch with culture here? I’m tempted to email the professors, not with any specific student criticism, but more a general query about whether thank-you notes are covered at all in introducing the assignment. But I don’t want to be TOO instrusive: I’m not the teacher, after all.

They should be sending thank-yous, and it’s a failing on their side that they’re not. They’re using up your time in a way that has no particular benefit to you, but real benefit to them. I don’t think you’d be at all out of line in letting the professors know this is endemic and suggesting they cover it as part of the discussions of these assignments.

{ 380 comments… read them below }

  1. Fafaflunkie*

    #1: Where do you live, Pyongyang? This sounds like your boss wants to be treated in much the same way North Koreans are forced to treat the Dear and Supreme Leaders: with eternal gratitude. So your boss took care of what he was supposed to do, and wants you to be forever grateful for the privilege? Maybe you should remind them we don’t live this way.

    If you have any Photoshop skills, maybe you can take a picture of your boss, have it “bronzed” and have you bowing to it as your (very sarcastic) way of showing your eternal gratitude.

    1. Caro in the UK*

      You see this is why I’d get fired if I worked for someone like this! My passive aggressive self would find it hard to stop myself from installing a plaque about the furnace proffering my eternal gratitude to my fearless leader for fulfilling the contractually obliged terms of my employment!

            1. Jenny*

              Hahaha! I almost laughed out loud when I saw Alison’s mention of the plaque, and now I’m dying! :D Please OP1, do install (or photoshop) a plaque and send us a picture!

        1. Been There, Not Going Back*

          LW #1
          I disagree somewhat with Alison. Haven’t read all comments so this might have been brought up, but
          Is your employer likely to try to claim you got your year-end bonus/next raise/other usual compensation when the furnace was fixed? Not, is that likely? but is that possible? Because if it’s possible, I think you need to discuss who owns the house and who is obligated to pay for repairs on that house before you end up paying for the furnace in lost wages or benefits.
          It might be difficult – I am no good at a script for this sort of thing – but I think this needs to be clearly addressed, especially since your employer has brought it up more than once.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This outcome strikes me as unlikely/odd (although I understand the fear!).

            OP makes it clear that their employer owns the housing, and in those contexts unless dictated otherwise in the housing contract, the employer is on hook to provide habitable housing (at least that’s the standard in the U.S.—perhaps OP is located in a different country). And it would be 100% illegal in the U.S. to dock someone’s compensation or bonus for necessary wear-and-tear repairs to employer-owned housing. But your point about reviewing the housing agreement is apt.

          2. Fishgal*

            That would be bizzare of the employer. I don’t know what lw does for work, but it’s common in some state job and federal job to live on site. I live on site, the state maintains my house and pays all utilities except for phone/internet/cable. It doesnt factor into my compensation. That includes things like paint if I decide to change paint colors, carpet cleaning rentals, furnace filters etc.

              1. OverboilingTeapot*

                I’m actually a little thrown by the use of both “employer” and “boss.” Is it the employer she should be grateful to, but the boss who needs to hear it? Confusing.

                1. The Rat-Catcher*

                  My guess is that the “employer,” meaning the organization, is who maintains the housing and foots the cost of such things, but the boss (person) was the one coordinating the repair.
                  Either that or the boss is the owner and the funds came out of his profits (which is still not an excuse to demand plaque-like recognition since he makes people live there).

    2. a Gen X manager*

      omg, so funny Fafa (is this a baba booey reference?)

      While it is completely ridiculous and thoroughly unnecessary to thank the boss, the boss behavior screams out wanting to be acknowledged (obviously). In my experience when the want for acknowledgment goes unmet it transforms into a NEED to be acknowledged, which when (still) unmet leads to crazy behavior. In this case the boss might like a thank you for your paycheck every week, but not receiving a thank you hasn’t escalated to this crazy level probably because it is a common thing, whereas fixing “an employee’s” furnace (despite it not being the employee’s furnace, obviously) feels like a service / unusual benefit (even though it is the norm for OP), etc. The whole employer as landlord scenario seems like it would inherently have countless boundary violations and it seems to have led to OP’s boss having lost all sense of regular / healthy perspective and boundaries.

      1. Observer*

        This is not about employer / employee boundaries (although employer provided housing CAN lead to those problems and often do.)

        This is totally a landlord issue. Some landlords really think that providing heat etc. is a gracious kindness they bestow on their tenants, rather than a part of the contractual and legal obligation. eg I had a landlord who actually told me that I should take my kids (oldest was a toddler) to the neighbor for baths till she gets home from vacati0n in two weeks and figures out who will fix my plumbing. (I told her that that’s not happening and that if her designated agent can’t handle it *I* wold find a plumber and take it out of the rent. She figured out how to get it taken care of immediately.)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yup, very much agreed. Some landlords truly do not understand that they’re legally obligated to provide habitable housing and to make necessary repairs within 24-48 hours. Heat is usually part of that package, along with electricity and water. I see this most frequently with individuals who run their own investment properties (i.e., who lack property management training or experience) or with slumlords.

          What’s a bit unusual is how personally OP’s boss is taking this. Usually companies are more savvy about their legal obligations, so it’s less likely that they’ll expect thanks for doing their legally required job as landlords. But perhaps OP’s boss has not had as much experience in that role, which is why he (wrongly) thinks he deserves thanks. If OP wants to indulge him, the most I would do is thank him for the quickness of the repair, but not the repair itself.

          1. BookishMiss*

            Yep, my landlord just took over a week to fix our furnace. We notified him on Halloween. Took a full 8 days and withholding rent to get it actually repaired, and he was super snippy about it. So LW, you’re not alone with landlords being weird about mandatory repairs.

      2. Fafaflunkie*

        I had to respond that way when I read this absurd letter. What next for OP: before getting your paycheque, you have to kiss your boss’ hand while on one knee?

        And yes, that is a Baba Booey reference the name derives from. :P

    3. Ms. Ann Thropy*

      Employer is way out of line. Given that the OP lives in “employer-provided” housing, presumably the employer owns the housing, which means that they replaced their own furnace, not hers. They didn’t give her anything, nor did they do her a favor.

      1. Koko*

        Also, I don’t know what country OP is in, but I imagine most developed countries would have laws similar to the US where it’s actually a crime for a landlord not to provide adequate heat. Repairs have to be made quickly and tenants have to be put up in alternate housing if they can’t be.

        1. KR*

          Also, if they’re in an area where a furnace is needed at this point in the winter by replacing the furnace he is protecting the company’s property from burst pipes, shrinking/warping wood, the drying and cracking of insulation and weatherproofing, and water damage from condensation that can gather in the home when it’s not heated properly. Also, depending on the way the house is structured a lack of heating can cause roof damage because the roof would not be warm and wouldn’t melt snow. This type of damage can also happen to window sills. Really the OP is just another reason why the furnace replacement had to be done – perhaps the more pricy casualty of not having heat would have been expensive damage to the house.

    4. Greg*

      “This sounds like your boss wants to be treated in much the same way North Koreans are forced to treat the Dear and Supreme Leaders: with eternal gratitude.”

      Not to get too political, but I can think of another country whose leader has been known to grouse about lack of gratitude for simply doing his job. :-)

  2. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW1: Your boss is being terribly crass! Next he’ll be expecting employees to hang a picture of him in their homes…

    1. AnonEMoose*

      “Sure, boss – I have many pictures of you in my house.” ::smiles, thinks “finding a place to print custom toilet paper – totally worth it”::.

  3. Mike C.*

    OP1: Employment is supposed to be a mutually beneficial opportunity for both the employer and the employee. Value is created by the exchange of money and benefits for labor. This is not charity. Never, ever forget this.

    OP3: Please, please please use the script provided, especially that part where you directly mention how low the paid time off is. You’re in a unique position to actually comment of this sort of thing and pointing it out may cause this miserly employer to change their ways.

      1. Mike C.*

        Maybe not, but I’ve found in the business world that some are so steeped in their own bullsh!t that pointing out the obvious is needed.

    1. Nico m*

      If you can burn the bridge do it. For the commonwealth.

      You could say that you accepted the offer as you assumed the time off would be within the usual business norms not an absurd outlier

        1. K.*

          Right – the bridge is burned, isn’t it? The OP isn’t going to work there unless they’re going to increase their PTO, which they’re unlikely to do.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I might not want to work there even then–if the time off is like this, what other stinginess will reveal itself?

            And they way I’d say that is, “I’m uncomfortable with the company now, unfortunately. This is such a big deviation from industry standards on such an obvious thing–especially because in so many situations, time off doesn’t actually cost the company cash that’s reflected on the balance sheet–that it makes me question the company’s standards overall.”

            1. LW #3*

              Thanks for your input, everyone! I am LW #3. I called the hiring manager and left a voicemail (followed up with an email to HR) letting them know that the time off is not acceptable… essentially using Alison’s script :). I woke up to three voicemails, they want to negiotate with me. A part of me is interested in hearing what they have to say… another part of me is worried about the “stinginess” in general and it makes me question the company overall. When I asked about unpaid time they said it wasn’t allowed but they have FMLA (well no duh… if you have more than 50 employees I’m pretty sure it’s the law where I live). But my understanding is that FMLA only goes into affect if you’ve worked somewhere for at least a year… if I end up in a hospital tomorrow, what happens to my job? Hm…

              1. Emac*

                Yeah, I would be seriously suspicious of that employer. Do you have any sense of turn over there or how other employees view the employers over all attitude towards the employees? Are there any reviews on Glassdoor, for example?

                Even if they are big enough to be required to follow FMLA, from what I understand, that’s only for serious and/or chronic health problems. So even if you’d been there for a year and had horrible food poisoning or something, I don’t know that FMLA would cover that. But IANAL.

                1. LW #3*

                  Turnover is low apparently. There are no reviews at all and I can’t decide if that’s a good or a bad thing. My understanding is that a majority of employees are hourly (warehouse/manufacturing) and they are allowed to take unpaid time…since this is a salaried job, they wouldn’t allow unpaid time off. I think it’s just too complicated for payroll to calculate.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  FMLA isn’t exclusive to serious/chronic health problems, but you’re right that it likely would not cover horrible food poisoning (unless the food poisoning was accompanied by something like salmonella, e. coli, giardia, etc.).

                3. Wowza*

                  I would definitely walk away from this job.

                  I needed to have surgery at a job that had no unpaid time off.. The surgery was scheduled for just after my one-year anniversary so I could have FMLA. Then my doctor needed to move up my surgery date by two weeks. Would you believe my employer actually threatened to fire me? They said they “couldn’t” grant me unpaid time off until I reached my one year anniversary.

                  At the last minute, they granted me the time off, and I quit shortly afterwards. They were baffled as to why I left!

              2. Greg*

                LW #3: First of all, I’m glad to hear that they’re open to negotiation. While I agree there have been some red flags, imagine if they had been one of those employers who got all offended that you would dare to question their original offer.

                At this point, you’re in the dream position for anyone entering a negotiation: You’re fully willing to walk away (and they just proved to you that they don’t want to lose you). So my advice is, don’t be afraid to ask for the moon. Think about what it would take for you to be happy in that job, and ask for a little bit more than that. Don’t assume that just because they told you everyone gets 10 days max, they’ll never go above that. Ask for the four weeks you had in your old job. Or ask for something else, like unlimited work-from-home privileges. In short, whatever would make you happy. If they say no, you’re no worse off than when you started.

                The only scenario where I wouldn’t recommend doing this is if the misgivings you mention mean you’d be unlikely to take the job in any circumstance. In that case, you might needlessly tick them off by taking such a hard line and walking away even after you got everything you wanted. But if there is a scenario where you would be willing to go there, be upfront with them about exactly what it would take.

                I’ve always been amazed at what I’ve been able to get out of negotiations where I didn’t care if we struck a deal.

                1. LW #3*

                  Sent! I told them exactly what I want- and that if I’m sick I want the ability to work from home and not have it deducted from vacation. I find it kind of difficult to believe that they’ll double their max vacation time for the most tenured employees just for me. Not beating myself up or anything but I don’t exactly have a super in demand or technical skill set… but I do want industry standard vacation time. It’s only reasonable that I should have close to what I’ve received in the past, is it not?
                  Thanks, Greg! As you said I’m in the drivers seat here and if they say no, well… then I am fine with walking away! It should also be noted that while I didn’t mention it in my letter, my family is from Europe. Visiting them typically eats up 10 days off and then I like to have 5 left for miscellaneous personal reasons – weddings, graduations, the occasional three day weekend, etc. I can’t give up seeing my family.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  also don’t be afraid to decide you don’t want the job.

                  You’re not required to take every job that’s offered, and the benefits package is important.

                3. Greg*

                  Congrats, LW #3! Sounds like you’ve handled this well. And I wouldn’t be afraid to tell them about your family situation, just to underscore that there’s a reason you’re asking for this vacation time, and you’re not just asking for whatever you can squeeze out of them.

                  Hope it works out. Send Allison an update either way!

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                OP#3, I’d be wary, as well. The fact that they’re citing FMLA for “unpaid time” is really alarming because, as you note, it’s legally required (and you’re right that it doesn’t kick in until after the first year). I would put that under the, “what you want—a cookie!?” line of negotiation.

                You’re in an excellent position to negotiate, but honestly, I would likely walk away if I were in your shoes. If they give you better leave benefits but you’re surrounded by coworkers who come in sick, etc., because they only have 10 days, I suspect your quality of life at work is not going to be awesome. And I would hate to have to go to the mattresses every time you deserve a performance bonus or raise because they upped your days off. It’s not a flaming red flag, but certainly yellow/orange.

                1. LW #3*

                  Thanks for your response! Here’s where I think it gets interesting- a majority of the employees are hourly/manufacturing non-traditional office professional jobs. I believe they are allowed to take unpaid time because they clock in and out of a timeclock…. and it’s very simple for payroll to process.

                  Almost all management/professional roles are filled by family members of the company’s owners- who I really liked. I have to wonder if the same PTO “rules” apply to them or not?

                2. Specialk9*

                  “Almost all management/professional roles are filled by family members of the company’s owners”

                  Aaaaah! Hair on fire! THIS is the red flag, the miserly benefits were orange.

                  Please read through the archives for family owned companies and the severe dysfunction that often results.

                  Commentariat, help me out with links.

              4. Bea*

                All family members as well and this kind of structure in place???? That smacks of they probably don’t follow that written procedure but I wouldn’t test it out at all. MAYBE though they’re willing to negotiate with you here because they are thinking “we could give LW3 20 PTO days because nobody else here is actually held accountable for their PTO in reality.”

                It’s interesting that they are willing to negotiate at all, so I actually think that despite their shitty written procedure right now and the fact they’re citing FMLA as a benefit, they’re so out of touch, this may be worth continuing with in terms of talking to them.

                Also the fact they gave you an on the spot offer is very much a small business, independently owned place maneuver. So they are so green with their little turnover and the world they live within.

                1. LW #3*

                  They offered me everything I asked for and more… all the time off, WFM when needed… they even offered to help pay off the remainder of my MBA (I have two classes left). I received everything in writing within 10 minutes after a call. It seems like they haven’t revised their written policy since 1995 (lol). They’re growing very quickly as they currently have 5 other managerial positions that will be posted in the new year… they said they are going to rewrite their policy entirely- they had no idea how far off it was from market norms. It seems like they haven’t hired a salaried employee in quite some time. However, after reading the links I am now somewhat nervous about family-owned businesses. I have always worked for large corporations (ok, I’ve only worked at TWO companies in my lifetime besides internships) and I was looking for something different… are many family businesses very toxic by nature?

              5. Janice in Accounting*

                I can’t reply to your later comments but am jumping in to say, not all family businesses are toxic! I work for a company now where the CEO, general counsel, a VP, and a manager are all brothers, and it’s a great place to work. I worked for a small business in the past owned by a married couple and other than his coke habit it was a fantastic job. (!)

                Also, the fact that they not only gladly met your terms but are revising their policies tells me they are willing to listen to feedback without being defensive. To me, this sounds very promising.

                1. Sterling*

                  It does sound to me like this is a company that is moving from a small family run outfit to a larger outfit that is not needing to adjust to those changes. The fact they realize their policy isn’t up to date and are willing to review and revise it tells me they at least are realizing that they need to change.

  4. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW4: I’m wondering from your language (the hand-holding and the fact that you’re alarmed – as opposed to frustrated) if this is an attitude issue or a confidence issue? As things do improve on notice she’s obviously capable, so does she perform poorly because she is not engaged or because she *feels* incapable but gets more support when on notice? If it’s an attitude issue then yeah, words just need to be had, but if it’s the latter and you both want to keep working together is there a way to bolster her confidence perhaps?

    1. tigerStripes*

      I had a co-worker who only worked hard for the week or so after he was told his performance was so bad it was endangering his job. It was very frustrating because when he dropped the ball, management usually asked me to pick it up. I have no idea why he didn’t work much most of the time. He eventually was laid off.

  5. Overwhelmed*

    Good god, your comment is giving me bad job flashbacks. My old boss loved to hold internal meetings where he scolded everybody in his team, saying how low the 600+ employee company is, and we are all over payed, yada yada… It was horribly demoralizing. We all believed it was true, because we haven’t had a bonus since forever.
    After I quit, I learned from ex coworker that the higher ups had made bad investments and chosen to expand in wrong sectors. THAT was why our profit was in the toilet.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Any time a company whines that you are overpaid, they are lying. They chose to set your pay rate! And if they screwed up on labor costs, that’s on them!

  6. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW3: You’re under no obligation to them – especially as they put you on the spot like that. Perhaps they did so because they knew their benefits were crap, knew people will often panic & accept, and then hoped you would be too polite or something to back out..?

    Alison’s script is great, it subtly highlights to them that there’s a problem with what they’re offering and if they’re actually a decent company it might cause a benefits review.

    I am eternally horrified by the lack of employee rights (especially paid holiday) in the USA.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      Totally agree. Their policy is rubbish and out of line with market norms, and they have to be aware of that.

    2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      #1 – yes, your boss is way out of line, but (devil’s advocate here), it’s not clear from your letter whether you said an initial “thanks for getting it fixed so quickly” at all. If you did, I apologise and double down on the “your boss is a jerk” comment; if you *didn’t*, it could be that your boss is trying to passively aggressively hint at wanting an acknowledgement/basic politeness protocols – it’s not an alien concept to say thank you for doing your job, just manners.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        sorry – this was meant to be a new comment, not a reply! stupid tablet stylus clicking in the wrong place, and having to deal with autocorrect

      2. neverjaunty*

        Why play devil’s advocate on this? It’s not “manners” to thank one’s boss for making sure things work as they’re supposed to. If the heat in an office goes out, nobody runs to thank management for getting it fixed, nor should they.

        Also, it’s not “manners” to leave a passive-aggressive complaint that your subordinate didn’t thank you enough. If you’re going to fuss about manners perhaps start there?

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          > nor should they.

          Disagree. When someone does something for me – no matter how much it’s “part of their job”, I thank them. It’s me acknowledging that they are a human being, and they did a thing that touches my life. It doesn’t matter who paid for their work; it matters that we are human beings interacting. And I’m not talking profuse thanks, I’m talking “thank you for fixing this problem for me” to the plumber, and “thank you for handling that so fast” to whoever is it charge of contacting that plumber.

          Once upon a time, back in the dinosaur era when we still used typewriters, I once wondered why my boss thanked me whenever I handed him, eg, a letter I’d typed up? I mean, it was my job, right? I think I was kinda snarky when I said “You’re welcome” back. Forgive me. I was quite young. And then one time he neglected to say anything, and it really stung! I thought about that for awhile, and decided that him saying thank you was perfectly fine with me! And he did, and I do it with others. And I can see them appreciate it, too.

          1. neverjaunty*

            When the heat goes off in your office, you thank your boss when it goes back on? When you get your paycheck you thank your boss?

            1. Specialk9*

              Yes, a casual “thanks for being so prompt with the repair” is a social grace, and we should all strive to interject kindness and grace where we can… But let’s be clear, expecting one’s landlord to *comply with the law and not be a slumlord* is a very low bar. That’s really all that is reasonable to expect of the OP, and once the “fyi being a landlord is convenient for me but I’m still going to whine at you about how much my legal obligations cost” note was out there, social graces are out the window.

            2. JanetM*

              Neverjaunty wrote:

              “When the heat goes off in your office, you thank your boss when it goes back on?”

              Well, yes, I do. When one of my building’s roof-mounted HVAC units failed, and the others weren’t able to carry the load, the CIO could have said, “It’ll take six to eight weeks for a new HVAC unit to be delivered, and we don’t know how long it will take to get a crane, and who knows when Facilities will be able to fit the installation into their schedule. There’s nothing I can do.” Instead, he moved heaven and earth to get Facilities to bring in fans and dehumidifiers.

              I sent him a note thanking him for the effort he put into taking care of his employees, because I wanted him to know that I noticed and appreciated it.

              I thank the maintenance staff when they fix something. I thank the custodian when she picks up my trash and recycling, and when she cleans the restrooms and stocks up the toilet paper. I thank waiters and cashiers and medical techs. I thank the people I’m working with to develop their security plans for their time and assistance.

              It costs me nothing to say thank you, and it might make someone’s day a little bit better. For me, that’s a sufficient effort/reward balance.

            3. Jennifer Thneed*

              If the boss was actually involved, yes, I would say thank you. If they weren’t, I’d thank whoever was making the phone calls. And if my boss actually handed me a paycheck, I’d say thank you because I *do* that when someone hands me something. Even the cop who hands me back my license after they’ve pulled me over. Like JanetM says, it costs me nothing to do this and it’s a bit of social grease.

              In none of these cases has the other person done me a favor, but they’ve still done a thing that affected my life. I thank them. People like being noticed as people. I know this is true because it’s true for me.

              One of my favorite things is thanking someone in a call center, especially if they’ve helped me sort thru something and fixed a problem. Sure, they’re “just doing their job” but if they’ve been pleasant the whole time, rather than surly, it makes a huge difference. I like to thank them and tell them they’ve made something easier for me. They are almost always surprised to hear this praise and I can hear the smile.

      3. Observer*

        While I think it’s polite to thank the boss for getting this taken care of promptly, it doesn’t really matter. The boss is totally and completely out of line. The cost of replacing the boiler is totally not the OP’s issue. It’s something that the OP wouldn’t have referenced in a thank you anyway, it would have been totally inappropriate for her to have done so.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Agree! Thank someone for helping you, but don’t mention the $$$. That’s considered crass in lots of circles. (That’s why we’re supposed to take the price tags off things, right?)

    3. MissDissplaced*

      Yeah, shame on them for not disclosing this sooner. When I recently switched jobs, the offer I had did have less PTO than job I was leaving. However, we covered this as part of the recruitment process and I was able to negotiate a higher salary in lieu of the reduced PTO package and I’m ok with that. Weirdly, they were more willing to negotiate money rather than time off!

      But it sounds like OPs company was attempting to hide this. I wouldn’t feel bad backing out of the offer over it. Bullet dodged.

      1. TootsNYC*

        “Weirdly, they were more willing to negotiate money rather than time off!”

        Isn’t that funny? In the places I’ve worked, there were very, very few people whose time off would have caused cash expenditures that would show up on the balance sheet.

        People work harder going in, colleagues work harder during, and the vacationers work harder when they get back.

        And a raise in salary ripples through several years (that’s one reason why women have ended up earning less after several years–any underpayment in the early years, for lack of negotiating or for employers’ offering a lower salary, will mean that a 3% raise–or a 10% promotion–will still be less dollars).

        1. LW #3*

          Thanks! I am LW #3 and I called the employer, they did say they wanted me to join the team and they asked to know my current time off package… I think they want to negiotate with me. I’m a bit surprised as I’ve found time off to be generally non negiotable unless they allowed unpaid time off (in which case, I would ask for a higher salary to compensate for the unpaid time off). I am just surprised that it was so low… while I am on the younger side I have gotten a few offers in my lifetime and 10 days to start (plus personal days) is the minimum I’ve ever seen…

          1. TootsNYC*

            Their offering is what I got in the early years of my career. They -may- simply be behind the times.

  7. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW5: It is rude not to thank you for your time. I had manners instilled into me growing up (I’m only early thirties) and I am shocked by how many people seem to have missed that point of education – young and old to be fair.

    1. Anony nonny no*

      In your opinion, would it still be rude if people only gave a verbal thank you rather than a written one? To me (also early 30s from the UK) that would be perfectly fine.

    2. Marie*

      I’m in my early twenties, so likely around the same age as these students (and also from the UK) I would of course thank the person for helping me but I would do so verbally and consider that enough.

      1. WellRed*

        Hmm. I am on the fence. I also verbally thank the grocery clerk and the stranger holding the door for me. Surely, the librarian deserves a tad more?

        1. atexit8*

          One hour is not inconsequential amount of time and deserves more than a verbal thank you.
          Frankly, after experiences such as this, I wouldn’t offer to help. That’s how I am.

        2. Marie*

          Out of curiosity what country are you from? I am wondering if it is a cultural difference I am missing. I can see your point about it being more than what the supermarket staff do but I would think it seemed over the top to send a thank you note after verbally thanking someone. I was always taught thank you notes are for when you can’t thank someone in person, for example I always send thank you notes to relatives I don’t see at Christmas who have sent me presents but wouldn’t bother sending them to people I saw on Christmas and thanked in person. I am assuming these students say thank you after the actual interview otherwise it is rude if they don’t say thank you at all.

          1. Observer*

            I hope it’s a cultural difference you are missing, because this seems incredibly rude. I’m not talking about family because the relationship is different. But when you are talking of a fairly significant favor from someone who is a stranger and has no obligation or benefit whatsoever, a written thank you is NOT just about replacing a verbal thank you that you were unable to give. Given the totally one sided nature of the interactional benefits, you need BOTH.

            1. Tara R.*

              This is completely baffling to me. Thank you letters are for people you can’t thank in person! That’s the whole point of a letter, it’s long distance communication. Or so I thought until now. I’m sure there are people out there who think I’m terribly rude as a result. It’s not like the verbal thank you is the same “Thanks, bye” I would give a supermarket worker; it would be something like “Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to talk to me, and your advice has been incredibly helpful.” And I would repeat myself just before leaving too.

              The idea that the nature of this favour requires two different kinds of thank you is not immediately obvious and honestly, I think you need to go by the spirit of the idea and assume the best of people. If someone offers you a genuine in person thank you and doesn’t follow up with an email, they’re probably not trying to be rude… just not familiar with this (frankly somewhat bizarre) social convention.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                You’re thinking of the social rules for gift-giving, where an in-person thank-you is enough. But this is different — this is about professional courtesies after someone took time to meet with you as a favor.

                1. Another Academic Librarian*

                  It seems so odd to me to classify this as a favor! When I have these kinds of meetings with library school students, it is part of my job–I meet with them at my workplace, during my normal working hours, and I am expected to schedule the time around other work commitments (classes, desk assignments, meetings, etc) just as I would anything else. I appreciate a verbal thank you, but I don’t think that anything more than that is required (thank you emails are nice, as always, but not required as they would be in, say, an interview setting).

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                It’s not a bizarre social convention—it’s the difference between conventions re: gift-giving and professional conventions.

                Students don’t need to send physical notes on lovely stationery, but they should, at a minimum, send a thank you email. And their professors should communicate that expectation to them because they likely do not have as much experience with business politesse and may not know better.

          2. Mary*

            Careers adviser in the UK, who has also done this kind of interview with students – generally I think a quick email to say thank you in this situation would be appropriate, partly just for staying in touch purposes. Having said that, I wouldn’t notice *not* getting one if the person had been polite and thanked me at the time!

            We definitely don’t do handwritten thank you letters for this kind of thing or interviews, which seem to be a thing in the US. I would be vaguely embarrassed to receive a handwritten card: it would just be over the top!

          3. Specialk9*

            If you are above the age of 8, if you didn’t give me a thank you note or email for a gift, I wouldn’t give you one again. (Well, if you were up to teen age years, I’d explain once that was my rule. Adults don’t need to be told basic rules of etiquette.) That’s pretty shockingly rude of you.

            1. Specialk9*

              I saw enough contrary comments that I looked it up. Emily Post agrees with you and not with me, so apparently the way I was raised is family rule and not actually a general etiquette rule. Apologies for judging and being dogmatic, especially since I was wrong!

              1. Specialk9*

                Oh, specifically about how a verbal thank you is enough, written is for when one can’t thank in person.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think an email is sufficient. But a full on note is not required. Generally an in-person thank you is considered adequate, but given that this is a bit of inconvenience and a significant investment of time for the librarian, a thank-you email seems like a good compromise.

            1. OP #5*

              I’m OP #5 and I do agree that an email would be totally fine! It’s the lack of an email that rankles…

              1. Wowza*

                I would say something to the professor. My classmates and I had to interview several people in our field as part of our grad classes. I’m sorry to say I never thought of writing a thank-you note; I just thought of the interview as a class assignment.

                1. The Rat-Catcher*

                  I attended a rural Midwestern University and had a friend who was Muslim and wore a hijab (this was uncommon). We had to take an “intro to university” type of class and in one of them, every semester the class was assigned to “interview someone of a different religion than yourself.” My friend never failed to be bombarded with requests from strangers in the cafeteria and dorms for interviews (people even reached out to me asking how to get in touch with her). It was super weird and I’m fairly certain no one ever followed up with her afterwards, so clearly that professor wasn’t covering that either.

      2. Epsilon Delta*

        The professor needs to spell out that a written thank you is required/customary. Different families emphasize different types of manners and to different degrees. My family was pretty relaxed about it, whereas my husband’s family was like freaking Miss Manners and he can recite table manners for like 10 minutes straight.

        It would never have occurred to me as a college student that I needed to send a written thank you for a professional’s time like this. Before that, my experience with thank you notes was that it’s something you do when you receive a physical/monetary gift.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes. And it’s not just about the students individually being polite. The professor is, because of the assignment, the ultimate cause of the students taking up these librarians’ time. And a thank-you makes it more likely that future students will be able to interview.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, and I think students could easily not realize they’re to say thank you because they may assume that meeting with them is part of the librarian’s job functions (it is not). This is really on the professor to communicate norms, and at a minimum, the professor should be sending a very kind thank you note to the library for accommodating their students.

          2. OP #5*

            I’ve hesitated in the past about contacting professors (some of whom I know well, some glancingly, and some not at all) but I DO think that it’s probably important to convey to students that a thank you is a fitting conclusion to this sort of assignment.

            1. NotThatGardner*

              OP5 — from what i know of where i went to library school, contacting the profs you know well and asking them to spread the word could be a potential solve? if you are comfortable enough in your relationship with them to ask that…

              my intro class first semester of library school definitely covered some of the thank you/interview behavior not just because people are too young/out of touch/rude but because many people who go into their MLIS/MLS coursework can be socially awkward or uncomfortable and doing those informational interviews is outside their comfort zone.

            2. Genny*

              OP, definitely contact the professors. Students probably aren’t being intentionally rude, but more just trapped in the college bubble where everything is about them and everyone at the university is there to serve them. To them, this is just one of many assignments and you (assuming you work for the university library) are just one of many people the school pays to help students. They probably think it’s your job to take these interviews. This is as good a time as any for them to be reminded that people exist outside of their academic bubble and that those people have certain expectations of professional norms.

        2. Marie*

          This. I have been saying I don’t think it is necessary and many people seem to agree with me but a lot of people also seem to disagree. I personally would write thank you notes if I was made aware they are expected otherwise I probably wouldn’t give it a second thought. But I have never had to do a project like this either. It seems weird for a professor to assign something that sounds like it could be done once and then made into an information sheet but I know nothing about library studies and had to google it. Either it doesn’t exist as a discipline in my country or I have somehow never heard of it I don’t know which so there could be more to it than I am imagining.

          1. Mary*

            It does exist in the UK! It’s usually an MA in Librarianship or Librarianship and Information Management or something.

            1. Marie*

              I had never heard of it before. It never occurred to me that being a librarian was so complicated but according to google it is more complicated than I thought, well I learned something knew anyway. I’m a languages students though so its a completely different discipline.

        3. Bleeborp*

          I had to do this kind of thing in library school and been on the other side as a librarian and truly never would think anything beyond a verbal thank you is required. Now, in all my instances I was on the desk when they asked me their questions or they were on the desk, during a slow period, when I asked mine so it is a little different than booking out a whole hour of time completely devoted to the student’s questions. But still, I feel like it’s part of the job (especially if you work at a library at a school with a library program.)

      3. Amey*

        Just as a counter point, I’m in my early 30s, in the UK, and I would absolutely send a written thank you in this situation. I wouldn’t send a physical letter (is this what people are getting stuck on here? I think this would be weird in my field in the UK anyway), but I’d definitely send a follow up email to thank the person for their time, and let them know how the information/advice they provided was helpful to me. This would obviously be in addition to a verbal thank you in person. And this is coming from someone who is terrible about writing thank you notes in my personal life (I feel terrible about this!) I think it’s an important networking opportunity among other things – this is a professional working in the field you want to go into, why wouldn’t you do your best to leave them with a positive impression? I would expect a grad student to realise this, to be honest, but it sounds as though this maybe isn’t as universal as I would have thought. If I were the person meeting with them, I probably wouldn’t notice not receiving a thank you – but I’d be much more likely to remember them if I got one.

        1. OP #5*

          Yes, an email is what I’d expect. I actually think I also didn’t notice for a long time the lack of thank yous, it’s only slowly that I’ve become attuned to it and now my colleagues and I focus on it just to see if the trend is continuing. If I’m providing you with an informational interview, I expect the courtesy of a thoughtful thank you expressed after the fact. It’s definitely interesting though to see that other people think the verbal “Thanks for your time, bye!” is fine.

    3. Viks*

      I think a major factor is if this person is being interviewed during work hours or if this is being done in their personal time. If it is business time, i believe a hardy thank you is sufficent and a thank you card is not necessary. It seems these interviews are part of the job and although the interviewer should be gracious – the interviewee ia doing a part od their job.. In my job, i mentor several female engineers, which means several lunch meetings. I am not technically paid during lunch, but my company does pay for the food itself. I would never expect a thank you note. I see this as a part of my job and contributing to my profession.

      1. Observer*

        Well, that’s the problem. The interview is actually almost certainly not part of the librarian’s formal job description – just something that librarians do.

        1. MK*

          I don’t think it matters if it is part of the formal job description, so much as if it is expected of you as an employee and it happens during work hours. In that case, it is, broadly speaking, part of your job.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t think that’s accurate, though. If a student has research questions, then it’s part of the librarian’s job to assist, and a hearty in-person thank you is sufficient. But asking about why you chose your profession is not part of your job, even if it occurs during work hours. And because it is an inconvenience that takes you away from your core job functions, the person requesting your time should send a written thank you via email.

            For example, if students come to see me in office hours, I don’t expect a thank you. But if they ask me to connect them with a professional colleague or to call an employer on their behalf, I expect a written (email) thank you note. Theoretically helping students get jobs is “part of my job,” but it’s not really my job, and neither is leveraging my professional network.

            1. Hibiscus*

              No, but this sort of expected unpaid labor is endemic to the library profession. And honestly, talking to an actual librarian about their work is something they should have done before library school, not as part of a Master’s level class.

              1. Specialk9*

                Assumptions that professionals will of course drop ALL of their regular tasks to help a complete stranger and not expect thanks… is endemic to most female-heavy professions, I’ve noted.

                1. Bleeborp*

                  But who is dropping everything and agreeing to this at a moment’s notice if it doesn’t fit into their schedule? If there are a lot of people doing that, then yeah, that’s a problem. But in my experience you ask when would be a good time and not just show up expecting to get a dedicated hour of someone’s time (and if you’re the one being asked, you are honest about when and if you can accommodate them.) I like talking about being a librarian and giving people an honest look at the field while they’re in school so it’s just never seemed like that much of an inconvenience to me.

              2. Bleeborp*

                For sure, that’s a whooooole other discussion about the merits and rigor of library school….mine was overall a joke and these kind of assignments felt like something you’d do in a middle school career exploration project.

        2. Amy G. Golly*

          It may not be an official part of the job description, but in my experience, it wouldn’t be unusual to treat it as such. The reason being: we’ve all been through it. Every librarian goes through a similar degree program, where observing and interviewing working professionals is a standard assignment. It would be pretty churlish to outright refuse your time to students when you yourself counted on the generosity of working librarians to earn your degree!

          That said, there are some librarians (especially those in management) who get many more requests than others, and pay back their debt 10 fold. Which is why being respectful of their time and saying “thank you” is important!

      2. OP #5*

        I guess it depends on whether you consider it a part of your job… I don’t, I consider it a professional favor like any networking meeting.

    4. Economist*

      The ideal professional thank you email would be to the person who assisted, with that person’s supervisor cc’ed, and the note writer’s supervisor cc’ed as well. This is both good appreciation and good documentation. In this case, the students should be sending thank you emails and cc’ing their professor. They will likely not know the librarian supervisor. The librarian can then forward the emails to his/her supervisor. Since it is a work situation for both the librarian and the professor, the professor should also be writing a note to the librarian, cc’ing the supervisor, and cc’ing the chair of the department. This conveys that the departments are working well together, and the librarian supervisor sees how much time and efforts goes into the interviews. For support occupations, it can sometimes be difficult to quantify how they support the organization, and notes of appreciation can go a long way to get the point across. Unfortunately notes of appreciation do not happen as often as they should, so they can make a big impact come performance evaluation time.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Here is the thing about these interviews. They are the equivalent to an informational interview. The library school student is actually researching the different types of of librarians for a class. My job is a “dream job” for many library school students therefore I have many requests for these types of interviews. I say yes whenever possible. No, it isn’t part of my job. This is community service. Yes, it is a time suck. No I am not “on the clock” Whatever time I take for the student, I still have my scheduled classes, prep, etc. Do I expect a written thank-you. Not really. A thank you for your time email would be appropriate in these circumstances.

        1. OP #5*

          I think I’m in a similar position to you, Bibliovore. I’m not affiliated with the schools sending these students (although I’m not sure that would make a difference in my perspective), and it’s hardly the kind of work aligned with what I’m expected to accomplish. I think perhaps because I DO view it as a favor that I’m fulfilling that I especially am interested in the email acknowledging that I carved out time in my day.

          1. Economist*

            OP #5, I didn’t get it from your letter that you weren’t working at the same school as the students. Because you aren’t at their school, a thank you note is absolutely warranted. It is clearly not part of your job to schedule time with them.

    5. Ginger ale for all*

      I work in an academic library and there is another angle to the thank you note that hasn’t been mentioned – the library world is a somewhat closed and insular world. Sending a thank you note will help form a positive opinion of you when it comes time to start job searching. There was a job filled in my library years ago and when the candidates came in, we remembered the one who had sent us a thank you note a while back for something and it was an easy conversation starter with her. She got the job, due to other factors though but the thank you note started her out with a step up, jmo.

      1. Bleeborp*

        While I’m up in the comments disagreeing with most other librarians about this (I don’t think a thank you email/note is necessary, at least not in the cases where I’ve been the interviewed/observed librarian) BUT it’s obviously a very good idea as many librarians do not agree with me and could be interviewing you eventually!

      2. anono-pop*

        Agreed! I was one of those library students who had to interview a working professional, and I ended up getting time with a library administrator I admired and would have loved to work for. My thought process was basically, “OMG, this person is willing to share her time and info with me, and I want to make the BEST impression.” I think I sent her a quick follow-up thank-you email, and I later sent her the final project I had made with some quotes from that interview.
        I ended up interning for her the next semester, and being hired on as one of her reports after that.

  8. Zephyrine*

    LW 2, I think my blood pressure shot up 15 points as I read your letter. As if unsolicited diet advice and unsolicited health advice weren’t bad enough on their own, it’s unsolicited diet-related health advice! AWESOME. (Or, you know, not.)

    I hope Alison’s scripts put the kibbosh on future “helpful” suggestions.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I love ““I wish it were that straightforward, but my doctor has been very clear that it’s not“ and will be stealing it for the people who try to wellsplain* at me (*any sentence that starts with “can’t you just…)

      1. PB*

        I’ve ranted a few times lately about how I think “just” is the worst word in the English language, especially in the context of “can’t you just…” or “why don’t you just…”.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          I’ve been waging war on that word at my office lately. The account team loves to use it and I come right back with an explanation of why the thing they’re asking me or my direct reports to “just” do is actually a task that requires some thinking through, which means time that they’d rather not give us.

          So I’ve said “I have a problem with using the word ‘just’ here” several times in the last couple of weeks as part of these explanations.

        2. Artemesia*

          Bingo. ‘Why don’t you ‘just’ or ‘Why didn’t he just’ is always a signifier of deep cluelessness and often of boundary crossing. It is almost always spoken by someone deeply ignorant or very very naive. I have never heard a sensible suggestion following that phrase which is often used by students with limited mastery of whatever the issue is.

        3. NorCalPM*

          Oh, I don’t know. I’ve heard the word “just” used very appropriately at times.

          For example, in truly egregious cases of overstepping: “Why don’t you just shut up about it already?”

      2. HannahS*

        Yeah, I think that’s great wording. I’ve also used, “If it were that simple,it wouldn’t be an illness” or “If I were a healthy person to begin with, that would be a good idea, but unfortunately that sort of thing doesn’t work for me.”

      3. K-Ann*

        Wellsplain! That is a perfect term.

        I have so much empathy for LW #2. I get debilitating migraines on occasion – I started getting bad headaches in grade 2 and was diagnosed with migraines and cluster headaches I was in university. When people aren’t giving me advice such as “Advil liquigels will do the trick!” or “just busy yourself with something else, it’ll distract you,” they’re making the novel suggestion I see a doctor. It’s endlessly frustrating.

        I have a friend who is 6’7”. Strangers walk up to him on a regular basis to ask him if he plays basketball (he doesn’t). In turn, he’ll ask him if they play mini golf. I’m waiting for a clever comeback like that to strike me so I can whip it out every time someone decides to ‘wellsplain’.

        1. Candi*

          I heard one guy say, “Oh my goodness! I would never have thought of that! You’re amazing!” to something another guy said that I didn’t hear clearly, but had a a tone like, “You poor fool.”

          Granted it was outside the library, so social, and I suspect the right note of sarcasm can be tricky to hit, but it was amazing how he returned the awkward to sender.

    2. Pinkie Pinkster*

      I’m wondering if it’s FODMAPS. That’s pretty obscure. My mom has it and the women she works with get together for lunch all the time and she can’t ever go because of it. It’s really hard on her, she gets stressed out and feels very much like a loner. Sorry you’re going through this LW #2. I have an auto-immune disease and this one “friend” sends me the exact same article every week about super food that will fix it. Hang in there.

      1. Wanna-Alp*

        Noooo. Please don’t let’s *us* speculate.

        We need to send de-stressing vibes to OP#2, not re-stressing ones.

        1. LBK*

          I thought Pinkie’s comment was just being sympathetic to someone with a restrictive diet, not trying to armchair diagnose…

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP#2, this drives me out of my mind. I have a (very common and no there’s no pill for that) food allergy, and people still love to explain to me how I’m managing my health incorrectly by avoiding that food group. Alison’s scripts are great, but I also think it’s ok to be even more direct if the CEO/COO keep pushing you. If they keep pushing past all her scripts, then something along the lines of, “I appreciate your concern and understand it’s coming from a good place. But managing my health is complicated, and it’s an added burden—not a help—to have it continually brought up at work.”

      1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

        This would drive me out of my mind completely. “Even though you’re allergic to bananas, you should eat bananas because they’re good for you”? Um no they are not? Do people even listen to the words that come out of their mouths?
        I think Alison’s scripts are perfect for all the healthsplainers out there.

      2. Q*

        I have celiac disease and eat dairy free because it upsets my stomach, which is common with the disease. One of my lovely coworkers claimed I had an eating disorder because of my “restrictive eating”. I will never forget working with this woman, she had no boundaries or tact.

  9. AcademiaNut*

    So for #5, it sounds like a standard assignment is to take up an hour of a professional librarian’s time for a graduate student to ask them questions that could be covered in a FAQ?

    That kind of assignment annoys me, even if there are thank-you notes involved – it takes up time, without any particular benefit. If we’re talking about high school students interested in pursuing a career it different, particularly if they’ve never had a chance to talk to someone who does the work, but a “typical day” report from a graduate student seems odds.

    But I’d definitely contact the professors to point this out. Learning the proper etiquette for professional favours is important.

    1. Cristina in England*

      Yes, why are grad students required to do this? When I was in library school I had a work placement that lasted for six weeks, and I shadowed someone at three sites for two weeks each. This was where I conducted my Masters dissertation research, it wasn’t just to gain work experience. If you want to get a flavour of what the work is like, an hour is not going to do it.

      I think it is largely an innocent mistake on the part of the students. I can see how they wouldn’t think to thank you for this (beyond a verbal thank you) if it is part of an assignment, as they are required to do this. Especially so if they’ve gone straight to graduate school without working.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        “I can see how they wouldn’t think to thank you for this (beyond a verbal thank you) if it is part of an assignment, as they are required to do this.“

        I don’t get it – why would the fact they’re required to do it mean they have no need to thank anyone who helps?

        1. Lioness*

          I don’t think the thought is that they don’t need to thank anyone at all, but if it is a required assignment their might bit some thought that the professor has some agreement with the librarian(in that if the this is an assignment each semester and there are multiple students in a class, then the professor forewarned the library).
          Not that this is an excuse, the professor could very well write in the syllabus about sending a thank you email afterwards.

          If they verbally thank them after the interview it may just not be crossing their mind to send a second one in an email.

      2. fposte*

        I believe for us it’s part of the application; I don’t know that it’s assigned in any class.

        However, I would agree with the notion that students feel like an oral thank you is enough. Not necessarily because it was assigned, but because written followup thank yous are pretty rare in our culture for a situation where an oral thank you was given, and they’re mostly in advanced social occasions like wedding showers and formal dinners (to which nobody sends the written thank yous anymore anyway).

        It would certainly be professionally wise for a student to develop this connection as much as possible, and I like the idea of spreading the practice of sending a followup thank you, so I’ll send it down the student telegraph in case it becomes relevant to mine. But I don’t think it’s the outlier behavior the OP is feeling it as.

    2. Victoria, Please*

      This is a good idea — develop an FAQ and then require students to read it and have advanced questions based on the FAQ if they REALLY want to come talk to you. At least it won’t feel so much like repeating yourself.

      The lack of an email thanking you for your time is seriously annoying. If there’s 1-2 professors whose students regularly come, I’d say it’s definitely worth a point-out.

      1. OP #5*

        I do certainly have a problem with the execution of the assignment itself (a list of questions each student has to ask, really?) at times, but at least something like that is more structured. Worse are the classes where students are expected to conduct their own informational interviews, as often they haven’t done even a modicum of research. A bad omen for a future librarian! (And another reason I really think library school education needs a substantive overhaul)

    3. OP #5*

      LOL, yes. I think these assignments are dumb! I also think the entire system of library school graduate education is dumb (and also ethically unjustifiable, considering the huge quantity of degrees granted in contrast with the much smaller number of jobs available).

      I think I would also NOT expect a note from a HS student doing a job shadow experience – I expect a higher degree of professional courtesy considering these are adults with college degrees pursuing a professional advanced degree. But I think you (and other commenters) are correct and it would be more productive to send a general note to professors explaining that we don’t tend to get these thank you emails and perhaps they might want to mention the custom.

  10. T3k*

    #5: when I was in college, I mad this faux pas a couple times and by the time it occurred to me that I should have sent a thank you note, it was too late to say anything (think a year later) and I still feel bad about it. I knew basic proper etiquette when it came to in person interactions but nobody mentioned to write thank you notes (up until then, I’d always said thanks in person or over the phone). Please let the professors know so they can inform their students about this.

    1. OP #5*

      Thank you for this T3k, it’s nice to hear I won’t just be hectoring but may possibly help a future student avoid regret! But I agree, it’s literally never too late to send a thank you.

  11. Hannah*

    #3 Is it common in the US to have such little time off?! How on earth do you start with no time off? Are you seriously expected to work the entire year with no break? Wow maybe I’m naive but that is shocking to me. What happens if you are in an accident? Or just plain old sick?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The minimum generally considered acceptable for full-time, professional jobs is two weeks of vacation, plus sick time, plus federal holidays. Some companies offer less than that (but that’s generally considered bad) and many offer more. I’m going to ask that we not get sidetracked on this (since it comes up here a lot) but you can get a pretty good sense of the variations at this post:

      1. MilkMoon (UK)*

        Perhaps AAM needs a post where those of us from countries with more ‘progressive’ employee rights can just go and express our horror together every time this comes up, lol.

        Honestly I can’t help myself – I feel the need to keep saying something until your American readership unites and rises up against it!

            1. SignalLost*

              I mean … does any American who reads AAM need to be “made aware” that other countries do things differently? My employer is awful, and also one of the largest in the country, and I don’t work there because I’m dumb and think their crap PTO policies are great, I work there because I’ve been looking for a living-wage job for ten years and I kind of need money.

              1. atexit8*

                Some are aware.
                Some are of the mind “USA is the best when it comes to everything”. You haven’t met those yet I gather. LOL.

                1. Artemesia*

                  Many many many Americans think time off is a gift and that it is unreasonable to expect anything more; it has always stunned me, but it really is so. I have heard arguments like that all my life from people with terrible benefits.

                2. Database Geek*

                  There’s this mentality that you’re supposed to work hard and suffer for a long time and having time off is just laziness because working for a living is the most important thing ever because that’s the most important thing. Anything else is laziness. It’s unfortunately connected do some religious ideals of how to be so there’s no arguing with it

                3. LBK*

                  I honestly don’t think I’ve seen one of those on this site except maybe the odd one-off commenter. It’s really not necessary here.

                4. SignalLost*

                  I haven’t met them on this blog, no. I have met them in real life; but since they don’t read AAM, we don’t need a primer for people who won’t read it and wouldn’t believe it if they did.


                5. Specialk9*

                  It’s pretty rude to expect people to know something other than what they, and everyone they know, has experienced.

              1. neverjaunty*

                There’a a huge difference between pointing out stingy leave policies, and the self-indulgent “my goodness! You primitive Americans!” gawking comments AAM is talking about.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Agreed. It’s exhausting, and at least on this blog, most are aware of the very different protections/provisions for workers in other countries. And honestly, the “rise up” rhetoric is also exhausting. There are complex reasons for why American workers are disempowered, and hearing about how we just need to empower ourselves and become less ignorant about all the wonderful protections in [Country X] comes across as patronizing and frustrating.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          It’s not like the UK has every thing right with employee rights, access to tribunals has been seriously restricted by the high increase in fees, and no one can bring a claim for unfair dismissal until they’ve been employees for 2 years, when previously it was only 12 months.

          My house mate is a union worker, and getting ready to go out on strike over the latest pay deal. Apparently 3.5% isn’t acceptable and the company want to change the sick pay secheme to restrict time of on full pay to only 6 months in a 12 month period which has outraged the staff. I’m struggling to understand the employees side of that argument.

          1. Bookworm*

            Yeah, I’m American but live in the UK and I don’t think the differences are so dramatic as people seem to imagine they are. At least not that I’ve seen. There are certainly edge cases, but for the most part, it seems that people in the UK complain about similar problems as people in the US. And I know people here who don’t feel free to take as much time off as they have technically available due to unspoken rules.

            1. MK*

              I have heard this argument before, but I don’t agree. There might not seem to be much difference between your employer being obligated by law to give you X PTO and them doing it because it is industry standard/they want to be competitive/ they see the benefit of having well-rested employees, but in fact there is a significant difference between having a legal right and relying on the employers’ discretion. If you are lucky, it may never have a practical impact on your work life, but many people are not lucky.

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Bingo. I remember making that same argument right around 1980 to someone that argued that we really didn’t *need* the ERA because businesses were *voluntarily* making all these changes!

                For once, I came up with the good answer on the spot: Yes, but it’s being kind of trendy to make those changes, and I’d rather have them enshrined in law than rely on the goodness of corporations. (And I wasn’t even very cynical about corporate behavior yet! But then again, I was all of 18.)

            1. BritCred*

              For a while… you did. Then the court overturned it. I won’t post the article here but the government were ordered to refund £27m worth of fees charged to employees who went to tribunal. Our government currently are doing everything possible to remove rights from employees and everyone but themselves.

        2. Kate*

          The same thing happens whenever the cost of healthcare (or education) in the US gets brought up. I think they get it and don’t need to be told how much these issues suck (it’s not like any of it is going to get better any time soon).

          1. K.*

            Exactly. “College should be free!” I agree. It’s not though, and unless you (general “you”) have a a plan to make it so, I’d rather not hear it.

        3. Oryx*

          Please don’t. We’re very aware, trust me, and constantly being remind in the AAM comments by “helpful” non-Americans serves the exact opposite purpose.

        4. Violet Fox*

          Maybe a better idea would be to have a post about workplace norms so people in the US known what to expect when it comes to benefits, behaviour, and whatnot not, i.e., what is normal.

          1. SignalLost*

            What is normal is the workplace norms in the country I live in, i.e. America. It helps not at all to claim that workplace policies in Albania or Zambia are normal because I don’t live there and I can’t work there. Non-Americans don’t have to think US workplace norms are great, but that doesn’t give me a visa or change the situation. It does assume I’m stupid and uninformed, though.

            1. Violet Fox*

              I think you are replying to the wrong person, I was simply suggesting that a post about what is normal in the work place in the US for the folks in the US is a good idea.

              Also please keep in mind that a lot of nonAmericans read AAM as well because while some of the workplace norms stuff is not helpful, a lot of the “how to talk to people at work” and general phrasing type stuff is very very useful (and it has been for me).

              1. Bette*

                Why would people in the US need a primer on what’s normal in the US? We know what’s normal here, it’s the non-USians who gasp and clutch their pearls over the appalling American work conditions that need this, apparently.

                1. Emac*

                  Not everyone knows what’s normal in the US, though, especially when it comes to differences between types like white collar vs blue collar work, office vs non office, or union vs non union (I would think). Even between industries, there can be differences. For example, I worked in corporate offices for about twelve years before getting a job in higher education. I had no idea that it’s common to get more paid time off in that sector.

                2. Tau*

                  Hell, something I’d find really helpful would be a primer on normal non-US work customs for various countries. Because AAM is a fantastic resourcee for the first time *and also* heavily US-centric, which can be an issue if you’re a non-US reader who’s entering the work force for the first time and aren’t entirely sure what applies to you and what doesn’t.

                3. Violet Fox*

                  Not everyone does know what is normal, and that is pretty plain from a lot of the letters, especially younger folks who are newer in the work force. I don’t mean just benefits, but how functioning work places actually function.

                  For me it isn’t about pearl clutching, even though I feel a little bit of a “how dare the non-Americans be continuously shocked by something that for them for cultural reasons is shocking”, but it would also help those of us not in the US give advice that is actually useful.

                4. Violet Fox*

                  For my own sake, I could say, talk about what it is like in academica where I live, but since I have never really worked outside of academica, I don’t know whole tons of how the private enterprise works here. I know general legalities but that is different from how places operate and what expectations are.

                1. SignalLost*

                  Also, it comes up literally every time there’s a chance location (or industry) plays a part in a letter.

          2. AMT*

            There was that great post a while ago that asked people to comment what their jobs were, where they lived, and how much their compensation (including PTO) was.

        5. JamieS*

          I know this is selfish but my PTO is more than sufficient for me and I don’t have time nor interest in making a sign and standing in the cold in order to compel an employer who isn’t mine to give more vacation to an employee who isn’t me.

            1. JamieS*

              I realize that and I was clearly being tongue im cheek. My point was my concern is with my pay, my benefits, and my work conditions. Barring illegal conduct (including discrimination) I don’t really care if someone else isn’t being paid what they’d like or doesn’t have the amount of PTO they want. Far as I’m concerned that’s something between that person and their employer/potential employer and it’s up to the person to be their own advocate.

              1. Specialk9*

                Wow. That’s… Well, the good news is that you’re anonymous as you’re literally saying “I got mine, I don’t care who else is getting screwed.” So that’s nice.

              2. Sue Wilson*

                lmao, how do you think discrimination became illegal? Hint: not by people only caring about currently illegal things. If you don’t care about other people, you don’t have to, but this “as long as it’s not illegal I don’t care” reasoning is just funny.

                1. JamieS*

                  I’m well aware how discrimination became illegal. Very basic reading comprehension can go a long way. I didn’t say I only care about illegal conduct. There are many things I find unethical/immoral that aren’t illegal that I care about. What I did say is I only care about another person’s pay or benefits if they differ because of illegal conduct not that I only care about illegal conduct in general.

            1. JamieS*

              The only time I’d ever “need solidarity” is if it’s a group issue such as all women being underpaid or all employees in a department being required to work in unreasonable work conditions. Therefore the solidarity I need will be automatic because there will be others in the same boat.

              If it’s an individual issue that only I have then I will never need solidarity. I’ll need the ability to stick up and speak up for myself which I already have.

                1. JamieS*

                  My line of thought isn’t “icky”, which is just rude to say, it’s realistic. We’re not talking about a person being discriminated against, forced to work in unreasonable/unsafe conditions, or otherwise harmed. For the record I would stand up against something like that. We’re talking about a person’s benefits package, specifically their vacation time or PTO, which I don’t think is any of my business nor something that I have responsibility for.

                  Unless you’re working tirelessly to get the U.S. Congress and/or state legislators to change labor laws to be more beneficial towards workers and get us more guaranteed PTO, don’t sit and judge me for being honest about what I think my role should be as it relates to other people’s employee benefits when I’m not saying anything different than what most people are actually doing. If you are actually working to have the laws changed it’d be a good idea to post about your work and how others can get involved since I’m sure there are other posters who’d be interested in helping.

              1. Data Lady*

                But there’s this thing where treating something as an individual issue and speaking up for yourself gets you labeled as someone who’s angling for special treatment…or have you never had that happen to you?

        6. Vive la France*

          “Ah! I will postpone my August holiday so that my American colleagues can take their vacation in August.” –Said no French employee, ever.

          We are well aware. Especially if you work for a global company.
          And yes, the above was the norm at one company I worked at. It was double the gall because we all knew they got 25 days off by law + 2 weeks (vacation) in addition the company gave them. The Americans: 10 days vacation (but you only accrued 5 days in the first year), and 15 days if you’d been there 10+ years, but we still were required to cover the workload in August.

          As to why there is no revolt over this MilkMoon. I guess people still seem to believe our Corporate Overlords will “trickle down” their beneficence on us. *snark intended, but also seems to fit with LW#1 employer so lucky me*

          Seriously, what can we do? I’ve recently found that when job hunting, many employers are less and less willing to even negotiate the PTO. You basically get what they give you, no ifs, ands or buts and you take it or leave it like LW#3. I don’t know why that change has come about in recent years.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I’ve recently found that when job hunting, many employers are less and less willing to even negotiate the PTO. You basically get what they give you, no ifs, ands or buts and you take it or leave it like LW#3. I don’t know why that change has come about in recent years.

            I’m wondering if it’s because employees -will- compare notes about vacation time, but not about salary. There’s a societal pressure to not talk about money, and employers try to disincentivize it.

            But if they give you more vacation time, you’ll talk about it, and other people will want some too.

        7. Specialk9*

          I find it helpful as a reminder that this is normal *here* but it’s not how other countries do it and we should do better.

      2. Shop Girl*

        I know this is off topic but I have to ask, what is the definition of “professional”? I am a FE Manager in a grocery store. I manage a large diverse staff. The list of responsibilities and the knowledge needed to perform them is nearly endless and ever changing. Am I less a professional because I work weekends and don’t get Federal holidays off. Why do we treat M-F 9-5 office jobs as professional and not others.

        1. fposte*

          I agree that there are some questionable, especially class, layers to the term that deserve more scrutiny than they usually get, but it’s not about you being less professional personally or doing less work. It’s historically a term about career track positions requiring a college and possibly advanced degree or working in environments where that’s true. The Bureau of Labor Statistics still uses it and I’d love to find their definition, but I’m having no luck.

          The Wikipedia sentence that seems most relevant is “In some cultures, the term is used as shorthand to describe a particular social stratum of well-educated workers who enjoy considerable work autonomy and who are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work.” I would probably also add “and get to sit down.”

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            My understanding was always that “professional jobs” refers to the advanced degree required to enter a profession—i.e., a job that requires a license to practice (e.g., social work, medicine, law, accounting, engineering, city planning, pharmacy, nursing, dentistry, MBAs, etc.). That doesn’t mean that managers and folks from other industries are not professionals, but the term can be quite squishy and alienating.

        2. Mike C.*

          It’s a great way to socially split up those who sell their labor for a living to ensure they don’t support each other. You prop up one group as “professional” or “skilled” over the folks who “aren’t” and then when bad things happen to the other group it doesn’t matter because you’re “professional” and if they didn’t want to suffer, they would have worked harder or something.

          When in reality, service and retail workers are working much, much more demanding jobs for much, much less. You’re absolutely right that it’s a meaningless distinction. You might not need a college degree to manage a dozen tables during the lunch rush, but it’s certainly skilled work.

          1. Shop Girl*

            Actually most Dept managers in retail need a Bachelors degree and several years experience.

            But I agree it is a way if dividing all the worker bees.

        3. Perse's Mom*

          The discussion around office jobs sometimes seems to run on the assumption that ‘professional’ = exempt, even here.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I am curious about what would happen in the job the letter writer is turning down if a new starter is contagious or in the hospital. No PTO and unpaid time off is not allowed – so what do you do? Work from your hospital bed?

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Yeah also wondering that. How does no unpaid time off work? You get really sick or have a death in the family and have no leave left and you’re just not allowed to not come to work or you’re fired? Hospital is a great example.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

          The one time I had a job like this, it was simply come to work or be fired. I chose to quit because I could not take a half day unpaid.

          In fairness there were some other circumstances that were my fault which led to me having no more sick time, but it was still very inflexible. A colleague had to leave for a personal emergency and the manager got in trouble for letting her leave because she didn’t have any PTO left.

        2. anon24*

          I worked at a place like this. We did get federal holidays off, but we accrued 10 days PTO a year, no other time. An employee had a heart attack and was out for a month. She told me she was lucky she had enough vacation days stored up or else she would have been fired. I was horrified and she told me an employee had been fired for being hospitalized after a car crash and not having PTO. My last week there one of the employees missed a lot of time because her father was sick and dying. The supervisors didn’t want to fire her but she had run out of PTO and they were trying to find a loophole to get around it. Then they realized they could give her family medical leave and were so happy. Why they couldn’t do that for the other employees is beyond me.

            1. anon24*

              Yes it was the US. They were a federal contractor too. I was baffled how it was legal to do this but they did a lot of things that were questionable legally.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Unfortunately, most labor/wage laws do not apply to state/local or federal employees. FMLA applies to state/local government, and it applies for most federal employees but not all.

            2. AcademiaNut*

              FMLA doesn’t cover everything, though. You need to work for a large enough employer and you need to have been employed with them for over a year full time. It also doesn’t cover all illnesses or reasons for leave.

              1. Observer*

                No. Yes, on a federal level the employer needs to have at least 50 employees in a 75 mile radius, and you need to have been working for a year. But, you do NOT have to be full time – you need to have worked 1,250 hours, which comes to 25 hours a week (assuming time has been taken off.)

                And, yes, any serious illness is covered.

        3. Grief Bacon*

          I just started a job that doesn’t allow unpaid time off (which I wasn’t aware of when I accepted…but I was also desperate, so it wouldn’t have changed my mind).

          We accrue 20 PTO days year one, and that covers vacation, personal, sick, and all holidays. We are also required to clock exactly 40 hrs/week, so if you’re short even a minute, the difference is pulled from your PTO. As long as there’s time in your PTO bank, you cannot take unpaid time off. Which is why several of my coworkers ended up working Thanksgiving, because they didn’t want to use PTO for holidays. That said, if you were out of PTO and got sick or had an accident or a death in the family or something else unexpected, they wouldn’t fire you for taking unpaid time.

      2. Observer*

        Legally, they probably can’t do it. So, they probably rely on intimidation and hoping that people don’t know the law. But, this is the kind of thing that is so egregious that once someone goes to the DOL on a FMLA type complaint, this will be a slam dunk.

        1. Emac*

          Legally they can’t do what? Ask someone to work from their hospital bed or not give them time off (paid or unpaid)? Unfortunately, I think both of those are legal in the U.S. (unless the employee is eligible for FMLA leave, but that doesn’t cover everyone).

          1. Observer*

            Not give unpaid time off for something bad enough to put them in the hospital, because FMLA would almost certainly apply. And asking them to work from the hospital is almost certainly “FMLA interference”, which is also illegal.

            Yeah, there are some exceptions even in a covered company, but not enough to make this a viable policy, legally speaking.

    3. Broadcastlady*

      Radio industry, small market(that makes a difference). I get one week PTO vacation, and 6 sick days. We work all holidays except Christmas and can choose comp days or overtime. I choose Comp, which I’m allowed to take any time (I know legally it’s within the same week), but I let mine stack and use them as a second week of PTO vacation.

    1. MK*

      For me too, but then my culture isn’t as fixated on thank-you notes as the U.S. seems to be. Sending a note after you have already been verbally thanked would come across as slightly odd; and, no offense, I find it off-putting to insist on a note in this case. You were thanked; the other person expressed appreciation for what you did for them. Why do you have to have a written expression of gratitude?

      Also, and related to #1, it is not clear to me whether this is part of the OP’s job or something they do in their own time voluntarily.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        It sounds like they’re doing it in the course of their job, but they’re still giving up their professional time.

        I think it would be nice if people let you know their grade. When I went back to grad school to retrain I emailed a couple of people to ask for copies of their research papers as I couldn’t access them without paying a high fee and someone on Reddit advised asking the authors. They said yes and one was even kind enough to post me a hard copy. When I got my essay mark I wrote to let them know.

        I also used to work supporting students and got very dusty eyes when one of them – who’d had a really hard time – emailed me to say she had got a first.

        1. schnauzerfan*

          Yes. And the other thing these students should be thinking about is this. This isn’t just an assignment, but a good step into building a professional network. Librarianship is a very small field. I know a couple of people (or more) at every library of any size in our state. We meet, we have conference calls, we talk. The student I talked to who sent a ty note or email… who followed up on something we discussed makes a good impression in a way that a “Thanks!” on your way out the door doesn’t. That impression may well help Fergus in his job/internship search. If I get a thank you note I’m more likely to remember you fondly when you apply to work in my library. When someone is looking for candidates for a new position, I may remember you and send you the job posting with a note that you can mention I sent you. The person who took my time as if it was an entitlement? Not so much. I’d also like a thanks from the professor who sent the students my way. This isn’t just a petty thing. My evaluation has a requirement for service to my profession and community. Appreciative notes are a really nice add to the p&t file.

          1. Bibliovore*

            When I became an academic/tenure track librarian, one of the first pieces of advice that I got was to create a physical “thank you” file for promotion and tenure review. I was surprised that this was a “thing.” Sure enough, it came in handy during my third year review as evidence of community and professional service.

          2. OP #5*

            This is so true! I mean, if these students finished up an hour long interview with me and DIDN’T say a verbal thank you I’d probably call the police, but I see a polite email afterwards as cementing a positive impression.

      2. Steph*

        My thoughts exactly.
        In Australia we don’t seem to have the “thank you note” culture that exists in thE US (something that the readers of theEtiquetteHell blog just can’t seem to cope with). In my experience a hearty and genuine thanks in person during the interview would be sufficient. A note would be unexpected. But seeing as this is about the OP, there obviously exists a note culture for him/her so, by all means, OP5, maybe an email to a professor or two would be good?

        1. BedMadeLie*

          I mean, to be fair, the EHell blog/community is pretty rigid and needlessly hateful about a lot of things…did you know that throwing one’s own birthday party, regardless of if you’re paying for everything and refusing all gifts, is a hanging offense?

          1. Steph*

            Oo, yes! And don’t you even think about suggesting to friends you go out to dinner together unless you are prepared to foot the entire bill yourself!
            (I started reading that blog when I was a lot younger and thought I must have been the most etiquette-less person in the world. Took me a while to realise cultural differences account for ALOT and the proclaimations of those biddies was not globally applicable).

            1. Kate 2*

              That’s. . . just not true. I read Ehell a lot, and what they say is rude is to invite friends to dinner without making it clear who’s paying, you or if everyone is “going dutch”. It’s rude because otherwise people attend who can’t afford to eat out at the moment, people might not have money on them, and people might leave dinner feeling angry and deceived. It is absolutely fine to ask people to go to dinner together.

          2. Kate 2*

            Citations please? I read Ehell frequently and I have literally never seen that happen. What I have seen happen is people getting upset when they are invited to pay for someone’s birthday party that they are throwing for themselves.

        2. Specialk9*

          This is fascinating insight into cultural differences! One of the amazing and excruciating things about intl travel is bumping up against invisible and unquestioned social rules, the ‘of course this is how it is, unless you were raised by wolves and are also morally deficient’ rules that trip you up – sometimes for the new culture, and sometimes from your own. It still surprises me every time though!

        3. Kate 2*

          Well since it IS our culture, if someone in the US doesn’t send a thank you note to another American, that IS rude. Just like it’s rude to look down on another country’s culture and brag about how great yours is.

      3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        Maybe I was raised rude, but I’m American and it would seem odd to send a thank you note after I’d thanked you in person (unless I’m misunderstanding the nature of this event). I always found the post-interview thank you note a bit awkward but I can understand that it’s a thing, and if I went to an informational interview I’d send a thank you email, but if I’ve attended a seminar or presentation I would not send a thank you note unless I had a question or wanted to network further with that person.

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          I went to library school and did this project. I sent a thank you (with contact info) after because I’d spent three hours and I considered her a professional contact. I treated it like networking. It was an informal/informational interview.
          But I was also ten years older (with that much more professional experience) than 70% percent of my classmates and working full time and had a different perspective than a student. I was in business mode.

          1. BedMadeLie*

            Agreed. I would send (and expect) a brief thank you email for something like this because of the networking value. This is 110% a situation where relationship building should be at least given a nod, and it would be a courtesy for the OP to point it out.

        2. Observer*

          The op is not giving a seminar or presentation, though. This is essentially an informational interview.

        3. TootsNYC*

          “I always found the post-interview thank you note a bit awkward”

          I sort of agree, but it does help to think of it as an opportunity for follow-up. You’re selling yourself, and absolutely a salesman would send a thank-you note.

          But at least with a job interview, the employer is getting something out of the encounter–a chance to evaluate a candidate. So it’s mutually beneficial.

          And at a seminar, the person who arranged it is the one who “owes” the speaker (sometimes they owe them money). So the attendee hasn’t incurred any obligation.

          But here, there’s NO benefit to the librarian giving the informational interview–and so I think a thank-you note is appropriate.
          I’d say something to the professors. If nothing else, it would be an opportunity to remind the students that they’re creating a reputation with existing professionals, and they may WANT to start creating a network.

        4. OP #5*

          Yeah, this is definitely a 1-on-1 informational interview done at the request of the student. Although we’ve had class visits where we got 30 handwritten thank you notes from third graders (adorable, but extremely not expected!)

      4. Callalily*

        I have the same perspective.

        If I thank someone in person (usually a few times when I take up their time) it is meaningful. To follow up those thanks with an additional letter or email to say thank you would just seem creepy to me.

        To me a follow up thank you would only be expected if they had taken up a significant amount of time with me – as in days, not hours – or if there was additional work required on my part after they had left.

        Sometimes it does throw me off with how passionate people get about getting a written thank you for very minor things. It puts me in mind of people thinking that they are the Godfather and they did you a favour on the day of their daughter’s wedding.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I agree that simply reiterating “thank you” is awkward.

          But I would probably let them know something about how the writing up went, how my grade was, and maybe even ask any follow-up question.

        2. Steph*

          I found it weird getting a thank you letter from my sister-in-law for helping her with her baby a couple of times after she had surgery (she’d already said thank you too me in person, and bought me lunch), I’m in agreement with you. But maybe I’m the weird one.

          1. Observer*

            That’s a personal relationship and favor though. It’s very different from what is being described here.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I’d think it was weird–unless it was a particularly heartfelt letter, or expressed some extra level of thanks that hadn’t already been said.

            Like, three months later, she writes and says, “Today I was remembering that time you took care of the baby, and I thought about how much that meant, and I thought I’d take the chance to tell you how important you are to me.”

            But a perfunctory thank-you note? Weird.

            (I think most thank-you notes are weird, to be honest, especially because they are so often so formulaic.)

      5. Lili*

        Heck, I’m in the US and think one surprised me! I would not have known that a thank you was necessary beyond a verbal one!

      6. PlainJane*

        I’m an academic librarian like the OP, and I’m with you. A genuine verbal thank-you is sufficient for me, and I consider these kinds of meetings part of my job (professional courtesy and all that) as well as paying it forward, because people took the time to talk with me when I was a student. That said, I advise students to send an email thank-you, because that’s important to a lot of people (as the comments here demonstrate) and because it’s a good networking practice.

    2. minuteye*

      Not sure if this is how it works in library work, but in some situations in academia thank-you notes written down (particularly unsolicited) can be very helpful to a person’s career. Evidence of mentoring and positive impact on students can be put in a teaching portfolio and used to apply for jobs.

      1. cataloger*

        This is what I was thinking. I’m a librarian in a promotion/tenure system where we periodically put together a portfolio/dossier of evidences toward our promotion. One section of it is “letters of commendation”, and for librarians in teaching roles, this often includes selected glowing letters/handwritten cards from students. So it may not just a matter of personally preferring a written vs. verbal thank-you or not thinking students are showing proper manners, but rather wanting something concrete to point to the quality of your work.

      2. OP #5*

        Isn’t it helpful in every job to have a physical record of doing something nice? We certainly keep a departmental record of feedback for use in annual reports etc. (not that I think a grad student’s email would or should rank a mention there)

    3. boop the first*

      Yeah, it seems weird after we JUST finished with letter #1 where maybe the employer should accept the verbal thanks and be on their way.

        1. AnonForNow*

          I do wonder if that’s where the confusion is- the students a required to do this thing (it’s not optional, it’s graded etc) and they’ve arranged to follow someone at work doing something they apparently do regularly. In that situation it would never occur to me that this was a favour and not part of the librarians professional obligations (like certain professions are expected to mentor people training to become certified). I’d assume it was on the same level as an outside contractor coming in to work for the day, you thank in person but it’s their job so no thank you card. If it were work shadowing at a place where it only happens once or twice a year and required special dispensation from management to lose work time then that would be more obviously a favour. But I am in the UK and haven’t seen a thank you card in years except in very exceptional circumstances.

          I agree with the people above that if this is something the librarian/the industry expects then it’d be doing the students a solid to speak to the lecturer about adding it into his documents for the course.

          1. JamieS*

            That’s what I’d think as well. If the students aren’t giving in person thanks that’s definitely out of line and IMO extremely rude but a thank you card probably wouldn’t even occur to them. I’m a bit biased though. Prior to becoming an AAM reader I thought thank you cards went out when the telephone came in which I think is a pretty common assumption among younger people (30 and younger).

        1. MK*

          It’s possible that the students might think so, if the initial connection is made through their school or professor. If I was told to find a librarian to interview as part of my studies, it would be obvious that I was asking someone for a favor; if I was handed the contact information from my professor, I might well assumed there was a formal arrangement between the school and the library and regard the librarian as a sort of guest instructor.

          1. OP #5*

            In this case, these students are expected to track down their own librarian. (Another pet peeve is some students’ insistence on scheduling appointments via endless back-and-forth emails rather than a 30-second phone call, but that is not terribly relevant to this complaint)

  12. Perse's Mom*

    Commiserating with #4. 100% agreed with Alison here; if it’s an ongoing pattern this early, that does not bode well for her future with your company. When it gets to that point, hopefully your HR doesn’t block your ability to let her go like ours did with a very similar issue.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think it depends what the pattern is and what’s causing it though. For example, is her productivity really poor – or is it that she’s struggling to work at the usual pace for this company for some reason? Is there any support she needs in her role and isn’t getting eg from another coworker? Is it possible she works well when on notice because she’s panicking but can’t sustain this over the long term?

      Some people do just have poor attitudes though, I realise.

      1. neverjaunty*

        She’s able to pull it together for short periods of time, which strongly suggests there aren’t good reasons for slacking.

        1. Specialk9*

          That’s not really true, I can think of several medical issues that can allow one to have a spurt but not a marathon. But laziness is also an option.

          1. SignalLost*

            In at least three ways, the onus is on the worker to request accommodation for the disability that *of course* we are speculating she has. It’s not on the OP, and in fact it is not legal for the OP, to initiate that discussion. It’s almost as though that can’t be a factor in OP’s decision-making. Therefore, until and unless the employee discloses a disability, we can safely assume such soeculation isn’t relevant to the situation, even if it makes us better people to recognize that not every human is identical and interchangeable.

  13. Annie Mouse*

    OP#2 Given the fact they’re your bosses, if you think they’re the sort to be funny about you asking them to not mention it, could you phrase it as work being the place you get a break from talking about it and thinking about it too much and you appreciate (or you’d appreciate) them helping keep it that way?

    1. sap*

      I’m in a similar boat as #2 and I’ve found being a broken record of “oh man, basically all of my free time is spent talking about this. Thank you so much for being interested but I’m really excited to be focusing on [work or unrelated social thing] right now” has gotten people to leave it alone, finally, in a way that explaining why they were wrong/why I’m doing enough already never did.

      1. winter*

        Yeah I fear people only see that you’re engaging when you explain anything about it. So even if you’re telling them that they know nothing about this topic, they still see it as a valid conversation topic. If you (politely) refuse however, they will get their socializing cookies with a different topic and move on.

  14. idi01*

    OP 1. It doesn’t hurt to be grateful and say thanks to your boss (owner) occasionally. If your spouse is a housewife, is it crass to thank her for cooking dinner? Do you ever thank your parents for looking after you, or was it their job to look after you?

    1. Competent Commenter*

      Well sure but in this case LW is paying for a service (housing). I say thank you when I receive a service I’ve paid for but one thank you is sufficient. It would have been unethical and in my town illegal to not provide heat. Fixing the heat means the landlord has now gone back to delivering the service being paid for.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Agreed. It sounds like the OP did give a “thanks for being quick” reply, but is now being guilted over the price. Even with spouses or parents this is poor form – imagine telling your kid repeatedly how much his winter coat cost, or if your spouse accompanied each meal they cooked with a long complaint about how hard it was.

        But this is a financial relationship – either the OP is paying rent directly or housing is part of her compensation package – and so lavish thanks are really uncalled for.

        1. Doreen*

          I’ve read the letter three times, and I don’t see where the OP gave a “thanks for being quick at all” . Sure, it’s crass to keep bringing the repair up and it might be inappropriate to give the OP a copy of the bill and even if she didn’t thank the employer at all the reaction is out of proportion – but not thanking people because “they’re doing their job” can turn around and bite you. Just as an example, the main entrance where my sister works has some heavy doors . There is another set of doors for handicapped access which security can open by pushing a button. The actual (stupid) rule is that only those with an ADA accommodation can use those doors , but in actuality security pushes the button lots of people carrying packages etc. But not for my sister – and I am sure it is not unrelated to the fact that my sister doesn’t thank people for “doing their jobs”.

          1. OverboilingTeapot*

            But presumably the employer didn’t do anything. They paid a specialist to do it. It wasn’t a favor, it was a responsibility. If a toilet at your place of business stops working, the employer pays to have it fixed, and you shouldn’t be expected to thank them for it.

            My actual landlord doesn’t act like they’re doing me a favor when they make repairs. I might thank them for being responsive and accommodating, and I’m always grateful to the actual workers, but it would be absurd to express profuse gratitude to the building owner. If they ever tried to show me a bill for the work that had been needed, I would find it extremely off-putting. That’s why I pay rent. That’s why LW works. It’s just part of the deal.

            1. Arjay*

              I think if you’ve had a bad landlord or a bad boss, it’s easier to be grateful to the ones who take care of their responsibilities in a timely and helpful manner.

              I live in a warm climate and our A/C quit working on a Sunday. That was a miserable, sleepless night. I called the office first thing Monday morning, and they made a major repair (replacement of the unit on the roof) by the time I got home that evening. I’ve lived other places where that level of repair would have probably taken a week or more to complete. Believe me, they were also my first call on Tuesday morning to thank them, pretty effusively, for their responsiveness and the hard work of the maintenance crew to get it done.

          2. Specialk9*

            The OP wrote in down thread: “To clarify, I did verbally thank my boss a few times throughout the repair process (as well as the staff maintenance man who assessed the problem and the repair crew who came to fix it). My tone was probably more like what I would use when a waitress brings me my meal or when a colleague grabs my copies off the machine for me, but I know for sure that I made eye contact and said a full sentence or two.”

        2. TootsNYC*

          And actually, the OP hasn’t been given the furnace. She is only being provided with the HEAT from the furnace.

          After she leaves, they company will still own the furnace.

          Maybe she should have been responding, “You got a great deal!” Or “That’s a good investment for the company; hopefully that furnace will last you guys a long time.”
          Something that points out, “This is YOUR furnace, not mine.”

          Or maybe, “Your new furnace is working fine.”

          It’s also not her fault that the furnace is 25 years old, and the replacing it was the best route to deal with the break-down. (It wouldn’t be her fault even if it could have been repaired.)

          1. nonegiven*

            I wonder if the employer is paying the utilities or the employee. A new furnace should be lots more efficient than a 25 year old one.

            I’m a b*tch but I’d probably have took the bill and dropped it on the boss’s desk and said, “I hope you don’t think I’m going to pay this.” I can’t think of a good reason for them to give me a copy.

    2. MK*

      I do think the OP should have expressed some appreciation for her employer, or at least acknowledged that the situation has been swiftly resolved. I admit I am prejudiced about the “it’s your job/obligation to do this, I don’t have to thank you” argument, because it seems to be primaliry used by people who are rude to servers and retail workers.

      However, even if the OP did omit this acknowledgement (which is not clear from the letter), the boss’ reaction is out of all proportion to the offence. In this situation, I would probably think “well, it wouldn’t kill you to say thanks” and it would be a slightly negative impression of the employee as an ungracious person, but sending a copy of the bill and bring up the cost all the time is rediculous. And if the OP did offer a verbal “thanks”, they are being dowright weird.

      1. OverboilingTeapot*

        But if all the employer did was make a call to their repair company, there isn’t really much to express appreciation for. It was an obligation, not a favor. And if all they had to do was make a call and write a check, their reaction in expecting over-the-top gratitude has been seriously out of line.

        1. MK*

          Buying and installing a new boiler likely involved a lot more hassle than a single call. And by the same logic, all the waitress who serves my coffee does is carry it a few metres from the bar to the table; I still thank them.

    3. sap*

      These are extremely different situations.

      My parents and spouse are neither my employers nor my employees. My parents and spouse are people who I have relationships with in order to meet my own and their emotional needs. My employer and employees are people I have relationships with to meet my own and their own material and business needs.

      So, yes. I thank my parents and spouse for doing things more often and more thoroughly than I thank those I have business relationships with because:
      (1) they do those things because of their emotional bone with me, and thanking them is directly related to their motivation for doing those things;
      (2) they do those things without having negotiated for something from me in return, whereas my employees and/or employer performs their contractual obligations with the expectation that I will perform mine; and
      (3) they rightly expect that when I interact with them, one of my top priorities in the interaction is considering their feelings, whereas the top priorities when I speak to employers/employees is ensuring that business needs are met.

      But also, if my husband sent me a bill for something he did for me because he wanted me to appreciate it (not because I need to be aware of our joint finances), or if my parents sent me an invoice for, like, feeding me as a child, I would find that incredibly crass and troubling and it would make me rethink those relationships as well?

      1. Artemesia*

        A truth of the universe is that many activities and benefits have a lot of flexibility built into them. The person who is nice to the building engineer as I am, gets that desirable extra filter installed in my air system ‘off the record’ and not just the annual mandated change. They get their plumbing fixed instead of being told they need to call and pay for a plumber; they get their door lock replacement that costs $800 for free because it gets defined a certain way when it could be defined as a somewhat different process and you would pay for it. Most jobs have a lot of discretion built in. The people who get the plus side of that discretion are those who go a big above and beyond in making the power holder’s life better.

        Yes it is silly to have to make a big deal of thanking Fergus for doing his job on apartment maintenance, but the real question is ‘what kinds of things do I need to do so that discretionary services keep flowing my way.’

      2. TootsNYC*

        My spouse is not required to cook me dinner. Not by contract, and not by law.
        The employer/landlord IS required to provide head–by contract, and by law.

        1. Artemesia*

          And the person who thanks the landlord for ‘getting that done so quickly, I really appreciate it’ is the one who is likely to get quick service next time. Remember the martinet in the Star Trek movie where the Enterprise needed some important part from the space junk yard way out on the edge of the galaxy and this manager of the junkyard was making it difficult. Kirk bristled at the idea of having to suck up to this guy to get the part and asked Spock ‘who does he think he is?’. Spock correctly observed ‘he knows he is the manager of this junk yard.’ Don’t annoy the person who has the discretion to passive aggressively let you freeze for a week or two in winter.

          1. Kate 2*

            Yeahhhh . . . that would be ILLEGAL! Any person who would do that is so nasty and unethical a sane person would quit asap.

          2. SignalLost*

            You have a really interesting take on what one should do to ensure one’s employer does not illegally harm one. Interesting, and also this is not in the category of an unnecessary extra filter: being without heat in winter in an area that needs heat is life-threatening. Prolonged exposure to 50F temperatures, with inadequate protection, can cause hypothermia. No one should have to suck up to their employer to keep from BEING MAIMED.

    4. Not Today Satan*

      I agree. No reasonable person would say a boss shouldn’t thank her employees for good work because “it’s their job.” We are humans and not cogs in a machine and everyone likes feeling appreciated.

      It’s hard to say with this letter though. The response from the boss was ridiculous so he kind of seems like the kind who thinks workers should be “thankful” for their paycheck as well.

    5. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      I completely disagree. Bosses should not expect to get thanked for things that are literally the cost of doing business. The housing is provided by the employer, therefore it is the employer’s responsibility to make sure it’s in livable condition at all times–no gratitude necessary–exactly the same as if it happened in the office/factory instead of in the housing.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        It’s like thanking a boss for getting one’s work computer, phone, or desk, fixed quickly – it should be done fast, because it benefits the employer.

        The OP is living in this accommodation because it helps the employer, it’s industry-standard. If the employer *didn’t* keep the housing in decent shape (giving them heat in winter!) the employee’s performance will go down. If the employer doesn’t want to do this? Pay the employee more so she can organise her own accommodation!

        1. SignalLost*

          The other, even more jerk-boss interpretation is that unheated houses decay into unlivability in a hurry. Even if the house had been vacant, not replacing the furnace would have damaged the company’s material property. That *really* makes it not something the boss did out of light-hearted kindness where a thanks is warranted.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            And, if it’s the United States, is probably illegal. Failure to provide adequate heat is actionable in many of the states where having heat is a big deal.

        2. McWhadden*

          Nobody is suggesting the employer could have not done it. Just that a quick thank you (which the OP may well have given) is normal practice.

          I don’t think my waitress can just not bring my meal. But I thank her when she does.

        3. Artemesia*

          How many times have we heard of people sitting without a computer for weeks or having to share an inadequate one? This is getting along in the world 101.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Genuinely don’t understand this attitude – that I should be super-grateful for my boss providing me with the basics for me to do my job that makes them money. It’s baffling to me! Should I thank them when they re-stock the printer paper, or pay the electricity to keep the lights on in the office?

            Where’s the line, for you? OP thanked her boss, but they want fawning gratitude. But if you think we should thank our bosses for giving us a computer and phone, we’ll be thanking them all day – for the wifi, for the desk, chair, printer ink, paycheque every month, office heating etc etc etc

            1. SignalLost*

              Dear Jerks-I-Work-For: thank you for providing an inadequate work station, that is dirty to the point of it interfering with my work, on a floor that is covered in trash to a level that functions as a serious trip hazard, with absolutely no ability to alter the height of the station for better ergonomics and work results. Thank you for providing this crappy, crappy work environment.

      2. TootsNYC*

        It’s not just that there’s heat in the apartment–they bought a new furnace, apparently, and I think that big ticket is part of why the boss is fixated on this.

        But they get to KEEP that furnace. The old one lasted 25 years–this one won’t last as long (stuff gets more badly made), but it should last 10 or 15.
        The OP wasn’t given a furnace. She is only being given the heat it gives off.

        1. OverboilingTeapot*

          And her demand wasn’t “I need a brand new furnace ASAP!” She just pointed out that her heat wasn’t working, and the new furnace turned out to be the required fix.

    6. a different Vicki*

      The thing is, this isn’t “thanks for giving me the chance to go to the spout conference” or “thanks for the holiday brownies.” It’s more like “thanks for following up with the bank when the direct deposit didn’t work, so our pay was only a day late”—when the expectation is that they won’t be late at all. Replacing a twenty-five-year old furnace is basic maintenance. Would you expect to thank your boss for replacing your chair if the one you’d been using broke, or keeping the lights on at the office?

      If a manager thanked me for doing a particularly good job on something I’d be pleased, and it would be normal to get a “thank you” when I said “I finished the custom teapot manual and sent it to production.” If they thanked me for coming in on time Friday after I’d been late Thursday, that would feel like a dig at me for the delay. Expecting to be thanked for spending the money to provide an agreed-upon benefit of employment is very close to hinting that the OP hasn’t actually earned a warm dry place to live.

      1. McWhadden*

        Of course, I thanked my boss when I got a new chair. That’s just being polite. When my computer was acting up and my boss went out of his way to get IT to pay attention to my ticket I thanked him.

        The employer here has acted very poorly. But a thank you is expected when people do things that aren’t part of their day to day operations. It’s just a nice thing to do.

        And I’ve always thanked my landlord when they have done things for me.

    7. INTP*

      This is was one, probably legally obligatory action in the course of her term of employment, though, and he’s still harping on it. You say thank you to your spouse for cooking dinner or your kids for cleaning their rooms, sure. You probably don’t continue to effusively praise them for weeks because of that one time last month that they cooked dinner, and if they kept hinting that you should, that would get annoying.

      Plus, it’s a business relationships. Romantic and familial relationships have a practical, transactional element, but they’re mainly built on emotional labor and ideally engaged in to provide an emotional payoff on all sides, so it makes sense to be more expressive about feelings of gratitude. In business, minimal emotional labor should be required. I am grateful to my employer for their actions and I express that through my actions, being more transparent with my bosses and taking my job more seriously than I have at crappier employers. But my bosses would find it really weird if I was continuously gushing with gratitude at them for not being jerks. Even weirder if it was for them fulfilling legal obligations like providing a home that’s up to code.

      All that said, if this person clearly wants lots of verbal praise, words are cheap. OP might find it beneficial to heap on some silly affirmations to keep him placated, even if she’s not wrong not to feel it from the bottom of her heart.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Seriously. My kids often thank me for making a great dinner, but I sure as hell don’t leave the grocery bill on their pillows if they don’t.

    8. OP# 1*

      To clarify, I did verbally thank my boss a few times throughout the repair process (as well as the staff maintenance man who assessed the problem and the repair crew who came to fix it). My tone was probably more like what I would use when a waitress brings me my meal or when a colleague grabs my copies off the machine for me, but I know for sure that I made eye contact and said a full sentence or two.

      1. Yup*

        I said this downthread, but your boss is being a total ass. He is lording the repairs over you in what is a textbook dominance play, which basically demands that you be submissive to him by offering deference: “look at what I did for you! I’m great and you should adore me for it!”. He’s attempting to recast his *legal duties* as employer as a personal favor to you. It’s grotesque, inappropriate, gendered, egomaniacal, ageist (please no one tell me this asshole would try this with someone the same age or older, much less another man).

        I’m glad your reaction was “WTF?!” Next time he mentions it, I’d simply not react. He’s being gross.

        1. Observer*

          Well, I AM going to tell you EXACTLY that. The last landlord who took a similar attitude happened to be female. And she did it to me and my husband. She also did it to the other tenant who happened to be male and closer to her in age. Now, the THIRD tenant never got this from her – but that was because they had a lot of leverage because of their contract. She needed them more than they needed her, while we were in the reverse situation, as she saw it. (She actually tried to bully us into paying for a major repair to the heating system, and then made a huge to do about how NICE she was by fixing it herself – because we refused to pay and the other guy called the Heating Complaints Hotline.)

          The guy is a jerk. And, I agree that it’s probably a dominance move. But, it’s totally not necessarily related to age or gender.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I think he’s forgotten that the company owns this furnace. They didn’t give it to you.

        So it was a lot of money–but it’s money that benefits THEM, not you. They will have this furnace long after you’ve moved on.

        If it comes up again, that’s the sort of thing I’d start to say, “I know it seems like so much since you bought a completely new furnace for the house” [NOT “my” house] “but hopefully it’ll last you guys a good 15 years. You’ve been lucky that your old furnace lasted 25.”
        And maybe a comment about “sticker shock, since your last furnace made it to 25 years before it wasn’t repairable anymore.”
        Maybe “Hopefully your new furnace will be more energy efficient and will cut your utility costs!” (unless you pay for the actual utility)

    9. neverjaunty*

      Do you thank your boss for giving you a paycheck? Or making sure that the electricity in the workplace stays on?

      Your boss is not your spouse or your parents. I don’t understand why you are comparing those relationships.

    10. Observer*

      Of course, because a parent or spouse is nothing more than a drone who is merely fulling their exact legal and contractual obligations.

      Sure, saying “thanks for getting this taken care of so fast” is polite. But the cost is NOT relevant at all. Heating is both contractually and legally mandated, and it’s ridiculous of the boss to think that he had any other legitimate choice.

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      I do the cooking, and my husband might thank me for it. But I sure as heck don’t drop off the grocery receipt and a time card where he’ll see them, so he can appreciate the time I spent shopping AND prepping AND cleaning up after, and then drop hints about how I cooked dinner and boy, that took some planning and some chopping and then some stirring. That would be weird.

  15. Emma UK*

    5) If I say thank you in person, it wouldn’t occur to me to write them a thank you letter afterwards.

    1. Uh Huh Her*

      I agree, but I think this just may be one of those cultural things that differs between the UK and the US. I have never sent a work-related “thank you” note in my life, it simply would not occur to me, and I have never expected anyone to send me one either. If I say thank you in person, following up with an email to say thank you again feels redundant and somewhat overbearing. But it seems to be a thing in the USA, for whatever reason.

      1. McWhadden*

        But this isn’t really work related. They are students taking up an hour of time of someone they don’t know and don’t work with. It’s not part of a librarian’s normal functions and they could very well decline if they wanted to.

        1. fposte*

          It’s still work-related, though; it’s basically an informational interview. It doesn’t have to be a stated part of your duties to be work-related.

        2. Trig*

          Having been a student in a work-related program who had very little ‘real world’ work experience, I think these students see it as “a school assignment” rather than “work-related networking”. They are probably assuming this is part of the librarians job/they are the same as the instructors/it’s an established relationship between the class and the library, not “this is an hour of this person’s work time that I am taking up, it is a favour outside the norm.”

          I didn’t have to do an assignment like that, but if I had, I imagine I wouldn’t have sent a written thank-you either. I wouldn’t have understood. School vs. work is just a different mindset, and depending on how old these students are/what their other life experience is, a different maturity level. Now, with the experience I’ve had, I would think to send a thank-you email, and appreciate that this took time out of their day, but at the time? I’d have been oblivious.

          Related, I follow a lot of people who work in comics, and every year they get a loooooaaad of students asking them for a quick informational interview, usually just via email, full of questions the students could have found out by Google. The comics people are sympathetic to the students, but very annoyed at the teachers for assigning this project. It’s not super respectful of the creator, who usually works freelance or for themself, to ask them to spend their time answering the same questions from thirty-odd students. At least this librarian interview is a pre-existing relationship, but it does seem like there could be better ways to learn this stuff than each student doing this assignment independently.

          1. OP #5*

            I think in part that this is my complaint, and maybe I should put it more on the professors. These are adult students, with college degrees, in a professional school program (in the US where I am, it’s a Master’s program). I had to do it as a student and it was dumb then!

            But part of the problem is how to give students who have never worked in a library a taste of what library work is like. And “actually working in a library” is not an option so long as grad schools earn the big bucks churning students through library school programs where 80% of them have no hope of a career future. Although that is a problem bigger than a few professors, of course.

  16. Violet Fox*

    #2 Allison’s script is amazing. Be gentle but firm, and be consistent when this comes up and hopefully people will get the hint. You are doing the right thing by working with your doctor.

    If they don’t get the hint and persist you can always very politely say “Thank you but my doctor and I have this handled” or a shorter version as your default/only answer.

  17. Marie*

    OP 2: As someone with a chronic illness myself (not gastric related which makes it even weirder) I am used to comments about my diet. Usually along the lines “oh I saw in Magazine x that if you eat (insert whatever superfood is currently fashionable) it will make you feel much better” or snide comments about not getting enough exercise (my condition affects my joints and means I struggle to move much at all). I’ve had my condition since high school and one teacher was obsessed with my diet and exercise and seemed to insist if I wouldn’t implement her advice, which was often against doctor’s orders on many occasions I explain why and got snide if I didn’t. One day after being in agony all day she watched me struggle to stand up after her class with my crutches and made a remark about excercise I don’t remember the remark but I remember snapping back something like “if your such an expert of excercise how come your the fattest teacher in school? (which was true but I would never have said anything had she left me alone and in my defence I was 16 and she had been doing this for months despite requests to stop and once an official complaint)” she was so shocked she let me leave, funnily enough comments stopped after that.

    OP 5: Are you sure this isn’t a misunderstanding? I don’t know how old you are but this could be a generational issue (I’m British though and I don’t know what country you are in but if it is the US I would imagine the norms to be about the same). I am 23 and a final year university student and it would never occur to me to follow up on an interview like this. I would say something like “thank you for taking the time to talk to me” or “thank you so much for helping me” at the end of the interview and consider that sufficient. I was always taught if you thank someone in person thank you notes are unnecessary. For example Christmas presents, I would not write thank you notes to my parents or siblings or grandparents because I would see them on the day I receive presents and say thank you at the time but I would write thank you notes to my other grandparents who live a long way away and the great aunt I have met twice and who lives in Canada but always sends me money for Christmas. It could be as they are thanking you in person they do not see the need for a thank you note I certainly wouldn’t but it would interesting to hear what others think on this issue. Of course if they aren’t even saying thank you after the interview that is indeed rude.

    1. OP #5*

      I’m not as old as I seem! But I expect a regular verbal thank you for small favors (“Can you tell me about the life of Charles Dickens?”) and a written email for big ones (“Can you carve out an hour or two of your day to help me do this assignment for school?”). And I strongly feel that for people entering the same small professional world as me that it would benefit them to leave a positive impression.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – good for you! Please tell them why you’re turning down the job. That’s a terrible leave policy and companies need to know that shameful leave policies will cost them good employees! I’m all about working to live, not the other way around!

  19. Yup*

    OP1, I’m going to confidently assert that you’re a woman (which I take from you second-guessing your perfectly reasonable reaction) who’s younger than your boss (who I wasn’t surprised to read was a man).

    I say this because your asshat boss’s reaction is some seriously gendered bullshit – he is lording the repairs over you in what is a textbook dominance play, which basically demands that you be submissive to him by offering deference: “look at what I did for you! I’m great and you should adore me for it!”. He’s attempting to recast his *legal duties* as employer as a personal favor to you. It’s grotesque, inappropriate, gendered, egomaniacal, ageist (please no one tell me this asshole would try this with someone the same age or older, much less another man), and needs to be shut down immediately. Alison is nicer than me, cause I don’t think you even owe him thanks – not unless you also subscribe to the notion that you have to pay thank your employer for paying your wages.

    I’m so glad your gut reaction was ‘WTF?!” Please don’t taken in by his power play and don’t give in to second-guessing yourself. If he brings it up again, I’d suggest saying something like this: “yeah, having heat in winter makes the property habitable according to the legal definition – so good thing it’s fixed.”


    1. Observer*

      I’m going to repeat what I said upthread. From my experience with this kind of nonsense, I can tell you that this does NOT have to be about gender or age. Class, maybe. But I’ve seen this too many time in too many contexts to buy this.

  20. INTP*

    OP1 – First of all, you are not wrong not to feel as grateful as your employer seems to want. In most places, fixing the heat would be a legal obligation. He seems to want effusive praise for not forcing you to live in illegal housing conditions!

    That said, if he’s a person that craves verbal gold stars so much, it might be worth it to just give them. NOT that you are obligated to. But words cost you nothing, and you don’t have to feel something to say it. A bit of feigned gratitude might be a super easy way to keep you on his good side and make him easier to deal with. (I’d still be hesitant to do this with the housing stuff because I wouldn’t want to encourage him to think of me as a houseguest and the things he does for me as favors – he should consider himself obligated to fulfill all the duties of a landlord and take that as seriously as if he were a professional landlord.)

  21. Alice*

    For OP5 – perhaps you could put together an FAQ document, with links to things that the students should read for context (like the library’s mission statement and annual report) and a section explaining that thank you notes are part of the etiquette you expect. Surely it would make the hour-long interview more interesting if the students had more background and more sophisticated questions.
    Assuming you want to keep doing this, of course.

    1. NorCalPM*

      I know your suggestions are coming for a good place, but frankly I don’t see students taking time to read a library’s annual report. Maybe the mission statement, if it’s brief. And the verbiage about thank – you notes wouldn’t hurt, although I wouldn’t bet the farm that it would yield much in the way of results.

  22. ThatLibTech*

    OP#1 sort of reminds me of a previous job, where we were expected to volunteer our time at events out workplace held (with varying degrees of compensation) because it was meant to “pay back for the benefits we receive (health/drug/dental plan, retirement plan, our hour lunch, etc.).

    Of course, it also made me wonder if this boss is trying to imply that the employee should pay for some of the costs of the repair. Maybe the tone of voice they’re using with OP#1 isn’t implying that, but to continually bring it up? Seems weird to me.

    1. winter*

      Geez your former workplace sucked. Do they not know what compensation for the regular work you do is?

      1. ThatLibTech*

        They definitely did NOT know that. It was said very much in the way of, “Other work places don’t have these benefits, so you should be grateful (even though technically you “pay back” for these benefits by excelling at your job!)”. Sadly not the worst part of that job either, but I am SO glad I left it behind years ago.

  23. Cassandra*

    OP5: You are well within your rights to contact the instructor and say that you are no longer available to do this. Explaining why may turn awkward, but I might suggest “My impression, from the lack of thank-you notes, is that the students do not feel they are learning very much from this.”

    1. fposte*

      Depending on how close the OP is to the school, that may be inadvisable, though. If she’s in a nearby library, they may well have an ongoing relationship with the school that’s beneficial to them: they get good volunteers and practicum students, they get opportunities to participate in university-led grants, they get adjunct opportunities (which in a professional school are usually a good advancement and not the drone work of the permanent adjunct). That’s a relationship you want to preserve.

      If that relationship does exist, I’d reach out instead to the professor and talk about the teachable possibilities there. I don’t think it’s the solecism the OP does, but she’s likely not to be alone and it’s certainly likely to help students in networking to leave the professional as happy as possible with having given the time, so it could be brought up as something students should consider as desirable if not an ironclad rule.

    2. Beaded Librarian*

      Absolutely, as I mentioned in my comment below before I read the other comments my teachers would have been VERY upset to find out that their students were not taking the time to thank people.

    3. OP #5*

      I actually love this! Because I DO think it’s a dumb waste of time of an assignment. And I’d feel less salty about my time being wasted if I could get the nice salve of a friendly thank you email, silly as that might be.

      The sad thing about library student world is there are six thousand times more students than there are positions, so it is smart for students to really make the most of any networking-ish opportunity.

  24. Observer*

    #5 You not out of line. In fact, I would say that you are ultimately doing these students a favor. People with good manners do better than people who don’t have good manners. And, thank you notes are one of the most basic items of good manners. So someone pointing out to these students that they need to start realizing that not everyone owes them their time, thanking people and acknowledging when people help them. If they don’t it IS going to hold them back.

  25. Beaded Librarian*

    For library school assignments as of 2-3 years ago it wasn’t just expected but required. If one of my teachers heard that I hadnt sent a thank you note or at least email thanking he interviewee for their time it would have been a problem that affected my grade as that is unprofessional and rude.

  26. Veruca*

    I own rental property, and I own the heating equipment inside those properties. I also own the responsibility to fix my equipment when needed! When it goes out and must be replaced, the tenant owes me ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except notification that it needs to be fixed. And I owe the tenant an apology for the inconvenience/lack of heat/workers in their space that ensues.

    Sounds like you were more than polite and your boss has really wild expectations!

  27. Julia the Survivor*

    #1: In my experience it’s elites that have this attitude because they think they’re doing employees a favor by paying us or providing any benefits. This taps into my need to fight this attitude since people like this are trying to take over our country. (America)
    Of course I wouldn’t recommend you do anything that risks your job… just maybe watch for this and try to nip it as much as possible…

  28. TeacherNerd*

    OP #5: People are not good at thanking others, I think as a general rule. (Yes, I know there are a lot of exceptions, and I know everyone at AAM is kind and considerate and always thanks everyone. I don’t want to derail and get into a discussion of all the exceptions everyone can think of.) That said, people need reminding. I teach at the college level, but I teach undergrads at a community college, which means my students can range in age from 17 to those in their 60s. One of our assignments is for a librarian to lead a mini-lesson on our library databases, and have students interact with the librarians, ask questions, post something related to their topic, etc. I teach as part of an instructional team, and each of us always, always reminds students to thank the librarians (not only is this part of the assignment instructions, but we send out an announcement and message though the LMS as well). And most do! Except for those who don’t. Even in my high school, where I mentor new teachers, I happily (and quickly) respond to questions, provide support, etc., and while I certainly don’t expect any particular gratitude, etc. (after all, I voluntarily requested this role and I get paid a stipend), I rarely get any kind of thanks, even a one-of. I don’t think it’s necessarily rudeness (although, again, I’m sure there are students who intentionally don’t thank others just to be a putz); mostly I think this is just a lack of awareness. People don’t necessarily learn manners as students, and it can take some people a longer time to understand professional courtesy.

  29. SallyForth*

    I got my first two jobs out of library school from connections I had made doing assignments similar to what you are describing. The students AND profs are remiss here.

  30. char*

    #1 reminds me a little of something that happened a few months ago at my company. Background: the company is having many of us go through training for a certain certification, with the aim of qualifying for a contract that requires a certain number of the company’s employees to have that certification.

    One of the higher-ups sent out an email to the entire staff admonishing us that the training costs thousands of dollars per employee so we need to take it seriously. Note that I saw no indication that anyone wasn’t taking it seriously, much less so many people that he should have felt the need to scold THE ENTIRE COMPANY about it. It was like, dude, we’re doing this because you think that if we do, the company will profit more in the long run. It’s just part of the cost of doing business.

  31. Fishgal*

    So, I’m gathering from the comments I might be the only other person who lives in employmer provided housing, I partially agree with the advice.

    Your boss is being an ass LW#1. I’m on team, you don’t deserve a cookie for doing your job, but when comes to houses people are sensitive. If you gave a verbal/email quick thanks ad he’s still being that way then he really needs to back off. But if you didn’t it would take ten seconds and make him feel better. I thank my boss all the time for things that are his job, and he does the same for me. People like to feel appreciated, your boss might have had to push aside projects to fix this. I was in this position a few weeks ago, where one of our houses had no heat and we needed to keep contacting heating companies to get it fixed.

    When houses are combined with jobs things get complex fast and people have to remember that, my boss and coworkers are also my nieghbors and it can be hard and confusing at times.

  32. Overbooked*

    LW5: I’m a retired librarian who’s done many of these assignment interviews in academic and public library settings, and this complaint surprised me. I never expected written thanks for what I regarded as a routine part of my duties to the profession as a whole, if not to my immediate job.

    There are far fewer traditional library schools now, and the day of the leisurely semester-long courses with related practicums set up by faculty with established connections to local libraries is long gone. Now, most students participate in distance-learning programs of varying quality, taught by adjuncts who could be anywhere. Many corners get cut; coaching in thank-you etiquette must surely be a very minor one.

    1. Observer*

      It’s nice that you feel the obligation to the profession so strongly that you don’t see it as a favor. That’s not really a reasonable expectation to mandate universally, though. And coaching in appropriate etiquette is far from a minor thing. How you treat others has a major impact on how successful you are in your field, whatever it is.

      1. Another Academic Librarian*

        I have to agree with Overbooked that, as a librarian, I also see meetings like this as a part of my regular duties rather than as something akin to a favor. My library administration agrees–my boss has received interview requests that he has passed on to me, with the expectation that I will meet with that student during work time. Mentoring library school students is part of “service to the profession,” which is one of my requirements for tenure/promotion, merit raises, etc. I don’t disagree that a thank you email is polite and professional (and I put a couple in my tenure dossier), but I also don’t think it is really egregious for students not to send them. I meet with students all day long, after all, and most don’t send me thank you letters–nor do I expect them to!

      1. Overbooked*

        Thanks for checking back in. I wasn’t too happy with how I phrased my thoughts, which were less willing-martyr-to-our-noble calling and more I-just-thought-this-was-our-regular-work.

        And the reference to distance learning MLIS programs was meant to say that I’ve seen enough sketchy, hastily- or poorly-planned assignments come in that I wonder whether the profs are conveying explicitly “treat this as a mentoring scenario” vs. “just go rustle up some information”. In other words, what Alison said: checking in with the faculty might help.

        A few other quick points: 1) how these assignments impact one’s work would vary depending on what that work is – perhaps much more disruptive for someone working in collection development or technical services rather than reference & instruction; 2) most of my work was in large libraries with enough staff that these assignments didn’t affect overall service, and folks who didn’t want to participate could opt out- a luxury, I know; and 3) if libraries have done their work well, they’ve raised up patrons who are comfortable seeking all kinds of information in all kinds of settings. For most of these patrons, absent the explicit mentoring framing, the expectation of written thanks must seem anomalous.

        1. OP #5*

          Your points make a lot of sense! Partly my frustration with the students is unfair bleed from my frustration with the assignment generally. It’s not a student’s fault that she has to write a dopey book report about a library, after all.

  33. Alice*

    While YMMV, I have invited people to read our public annual report before informational interviews, and they’ve all asked some questions showing that at the very least they skimmed part of it.
    Of course, these are self-motivated people. So students who have a required assignment might be different.
    As far as thanks – you’re right that it wouldn’t change everyone’s behavior, but IMO it would give OP clearer justification for feeling hard done by when the thank yous don’t come.

    1. OP #5*

      I think you (and others) are right – and it’s true that if nothing else, I’ll feel justified in my wrath after I at least express it somewhere!

  34. Sarahtonin*

    @ the library one…

    I recently graduated with my degree in library science and have had to do many of those assignments. That letter is shocking, how can people be so rude as to not even send a thank-you email after the interview is done? That, to me, seems like a no-brainer. I’m so sorry.

  35. Libraries R Us*

    I feel your pain #5. I work for a public library in a large city with several universities. We are frequently approached by students (undergrad and grad studying any number of topics – library science, data analysis, journalism) on a very regular basis to participate in class projects/assignments. (My favorite is when the teacher has told the class talk to a librarian and suddenly 10-15 students begin contacting everyone at the library.) The fact is, aside from journalism students who usually write something for the school paper, our staff rarely see the finished product. It’s gotten to the point that these requests can take up significant time and we receive so few updates on them that staff is now not inclined to do them. The issue is that librarians WANT to help, that’s literally why they became librarians. But, these requests can be taxing. What I’ve found to be helpful is to set up very definite expectations with these students. 10 page questionnaires or hour long interviews are typically declined, but we will answer five in-depth questions via email or conduct a 30 minute interview. This forces students to be strategic with their time. It also allows our staff to budget their time without feeling taken advantage of.

  36. Jenny*

    OP#3 – This is a totally understandable rookie mistake! Giving *no* time of (?!!) is so beyond normal – and so insanely terrible – you should run from this employer, regardless of the verbal acceptance!

  37. Library Student*

    #5 Contact the professors. I both work at a library and am in library school. The school I am attending not only EXPRESSLY tells us to send thank you cards but they provide us with cards to use. There is ABSOLUTELY an expectation to send a thank you. I,personally, send handmade thank you cards to everyone I meet with. (It’s a hobby of mine, so they’re nicer than the stock ones we are provided with.) You should definitely be receiving a follow up thank you for your time.

    1. OP #5*

      Ooh, that’s so sweet! We do save all our handwritten cards, and although I certainly don’t expect them they make for a nice little file.

  38. Clergyperson*

    LW1 – I may be off-base, but if this is a clergy housing situation, that may play into this. When churches provide a parsonage, it is often administered by someone who doesn’t see themselves as a landlord, per se. So what looks like an egregious thing may actually be someone who thinks that because they are volunteering to manage this thing, you owe them. You DON’T, but it’s worth keeping in mind. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from ministry life, it’s that a little bit of gratitude goes a long way.

    And as for notifying you of the cost, that *may* be because they want you to know about the overall financial picture. I could be wrong, but if this is the situation, I think it’s worth being charitable in your assumptions WHILE STILL enforcing appropriate workplace boundaries and relationships

    You take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both, and there you have — committee life!

  39. anyone out there but me*

    OP#1 – The straw that broke the camel’s back at my last job was when my boss, (who owned the company and made mid to high 6 figures every year, as well as took several first-class luxury vacations per year, owned several luxury vehicles, was trying to buy a house that cost a million dollars, wore only designer clothes, etc. etc. etc) told me that none of us employees had been “thankful enough” for our raises or Christmas bonuses that year. AND then she added that her feelings were terribly hurt that we had not pitched in together to buy her a Christmas gift.

    I honestly don’t know why I worked there as long as I did, but I am thankful every day now that I left.

  40. Snowden*

    LW #5: I work as an academic administrator and teach in an MLIS program, and just wanted to let you know I shared this post with my entire department. It was a timely reminder (we’re nearing the end of the fall term) to students to say thanks if they’ve done an interview like this recently…and to faculty to consider how we maintain relationships with the professional community around us, recognize and value service work, and incorporate professional socialization and ethics of care into our teaching. Thank you so much for writing!

  41. Jam Today*

    Dear Boss:

    Thank you for adhering to the law by providing a habitable domicile.


    Employee Who Did Not Die of Exposure

  42. Noah*

    Re #5, it is very rude not to say thank you. But it’s pretty normal to thank somebody in person for something that happens in person. Are they not saying thank you at all?

  43. Miles*

    #4: this situation makes me think “untreated mental health condition” Something like adhd would do it (the condition is usually treated with stimulants but in a pinch the shot of adrenaline from a ‘gun to your head’ situation will have a similar effect, and the stimulation of learning something new can do so as well) and that “strong initial performance followed by an inability to sustain good performance” is a frequent complaint that people with adhd have. This is not to say that the problem employee is your responsibility but I hope they get evaluated /get help soon.

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