my boss lied about raises, interviewing with sweaty hands, and more

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

1. My boss told me no one was getting raises this year — but it was a lie

I work in the Human Resources division for a large organization. I’m on a team with one other person. When we had our annual reviews earlier this year, I got a glowing review. A few weeks after the review, my boss asked to meet with me again. She was serious during the meeting and she told me she wasn’t able to get me the raise I was owed and that she had promised after my review. She apologized and told me she had advocated for me but due to budget constraints across the whole division it wasn’t able to happen for anyone. I was disappointed but I understood and appreciated both her support and her honesty.

After the meeting, I heard others who work in this division talking about their raises. I also overheard my coworker talking on his cell about his raise when he thought I was not around. I asked some people in this division who I am friendly with and have known for years, and they all got raises with no mention of any budget issues. Then, last week my boss told me that due to the same budget constraints there would be no end of year/holiday bonus, but everyone else in the division is talking about the bonus email that went out from their bosses and my coworker told me his bonus was going to be more than he thought, but since then when bonuses come up he says he isn’t getting one either and I must have “imagined” our previous conversation about it.

I don’t know what is going on, and when I asked my boss she just said there are things above my pay grade I am not meant to understand. She says my work is “excellent” and my reviews and feedback from others reflect it so I don’t understand why I am the only one in the division who isn’t getting a bonus and raise. I don’t know who else to talk to about this, since I am not getting anywhere with my boss and her boss is a director one level below C-suite who works at a different office and whom I have never met before. What do you think my next steps should be?

Sit down with your boss and say this: “I’m hoping you can give me some candid feedback. You had told me that there wasn’t the budget for raises or bonuses this year, which I understood, but I’ve now heard from multiple people that they received raises and bonuses. Is there something about my work that’s holding me back from receiving a raise or a bonus this year? I’m concerned that there must be, and if that’s the case, I’d really want to hear it directly so that I’m clear on the situation and what I need to improve.”

If she says anything evasive again (like that line about there being things you’re not meant to understand), say this: “I understand I won’t be privy to all decisions here, of course. But I’d like to talk to you about my compensation. I understood not getting a raise or a bonus when I thought no one was, but since that isn’t the case, I’d like to better understand why my work didn’t make me eligible for either and what it will take to change that in the future.”

Depending on how this conversation goes and what your relationship with her is like, you might also say, “I’m concerned that I was told something that turned out not to be the case.”

Meanwhile, though, I would reflect on what you know about your boss. Does she struggle with giving bad news? Does she misrepresent things to avoid awkwardness? Have you seen other signs that she’s not always up-front with you? The way she handled this is seriously bad and torpedoes your ability to rely on her for honest information, so you’re going to have to grapple with what that means for your work there.

2. Interviewing with sweaty palms

I have sweaty palms. This is almost constant, but it’s much worse when I’m nervous or if it’s warm out. I also have terrible circulation so to add to the dampness, they’re also freezing. Shaking hands with me is like grabbing a wet fish.

This has presented a problem recently as I’m applying for jobs. I bring paper towel/wet wipes with me to use before the interview but it’s not always effective and only staves off the inevitable. I can’t really end an interview by pulling out my wet wipes. Medical treatment is out of the question at the moment due to expense. What should I do? Apologize for my clammy hands? Say nothing and watch the interviewer wince? Politely decline to shake the interviewer’s hands? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I’m assuming you’ve already tried over-the-counter clinical strength antiperspirant? There are even some made specifically for hands!

But if that doesn’t work, I’d say the best thing you can do is to just discreetly wipe your hands on your clothing when you know a handshake is imminent (you should be able to do this without it being very noticeable) and then just trust that your interviewer has shaken all kinds of hands before — cold ones, limp ones, damp ones, and all sorts of others. If it’ll make you feel more comfortable, you can say, “Apologies for my cold hands!” But as long as you are not literally transferring sweat to the person’s hand (which you shouldn’t if you do the discreet clothing wipe), you should be fine.

3. Interviewer declined my request for a business card

I had a second in-person panel interview today. There were three interviewers: the immediate supervisor for the position (“A”), A’s supervisor (“B”), and B’s supervisor (“C”). I had already spoken with A for the first in-person interview and had been in contact over email.

At the end of the interview, I asked B and C for their business cards because I wanted to send them thank-you/follow-up emails. C declined for both of them, which surprised me as I thought the interview was going pretty well. C said that A was the hiring manager for this role, so I could just continue talking to her instead.

I’m now curious what is the best way to proceed with the thank-you emails for B and C. I’m in the habit of sending them the morning after my interview, and I plan to send one to A as usual. I’ve found C’s email listed on the organization’s website, and I could call the front desk to ask for B’s email. I’m imagining some scenarios as to why C declined to provide her business card or contact information, and my plans on how to respond: (1) C was not satisfied with my interview and decided then and there she would not consider my application any further, in which case an email will not change her mind so I won’t bother. (2) C is really busy and is leaving the decision up to A. I’m treating this as a “no calls” type of policy in that, since she doesn’t want to be contacted, she did not give me a way to contact her, in which case I shouldn’t email her even though I found her email address online. (3) Since B did not decline to provide her contact information personally, but rather C declined for them both, I am not sure if she would care either way if I sent an email or not.

It’s most likely #2 — C doesn’t want to receive follow-up correspondence since A is managing the hiring for the position. Given that, I would not try to hunt down email addresses for B or C. Instead, in your note to A, say something like, “I hope you’ll pass along my thanks to B and C for their time as well; I really enjoyed speaking with them too.”

It’s not likely that you’d mortally offend B or C by hunting down their email addresses and emailing them directly, but I think you’re better off receiving the signal that was sent — which was to send any correspondence to the hiring manager, A.

4. Can I ask to keep my private office?

I work for the local branch of a very well-known nonprofit, made up of 18 full-time employees. Today, in a staff meeting, my manager (Fergus) announced that the organization hired a new part-time employee (Jane) to replace someone who had recently left (Prudence). Jane will be on my team, but I would not manage or work directly with her. Jane is a treasured community volunteer and is approximately 25 years my senior.

After the staff meeting, I overheard someone ask Fergus where Jane would be working. Fergus mentioned that Jane would be either sitting in Prudence’s old spot (a shared office with two desks) or that there as a desk available in MY office.

While this is true and a desk is open in my office, my stomach dropped at the thought of sharing an office. Not only do I use my office for private meetings and phone calls, I do a significant amount of writing and editing — all activities that require privacy and quiet. I’m working crazy hours (not unusual for the field) at a lower-than-average salary because other perks (such as a private office) make up for it.

To help you understand the situation, I should also mention that I started with the organization about seven months ago. The average tenure is 15 years. I’m also the youngest person on my team, but hold the only advanced degree in the office. I’m also in management and am responsible for about one-third of the organization’s revenue. Is there anything I can say or do to convince my manager to put Jane in Prudence’s office?

Yes, but speak up soon before any plans are made! Say basically what you said here — “I heard that you might be considering putting Jane in my office. I have a lot of confidential meetings and phone calls that would be awkward to do with another person in the room, and I do a significant amount of writing and editing that requires quiet in order to focus. Is it possible to put her in Prudence’s old spot instead?”

If you were just asking to keep a private office for the hell of it (or for the prestige or whatever), that would be different. But you have clear work-related reasons, and those are valid to explain.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. I got laid off after I started interviewing — when do I mention it to my interviewer?

I was in the early phases of a job search when my company laid off 10% of the employees, myself included. I already had a phone screen scheduled for only a day after the event, and I didn’t mention it to the recruiter. (My official separation date was later than the date we met).

Should I mention this in upcoming conversations I have (if any) with companies that I’ve already started the interview process with? I imagine that if I’m invited to a next stage I’ll get questions about my “current role.” I’m not sure if I should slide in a comment about the layoff or just speak about it as “my most recent position.” Do I start using the past tense when describing my work? Should I change my “reason for looking” to simply be that I was laid off as opposed to the other reasons I had previously prepared? I’m not sure if I’m overthinking this or not. What do you recommend?

You don’t need to proactively announce it — meaning, you don’t need to say anything like, “Before we start talking, I should tell you that I’m no longer at my previous job.” But you shouldn’t hide it, which means that you shouldn’t talk about the job in present tense or otherwise say anything leading that would encourage them to think you’re still there. And if they ask about your “current job,” you’d need to explain that you’re not longer there. But you can be straightforward about it: “I actually just left that position. They laid off 10% of the staff, including my team. My last day there was the 20th.”

Overall, just treat this matter-of-factly, not as anything that requires either tip-toeing around it or immediate disclosure.

{ 284 comments… read them below }

  1. Mes*

    #2 I have the same problem. I just say I’m getting sick. It’s not technically true of course, but nobody wants to shake my icy, slimy hands.

    1. Mabel*

      If I said I was coming down with something, I’d worry that they’d be annoyed that I brought my germs to the interview. But I tend to overthink things and get anxious, so I can’t always tell if something is a legitimate worry.

      1. Not That Jane*

        No, I think that one is legit. I mean, things happen, people can’t always reschedule, but I too would worry about people reacting negatively to being told I came in even with an illness.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            I’m not advocating that OP say they are getting sick, but wouldn’t it also be generally off putting to try to reschedule for an illness? It seems like it might come off as flighty or not serious. Just wondering, because it seems like a weird double standard.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              There are certainly some interviewers who believe that no job candidate should ever get sick when they have an interview scheduled. Unsurprisingly, they tend not to be managers you want to work for. And meanwhile, you’ll be putting off the good managers, who would have much preferred you reschedule than come in sick.

              That said, sometimes it can be legitimately hard to reschedule interviews because the hiring timeline can be tight, or because there are multiple people’s schedules to coordinate. So I can understand a job candidate worrying about rescheduling because of sickness — but it’s also quite understandable for people to be annoyed upon hearing someone knowingly exposed them to illness.

              In any case though, “I’m getting sick” isn’t a good cover story to use in order to avoid shaking hands with an interviewer if it’s not true because it has this significant downside.

              1. Karo*

                Would it matter if the OP said “just getting over a cold” instead of “getting sick”? I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around a world where you wouldn’t come into work (or an interview) with a minor cold.

                1. Joshua*

                  Everyone uses language differently, but in my area of the world “a cold” is equivalent to “sick.” Every disease that isn’t life threatening usually just gets described as “a cold” or “the flu.” So in my workplace there wouldn’t be a real difference between the two phrases.

                2. music*

                  the problem is that your ‘minor cold’ is someone else’s major problem. You really shouldn’t be the person coming to work with a minor cold because you don’t know if anyone around you has a compromised immune system.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I wouldn’t. I’d be really annoyed if someone knowingly exposed me to a cold. It’s just not a good cover story, because it raises more concerns than the one it’s designed to cover up.

      2. Willis*

        And it’s an excuse you could really only use once. It would be weird to say that again at a second interview.

        I agree with Alison…I’ve had handshakes that run the gamut and it’s not anything I judge people on. Mention having cold hands if it would make you feel better, but otherwise I think the less of a deal you make out of this, the less your interviewer will.

    2. Emma UK*

      I’ve told people that I can’t shake hands with them because my hands were a bit sweaty. They were fine with it.

      1. Ilsa*

        I wonder if carrying a very absorbent handkerchief in a pants pocket would help OP #2 with the issue of sweaty hands? It wouldn’t fix the issue of having cold hands, but a quick wipe on the handkerchief might be more effective than wiping on suit pants in preventing the sweat from transferring.

        1. Jessica*

          Get some of those microfiber cloths meant to polish cars. You can buy a multi-pack of them for pretty cheap, they’re washable and reusable, and as a side benefit, they’re great for cleaning eyeglasses and any kind of screen, dusting furniture, swiffing floors, etc. They’re about the size of a handkerchief and easy to store.

          1. Serin*

            I did the square dance thing for a while, and most of the men carried a bandanna sticking out of their back pockets, so that even when they were dancing up a sweat, they could wipe their hands dry.

            The women didn’t, probably because there are no pockets in that traditional square-dance outfit — and there are none in a lot of women’s interview clothes, either, unfortunately. But if the letter writer does have an interview outfit with pockets, I second Jessica’s tip.

            (We all dreaded dancing with the guy who thought it would be a good idea to saturate his hand-wipin’ bandanna in cologne.)

    3. BTDT*

      I have hyperhidrosis and I use Drysol on my hands for a few nights in a row before an event I’ll have to shake hands at. If Drysol doesn’t work there are a few other treatments you can try. I have used the “I’m not feeling well/don’t want to spread germs” excuse in other situations but I agree with the previous responses that it’s not good in interviews.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I think your gut inclination—that managers have reasons for wanting to channel information through designated point-people that don’t reflect on your candidacy—is bang on. To that end, Alison’s advice in the A-B-C situation also applies to the other scenario you described, where your contact is an HR rep. I’ve found that your main contact will usually know the organization’s norms well enough to know when to pass along the thanks to others.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      +1 I think unfortunately, OP, you’re on the tail end of what has probably been a slew of candidates who though they were showing REAL interest by repeatedly emailing the hiring manager’s boss’s boss. And it’s not interest, it’s irritating, especially when the hiring decision is for a lower level role that that boss’s boss’s boss may not have a lot to do with.

      Please listen to their request not to be contacted (because that’s what it was, it wasn’t a “go find our email some other way” scavenger hunt, it was a clear request not to be contacted.)

    2. Thlayli*

      Definitely do not email them if they didn’t give you their card. C was pretty clear that she doesn’t want contact and even though B didn’t personally refuse, she was presumably there to hear C’s explicit instruction not to email them. It will look very bad if your first post-interview contact is to deliberately go against a clear instruction from your potential great-grandboss.
      As for why – managers are often copied on so many things that it becomes like spam. At my oldjob we had a culture of copying everyone in on everything, and my granboss once told me how many emails he gets a day. I worked out how long it would take him just to open and scan them to see how important they are – 3 hours a day! Just to see what was worth reading! It’s possible C was dealing with something similar and is trying to crack down on a culture of multiple useless emails.

      1. Lora*

        Yeah, this. I’m guessing it was a “oh god no, I get enough real emails to deal with, I don’t need more, you seem polite so I’ll just assume you’re grateful” but it could just as easily have been that C had a bad experience with a pushy candidate, C knows it will hit the spam box, etc. And I like Trout Waver’s point that C is demonstrating faith in her team and good leadership: it’s the sign of a bad manager that they don’t trust their subordinates, especially with something this critical.

      2. Koko*

        Yep. I’m not even that high up the food chain but I’m tangentially involved in so many products that a lot of my day is devoted to managing email. If I don’t clear it out on an ongoing basis throughout the day it quickly becomes something that I have to set aside hours to do. I’ve tried to train myself to never read an email without filing it (if no action needed) or categorizing it (with type of action needed), but it gets really hard when I’m busy and before I know it my inbox is full of stuff I read without filing, a bunch of emails I haven’t opened yet because the titles look like promotional/impersonal content, and I suddenly realize with horror that buried amongst all that noise there could be an important email asking me to do something time-sensitive and I won’t know for sure that that’s not the case until I spend the next hour or two filing email.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      I want to point out that “C” is displaying leadership in this situation by showing faith in her team and hiring processes. Too often applicants, (and clients, sales reps, and coworkers) try to appeal to the highest ranking person they can, rather than talking directly to the person who’s in charge of a particular team or process. By redirecting you to the hiring manager, the big boss is showing that she lets her managers actually run their teams. I think this is a positive sign about how that department is run.

    4. finderskeepers*

      Could OP follow up with the exact words that person C used to decline their business card? I think it is a matter of courtesy to give people your business card in professional settings. If person C didn’t want to be on the emails, they could have said, as they were giving the card, “but A and B will be handling this going forward so direct any contact to them.” It seems very rude to not even make a white lie that they ran out of cards.

      1. Christy*

        But there is no reason for C to lie to this interviewee. C was clearly indicating that they didn’t want a follow up email from the interviewee. A white lie would have just obscured that.

        1. finderskeepers*

          There is the matter is professional courtesy and basic etiquette. I’ve been the interviewee in literally over a hundred interviews and I’ve never had an interviewer outright decline to give me their business card . So I’m curious for OP to provide the language used as I really find it extremely rude to refuse to provide a business card, as opposed to treating OP as an adult and ask them to direct emails to the other interviewers.

          1. Lars the Real Girl*

            I think it depends on how it was said. I think there are not-rude ways to say: we’ll just ask that you follow up with A.

            And if a candidate is asking for a business card, they’re asking to use it to contact you, not paper mâché their bedroom. If you give it to them, the implication (even if you say, contact A going forward) is that you’re still giving them permission to contact you.

            Business cards are a way to communicate information: email, phone number, address, etc. If you don’t need to or want to communicate that information, you shouldn’t need to.

            1. finderskeepers*

              Most of the time, business cards are asked for simply as a matter of professional introduction. To decline outright to provide one , is frankly rude , unprofressional, and , depending on the wording used, confrontational.

              Moreover, asking for a business card doesn’t even mean you’ll contact them for the matters of this meeting. I ask for them so I can have the correct spellings of their name and position, so that I may refer to those individuals in my follow up message , even if they are not on the email.

              1. Risha*

                I think your use of business cards is to some extent industry specific, though, however common. I’ve had a box of business cards given to me upon starting every full time job, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually had to give one out. It’s just not really a thing in my position when you mostly only meet with established customer contacts for very technical discussions about requirements and issues. I’m not sure I’ve ever even thought to bring any to any interview I’ve given, so the interviewee in your position would have been out of luck regardless.

                Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure my current cards give my address as the main office, which I’ve never been to, and my phone number as an extension at that location that does not exist.

                1. finderskeepers*

                  There’s a difference between saying “i don’t have any cards on me” or “I ran out of cards” and whatever language was used towards the OP.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think you’re reading waaaaayyyyy too much into it. The OP’s request clearly had a subtext of “I’d like to contact you in the future about this job” and C was clearly replying that that wasn’t necessary because the hiring manager was the contact.

                Also, if C was a man, he might have cards in a wallet in his pocket. If C was a woman, her cards were more likely not to be on her person and she would have had to leave the room to retrieve them (from a purse or so forth). There’s no point in doing that when C doesn’t want job-related correspondence anyway.

                1. finderskeepers*

                  The OP may have had that intent, but it’s not clear that OP communicated to person C anything more than “may I have your card”

                  Whether person C had their business cards on them isn’t relevant, as its inferred that person C didn’t reply “sorry I don’t have my cards with me”, but rather declined to provide a card altogether. Now, maybe I’m wrong in inferring that, and I’m hoping OP come back to clarify.

                  I make it a point to ask all the interviewers , at the end of the interview, for their business cards, as a matter of etiquette ,

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I don’t want to derail too much, because I don’t think the verbiage changes the advice for OP. But I want to note, because you cite “etiquette,” that it is not common or accepted etiquette across all sectors and contexts to (a) request someone’s card at the end of an interview, or (b) tender your card when it’s requested.

                3. finderskeepers*

                  Saying it’s bad etiquette to decline to provide your business card doesn’t logically translate to mean it’s good etiquette to provide your business card.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I actually did ask the OP about the exact wording before I posted this. She said: “I did not say it was specifically for thank you’s when I asked for the cards. C said, “A is actually the hiring manager for this position,” and then something about how I should stay in contact with her moving forward in the del action process. I don’t remember what her exact wording was for the second part of the reason she declined.”

                  In any case, I think you have a fairly outlier view of the etiquette in this situation!

                5. Steve*

                  In some cultures, business etiquette has some ritualized parts including the giving and receiving of business cards.

                  Even within the US, not specifically around business cards, it is considered rude to turn down almost any request. (The asker is expected to suss out whether the request would be accepted before even asking.)

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I think there’s a difference between ‘professional courtesy and basic etiquette’ and ‘habit.’

          3. Koko*

            Interestingly, I have sat in on a lot of interviews where I was not the decision maker and I can only remember even being asked for my business card once or twice. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even have my cards on me at least one of the times. I don’t raise an eyebrow when people are liberal with giving me their own cards, because they’re usually sales people and when I was in a sales role I was **all about them business cards** but it’s just not something I expect to be asked for if I’m not managing the role/involved in the process. (One difference may be that these are interviews for a role that was not in my reporting chain at all, but someone who would be a peer or report to a peer.)

      2. SheLooksFamiliar.*

        Corporate staffing here. No, a business card is not a matter of basic etiquette, and they shouldn’t be expected on demand during an interview. And, in this case, there’s a very good reason why C declined: The candidate was politely told to follow up with the actual decision maker, A, which is completely appropriate. I can’t remember all the times eager ‘etiquette following’ job seekers swarmed VP and C-level interviewers, none of whom were the actual decision-makers, and filled their voicemail and email with earnest messages of ‘follow up.’ The OP can ask A to thank the interview panel again, and all is well.

        Speaking of professioanl courtesy: a candidate is also expected to show some. Cooperating with the hiring process – and not finding insult where none is intended – is courteous and mature behavior.

        1. Susanne*

          I agree with SheLooksFamiliar. Let’s not look for insults where none were intended. C prefers that the follow-up and direct management be done by his underling. So respect that. It wasn’t done “at” the candidate.

        2. finderskeepers*

          Giving a business card is not part of the hiring process , anymore than deciding not to shake hands or any other typical professional behavior can be labeled as not being part of the hiring process.

          If a VP or C-suite interviewer asked not to be contacted, then an interviewee would not be following etiquette to contact them . But if they didn’t say so, then it would be treating them like any other interviewer present to send thank you notes.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t think giving a business card is equivalent to shaking hands. It really isn’t integral to professional communication in the way you’re describing. And it’s exceedingly appropriate (and common) to thank the hiring manager and ask them to pass along your thanks.

            But sending someone a note after they declined to give you their card is at best benign and at worst obnoxious. It’s also dangerous to hew to the idea that a candidate has to be literally told not to contact people instead of being capable of picking up on indirect cues.

            When the benefits are minimal and the risks are discrete, how would it benefit OP to risk being obnoxious? What use is a business card if you don’t intend to use it to communicate with that person?

            1. finderskeepers*

              What do you have in mind by “literally told not to contact people”? A perfectly professional way to say that would be to say “thank you for coming in, person A is leading the hiring process, please only contact A in future correspondence.”

              If instead that person said , in response to “can I get your card”, “No, I don’t want to give you my card” or some variation, that’s hardly an indirect cue.

              A perfect example of a non-communicative use of a business card in an interview setting is to have the correct spelling of their name when mentioning that person in the thank you note.

              1. Infinity Anon*

                Business cards are used primarily for the contact information. Giving the OP their business card and then saying “but don’t contact me” would be really really weird. Other information, like the spelling of their name can easily be found on the website.

                1. finderskeepers*

                  “Other information, like the spelling of their name can easily be found on the website.” That’s only true for C-suite and EVP/SVP and board members. Most major companies don’t list middle managers and directors on their public website.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think OP should. And in this context, I don’t think it’s rude to decline to give someone your business card. I’ve been in hiring situations where I’ve specifically instructed the applicant to follow up with the hiring manager and not to email me (or others), and they’ve disregarded that instruction in the name of politesse. And although it’s not disqualifying, I found it off-putting that someone would so clearly disregard direct instructions. (And on the margin with a candidate who I felt was overly pushy in the interview and not listening—especially to the interviewers who were women and POC—it was a deciding factor in not hiring that candidate.)

        I suspect C may have also had that experience and is trying to avoid a similar situation by not making it “easy” to contact them.

        If OP pushes on this issue, it will make OP look stubborn and incapable of picking up context cues. I don’t think C’s behavior is so egregious that OP should attempt to slyly shame C to A, at least not if OP is still interested in the position. How would it benefit OP to use the exact words C used when following up to say “thank you” for the interview?

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          I agree. While it’s certainly very common to give one’s business card to someone who’s there for an interview (I usually do so just so the person can remember my name), it’s also very common for people to take a business card as an invitation to keep in touch. So if C truly wants the OP to concentrate on the actual hiring manager, not giving the OP a way to contact her is a pretty good strategy.

          Mind you, I probably wouldn’t have done it that way. One thank-you note isn’t going to make or break my “in” box. I would probably have provided the card while also making clear who the OP should be communicating with. But if C has had problems in the past, I don’t think it was out of line for her to take steps to minimize the chances that it will happen again.

          And no, the OP definitely shouldn’t write to either B or C.

        2. finderskeepers*

          I don’t see the logic here. If some applicants disregard instructions and contact you, that doesn’t mean other applicants would also do so and as such, its not necessary to be rude and unprofessional in declining to give a business card.

          There are perfectly legitimate uses for a business card in an interview process that don’t involve contacting the individual, so I would be very interested to hear back from OP as to the exact language used.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            ‘I don’t see the logic here. If some applicants disregard instructions and contact you, that doesn’t mean other applicants would also do so and as such, its not necessary to be rude and unprofessional in declining to give a business card.’

            I’ve been in corporate staffing for 30+ years, and let me assure you of this very important point: applicants can, and do, follow up relentlessly once they have contact information. And it is not rude to limit the contact info a candidate can have. It is their process, they get to decide.

            Business norms change all the time. 30 years ago, people collected business cards as easily as they shook hands; that is not the case anymore. Insisting it should be only sets one up for disappointment and irritation. To paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw: Don’t ‘should’ all over yourself.

            1. finderskeepers*

              I don’t claim that an interviewee has some right to an interviewer’s business card; only that the interviewer was rude in directly declining as opposed to simply saying ” sorry don’t have any cards on me” or “sorry ran out of cards” or just directly saying “please direct all correspondence to person A”

              Someone who is that determined to contact an interviewer will do so, business card or no business card. Simply blanket declining to provide a card to all interviewees , rather than redirecting inquires, doesn’t do anything

              1. Infinity Anon*

                It actually sounds like they did your third suggestion and said that A was handling the hiring process and all communication should be directed to A. It didn’t sound like they said “No you can’t have my card.”

          2. Koko*

            The best predictor of the future is the past. If applicants have a history of sending unwanted contacts, they will likely continue to do so in the future. Therefore if one wants to avoid the inbox clutter, one should take steps to prevent it from happening, such as declining to give contact information.

    5. A Turtle Without A Shell*

      My take is this:

      Setting aside all the business card stuff, OP asked : “May I email you?” C replied: “Please do not email me. Only email A.”

      That’s the end of it there. To bypass what someone literally told OP to do and find backdoor ways to contact C because of the norms that OP (rightfully, perhaps) wishes to adhere to? Not a good idea.

      If I told someone not to contact me AND plainly refused them my contact information when they asked for it? I would be super unhappy to receive a message from them. On so many levels.

  3. Artemesia*

    Re the office. Move fast on that. Once a decision is taken even if it hasn’t been communicated, your odds of correcting go close to zero. Get in today and focus on the business needs for the office; if it is true that you do a lot of confidential work on the phone lead with that and then with the writing editing focus.

    But the main thing is to move fast.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes. And just to underline the “business needs” part, don’t mention your advanced degree when discussing the need for privacy. It doesn’t sound like your degree is necessarily connected to the work-related reasons (all valid) for requesting that space, and consequently, it may not have as much persuasive weight as the business case.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I came here to say exactly this. The degree isn’t relevant to mention and doing so might backfire.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes yes yes.

          This is like asking for more money based on how you want to buy a sheep, versus things you do for the company that make you more valuable.

      2. Murphy*

        Yeah, focus on the practical reasons that you really need a private office and not any reasons that you feel you “deserve” one.

        1. OP4*

          Great points, thanks! I should have mentioned in the letter that the business reasons are what I’d most likely bring up to my manager. The revenue/degree/age information was more just meant to be background information on my “case”.

          1. Artemesia*

            I succeeded in an awkward departmental change and space move in getting my boss to actually build me a new office rather than put me in a tiny office that was available by doing it this way. Your status needs are of no interest (hence the degree etc) but the ‘I need to do X for the department and that requires this kind of space’ worked for me. I was moving from a huge office in another building with a conference table and so the status thing was important to me but I never mentioned that, only what I needed to get the job done that he wanted me to do.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Also, though, I think you reframe and stop thinking of the private office a “perk.” It supports you doing focused, efficient work.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        Yes! A parking spot is a perk, a gym membership, etc. A private office is either necessary to your work, or can be taken away if it’s not truly necessary to accommodate business needs.

    3. Agent Diane*

      You can also suggest that if Jane sits in the free desk in the wider office she’ll be able to build up working relationships faster with the rest of the team, and be able to seek help from the appropriate colleague more easily. If she’s squirreled away in a private office she may feel less comfortable approaching them as it involves sallying forth rather than turning in a chair.

      Don’t call the spare desk in the wider office “Prudence’s”. She’s left, it’s just a spare desk now.

      In terms of longer term thinking, you should also accept that if there is another spare desk in your private office, at some point you may need to share so you need to release some of your territorial feelings on it. You may want to suggest to the office manager that it’d be better if you shared with another manager, should that time come. Hopefully that way you’d get someone who is equally deep in their work that you get the quiet, and they’ll respect your more confidential conversations.

      1. OP4*

        That is great insight to leverage, thank you.

        I also see your point about the extra desk. I appreciate the insight on possibly asking to share with another impact.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this.

        “My” office has a second desk that is used sometimes for volunteers or interns. As much as I’d prefer not to share . . . there is room here for another person. If I felt I absolutely could not share, I’d have to be prepared to move to a smaller, non-shareable, space, as it’s not really fair of me to insist on my own space if space is at such a premium that other people are sharing offices. Sharing with a manger if confidentiality is an issue sounds like a good compromise.

      3. a Gen X manager*

        Oh, fantastic additional points, Agent Diane! WOW – real value added to Alison’s response.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        Good luck! Writing and editing are so hard to do with a lot of distractions. I used to have a desk that was right next to the office kitchen and the meeting room, and editing is a large part of my job. I work from home now and get so much more done.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        The only other thing I’d want to weigh is the politics of shared offices at your job. Do most people share offices, and you’ve just lucked out not having a roommate currently? If so, a part-time person might be your best bet, keeping you from ending up with a full-time officemate who wants to talk on the phone all day.

    1. New Window*

      Same here, LW#1–you have my full moral support. That’s some real crap they’ve expected you to put up with, and I really hope you can find out what’s going on.

      1. Specialk9*

        Commentariat – what’re your thoughts on her taking legal action on this? (not having dealt with this situation myself) Advisable? Career suicide?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s unclear, based on these facts, if there’s legal action to be taken.

        2. Artemesia*

          I see no legal issue here. Businesses are allowed to give differential raises. She would have to prove race or gender discrimination. I hope the OP is looking for a new job; these people are pretty awful.

        3. Infinity Anon*

          It doesn’t sound like there is anything to take action over. Unless they have a contract that specifies their raise and bonus (which does not seem likely), the company can give or not give raises and bonus to anyone they want.

      2. Snark*

        I really hope you can find another job quickly, and then resign without a notice period. Seriously, LW1, that’s some cask-strength bullshit.

    2. Ted Mosby*

      Agree. It is seriously egregious that your boss lied to you (twice!!), seems to have told coworkers to lie to you, and even worse that she would dare tell you this is beyond your pay grade. This LITERALLY IS YOUR PAY GRADE.

      This is both a really crap thing to do, and really stupid, because this kind of thing tends to get around offices. I wish you the best of luck. Please send an update when you have one!

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I think it was another coworker who said that? But it’s still horrible and is basically gaslighting.

        2. justcourt*

          I think OP’s coworker said OP imagined the conversation, which is almost worse because it could mean OP’s coworkers have decided to/been instructed to keep OP in the dark about bonuses.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            …which would be illegal, right? Doesn’t federal law bar companies from limiting discussions of pay between employees?

            1. EddieSherbert*

              I believe it is. This whole situation makes me so mad.

              Sorry OP, but if I was you, I’d be job-hunting right now.

              1. Jane!Jane!*

                I had the same thought, EddieSherbert. When your boss refuses to be honest and colleagues appear to be keeping secrets, it’s a huge red flag that your days could be numbered.
                Polish up that resume, OP1, and much good luck to you!

    3. NoMoreMrFixit*

      I’d start seriously looking for a new position. Many years back I had something similar happen to me and the end result was that my position was being eliminated and nobody wanted to tell me until the last second.

      1. Kalamet*

        Yeah, even if this isn’t the case, I can’t think of any explanation for the boss’ behavior that isn’t shady. This is a huge red flag and OP should find a job that will pay her fairly.

        1. MashaKasha*

          I cannot either. As awful as it is to be denied a raise and a bonus, whatever caused this to happen might be even worse.

      2. Triplestep*

        I would also start looking. Not just for this reason, but because the OP’s manager is a liar who clearly thinks OP is not very quick on the uptake and has the co-worker agreeing.

        I’m sorry this is happening to you, OP. Could you look to transfer internally?

        1. Infinity Anon*

          Yep. Manager lying about raises and bonuses does not bode well for future discussions on salary.

      3. Samiratou*

        This was my first thought–that a layoff is coming.

        I hope that’s not the case, but I agree with the advice to start looking.

        1. Anna*

          If a lay-off is coming, this is probably the worst way to keep it under wraps. It’s like standing in the hallway with semaphore flags signaling “A LAY-OFF IS IMMINENT! THAT IS WHY THIS ONE SPECIFIC PERSON DID NOT GET A RAISE OR A BONUS! AWOOOGA AWOOGA!”

      4. Kyrielle*

        This is *exactly* what I was worrying about as I read OP’s letter. OP, I would honestly start a job search ASAP – no matter what your manager says. If your position is in fact being eliminated, they very probably won’t tell you until they’re walking you out the door.

      5. Muriel Heslop*

        I would also start looking. For me, there are enough issues wrapped up with this that it would affect my opinion of my whole workplace. Good luck, OP and please keep us updated!

      6. TrainerGirl*

        Yeah, this is seriously shady. I was laid off at the end of September, but still got my bonus for Q3. The fact that others received raises/bonuses, and are now willing to lie to convince OP that they didn’t and that any conversation about it was “imagined” is just a sign that they don’t need to be there anymore.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. I would also keep copies of all of your performance reviews, etc. I’m concerned Lying Boss might try to backstab you on a reference check or fight unemployment if they let you go.

    4. Thlayli*

      I think the evidence does point to the manager deliberately lying. Alison seems to be of the opinion that the reason for the lie is that the manager doesn’t want to give OP a raise because her work is not up to scratch. But the deliberate lying and telling other coworkers to lie makes me think something much more sinister is going on.
      OP I think you should try your manager one more time like Alison says but if you get nowhere I actually think you should contact your grandboss. Your manager is directly lying and telling others to lie. That’s a reason to go over her head if there ever was one. Maybe she’s keeping all your department bonus for herself, who knows.

      1. Amey*

        I wonder if the message from on high was that there weren’t going to be bonuses and raises – but behind the scenes, some managers managed to fight for and get them for their teams/star staff. OP’s manager may not have realised that this was something she could do and now feels bad about sticking to the party line and how this reflects on her. It sounds as though OP is in the same department (with the supposed ban) as the coworkers who got bonuses but might have a different manager?

        I say this because this is absolutely something that would and has happened in my workplace. When you’re new to management here, one of the biggest learning curves is knowing when to push back against an ultimatum (and that your team will suffer if you don’t because every other manager will) and when that will look out of touch and cost you political capital.

        I’ll also say that my husband has been in the situation where the company line is that there are no bonuses that year but he has received one (he significantly out performed the rest of the team.) He was told absolutely not to disclose this to his colleagues and that he was the only person receiving a bonus (although of course he couldn’t check this…)

        1. Amey*

          Before anyone mentions it, I’m not in the US, so I don’t know if my husband being asked not to disclose is illegal – and I’m sure they actually phrased it as ‘No once else has got one and it will stir up some ill will if you mention it, so please keep it to yourself.’

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I’m not 100% sure, but I think the illegality comes in if they fire him for saying anything. I believe they’re ok saying, “We’d prefer you don’t discuss this for morale reasons,” but they can’t say, “If we find out you talked about this, you’re out the door.”

            1. Yorick*

              I think they’re not even supposed to say “we’d prefer you don’t discuss this” because it has a chilling effect

        2. Myrin*

          I first thought that as well but then I assumed that at least the one other person OP is on a team with would have the same manager as her; it also sounded to me like that is the same person who later used the weird gaslighty suggestion that OP had just “imagined” their conversation, meaning the only other person on OP’s team got a raise and bonus as well. I could be wrong on both counts, of course.

          1. SamKD*

            Yes that was my interpretation also. OP is on a team with just Coworker; they would thus have the same manager. Manager told OP first “no raises” then “no bonuses” both of which turned out to be false. OP heard from Coworker that his bonus was more than he expected but then he told her “nope, you imagined the whole thing” which I interpret as his version of damage control after Manager told him belatedly not to say anything to OP. The entire sequence of events is outrageous, IMHO. I absolutely would start with Alison’s wise advice for the conversation with Manager as it is the most diplomatic version of “you lied to me; why?” I’ve ever read, but unfortunately I think the only thing which will fix this situation is another job. Sorry, OP – this is a really awful thing to endure.

      2. Blue*

        I don’t think Alison is necessarily saying that job performance is the reason for the lack of raise and the lying; it’s just a reasonable way to probe for additional information. It’s completely legitimate for any employee to ask about expectations for earning raises/bonuses, and the way the boss responds to that inquiry may be telling. If not, OP can always press them directly about the lying, but starting there is likely to make them defensive and that will limit what OP can learn in this conversation.

        1. MCM*

          Am wondering if the division was given a certain dollar amount for raises & bonuses and it was up to the manager to decide how to distribute it. Than the manager shared with the top performers and/or people she liked the most.

          Am curious if the OP is a minority in the group, only female, etc. Am hoping not. To me this is a sign to start job searching. To be honest, this is something I would take up with HR, if they have one. It could be something that the manager chose to do to drive the OP out of the office. I’ve known people that have been top performers, etc. that management does not care for. With my boss, she is extremely mean to the two people in the office she doesn’t like. It’s clear who they are. If she could drive them away without getting in trouble she would. OP should look at the Glass Door reviews. Sometimes people post things about bonuses, salary etc. Wondering if Payroll could answer the question. I got a raise recently and my boss told me so many different things, I had to go to Payroll because I was afraid they were giving me too much. She had gotten the conversation with HR twisted around. I ended up getting the full 10% based on currently salary versus what she was telling me, that would have been about 4% less.

          It could be that the boss made a mistake while distributing the bonuses to the individuals within the department. The things that took place afterwards, is her way of covering it up. If she has a habit of covering up mistakes, or passing along the blame I would lean in that direction.

          1. AMPG*

            I also was wondering about the OP’s minority status. This definitely could be actionable if she’s being treated differently from others in majority demographics.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        To be clear, my assumption isn’t that the manager is lying because the OP’s work isn’t good enough. But it’s useful wording for the OP to use because it forces the manager to address the issue (and who knows, it’s possible that’s the reason).

      4. Anna*

        Yeah, it’s hard to rationalize that the work isn’t good if the review was great and everyone else has been asked to lie. It doesn’t jibe. I do think there’s something more going on here than the manager isn’t good at giving bad news.

    5. SchoolStarts!*

      It would feel awful. I wasn’t explicitly told I wasn’t getting an Xmas bonus one year but I saw everyone else get one and waited for my turn only to never be called into his office for my envelope. He was, in the end, such a gutless manager. Never having been told that there was a performance issue, I was told that the reason for no bonus would hurt me too much. WTF? Years later, I believe that a mistake I had made stopped the bonus.

      Things not meant to understand? That’s for the mystical and the mysteries of the universe. No raise for me but everyone else gets one? No, there is a very basic need to understand what happened there.

      I’m so sorry for you, OP. I would spruce up that c.v. and move on. You deserve better than that.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, “things not meant to understand” is if they sometimes sweep out of the C-suites, gather up all the post-its in the office, and run off with them.

        1. GumptionIndeed*

          That’s funny – the same place that wouldn’t tell me why I didn’t get a bonus also would not provide post-its to staff below the C-suite citing they were too expensive. LOL

            1. GumptionIndeed*

              Back in 1994, not sure it was in drug stores. Doesn’t matter – this company was cheap in so many other ways giving to an overall “philosophy.”

      2. anycat*

        i had a manager wait until i was out on holiday before she gave everyone theirs and i didn’t get one.

      1. Kix*

        Word to this. I’m waiting for a formal job offer. I love my current job, but I’m leaving because my manager lies to me on a regular basis.

      2. Newbie*

        Oh, so much this.

        At a former job, I got a nice bonus at the end of the year. Then I got a seriously lackluster annual increase in January. I was confused as I was a solid employee with good attendance and results, so I pushed my manager for a performance review, hoping to explain the number. The review only caused more questions, as I was marked as Satisfactory (not something more glowing) when my accuracy was 100%. I asked (in writing) how I could get a better evaluation when I was already @ 100% accuracy. Crickets. That manager jerked me around for the rest of the year. I never did get a completed review.

        By summer, I was determined to get out of that job, so I made a plan. Then all I had to do was wait.

        In December, manager told that because the department as a whole was behind, no bonus for me. Never mind my work was up to date and that I was never trained to do the kind of work that the department was behind in. I’d had enough. I gave my notice a couple of days later.

        He was miserable. It felt awesome.

    6. Economist*

      I once had a manager who thought he was doing good by not giving his staff cash awards–he was “saving” money. Those funds ended up going for cash awards to others in the Division, so the money wasn’t “saved” as the other managers then had a larger cash award budget. He just had such a misguided notion of what he was supposed to be doing as a manager. He was eventually removed from management.

    7. Ms. Minn*

      Yep, just anger on your behalf. And I really, really want to hear an update on how this conversation with your boss goes!

  4. t*

    LW 5: I had a similar experience where I had an in person interview scheduled for a few weeks out and was suddenly let go right before the interview occurred. I didn’t end up disclosing it at the interview because it never came up naturally. When I was offered the job a few days later, I decided to disclose it at that point because I didn’t want it to come up as a surprise if they did a reference check at that point. The hiring manager was taken aback and almost rescinded my offer. He felt that not disclosing it up front was somewhat dishonest. I did ultimately get the job though.

    I tell that story not to necessarily change what you do in the interview, but to suggest you think about whether you’ll need to disclose it later and how you might do that. Depending on the industry and how much background checking they do, it may be wise to get it in the open sooner rather than later. I did not handle it very smoothly and I think that contributed to the manager’s initial misgivings.

    1. another Liz*

      I had this happen, actually. I was let go from lastjob between my first and second interviews with currentjob. At the beginning of the second interview, I said “Just to update my resume, I’m no longer with lasttjob” in a casual tone, and left it up to currentboss to ask for further details. She didn’t. And in this case, there’s an easy answer if they ask why.

    2. DeskBird*

      I had this happen too. I was laid off from my last job about 30 minutes before my phone interview (I wasn’t expecting it – I just wanted to get out of there). I was still really upset and not yet calm enough to talk about it without sounding upset so I didn’t bring it up at all. I actually did a pretty good job of sounding chipper and upbeat considering.

      I did bring it up in my in person interview – and probably bungled it a little. I just brought it up out of the blue in a “just so you know” way that probably made more a fuss about it than it needed to be. I didn’t get the job – but more likely because I couldn’t stop myself from cringing a little every time they brought up prayer group.

      1. LW#5*

        Prayer group?! Sounds like a good story.

        I think I was a little freaked out at the moment that I didn’t disclose something I maybe should have mentioned, but now that some time has passed I’ve gotten much better at explaining the situation and finding the right time to do it.

        1. NutellaNutterson*

          As much as I wouldn’t want to work there, it’s legal under many circumstances. There’s a local nonprofit that I keep forgetting is actively religious (not just religious in its founding or funding), but their ads always say they are an organization of xyz faith, and ask candidates to participate in prayer, etc. as part of meetings. They’re up front, and so I never applied!

    3. LW#5*

      Thanks for your comment. It ended up coming up in a couple of the in-person interviews and when the interviewer asked about my “current role” or “what I do now” I slid a comment in there about not being there anymore and why.

      1. CAA*

        This is very common. I’ve done many interviews where I asked someone why they want to leave the last job listed on their resume only to get a response like “the company was having financial problems when I started looking for a new job, and they actually laid me off recently so I’m no longer with them.”

        Now that you’re not working there any more, please do update your resume to put an ending date on that last job though. I do look askance at someone who answers the question about why they’re leaving what their resume says is their current job with “oh, I got laid off a few months ago.” You can get away with not updating your resume for a month at most; after that, having incorrect info on it is hurting you more than it’s helping.

        1. LW#5*

          Your quote is almost exactly what I’ve said! Glad to hear I’m at least on the right track with my explanation. I usually also add that it was a workforce reduction (meaning, not just me).

          I use years on my resume (e.g. 2011-2014) so instead of using ‘2014 – Present’ for my current position, I added an end of 2017. Do you think I need to get more granular for my most recent position to avoid confusion?

          1. CAA*

            Yes, you should use month/year for the start and end dates of your jobs. It’s not as big a deal for very long time ranges, but something like 2015-2016 could mean anything from 2 days to 2 years, so it tends to look like you’re trying to hide short term jobs.

            1. Shona*

              I once failed a background check because on the questionnaire I checked “currently employed” for the job I had given notice to but hadn’t left yet. The questionnaire was sent to HR at that job, and she wrote that my response was false, I was no longer employed there, and gave my end date as the last day of my notice, two weeks in the future! I see what she was going for, I had given them an end date, but she basically told them I was lying about working there. I figured if the questionnaire had a box for “currently employed” I should use it since I was, in fact, currently employed there. I was in a panic but I convinced the HR person to contact them again and confirm that I did still work there, so it got cleared up.

    4. Specialk9*

      That’s so crappy that the hiring manager took it as a sign of duplicity. Employment is so skewed toward those with jobs. It’s dispiriting.

    5. Barney Barnaby*

      I think the best thing to do would be to frame it as, “10% of our staff was laid off last week; I was one of them. I had started looking for other opportunities in part because I knew the company was struggling.”

  5. Jeanne*

    #3, You missed the other option. B and C don’t have business cards. Companies don’t always pay for everyone to have cards. I had a professional job. My boss had me do interviews at a colleague level for potential hires. I didn’t have hiring authority but I was senior in the job. I didn’t qualify for business cards. You had to be at least a manager. Don’t read anything into it.

    1. Alienor*

      This, or also they might just not carry business cards. My company lets anyone order them who wants to, but I stopped bothering about two title changes ago because I literally never use them – I would hand out maybe two or three cards from a box of 200. I kind of feel like they’re becoming an old-school thing anyway; I can’t remember the last time someone gave one to me, either.

      1. Broadcastlady*

        I have a box of business cards and never ever use them, but my husband, a criminal defense attorney, goes through a ton. Lol.

      2. babblemouth*

        Same here. I’m almost never out of the office, and just a couple times every other year I go to a conference where I would hand out at most a dozen. Business cards come in stacks of 200, it’s just weird to order them when I know they’ll barely be used.

      3. Trout 'Waver*

        But if someone is out of business cards and they want you to have their contact info, they just jot it down quick on a scrap of paper.

        1. fposte*

          Right, but some people are suggesting the failure to provide cards, even if the interviewers aren’t the contact people, is rude. If they don’t have business cards and don’t need to be contacted, I don’t think it’s rude for them not to scribble their info down.

        2. Jesmlet*

          Exactly, they probably just don’t want to be contacted because they don’t want to risk OP being one of those people who nag and send a million emails/calls following up. You get just one of those and you’re ruined for life on handing business cards out to applicants.

          1. Anna*

            I don’t think it needs to be that dramatic. It’s probably pretty straight forward that the person isn’t really part of the hiring process and even if the OP did ask for any updates, wouldn’t be able to provide much information and would just recommend they contact the hiring manager anyway. So, how about they just cut out the whole middle step and instead not give the business card to OP and refer them to the other person there.

      4. Big10Professor*

        I did a round of interviews last Friday and didn’t have any on me because I had grabbed a different color purse that morning and only my essentials (wallet, keys, phone) made the switch.

      5. A Non E. Mouse*


        I have a box that I never use, so I use them as bookmarks.

        Ok if they get lost, and if the BOOK gets misplaced hey, they have my name and can return it!

      6. TrainerGirl*

        True. I needed to submit some work samples when I interviewed for my current position, and my manager just wrote her e-mail address on my resume and told me to send it later that day. I haven’t had business cards in about 5-6 years, so I get that not everyone does anymore.

    2. AKchic*

      I had one boss who wanted me to have business cards. I would have been the only non-manager to have them. I refused. I claimed that having business cards would indicate responsibility and decision-making powers I didn’t have.
      I think some of the other managers were happy about that. When all of the other managers are 50+ and one boss is demanding a 25 year old records clerk/program assistant have business cards so he can easily direct his calls to her rather than do his job, the other managers tend to get a little sniffy about it. But, the CEO was out on medical leave and there wasn’t anyone else above him to really shut him down. My refusal seemed to be enough.

  6. Lumen*

    LW #1: I’ve been where you’ve been. Glowing reviews, but no raise/bonus, and a runaround ‘explanation’ for why. In my case, I ended up getting 3 different explanations from 3 different bosses, and not one of them was the truth. It gives me a very bad feeling when higher-ups will not be honest with you about things that affect your compensation. Unless you end up getting a serious, clear, and trustworthy explanation for this, I think you should start considering whether you want to stay there.

    Also, that is awful for you and a really stupid practice on their part.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Me too! Could it be possible that OP’s boss is just too timid? What happened here was that the head of our division was a total wimp and did not fight for her people. Other managers in our division would make a case that their people needed bigger raises so that would mean less for my department. And our boss just let it happen because she was timid and then lied about it. Her “star employee” quit because of it and boss flipped out and said “how can you do this to me after everything I’ve done for you!”. We were all like: Huh? What have you ever done for us? Coworker was going to give 6 weeks notice and shortened it to two after that outburst.

    2. Ama*

      Ugh, yes. This unfortunately reminds me of what a (former) department director here was discovered to have done to her direct report. She gave the report glowing reviews but kept telling her there was no money in the budget for raises (which wasn’t true at all, the director just thought she could make the case for a bigger raise if she didn’t give her report one). At the time our review system here wasn’t well documented and far too much trust was placed in the director level to dole out raises fairly, with no real oversight.

      We got a new CEO who started her tenure by having one on one conversations with every single employee about what they liked and didn’t like about working here. The direct report mentioned that she wished there was more money for raises, which brought the whole thing into the open. Happily the director was dismissed, the report received a large raise and promotion (the investigation also brought out that she was doing a lot of work the director had been claiming as her own), and we got a new review process that formally documents everything an employee is told and makes sure no one person makes decisions on compensation without several other people reviewing and approving.

    3. TI-85*

      Agreed! That letter took me back to my old job, where raises/promotions/bonuses were doled out liberally to management, but stingily to junior staff, always because of “the budget”. The exception being that if a partner got an inkling that a junior person was unhappy enough to leave, all of a sudden there was suddenly budget for some bump in pay/title.

      I decided not to play the game and left, and it was one of my best career decisions ever. The following review period, I heard they stopped trying to claim poverty, and just started gaslighting employees instead (telling several of their most productive/talented people that “they had required more oversight and guidance than they should have needed”, so wouldn’t be getting a raise or promotion that was promised earlier in the year). And they continue to wonder why their junior staff turnover is so high.

  7. cheese connoisseur*

    #2 — I’ve had sweaty hands since I can remember and yeah, it sucks. I’ve tried all the antiperspirants and they’re comically ineffective if you actually have hyperhidrosis and often require weird, time-consuming application rituals (hello Drysol).

    If at some point you can afford medication (and for any other readers who suffer from this issue), I highly recommend glycopyrrolate (brand name: Robinul), which I was able to get my insurance to cover. It’s not a long-term solution due to the side effects, but I take it before interviewing or giving a presentation and it reduces my sweaty hands down to mild dampness or even nothing. It does give you a dry mouth so make sure to bring water to your interview :) It also makes me less nervous about potential sweatiness, which in itself helps curbs the sweatiness!

    Otherwise, to be real, my most effective solution has been to act like it’s totally normal. Honestly. I do a wipe, a quick handshake and proceed on with whatever interview/presentation/meeting I’ve prepared for. If you act self-conscious or apologize for your sweatiness, yeah, they’ll be thinking about your hands. But if you get a quick handshake over with matter-of-factly, act totally confident and then impress them with your skills and preparation, they’ll be thinking about you! And at that point, will probably forget all about your hands.

    I’ve gotten lots of interviews and a few pretty good job offers (even one after a “group” interview where I had to shake about 10 people’s hands in one day!), so based on anecdotal evidence I would say this strategy is effective! If anyone knows of a magical long-term solution, throw that my way… but meanwhile I’ll continue to act like my hands are no big deal — because they shouldn’t be!

    1. Sophdoph*

      OP2 here. Thank you! I’ve tried some OTC stuff but it doesn’t seem that it works very well. Maybe it’s best to just roll with it and try not to be self-conscious. I appreciate your input!

      1. Gen*

        I had some success with a medical antiperspirant brand called ‘Driclor’ but I second the water bottle tip too. Good luck, it sucks when something effects your confidence before you’ve even gotten into the room

        1. Specialk9*

          I’d focus on making sure you have a firm handshake*… Cold and wet hands are not really a big deal, but limp cold and wet is where the dead fish comparison comes in. A firm handshake saves you from that comparison.

          But as someone who’s been on the other side, it’s just not a big deal. Please don’t worry about it, if at all possible – it just isn’t that big of a deal for hiring managers.

          *barring RA or such – in which case there was a recent thread about wearing a light medical brace for handshake heavy events. Which also saves you from handshakes. :)

      2. sap*

        I also have hyperhidrosis (this is a medical thing–see a dermatologist) and +1 to prescription strength antiperspirant. Its not great for you and I only use it when I have a client/interview situation where I’ll probably need to shake hands.

        Be careful with the glycco. If you have any of the other conditions that are often comorbid with hyperhidrosis, it will mess you up, and dermatologists (in my experience) are not super attentive to larger medical issues, so read any side-effects of antichlorigenics very carefully and contact your doctor if you have any concerns.

        Lastly, I am careful to bring a *cloth bag* to any interviews. That way I can do two wipes before handshaking–the clothing wipe and then a second wipe when I “pick up my bag” while getting up, using both hands and completely wiping whatever hand i shake with on the bag right before I go to shake. I find this much more effective and less.l conspicuous than the clothing wipe, since a bit of fiddling with a briefcase is much less obvious than scrubbing my palms against my skirt. Additionally, if you can find an excuse to hold a manilla folder for the last minute before you get up, they absorb sweat very well (unlike regular paper) and can minimize the amount you have to wipe off at the end.

        1. sap*

          Also, if you’re sitting in a cloth-backed chair, it is your friend. It’s polite to tuck your chair back in to wherever it was before you sat down. Wipe your hands on the chair while tucking it in; it’s not noticeable. But don’t try with a leather/black plastic chair.

        2. sap*

          Sorry, final tip–over the years dealing with this issue, I’ve gotten very comfortable with “hands on my lovehandles, or at least dominant hand on my lovehandles” as one of my default ways to stand and have a brief conversation. It’s like putting your hand on your hip but with your hand actually a bit behind your hip, more towards your butt but not actually over your butt. That way, when anyone goes to shake my hand, it’s just physically necessary for me to draw my hand along my torso a bit and wipe it in order to get it in front of me, which just looks like moving my hand from a place it already was (rather than putting it on my body from off my body to wipe it). Plus, since it was already in contact with my clothing, which is absorbant, it isn’t as damp as it otherwise would be. Practice in the mirror, so you don’t look weird doing it–just *slightly* behind you, barely off center.

          If you’re a female-presenting person, this also, in my experience, has the benefit of being both a traditionally “feminine” way to stand and one that conveys a sense of authority-since I’m always doing it with a smile and a laugh, it pairs “bossy” with “friendly” in a way I find effective for conveying confidence without conveying all of those other impolite words for assertive women.

      3. Some sort of management consultant*

        Hey Sophdoph!
        I’m not sure if you want more treatment advice, but I relate so much to your problem that I just… had to? Please disregard it if I overstep.

        I’m one of those overly-sweaty people too – like, I literally have a diagnosis of hyperhidrosis! And it sucks, sometimes! And if you truly sweat as much as people like us do, OTC stuff is pretty much as effective as putting water on the sweaty places.

        i have no idea what your insurance/access to medical care situation is like, but IF you are in a position to get it, look into Botox shots. It’s a pretty common treatment for severe sweating and IT WORKS. It literally changed my life.
        I still sweat, as I’m one of those people who sweat all over my body, but getting the Botox shots in my hands and my armpits allows me to live a normal life. I can shake people’s hands. I don’t have to choose every single piece of clothing based on whether or not it will show sweat stains. I don’t ruin papers that I hold.

        The effects last 3-5 months for me but that varies a lot between people. I’ve gotten fairly regular treatments over the last 10 years and it seems to have reduced my sweating a little, actually.

        Basically, it might be something you might want to look into, when insurance/finances allow.

        As for your actual question: I’ve never gotten a comment about my sweaty hands. I have maybe noticed someone else’s sweaty/cold hands once or twice but really, very rarely.
        GOOD LUCK!

        1. cheese connoisseur*

          My sibling (who also has hyperhidrosis, clearly some sort of recessive gene as weirdly, neither of our parents have it) tried Botox on their hands. It wasn’t super effective, unfortunately :( I’m really glad it worked for you, though!

      4. Q without U*

        I think the water bottle could have a secondary positive – if someone was holding a water bottle and wiped their hands before shaking mine, my assumption would be that the water bottle was sweating and they just wanted to dry their hands before transferring that to me. If you’re self-conscious about drying your hands, that might help you feel less awkward about it.

    2. Isobel*

      Could iontophoresis be an option? The home machines aren’t cheap, but over the years it could be worth the investment?

    3. Specialk9*

      I don’t have this condition, but I’ve certainly had to shake hands shortly after washing my hands, or after holding a cold water bottle. I just say oh sorry bout my hands, I just washed them/that bottle is cold. So I wonder if you could show up with a cold bottle of water in your right hand, so you can transfer, “oops”, wipe, shake, “sorry for the cold hands” and continue with your day. If I were on the other side, I wouldn’t think twice and it might even break the ice.

    4. oranges & lemons*

      Also, if you haven’t tried it before, you might want to try giving up caffeine for a little while to see if that has an effect. I was amazed at how much of a difference it made for me (but I’m also not a big coffee drinker so it wasn’t hard to give up).

    5. Mints*

      I love all the practical tips on this thread, and also agree with the general ethos of “don’t be weird about it and nobody else will be weird about it.” Sweaty palms from nerves are so normal that it won’t be noticed. Also, nobody knows my palms are sweaty all the time for no reason, it’s just an slightly weird interview thing that’s immediately forgotten

  8. Jeanne*

    #1, I can’t tell why but your boss is definitely lying to you. Did she lie on your review to you? Did she lie to the raise givers about your review? Was she given a pot of money to allocate and didn’t want to give you any? Then she is trying to gaslight you. What’s with telling you that you imagined what you know? I have think you have to go back to her but you might as well be blunt. She lies to you, you don’t trust her, why be coy. “I know that coworkers are getting raises and bonuses. I both overheard and was told directly. I know that you told me I am not. I know that I received an excellent review. Could you please tell me why I alone do not qualify for a raise.” Make sure you have a copy of your review at home first in case she tries to change it. Then start job searching because your boss hates you. P.S.: If she still lies, you may have to go to that exec who’s her boss.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is definitely the worst-case scenario of what could be happening to OP#1 (which sounds awful and weird and strange). And it totally could be that scenario! But it might help OP to start with the assumption that this is a slightly less worse situation.

      I’m not sure if this comes down to tone—which is hard to gauge in text—but I worry that that script will risk coming off as entitled or as if OP thinks their boss is lying to them… and that seems like an escalation that could be harmful if OP’s job actually is in trouble but the boss hasn’t told them, yet. The suggestion of lying also further erodes the relationship between OP and their manager, which could make it hard to come back from this situation if OP decides to stay. (I understand that that trust is currently being eroded, but to mix metaphors, why through propane on a fire?).

      I know that sounds a little dithery on my part. But I would at least first try Alison’s scripts because they’re direct but leave some wiggle room for the possibility that the boss is screwing up their communication, as opposed to being intentionally shady. Afterward, OP can escalate to something more direct or to the boss’s boss (but note that if the boss’s boss is on-board with OP’s current situation, going over the manager’s head could backfire).

      If the Alison scripts didn’t work and I were in OP’s shoes, I would be job hunting right now.

      1. Jeanne*

        Why worry about the boss knowing you know she is lying when she is actually lying? We are not servants. We are humans who are not worth less because we are peons. The job is already in trouble because the boss just showed she thinks you are worthless. She is telling OP she is imagining things. You think that’s salvageable? It’s not. Sometimes you have a chance to fight back. I’ve done it and won. Thinking you can go in with the soft touch and be told the truth after this many lies is complete denial. This is not a misunderstanding.

        1. MK*

          There is chance, however slim, that the manager wasn’t lying, but had been lied to herself by the higher-ups. There is also a chance that it was a”kind” lie, that the company isn’t valuing the OP or her role and the manager wanted to give a neutral reason for not getting a raise.

          But even if it’s true that the manager lying, there is zero advantage in calling her that to her face (other than temporarily preening to yourself about what a badass non-peon you are). If the job is already in trouble (which isn’t certain, not getting a raise is not synonymous with being about toe get fired), the best thing the OP can do is be professional and start job searching. But either way, the OP may have to work with her for some time yet; it will be worse if there has been an open altercation between them.

        2. MCM*

          I’m leaning towards the boss screwed up the bonus, etc. I had one manager that was taking our referral slips and the bank, rewriting them so that ID number was on it so that she could get our $2 and $5 bonuses. Than another boss say were weren’t getting merit raises (after having a freeze on them for a few years). Us 16 admins only got the COL increase. But he got a $10,000.00 raise and he was all ready making over $100,000, we were in the early 20’s. It played a huge role in my switching to another department. He got that raise off our back.

          I recommend that OP reach out to the boss’s manager. You have nothing to lose at this point. But keep your eval at home in case it bites you in the butt. Many times upper management makes mistakes, than cover it up hoping that the peon will not go beyond them with the complaint. If she screwed up the distribution of the bonuses and raises . . . am wondering is she left you off the list when she was doing the math …. could be a huge mistake and she’s lying because she’s afraid to get in trouble.

      2. Colette*

        Reasons that might mean the OP isn’t getting a raise:
        – her manager hates her
        – her performance isn’t good and her manager doesn’t want to tell her
        – her manager wants her to quit
        – she is overpaid for her role, so the raises are going to people who are underpaid
        – her salary is charged to a project that is losing funding
        – raises and bonuses are going to people with X skill, since the market for those jobs is hot. She doesn’t have X skill.

        If she goes in assuming it is something personal, she’s likely to hurt her own reputation. If she goes in asking for clarification, she’s more likely to get a useful answer. (Yes, her boss shouldn’t have lied, but she can’t control that.)

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I agree with you, and that’s what burns me about the whole thing. We are all supposed to be grown-ups who can handle bad news, and if LW #1’s boss is trying to avoid hurting her feelings, then that is so infantilizing and ridiculous. Not that I have anything really productive to add, just that conversations like this are part of managing and this manager… doesn’t.

          1. Julia*

            I think the manager may be trying to avoid feeling bad herself if she’s someone who hates having difficult conversations.

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              If she can’t have this kind of conversation, she probably shouldn’t be managing people. Very few people like being the bearers of bad news.

        2. MashaKasha*

          I have a question. Suppose the OP goes in asking for a clarification and gets an answer. How will she be able to tell that it is an honest answer this time around and not another lie? I am honestly trying to figure out how to do that, and am coming up with nothing. The trust is gone. I wish I knew what to do in this situation other than change jobs and leave.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Realistically, OP won’t know if her boss is lying or honest. I don’t know that the boss can come back from this.

            To be honest, even if there’s a “best case” scenario with no maliciousness, none of those scenarios would make me trust my boss’s answer—they would just make me less bitter as I job searched. And having worked for someone who flat-out lied to me about compensation, discovering she’d been lying gave me the clarity/push that I needed to leave. My Old Lying Boss definitely didn’t lie to me to be malicious or deliberately dishonest; she was just extraordinarily conflict-averse, so she would lie or bury information or let it linger, unresolved.

            But I’m with you—I wish I knew what to do other than leave.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              If an employee needs to improve, a good manager will not tell the employee that their work is excellent and hope the employee would know without being told that he/she needs to get his/her act together.

              Whether the boss is lying so as not to hurt OP#1’s feelings, or couldn’t get a raise for OP, or didn’t even try, OP should be looking for another job. None of those reasons for lying bode well for the OP.

          2. Hiring Mgr*

            Yes, exactly! This is why coming in “just looking for clarification” is tough because it makes it easier for the boss to continue to lie (if that’s what’s happening), if she thinks she can stall it a bit more….But coming in confrontationally isn’t so great either. Really a difficult situation and I feel for the OP here.

          3. designbot*

            The only thing she can do is evaluate whether the answer she gets tracks with what she’s heard around the office, what she knows of the job market, etc. If boss says that only project managers and above are getting raises this year, well then what level were the people talking about their raises at? If he says it’s baised on skill X because it’s very valuable right now, is that something she’s been hearing about a lot lately? You can never have all the information, so all you can do is run it against the information you have and see if they jive.

        3. LurkingAlong*

          I experienced a similar issue a few years ago. My manager didn’t like me (long story short he took something that was professional and made it personal and was probably racist) but over time saw that I performed above my grade and seemed to be improving in his behavior toward me. During my review he was effusive in his praise and said that I was performing well above my peers based on the feedback he was given. In my company feedback meetings were separate from conversations about your raise because after performance meetings the managers in the department would meet to discuss how to allocate the budget including raises. So, when we had our conversation about the raise he said I wouldn’t be getting one. When I told him I was disappointed because I assumed from our performance conversation that I had earned one he went off on how I couldn’t possibly understand what was going on above my pay grade and that I actually didn’t perform THAT well (completely false based on feedback). The relationship went downhill after that and when I relayed this conversation to my senior colleagues (who were mentors) they told me to start looking for another job in another department because this was clearly personal. I did and got a promotion 6 months later. This is a signal to start looking elsewhere… don’t waste too much time if he doesn’t change his tone.

        4. Anon to me*

          I think these are all possibilities, especially if the OP’s boss is conflict adverse.

          And I know that I had one boss who gave me a glowing reviews to my face, but had me secretly on probation. I didn’t think that was actual possible (and it wouldn’t be in an organization that wasn’t a raging dysfunctional mess), until I experienced it.

        5. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

          I was thinking similar things as Colette. Maybe the boss can’t reveal that the others are so underpaid and/or the OP is overpaid. However, as others have said, the boss could be a wimp and is lying.

        6. Anna*

          The overpaid/underpaid isn’t the OP’s problem, though. Those numbers were decided at some point and withholding a raise and bonus if her works is good enough so they can balance out the other employees being underpaid is not really a good enough reason for the OP to not be concerned.

          Same with the last one. Those are things that don’t have anything to do with the OP and would be a very weird way to determine merit raises and bonuses anyway. I would also argue your reasons 1 and 3 are pretty personal, so they don’t really work with your reasoning.

      3. JulieBulie*

        I think that part of the script has to be that because something is clearly amiss, OP is imagining a lot of alarming possibilities. Odds are that the true explanation is not as bad as OP might think… but if it is, OP really needs to know about it. And if it’s not, then there should be no harm in telling OP what’s going on.

  9. Here we go again*

    #2 – I am in the same boat as you, but it has gotten much better as I have gotten older. I remember middle and high school being so embarrassing.

    If the OTC options don’t work, I suggest bringing a bottle of water. It helped me to attribute the cold and wet hands to something else.

    1. Doodle*

      This is really, really smart. Pick up (cold, condensing!) water bottle in right hand, go to shake hands, “oh, just a sec!” and wipe hands. Genius.

    1. Marthooh*

      “Jane & LW#4” synopsis: LW#4 is disappointed to realize that she will henceforth be sharing an office with Jane, who subjects her to constant monologues about the proper way to grill a tomato. Jane is secretly in love with the security guard, Robert, but never does anything about it. LW#4 quietly puts up with the tomatoes for years and years, until Jane finally retires. In an ironic twist, Fergus the boss (who is secretly in love with Jane but never does anything about it) announces at the retirement party that the new hire will be given Jane’s old desk so that LW#4 “won’t feel lonely, ha ha!”

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Meanwhile, Father Athelstan overcomes his doubts about whether Anglican clergy should be allowed to marry and proposes to Evelina, the spinster office manager.

        1. Marthooh*

          Wait, wait… you mean he doesn’t keep it to himself? That seems a little forward! Honestly, the clergy these days…

  10. Some sort of Management Consultant*

    OP#4: you have great reasons for needing your private office, just ask :)

    The only thing I reacted to in your letter was the mention of you being the only one with an advanced degree; that doesn’t really have anything to do with whether someone should have a private office or not… Just something to think about.

    1. OP4*

      Hi! OP4 here. Thanks for the support. I should have better conveyed this in my letter, but the information about my degree was meant to provide more contextual information, rather than reasons I’d leverage with a boss. I promise I’m not that tacky. Ha!

  11. consultant*

    #1 This kind of treatment is basically what made me look for a new job. I’m starting tomorrow :)

  12. Myrin*

    I am bewildered by #1 – I can’t come up with any reasonable explanation for this behaviour on your manager’s part other than that there might be someone way above on the food-chain who hates your guts? But even then, wouldn’t that be something you’d be at least halfway aware of? It’s very mysterious and I hope OP will find out what is going on in this weird trippy twilight parallel universe-kind scenario soon enough and be able to bring it to a satisfying conclusion.

  13. hbc*

    OP4: Please focus on the meeting aspect. Everything else in your letter is not a real reason for an office–go look at a newsroom if you think editing and writing need privacy and quiet. (Revenue and education are even less relevant.) Maybe you *prefer* it, maybe you would require a quite officemate, maybe you would be annoyed to wear headphones to block out noise, but it’s all doable.

    Also, I would be careful about how strong a stand you take on this. If there are literally two desks left, you will probably win on this battle, but there’s only one logical spot if they hire one more employee.

    1. OP4*

      OP4 here. I could never work in a newsroom, but I see your point. Working in a shared space is not the end of the world, but it is a big deal to me. I’m not one who can focus in a shared space.

      Also, I included the revenue/education information to show my role within the organization. I could have done a better job with how I presented the info, I now realize.

      1. Specialk9*

        It’s all good, we’re the practice run, now you know it doesn’t convey what you meant, so you don’t want to say it to boss We got your back! :D

    2. oranges & lemons*

      I think wanting the quiet to focus on writing and editing is a reasonable thing to bring up. Maybe it’s not an absolute requirement but I think a reasonable manager would take it into account–I also find it hard to concentrate on writing and editing when other people are talking, and I’m a lot more efficient when I work alone.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        I should add that I’m not sure this argument would be as compelling if the OP were making the case to transition from a cubicle to an office, but since she’s already in the office, I think she’s in a greater position of strength.

  14. hbc*

    OP1: “I don’t know what is going on, and when I asked my boss she just said there are things above my pay grade I am not meant to understand.” This right here is the worst. I have been in the position where my boss has undercut me on something I promised to an employee, and that is not how you handle it. I’ve had to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t explain why this is. I had every belief that what I was telling you was true at the time, and I know this sucks for you that I’m having to reverse what I told you. I hope at some point to give you the whole story.”

    There’s no scenario in which your manager has your back here. Start looking.

    1. Fuzzy pickles*

      I gotta agree with this. Your boss doesn’t have your back, for whatever reason.

      I often agree with AAM’s ask for clarification approach because miscommunication is absolutely rampant in the workplace but this is different. You already did that and your boss basically told you to go fly a kite. That’s… not a good signal for more discussion in my experience. I think clarity was achieved in that respect. :(

      I think you should start job hunting and avoid using this person as a reference if possible.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      Totally agree with hbc and Fuzzy Pickles….been in the same boat as OP#1. The neverending avalanche of excuses just kept coming, year after year…..yes I stayed that long. As soon as I found out years after it initially began, that others in my position had been getting substantial raises and bonuses, I promptly began my search. I personally don’t think that your manager has your back and seems to really care less if you leave. I have also known managers who would give employees they didn’t like, but did good work, excellent reviews and then refuse to allocate any portion of the raise pool to that employee, while providing excuses similar to those of your boss. They would then throughout the year openly praise that employee and mention what great work they did and how that person was indispensable thinking that verbal kudos would motivate the person to stay. Sadly, it worked on several people for quite a while.

  15. ..Kat..*

    Private office. Once you get the agreement about keeping your private office, get rid of the extra desk to keep this from coming up again.

    1. MashaKasha*

      They can bring the extra desk in (or two, or three) if they need to. They’ve done it multiple times in my current job. My point is that I would not go through the hassle of getting maintenance involved to remove the extra desk (to where?) because it can come back within 15 minutes of someone deciding they want it back. Agree that OP should definitely secure an agreement, though.

        1. OP4*

          HA! Thanks for the laugh. I wish I could get rid of the desk. Our office is situated in an early 20th century house (read: lots of stairs) and the desk is so big that, not only will it not fit through the door, I’m not sure how it could get down the stairs. I like your thinking, though!!

          1. Helpful*

            Make it a storage tabletop where you keep your active files and projects? And a sign that says “keep out.”

          2. MashaKasha*

            Well then there is only one solution. Come in at night, bring your toolbox, take the desk apart, remove the desk piece by piece. There’s no way they will bring a new one in if it won’t fit into the stairway or the door.

            Here, it’s a bit insane. We have these offices that used to each have one person in them. Then one day as you walk down a hallway, you’d see a second desk in an office. Then a third!… Wish I was kidding.

  16. Trout 'Waver*

    I think OP#2 is another case-in-point for why the business fist bump should replace the business handshake.

      1. Anna*

        I think Trout ‘Waver was being facetious.

        However, to add to the silliness. I knew fist bumps were dead, dead, dead, when I saw two white dudes in their 60s fist bump after one of them gave a political speech.

  17. Frozen Ginger*

    #2: I can talk to the hand lotion (Carpe)! I also have sweaty hands and I use it for when I do my pole-dancing class.

    Just a quick tip, put it on like 5~10 minutes before any hand shaking. It’s a little tacky after application, but it’ll be not noticeable after a few minutes.

  18. Employment Lawyer*

    #1: Honestly, I suspect you’re in line to get fired. I say that because it is very odd to exclude you from bonuses entirely (even small ones) while giving them to others; it’s even stranger to lie to you about it (which obviously is true); and it’s even stranger that other employees have been directed not to discuss it. If it were me, I would start looking for a new position.

    #4: In theory it’s perfectly OK to point out that you are working long hours for low pay in exchange for things like a private office. If folks are rational they may concede. It won’t work, though, if everyone there is a True Believer.

    1. OP4*

      Thanks for the support on the long hours for low pay. I wasn’t sure if this was petty to use as ammunition.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But if everyone else in the office is also working long hours, and for lower pay than they’d get in the private sector, it isn’t likely to be very convincing.

      2. Specialk9*

        I think the last part is key though. Lots of non profits have True Believers, so the strategy could backfire. I’d stick with the job related needs for privacy.

    2. oranges & lemons*

      Hmm, I still think the OP would get better results from making the case that there are work-related reasons why it makes sense to have a private office, rather than treating it as a perq. I think it would be easier for a manager not to take that as seriously.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        I agree but I don’t think it is an either/or. You should not only focus on the “perk” issue if you can make a good business-model argument.

        That said, if you took a job which underpays due to the perks it offers, it can be reasonable to push back against the removal of those perks. If you’re willing to take $10k/year less because you have a private office, then you should push back as hard as you would about a $10k pay cut.

  19. Ms. Pear*

    I thought headline #1 said “My boss lied about raisins.” I was so excited to read what that could possibly be about. Darn.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “My boss gave out raisins for Hallowe’en. We all came in costume, and for raisins.”

  20. Beep*

    Re #1 i don’t agree with the advice given. Here is my reasoning:
    1) To have a candid conversation with a manager they first have to demonstrate integrity, trust and honesty. This manager is under suspicion of that. Some bad managers, given the almost fed excuse of ‘its because I don’t deserve it’ will leap at the easy way out, rather than the possibility they made a mistake etc. Don’t give them the opportunity as an opener.
    2) The writer talks about colleagues having received bonuses etc – are they all on the same grading, contract, same length of service etc? The writer doesn’t talk about having checked who got what against her company policy. Maybe there is a clear reason, or possibilities overlooked that will circumvent a conversation with said manager.
    3) if the person has not recieved a bonus they should just request a copy of the written justification of why it was withheld. They than have that as documentation should anything be suspect later on.
    4) I still think that the person has grounds for making an informal complaint if they wanted. To be lied to, and not told transparently that they are under question is not giving them the opportunity to improve, explain issues, or receive bonuses in the future.

    1. Colette*

      In most organizations, you can ask for why you didn’t get a bonus in writing, but they don’t have to give it to you – and often, just asking would be out of touch with how things are done. I’m also not sure what an “informal complaint” is – she would likely have to complain to her manager, and I’m not sure how that would be useful if she isn’t comfortable asking for clarification as Alison suggested.

      1. NW Mossy*

        I’ll add that it doesn’t make sense to ask why a bonus was “withheld,” because that doesn’t square with how bonuses normally work in the US. They’re variable compensation that may or may not be paid based on whatever criteria the company sets for them. An employee generally isn’t entitled to a bonus in the same way that they’re entitled to their salary or overtime pay (if non-exempt).

        That said, I have next to no familiarity with union environments and/or guidelines on bonuses in other countries, so things might be different there.

        1. CAA*

          Yeah, I’ve written at least a few hundred bonus justifications (they have to be approved by our government client as part of our contract), and I have never had to write a justification for withholding a bonus. I get a pool of $x and I’m told that up to y% of the people on my team can get some of it. I generally try to maximize the number of people who get something, though some will get a really small amount.

          I don’t have separate meetings to tell people they’re not getting a bonus, but if anyone asks, then the explanation is that only y% of people get one and you aren’t in the top y% of contributors (said much more nicely of course). This all happens shortly after annual reviews, so it’s pretty easy to go back to the review and point out the comments there that support the decision.

        2. Specialk9*

          My employment has bonus criteria in writing, based on company performance and annual review score. It would not fly for some to get bonus and others not, unless it was in line with those criteria.

  21. Shadow*

    1. Could it be that your boss means there is no budget for raises bonuses for employees in lower job titles

    1. HerNameWasLola*

      I was thinking along the same lines. In some organizations, bonuses are tied to department performance metrics and HR may not have performed to them. While I think that OP’s manager is handling things very poorly, it could be that she thought she was going to get the money but they didn’t meet the mark.

      1. HerNameWasLola*

        Ugh, reading fail – I went back to re-read and see that she said she is on a team of 2 and her co-worker got a raise along with others in the HR division.


    OP1: Is it possible to get a copy of the email listing about getting bonuses to show your boss and higher ups? That’s evidence right there.

    1. boop the first*

      Yeah, it’s one thing for the boss to be so secretive, but I don’t understand why not a single coworker is backing OP up on this. My coworkers had no problems telling me they were paid much more than I was for no apparent reason.

  23. CM*

    OP#1, I think it’s worth having a conversation with your boss, but I also just wouldn’t trust anything she says from now on. (This isn’t advice, it’s just how I would react.)

    OP#2, I hope some of the suggestions above work for you, but I also think that good potential employers don’t read too much into handshakes.

  24. SCtoDC*

    Definitely agree with others that OP1 should start looking for a new job sooner rather than later. I’m really hoping we get an update on this one.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP#1, I have been in both positions: not getting an expected raise and managing someone who was not going to be receiving a raise. From this experience, I can say the following: don’t trust your manager. Not on this, not on anything. This is the time for clarity, not lies and evasions. Your manager is being duplicitous.

      I agree with SCtoDC: start job hunting today. If a manager lies about compensation–which is vital to your life–what else will your manager do to you? You don’t want to stick around long enough to find out.

      Still, you are there for now. So when you follow Alison’s advice, demand everything in writing. If your manager refuses, then get representation (an attorney in the US, your site representative if you are in the EU). In most countries (but not necessarily in the US), while you do not have a right to a raise, you have a right to a written explanation of your status. Even if you don’t have this right in your location, failing to provide information in writing is a sign of potential misconduct. Also check your employee handbook if you have one, to see what the stated company policy is on communication around annual performance and compensation.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just to clarify — not a right in the U.S., and getting an attorney to handle this here would be really odd unless you suspected the reason for no raise was your race, sex, religion, disability, FMLA, or other protected thing.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          Alison, I agree with you. What drove my response is that my experience with such obvious efforts to lie to an employee is often related to those protected classes. Even when it isn’t, there is clearly something wrong going on here. If OP1 suspects any hint of discrimination, I would still suggest an attorney (assuming OP1 is in the US). If not, then focus on job hunting.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        “Even if you don’t have this right in your location, failing to provide information in writing is a sign of potential misconduct. ”

        Not in the US. Some companies do give out information on a raise or bonus in writing, but not all do. And sometimes when they give out information in writing, it is just a jotted note on a piece of paper – “3% raise! Great job” – and there is not any kind of written justification.

        My take is that assuming OP1 is in the US, there are zero legal issues in play. Trying to get legal representation at this point – unless she has some actual evidence of gender/race/national origin/etc discrimination – is NOT a good move. There is nothing for a lawyer to *do*, and it will simply escalate the situation in a really problematic way.

  25. Game of Scones*

    Letter #1: ” she just said there are things above my pay grade I am not meant to understand”

    Me, in my head, if I were in that conversation: “Then maybe I’d be able to understand once you gave me an effing raise!”

  26. Another person*

    #1, absolutely agree this merits a second, direct conversation with the boss. The questions suggested are a great start because you really do want to know if the situation is salvageable if you change something about your job performance, but I think you should really be looking hard at whether you are being lied to or gaslighted or if the boss is trying to deflect your questioning or brush them off in any way. Anything other than a direct answer that makes sense is a sign that this may not be a good place to stay and you can make future plans accordingly.

    I recently went through a hard conversation with my boss where my concerns about my role were brushed off, and it told me all I need to know. It’s hard to ask some things but you’ll be able to make better decisions for it.

  27. Manager-at-Large*

    #4 – I take it that there are 2 offices, one is yours with a spare desk, the other has 2 desks and Prudence used to sit at one of those. I guess I wonder if anyone shared with Prudence. If so, then we have to consider who between the two of you should now have the solo office and who should need to share. If Prudence was in the office alone, then we have to consider the fact that if you and Jane share there would be a completely open office – perhaps to be re-purposed. Advocate for what you want, but do it in a way that shows you’ve considered the overall impact of the decision.

  28. Shadow*

    1. Ur boss is stupid for promising you a raise she wasn’t authorized to give- she’s totally undermining the company and making thing she worse. I think there could be a legitimate reason you weren’t given a raise, like a new rule that hourly don’t get raises, and ur boss effed it up so bad she’s now trying to absolve herself. I’d go talk to her boss, not to complain, but to seek clarity for your confusion.

  29. imaskingamanager*

    #1–I agree with all the advice that it is time for a straight talk with the manager. . We can all speculate about the motives or reasoning, but the only person who knows for sure what is going on is your manager. It can feel uncomfortable to have this kind of talk, but that discomfort will pass, while the resentment you might feel will only grow if you don’t get more information.

    And if you cannot get an answer from the manager, I would suggest talking to the next person up on the org chart. Sometimes that isn’t a good idea, but compensation is a core issue in an organization and clarity is really important.

  30. NacSacJack*

    LW #1 – You may be too close to the upper end of your pay grade. I know that my company has in the past told me this, yet wont tell me the upper limit of my pay band. Another possibility, which others have mentioned, is your boss may have been given a limited budget for raises and the money went to someone else. That happened to me last year. I didnt get as high a raise as my manager wanted to give me, because others needed to get rewarded too. At some point you’re going to have to give up asking and decide for yourself whether you want to stay here or move on.

  31. crookedfinger*

    I got the same line of BS at the last company I worked for regarding raises. Oh, we can’t do raises this year, money’s too tight, we’re in a recession, yada yada…for 5 years. But then the office manager had me help her reorganize personnel files one week and I came to find out pretty much everyone had gotten raises every year aside from the admin staff (who were making the least by far). The owners were just cheap assholes and didn’t believe admins mattered enough to give us a living wage. I finally got a raise the last 6 months I was there, but that was only because they’d hired a new office manager who realized the bullshit games going on and gave enough of a shit about us to push back.

  32. Mobuy*

    I hate to even suggest this OP#1, but is there a gender discrepancy related to who got the raises and who didn’t?

  33. BabyAttorney*

    Man, #5, is your message timely or what! It is literally happening to me right now. I wish you the very best–and thanks Alison for the spot-on advice! I’ll be using it myself over the coming weeks.

  34. Looc64*

    OP 1. One thing that I noticed about your letter is that it seems like your coworker is also hiding stuff from you, which is weird. I’m not sure if that changes what you should do though.

  35. Kix*

    Word to this. I’m waiting for a formal job offer. I love my current job, but I’m leaving because my manager lies to me on a regular basis.

  36. Arlie Ermy*

    #1, I once was in a similar situation. I’m unclear as to your gender, but if you’re female (especially if there are few women there), and quite certain your male co-worker/s got a raise and a bonus, here’s the language that worked for me:

    “I’m sure that (company) doesn’t discriminate, but it doesn’t look right when Fergus (and other men) get a raise/bonus, and I don’t, especially when I’ve gotten such good reviews.”

    You might ask some other women at your level whether they’ve gotten the bonus/raise. In my case, it was more subtle: I was the only one of the group hired who didn’t have children, and the only one not promoted. (The job was about “getting your foot in the door,” i.e. everyone would usually be promoted, one by one, after a year or so.) But there was only one other woman in the group of about 20 hired at the same time. My wording was almost identical to what I suggest above.

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