drama after breaking up with a coworker, the best time of day to submit a job application, and more

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

1. I dated a coworker, and another coworker is posting about being “the other woman”

I starting dating someone I work with over a year ago. There’s a woman who also works with us from time to time who has shown obvious interest in him. I should point out that she used to work at my location full-time, but has since moved to an on-call position. She texts him frequently and brings him coffee. Despite vocalizing my frustrations to him numerous times, it still seems that they have some sort of relationship. I recently broke it off with him, and her social media behavior before and after my breaking up with him has been questionable. She keeps posting about “being the other woman” and things like that. I don’t want this to affect my work because, relationships aside, I really love what I do. How do I handle the passive aggressive behavior and the fact that I still work with my ex?

Impeccable professionalism. She’s doing the opposite of that with her “other woman” posts. You can stay above any fray by treating her and your ex with perfect professionalism. Be utterly civil and polite. There’s no need to call either of them out on what’s going on and you no longer have reason to be invested in anything either of them might be doing, so just aim to be pleasantly detached. Anyone watching this play out will see you behaving perfectly, and that can be deeply satisfying when there’s drama around an ex.

2. I’m being pushed into being a team event captain because I don’t have kids

Every year, my company participates in a charity event that includes building a quite complex sculpture out of cans. Last year, as I was a new employee, I got pretty much bullied into being team captain. Basically, it was the most miserable experience, and that’s coming from someone who LOVES taking charge of teams. I spent dozens and dozens of hours making 3D models of this sculpture, hours picking out the cans at the grocery store, and received NO offers of help no matter how often I brought up how stressful this was for me. We ended up winning a prize, but I still would overhear whispers in the office before and after the competition about complaints over if I was doing a good job, etc., which was such a blow. The whole situation was so stressful that I ended up getting shingles … at 24.

Now, the competition is coming up again. I’ve said time and time again I am absolutely not being team captain, but as the only person in the office without a child and who’s not studying for registration exams, I’m already getting bullied into doing this, regardless of me reiterating how stressful and negative the first experience was for me. The older employees are citing kids and the younger employees are citing their licensing exams. Since I have neither of those to use as my excuse as to why I don’t have the time to be captain, it’s already been joked that I’m captain again. How do I stand my ground, knowing by not being captain, I’m placing a HUGE burden on someone else?

You’re not the one placing a huge burden on someone else. Your company is, by choosing to run the project this way. You already put in your time last year; you have zero obligation to do it again this year. Since no one seems to care when you explain how stressful and negative the previous experience was and they only seem to respect outside obligations, I’d come up with an outside obligation that leaves you unable to take this on. You’re dealing with a family situation that’s taking up most of your outside-of-work time, or the vaguer “I have so many commitments in my personal life right now that it won’t be possible,” or so forth.

Also, don’t feel you have to debate this with everyone who brings it up. You don’t have to prove to each individual person that your reasons are good enough; you just need to stand your ground with your manager or whoever else is going to assign the responsibility. And to your manager, it’s perfectly reasonable to say, “I got shingles after doing this last year, so it’s not possible for me to do it again this year. Someone else needs to take a turn.” And if you get any pushback about not having kids, please say icily, “Obviously we can’t make work assignments based on parental status. I put in the work last year, and this year someone else needs to take a turn.”

3. Is there a best time of day to submit a job application?

I know this may seem minor, but is there a better time/day to email a cover letter and resume in response to an online ad? Obviously the goal is to give myself the best advantage possible in getting my materials seen. The closing date for submissions is several weeks away so I have way too much time to think about this.

Nope, it doesn’t matter. Most hiring managers are reviewing applications in batches, and you can’t predict what day/time they’re going to choose to do that. And even if you could, it wouldn’t be likely to give you a leg up.

That said, I do recommend submitting as soon as you can without being too rushed, even though the deadline is several weeks away, because some employers review applications and interview people on a rolling basis as they come in, and it’s possible that they’ll have already selected enough strong candidates to talk to by the time the closing date comes around.

4. Should I revoke this job offer?

We extended an offer of $80,000 to a candidate whose requested range was $80-$90k. This was the high end of the $70-$80k we budgeted for this position. He came back and asked for $85,000. We countered with $83,000. He countered again with $84,000. We said $83,000. He accepted and said, “I am available to start March 1st” with no explanation. This is two months after his acceptance date and on a Thursday, mind you. He lives locally so doesn’t have to move and is not in a senior position.

To me, this is red flag behavior as it demonstrates a lack of compromise and respect for the start date needs of the employer — he didn’t even ask, he told us. It also took him a week to give us an answer. Frankly, I want to rescind the offer but I don’t know that my direct supervisor or HR would be supportive of that, even though he will report to me directly. Your advice for handling what seems like sheer entitlement and a lack of teamwork before he even starts?

The salary negotiation doesn’t seem at all problematic to me; that sounds like a pretty normal negotiation. The announcement about March 1st sounds a little off — normally that’s a conversation, not a mere pronouncement, especially when there’s a two-month wait involved. But it doesn’t sound prohibitively off, and I can’t tell how the conversation went. When he said he’d start March 1, did you express that you preferred to have him start earlier? Was there any conversation about why he wanted the two months? It’s possible that he has a good reason for it. And there are jobs where a two-month wait would be fine — although it’s not something he should assume without discussing it with you.

If it’s important to you to have him start sooner, I’d just give him a call and talk about whether that’s possible. But assuming he seemed reasonable and professional throughout your hiring process (and assuming you did a thorough reference check before making an offer and didn’t find red flags there), I can’t see any justification here for revoking the offer — unless you actually do need him to start earlier, in which case you’d explain that and see if he can make that work.

5. Can I ask for a higher salary to offset commuting expenses?

I have a question as I’ve just secured an interview for a new job. It’s not much further away than my current job, about 20 minutes more, but I’m already commuting 40 minutes to my current job. When negotiating salary, is it appropriate to ask for a higher salary to offset gas expenses?

Not really, no. After all, it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to offer you less money because you lived five minutes away from their offer — or to lower your salary if you move closer in a year. You’ve got to negotiate based on the value you bring to them and the market rate for your work. That said, you should certainly consider the commute in your own calculations about what salary would make you happy.

{ 461 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    OP #2 – there’s a special place in hell for people who never step up because they’d rather snipe at the person who does.
    You don’t need an excuse. You don’t need to persuade your co-workers that your reasons are not good enough. They get to say no; you do, too. And “no” is a complete sentence.

    AAM’s script about pointing out it’s someone else’s turn is great, but this is a real sign you work with horrible people.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Yep. They will get the message when you do not actually put the work in. It sounds like nobody wants to do it and they are looking for a Chump. Stay strong!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yup. Also, don’t internalize the stress, OP. This is so your company’s problem and not yours. Tell yourself that there’s no way you’ll be captain, and I have a feeling it will be oddly freeing. Ignore them when they bully you. If they start joking, calmly walk away. If they ask you if you’re upset, you can say (in a very blase way) that you’re not, but that you find the conversation boring/tiresome since you are not going to be captain.

      As another person who got shingles in her early 20s, your health is more important than the stress imposed by participating in an event in which basically no one does anything except the “captain.” I also think any work climate where coworkers try to leverage your lack of children against you is not a healthy or constructive one. You’re going to have to deal with stupid comments like that throughout your career, but you don’t have to listen to people (or feel guilty about it) when they do it.

    3. SaltTooth*

      “No is a complete sentence” is the best piece of advice I’ve gotten from this site in both my personal and professional life.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Sure, but sometimes it’s not that simple – for example if the people pushing OP to do this are significantly more senior.

        I wondered if there’s one person with responsibility for arranging and coordinating this charity thing. Who actually confirms your employer’s involvement? Is that person among those pressurising you?

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          See Artemesia’s reference to JADE below — the reason “‘no’ is a complete sentence” is so often repeated is because trying to justify, argue, defend, or explain why you’re refusing to go along with someone who is and expert at manipulation and ignoring boundaries will never end well for you. While they can make it a nightmare if you say no, it gives them less traction and makes them look more unreasonable. The alternative to just calmly declining is usually explaining, and they will then counter your explanation with their own reasons why you must do as they “asked”, putting the onus back on you.

          1. TL -*

            It also makes their problem seem like your problem, because you’re investing in it by all your arguments and explanations. And, hey, since it’s your problem now, you need to be part of the solution!

            Which can be great if you’re talking to your boss (because you might want your boss to think you’re a go-getter) but not so great if you’re talking to your coworkers (because definitely you want them to think that you’re not invested and thus not a viable option.)

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The JADE stuff is really for when you’re dealing with a toxic person with a pattern of trying to manipulate you. With others, it can just come across as rude. (Same for “no is a complete sentence.”) With reasonable people, and especially with your boss where there’s a power differential, a brief explanation often helps preserve the relationship. You can still hold firm, but simply saying “no” and refusing to engage more than that generally isn’t going to go over well at work.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              THANK YOU. I realize a lot of the commentariat for AAM are also regular readers of Captain Awkward, etc, but there’s a tendency here to treat every workplace as a toxic workplace and every manager as an unreasonable manager without necessarily having evidence of that. A lot of the letters are low-level workplace drama, not “your workplace sucks and isn’t going to change”-level drama.

              (It’s like using advice that is meant to manage your mental health while stuck in an abusive relationship, in a stable and sane relationship—I speak from experience when I say that strategy doesn’t tend to work out very well.)

        2. neverjaunty*

          “No is a complete sentence” is really for the person saying no, not the person listening. Many people (like the OP) feel like they’re being rude, or that other people have veto rights over their “no” unless they provide sufficient justification for it.

          There are all kinds of polite ways to phrase a firm no.

    4. Artemesia*

      And the more you JADE Justify Argue Defend Explain, the more likely you are to be pushed into it. ‘No, did it last year, it is someone else’s turn’ and then after that ‘that won’t be possible’. Have confidence in your right to say ‘no’ and stop defending yourself.

      1. TL -*

        Yes. A very neutral, “Okay, but I’m still not up for doing it this year.” is going to be your best friend when people are explaining why everyone else can’t do it. Example: “Well, Jane has children and Janice is studying, so they can’t do it.” Your response: “I understand, but unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do it this year either.”
        See also, “I understand, but I’m not able to do this year.” “I’m unfortunately not able to do it this year.” “This year just isn’t feasible for me.” “Realistically, I won’t be able to do it, so you’ll need to find someone else.” and, “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to do this year – you’ll have to find someone else.”

        Also, for the future: hints don’t generally get people to help or stop bugging you. Straightforward requests or statements tend to be much more effective in the workplace. This is a good time to start practicing!

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I had the same thought about hints. Mentioning x in the hope that people will offer y tends not to work.

        2. Murphy*

          This is pretty much what I was going to suggest. Neutral broken record. Clear, to the point, refusal.

        3. EddieSherbert*

          I think this is your best option. It’s more than just a “no” (which could come across as rude) but doesn’t actually give them anything to negotiate.

        4. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I was once asked to take on extensive yet non-essential travel at a time when I simply couldn’t. My responses were pretty much TL’s, and the requesting party – NOT my boss – did not let up. Finally I said, ‘I’m trying not be a jerk about this, but my answer is No. It has been No, and it will remain No. Why are we still having this discussion?’ The person looked surprised and said, ‘Well, you never actually said the word no…’ Oops. Some people need to hear the word, I guess.

          So now I combine the two tactics: ‘ No. I understand the urgency but I’m not going to be able to take this on.’ It works for me most of the time.

          1. Camellia*

            I think you come up with the perfect solution. ‘No’ as a complete sentence, then the follow-up to soften it juuuuuuust a bit!

    5. Agatha_31*

      Buy just enough cans to spell “no”. Build “sculpture”. Done. (maniacal laugh)

      Seriously though, I HATE the “you don’t have kids so you do it” excuse. Its either insulting by insinuating your free time is more valuable than mine (NO) or worse, it’s REALLY hurting someone who is struggling or can’t have kids. Either way, asshole move.

      1. Junior Dev*

        OP 2, if you really can’t get out of doing the sculpture, or if you get told to do it regardless by your boss, try doing the minimum possible amount that technically fulfills the requirements. Like a stack of 10 cans. If anyone complains, tell them you’d be happy to delegate the work to them.

        1. INTP*

          Agree with this. You can warn people, “I won’t have time to build a prize-winning sculpture like last year without any help” and then just throw together whatever you have time for. If you do wind up with this crappy task again, don’t let it hurt your health!

        2. neverjaunty*

          Ehhhh, being passive-aggressive (like a stack of 10 cans) is kind of the worst middle ground – it’s giving in if the pressure is all from peers, and it won’t satify a boss forcing her to do it.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, and this looks like a big deal to the companies doing it, so a failure there could actually hurt her professionally. It would be sort of like accepting the task of doing a Rose Bowl float and just putting a flower on a rollerskate–it’s going to make the company look bad, and that’s not going to be good for her.

      2. anonagain*

        Or just one can with a check written out to a food bank or other hunger charity taped to it.

        (I know this wouldn’t actually be possible. It would make me laugh though.)

      3. straws*

        As someone with a kid, I also hate when people are treated differently based on kid status. Kids aren’t a special, unique condition that requires priority accomodation. Yes, I may need to take more sick time because of my son. But I could also be single with a medical condition and require the same amount of sick time. Yes, I currently have to adjust my schedule due to daycare closings (yay winter storm!), but the same could be true if I were childless and living in an area that ices quickly or thaws slowly. For every “has a kid situation”, there’s an equally important “doesn’t have a kid situation” that requires the same handling. My kid is my heart and my life, but he has no bearing on my ability to be a productive employee. /end rant (sorry!)

          1. justsomeone*

            So much this. I don’t have a kid. But I do have a husband with a chronic health condition that requires me to be at many monthly appointments, has had multiple days off for post-surgery care… I’ve had to leave work early to get him his medication, or pick him up when he was suddenly unable to drive and so on and on and on.

            No kids, but still plenty of personal life stuff that takes up the same kind of time and urgency.

        1. oranges & lemons*

          Of course, the logical next step is that assignments are handled based on who has the fewest kids. Wakeen only has one kid, so obviously he’s got a lot of time on his hands.

        2. Victorian Cowgirl*

          That may be so, but management is often far more lenient with kid-related abscenses. As a childless woman (NOT by choice) this is a really hurtful and frustrating fact of life. My migraine will never compare and I can’t just run off because I need to go home, whereas someone with kids can drop everything and leave.

        3. Wintermute*

          Exactly! And I feel like it’s important to point out that the fact people feel that having kids gives you special priority is also the justification used for family status AND sex discrimination. Because they feel like they have to offer more time off or unusual flexibility to people with kids, and as a result they don’t want to employ them or feel that it’s only right to pay people without those “restrictions” better because they can be more reliably productive.

      4. Specialk9*

        I’m a mom with chronic health issues, who is *keenly* aware of how much more time and energy I had pre-kid. And I’m STILL appalled that people are pulling this nonsense at work. Assignments should not be based on extent of spawning. I mean, duh?

        But OP, these are not reasonable people acting in good faith, so stop trying to appeal to their logic or better nature. They either know their argument is BS and are deliberately using manipulation to pawn off an undesirable task, or they somehow have no clue that nonparental discrimination is appalling. I’m honestly torn on which is worse. Neither are good signs for this workplace.

        They are focusing on bullying you rather than banding together to address with management that this ‘team building’ task is onerous, dreaded, being done by only one person, and requires much uncompensated overtime. In short, a huge burden in the name of fun.

        Or they could agree to make the same point while technically participating, by glueing 2 cans together and giving it a pretentious title. But they won’t, because they’re focusing on slinging trash at each other rather than finding ways to fix the situation.

      5. TrainerGirl*

        This is so common. My first position at a Fortune 500 company involved having to work in the case of inclement weather (this was before the days of teleworking, so the company would put people up in a hotel across the street if needed). I and another single coworker were always told we had to work because the others had kids and couldn’t be away from home. I made some people really angry by challenging that policy (others had previously just gone along with it), but since we we either had to be away from home or travel in bad weather, I told them my life wasn’t any less important just because I didn’t have children.

    6. Bagpuss*

      LW2, can you speak directly to you manager? Explain that it will not be possible for you to be team lead, or to devote you own free time to this project , and that you are being pressured to the extent that you beginning to feel bullied. Ask her to take steps to address this. r have the same conversation with HR, if your manager doesn’t accept that or is one of those pressuring you.

      The other thing which might work is to respond to any pressure as if it were a civil enquiry about whether you are organising it, rather than being pressure to do so. So if anyone mentions it to you, respond with something like “Oh, I’m not captain this year. I don’t know anything more than you about what is planned” or “Oh, it’s nothing to do with me this year. I’m not sure who you need to speak to if you ant to make suggestions or to volunteer” or (of it is someone saying that they / another person can’t participate because of children etc then the response is “that’s a pity. I’m not able to participate either this year. Are you on the team this year?”

    7. Yvette*

      “And “no” is a complete sentence.” I love that phrase. I first heard it years ago when I was listening to an interview with the Olsen twins (DON’T JUDGE ME!!) and they were talking about how as they approached their mid teens their business manager began seriously teaching them how to handle thier own business affairs (believe it or not they were tiny moguls) for when they reached 18, and that was one of the things he stressed, that “no” was a complete sentence and required no justification, arguments, discussion or explanation.

      1. Jesca*

        Ya know, that actually explains a lot. I often wondered how they became who they were as adults. So, I am sooo not judging!

        1. Yvette*

          They had an entire empire by the time they were 7 with their own production company for direct to DVD movies etc. They had clothing lines in stores like K-Mart when they were small. All from being Michelle Tanner!! (And having a work ethic and being creative)

          1. Anna*

            And adults around them who weren’t interested in exploitation, but did want them to be successful.

    8. Sally Sue*

      I agree but I also think OP #2 could have handled the situation better. Complaining about being stressed and expecting people to volunteer is passive aggressive (both in a professional and personal environment). No one is a mind reader. Plus without knowing the full burden of work, her coworkers could have assumed that she was exaggerating the workload, etc. In the future, OP needs to be direct and delegate tasks to her team. As the team event captain, her job is to delegate tasks to her team as opposed to whinging and expecting her team to volunteer.

      I’ve struggled with being direct in the past. As a young woman, we often taught not to be aggressive or direct because if we do, we are labeled a “bitch” (pardon my language but this a term often thrown at woman who are direct). I’ve now learned how to be more direct and take charge because it is a lot less stressful and honestly it has helped me earned more respect from coworkers. Here’s a great article: https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-keys-to-being-blunt-at-workwithout-sounding-like-a-total-jerk?ref=recently-published-0

      I don’t think OP #2 should feel guilty about passing on being team event captain this year. I hope in the future she can be more direct on other projects she leads or if she becomes a manager.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Respectfully, it sounds like you’re unfairly loading a lot of things onto the OP. Yes, it’s good to learn to be direct and assertive. No, that doesn’t mean the OP handled this situation poorly or is to blame for her co-workers being horrible.

        1. fposte*

          I think the OP was 24 and in a brand new job and she did a bang-up job under difficult circumstances.

          I also can’t tell, though, if the OP explicitly said not just that she was stressed but “I need you to help me, Bob; can you pick up 400 cans by next Friday?” and has said to the people joking that she’ll be captain again “Ha ha! That’s not happening, so if somebody else doesn’t step up we’re not going to be participating.”

          I don’t blame her for not doing it if she hasn’t, because those are things you learn from a lot of mileage, and it’s definitely possible that she has and it didn’t make a difference. But if she didn’t, those are such useful tools for her armory that I think it’s worth advertising them for a moment :-).

          1. As Close As Breakfast*

            The LW also doesn’t include information about if they looped their manager (and/or whoever was in charge of putting LW in charge) about needing help. It’s possible that the LW never directly told their manager/person in charge that they needed help, requested help, let them know other team members were not helping, etc. It’s also just as possible that they did and the manager/person in charge didn’t have LW’s back, gave lip service about getting help for LW, etc. It seems a lot of potential advice would rest on the role of the manager/person in charge and their behavior presently and last year.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, overall, I think this is a really big task to throw at a newbie junior and expect it to be fairly shouldered.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                I’m kind of surprised this happened, and the company was lucky to win a prize for LW’s work considering the circumstances. It sounds like she got assigned this huge project with no direction about how to make it happen—and then succeeded against all reasonable expectations.

      2. Samiratou*

        I’m guessing this has become one of those things the higher-ups signed up for because it makes the company look good but then just dumped it on staff to execute and everyone knows how much work it is and doesn’t want to do it. As the most junior person, LW got stuck with it. This may need to be one of those group things where everyone gets together and pushes back on the PTB to withdraw from the event, or support in other ways, because clearly it’s not working for the staff.

        1. Kj*

          This. My boss at my last job LOVED to do this and as the youngest, I got stuck doing a lot of extra crap. But she was good at offering comp time, which was nice, although I worked so much it didn’t really matter sadly. The OP needs to stay firm in her refusal and if no one else takes it up, the senior staff who created the event/entered the event need to do it their own selves….

      3. Can Sculptor Extraordinaire*

        Hi! OP here! Yes, I could have definitely handled it better, but as I was only 6 months in, I was definitely hesitant to stand my ground. I had no idea if it was really stressful or if I just wasn’t approaching all the tasks correctly. 20/20 hindsight was that IT WAS ACTUALLY INSANELY STRESSFUL. I really only mentioned my stress to the two coworkers who are my age (relatively) and I was close with. Definitely tried to keep it together for larger team meetings and such, and really only expressed how stressful it was after it was all said and done and we had won an award.

        I don’t think my coworkers who had done it in the past realized how much more work I had, since we hadn’t won an award in a few years and I was told repeatedly “bigger and better! anything to win!”, whereas their sculptures the previous years were much smaller and more manageable.

        The first year was definitely a learning experience as to how I can stand my ground, express need for help and delegate tasks rather than internalize all the stress and put myself in Urgent Care for shingles at 24. That experience and lessons definitely weren’t lost on me as I’ve been able to be much more firm and direct this year! :)

        1. zora*

          UGH. “Bigger and Better! Anything to Win!” Okay, then EVERYONE stops doing any work for a full week and spends all day working on this thing, not just guilt tripping one person to do it! Jeez!! Yeah, that’s ridiculous and I hope you never let any one do that to you again, OP!

        2. DesignerEm*

          I’ve been a team captain for CANstruction (which hopefully is what you’re talking about) and it’s the WORST. Wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Stand your ground and make someone else have to be the weirdo at the grocery store buying hundreds of cans :)

      4. Mobuy*

        Yes, I agree that OP should have said “Will you do X” instead of “I’m so stressed.” Of course, it’s hard to delegate to people who have been around longer! Lessons for the future. This year? “Sorry, I am not able to do that” sounds awesome.

      5. The Rat-Catcher*

        I don’t know. I kind of think the expectation that one person builds an entire ridiculous sculpture that’s supposed to be from “the company” is skewed to begin with. Expecting it to be the same person every year when they haven’t volunteered crosses the line even further. I’d totally agree with you if OP was dealing with some regular work expectation that was hard for her for some reason that her coworkers couldn’t be expected to know, but that’s not the case.

    9. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      Tell the people who are citing kids as a reason this “Great, so you so you can put them to work and help you run this, unfortunately my cat was zero help last year”.

      Ugghhhh… such a pet peeve of mine.

      1. Jesca*

        Well, they arent just mentioning parenting as an excuse here. They are also using part time course work as well. I am not only a single parent (full time single parent), but I have also done the whole part time schooling as well (while being a single parent). And I am here to say that both of these are bullshit excuses. Everyone is entitled to have things they are doing outside of work respected at an equal level. Whether you have children or are studying for exams or like to play competitive badminton OR even value time alone to read and relax – it is all important to that person. Using it as an excuse to pawn off a project onto one person is totally wrong. If they were asking you to drastically change the hours of your job, then push back for whole other reasons are necessary. This OP has to move around their schedule and what is important to them to get something completed, and therefore others can move their important things around to get stuff completed as well.

        The only time I ever push back is when it is a permanent or long term change I am supposed to make, because my kids (or when I was in school – that too) are my main priorities – long term. The person playing professional badminton would have to face the same dilemma as well.

        1. Genny*

          Having parental duties or being a student are perfectly fine reasons for why you might now be able to take on a project that requires a lot of outside work. I work fulltime and am a part time student. There is no way I could take on a project like this. I just wouldn’t have the time or energy for it. However, that doesn’t mean that someone who doesn’t have those things should automatically be the team lead just because I don’t have the bandwidth to take it on. It means the employer needs to scale back on what it’s asking of its employees.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            “It means the employer needs to scale back on what it’s asking of its employees.”

            Yeah, this right here. It sounds like the person who’s organizing/volunteering the company to participate in this should be in charge if no one else is willing/able to do it. (At least that’s how volunteer projects have been done everywhere I’ve worked.)

    10. Kyrielle*

      This. Also, if they assign it to you anyway, your sculpture is to be two cans, one on its side. Done.

      Seriously, if they force it on you, _do not rise to the occasion again_. They’ve already shown they don’t respect you in all sorts of ways.

    11. MCM*

      I have a real hard time with corporate charity, when it’s forced onto the employees. If this is something the company wants done, than someone in upper management should be coordinating. I’ve been in your shoes. There has been issues with past employers about getting holidays off because I have no children.

      Dear OP, I would tell your co-workers that you have an outside obligation that prevents you from doing this year. Tell your manager that you did it last year, and you do not want to do it again. I also like what Allison said, I hate hearing a co-worker saying, “but I have children …..” as an excuse to not perform duties outside normal working hours.

      Has there been anything studied or published about the “childless” penalty in the workplace? In the past I’ve had jobs where I have taken a vacation day, etc but had to cancel because someone’s child was sick, they had child care issues and couldn’t make it, or schools closed. Than when I ask to leave early to take my dog or cat to the vet I get snarled at.

      Think goodness about working for an university. I get Christmas & New Year’s off. Now I’m dealing with a workaholic that has no life. When I first got hired she tried to tell me that I had to come in and work on holidays because she did. That’s her choice. HR resolved the issue.

      1. Old Maid*

        Then you can couple it with John needs a bigger raise than you do because he has a family to support, and Jane should get the promotion because she’s a mother.

        1. neverjaunty*

          ….where is this magical workplace where mothers are favored for promotions? I hear a stampede of applicants in the wings.

    12. Kathleen_A*

      It’s actually completely possible (and in the case of some of those people, very likely) that the people saying/hinting “Oh, you should do it because as a non-parent, you have more time” know as well as the OP and the rest of us that this is completely bogus.

      The reason they’re saying that – and then “backing it up” (sort of – my quote marks are indicating sarcasm here) with the information about how busy everybody is with other stuff too – is:
      They don’t want to do it. So much. So, so, so, sooooooo much. And they’ll use pretty much any excuse to pawn it off on someone else.

      So since they’re being disingenuous, it ought not be too difficult for the OP to call their bluff. As everyone else is saying, just keep saying “no.” Say it as though it was a perfectly reasonable thing to say, which it is, but keep saying it. If a project is so much work that you have to find someone who can devote all their off-time too it in order to get it done, then the company needs to reevaluate the dang project.

      And what a bunch of jerks, BTW.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I was thinking this. That this is basically a project that eats people’s free time, and they’re fleeing it however they can rather than saying to the OP “Actually, none of us, including you, should have to do this–it’s not a sensible use of our time.”

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Yes, exactly. “Gosh, that’s such a worthwhile and fun project that appeals to everybody, so long as you understand that by ‘everybody,’ I mean ‘anybody but meeeeee.'”

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You know… if this is such an important work project, then it needs to be done on work time. Which means all the excuses about kids and studying shouldn’t matter at all.

          1. zora*

            Yeah, exactly!! And if, like the OP Said above, the management is all “Bigger and Better! ANYTHING TO WIN!” then that means EVERYONE into the conference room now to start planning this thing. We are putting off all work for a week until it’s done. This foisting it all onto one person and then guilt tripping her with ‘We Must Win!’ is awful, these people are the worst.

            1. MCM*

              I’m wondering if OP is expected to carry his/her normal work load while working on this project. If the other employees are unwilling to help with a charity project / contest; than maybe OP’s manager can shuffle some of OP’s duties & responsibilities to others within the department. It’s hard to say you cannot do it because of your children or have classes, when it’s a work assignment with a deadline.

          2. Cherith Ponsonby*

            Yes, 100%. I recently was tapped to work on a charity thing that was culturally important for the company – and my boss said to me “this is culturally important for the company so let’s clear your calendar for the week”. I still had to pull an all-nighter to get it done, but that was my call, not the company making me do it (and I got no end of brownie points for it!)

            (The person who did the thing before me does have kids – and he ended up with shingles from the stress. I think that’s why my boss explicitly gave me the whole week.)

    13. Nita*

      This is not an actual work project. If someone in OP #2’s office is so concerned about how it contributes to the company image, they can take it on themselves. You may want to bring up that since the entire office is so very busy this year (yup, including yourself), it sadly looks like your company will have to put the can contest on hold until it can be brought back as a team-building exercise. Like, with an actual team where everyone puts in some effort and no one has to carry the entire burden.

    14. nonymous*

      I’m moving to a leadership model where, on team/volunteer projects, the project is only as involved as the team wants. Nobody wants to prepare and host (and clean up after) a 3 course meal to celebrate? Fine, no celebration meal then.

      In OP#2’s situation, if no one is willing to team lead or volunteer and she still gets tasked with the project, I’d recommend asking to do it on company time. If this is a required activity, OP should definitely be seeking guidance from their direct superior regarding how much time out of their normal work week they can devote to this, and setting the expectation that if the org wants a fantastical sculpture they will have to devote 40+ hrs of OP’s work time. If they balk, it’s possible the org will be happy with a simple sculpture that costs fewer hours, and if they are unwilling to allocate work time to this (but OP can’t get away with saying “no”), it’s completely reasonable for OP to describe what they are capable of doing with an hour or two of effort (if the company is willing to spend $$ to buy branded drinks, maybe the local vendor will set it up?).

      1. GlorifiedPlumber*

        It also appears OP is an engineer who works for an engineering firm.

        Almost no chance of approval of “Do it on company time.” Taking that route would guarantee killing the project… because… billable hours. Engineering companies are in general unprofitable.

        OP #2 probably needs to work more on the “feeling guilty” part too. There’s only so much time in the day, and people often prefer to handle their charity on their own terms versus the companies. Gah… corporate charity done wrong just… irks me.

    15. Can Sculptor Extraordinaire*

      Hi all! OP here:

      Well, it didn’t work out the way I had hoped it would. I didn’t even go to the meetings because I knew I would get roped in to way more responsibility than I wanted. The meetings kept getting canceled and rescheduled due to lack of participation (for reference, I only work with about 20 people). We had hoped we simply would not do the competition this year, but our principal’s assistant had already raised a significant amount of donations from our consultants. For everyone suggesting I just not participate and let it fail, I… just….. can’t.

      We have so far split up responsibility somewhat fairly, mostly between myself and another employee. I did manage to lay some ground rules, such as we wouldn’t be doing a complex sculpture, I was not going to pick out cans, etc., and have been much more firm with my needs and how I’m not going to be pressured from others (“I put the time into this model, therefore negative comments will not be accepted/I’ve put X amount of time in already, those suggestions require too much time to incorporate”). I also demanded that I be allowed time during office hours to work on this (nothing too much, maybe 1-2 hours a week.

      I also wasn’t fair to myself when I said that I had nothing going on. I’m MOH in two weddings a week apart this fall and have been up to my ears designing save-the-dates, booking venues for bridal showers, bachelorette planning, etc. I’m proud of myself that I’ve been vocal about these being my priority over a can sculpture, because they should be. I’ve been very diligent to not be a Negative Nancy about this (not because I don’t deserve to be, but I know it will not help the situation), but I’ve been very matter of fact about the fact that I’m only doing this because I’ve been cornered into it and it does not take priority over basically anything.

      The people I work with really aren’t terrible, it’s just that the event seems like fun from a broad perspective- getting a half day off work to build something out of cans- which it is, but when it comes to the actual work of getting to that point, nobody wants to actually do it.

      I do plan to sit down with the people who got the ball rolling on this before anyone expressed interest and therefore basically cornered some of us into this, and let them know that I will not be put in this position again and will most likely not participate at all in the future. It’s not fair to me, or anyone really, to be put in such a position that requires such extensive time and effort outside of work. This competition may just be something that an office of our size can’t handle, and that burden shouldn’t be placed on anyone.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I’m glad to see that you enforced some boundaries and I’m glad that you gave them the heads up that you may not be participating next year. It sounds like you did s good job of communicating the issues with this type of thing.

      2. vjt*

        Seriously if an organization is serious about something like this they need to decide how much of an employee’s time it is worth it TO THE ORGANIZATION and give them employee that much paid time to do it. It is absolutely not fair to make this a ‘volunteer’ position that you get drafted for.

      3. Anna*

        This exact kind of fundraiser takes place in the city where I live and I have no idea it could be so frustrating. You’ve done a great job setting up boundaries and refusing to take on more than you can do. Perhaps by next year, if you’re still there, you can hand off the responsibility entirely.

      4. KellyK*

        Hey, I’m really sorry you are stuck doing this *again,* but glad you’re managing it better this year.

        I think your idea to sit down with the people who cornered you into this and make sure they’re aware that you’re not going to participate next time is a good one. If you have time, I would do it before this year’s competition even ends, since they might start planning for next year’s right after you finish.

        Would it also make sense to talk to the principal’s assistant early on? (I wasn’t sure whether they were among the people who cornered you or not.) If they’ve been doing fundraising for this, then they’re right at the top of the list of people who should know that it’s not likely to happen next year.

        I think you’re right that your office is too small to handle it. I can easily see sculptures like the ones I’ve seen online requiring a 10 or 20 person team to put together, and there’s just no way you’ll get that level of participation. Especially when it sounds like the people who want it to happen are not the people doing the work.

        If your company is really invested in this event, there might be ways to support it without entering yourselves. The simplest and easiest would be just to write the organization a check for whatever your budget for the event next year would have been. There might also be teams that could use sponsorship. (CANStruction has children’s and young adults events–I don’t know if your specific event has a youth division.) If a local Scout troop or STEM club or whatever wants to put together a team, you could fund their supplies, and maybe get that half day off work (or even an hour or two) to go cheer them on.

        1. zora*

          uuugggghhhh, totally. If the person who ‘gets the ball rolling’ doesn’t want to do the actual work, then it’s not happening!

      5. Janey Jane*

        Wait wait wait wait wait, OP…..

        It sounds like from your original letter and comments that you spent a lot of off-work time working on this project. Am I correct in my understanding that therefore, you were working on a project required by your workplace and NOT getting paid for it?

        Any work you do on behalf of your company needs to be paid. No matter whether or not it’s for an external charity or event or whatever, no matter if it’s “volunteering” for “charity.” If they are requiring you to do it — and from the pressure you’re describing, it sure sounds like a requirement — then they need to pay you for every single second that you work on it, whether it’s in the office or at home or at the grocery store.

        (Of course, please disregard if I misunderstood.)

        1. yasmara*

          But @JaneyJane, not if the OP is on salary. I am paid my salary regardless of if in a particular week I work a ton of late hours because of an impending project deadline or if I am able to stop at 5pm because my work is lighter.

      6. The Rat-Catcher*

        MOH is a demanding task! And even if your other commitments consisted of Netflix, it’s still not your company’s job to grade what people are doing outside of work as an acceptable or unacceptable excuse not to do a thing that they are not paying you for.
        However, it sounds like you did a really great and professional job with setting boundaries. Kudos!

        1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

          This. I was just coming here to say that being a MOH (in TWO weddings, no less!) is a huge undertaking. Hold firm to the boundaries you already laid out for your coworkers, and take some time for yourself as needed outside of work. Good luck!

    16. Isabelle*

      Without going into any detailed arguments, it’s perfectly reasonable for OP to say: I did it last year, now it’s someone else’s turn.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, kill her with Alison’s impeccable professionalism. The practiced detachment will also drive her nuts, which is going to feel bizarrely empowering and satisfying. There is nothing more frustrating to a drama-monger than to have the person you’re trying to provoke someone refuse to engage you. There’s only one word for someone like her—trifling.

    (I know there’s a small possibility that she’s the other woman to someone other than OP’s ex, but I trust OP about the questionable behavior.)

    1. Hills to Die on*

      She sounds yucky. Just be glad you aren’t her and you aren’t dating him anymore. They will stir up their own trouble and you will be far removed from it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Unless this coworker has some extremely narrow filters on her postings, she’s telling her professional circle she’s The Other Woman of The Drams. That is… weird. And something you want to step back from and just politely let her conga line her way across that room.

        1. Specialk9*

          Self identifying as “the other woman” is just such a poor choice. Let her continue to shoot herself in the foot, then the other one. You don’t need to be involved for this to have its own karmic justice.

          1. Specialk9*

            But also – if you’re doling out ire, keep 80% for the one who made a commitment to you and then broke it. (Though usually the one with 20% of the responsibility isn’t crowing about it publicly, which is unusually gauche.) But still, your boyfriend is the most guilty of harming you, save most of your anger for him. Don’t get sucked into this toxic cultural thing of blaming ‘the other woman’ rather than the cheating partner.

            1. Lady Phoenix*

              Very good point. Sometimes the “other woman” means no malice to her actions… or she mayve she didn’t realize she was the other woman… or she got coerced into it because ot turns out the guy is a lying, manipulative, creepy piece of hell garbage.

              I only reserve judgement on the Other Woman is they brag about it and use it to hurt the actual woman.

              Meanwhile, the dude gets off Scott free for essentially stabbing you in the back. Fuck that, fuck him, and go ahead and tell that to him because he be a lying, manipulative shitstain.

              Or, as the saying goes: “You don’t have a other woman/in law/asshole friend of SO problem… you have a boyfriend problem.”

      2. Bend & Snap*

        Riiiiiiise above!

        Seriously. What kind of garbage person steals someone’s boyfriend and then brags about having been a party to cheating? Her posts are going to come back to bite her. And you should sit back and laugh.

        1. Specialk9*

          On reread (I initially read it like you), we aren’t actually sure that’s what she did. She could be posting ‘I thought I had a boyfriend but turns out he already had a girlfriend and so I’m actually the other woman, ugh!!’

      3. Smithy*

        For this kind of dramatic personality – I’d actually go with the mute/hide option over block. Let the OP avoid all posts while not feeding her story telling.

        I’ve had a few jobs where I was connected to colleagues on different social media for utterly dull work purposes, and if someone were to get blocked that would feed all sorts of workplace gossip. Presuming this is a workplace where coworkers are connected as a general rule – going to hide route avoids giving fuel to the gossip.

        1. Breda*

          Yeah, do not give her the satisfaction of seeing that you blocked her. Muting is invisible! I usually use this option when I want to preserve a relationship with someone I like in person but find annoying online, but it’s also great for avoiding drama.

        2. Hera Syndulla*

          That’s wat I did with a family-member who posts *everything* his pet does… made me crazy seeing his name appear every 2 posts…

          Couldn’t really block him, but you can bet I muted/hided him :P

          1. many bells down*

            I’ve got an uncle that I adore, but the man posts meme-y Marine Corps images on Facebook literally every 15 minutes. He’s disabled and has a lot of free time but I don’t need my feed flooded with that. And I’m not going to unfriend him, because it would break his heart and I love him. So he’s unfollowed.

            1. Mints*

              This is a bit more intensive but worth it when I like most of someone’s posts but intensely hate a small portion:
              I block posts from the source, not my friend. So instead of unfollowing Joe McUncle, I unfollow/hide “America is #1” and “Marines are the best” and “Military Complex memes” whatever etc

    2. TL -*

      Also, block her on social media if you haven’t already – there’s no need for you to see her drama and posts. All you’re going to get out of them is feeling bad and neither she nor ex is worth it.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      I agree. If she’s posting on social media then she’s seeking drama. Don’t feed it. One of two things will happen. Either she will stop (and you win) or she keeps escalating for a reaction and she exposes and embarrasses herself (and you win).

    4. Foreign Octopus*


      She sounds like she feeds on drama and if you cut her off at the knees with impeccable professionalism, she won’t have anywhere else to go.

      1. Say what, now?*

        Feeding on the drama can be a huge sign that someone is feeling insecure and wanting to make others feel insecure as well. It could very well be that she (having been the other woman) believes that the ex is cheating on her as well and is trying to justify why she shouldn’t feel insecure by reminding herself that he was running around with her behind your back. It’s a little sad and pathetic. Maybe viewing her that way will make it easy for you to dismiss her.

          1. Ozma the Grouch*

            Why people fail to see this basic logic fact to it’s conclusion OR think that it won’t apply to them… over and over again… just astounds me.

            1. Julia the Survivor*

              The times I’ve seen or felt this the train of thought was “I’m special, he/they will appreciate me and not hurt me because I’m special”
              I used to do that with corporate jobs. Friends told me not to try to work long-term for corporate monsters, but I thought employers would see and appreciate my specialness. Ha.

    5. LiveAndLetDie*

      I second that the practiced detachment will drive her nuts–it is absolutely true that you will frustrate the living hell out of a drama-monger by not rising to the bait. It can be difficult especially if they’re the type to try and prod the rise out of you, but stand your ground. I guarantee folks will see you being the bigger person.

    6. MCM*

      It’ll drive him crazy if you are cool & collected. It will be a shock to his ego, that you truly do not care. Stay away from their social media accounts. To be honest you should just block them.

      1. ContentWrangler*

        Yes, exactly. OP, you will gain nothing by reading more of their social media posts. It can be hard to cut yourself off, you might feel like you need to watch out for what they’re saying but just rise above it. It sucks to have someone you liked treat you poorly, but they definitely shouldn’t get the satisfaction of rattling you.

    7. LaterKate*

      I love Alison’s answer to this question! Impeccable professionalism will always serve you well, in any situation. It’s like the saying “live your life in such a way that if someone hears something bad about you, they will never believe it.” (Or something like that…I’m sure I’ve muddled the words a bit.) It’s a great rule to live by, although not one that i have seamlessly achieved myself.
      So often, I’m situations like this, it feels like you need to find the perfect thing to say or do to make the other person stop. But in reality, there’s no perfect thing to say or do that can reliably and predictably alter someone else’s actions/feelings/words/etc. It’s great to reframe the issue and see that you are only responsible for your actions, and that your unimpeachable behavior is your best PR move.

  3. Willis*

    #2 – It sounds less like you were a team captain and more like you were the whole team! Maybe if no one wants to build the giant can sculpture, your office should find a less time intensive charity activity for the upcoming year. Regardless, hold firm that you can’t do it again this year!

    1. HR Here*

      Right, I’m wondering why they do this if no one seems to want to. I would have a hard time in OP’s shoes not making that point as well…”perhaps if everyone has schedules that makes this problematic every year we should review some alternative options that might work better for the group moving forward.” No?

      1. Not Australian*

        Yes, my questions would be “Is it absolutely essential that we take part in this *every* year? Why don’t we skip a year and reassess our priorities in the meantime?” It doesn’t sound like there would be earth-shattering consequences for *not* taking part, after all, and I bet it isn’t exactly connected with the employer’s core business either.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I really like the suggestion to take the budget, buy one can, and tape to it a check for the rest of the amount. That’s probably more useful to the food bank than the 1000 cans of tomato paste needed to perfectly sculpt the wildebeest’s eyebrows.

          Whatever team-building effect this event once had has pretty clearly faded.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            It’s absolutely more useful to the food bank. Food banks can get food much more cheaply than the rest of us, so they can buy a lot more with, say, $1,000 than a private person or a company can.

            The point of the can sculptures (which are a hoot, I have to say) is to allow an organization/group to contribute while having fun doing it. But “having one person do all the work” =/= having fun, so by making the OP do allllllll the work, the OP’s company has negated the entire point of the can sculpture concept.

      2. MashaKasha*

        Came here looking for answers to the same question! I understand that it is not up to OP to end her team’s participation in this event, but… not a single person on the team seems to want to do it.

    2. Lars the Real Girl*

      I’m wondering how much of the “whole team” issue is self-imposed. OP also says that she received no “offers” of help – did she ask for help directly at any point instead of talking about how stressful it was and expecting people to pick up cues?

      OP, not even just in this scenario, but you’ll make your life a lot easier if you don’t assume people can read your mind. ASK for help, and you’ll be surprised by how willing people are to taking direction. I.e. Susan, could you scope out the grocery store for cans? Jeff, could you please be on cleanup duty. Everyone, let’s have a team meeting Thursday at lunch to plan a strategy.

      1. Stormfeather*

        It’s true that being direct instead of hinting can be really important and is something advised on this site a lot. But Given the fact that the OP got shingles and had their health impacted by this last year, and the co-workers still don’t want to take no for an answer re: captaining this year, I’m not holding my breath that they’d be helpful no matter how direct the OP is.

        1. TL -*

          Not to pile on the OP, but if one of my coworkers was doing something non-work related like this and they got sick, I probably wouldn’t offer to help. I would send them my sympathies, of course, but my assumption would be that it a) wasn’t my problem and b) probably wouldn’t get done and that’s okay. I also wouldn’t complain about the sculpture, though!

          I have a pretty strict “I only organize for personal fulfillment or money” rule, which definitely applies to stuff like company volunteer work and housework in an office or shared living space, though. So your mileage may vary.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I don’t think it’s fair to characterize this as “non work related” when the OP was assigned this project as a work task.

              1. Emmie*

                We see why here. She was the new person who probably didn’t know that no one would help, and couldn’t spend political capital as a new employee. She’s also getting asked repeatedly and her coworkers are aggressively inappropiate.

              2. Zweisatz*

                Uh, how does “I got pretty much bullied into being team captain” translate into “I volunteered”, again?

            1. TL -*

              Sorry, I meant more like, “not related to my explicit job duties/area of expertise” rather than “not related to my workplace.” That’s a big line for me – I will definitely initiate and organize a training on something if I’m an expert and I see there’s a need (even if it’s not an explicit part of my job), but I won’t organize a kitchen clean up or a company charitable drive if it’s not explicitly part of my job.

              It sounds like last year OP was voluntold, not assigned, and this year they’re trying to do the same thing.

              1. the gold digger*

                Me: The silverware should be at the end of this (buffet) line, not at the beginning.
                Male director-level co-worker: I know! I just put it in my pocket.
                Me: You would think with all engineers….But I need to shut up. If I’m not willing to help set up, I need to stay out of it.
                Male director-level co-worker: Why not help set up?
                Me: I don’t do the traditional women stuff at work and I advise all women here not to do that. They need to be seen as fabulous engineers, not fabulous potluck organizers and kitchen cleaners.
                Male director: Why can’t you be both?
                Female engineer: Why can’t you?

                Silence as we all think about how 100% of the cleanup crew for this event will be women even though we are only 10% of this office population.

                1. TL -*

                  That is *exactly* why I don’t do that sort of thing. And how quickly that morphs into “Oh, Mary is really good at organizing the dreary stuff so I can do the real work and – bonus! – enjoy a pleasant work environment.” (never mind that without that ‘dreary’ work being done, none of the ‘real’ work would get done.)

                  Nope. I happen to be really darn good at building and implementing organizational systems but that is a really valuable skill you need to specifically negotiate and pay for, not a bonus you get because I’m a woman.

                2. Specialk9*

                  Gold digger, you’re wonderful. I’m kind of basking in your reflected glow here. That’s a beautiful way to have a non confrontational conversation about a really touchy topic, while also establishing a clear boundary and encouraging others to do the same. Wow.

                  Also, you’ve seriously had that kind of conversation (presumably more than once) and the other person still wasn’t shamed into cleanup? Yowza. That’s some brass-vagina behavior* there.

                  *Balls aren’t tough or strong at all, vaginas are. It’s like insultingly calling someone a pansy – well gosh thanks, a flower both gorgeous and able to withstand frost that kills other plants? Awww that’s nice.

            2. ..Kat..*

              And, did OP get paid for this time? Or, if exempt, did anything get taken off her plate so that she could spend so much time on this?

          2. neverjaunty*

            Presumably you wouldn’t also try to push your coworker into doing it a second time by saying she doesn’t have kids?

        2. Lars the Real Girl*

          Yes, I’m in no way saying she should do it this year or that it wasn’t terrible, just offering a suggestion of more assertiveness in all aspects of professional life.

        3. Ainomiaka*

          Yeah, there are some parts of this that read as an asker-offer culture mismatch. Though it also kinda depends on what they mean by “won’t take no for an answer.” If that just means they asked directly, that’d feed into the impression.

          1. Liz T*

            It really does not sound like that to me. Maybe last year, for all we know, but this year it sounds like OP is saying “No” as explicitly as possible.

            People can be bullied into things by overwhelming group pressure even if they’re generally good at asserting themselves.

    3. Anon anon anon*

      I agree. I would talk to whomever is in charge and ask if the work could be divided another way.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      That’s exactly what I was going to say. Being team captain does not mean doing all of the work! It also sounds like the type of activity that is usually more about figuring it out on the spot so I’m surprised there is so much preparation involved (and that they have to buy their own cans!?)

      1. Lyssa*

        I’m really wondering if that level of work was really necessary – the LW said that they won a prize, so I assume that hers was better/more involved than the others – and that’s great, if it’s something that you have fun doing. But I’m wondering if a lot of these other teams are just drawing a quick sketch and slapping things together on a long lunch one day. What the LW is describing sounds like an incredible amount of work for something like this.

        1. Alter_ego*

          So I worked for a company that participated in this exact event. We did the same amount of work (with a team of like, 15, so no burden on any one person) and didn’t come close to winning an award. But these things are all like, over 8 feet tall, and usually require a support structure of some kind. We used plexiglass threaded on to pvc and carved to match the shape of our cans to give our sculpture the support needed.

          You also have to pick cans in colors that match what you’re trying to convey, so like, tracking down the one brand of can that is vaguely flesh toned, or has a black label or whatever.

          I definitely wouldn’t have described any of the sculptures we competed against as slapped together, anyone who had would have looked very out of place. And since these were displayed to the public with the company name associated, it would not have reflected well if that were the case.

          1. Matilda Jefferies*

            Wow. I just googled, and those sculptures are incredible. They clearly require some serious design and engineering skills – which the OP doesn’t mention if she has these skills or not, but they’re certainly not the work of a couple of people tossing something together on their lunch hour.

            Which makes me wonder if the OP missed an implicit instruction that the first responsibility of the captain is to pull a team together and do some project managing around the whole thing. In which case, her coworkers still suck, because somebody should have told her! It’s pretty gross if there are people in the office who know how this thing works from past years, and were watching OP struggle, and didn’t step up to even offer advice.

            OP, I agree with everyone saying that you should stick with a flat but polite “no.” And while you’re at it, look around for other signs of how your office functions generally, because this doesn’t seem like a normal or pleasant type of atmosphere to me. Good luck!

            1. MCM*

              If this is supposed to be a team, than parts of it should be signed to different people. The team leaders should have some leeway to do so. It this is so important, than the duties of team lead should rotate each year, as well as some of the other assignments. The having children shouldn’t be an excuse to get out of it. Your co workers are being selfish and management isn’t apparently “making them do it” as part of their job description.

              1. Matilda Jefferies*

                Yes, exactly. Even if the instruction was “OP, you’re in charge of organizing this” and OP somehow heard “you’re in charge of doing the whole thing” – somebody must have seen that she misinterpreted. The fact that there are people in the office (lots of them, apparently), who knew what was going on and just kept their mouths shut is pretty awful.

            2. Genny*

              I suspect that in an office where people are so desperately trying to avoid being the team lead, they’re also desperately avoiding being on the team or taking on any team responsibilities.

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              I suspect there are people in the office who know exactly how this worked from years past, and that’s why they didn’t step forward to offer any help. As team lead or any other position.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                I agree. “You have more time because you don’t have kids” – for many of these people and possibly even most of them – ought to be translated to mean “I don’t want to do it and I’ll use pretty much any excuse to pawn it off on someone else.” No doubt there are some people who actually believe that no kids = has lots of spare time, but I can promise you that a significant percentage of them are saying that just because they’ll parrot any semi-logical reason as to why they shouldn’t be saddled with the job.

                The OP doesn’t have kids, so that’s why they’re using that excuse. But if that wasn’t the case, they’d find another excuse, trust me: “Oh, I can’t do it because I am subject to hangnails and you aren’t”; “I can’t do it because, darn the luck, I just hurt my back moving my laptop”; “I can’t do it because…because…OK, give me a minute and I’ll come up with something.”

      2. Alter_ego*

        I replied a little longer below, but if this is the same event my company participated in (and it sounds like it is) then no one is figuring it out on the spot. You buy your own cans because it’s a charity, so they all get donated after the fact. The sculptures are very tall, and color is usually quite important to what your sculpture is of, so you have to be specific about which cans you buy.

          1. Alter_ego*

            It’s called CANstruction. If you Google that, you’ll see a lot of the entries from years past.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              They are really fun to look at, and I do think they serve the valuable fundraising function of combining raising money for a worthwhile cause while providing fun, team-building and healthy competition – when done *properly* – but I’d pretty much rather die than be the team lead one one.

            2. Delphine*

              Holy moly! I’m getting anxiety just thinking about making one of these on my own. No wonder the poor OP got shingles. What an unfair thing to put on one person’s shoulders.

              1. yasmara*

                WOW – those are pretty much all huge and amazing. I can’t believe the entire office wouldn’t have to be involved to successfully compete.

      3. MCM*

        OP # 2 — I do not agree with forced charity at work, especially when it calls for work outside work hours. Your employer & coworkers want to enforce a “childless penalty.” Sometimes I think co workers see a single person doing this and that on social media and assume they have more free time (many cases that is true), and that the single person should stay late or work weekends because they do not have to take care of kids, drive them to soccer, etc. The Child Free Penalty is a sore spot with me.

        Why in the world are we expected to be friends with coworker’s on social media? I blocked some of my co-workers, especially my boss & the largest gossips. Others I have as acquaintances and limit what they can see to animal photos & funny things I am sent by others. Maybe list an event that is interesting.

        We share too much information on social media with coworkers. Judgements & assumptions are made regarding the others’ free time. For example: They see “George” at work is into foreign movies, the George posts each weekend a foreign film he’s gone to see or rented. They assume you have all this free time to work outside normal work hours; that their time is so much more valuable than yours. Social media gives too much information on how we use our time outside work.

    5. Clever Name*

      I think I know the charity competition she’s referring to, as my company participates in something very similar. It is a big deal in the industry and, while for the most part it seems like no one wants to do it, it is a BIG DEAL if your company doesn’t do it.

      It sounds like your company is a team unto themselves. My company partners with another firm. One firm comes up with the design, the other organizes how to get the cans. This also limits the pressure on fundraising.

      Alison’s answer is right – you can just say no. You don’t have to explain yourself. I’m assuming there is someone who outranks you who is involved in the charity and has decided the company is doing it. That person is the person who will be stuck holding the bag if they can’t get a captain. If you can’t explain to them how you think it should run, or what should change, I would tell them no and then suggest teaming with another company. They likely have contacts they could reach out to. There’s still plenty of time to team up.

      Good luck!

      1. Anon for this*

        Just an aside here, as someone who works for a nonprofit that does public fundraisers (not this exact kind of competition but certainly other “competitive” fundraisers) — if a fundraiser is really more work and stress than a gratifying experience, don’t be afraid to say something to the org’s contact for an event. No org wants to spend a ton of time on a fundraiser everyone hates — in the long run that limits both the growth of the event and its sustainability. A polite aside to an org contact after the event “hey we like supporting your cause but don’t think we can keep doing this particular fundraiser because x y z” is incredibly helpful feedback. (And quite often org staff may be aware an event has problems but have been overruled by a board member or high level donor who insists they and all their friends “love” the event as is — feedback to the contrary may at least give the staff leverage to make some changes.)

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, take the salary negotiations completely out of the equation. His role is to negotiate for the best salary he can, and yours is to stay within the bounds provided by your employer based on your employer’s budget and priorities. It’s not his role to stay within the salary range you provided if it doesn’t meet his needs. It sounds like you both satisfied your roles. There’s no reason to be upset with him for continuing to push on the negotiation (especially because it sounds like he was adopting the negotiation strategy of trying to meet halfway).

    Regarding the March 1 start date, the phrasing is a little odd, but is it possible he’s building in time for a vacation or other “decompression” strategy before he starts with you? If you need him to start earlier than that, then you should tell him. But if you don’t, then why are you upset with his pronouncement?

    But I don’t think he’s behaving entitled or presumptively unreasonable… yet. It’s certainly not at the flag-on-the-play-and-revoke-the-offer stage. Offer revocation should be for really serious character or professional problems, like dishonesty, etc., in the hiring process.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      If the OP is feeling trepidation about this guy, I think it would be fine to ask for a sooner start date. His response to that might be telling.

      She said it took him a week to accept their offer—that’s a pretty significant delay for somebody job hunting, and if he didn’t give an excuse that would be a red flag to me too.

      I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s got another offer in the works, and he’s trying to string OP along.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think a week delay is significant for accepting an offer! Especially if the pay is at the bottom of your preferred pay range. He also is currently employed, so I don’t think he’s “job hunting” in the traditional sense.

        Maybe he’s stringing OP along, but it sounds like he already accepted the offer and terms. At this point, revoking the offer is a burned bridge. If the prospect pulls out, he’s also burning a bridge. But they’re not there, yet.

        1. Naruto*

          I don’t think a week is especially long, either, unless you discussed a different timeframe or he know you were in a particular hurry for some reason.

        2. kittymommy*

          It also sounds like it was around the holidays (based on the comment that 3/1 was 2 months from acceptance) so a week getting back seems very reasonable to me.

        3. michelenyc*

          I don’t think a week is especially long. I have been interviewing for the past few weeks and am expecting multiple offers in the next week or so. I expect that I will have to string along one of the companies until I hear about the other position. I would have a problem with the March 1st start date. I can say in my industry it would more than likely lead to the offer being rescinded unless the person moved it up. When I moved back to NYC in 2008 I was told that they needed me to start on 12/15. This was Thanksgiving week and I lived in Portland, OR at the time. I had 2.5 weeks to pack up my apartment and sell my car. It was crazy.

      2. Sally Sue*

        I don’t think a week is that long of a time to consider a job offer. Leaving one job for another job is a huge decision. Companies take longer than that to pick candidates, send job offers, etc. It doesn’t seem fair or rational to afford the same courtesy to an individual who received a job offer. Who knows what is going on in his life. Perhaps he will be taking a pay cut if he accepts this job but it’s a better commute, so he wants to figure out his finances. Each of us has things going on in our life that could slow down our decision making process in accepting a new job. And these circumstances can be difficult to navigate. A week seems like a fair amount of time to figure out those circumstances and make a decision. If a company wants to attract good workers, then there needs to be good policies and amount of respect given to potential and current employees. I think OP is taking this whole scenario very personally which is skewing her judgement.

        I also think it is fair for OP to reach out to the job candidate and ask for information in regards to that start date. Who knows maybe his wife is due to have a baby at any moment and he doesn’t want to start right after his child’s birth. Again so many unknowns, so it’s not fair for the OP to make assumptions or pass judgement until she gets all the facts.

        1. yasmara*

          My husband accepted a job at the end of March & negotiated an early-May start date. He went into it saying, “Here’s my ideal date, but if you need me earlier I can probably work something out.” Maybe the OP’s worry comes from the way he just announced the date? As a hiring manager, I wouldn’t hesitate to push back and require an earlier start date if I really needed one (I would also think about if I did really need an earlier date, or if it was a knee-jerk reaction). And I do hope all of his references were thoroughly checked.

      3. Specialk9*

        I’m really worried about this manager. OP, there’s real potential you’re going to make this guy’s life hell, unjustly. Your anger is just so unfounded and disproportionate, it’s worth considering what’s really going on inside you.

        You’re clearly VERY angry (“sheer entitlement,” “lack of teamwork,” “red behavior as it demonstrates a lack of compromise and respect,” and wanting to pull his job offer IS anger), but it’s wildly disproportionate to this guy’s behavior.

        He negotiated his salary, thought about the offer for a week, and offered a start date rather than asking or having a dialogue. Negotiation is not only ok, it’s good – he’s 100% right to do this! Taking time to decide is also ok (especially if this was sent in during the recent holidays).

        The telling-not-asking is mildly annoying, but OP you had the chance to negotiate start date (like a manager) and didn’t. It also speaks to the fact that at the $80k range, people are professionals with a bit more leverage, not entry level who have to jump when you snap fingers. He may have to wrap up his current work, or have already paid for an expensive vacation, or have others established plans that don’t allow an immediate start. Those are all reasonable.

        OP, I encourage you to look at why you’re so mad. In my life, when I’ve gotten angry about others’ behavior, it was because of a “should” rule in my head that they were breaking. I know in my life, I bristled every time my ex-military male boss sent me terse emails telling me what to do. I had to do a lot of thinking about what I wanted – softened language and hidden commands – and how female-coded and civilian-coded those were, and how male military communication is just different. And I had to do a lot of thinking about my own controlling behavior that was wrapped up in those ‘should’ rules I had going in my head

        In your case, I’m guessing that the should-rules you have in your head could be something like ‘it’s not nice to argue’, or ‘you should guess what the other person is dealing with and make their life easier’, or ‘you should use softening language and ask rather than tell’, or ’employees don’t get to dictate to employers’. (And be aware how female-gendered some of those rules are, unfairly, which could be fueling your feelings.) I recommend a therapist because these things are tricky and an expert guide is so helpful.

        If you’re going to manage this guy, you need to work through your stuff and then make some rules to manage that stuff going forward. He’s about 3% responsible for this situation, so you need to own your 97% honestly. And you need to be honest on whether you can honorably manage this person. If so, once you figure out which ‘should’ he’s violating, you can figure out how to keep from overreacting to this guy (who’s now going to be an unwitying trigger). Most of that will be on you, but you could share with him that you have a hard time with terse communication, and generally do better with softer language and a collaborative approach. But then it’s mostly still on you to manage!

        1. AnotherJill*

          This, exactly. I had an ex who had all kinds of invisible rules, which made it impossible to reasonably communicate with him. I understand it’s easier to prepare yourself to interact with others if you have a mental flowchart of “if they say this, they really mean this” or “if they do this, they mean that”, but you just can’t apply your expectations for behavior to others that way.

        2. Camellia*

          This is so well-thought-out and you make great points! It’s given me a lot to think about in my own communications and the communications from other people. OP, please allow yourself the open-mindedness to consider what Specialk9 is saying here.

        3. Greg*

          Specialk9, I had the exact same reaction. These letters don’t give us enough info to make concrete assumptions, but there is clearly *something* going on here with OP #4. Maybe she’s being irrational. Maybe something about the candidate set off alarm bells that she can’t quite specify, so she’s focusing on other issues. But there’s definitely something there, and if she doesn’t work it out in her own head she’s headed for trouble, either with this candidate or the next one.

      4. I am Fergus*

        I just got an offer and they told me i had two days to sign it without telling me so, and the salary was firm, no negotiating, as the recruiter at the company cut me off as I was asking about salary, and on top of it gave me a start date of a month. I am still looking. They know how I feel when I don’t show up.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          “they told me i had two days to sign it without telling me so”
          How does this work?

          “They know how I feel when I don’t show up.”
          Dude. If you didn’t accept the offer within the timeframe, they aren’t expecting you. O_o

      5. Ozma the Grouch*

        If he was interviewing with multiple companies and was weighing his options, a week is perfectly reasonable. Companies can take a long time to put together offers and you want to make an informed decision when you decide who you are going to work for. This might even be a good sign that he is a sought after candidate.

    2. HR Here*

      I actually think it speaks well of him that he at least appears to want to give his current employer a lengthy notice. A discussion should clear it up, I would think. Also sometimes people aren’t in a senior for but are really integral players. I assume you know what his role is, but if you’re not sure, I’d say there’s a chance he may be a key person and that’s causing the need for lengthy notice.

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      Yeah my employer requires a month minimum notice to be considered for rehire in all roles.

    4. Anonymous Poster*

      Yeah, there should be a conversation about the start date, but it could be a large number of reasons. Maybe March 1st is after bonuses go out, maybe there’s a vacation planned, or who knows. It sounds like the way it was communicated wasn’t great, but wanting a start date that far out isn’t ridiculous either.

      Just ask the person. This is something both sides should be comfortable with, especially going into a professional relationship. It’s just regular, professional communication.

    5. Luna*

      You are exactly right about the salary, PCBH, and I want to add that most job candidates expect to be able to negotiate, at least a little, and if the OP did not want to go above $80,000 then that should not have been the initial offer. It would have been better to start off lower and at least let the candidate negotiate his way up to $80k.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Disagree. If an employer states a range, I assume that’s their actual budget for the role. If the OP didn’t want to go above the $80k range listed in the job posting, they should have explained to the candidate that $80k was the top of their budget and would that work for him?

        If the candidate is amazing it makes sense for the hiring manager to talk with finance (or however it works) to try to get an amount approved that’s over their budget, but low-balling the range to “let” candidates negotiate up to the top of the actual range means some candidates that would have accepted the top range won’t apply because the employer isn’t listing their actual range, which is pretty stupid imo.

        Full disclosure: I get pretty pissed when I interview for a job that had a stated range in the posting but the interviewer tells me the low end is the most they’re willing to pay, so I want honest ranges to be a more widely used thing.

  5. CAA*

    #4 — for your next round of interviews, ask the question: “if we offered you this job, how soon would you be available to start?” I usually ask that as we’re wrapping-up, and occasionally it’s turned up that a candidate has very different expectations than I had, such as taking 6 weeks off between jobs to go visit his family in his home country, which just wouldn’t work for our project timeline.

    To me, the fact that March 1 is a Thursday is irrelevant. It seems like he just picked that as a date that’s often the beginning of a pay period and many companies would not have a problem with someone starting on a Thursday in that case. If he’d chosen Wednesday, February 7th, that would be more odd. If you need him to start on a Monday instead, then just tell him that’s your company policy.

    1. Miso*

      Oh yeah, the Thursday seems completely normal to me. Here you usually start on the 1st or the 15th of a month (but mostly the 1st, I’d say.)

      For example, I actually started on a Saturday, because the 1st was a Friday and I don’t work on Fridays.

      And then of course we also have long notice periods here, 3 months is pretty normal. So I wonder if he’s from somewhere else where it’s more like that?

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Here in the US, it’s considered standard to give two weeks’ notice. Remember, most of our jobs don’t have contracts, so even that two weeks isn’t set in stone. The most I’ve waited to start a job when I was quitting another is 3 weeks, because that gave me a week off after I worked out my notice. A month for a non-entry-level position isn’t unheard of. But for most of us, more than a month usually comes with an explanation.

        I don’t think this guy has to justify the delay, but I also think OP #4 could have said, “We’d prefer you to start earlier. Would February 15th be possible?” or something like that.

        1. Catarina*

          I think that the 2-week rule only applies so far up the hierarchy. When my director left, she gave a month and even that was grumbled about. VPs have given 2 or 3 months in my last several jobs.

          1. michelenyc*

            I am in the US and do agree depending on your level the notice period is usually a bit longer. VP’s generally have written into their contracts what their notice period needs to be if they decide to leave. At least that is how it is in the fashion industry.

          2. Kate*

            I also think this can be industry dependent. When I moved from academia to industry, I gave a longer notice period because I had a lot of projects to wrap up, but often times people in academia do have contracts or are teaching courses and need to finish out the semester or something like that. It’s possible the prospect in this letter has a big event or maybe February is a busy time of year for his company, and he doesn’t want to leave them understaffed. It’s weird that he didn’t phrase his start date as question, but that doesn’t mean the OP couldn’t have questioned it. I sort of got the sense that OP was annoyed with the salary negotiation (just based on the level of description of their back and forth), and that is coloring her view of the candidate now. Revoking a job offer over this seems like really jumping the gun.

          3. Bea*

            Yep. It takes considerably longer and more training to bring in a new executive, it’s also harder to just fill the gaps than with an entry level position.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I think it’s kind of an unspoken rule that most places expect 2 weeks, but I also know (from reading AAM) that there are industries and companies where longer notice periods are more common. I would imagine if that was the case (longer notice periods being common to the industry), OP would not be as thrown off by the candidate’s statement.

        However, maybe the culture between the two companies is different, and the candidate’s current employer usually expects longer notice periods, or they’re switching industries. Only way to know for sure is to ask.

        OP, if you need him to start earlier, just explain that and ask if he’s flexible. He may have assumed that 2 months was standard, where you’re assuming it’s way too long. A good thing to keep in mind, though, is that you’re presumably going to have to work *with* this person, and not just give him orders to follow mindlessly. If you can’t handle a little pushback in the negotiations, how will that work during his employment? How does it work for your current reports? Like someone mentioned above, why is this making you angry? Worth doing some soul-searching on this.

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      I actually think Thursday is a great idea. New jobs are *exhausting* for the first couple of days at least. So this gives him a day or two to find his desk and the washroom, meet a few people, and get an idea of his key projects. Then he gets a weekend to rest and absorb all that information, and he can start fresh on the Monday.

      I am 100% in favour of midweek starts for this kind of big change, so you don’t burn out on all the newness by Wednesday, and still have to drag yourself through another two days of information overload.

    3. Typhon Worker Bee*

      I never start a new job on a Monday if I can possibly help it – the first few days are so incredibly stressful, and a full week of every single thing being brand new leaves me completely drained. I learned this lesson from three jobs ago, and started my last two jobs on the first day of a new month – a Friday in my last job, and a Wednesday in my current job.

      I think it’s better for the employer, too – they can get anything urgent out of the way early in the week before the new hire arrives and starts sucking up everyone’s time!

    4. Luna*

      Yeah, the start date should have been discussed in the last interview, and also every job I’ve ever applied to has included that question in the initial application.

  6. Just stoppin' by to chat*

    Is anyone else wondering what kind of workplace has a sculpture made of can competition that requires an employee to spend so many hours on?!

      1. Anon anon anon*

        That sounds cool. But are we sort of outting the LW? I wouldn’t want her to be identified based on that.

        1. KellyK*

          It’s an international organization, with competitions all over. I also wouldn’t be surprised if other groups are doing local, scaled-down versions of the same thing. So, I don’t think it’s a huge risk to the LW.

        2. Nita*

          Nah, it’s a popular competition in some industries and there are a lot of companies that take part.

      2. Michelle*

        Wow. I could never even come close to something like and trying to be the captain would be a nightmare, especially as it seems the captain is the only one who does anything.

      3. SansaStark*

        My sympathies. My husband has been a team captain a couple of years in a row and I’m not sure either of us could survive another year.

    1. Alienor*

      There’s a competition like this in my area – different companies and organizations submit can sculptures and they’re displayed at a local mall for people to look at. (Some of the sculptures are REALLY big and elaborate too, so it would be a ton of work even for a team, never mind one person.) I know it’s tied to charity somehow, but not what the specifics are. Anyway, just to say it’s definitely a thing, even if a slightly weird one!

        1. JessaB*

          Honestly though in that case I’d push back pretty hard. It’s absolutely known now that donations of food rather than the equivalent amount of cash is hard on the food pantries. They have deals with local merchants where they can get much more food than the average shopper can, so for that 50 cent tin of veg they can possibly get 3 or 4. They know what foods their constituency will eat or need, they know how much space they have to store things. It’s fun for the donators, but not so much for the recipients.

          I know that when I used our food pantry, I was ready to scream if I saw another green bean. For some reason people donated that in droves. It just sent me up a wall, don’t get me wrong I’ll eat green beans, I like them but not all the time, every time (I’d rather carrots, corn, peas, etc.) and I know if the pantry had been given cash they would have gotten other veg.

          It was the kind of pantry that made up bags depending on how many people, ages, if there were medical needs, etc. And I swear every time I went there I ended up with 3-6 tins of green beans. You can’t pay me to eat them right now, because I’m so over the top of my head with them.

          1. Jeanne*

            As a blanket statement, that’s not true around here. The food pantries do not buy at a discount. They may get donations from supermarkets but not discounts. The food pantry tells the local groups that collect (like churches and townships) what is most needed right now and then donors can buy that. You can get deals with rewards cards and buy more for the pantries. I’m sorry you had to be food insecure but no food pantry box will please everyone.

            1. TBoT*

              Donating items a pantry has specifically asked for is completely fine. What people are cautioning against is donations of canned items that were not asked for, which means the pantry winds up with too much of some stuff, not enough of others, and a logistical nightmare to figure out how to manage it.

              1. sssssssssss*

                An example: cranberry sauce. Oh, let’s donate what people need for a Xmas or Thanksgiving dinner! And the food bank ends up with cans and way too many cans of cranberry sauce…

                You’re better off donating diapers.

              2. Temperance*

                FWIW, my local food pantry has shelves set up, and people who are in need go and get to fill a bag with a certain amount of canned goods, grains, etc. I guess I just assumed they all run this way.

              3. Natalie*

                Interestingly, some US food pantries started an exchange based market to handle this kind of thing, so a food pantry in Idaho that has potatoes up to their ears can “sell” the potatoes to another food pantry in exchange for something they have a surplus of.

              4. Alter_ego*

                I do know when my company did this a couple of years ago, there were a couple of foods we were specifically banned from using because the food pantries had way too much. I remember we couldn’t use black beans at all, and I think there were a couple of others.

                1. Anna*

                  In the past when I’ve organized food drives, I’ve specifically mentioned the things our local food bank is looking for and asked people NOT to donate the things they list as less desirable. Peanut butter? Yes. Fruit cocktail? Hard pass.

              5. Mockingjay*

                Exactly what TBoT said. I support food banks at our local schools, and they always provide a list (frequently updated). They actively discourage unsolicted donations for the reasons she stated.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              Yeah, my local pantry gives out lists of “these foods are good, and we particularly need these.” (As I recall we did a lot of soup.)

              “A check, not a can” is very true of disaster relief–it is not helpful to ship your individual can of soup across the world, vs giving charities on the ground money with which they can buy blankets or tents or whatever else is needed.

              1. Anna Held*

                Yes, we get a lot of canned goods that have expired or that the donor didn’t want. We waste a lot of time dealing with that crap. Most pantries do buy at least some of the food, and also have needs like rent or a new refrigerator. Cash is best.

            3. Bagpuss*

              The foodbanks may not get specific discounts from supermarkets but if they have cash they may be able to buy at lower costs by buying in bulk at a cash-and-carry or equivalent, or even just get discounts by taking advantage of BOGOF offers, splittable multi packs etc.

              I agree with JessaB that given the choice, a cheque is better than cans, but of course often that isn’t the choice the food bank has, its cans or nothing. and in that case, cans are better!

            4. KellyK*

              There are definitely a lot of food pantries where it is true, though, so it would absolutely be worth checking with the specific food banks that are getting the donations and asking what they’d prefer.

              I get the impression that larger food charities are more able to buy in bulk—even if they’re not getting a specific discount for being a non-profit, they can go to a warehouse club or restaurant supply store and get better prices than at the local grocery store. Smaller food pantries, like the ones run by a single church, may not have that option. *But* even if giving the food bank a check just means that Gertrude who runs the pantry is going to take that check to the same grocery store you shop at, Gertrude can still look at the shelves, go “Wow, that’s a lot of green beans,” and buy some peas and carrots instead.

              Point being, you’re right that it’s not an accurate blanket statement, but it’s common enough that asking the specific charity what would be most useful to them is a good idea.

            5. trigger*

              Sorry but that’s breathtakingly tone deaf when there are so many people going hungry who are nowhere near a food bank!

              1. Natalie*

                Oh FFS, JessaB isn’t railing against the food bank or its donors, just mentioning a *completely understandable* aversion to something they had to eat constantly out of desperation. Speaking of being tone deaf, maybe take a look at the beam in your own eye first.

              2. KellyK*

                I don’t think it’s tone deaf to recommend donating in ways that are more beneficial to the people in need and easier on the volunteers, particularly from someone who’s been on the receiving end. Sure, it’s better to have green beans than to have nothing, but the idea that no one can point out problems if anyone, anywhere has it worse is counterproductive.

                I mean, if you want to spearhead or contribute to efforts to get food to people who don’t have access to a food bank, that’s awesome, and if you know of an org that’s doing that, let me know and I’ll send them a check. But that shouldn’t be a reason for shutting down any and all criticism of food donations that are unhelpful or ineffective.

            6. Broadcastlady*

              Wow! Ours publicizes heavily that they can make a dollar stretch ten times what a shopper could expect to buy.

              1. nonymous*

                It may be that they are buying with enough volume to go to the warehouse level. For example I live in a large metro area with a robust food bank network. There is a large nonprofit that sources food (over 32 million pounds annually) and resells to other nonprofit groups. By definition this group is going to have not only bulk buying power but huge overhead savings compared to purchases at the the local grocery. Looking at their price sheet, it seems like the routine cost is what I expect as a consumer for super sale items (PB @ $1.40, beans/rice @ $0.30), and that includes delivery, plus everything is in-date and there is a decent variety of proteins, veg, fruit, grains, etc.

          2. Anna Held*

            I’m sorry. That is a lot of green beans and definitely not how it’s usually done. You must have been at an overstretched pantry.

            1. LavaLamp*

              My best friend works at a supermarket as a dairy manager. He partnered with the local food pantry in his area and is able to give them things that the store would have to throw out but are still very much perfectly fine. So some food pantries do have deals with supermarkets but they don’t really buy the food in my experience.

              1. TBoT*

                There are multiple models of food pantries. Some food pantries work with grocery stores (often at the chain level, not at the individual store level) and accept food that is still safe to eat but not really salable. For example I’ve volunteered sorting eggs that were donated to a local food bank (serving a city of about 70,000 people). They were all cartons in which one or more eggs were broken so they were taken off the shelves, but the rest of the eggs were really fine. There was a whole process of sorting the obviously broken eggs out, then inspecting the remaining eggs to make sure they were really intact, then putting them in fresh cartons for distribution.

                There are definitely also food banks that buy bulk canned goods to distribute. Many of those that do have cautioned against giant canned food drives because they wind up with a lot of donations they can’t actually use.

                It all depends on the community and the budget and exactly what the charity’s focus is. (The place where I sorted eggs was in part dedicated to reducing food waste, in addition to just feeding people, so a lot of what they distributed was fresh food gleaned from something the grocery chain would have otherwise thrown away because it was partially damaged.)

          3. KellyK*

            Wow. Just wow. People can be deeply grateful, genuinely need the help, and still not want to eat green beans at every single meal.

          4. overly produced bears*

            No one has to be grateful for being given someone else’s trash, and let’s face it, what can collections generally are is “donate things you would otherwise throw away because you don’t want them anymore”.

          5. KellyK*

            Good point. CANstruction looks like it’s particularly susceptible to this, because they have two goals: getting people fed and encouraging and promoting art in public spaces. Nothing against more art, art is awesome. But it does mean that a lot of their donations are going to be chosen with an eye toward the can color and size that makes the sculpture work, rather than what provides a balanced meal, or what the food pantry is lacking.

            With a team that actually wants to do the art, then the fact that they’re donating 500 cans of olives that may not be needed might be overshadowed by the other positive benefits (and their team members might be motivated to donate cash too), but for someone who’s being guilted and bullied into doing art they don’t want to do, the fact that nobody even needs those 500 cans of olives just makes it extra pointless.

          6. fposte*

            A quick look suggests that this event is enough of a known quantity that at least some city’s food banks are aware and partnering.

            1. TBoT*

              Having looked at several sets of CANstruction rules, there’s nothing in them about checking with the food pantries to see what they need, or recommendations about what types of food are best. Since the color and shape of the cans is a big part of the structure, it seems like it would be extremely easy for a food bank to wind up with hundreds of cans of something that’s not particularly in demand or nutritionally dense.

              If I were doing community relations for a food bank, there’s no way I would turn down a massive CANstruction donation, because that would look horrible in the news and would probably spin out into people complaining that the food bank (and its patrons) for weren’t ungrateful for the organization’s generosity. There is a lot of cultural baggage that goes around charity and poverty, so an organization often doesn’t feel like it has a choice to turn down a donation. That doesn’t mean I would be thrilled about needing to find storage space and a distribution strategy for hundreds of cans of something people didn’t want.

              This organization obviously means extremely well, but I do wonder whether anyone asks the food banks whether they actually want, need and can use what’s being donated after these sculpture competitions.

          7. Jayne*

            I am on a board of a local nonprofit that has as part of its mission runs a food pantry for a short period of time. In addition, I volunteer with a backpack program for kids on the weekend. In both organizations, money would go much further than direct can donations, but you cannot turn down donations. The backpack program works with Feeding America in order to buy things in bulk. Feeding America states that for every $1 donated, they can provide 10 meals.

  7. JamieS*

    #2, sounds like your coworkers with kids are in a great position to take this on. They’re lucky to have little helpers right in their own home and building a sculpture made of cans sounds like a fantastic bonding opportunity for parent and children. No advice other than to reiterate on standing firm and also try to adjust your thinking away from this being a burden you’re placing on someone else. This project isn’t something you’re responsible for that you’re trying to pawn off on another. It’s a responsibility shared by everyone and you’ve already put in your hours.

    #4, the new employee making a start date proclamation seems odd to me too but not offer revocation off. I wonder if there’s some prior context that OP either doesn’t know or didn’t include such as a prior discussion on the new employee needing to finish up a contract job or give an extended notice to his current employer. Only other somewhat reasonable explanation I can think of is the new guy was attempting to open discussion on his start date but went about it very poorly.

    1. Thlayli*

      Look at the construction link above. Now imagine trying to do that with kids in the way. Super dangerous.
      Frankly this is an insane thing to require someone to do outside of hours/ in addition to their job, regardless of whether they have kids or not. If the company wants to do it they need to pay someone to do it during work time, and reduce their other responsibilities accordingly.

      1. JamieS*

        I’ve already seen the link and it’s not dangerous unless the adult is dumb and has the kids do the dangerous parts. Have the kids sort the cans, have them help gather cans, let them build smaller sections (after being shown how) that can be added to the whole, etc. Plenty of things kids can do.

      2. Purplesaurus*

        I assumed JamieS was returning the “you don’t have kids” fire with “because you have kids,” but I agree it’s crazy to require someone to do this outside their work hours.

  8. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW1: That woman sounds awful – or at least really in need of feminism and therapy – who’s proud of being ‘the other woman’?!

    I made the mistake of dating a coworker once, and Alison is right, being the cool professional is the way to go. He actually broke up with me (right before I was about to break up with him, v.annoying), then when I returned to work after the weekend I set myself straight into cheerful work-motivated mode; long story short he was so shocked and upset that I was absolutely fine and excelling at our job that he became totally incapable of doing his (it was a tough sales role) and got let-go a month or so later [this is the point where a pair of sunglasses descends gently from the sky onto my face while Snoop Dogg plays in the background].

    Stay strong, head high!

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Nice! I always liked the approach of ‘I’m too happy and fulfilled to notice you aren’t here anymore’ with regards to breakups.

      1. MilkMoon (UK)*

        Thanks! Honestly I think it’s the only way this situation can be dealt with to preserve dignity, reputation etc. Also, it does genuinely help!

    2. TL -*

      I didn’t read that she was proud of it; she just seems like she’s reveling in her own drama on social media. Which is a thing people do (see: vague-booking, drama dumps, and oversharing of interpersonal conflicts.)

      1. Grad Student*

        Yeah, writing about X aspect of your personal life =/= being proud of X aspect of your personal life.

      2. Observer*

        Sure. But who shows of their stupid behavior to all their social contacts? Obviously she doesn’t think there is a problem with her behavior.

        1. TL -*

          Eh, it’s not how I choose to use social media but there certainly are people who use their accounts as a platform for their whole lives, dirty laundry and all.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I understand that this can be very helpful for law enforcement when the dirty laundry includes crimes or planned crimes.

        2. JamieS*

          I’m not aware of any studies but I feel pretty confident at least 90% of people who habitually post on social media at least several times a week post about stupid things they do.

          1. Observer*

            Sure, but the people who post don’t think of the things they do as stupid. I know that sounds incredible, but if you talk to them you’ll see what I mean.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m constantly floored with how many self-damaging and insane things people advertise via social media. It’s dumb (and certainly stupid), but not always a signal of pride.

          And I think we already know she’s ok with “being the other woman,” even without the advertising!

          1. Julia*

            Although I think that maybe it’s time we start putting more sad or frustrated posts up on social media, instead of depressing everyone with the seemingly perfect lives we live when we only post vacation pics etc. But I wouldn’t post about fights with my husband…

      3. Thlayli*

        Yeah I don’t really get why Alison says she’s being unprofessional by talking about her personal life on social media. That’s kind of the entire point of social media.

        1. MK*

          When your personal life includes having a relationship/flirtation/whatever with a coworker who is dating or has till recently been dating another coworker, it is unprofessional to talk about it on social media. And it doesn’t really matter that’s the point of it: the point of pajamas is comfort, but yoy still shouldn’t wear them to the office.

        2. Temperance*

          I think the issue is that Side Piece is posting all this stuff about being proud to not be someone’s actual girlfriend publicly. That’s amazingly unprofessional.

        3. TL -*

          I think maybe professional behavior would have included defriending your coworker/lover’s gf or super recent ex before vaguebooking your other woman drama?

        4. KellyK*

          The unprofessionalism has less to do with talking about her personal life and more to do with talking about interpersonal drama that involves coworkers on a social media feed that coworkers can see. It’s stirring up drama with people she works with, which can’t help but bleed back into the office.

        5. Specialk9*

          She’s connected to colleagues on social media, which means she should either not post unprofessional things, or filter posts so co-workers don’t see non-work appropriate things. I personally choose not to link with colleagues on Facebook, and on LinkedIn I keep things super professional.

        6. tangerineRose*

          Social media isn’t always all that private though, and in this case, the LW read it, and other co-workers might be able to. A lot of people recommend being careful what you post on social media.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      TBH… I’m thinking she’s being sarcastic, calling herself “the other woman” when all she was doing was having a friendship where they texted and had coffee.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      A commenter in an open marriage (not here) once observed that there were a lot of women who lost interest in her husband as soon as they realized he wasn’t going to be cheating on her with them and they weren’t putting one over on anyone. So they had an agreement that he could tell prospects he and his wife had an “understanding” and didn’t need to belabor “no, I’m serious, we actually have an understanding and I’m not cheating with you.” So there are people (all genders) for whom potential partners are way more attractive if you are the sexy stunner causing them to break their vows to someone else, and become bleagh when the love interest has no official clueless partner to stand shattered as your secret love encoils everyone.

      Announcing that stuff to your professional circle is an extra layer of weird, though.

      1. Temperance*

        That seems so slimy to me. IDK. I personally would think less of my husband if he was pursuing the kinds of women who want to bust up relationships.

        1. Julia*

          I also think even those women deserve to know the full truth before sleeping with the guy. If they don’t want to sleep with him after that, too bad, but their choice.

          1. Kimship*

            I mean, he is telling them the truth. It’s not his fault they think he’s lying about the “understanding”.

          2. tigerlily*

            He’s telling him he and his wife have an understanding. It’s not on him that they choose to believe differently than what he’s telling them.

      2. Allison*

        Yup, pretty much. To some, knowing that a man prefers her to his wife so much that he’s breaking his wedding vows is a huge ego boost. They feel powerful knowing they’re probably going to destroy the marriage.

    5. WeevilWobble*

      There are those women who think being the other woman is tragicly romantic and sexy.

      That baffles me but such people exist.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        From Dr Nerdlove post-mortem a couple of weeks ago (all people are male)

        paraphrasing OP: So I met this guy and he’s sooooo great BUT he has a boyfriend so it was bad we slept together BUT it turns out he isn’t happy with the boyfriend and he’s sooooo great…..
        Dr Nerdlove: “Prediction time… R’s relationship is going to fall apart and suddenly you’re not going to be on his radar any more.”

        And magically that was the very next part of the letter.

          1. Liane*

            Yes. When I was a teen, I read a column by either Ann Landers or the original Dear Abby, who stated*, “When you marry the man who cheated on his now-ex-wife with you, what do you get? A husband who cheats on his wife.” There may be exceptions, but generally this is applicable regardless of the gender combinations involved.


            1. Ego Chamber*

              The exception tends to be the one he’s married to when he just happens to die—and then she tells the whole family forever that cheaters can so change because she changed one. (Ugh. I hate going to my family reunions.)

  9. Arielle*

    OP#2 Is the event you are referring to CANstruction? I can sympathize, I have been the captain for the last 3 years and it is so much more work than anyone gives you credit for! Especially when you have minimal help from your team.
    If you do end up doing it again, I’ve found that things have gotten better as I’ve been more strict with people. Previously, if someone hadn’t done a delegated task, I would let it slide and end up doing it myself. But we instituted a policy where if you didn’t do what you were supposed to, you weren’t allowed to come to the team meeting, and ultimately if you didn’t contribute, you couldn’t go to build night/the awards gala, which is the best part of the competition.
    Good luck!!

    1. anonagain*

      “But we instituted a policy where if you didn’t do what you were supposed to, you weren’t allowed to come to the team meeting, and ultimately if you didn’t contribute, you couldn’t go to build night/the awards gala, which is the best part of the competition.”

      This only works if people want to participate. For me this would be a huge relief.

      I guess thought the OP could institute this policy and miss her first deadline. Then she’ll have to kick herself off the team. That might work.

      1. Narise*

        To combat that send out updates via email to the company. First email should list the entire team by name and general plans. Then if someone stops working on the next email update subscript through anyone’s name who is no longer participating. If too many team members withdraw let key people know that the team quit and there will not be a team competing this year. Then at one point send a final update letting everyone know that the company won’t be competing.

    2. eplawyer*

      this would be great advice is #2 really wanted to do this and just needed advice on getting help. She flat out does not want to do it. It made her sick. She is being bullied into doing it because she has no kids or exams to study for.

      Stand firm and just say No.

      When I was a volunteer with Girl Scouts we had a troop that had leadership issues. No parents wanted to step up and become the new leader. They all suggested since I didn’t have kids I would have time to do it. I just looked them straight in the eye and said Why should I take time out of my schedule to plan activities for your kid when you won’t. Suddenly we had a team of parent leaders.

      Perhaps of version of this might work for OP.

    3. Maybe?*

      I had to look up can sculpture because I never heard of it. Those are amazing! I can see how designing it would be a pain, and getting the cans would be a huge pain (I need 100 X brand tuna fish for the blue, but this store only had 30…)

      I agree, just say no, nope, can’t do it. While I don’t think you should get involved in defending that at all, I wonder how they expect it to work? Everyone else is “too busy” to be a captain — then how are they going to help the captain???

      Clearly let them know you won’t be doing this, then take satisfaction if they ignore that and it doesn’t happen. That’s on them at that point.

      Also, presumably the cans are then donated? If all else fails, could you just take the cans you’re budgeted for and donate them sans sculpture? Still on them that there’s no sculpture.

      If there’s any punishment for not doing it, would OP have any standing for it being discriminatory since some of the rationale is that OP doesn’t have kids?

      1. Natalie*

        Probably not legally, assuming US (“parental status” is only explicitly protected in a few states) but there is certainly discrimination that’s legal but morally unacceptable, which is what Alison is getting at with her last wording suggestion.

  10. TL -*

    OP#4 – unless you both posted the salary range in the job ad and told candidates that it had no flexibility, his negotiation was completely reasonable. It’s unlikely he knew that 80K was at the top of your budget when you offered and there was flexibility, so it’s perfectly reasonable for him to ask and negotiate – he’s working for a salary, after all.

    As for the start date thing, it’s a little brusque, but I will say every job I’ve had included a start date during the offer, so when I accepted, I accepted and/or negotiated the start date. (Well, I’ve never really negotiated but there’s always a check-in of “Does this date work for you?”
    So I find his manner a little odd but I also find the fact that he got an offer with no start date odd. I would get back to him to negotiate start date, depending on your needs, and I would also start including a start date with salary info when you make an offer.

    1. sap*

      Yeah, I was coming here to say something like this too–salary/start are often part of the same negotiation from what I’ve seen, and the candidate was probably trying to let you know when he wanted to start because that conversation wasn’t happening on its own on the normal schedule. He probably DOES have specific preferences about time off between jobs/appropriate notice period, and he may have been trying to avoid asking for #4’s preferred start date, then saying “no” again–so he put his own timeline out there at the start. I know I’ve never had to initiate the start date conversation as a jobseeker, so it’s plausible that he hadn’t either, and didn’t do it especially artfully because it was a first attempt.

      But really, this seems pretty normal and reasonable–somebody had to say a date first, and since #4 wasn’t doing it, he did. Maybe it would have been a little better if he’d said “I would prefer a start date near March 1,” but it’s the same message and in either example it’s wrapped in respectful, straightforward, business-appropriate language.

      1. sap*

        In case it wasn’t clear I’m imagining that the candidate probably was choosing between the language he used and this scenario:

        “83k works. What were you thinking on start date?”

        “Third week of January.”

        “That actually really doesn’t work for me….”

        And after a long salary negotiation, I might be worried about coming across as difficult at that point because I keep rejecting the employer’s offers. So I actually think that naming his preferred start date was less aggressive, if he would need to push back on a start date in the 2-4 week range for some reason (decompression, obligations to current employer).

        1. Janey Jane*

          And honestly…. at $83,000 per year, him pushing his start date out two months just saved the company nearly $14,000.

          And if that $83,000 salary is $3,000 more than you wanted to be paying him, then him pushing that start date out two months and saving you $14,000 means you’re not even going to feel the extra $3,000 in his salary coming out of your budget for another 4 1/2 years.

          That’s a heckuva silver lining, OP.

  11. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW2: I’m sorry, you just work with horrible people. Just keep confirming that you won’t be participating this year, and if the time comes and nothing gets done please be assured that this is NOT your problem in the slightest.

    1. Mary*

      Not horrible people, IMO, but terrible management. Presumably the management wants them to do this because it looks good for the company to participate, but they are fine with assigning it to the most junior, newest member of the team and then not providing any resource or incentive for other staff to take part. If the company wants the glory of taking part, they should resource it properly and assign at least part of it as people’s workload, not expect staff to do the entire thing in their spare time and at the expense of their professional qualifications or family life.

      1. Anon anon anon*

        Exactly. And that’s why LW should push back, or do so with a group of co-workers if she can convince any to join her. Show them how much time is involved. Talk about how this affects people and how it’s causing tension between co-workers. Maybe they can come up with something different or just organize it better.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      I’d say that once another person has been cemented as team leader then it would be nice of OP#2 to offer to do one specific and limited task that OP did enjoy. Since they know just how rough it is if no one offers to help. But again the key is after the team leader is already ensconced and preferably invested in the process in some way.

  12. LadyPhoenix*

    #1: I would try Dr. Nerdlove’s patented “Nuclear Option”
    Aka: Delete your ex and this woman’s contacts from phone and all social media. And also, block them. It’s a great way to get away from your ex, and also it is a great way to get away from the drama stirred by the both of them.

    Then when they try to bring it up in real life?
    “Mm-hm. Fascinating. Now about that [worky work work work].”
    “Sounds interesting. Can you send me [work work work all of the work].”
    “Actually, I’m busy.”/”I have to go.”

    If they try to bring their drama to others only for the others to see you being chillier than the recent temperatures… well… guess who’s gonna be the laughing stock (hin: not you).

    Just leave them to their own devices and watch them either tear each other apart… or tears themselves apart when everyone realizes their nothing more but jackasses

    1. Anon anon anon*

      Huh. I don’t know why that would be called the nuclear option. I block anyone who’s adding drama or negativity to my life, which includes exes when the breakup was weird or messy. People have to earn your friendship; you don’t owe anyone digital contact. Or any kind of contact. Once you start looking at it as an opt-in (by being nice), sort of thing, you’re much better off.

    2. Smithy*

      I think that for work exes/colleagues – the nuclear option may run contrary to being as professional as possible. Depending on how the business or sector functions – it may be normal for colleagues to be connected on social media. So to block them would only bring more attention. Similarly if colleagues use personal phone numbers for professional communication – again, blocking their numbers risk bringing attention. I mean, if a situation could arise where another colleague goes – who has OP’s number, let them know we’re meeting at X instead of Y. OP doesn’t get that message and then has to explain the reason is that number has been blocked?

      I think there are definitely tools to employ like hiding or muting people on social media – but I would not recommend any full blocks.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I think she’s fine if she unfriends or unfollows someone on social media… unless there’s some weird reason they use Facebook or Twitter or whatever to communicate regularly for work?

        I’d leave phone numbers alone (unless the ex or “the other woman” are bugging you via text/calls – in which case you have a reason to block them!) since that could be needed for work sometime.

      2. Kelsi*

        Hard disagree. Unless you have a really unusual workplace, personal FB/twitter/etc are not part of business communications. You get to block whoever you want for any reason. And unless ex or “other woman” are specifically looking to bug OP on those social media sites, it’s not usually obvious that someone has blocked you.

        Blocking them helps the OP step back from drama–if drama happens after that, it’s because the other two people in this equation caused it, and if they’re wanting to start drama they’d find a way to do it regardless.

        1. Smithy*

          I used to work for a large INGO that loved using Facebook groups for different thematic work information sharing. Not to mention if OP is connected to the organization’s social media presence.

          If social media is truly separate from work, then so be it. But blocking always has the opportunity to increase the drama as the blocked person will know and can include that within their cyclone of drama. Hiding/muting spares the OP while not giving this woman or guy any fuel.

        2. Anon anon anon*

          In techy areas like Northern California, it’s common for people to use social media for all kinds of things and not have the usual kinds of boundaries. If you work at a tech company, sometimes there’s a cultural expectation to friend people on social media. Obviously if you work at a social media company or an affiliate of one, it’s the norm. Which sounds like an outlier except that those companies employ a lot of people.

  13. AcademiaNut*

    For #2 –

    It’s also worth realizing that if you’re put in a situation like this in the future – team lead for a ‘recreational’ activity where no-one else wants to do much work – it’s a very good idea to decide how much time and effort you will put into it, and not go beyond.

    If you stop carrying the whole project, and no-one else steps up to help, and you end up with a really crappy sculpture made out of 50 cans, it’s not your fault. And if you’re called on it, you can point out that no-one else was interested in participating, so of course the sculpture turned out terrible.

      1. Daria Grace*

        Your caption could go something like this (feel free to steal/modify the below if you wish)

        OP, 2018
        Aluminium can, paper, green beans

        “Fusing pop art, minimalist and brutalist approaches, “Team Work” (OP, 2018) represents a new paradigm in sculptural fabrication practice. The striking piece channels Andy Warhol’s seminal 1962 work “Campbell’s Soup Cans” to problematise the dynamics of connection and avoidance in corporate spaces and the symbolic violence of capitalism on the personal sphere. The artists deft use of placement shows a profound insight into the emotional dynamics of the corporate proletariat “

        1. Nita*

          Ooooh, that’s a good one.

          The person (people?) pushing the OP into being the team and captain in one would have steam coming out of their ears when they see it, but management has no one to blame but themselves. OP would have to channel their inner artist and insist “But this is how I see it! Don’t trample my creative genius!”

    1. kas*

      I like this. I definitely would not want to be team captain but OP, if you do end up doing it for whatever reason (which I think you shouldn’t), can you assign tasks? Someone can do the 3D models, someone else picks out the cans, etc. That way, people have something they’re responsible for. If person A doesn’t complete the first task for person B to continue, it’s on them. I would send reminders but I would not pick up the slack. If it fails, maybe they won’t “ask” you to be team captain next year.

      I still think you should say no and not give in. Just because you don’t have kids or exams, doesn’t mean you want to spend your free time working on this. I enjoy doing nothing most of the time and I would be very annoyed if my coworkers tried this. Good luck!

      1. Laura*

        What would happen if you were genuinely non-artistic and could actually not do this? I absolutely couldn’t! Maybe the job is in that kind of creative sphere so they naturally assume ability?

        1. fposte*

          You presumably could still buy blue cans or stack things in a corner, though. Outside of the design part, it’s not that artistic.

      2. HappySnoopy*

        Considering team captain appears to be only team member in this situation, I’d recommend not even offering to help.

        No sense in risking their health 2 years in a row.

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t think anyone is suggesting the LW volunteer, but she could very well end up being voluntold again. If that happens, strategies to minimize the work and stress could be helpful.

  14. PumpkinSpiceForever*

    OP1: unfriend, unfollow, block block block, and do it all yesterday! You’ll feel so much better for not knowing what’s going on in their lives, and it will amply demonstrate how little you care about it. Don’t get sucked into their drama – chin high, rise above!

  15. Uyulala*

    #2 – Plan A for this kind of thing is to Just Say No.
    But, it is also good to remember the adage, “never be good at anything you don’t want to do.”

      1. Effie, who is living her life, and hoping life's rollercoaster stops soon*

        Or “That won’t be possible” with a gentle smile full of steel.

        1. Reframer*

          OP#5 Instead of looking at it as the increased costs of a longer commute look at it from the perspective of COL if you were to live within a few miles of your new job. If this is going to be a long term thing and you don’t have other reasons that require you to stay where you are, it would be in your best interest to move. There are some commuting calculators that you can look into that show that in some areas you should be willing to pay something like 400k for a house that’s down the street from work if you would pay 250k for a house a half hour commute into the suburbs.

  16. Laura*

    Sorry OP 1… and AAM Peeps because it’s not helpful or advice-y- hope it’s allowable though.

    But my first thought on reading your letter went to NCIS’ Gibbs’ rules and rule #12 is… never date a coworker.

    But I do think the block em and forget em approach mentioned in prior comments is a good idea.

    Good luck.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      If your comment requires the letter writer to build a time machine, it’s probably not going to be helpful.

      1. Laura*

        Oh, I didn’t mean for it to come across that way, as i was primarily referencing the tv moment because things pop into my head and sometimes it’s too hard to keep my mouth shut as it were.

        However now that you mention it, it does come across as somewhat sassy and most definitely insensitive… my apologies!

  17. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 I just want to echo what Alison said about not waiting until the closing date. Vacancies sometimes close early if they already received enough promising applications. That doesn’t mean you should rush yours, but don’t wait until the last minute either.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      Ugh, gawd…I’m sitting on an app because I was waiting for my transcripts. I’ve got them, and I’ll go do the app… *sigh*

    2. Naomi*

      OP here. Thanks. I wasn’t going to wait, I just wondered if say, Tuesday morning was better than Monday morning. That kind of thing. Just checking my resume for spelling errors (again) and then will send in.

      1. BarkusOrlyus*

        Want to chime in—I’m in the midst of a job search as well—overthinking to this degree isn’t really the best strategy. There are so many little details like this that can seem significant when you’re searching for a job, but most of them aren’t. That’s actually one of the lessons from AAM that I’m most grateful for. It’s not generally possible to outsmart the process, but that means you can let go of all the nitty-gritty hand wringing and just focus on the most important elements.

    3. Naruto*

      Some government jobs, however, are held open and they don’t review any applications until the posting closes. So this might be somewhat context-specific.

  18. TL -*

    OP#2, I wanted to add that a really good way to get out of social pressure is to agree with people on their statement. (This applies to coworkers, but know your boss before applying it there.)

    Coworker: “That can sculpture is wonky.” You, cheerfully: “Yes, it is off center, isn’t it?” Full stop.
    Coworker: “Max has children and doing the can sculptures takes a lot of time! Surely you understand how difficult that would be.” You, neutrally: “Yeah, that’ll be a challenge for him.” Full stop.

    Just because someone tells you a problem doesn’t mean your options are either solving it or proving it’s not a problem. If you don’t care to fix it, simply agree that it’s a problem and drop the subject. If someone goes on to suggest that it’s your problem, then you can revert to the “No, I’m not going to be able to do that this year.” Or, “hmm, I don’t think I can do anything about it [now] but I appreciate the feedback.” (whether or not you actually do. Keep your tone neutral and slightly bored.)

    I do this pretty often when a peer is pulling the “But you’re a woman! You must have an innate skill for cleaning and organizing and a desire to do it for other people ALL THE TIME” crap. Funnily enough, I do not have that desire. So I just agree with them that something is a problem/dirty/whatever, and then I stop talking. This works beautifully with everybody (except for my dad, but that’s another story!)

    1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

      “Just because someone tells you a problem doesn’t mean your options are either solving it or proving it’s not a problem.”

      I love this. Thanks!

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, absolutely. Don’t argue that others *can* do it. Just point out that you can’t do it either.

      “I don’t have time, because kids.”
      “Oh, I know. I don’t have time either.”

      “Jane can’t do it, she’s got classes.”
      “I know, right? Last year it stressed me out so much, I got shingles. Hoo boy! No one’s got time for that.”

  19. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP #1 – As dramariffic as this woman sounds, I think you’re missing an important piece of the equation. Your ex is clearly also a drama monger who told her that you broke up with him because of their relationship. Keep that in mind in your dealings with both of them.

    That being said, the advice to block them both on social media and be impeccably professional is the way to go.

    1. Scully*

      Thank you for making this point! Everyone so far has been dragging the “other woman”, but I’ve seen nothing about calling out the dude. *He* created this situation. He’s the one that (possibly) had an inappropriate level of friendliness with another woman during a (presumably) monogamous relationship. He deserves to be dragged a lot more than any other woman. Let’s stop putting all the blame on women in this scenario!

      1. Observer*

        I agree with you. I do think that OW does deserve a bit more blame than usual, just for drama and boasting. But the essential problem is most definitely primarily on the guy.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*


          People keep talking about “once a cheater, always a cheater” but the LW doesn’t say anywhere that she thought there actually was cheating happening, just that she didn’t like the friendship between them.

          He’s the one who didn’t call out the OW on inappropriate behavior and he created the drama by telling her about LW’s objections. It’s entirely possible that he over exaggerated the breakup and made LW sound like some ‘crazy shrew’ or something and she’s reacting to that.

  20. Nico M*

    #2. Lets remember that really it’s the employer not the colleagues that sucks.
    “Hey everyone, let’s commit to a super fun activity…. that’s so onerous everybody desperately find excuses to avoid…”.
    If the thing is that beneficial for publicity etc they should give yous pto or pay for the personal time used.

    #4. The candidate negotiated firmly and named the start date because you didn’t, and -shock horror!- might have been considering other offers.

    Good for them. The problem is you

    1. Kat A.*

      I concur on both your remarks, Nico.

      I think it’s bizarre how some managers expect total self-sacrificing loyalty from applicants. Someone may have been considering other job offers? Oh, the nerve! And the Letter Writer doesn’t even know that for sure but seems to want to hold it against the job applicant. That’s not someone I’d want to work for.

      1. TL -*

        Hey, there’s no need to pile on or be unkind to the LW. People have blind spots all the time and everybody finds themselves in situations where they realize that what they thought was the obvious perspective is not actually what others think.
        Especially in something like this – the OP might be thinking 80K is a lot for this position, so of course the candidate knows that it’s the top of the range, and the candidate is thinking 80K is average or below for the position, so of course the OP is opening negotiations.
        It’s not the most ideal of situations, but it’s understandable and now the OP knows that they need to be more clear with their expectations earlier in the hiring process, that’s all. Everybody makes these kinds of assumptions without realizing it, all the time.

        1. Roscoe*

          Even OPs tone comes off across a little condescening to this potential employee. She says he has “sheer entitlement and a lack of teamwork” because he negotiated a better salary and named a start date? come on.

          1. TL -*

            I don’t disagree about the OP’s tone, but those two comments seemed to be favoring rudeness over constructiveness (both to the conversation at hand and towards the OP.) Other commenters have done a better job of pointing out the faults in OP’s approach which is constructive and doesn’t make the OP’s faults the point of the conversation.

    2. Fiennes*

      The person who should be rethinking employment in letter 4 isn’t the one doing the hiring. The candidate might prefer an employer who doesn’t resent totally normal business practices.

    3. Elle Kay*

      ^^ This.

      And #4- I have never been in an interview (as a candidate) where I was actually told the companies budget. If their salary range was 80-90k, unless you said that your budget was 70-80k upfront, and that that 80k was a hard topline then this is totally not out of line.

      As a sidenote: THIS is why I wish employers would post salaries!

    4. Luna*

      The employer does suck, but so do the colleagues. Trying to single out a co-worker to do anything, work related or not, because she doesn’t have kids is terrible and not appropriate.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #4 – The first thing that popped out at me is that this candidate probably has another job he’s leaving to take yours. I base this on the salary (not entry-level by any means, so he’s someone with relevant experience), and the fact he set a start date with a reasonable notice/wrap-up period to his current employer. (NB this was published on 1/9/18, which is fewer than 60 days from March 1; I don’t know when the actual conversation took place.)

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      It does vary – my current job has a 2-month notice period. So if I quit today, my last day here would be 9/3/18, which is a Friday, so earliest start date would be Monday 12/3/18. I might be able to negotiate, but historically, everyone has worked their notice. Even IT admins.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Contract – it is longer than usual – every other contract I’ve had has had a 1-month notice period on either side, but it’s not unheard of either.

          1. Natalie*

            Right, if I had looked at the dates more closely it would have been obvious you were probably in Europe where contracts are the standard. :)

      1. WellRed*

        Huh? If you give two month’s notice today, you still work until September, which is 8 months away?

        1. Star*

          I assume Akcipitrokulo is in a country which uses day/month/year dates, like the UK and (I believe), much of Europe. 9/3/18 is 9th March. That would also explain the long notice period – I’m in the UK, and as I’ve been at my current company for several years, my notice period is now 8 weeks.

        2. Middle School Teacher*

          9/3/18 = March 9. Europeans put the day first. (Non-Americans in general seem to write the day first, I’ve noticed.)

          1. Bea*

            No you shouldn’t have. I automatically read it as September then realized it wasn’t right and noticed you’re clearly not American. That’s a good thing, you don’t need to Americanize yourself, see how many people ended up explaining it :)

        3. blackcat*

          I suspect they are in another country where the convention is Day/Month/Year, rather than the US Month/Day/Year. So they’re saying two months = March 9th.

        4. JayemGriffin*

          European date format goes D/M/Y instead of the M/D/Y used in America. After their two months’ notice period is up on March 9th, the first working day after that is March 12th.

          1. London Calling*

            Jeebus did that confuse me when I started working for an American bank in London way back in the 20th century. I still have to make a slight mental adjustment for it.

            1. Typhon Worker Bee*

              Canadians use such a mix of the US and Other formats that I’ve started using YYYY-MM-DD as my default to avoid confusion.

              (Bonus: if you put the YYYY-MM-DD format date at the start of your file names, then alphabetical order is the same as chronological order)

  22. Roscoe*

    #4 This honestly seems like more of a control issue on your part. He had a fairly normal negotiation, even though you paid him more than you originally budgeted, but frankly your budget isn’t his concern. The start date, I mean, it really is about how the conversation went. Was it a “When can you start”? Type thing, and he said March 1? Because realistically, that can make total sense. He could have projects he wants to finish, vacations coming up, etc. Yes, you say he didn’t offer an explanation, but did you ask for one? Or were you just upset that he took control from you again?

    It really just seem like you think he should be grateful for the job, as opposed to you both finding a situation that helps you out.

    1. Catarina*

      Agreed. The applicant seems to have conducted this negotiation by the book, but the LW seems to want bowing and scraping.

    2. Important Moi*

      I agree totally.

      These are the types of comments I get reprimanded for, so I make them way less here.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      I read it as they were negotiating (okay, cool, pretty standard stuff even though OP seemed put off already), and then NewGuy stopped replying mid-negotiation… Then he replied a week later like “yes, this salary is fine with me. I can start March 1st.” (when OP hadn’t mentioned start date yet).

      Which would be odd!

      1. boop the first*

        Is it odd? He could have been waiting for a better offer, or coming up with a plan with his family as to how to continue living on what may be now a reduced salary?

  23. Alli525*

    OP2: However your situation works out – and I hope you get the leadership burden taken off your shoulders – I believe I know the competition you’re talking about (a former boyfriend participated in the same one at his last firm) and it is always a joy to go see those sculptures, so good luck to you and your team!

  24. gl*

    #4 Surely start date conversations happened earlier than this? I am always asked within the first interview how much notice I need to give and/or if I have any pending vacation. This basically means there’s a general understanding that there may be at least a month between offer and start date.

    I would say 2 months is fine… he may need a short time off to rearrange things in his life, or take a break so he can start at your job fresh.

    The salary thing is normal and he’d be an idiot not to negotiate – you did offer him his LOWEST amount. He doesn’t know what you budgeted for this role. This is why employers should list salary upfront on a job posting so applicants are aware of not only the caliber of the role but also if they can actually afford to take on this role. Unfortunately this is more of a practice overseas (or with govt jobs) and in the U.S. salary is typically held back. Which means a lot of time wasted if the pay isn’t enough for the candidate.

    1. Luna*

      Yes this really rubs me the wrong way as I’ve been in this situation as the applicant. During the interview the hiring manager asked me my range and I told them, and they said “we can do that.” When I got the offer they offered me the lowest end of my range so of course I tried to negotiate it a bit higher, not realizing that my lowest range was their highest range. .

      Turns out the manager assumed I would just accept whatever they offered me, because in order to raise the salary even a tiny bit they had to submit some approval request to finance because they were only budgeted for the initial amount. If they had just told me that up front I would have understood, instead several weeks were wasted waiting for finance approval and I ended up accepting another offer instead because I thought company #1 had ghosted on me.

    2. Drama Llama*

      I don’t advertise salary.

      You might end up hiring a junior applicant with amazing potentials. Or a senior applicant who brings additional strengths that’s worth every extra dollar. Recruitment plans can change a lot. There are countless examples of an employer paying lower/higher than the original salary range based on the new hire’s experience and qualifications.

      Sometimes we have a salary range we’re likely to stick to; but have an open mind towards someone outside of that. So I don’t want to put off a potentially good applicant because they think they’re under or over qualified.

      I do ask about general salary expectations and if they’re completely out (and it’s clear from their applications we won’t consider matching it) I would tell them immediately.

  25. Dawn King*

    Yesterday and today, ShutterStock ads started covering up over top of the words of the posts, making it impossible to read. I don’t think that’s normal. I have screenshots if you need.

    1. Myrin*

      There’s a link right above the comment box saying “You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.” – I’ve used it before and as far as I can tell, it goes straight to Alison and you can even upload screenshots directly!

    2. Specialk9*

      Yesterday Alison said there was an industry wide attack, and they were aware and working on it. Personally I got a ton of spam popups that are hard to dismiss.

  26. WeevilWobble*

    I agree that negotiating salaryis normal but I completely disagree that saying your start month is two months away is anything close to OK.

    That’s absolutely ridiculous. For most employers that’s an excessively long time. You can ask for two months and see what happens. But to throw that down that way is completely disrespectful to the needs of the new employer.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yeah – but I have to give 2 months’ notice at current job. Starting within a week or two is really only viable if you don’t have a job.

        1. Roscoe*

          I feel like the more senior you are, the longer the notice period tends to be. Also, there could be other factors. If its a sales role, you could want some extra time to close your deals.

          1. KellyK*

            Yeah, that’s true. Closing deals, or deadlines or conferences coming up in the next month or two. Two weeks is also the minimum notice to avoid burning bridges, not necessarily the preferred notice. For that matter, I know of some employers who require a month’s notice for you to be eligible for rehire, but that’s in nursing, where it’s tough to hire and keep people.

            That’s not to say that two months isn’t a pretty long notice period—it is.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          I thought that even in the US, if you’re being paid 80 grand, you’re probably not going to get to leave after 2 weeks? Or is that regardless of the level of position?

          1. KellyK*

            Because most jobs in the US are at-will, there’s not really a hard, fast rule. Two weeks is usually the minimum at which you can leave with a positive reference and the possibility of working there again. In some jobs, that may be a month. I think that if you’re a high-level senior manager, it’s going to be strongly preferred that you stay a month or two to transition things over, where if you’re an individual contributor, two weeks might be plenty.

            But, if you don’t have a contract, you *can* leave that day. That’s usually a major black mark on your reputation, but no one is actually stopping you from doing it.

            It’s also worth noting that salary doesn’t always correspond exactly to level of responsibility or length of notice, except in a given industry. That is, a software developer making 80k might be able to give two weeks’ notice, while a manager at a small nonprofit making half that might be expected to give a month. That software developer’s boss, or their boss’s boss, might be expected to give more notice, but it’s more about level of responsibility than a dollar amount.

            The one job I had with a contract, that absolutely required a month’s notice (but m0re was expected), was as a teacher, making 32k a year. (This was 10 years ago, so more like 40k in today’s money.) That was in teaching, where people generally don’t leave jobs in the middle of the school year without pretty serious circumstances. I ended up giving notice with a little over a month left in the school year, which gave them a good three months to find a replacement.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            What do you mean by “you’re not going to get to leave”? Jobs aren’t prison. You can leave any time you like.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              No, but if your contract states X notice, and you leave early, theoretically you can be sued for any losses. In practice though, most companies wouldn’t bother!

              (Different other way around though – a company refusing to pay for a notice period when they ask you not to work your notice would end up on wrong side of a tribunal decision, so they would jsut give garden leave).

                1. Michaela*

                  Much more common for the types of roles that typically require long notice periods, though. And even if they don’t have a contract, when you’re managing a department or multiple managers, leaving with only two weeks notice is likely to leave pretty bad feelings behind.

                  It really depends on where the OP lives and what their industry is, but if they’re somewhere rural and in a relatively low-wage field, 80k could be middle management.

          3. MashaKasha*

            By the same logic, if the new place pays you 85 grand, you’re not going to get to make them wait two months?

            In reality, IME, everyone gives as much notice as is reasonable for them, their current employer, and their new employer. Most of the time, it ends up being the standard two weeks; regardless of the level of position.

            1. a1*

              In reality, IME, everyone gives as much notice as is reasonable for them, their current employer, and their new employer. Most of the time, it ends up being the standard two weeks; regardless of the level of position.

              That’s been my experience as well. I work in banking/finance and even VP levels are usually 2 weeks. And regardless of how much time they give, (2 weeks, 1 month) they are often asked to leave the day they give notice. (they still get paid for the 2 weeks) due to all the competitive issues since they’re usually going to a competitor. C-Suite is a little different. Those do tend to be in the works a lot longer, but “official” is still shorter.

              1. Michaela*

                Also in finance, and in my experience and it really depends on your position. If you’re a analyst then yeah, you’re probably out the door the minute you accept another job, but a CIO or something usually would give at least four to six weeks notice to make sure there’s a reasonably orderly transition. There’s also a field-specific factor (again, just in my experience); hedge funds lean much more towards rapid exits whereas large investment banks are generally more methodical and slow-moving.

        3. Kickin' Crab*

          Really depends on the industry. I’m in the “70-80k” range and I just accepted a new job with a start date of August 1, 2018. Eight months is unusual even for this industry (2-3 months is more typical), but my current contract goes until June 30, then I wanted some time to pack, move halfway across the country, and take a short vacation before starting the new job. And the company was respectful and flexible about everything; that’s why I took the job there.

      1. TL -*

        Not in the USA. 2 weeks’ notice is considered normal and you don’t have to give any notice in the vast majority of jobs here.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Legally you don’t, but if you want to avoid burning bridges you do need to give at least two weeks. Most places I have worked, leaving without giving any notice would make you ineligible for rehire and would result in you having nobody willing to give you a good reference the next time you were looking for a job.

      2. Catarina*

        Yup, it seems like a lot of employers want you to screw over the last job on notice, yet would never tolerate that treatment themselves. My spouse has to give 180 days, and got hassled about giving that much notice at the last job. It’s in the frocking contract.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Eek! it’s always been the same time frame on either side when I’ve had a job – it’s in the contract, but tbh if someone wanted to leave early they usually could, and if someone just left, they would damage their rep, but the company would have to sue them for damages and most wouldn’t bother. Companies will always stick to their side though, so if you’re let go (not fired) then you’ll get your notice period paid, even if they don’t let you back to work it out.

    2. Mimsie*

      2 weeks notice is standard but when I worked in the US I had a 1 month notice period when I worked at a big company. And I was a cog, not even a manager. 2 months is more common in Europe. But if the guy has a 1 month notice period and he wanted to take some time off that’s not strange. Especially if the hiring manager did not ever state a start date preference or requirement.

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, I definitely had two months (that I cut short because they misbehaved) and the waiting employer would probably want employees to respect that when leaving them, so they should not try to have them leave other places early.

      2. Natalie*

        Unless you had a contract that 1 month notice was really just a request on their part – it’s not actually required. No notice is required in at will employment, it’s just that less than 2 weeks could hurt your reputation.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      At my current job they asked me when I could start and I gave them a date 6 weeks later because I had planned and paid for vacation and needed time to wrap up projects. My date didn’t work for them, so they countered with one 4 weeks out and I accepted because I could still get 80% of my stuff wrapped up in that time.

      It isn’t weird for a candidate to give a date that works for them with the understanding that, if it doesn’t work for the employer, the employer will offer an alternate date.

  27. Temperance*

    LW2: it’s time to reframe your thinking! YOU aren’t placing a burden on someone else, because this is not your responsibility. You took your turn being team captain for this competition, now it’s the org’s turn to find someone else to do it. Simple as that.

    Don’t invest too much time in finding someone to replace you. That just reinforces the thought that this is your responsibility/problem.

    I used to run a charitable giving campaign at my org. Not by choice at first, and then when I lined someone up … he backed out 3 weeks before the campaign, which meant that I had to do it with less time. It sucked. Don’t be me.

  28. finderskeepers*

    For number 5, I would not even bring up the commute as a negative . That would just make them think you will hate the commute and start to look for another job.

  29. overly produced bears*

    #2: If you do get pulled into doing it again this year, I have one word for you: FAILURE.

    You put a ton of time and effort into doing this last year. Don’t do that again. Don’t make 3D models. Don’t worry about which cans. Pick whatever cans. Don’t make advance plans. You’re team captain, so you have a team. At the event, it’s time for the other team members to brainstorm and figure out how to make something.

    There are gonna be other teams at the event. They may have practiced. They may have put more effort in. They’re gonna win the event. That’s fine with you. If that’s not fine with your company, that’s their problem and a much bigger conversation to have. And if it matters that much to someone else, they can step up next year.

    1. overly produced bears*

      Oh, and also, this should absolutely not be done on your own time. This is a work commitment, not a hobby. Ask your boss what job duties you should be skipping or delaying so you have time to do this. This is your *workplace* giving to charity, and one of their donations is your time, but it has to be time they’re paying for, otherwise it’s not really theirs to donate. And, hey, maybe if it was during work hours and not free time, there’d be more buy-in from the coworkers to do it. (Of course, then when it comes to performance appraisals time, they really have to step up and accept “team captaining for charity as per a work assignment” as a legit thing and not frivolous.)

  30. GLeigh*

    OP 2 reminds me of an article I read earlier today about an employee who was awarded £9000 after a fellow employee made highly offensive comments when she said she didn’t want to have children after he had asked her about it. Quite a few people clearly didn’t read the article and thought that the employee was making a frivolous lawsuit however she had complained to her bosses six times and they didn’t even do anything, also she was made redundant just a month after the incident with only 48 hours notice whereas other employees were given more notice, also some other employees continued to remain employed after she was made redundant. Some of the money awarded was for loss of earnings so clearly the court felt that the company should have given her more warning about her upcoming redundancy. I suggested that what the managers should have done was summoned the offending employee to the manager’s office and given him an official warning during which he would be informed that his comments were unacceptable.

  31. Cats On A Bench*

    OP2: Those sculptures are really neat, but frankly, I wouldn’t even know where to start if asked to lead a team making one! It’d be one thing if I liked taking on challenges like that, but that’s crazy to make people do stuff like that when they have no interest in it! Just be a broken record… “No. I can’t do it again.” “No, for health reasons, I can not lead the team/participate.” “No, I’m not doing it.” “NO.”

    1. Liane*

      I think emphasizing the health issues aspect to her bosses may be her best bet.
      Along with giving the peer pressure peers bland refusals and non-answers: “No, you misheard, I was 2017 captain, not 2018 captain.” “I know, right. So [non-can thing] .” “Yeah, 2 toddlers and MBA finals coming up sounds rough.” “I can’t, either.”

  32. Joie de Vivre*

    For OP #2 – if she is “voluntold” rather than volunteering (her boss tells her it is part of her job), if she is hourly rather than salaried- shouldn’t she be paid for her time?

    1. Natalie*

      I think an hourly employee would need to be paid no matter what. Even if you volunteer to take the lead, it’s no different than offering to spearhead a work initiative or staff a booth at an event. It’s all still work.

  33. Catarina*

    LW#2, what an oddly timely letter. I’ve never been more stressed than I am now, and I just got back from an appointment for what I thought was a sinus infection and instead might be shingles. Solidarity!

  34. CM*

    OP#2: Absolutely repeat as many times as it takes that you took your turn last year and are not able to participate this year. If you keep getting pushback, you could suggest that if nobody in your organization has the time and ability to do this, maybe it doesn’t make sense for the organization to participate.

    OP#4: I’d be annoyed too! I think the salary negotiation part is fine, but somebody announcing AFTER accepting the offer that they will be starting on a specific day is a bit presumptuous. Still, it probably wasn’t intended that way — you interpreted it as an aggressive move, but the candidate is probably just thinking that since you didn’t name a start date, it’s fine for him to do so. So once you get over your annoyance, you should reopen the start date conversation. Before you call him, figure out if there is a date you really need him by, and whether you will need to rescind the offer if he’s not available before then (and if so, can you really get somebody else by that date?)

    1. DD*

      I agree with you on #4. I’d be a bit annoyed as well, and I think it’s more about the apparent pushiness/brusqueness of the candidate’s communication style than any specific “thing” he is negotiating for. I don’t know if I’d rescind the offer based on just these two observations, but if this brusque communication style had already been a concern during the interview process, I’d feel more justified in at least bringing up the concern with the candidate and see how he reacts. That’s especially true if his communication style is unlikely to mesh well with your existing team’s.

      1. Catarina*

        I find it really interesting how people can interpret things so opposite. I was thinking that he was assuming that both sides were a bit weary of the back and forth required during the negotiation, and so wanted to put a start date out front to try to streamline the remainder of the hiring process.

        Google the Key and Peele sketch “Text Message Confusion” to see what I mean.

        1. DD*

          I can’t watch the video right now, but it is interesting how we see the same interaction and interpret it so differently! I do think it could turn out to be no big deal once the manager and the team know more about the candidate as they work together, but when the available information about the candidate is so limited at the interview/offer stage, it gets tricky.

          1. Starbuck*

            Shouldn’t the LW#4 have mentioned a start date when giving the offer? It feels bizarre to leave it out at that point. Sometimes this is even included in the posting. If I were the applicant and had received a job offer with still no hint at a start date, I’d be a bit confused but I think the strategy of picking a date that works for you on the optimistic end makes a lot of sense. The applicant has no idea how urgent the hiring need is unless the LW told them. Sounds like there was either a miscommunication or lack of communication re: start date from the LW, and since they’re the one with the information that’s on them.

      2. Everything Bagel Fan*

        In my experience the new hire often is more amenable to the new companies schedule within reason. Anything more and it could b predictive of the employee.

  35. NicoleK*

    #4 Maybe the candidate is waiting for other job offers to come to fruition, hence the 2 month start date. If you decide not to rescind the offer, try to let this go before he comes on board.

  36. hbc*

    OP2: If you think a hard no is going to be too difficult, maybe you could get less resistance and/or a more manageable chunk of the work if you conditionally agree to do a portion of the event. Like, “The whole thing was way too much for me and my health, but I’m willing to help shop for the cans if someone else comes up with the model by X date and there are Y people on the team committed to go to the event.”

    Because really, it sounds like you (and others?) are approaching it like this is a project that can be done by 1 to n people. Reframe it as more like agreeing to manage/take part in the softball team–if you can’t recruit eight other players, it’s not like you can just cover the field by yourself.

  37. whosthat*

    #2: while i agree with all the advice given so far, I am also sympathetic to the notion that it can be very hard to say no to higher ups when they are heavily invested in this kind of competition. It can feel pretty intimidating to refuse to do something that the person who signs your paycheck is pressuring you to do. SAY NO ANYWAY. If you are feeling really pressured, I think that a white lie is OK in this circumstance–“I have outside commitments that mean I cannot participate.” Sending you courage.

  38. Ruby Red Tulips*

    LW #1 – I really recommend unfollowing your ex and your coworker on social media. Honestly, I am a staunch advocate for NOT being friends with people on social media that you work with.

  39. Falling Diphthong*

    Our local food pantry doesn’t distribute food to only the certain few, with no food for all the other families. I’m going to bet OP’s pantry is similar.

    It’s normal for people forced by poverty (or just relatives) to eat one food over and over to come to loathe that food, and it is okay to later admit to random other people who were not then feeding you that you came to loathe turnips or green beans or baloney and why. Because you did, and it’s just sharing your experience of life–we are not required to all be permanently grateful because we COULD be waiting in a basement to be turned into a skinsuit and don’t all other problems pale before that one?

  40. nonprofit1*

    LW2, I would just start by talking to your boss and asking for advice on how to make it clear to the organizers/other colleagues that you won’t be doing this. You may also want to simply ask a few colleagues directly if they could take a turn as leader. Sometimes being asked a direct question will startle someone into saying yes. It sounds like someone must have asked/pressured you to do it–but you don’t need to approach it as pressure, just try asking. Maybe your boss can help with figuring that out.

    This sounds like a really time-intensive activity to me and if they can’t find someone to lead it, they shouldn’t do it. I used to work at a nonprofit devoted to a particular disease and for a number of years we organized a team to participate in our city’s “walk” for that disease (which did not benefit our particular organization). So in some sense the walk was very linked to our mission and still the walk was entirely voluntary and there was no pressure to participate. I got recruited to be team captain & did it for 2 years (first year I was co-captain and the second I did it on my own–I had a young kid both years, too). The next year I simply sent an email to a small group of people who had participated in the past & who I thought might be good candidates to take over, and I said I couldn’t do it that year and hoped one or more of them would step up. I pointed out that we didn’t have to have a captain & that people could just do the walk on their own too, but it’s better to have someone leading if you want to walk together, get T-shirts, have an official meeting spot, etc. 2 people stepped up and I stepped back into just being a participant.

    And all of that was MUCH less work than what you are describing. Good luck!

  41. Barney Barnaby*

    Having seen the CANstruction links above, and considering the massive amount of time required, the OP should say no, and also advise her work that if her company feels the need to do this every year (which is understandable, if everyone in the industry does it), they should hire on a temporary project manager for it.

    “It’s not feasible for me to do it again this year. In fact, given that everyone is so strung out with licensing exams and children, and I did it all last year, perhaps you should hire someone specifically for this task.”

  42. MassMatt*

    #2 Maybe it’s just that I loathe “charity events” that wind up costing huge effort and $ while little to none of it actually goes to the charity, but it seems like this event is toxic and your company should re-evaluate whether to participate. If cancelling would as other posters say be a “big deal” (a sign that the supposed charitable event has gotten out of control IMO) then higher-ups should organize to demonstrate their commitment to it. On the one hand this event is portrayed as important, yet on the other everyone has an excuse ready to get out of it and it was last done by “the new guy”. This combined with the sniping and backbiting indicates the organization likely has bigger problems than this event IMO.

  43. Lynn Whitehat*

    #2, sometimes the only way things get fixed is if they fail. Right now, people always complain and try to get out of it, but in the end, it always comes together. So management has no reason to care. Just let it fail. If your company has to withdraw from the can thing, in the first place it sounds like it wouldn’t be all that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. But if it’s important to management for some reason, that is what it will take to motivate them next year to recruit more people, treat it as a work duty, or whatever is needed to make it come off successfully.

  44. caryatis*

    OP#5: it’s not appropriate to ask for more money because of your commute, because you *choose* your commute. If you (reasonably) decide 2 hours of driving per day is too much, you can move. Just pointing that out because I see so many people complaining about the commute or the cost of gas, and people don’t seem to realize that they can make a different choice. Don’t like driving? Live within walking/biking distance of work. Don’t want to do that? Fine, but realize you are *choosing* to spend $x on gas and x hours of your life sitting in traffic. And those who make a different choice don’t deserve any less money.

    1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      In many many metro areas, the cost of housing to live in bike/walking distance from work or even just a “short” car commute is not really sustainable. I say this as a bike commuter who can’t afford to move locally, though I would like to, because the rents have increased so much in my area as to price me out of not only a bike commute, but also a less-than-60-minute commute. I completely agree that you can’t ask for more based on your commute, but generally you do want to make sure that the salary is commensurate with the COL in your area. That’s not the case for many people in places with rising housing costs.

  45. SnowyCold*

    Having children can limit you sometimes in your career; for example, doing overtime or working strange hours is difficult if your childcare closes promptly at five. Or if the kid has issues. Or if you are heavily involved in after school activities (I’m a Scout leader and my Monday nights are chaos). But “because kids” should never be a carte blanche get out of jail free I don’t have to work on anything extra card.

    I hate it when people say that. I do and have volunteered for all sorts of long and short term things with two growing kids. These people just don’t want to be involved at all.

    Lunch hours and emails during the work day are great ways to contribute to this project.

    I agree with everyone else: Say No, stick to your No and walk away.

  46. Greg*

    #4: I feel like there’s something more going on here than salary negotiation or start dates. Maybe, as some commenters have speculated, it’s a control issue on your part. Or maybe there’s something else about this candidate that’s bothering you. You just come across as someone who’s looking for a reason to not hire this candidate. Were you totally on board with the decision to hire, or did your boss pressure you into it? Was there some other red flag about him that you can’t quite put your finger on, so you’re using this other stuff as a pretext? Are you relatively new to hiring and feeling nervous about committing to a candidate because you’re worried you’ll make a bad hire?

    What I would suggest is that you have an honest conversation — first with yourself, then with your boss/HR. When you hire someone, you should feel good about the hire, and excited at what this person will bring to the team. If you’re not, it’s worth exploring why that is.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      OP should also be aware that if they decide (against all advice) to revoke the job offer because of the start date, it’s incredibly unlikely they’d get a different candidate in sooner than that since they’d have to start the process over.

      1. Greg*

        Yeah, it’s like when you walk into a restaurant, decide the wait will be too long, and then spend more time finding a new dining option.

  47. Julia the Survivor*

    OP#2, this sounds like a very dysfunctional workplace.
    If no one wants to do this sculpture thing, why are they even doing it?
    If it’s important to someone in management, they should either do it themselves or assign it to someone as a job responsibility.
    Maybe I’m lacking in commitment, but I would be looking for a less toxic place to work.

    1. tangerineRose*

      One of the awful things was how people complained about the sculpture when it won an award, and LW had to do ALL of the work!

  48. Blue Dog*

    #4 – Requests for a two month delay on start date means he is going to take your offer and shop it. Every time I have held a position open for someone like this, they end up calling back right before the start date and saying they accepted a position elsewhere.

    1. I am Fergus*

      I don’t call, I just don’t show. I think if they don’t figure it out I am not showing up they’ll figure it out say by lunch. Remember it’s at will employment

      1. Drama Llama*

        That’s a crappy thing to do. It’s fine if you want to take another job offer; but it doesn’t cost you much to call and let them know so they can make alternate arrangements. Or not waste time preparing for a new employee who isn’t going to turn up.

        I know America as employment at-will. But employers generally notify an employee when they’re fired, no? They don’t just stop paying someone and let them figure out two days past pay date.

      2. Starbuck*

        Oof, this seems like a great way to hurt your professional reputation, especially in a small industry.

      3. tangerineRose*

        Ghosting an employer will burn a bridge much more seriously than changing your mind and telling them that you won’t be working there after all.

  49. Chalupa Batman*

    I know it’s not one of the totally outrageous gotta-know-what-happens letters we see here sometimes, but I’d be interested in an update from OP #4 if they go forward with the hire. Announcing a start date 2 months in advance is a bit presumptuous, but the negotiation was normal enough that I wonder whether OP and this hire will butt heads overall or if this was a one-off situation of less than ideal communication. Seems like it could go either way.

    1. tangerineRose*

      I think the hire should have been upfront with this and mentioned this earlier if this is an absolute start date. If it isn’t absolute, it would be better to say “I’d like to start at x, does that work for you?”

  50. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    OP#2, a few thoughts:

    1) The fact that you were roped into it last year when you were the newest person is telling.
    2) Someone did it before you. Who was it? Do they still work there?
    3) The people getting out of it may be less about “not wanting to help you” and more about “not wanting to do it at all”. Obviously some of the people you work with are jerks (see the “captain” jokes), but others may just be saying, “yeah, I’m not doing that this year”.
    4) If you don’t do it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get done. That just means they have to find a different way.
    5) Is this “work” being shown/reflected on your yearly evals? Or is this another one of those potential pink-collars–where you’ll end up doing all this work and it’ll take away from the time you could spend on things that will get you not only noticed, but promoted and that will benefit your career?

    All that to say–honestly, you sound like you may be a people-pleaser. I was the same way earlier on in my career. I felt like I should pitch in because I was asked, and technically I “could” do it even if I didn’t have the time or it was something I wasn’t happy about. I wanted to be seen as a team player.

    If you don’t directly ask for help, or directly say “no, I won’t/can’t do that”, then people may not notice. People tend to be inwardly focused, anyway, so your “I’m stressed” may not register as a true concern–especially if you are new. They don’t know your habits. I also learned that if I didn’t carry the ball across the field, either someone else would or the ball would fall. AND, if the ball fell, the world didn’t end! The fault also wasn’t put at my feet (a subconscious worry).

    It was mildly uncomfortable for me, but I learned to embrace the awkward and just let those awkward pauses stand when people said things like, “oh, someone should do that” or “Oh, it would be helpful if someone could”. Then, when they asked me directly, “Sorry, I can’t. I have previous obligations I need to fulfill”. <–your previous obligations are to yourself and your health!

    If they keep going with it, repeat the above (broken record) and mention, "it seems like it's a lot of trouble getting someone to do this. I know last year it was a lot of external hours for me! Have you thought about hiring a planner to get it organized and done? Or perhaps making it part of a team's yearly objectives, assigning parts, and giving company time to get it done?"

    When they flip it back to you, go back to the "I'm sorry, I can't." script. If they keep pushing, "it's personal and I'd really rather not discuss it." (broken record #2)

    Next to last bit: see if you can get some info on what happened with the project before you were there! There might be a reason everyone is ducking it like the plague–disaster stories.

    Finally: If you've already agreed, you can walk it back! "I'm sorry, I thought I'd have the time to do this and I really don't. Something's come up in my personal life and I won't have the time to dedicate to this project." (Broken Record Statement #3)

    Congrats on your prize, and I'm sorry it sucked so bad to get it done. Ignore those complainers–they can either do it themselves or shut up. Best wishes going forward.

  51. Drama Llama*

    #4 would be a potential concern for me.

    New staff will generally try to create the best possible first impression. Negotiating salary is obviously normal and fine; but “I’ll be available March 1st” without any context raises red flags. If a new hire can’t start within standard notice periods, a diplomatic person will generally express regret about the inconvenience and explain the situation.

    There could be genuine reasons for a March start date: maybe he’s having surgery in Feb, he’s getting married, his employer wants a six week notice, or he’s had a stressful year and needs time off for mental health. But the absence of any communication suggests he’s (1) not communicative about his needs/plans; (2) doesn’t understand workplace norms; or (3) he understands workplace norms but doesn’t care because he doesn’t particularly care about the potentially negative impression he leaves with a terse email. None of these bodes well.

    I do wonder if option 3 is a strong possibility; and he simply wants the two months to job search to see if anything better comes up. He has no idea what your budget was for this role. So from his perspective he possibly thinks the company is being cheap and giving me the lowest salary mentioned.

    OP, you know your workplace culture better than anyone here. And ultimately, you are managing this person and it’s important you feel comfortable with him. I wouldn’t immediately rescind the job offer. But I would enquire about the later start date and see how he responds.

    1. Starbuck*

      The letter writer never mentions offering or suggesting a start date though. They reference March 1st as being “two months after their acceptance date” but don’t compare it to the start date they wanted, which makes me think that for whatever reason LW4 had not actually given a start date. If that’s the case, I can see why the applicant would include their preferred start date in their acceptance of the offer. If that’s the case I don’t see how the LW can expect the applicant to “respect their start date needs” if they hadn’t ever expressed what those were.

      1. Drama Llama*

        The majority of people start within 2-3 weeks though. A two month delay in starting is unusual enough that a reasonable person would acknowledge the delay.

  52. I am Fergus*

    OP #4 I think you should definitely pull the job offer. You think the new employee is being difficult and when he comes on board you will probably not treat him well. I have seen this many times when the employer attitude turns sour. You already see him in a bad light. You would be doing him a favor. If you told me the way you felt I would pull my acceptance. I would see it as you really don’t like me and you don’t want me there, and that would be great to go to another company where my employer is happy and I am happy. Instead on a daily basis of the attitude how dare he negotiate, and I would sense something amiss and it would fester. I would rather be cut loose before I go then be fired after a week because of the bug up your ass.

    1. Greg*

      What you’re saying may be true. But OP’s letter suggests that she may not have done a good job communicating her needs to the candidate. She was annoyed by his efforts to negotiate, she didn’t like that he announced his start date rather than asking … but it’s not clear that she stated when she would like him to start.

      As I said in another post, I think the OP needs to have a series of honest conversations. First with herself, about what is bothering her about this candidate. Then with her boss/HR, about how she wants to move forward in the hiring process. And finally with the candidate, so that everyone’s interests are clearly expressed.

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