my friend might get fired, coworker spoke for the group without checking with us, and more

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

1. My friend might get fired — can I help?

A couple months ago I referred a friend for a job in my department and he was hired. I was recently told by my boss (his boss’s boss) that things weren’t working out great so far — friend is very hard-working, etc., but has been making mistakes. I think my boss told me because he hopes I might be able to somehow help (I’m in the same department but the work is quite different). Friend knows about the mistakes and has tried very hard to correct them when they occur but doesn’t seem to be aware that the situation is quite as bad as apparently it is. I’m worried that termination is a possible option, and what that would mean for his career and finances generally. Anything I can do to help?

Maybe, but it might just be that this is the wrong fit. But if your sense is that he hasn’t been clearly told that the problems are serious and that he would be better able to correct them if he understood that, you could potentially point that out to your boss. (And really, that’s just good practice anyway — someone who’s in danger of getting fired deserves to know they’re in danger of getting fired.) It’s not really your job to have that conversation, although you might decide that your friendship obligates you to. Ideally, though, it would come from his boss.

Beyond that, if you realize your friend hasn’t asked for reasonable help that he needs, such as better training or clearer expectations or more specific feedback, you could urge him to clearly ask for those things, or you could discreetly mention to your boss that your sense is those things would help. But ultimately, this may not be a great fit for your friend (in which case, while getting fired sucks, it might be better long-term than lingering in a job he’s never going to do well at).

2. A coworker spoke for the group without checking with us first

I read your article on how to speak up as a group, but I wonder — what happens when one speaks on behalf of the group without checking in with us?

A small group of us are having some difficulty in this newly created position for the department and a lot of the stress comes from not knowing what our role is (our direct supervisor isn’t being too clear to begin with) and some hostility from the other members in the department. Within the group, we discussed some of our frustrations and whatnot. Some have sent lengthy emails to our direct supervisor for support and have had no response.

Understandably, we’re in quite a frustrating situation. One coworker decided to check in with our union rep. However, the language in that email suggests that the coworker is speaking on our behalf (a lot of “we feel… we have experienced…”). I don’t disagree entirely with what was written, but I am not comfortable that they spoke for me without checking in first.

How do I tactfully ask the coworker not to do that in the future? Do I say anything in response to the union rep?

“Hey, Jane, I don’t disagree with much of what you’ve written, but I’m not comfortable that you spoke for me without checking with me first. In the future, before you speak for the group of us, will you check with each of us individually and make sure we’re okay with that, or change your wording so that it doesn’t sound like you’re speaking for all of us?”

Jane might be frustrated to hear this, because it can be frustrating to feel like everyone agrees with you but no one is willing to back you up when you try to get something done about it, but you still have the right to sign off on communications made in your name.

3. Special treatment for senior execs’ life events

What are your thoughts on special treatment (not gifts) for those at the very top of an organization? I was just given a card to sign for our VP, whose father recently suffered a heart attack. He survived and seems to be doing okay, but my grandboss is having our department sign a card for the VP saying we are sorry about her dad (I think that’s the sentiment?) and best wishes for a speedy recovery. It’s a nice gesture of course, but I know that if my own father were to have a heart attack (and survive), I certainly wouldn’t be getting a card like this, as a run-of-the-mill employee. I had another instance in a different department where it was the birthday of a member of the C-suite. My grandboss in that department announced it at a staff meeting (the birthday celebrant was not present) and told us we should all email the executive or stop by her office and wish her a happy birthday. This exec doesn’t know any lower-level staff members’ birthdays, nor would she be told to seek us out and wish us a happy birthday.

I like and respect both of the executives in these stories, but this special treatment makes me feel weird. Of course acknowledging the death of a parent, or a wedding or a new baby all seem appropriate but the two examples above seem a bit excessive. It feels as though my grandbosses have used their own positions of authority to compel their staff into putting on a show for the C-suite. But perhaps this is just a perk of the job for the execs?

Nah, it’s weird and they shouldn’t do it. It comes across as your grandboss being a little obsequious/currying favor with the C-suite, and it’s a fairly rude message to send to the rest of you. If you’re going to do group acknowledgements of life events, you’ve got to do them for everyone or for no one. (Or do them only for very unusual, extreme situations — like it would be fine to rarely do them, but decide to when someone loses everything in a fire, or so forth — but even then you need to be careful you don’t then ignore the person with a different but equally horrible crisis six months later. Which is one reason why it sometimes makes sense to limit these to immediate coworkers only.)

4. Will getting relocation assistance affect my salary offer?

I am interviewing for an out-of-state position with a Fortune 500 company. I’ve gone through a few rounds of phone interviews and they are flying me in for an in-person interview and will cover the cost of airfare, hotel, and rental car. During the course of our discussions, they have mentioned that they also provide small relocation assistance. A salary range has already been discussed (I asked them the range on the initial phone interview and they provided one), but I’m curious if I should expect the lower end of the range. Should I get offered the position, do you think being an out-of-state candidate impacts the salary offer and do I have less negotiation power because of those factors?

No, typically that shouldn’t be a factor. They should make a salary offer based on what your work will be worth to the company, taking into account market rates, and not on relocation assistance — in part because that salary needs to keep you happy (and retained) 10 months from now, and because your future raises will likely be based on whatever salary is set now.

If you were interviewing with a smaller company, it might be more of a factor (in part because budgets can be tighter and all of this can be less formal), but Fortune 500s that do relocation are typically set up to look at relocation as a separate thing from salary negotiations.

{ 151 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, it’s ok for these execs to be responsive to their peer colleague’s important life events, but the weird part is that they’re pulling all of you into it and making it a thing. If they want to send cards, they should organize among themselves instead of trying to impose one-way “thoughtfulness.”

    1. Bea*

      Agreed and unless you work where the executives actually know everyone on staff it’s pretty tacky that they’re doing this kind of thing. It’s strange AF to me to sign a card for someone who is just a name on a door somewhere in the organisation. That’s just my general peeve about not knowing your executives bleeding into this thing though *twitch*

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Especially birthdays, I think. I can feel sympathy for anybody’s losses and other sad life events, but I am 100% indifferent to random people’s birthdays

        1. Bea*

          I’m lukewarm on all celebrations in general. It’s one of the few things I’m overtly personal about.

          Sympathy is a different can of worms for sure. I see a family loss or illness as a rallying moment but “woohoo birthdays and weddings and babies” *farting noise*

        2. Quickbeam*

          I have strongly held feelings of hatred about birthday celebrations at work. It seems so ridiculous.

          1. AKchic*

            Psh – I don’t celebrate my birthday at all; but I’m willing to fake extra birthdays in order to ensure that my office has cake. And ice cream. Because who wouldn’t want sweet goodies (or the equivalent) to break up the monotony of an office?

      2. OP3*

        We know our execs better than in most organizations of our size, but it still feels weird that just because they have a corner office we have to go above and beyond what we would do for a normal colleague who we see every day/actually work closely with. Agreed that it is tacky!

        1. SoCalHR*

          I am on the upper half of a very small organization and I felt SO icky when I found out they asked for a couple bucks from employees to get me a gift for my birthday – not just because of the ‘gifts flow down’ guideline, but also because I was the first one they did this with. I feel like it creates an image of me that I do not want to have (and did not ask for!)

          1. AKchic*

            Oh my, I can 100% see your point!

            At my last job, I was a “birthday twin” with a c-suite person who loved her birthday. I don’t celebrate mine. She seemed mortally offended that I didn’t and would make a big deal about us celebrating “together”. Now, normally we were good friends, worked well together, but our “birthday month” was one I tried to avoid her on.
            She would even ensure the admin potluck that month was our “birthday party”.

            Luckily with my new job, my mother can’t be bothered to celebrate my birthday.

          2. TootsNYC*

            oh yeah!

            Several years ago, a colleague sent out an email saying, “It’s Department Boss’s birthday, let’s get a present. Please give me your contributions.” It got cancelled.

            In one of the conversations I had with other people about it, when they said they were offended and mentioned a negative judgment toward Boss, I said, “She probably doesn’t even know–that’s not fair to link this to her.”

            I also used to write an etiquette column, and I used to point out, when people were offended by the “address your own thank-you note envelope at the baby shower” routine, that the guest of honor may not even be aware of the hostess’s plan to do this!

        2. TootsNYC*

          I wonder if I’d be brave enough to say, “It was nice that we signed that card for Executive last week; I’m sure it’s a tough time for him, with his dad being so sick. But I know some people who aren’t as high-ranking are also having difficulties; are you planning to offer the same sort of gesture of support to them? It seems to me that would be appropriate.”

    2. Mookie*

      “Everyone e-mail bomb Meg on the top floor and make sure to individually knock on her office door all day” is something you do to an enemy you can’t glitter-bomb in person because they know you and you’ll get fired and/or have to vacuum up the glitter in front of everyone. But for a few very narcissistic people who get off on meaningless gestures meant to demean the gesturer, no one is going to enjoy this kind of attention from people they don’t know.

      “Thank you for the heart attack card filled with the signatures and platitudes of strangers. I’ll treasure it always.” There’s just no reason for dumping this amount of cringe on so many innocent people.

      1. LSP*

        Those were my thoughts exactly. If I were a busy C-suite executive, having people stopping by my office or emailing me birthday greetings all day would be the worst. In fact, I may not be C-suite, but I’m busy as hell, and I get annoyed when I get stuck on a non-work-related email chain that keeps pinging while I am trying to do my work.

  2. Mark132*

    @LW3 the whole thing to be honest kind of strikes me as some good old fashioned “a**-kissing” by middle management. Especially the birthday wishes.

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      I like how you put this. This might be because of former workplace, but we did these things because middle management wanted to suck up to upper management. Middle management also liked to do things like that for her favorites. I wasn’t one of the favorites, so my life events weren’t acknowledged.

      It sucked and it hurt morale.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Oh yes, I’ve seen the favorites got all kinds of special acknowledgement. One pregnant coworker would get the huge, kinda-mandatory-at-least-for-the-women baby shower, with gifts, cupcakes, games, onesie decorating, etc. And somebody else at the same level would just get a card that basically said “congratulations on the baby, we guess.”

        It was a popularity contest among peers as much as managers, but the managers were definitely complicit. And it was terrible for morale.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I think my favorite was when we all were asked (which given middle management, wasn’t a real ask) to sign a card for someone who was actually fired for not doing their job. Meanwhile, when I left on my own accord, no one acknowledged it even verbally. I brought in money and did my job as well as others.

          1. Samiratou*

            I would have so much fun with this one. “I’m SO GLAD to hear you’re moving on to pursue new opportunities! I’m sure your new employers will be able to appreciate your social media efforts* as much as we did and I wish you best of luck in those endeavors with your new employer!”

            *Insert whatever he did to slack off instead of doing his actual job here.

        2. Applesauced*

          This happened in our office recently…. Sarah has been at the company for 5+ years, is a rockstar, and is on track for a leadership role – many people voluneteered to help throw a moderate office baby shower, we decorated an conference room, had cake, and everyone pitched in for a small present.
          Katie had been with the company for less than 6 months when she began her leave, and she’s very quiet/shy – we had cake near our desks and signed a card.

      2. Jesca*

        Yeah, this is for of the outcome, I think, of ass kissing office cultures. It also creates the situation Tuxedo Cat points out as well where “celebrations” are made to favor some and exclude others by lower level employees. The mindset trickles down.

        That whole ass kissing culture is so counter to inclusivity and actual professionalism, creates a lot of distraction with meaningless drama, and allows pretty incompetent people to run a business into the ground because no one is rewarded for actual good work. I’m not sure I have any advice outside Alison, because there really isn’t much you can do when management behaves this way.

  3. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

    LW #2, one phrase I’ve found helps avoid the self-appointed spokesperson getting defensive is “to see if there’s anything else we want to add.” You’re not asking her not to send it… you’re asking her to check and see if there’s anything else on the laundry list of what needs to be addressed. It just, conveniently, means she checks in with everyone before she speaks for the group.

    1. MK*

      I don’t agree. A person who takes it upon themselves to speak for a group without explicit consent has seriously overstepped (probably without ill intent, but still they really should have known better) and they shouldn’t be treated with kid gloves; you are not asking, you are telling them not to speak on your behalf and there is no reason to be overly diplomatic about it. Your script implies that’s it was basically ok for the coworker to do this and the OP is just worried that they didn’t cover everything, which is missing the main point and will probably be taken for approval by the coworker.

      Also, there is no question about asking her not to send it; she can do what she likes. The problem is that she used first plural instead of singular.

      1. Artemesia*

        I agree MK, this has the potential to derail a bunch of careers. I have had a clueless co-worker try to ride on my status to get something done that was clearly denied by the C -suite dude in charge of the domain. They decided to write a protesting lettering requesting that the decision be overturned — because they were clueless and didn’t understand that your options are very limited once ‘no’ has been said. She attached my name which was the highest profile here and several others who had worked on the project that didn’t get approved so that it appeared that we were all agreeing to keep pushing. This marked me with a fairly new high level boss and would have seriously damaged my career if I was not already close to retirement, so that I didn’t have any further ambitions in higher levels of the company. You cannot unring that bell; you can explain you didn’t authorize the use of your name, but it was done and we looked tone deaf and were annoying.

        Having your name used like this is an extremely serious breech of ethics with the potential to do serious harm. No soft pussyfooting around this or she will do it again; this is one to have a fit about so she knows for sure to never put you in that position again. I can’t think of too many worse things a co-worker can do than formally represent you in a complaint that you have no agreed to put your name on.

        1. AKchic*

          All of this right here.

          You don’t use someone else’s name, clout, or reputation without their express permission/consent. You don’t speak for someone without permission/consent because when you do, you are putting their reputation on the line just as much, if not more so (especially if they have more clout/a better reputation than you do).
          Generally, a person with the highest authority is the group’s spokesperson. If I know someone to be of impeccable integrity and an absolute authority in a subject, I listen to them. When that person has someone else speak for them, I assume that the other person is either just as qualified or better qualified because they can not only speak the same “lingo”, but can translate it for the masses and the person I trusted as a source of information trusts this person to speak better on the subject.
          Sometimes, the elected spokesperson’s best attribute is that they can easily translate and advocate better than the rest of the group.
          However, it is up to the group to decide who does this. If there is an actual group that needs this service.

          Sorry; I didn’t mean to jump in and pontificate.

      2. Grey area*

        MK, I think you’re solving a different problem than Good, Cheap, or Soon. You’re solving for the problem of resolving what you consider inappropriate behavior. Good, Cheap, or Soon is solving for the problem of the coworker speaking out of turn — it doesn’t matter if coworker thinks it’s okay or not okay to speak for the group as long as OP gets the desired effect.

        My reading of OP’s letter is that they do care about coworker knowing that what they did is wrong. The problem with this approach is that if the coworker disagrees, you’re not going to get what you want. This is an alternative that focuses on the more important of the two issues, which is stopping the coworker from talking out of turn, not making sure the coworkers know what they did is wrong.

        1. MK*

          The coworker speaking out of turn is absolutely not the most important issue, in my opinion. And asking her to run her communications by you before she sends them doesn’t really solve the problem; if she thinks this is basically ok, she will sooner or later take some action without consulting you, because she takes your agreement for granted.

          Also, if she “disagrees” that she doesn’t get to use my name without explicit consent, she will find herself the subject of a complaint to our supervisor, HR, the union, and anyone else I can think of. I really don’t understand why you think it’s something she gets a say in.

          1. Grey area*

            I haven’t stated my opinion on whether coworker should or should not “get a say” in whether she shares OP’s opinions without her permissions, so I’m not going to engage in a debate on that. Your combativeness doesn’t seem necessary here.

            It does seems like you agree with the only statement I made, which is that the original commenter is solving for a different problem than the one the letter writer is interested in solving.

    2. Logan*

      I have dealt with this type of situation by saying “I feel X, and I know others have expressed concerns about it as well. Please let me know if I should encourage them to contact you directly with more information.” That way I felt that I wasn’t speaking for them, and those others were anonymous the entire time.

      “We feel” is a potentially problematic statement.

    3. Laoise*

      That is a phrase for a different problem. It solves the problem “something I wanted you to say on my behalf wasn’t said.”

      The problem here is “things were said on my behalf without my consent.”

      I’m looking at losing my job because someone complained on my behalf without my consent about my lack of benefits. Lack of benefits isn’t fair, I don’t disagree, but since they can’t just give me benefits, they are now considering eliminating the position.

      I want to go back in time and stop her from speaking as “we”. I don’t want to go back in time and add more fuel to the fire, like your suggestion would tell her

    4. OP #2*

      I’ve read the current replies so far and I agree with those who disagree with you – my intent is that I’d like to make it clear that the coworker should have used language like “Logan” suggested – making it clear that she was mostly speaking for herself. If she was inclined to throw our feedback in there, using the language that she’s heard similar concerns would have been fine. It was quite problematic for me that she used the “we”‘s without my consent

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – Relocation assistance is a one shot event. It usually comes out of a different bucket than salaries.
    I’d side eye anyone that reduces your salary due to assistance.
    Some HR people may include it as part of your “total compensation” for the year though.

    1. Bea*

      Yeah, it’s like a signing bonus. It’s added to the recruiting fees instead of the wages budget. It doesn’t make sense to give a relocation allowance and dock pay, it defeats the purpose of finding your ideal staff member out of the area.

      1. Anonymoose*

        Precisely. During my salary negotiations, I asked for more money. While they couldn’t budget it long term, they could give me a $5k cash relo package/signing bonus. Since it cost me only $500 to move, I was quite happy having that extra cash. Thankfully the company also gave very generous annual bonuses, so the salary really wasnt as much of an issue.

        OP, make sure you understand their requirements for a relo/signing bonus/annual bonus. Make sure you understand whether you have to pay any of them back if you leave before, say, six months or a year for no cause on your part. It’s the little details that are everything.

        Good luck!

        1. Anonymoose*

          Also, my $5k relo covered travel from CA to WA, if this makes a difference. Though I would think higher execs get much more, including mortgage and housing while waiting for a new home purchase. My boss lived in one of those long term suite places across the street for months, and it was covered by the company’s recruiting budget, not our departmental overhead.

    2. Close Bracket*

      “Some HR people may include it as part of your “total compensation” for the year though”

      The IRS definitely will.

      1. Safetykats*

        Yes, any relo will be counted as part of total compensation. If that’s going to change your taxes for the year in a way that’s problematic, ask them if they can do a “gross-up” – increase your reported relo by an amount equal to the income taxes charged on the actual relo. This is fairly common, especially for packages that pay portions of relo direct (e.g., direct to the moving company).

        When a manager is hiring, in a company of any size, or for types of contract work where relo is an allowable expense, the job is either posted to include relo or not. Typically if we’ve posted it not to include relo, we interview local candidates only.

      2. Bea*

        Only if it’s a lump sum. If they reimburse actual receipts, it’s not taxable income.

        They should run it through their payroll software and that will take out applicable taxes. It shouldn’t be a burden but you should remember “We offer 5k in relocation assistance.” means you’ll get a fraction of that after taxes. Just like a 5k bonus.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yep, I got a 5K “sign on” bonus, which was really awesome and unexpected, but it was much closer to $3200 (ish, I forget exactly) after taxes.

          1. jack*

            that’s rough. My employer gives these after tax. So I get the $3.5K or whatever it is total.

        2. LarsTheRealGirl*

          Lump-sum vs actual dictates how the company handles it, but you could* claim eligible expenses on your return either way, with the same net effect.

          *Moving expenses are no longer deductible under the new tax plan so it’s all taxable income no matter how it’s handled.

        3. Helena*

          The recent tax bill has changed how taxes are calculated on relocation, so it now doesn’t matter whether it was paid directly to the mover or as a lump sum to the person. For the OP, I would expect a Fortune 500 company to be on top of things, but it’s worth double-checking.

        4. NewWorkingMama*

          I actually received my enter relocation amount. As in, they said you’ll receive 7K, which I did and then realized it was 7K + taxes so that you actually receive the money you need to move. YMMV.

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. Having been in a team with a similar situation, it could be that the employee doesn’t have the specific skills required for the job. Now they may well be hard working, personable, and willing, but when you need someone to manage chocolate teapot sales, and their experience is in marzipan coffeepot handling, there may not be sufficient overlap.

    Also, when the rest of the team is up to their eyeballs in their own work, being interrupted with questions about a task which you have already demonstrated and walked through several times and is a large component of daily work can be frustrating.

  6. LovecraftInDC*

    OP3- I’m in a very similar situation in my work, although with us (a medium-sized department in a much larger organization) it’s generally the managers organizing things for each other as well as the directors. It’s extremely odd. My boss just left, and there was a large lunch organized for his going away. (He’s not even leaving the company, he’s just transferring to another department). Another manager had a birthday, and a bunch of people went out to lunch for it. The managers also all regularly go out for lunch on Fridays.

    It’s always felt very odd and exclusionary, and it’s always been obvious to me as somebody at the bottom of the reporting pyramid that if I were to leave, there wouldn’t be a lunch or anything in my honor. It definitely hurts morale.

    1. LovecraftInDC*

      On a side note, after my boss left, I was promoted to replace him. Still don’t know whether or not I am going to let myself become a member of the ‘group’, but a lot of this ends up being important networking, so I feel I’m doing myself a disservice by not joining up. I also know that some of it is because managers are discouraged from going to lunch with reports because it can be seen as exclusionary.

      1. Tipcat*

        ” I also know that some of it is because managers are discouraged from going to lunch with reports because it can be seen as exclusionary.”

        This is important. In some workplaces, managers are *forbidden* from lunching with subordinates.

        1. Kim, aka Ranavain*

          What a terrible, dumb policy. An ultimate example of what happens when a company has shitty managers but refuses to actually fix the problem – you end up with a bunch of policies that attempt to mitigate the bad management, but don’t actually make anything better.

        2. A. Schuyler*

          Forbidden? That’s absurd. Most of my performance and development conversations in my current role have been held over breakfast or lunch or coffee. And does this apply to everyone in the manager level and everyone in the team member level? I’d be a very lonely associate if that were the case.

      2. Madeleine Matilda*

        I’d encourage you to join the lunches. It will be a good way to connect with your peers in a more informal setting outside of meetings. Managers at my level at my agency have a monthly lunch as does my boss and his peers. I’ve found it a great way to get to know people when I was new here. I don’t eat lunch with my direct reports for exactly the reason you state – it can give an appearance of favoritism. I do however treat my small team to lunch 2-3 times per year so we can all socialize together.

        1. Kim, aka Ranavain*

          Can you not, like, just make sure you’re taking all your direct reports to lunch in turn?

          I mean, I presume you’re still able to do one-on-ones, I’m really unsure how the occasional one-on-one lunch (assuming you’re not taking the same person over and over) is any different?

    2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      I worked in an office where the secretaries went for weekly lunches and it was made clear it was for secretaries only. Anyone who wasn’t a secretary and showed up was told to leave. The leader was the director’s secretary and everyone accepted her authority over the group (attendance was mandatory). It struck me as weird, fortunately I wasn’t one of them.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        Was it a working lunch? That’s the only reason I could see the lunch being exclusive.

        1. Kim, aka Ranavain*

          Well, it’s a bit different, because in OP’s example, it’s all the people with the most power getting together and socializing. Secretaries aren’t generally known for their power; I think it’s totally fine for people in similar low-power positions in a workplace to decide they’re going to lunch together exclusively from time to time.

    3. Thlayli*

      I don’t get why you think it’s odd for managers to go to lunch together. Who else are they going to go with?

      1. Artemesia*

        yeah I don’t see a problem with them feting each other either as long as they aren’t collecting money from employees to do it — unless of course it is being done at the office. If everyone is not celebrated for events then the managers need to do this off site at one of their lunches or whatever.

  7. Thlayli*

    OP2: “Within the group, we discussed some of our frustrations and whatnot.”

    If your coworker was part of that conversation, and her communication with the union rep reflected that conversation, then she probably thinks she DID check in with the group. You will have to be very clear about what your concern is. Personally if I vented to my coworkers about my feelings I wouldn’t want that passed on to a union rep without my permission, and I’m guessing that is what is upsetting you. Focus on the fact that she needs to check specifically that people are happy with involving the union, not just that they agree with the complaints, before she sends an email that speaks for the whole group.

    1. Mad Baggins*

      From that sentence, I actually concluded that she DID check in. If the issue is how she is taking action then you should make that clear, especially if you don’t otherwise disagree with what she said about the situation.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Yeah, in this case I think the damage is done, and it would only be helpful to say “next time, would you let us know when you’re going to talk to the union rep?” Even “We might have something to add.” Completely inoffensive.

        1. Artemesia*

          No. This is a major violation — you do not speak for others in the workplace without their explicit permission. SHE can complain to the union rep but she CANNOT do this on behalf of the group without their explicit permission. This is not a little thing. It is not something to vague speak about. It is ‘Do not ever again speak in my name in this organization unless I have given you explicit permission to do so and I have seen the document you plan to send.’ This is a giant big deal.

          1. Kim, aka Ranavain*

            Eh, I’m not sure I agree. I can see where the wording is rankling, but she has things to say to the union rep, and if you know others agree, it doesn’t make sense to not mention that, you know? She probably thought she was fine because she wasn’t being specific; anyone could still say “oh, that’s not me, I don’t feel that way.” She didn’t sign anyone’s name to it, she expressed a sentiment and that others share that sentiment. I agree it’s not ideal, but it’s not like she forged anyone’s names on a demand letter. She informed a union rep of the realities that the team 1) feels, and 2) expressed, in the workplace, in a group. I agree that talking to her about how to approach that better is good, but this seems overblown in a situation where it doesn’t even sound like she was making any kind of formal complaint or advocating for any specific remedy.

            1. OP #2*

              In a way, she did sign our names to it by cc’ing all of us in that role and using “we” statements. She even mentioned others’ experiences that were not specific to her. I really do know she meant well but the entire email just reeked of “let me speak on your behalf” and I was really not okay with that. Do I want our issues resolved, yes. But we should have found a way to come together to discuss how to move forward as a group.

          2. Jesmlet*

            I think I’d split the difference between you and Pollygrammer here. I don’t think it’s quite as serious as you’re making it out to be considering it seems that the coworker didn’t name drop specific people but in using a generic “we”, everyone gets tied in and it’s a big enough deal to have more than just a passing casual conversation about what to do in the future.

            I’d probably say something like, “escalating an issue to a boss or union rep is a serious matter and it’s important to check with everyone on both their willingness and the messaging before doing so, particularly if you present it as if you’re speaking on behalf of the whole group.”

            1. AKchic*

              Escalating to a union rep *is* actually a serious thing, though. And to unilaterally assign yourself the spokesperson as she did, is a big thing. By cc’ing everyone, she made it seem as if she was keeping everyone in the loop to a further discussion/keeping them apprised, as if everyone was already aware of the fact that she was going to reach out to the union rep, as if it had been a group decision and that they’d elected her the group spokesperson. By using “we” statements, it further reinforces that (non)decision.

              It may not seem like a big deal from your perspective, but to union workers, it actually is a serious breach of not only etiquette, but of trust and good-faith. It also sets back good-will and may hamper bargaining/negotiating depending on what the issues are because now they are all lumped in together under that banner, unless someone admits that this person went rogue and destroy that person’s credibility (or file a grievance).

              Union politics can get sticky. Much like everything else. There are rules to follow.

              1. Mad Baggins*

                I wonder if Jane is familiar with union culture herself. She might not have thought that sending an email was equivalent to a formal complaint. Maybe she thought “Hey I’ll get the ball rolling on some actual change and see what can be done, and CC everyone so they’re informed”… I can see myself making that mistake, since I’m not familiar with US unions.

    2. Susie Q*

      I think checking in entails saying “Do you want me to share this with the union rep?”.The coworker “checked in” about the situation, not the part of sharing it with other people.

      1. MK*

        Exactly. I can understand if the coworker got carried away while writing to the union and thoughtlessly used “we” because of the conversation with the rest of the team. But if she thought anything discussed between coworkers is fair game to repeat in an official context, I would stay silent around her from now on.

        1. Mike C.*

          Staying silent and not participating is the last thing you should do in a union environment.

          1. MK*

            I very specifically said I would stay silent around a person who thinks they get to use what I told them without consulting me. I really don’t get the context for your reply.

      2. OP #2*

        Yup – this is what I meant by the lack of “checking in.” Venting and talking about our frustrations with one another is one thing. Using that information and speaking as a “we” to a union rep is another. Personally, I would not have escalated to the union rep so seeing that I was cc’ed in an email was a surprise and very off-putting. I know my coworker meant well though at the same time, I’m not as bothered as she is about our situation. I would have really liked knowing ahead of time that she was going to go to the union rep

        1. Amber T*

          Going off of what Jesmlet said above, if it’s one person using a generic “we,” it probably holds even less weight. One person saying “we all agree” is usually seen as overly dramatic. She could saying 100% the truth and everything you and your coworkers actually agree on, but if you and the rest of your coworkers aren’t jumping in with an enthusiastic “yeah!” this coworker is probably just being labeled as a complainer and the rest of you are probably fine.

    3. MK*

      No. Unless the conversation ended with her saying “I am going to write to the union about our complaints” and no one objected, it would not have been reasonable for her to think she had permission to speak for the group.

      1. OP #2*

        Exactly. And based on our schedules, our group would not have had the opportunity to meet as a group. We work in shifts and at any one time, there’s at max, two people together who can talk about their issues

    4. Lora*

      *sigh* I’ve been Jane. Everyone sits around agreeing that Problem A sucks, Problem B sucks, and SOMEBODY needs to do something about it, management sitting on their thumbs, waaaah waaahh. And Problems are often very legitimate problems – at least in the US, you don’t get a union unless management has really Fked Up Big Time. Everyone agrees that Someone Must Do Something! And they look pointedly and make puppy dog eyes at someone who they feel could be the fall guy, someone who they wouldn’t feel too bad about getting in trouble.

      So Jane decides, okay, I will be that person, I will be the fall guy, whatever – even if there’s no union rep, Jane calls OSHA or the department of Labor, whichever regulatory agency, and does the right thing. Blows the whistle, because from Jane’s perspective it is both the right thing to do and also everyone agrees about Problems, clearly.

      Then ALL THOSE WHINY FKERS who were happy to complain the live-long day start chirping, “oh, I didn’t mean THAT! I didn’t mean you should actually DO anything, Jane! Oh, why didn’t you check with me first?” and much pearl-clutching ensues. Partly this is posturing because they’re scared that management will think they were amongst the complainers (they were!) or that they are unhappy (they are!) or whatever. Partly they were just venting and didn’t actually mean anything, figured they would blow off steam and get over it and go back to their usual selves on Monday, because they didn’t ever intend to stick their necks out and deal with the problem in a meaningful way in the first place. Partly it’s an ask vs guess thing. Maybe they weren’t actually all that cheesed off about Problems and they were going along to get along with other people who were complaining, because peer pressure is a terrible thing. Maybe this is just a job and whatever, if they weren’t complaining about Problems they’d be complaining about Game of Thrones missing a whole year before the next season or something, they just like complaining as a means of conversation.

      OP, be very careful about how and *why* you talk to Jane about this. It’s going to look, from her perspective, at the very least, like you’re an insincere bs-er.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        In my own experience, there are way more people in the world that try to bolster their own pet grievances by claiming that everyone feels the same way rather than people like the one in your example.

        Being an agent of change is very difficult, but you can’t claim to speak for people who haven’t given their consent to represent them, regardless of how much they complain about a problem.

        1. voyager1*

          I have been the “Jane” too, except in my situations. First time it involved a bullying/sex harrasssment issue and the second time it involved a bad team member not being a team player. Both times I got the whole second guessing—why didn’t you come to us—not speaking up treatment. It really shakes my faith in people will do the right thing.

          The only thing I don’t understand about this LW is the union angle. Wouldn’t speaking up almost always be good in a union setting?!?! Never been a member of a union so forgive my ignorance on this.

          1. OP #2*

            I’m also new to the union culture – I don’t think our frustrations are based on violations or unsafe practices. It simply boils down to – we don’t know what exactly our job entail and neither do others in our department. So that creates a little bit of conflict. It’s more frustrating when we don’t know what our direct supervisor wants as she isn’t responding to their emails

            1. doreen*

              I’m not saying she shouldn’t have checked with everybody before sending the email – but I don’t really get how her saying ” We have experienced” or “We feel” implies that it was a joint decision to contact the union anymore than the OP saying ” we’re in quite a frustrating situation” implies that it was a joint decision to write to AAM. Sure , there are ways to imply that it was a joint decision ( writing in memo form with everyone’s name on the “From” line or in letter form with everyone’s name at the end) but I don’t think using “we” rather than “I” implies anything other than she is not the only person having these experiences and feelings.

          2. AKchic*

            It would have been better if everyone had a chance to see the email prior to it being sent out and consent to the email being sent out and choose whether or not to be represented by the email.

        2. McWhadden*

          “In my own experience, there are way more people in the world that try to bolster their own pet grievances by claiming that everyone feels the same way rather than people like the one in your example.”

          But that’s not the case here. The person who contacted the union knew everyone agreed with her.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            You’re missing the point. Even if the person who contacted the union knew everyone agreed with her, she still can’t invoke the group without their permission. Speaking truth to power can be costly and not everyone is in a position where they can do so.

            Furthermore, Lora is projecting their personal situation onto the LW’s situation and being very unkind in doing so.

            1. tangerineRose*

              There’s a difference from knowing that everyone agrees with you and that everyone wants to be part of a complaint to the union. A very big difference.

              1. Artemesia*

                As the people who signed the petition to change the dress code for interns found out, there can be consequences of ‘speaking truth to power.’

      2. Roscoe*

        Totally agree. I wrote something like this as well. The thing is, OP did have the problem. The OP WAS unhappy. And Jane was the one to talk to someone about ways to improve the situation it seems everyone had a problem with. Sure, using “we” may have implied that every single person had the same belief. But it seems that she wasn’t incorrect in anything she said. OP just wants plausible deniability. So if management says something OP can say “well, I wasn’t complaining about that, but now that you bring it up, sure, this would be nice” and just throw Jane under the bus.

        1. MK*

          I am unhappy about a lot of things that I would not decide to report to my union for various reasons. And using “we” didn’t just imply that everyone agreed with Jane; that wouldn’t be so bad, since they did in fact express these views. It suggested that her communication was a joint action,when it very much was not.

          1. OP #2*

            (I feel like I’m just following your responses lol)

            Thank you for helping me express my frustration! It is exactly that – that it appeared to be a joint decision to involve the union when it definitely was not. Could I have agreed to it? Probably if others felt inclined to do so as well, but being taken for by surprise is really jarring.

            1. tangerineRose*

              And it probably makes you wonder what else she might say or do that could include you without your agreement. At least, I’d wonder.

      3. anon for this one*

        I had a similar situation when I was a grad student and our embarrassingly small stipend for TA’ing was cut by 25% two weeks before the term started. Everyone complained. MamaG said, we need to speak directly to the dept chair and the dean of the division asap and I’ll write the letter. Then everyone can look it over and sign it.
        LOL, guess who signed it?
        I ran it by a lawyer friend for wording, made sure it did not even imply that the very few signers spoke for anyone but themselves (we made an argument that clearly would apply to all of us, but it was presented as an argument from just the few of us and not from a larger group). We got our measly money back for everybody. I think the letter embarrassed the powers-that-be, because we had zero power.

        My point is, everyone making puppy dog eyes doesn’t mean you should take that next step without being really really explicit and giving people the chance to opt in. I do understand exactly how frustrating this situation is, I do understand that it’s scary and hard to be the fall guy. But you can’t speak for others unless they explicitly say, speak for me.

      4. Myrin*

        I very much agree on principle and really like your last two sentences here as an advice for OP, but I also think it’s imperative for anyone speaking for a group to check with said group first.

        I’m kind of the natural solution for a fall guy, as you call it – I’m confident, usually the most well-spoken person in the room, and not easy to intimidate -, and have acted as such on three occasions that I can think of. So I totally get the frustration of feeling like you’re doing something for a group only to find out that suddenly, all those forceful complainers are retreating into the shadows (although I was lucky to always have the group’s back when I was in that situation).

        But I actually think that one of the things that make a good fall guy is the willingness to, if it comes down to it, stand your ground and present your case without the group’s backup. I also think that it’s usually perfectly possible to speak about why A is a problem without involving any pronouns at all; you can say “with A happening, the people working the X shift no longer have any way to do Z, which is against Rule B we need to adhere to” without insinuating that everyone on shift X signed up on or even knows about your addressing the issue. Directly speaking for a group with literal pronouns such as “we” and “us” is something that should be reserved for situations where you actually have everyone’s blessing to us “we” and “us”.
        (Which really is frustrating, again, I totally agree with that, especially when it seemed like everyone was totally on-board with everything you said when you last spoke, but it really seems to be an unwritten (social?) rule one should adhere to if at all possible.)

      5. Jesmlet*

        I tend to be a bit Jane-like too, not in action but in mentality. I’m not one to sit around and bitch and not do anything about something that could potentially be solved. But I think it’s important to find out why other coworkers are bitching – are they bitching just to vent, or are they actually willing to stand up for themselves and be vocal when it comes down to it? Nothing wrong with being one or the other, but if you’re going to be the voice for the group, you need to know that the group will stand behind you when you do speak up, so getting permission and backing is absolutely essential, especially in a union environment.

  8. Nursey Nurse*

    I don’t understand why the situation raised in question three is such a big deal. If grandboss was soliciting for money or gifts for the VP, then I can see why it would be objectionable, but all they’re asking OP to do is sign a card for someone whose dad had a life-threatening health emergency. It takes 30 seconds. The birthday thing is weirder, but again it sounds like a pretty minimal ask. These are things we do all the time at my workplace.

    1. Close Bracket*

      It’s the non-reciprocation, not the act itself. None of those C suiters would do the same for someone at OP’s level, even though it would only take them 30 s.

        1. OP3*

          Close Bracket and Pollygrammer have explained it well. As I mentioned in my letter, I like these execs, they both know my name (although certainly not my birthday or anything going on in my personal life) and would greet me in passing if they saw me. I would of my own volition wish them a happy birthday if it came up organically, or if someone mentioned it and the exec was standing right there. It’s the idea that my grandbosses have used me and my coworkers to curry favor that irks me. As Close Bracket said, the lack of reciprocation that is annoying, not having to congratulate them in the first place (since I like them!).

      1. A Nickname for AAM*

        At my last job, we had a card circulate for the COO when she left the organization. Formal word was that she was “going back to school” but the real reason she quit was because she had applied to be CEO, and had been passed over. The organization had something like 20 sites but she worked at the corporate office, and her experience at our worksite was because she was besties with our site director and constantly covered for our site director’s awful behavior. Her husband often brought her kids to programming- which they often did not pay for- and he was rude and allowed the children to misbehave.

        I was very uncomfortable signing the card, because she had not once shown any sort of caring for any of us or even our worksite beyond what she could take for her family as an executive privilege.

    2. MLB*

      It’s more the principle of it than the act itself. Yes it only takes a minute to sign a card or wish someone a happy birthday, but unless they do the same for everyone (which in this case it sounds like they’re only doing it for the higher ups) it’s a ridiculous ask. It sounds like some ass-kissing endeavor by middle management. Personally, if I didn’t interact with the person, I wouldn’t participate. I hate fake sentiment.

      1. Artemesia*

        The birthday thing is particularly ridiculous. Grown-ass people don’t publicly celebrate their birthday except with close friends and family. And a card because someone’s FATHER had a heart attack? Weird. And tone deaf. It suggests that the higher ups lack any empathy at all as they obviously don’t think of their employees who are being asked to constantly fete them are actual people who have fathers who have health issues, or birthdays every single year just like they do.

    3. Anon for now*

      Sometimes being asked to do something so small for the people higher up can be even more grating because it would be so easy for the company to do that for everyone. It really send the message that non-executives don’t matter and they aren’t willing to spend even 30 seconds on them. If it is something that the company doesn’t do for anyone then there is no disparity.

    4. pleaset*

      I agree with NN. If this is a one-off thing, or rare, it’s not worth spending mental energy on. Sign it, or decline softly saying “I don’t really know him, so would prefer not to sign” and leave it at that.

      If it’s reflective of similar behavior on a much broader scale, treat it as an indicator of that problem, and think about it from that perspective.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Totally agree. To me, this sounds more like an ass-kissing manager and less like a broad cultural thing.

        1. OP3*

          We do have a culture here of raising the C-suite up on a pedestal, which can create conflicting feelings in the rank and file. We like our execs a lot actually, and have good relationships with most of them. It’s the feeling that we are being told how to behave in order for our managers to look good, I think that’s what’s annoying to many. The two examples I listed above are the most recent/prominent examples, but we have had other much more subtle cases where our managers police what we say and how we act when in front of the C-suite. Our line of work is very client facing so we all have excellent social skills (it’s basically a requirement of the job) and understand that you pay respect to those above you. But our direct managers still make sure that we are speaking to the execs like they are royalty. Which I think is also awkward for the execs, who know us!

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            Ugh, that sounds awful. Do they also use the “you should be happy to work here” excuse to pay below market rate?

            1. OP3*

              They actually pay us above market rate! We are not in a super desirable location, so they have to attract employees somehow! But they do use the “you should be happy to work here” line when we complain about anything, even constructive feedback that would improve our output (like better delegation of tasks, or utilizing certain people’s strengths).

    5. Kittymommy*

      Honestly I agree with this. This happens in my office (and no, it is not reciprocated) and as long as they’re not asking me for money I’ve never even thought about it.

    6. Kim, aka Ranavain*

      Agreeing with how others have put it. At an old job, my manager once asked me to order cookies because it was 2 peoples’ birthdays: one a senior editor, and one another longtime employee. I could tell they were unhappy with the fact that I said I thought we shouldn’t. Sure, it’s just cookies, but we had a team of around 80 people, and it was the first time that we’d ordered anything to recognize anyone’s birthday. The ostensible reason was “it’s two people’s birthdays!” (we had multiple same-birthday pairs on the team), but it was obvious they cared about *this* birthday of *this* senior team member (who, of course, makes plenty of money to buy her own cookies).

      Predictably, this was not the beginning of recognizing everyone’s birthdays. We never ordered birthday cookies for anyone else the rest of the time I was there.

  9. HR Expat*

    I work for a Fortune 500 and have given relo and received it several times. We never take it into account for salary purposes. It’s a means to get a candidate to the job that we’re paying them to do. However, any payments made directly to you or tax gross ups you receive for the relocation are counted toward your taxable income, and you can’t claim deductions for services that are paid directly to vendors (like moving expenses if the company hires movers for you).

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, that’s important to keep in mind. Granted, I’m Canadian, so I’m sure moving deductions are a bit different, but when my husband’s move was paid by work, we could only claim the actual expenses we paid, not the ones the employer paid directly. So we could claim expenses related to the house sale but not the moving van, mileage for one car but not the other (since the employer pays mileage for one), etc.

    2. LarsTheRealGirl*

      You can’t make deductions *at all* anymore for moving expenses under the new tax plan.

      But you definitely could claim payments to vendors previously if the payment was then included in your imputed income (if it wasn’t, then there was nothing to claim to begin with.)

  10. Close Bracket*

    OP1 – would you feel comfortable asking your boss whether he was telling you in the hopes that you would take action? If he doesn’t want you to do anything, he shouldn’t be sharing that sort of thing with you. If he does want you to do something, he should use his words to tell you what.

    If you are not supposed to do anything, you are in a really sticky situation with your friend. If things go badly for him and he finds out that you knew something and never said anything, it will impact your friendship negatively. I think that I would opt to talk to my friend because good friends are hard to find and are worth maintaining trust with, while my employer would be happy to let go of me in a heartbeat and hasn’t earned any trust to maintain.

    1. WorldsWorstHRPerson*

      I would agree with the suggestion for clairification. I have a feeling that the boss in this situation is passive-aggressively trying to say that you made a bad referral.
      If someone is publically saying that things are going bad, they may have already made the decision to end things. If that is the case, helping may have you go down with a sinking ship when the boss is saying to get on the life boat.

  11. Gotham Bus Company*

    OP 2…

    You know your coworker. Say something to her ONLY if you’re sure she would be receptive to your concerns. If she the type who feels that questioning her is the same as siding with Big Mean Boss, then don’t say anything.

    1. Anon for now*

      I’m not sure if that would be the best way to go about it. Definitely consider whether the potential fall out is worth it, but her perception of which “side” you are on should not mean that you let her walk all over you. Sometimes it is worth making waves.

  12. Boredatwork*

    #5 – I agree with Allison. Typically this is a separate HR policy. You’d negotiate your salary and then they’d go over the official relo policy. Though be warned, anything they give you will be compensation and not every employer grosses up wages.

  13. Roscoe*

    I’ve been the co-worker in #2, however its been more in meetings than in emails. But yeah, we’ve all discussed something, and as one of the more senior (and frankly more vocal) people, I spoke up on some issues. However, NO ONE had my back, even though they were complaining about the same thing just the day before at lunch. They just sat there in silence and let it look like it was only me that had this problem, which of course meant it was less likely to be dealt with. Let me just say, I lost A LOT of respect for my co-workers.

    I guess you have the “right” to be upset, but I’m just not sure why you are upset. Co-worker said “we feel” X, which is true. You guys have discussed how you feel. But he didn’t sign your name to anything. I suppose he could’ve said “a number of us feel…” which is a bit more vague, but it really seems to be semantics. Also, they asked a union rep. This wasn’t like a letter to your CEO or something. Asking a union rep is basically asking someone whose job it is to advocate for you, so again, I’m not understanding the problem. I’m sure if things get better because co-worker spoke up, you’d gladly enjoy the benefits, but it seems you aren’t willing to speak up.

    1. Kim, aka Ranavain*

      I tend to feel this way too. I get that it feels sucky to think you’re just venting to coworkers and then suddenly find out that they told someone else, but… venting isn’t really useful? You got together in a group to discuss some issues you all seemed to agree were issues, and then they told the union rep that a lot of people feel the same way. People are really reluctant to speak up at work, no matter how safe it actually is, because the power differential is so incredible that for a lot of people, sticking your neck even the slightest bit out feels wildly dangerous (just ask anyone who has ever tried to organize a union!)

      1. Roscoe*

        Yep. But that is what is more confusing. They are going to the union rep. It seems management has yet to even be involved in anything. It seems that Jane was asking the union rep for advice on something, and used “we” to indicated that it is a widespread problem, not a 1 person problem. I’m not understanding the anger here.

    2. Jesmlet*

      Yes to your whole second paragraph. Sure, it would’ve been nice to know ahead of time so you could collectively work on how to bring it up but checking in with a union rep, someone who is 100% on your side, seems pretty harmless with only an upside.

      I’ve also had a similar experience to yours way back when and when something came up again that would affect the whole group but no one seemed willing to speak up, I volunteered under the condition that they’d back me up in the meeting.

    3. OP #2*

      I’m new to the culture of unions and union reps, so perhaps to others, as you said Roscoe, it seems pretty harmless to reach out to an advocate about the issues. It’s not that I don’t disagree with the issues – I just wanted to know that my coworker was putting something in motion that involved me too. If she had said, “I’m going to email the union rep to see what our options are and to see how they can help us,” I probably would have been a little more okay with that. I don’t need to read the exact email she sent – just give me a heads up that you’re doing something so I can be aware of it.

      Thanks though, for your comment about the unions. Again, I’m new so to me, going to anybody else (e.g. union, HR, boss’s boss, etc) with our concerns feels like A REALLY BIG DEAL when it might not be.

    4. tangerineRose*

      I’d be annoyed if someone did this. Seems like Jane insinuated that the others felt the same way, and although they did, that doesn’t mean they wanted her to say this for them to the union or any other place where it would be official. This seems like the kind of thing that could backfire.

  14. Not Scrooge, I swear!*

    Hi OP3, similar situation here. In my company, every Christmas our HR head (Mindy) organizes a gift that employees contribute to for our founder and CEO (Mork). The gift is not extravagant and the suggested amount is reasonable, but the whole thing feels icky, like the HR head is conscripting us into her annual suck up scheme. In her email soliciting contributions, she takes great pains to point out that Mork so generously provides a Christmas gift to each employee. This part really grinds my gears for some reason. If the company wants to give something to employees, that’s great – they don’t owe me anything and I appreciate it. If they don’t provide something, that’s fine too (like I said, they don’t owe me anything). But implying that he personally gives us something and tying it to the solicitation of money so you get to look like important at the party rubs me the wrong way.

    The way I’ve dealt with it is to ignore the donation request and keep my thoughts to myself. Maybe not the healthiest coping mechanism but this is not a hill I’m willing to die on.

    1. Anon for now*

      I think that is a perfectly healthy coping mechanism. You end up not doing something that feel icky to you and you don’t create unnecessary drama.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      I think it’s all you can do. Mindy is being clueless at best. Gifts aren’t, even among friends, aren’t a tit-for-tat situation.

      1. Artemesia*

        No Mindy is filled with clues. She knows that this gift shines on her and is viewed as coming from her, but gets everyone else to pay for it. I have worked around AA like this who often escalate the suck up gifting to the boss until finally it falls of its own weight. They intend that the boss credit them with the gift.

    3. MamaGanoush*

      I don’t contribute to any requests like this EXCEPT for our housekeeper before the winter holidays. Not even for colleagues who are my friends outside of work — people ask, I say I’m sorry but my policy is…

    4. zora*

      That is gifting up, which Alison has talked about many times here as inappropriate and not something a healthy workplace would allow. You are handling it great by just deciding to stay out of it.

  15. animaniactoo*

    OP#1, my immediate thought would not be that it had been shared with me so that I could do something about it. But that it had been shared as a private head’s up to me as the referring employee so that it would not come as a shock and with potentially much harder feelings behind it when he is likely let go.

    You can make whatever stab you want at alerting him in the hopes that he’ll get it together. Boss had to know that was a possibility when he spoke to you. But at the point when you’re being given that head’s up, there’s only a slim shot of succeeding. Both of you should be prepared for that.

  16. Bea*

    These stories of self gratifying assclown executives and middle management give me hives. Our CEO hands out birthday cards/gifts and Christmas bonuses personally every year. Even my crankiest boss handed out things personally and expressed congratulations or appropriate condolences.

    This is like when I watched this weeks episode of The Profit and started to rage at the tv when the scummy schmuck of a CEO didn’t know his employees names even.

  17. Ann O'Nemity*

    #3 I see all sorts of unequal celebration happen at my work. Sometimes it flows up, sometimes down, sometimes across. I think the reason is that our organization doesn’t have any policy for birthdays, graduations, baby showers, sympathy gestures, etc. So it usually takes one “champion” (for lack of a better word), who wants to make the effort to do something for another employee. Maybe it’s someone who wants to kiss up (sounds like OP’s example), or a manager who wants to show appreciation for an admin, or even a team that gets really into celebrations. And instead of just doing it themselves, they rope other people into it by circulating cards, throwing cupcake parties, etc. This usually comes from a good place – “I just want to do something nice for a coworker” – but the unequal, non-reciprocal treatment is what chafes.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Yup. I was left off the birthday list once. It wasn’t a big company, and we did the monthly-cake-meeting thing, and when it was my month I wasn’t included. Not a big deal, of course. And I couldn’t eat the cake anyway, because wheat. But it did hurt a little. Just a sting, just enough for me to say “Self, we are not 6 anymore” and then I slipped out of the room and back to my desk.

  18. TotesMaGoats*

    OP2-I’ve been in a similar situation where there is a problem and we all agree there is a problem and we all agree there is a solution (or solutions) and no one is listening. Because I’ve been burned before the missive I sent off to my two bosses yesterday was very clear to say “this is me and my opinion and I’m in no way speaking for anyone else.”

    I’d consider an in person, casual conversation of “Oh, Hi jane, I didn’t know you were planning to talk to the union about this. If I’d known, I could have….” That way she might get that you weren’t thrilled that she emailed but not throw her under any busses.

  19. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – couple of things occur?

    First, she spoke to your union. That isn’t a bad thing (assuming similar to UK) – it will be confidential and they will be on the members’ side. It isn’t like going to management.

    Second, “we” doesn’t necessarily include you! It means “me and at least one other person”. I wouldn’t assume that the whole department felt a certain way if someone said “we feel that…”

    So I think you’re OK :)

    1. Roscoe*

      Exactly. To me “we” doesn’t imply “the entire department”. She didn’t name OP specifically. “We” is an (possibly intentionally) vague term.

    2. OP #2*

      Well, we’re a small group of people (think less than 10) and the rest of the language in her email pretty much implied that she was speaking on our behalf. “I’m cc’ing the rest of the [people in my group] to this email… We have been experiencing… We feel…”

      I’m still wrapping my head around union culture but at the very least, I just wanted to know that my coworker was going to the union.

  20. Sarah*

    OP#4 Ask for specification on the relocation expenses, there is almost always a time in position clause where if you leave you owe it back to the company. But also a co-worker recently left my husbands company and went to a very large company who offered relocation expenses only to later find out that those expenses were a loan and were coming out of his check monthly for a year, he had signed so much paperwork starting that he missed that piece.

    But I have never heard of it changing your pay.

  21. Mom MD*

    I’d stay out of the coworker could get fired issue. That’s between coworker and management. Any attempt to intervene could backfire on you.

  22. Lisboa*

    I’m so glad to hear some sense from normal people, this related to LW 3. In my company they set up a special FMLA fund for a Senior Exec who’s spouse has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. While I of course feel for them it does strike me as… icky that the execs get treated so much better than we do, even in this way.

    And at my company they circulate an envelope for people’s events… babies, weddings… to the whole company… and it’s understood that everyone contributes… no, just no… and different departments do a collection to gift their boss but the few support stuff get nothing…

    God I hate this place… yes I’m looking… so glad I can come here and feel like I’m not the crazy one…

    1. Lisboa*

      sorry, they gift the bosses at the holidays but never give anything to admin support…

  23. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#3: Although I think these are rather inappropriate, I actually don’t think these are major issues. Unlike the other commenters, I think the sympathy card is more inappropriate than the birthday wishes. I personally wouldn’t have signed the card because its too phony and forced, assuming it was a circumstance where I didn’t the VP well. And no one is going to force you to wish someone happy birthday. I consider these situations self-manageable, but I understand the requests/expectations themselves are the problem, and possibly indicative of broader issues that have not been discussed. I have seen situations where executives were treated differently on a radical level, in terms of valuable perks, more time-off, more work schedule flexibility, etc., so this seems rather minor by comparison.

  24. Noah*

    I’ve never heard of an I’m-Sorry-Your-Dad-Had-a-Heart-Attack-But-Am-Glad-He’s-Okay card in any context.

  25. DJ Roomba*

    OP #4
    I realize I’m pretty late to the game but I am hiring for a position exactly like the one you’re talking about. The position is just above entry level so we’re not offering relo (my company usually does that for higher level positions). Though I’ve asked our recruiter to make it perfectly clear that relo is NOT an option, we have discussed offering a small sign on bonus which could be used for relo, though that would definitely reduce the base salary. I’d leave it in the candidates hand – essentially, here is our offer. You can get up to $x amount in sign on bonus but that will reduce your salary to $y minus x.

    I say all of this because I think it depends how this is being handled. If it is officially relocation assistance, as others have mentioned that comes with a lot of strings attached. If it is the case that we’ve discussed at my company (sign-on bonus) then the strings are fewer and the money can be used for whatever the employee wants (relo or a shopping spree or debt). But ultimately if it is the same as what we’re thinking, you should have the option to take it all as base salary if you’d prefer.

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