my boss takes all the work, a rogue parker, and more

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

1. My boss takes all the work

I work on a small team, led by a supervisor, “Ned,” who has normally been great. Our team members, including Ned, have equivalent qualifications in our field, though Ned is by far the most experienced.

He participates in every project he has time for, on top of his normal tasks. He absorbs new skills like a sponge, almost never delegating new projects to us. When upper management passes special projects down to the team, he intercepts them. If there’s a conference, he’s the only one to attend. What’s baffling is that he has been in this position for about 15 years, and doesn’t seem interested in an upper management role.

The problem isn’t that he takes on more than he can handle. It leaves the rest of us drumming our fingers and without enough work to do. When we suggest new projects, he immediately shuts them down. He won’t consider sharing his responsibilities. I’m fighting for work I’m qualified to do. I don’t have a sense of what could be making him think that we can’t handle it, or why he’s so driven to outperform everyone else. We’re on the same team!

He does have a good handle on the other elements of management. Getting him to delegate real tasks to the team is the difficulty, especially since it’s hard for us to improve without new skills. Maybe the answer is to be more assertive about asking for projects. Maybe we’re sending nonverbal signals that we don’t want to step up our game. Any advice for taking control of the situation?

Talk to him about it! He may have no idea that he’s stifling the rest of you. He may even think that he’s saving you from work, not realizing that you’d like to have that work.

Alternately, it’s possible that this is stemming from insecurity, where he’s afraid that if other people develop their skills, he’ll be outshone … not realizing that would actually reflect well on him as a manager. (And presumably not realizing that giving people opportunities to increase their skills and contribute at higher and higher levels is what a good manager should do, if the context allows for it.) If that’s the problem, you may run into more resistance.

But either way, step one is to talk to him. Say something like this: “I’m really interested in taking on projects like X and Y. I’d like to develop my skills in ABC and I can’t do that without the chance to work on new types of projects. I also often end up without enough work to fill my weeks, and I’m much happier when I’m busy. Would you consider sending more work my way, and in particular things like XYZ?”

If he resists, you could say, “To be honest, this is directly tied to my job satisfaction here. It’s really important to me to get opportunities to take on new things so that I’m not stagnating. If you don’t think I’m ready for those types of projects now, can we talk about what I’d need to work on improving in so that I’m able to take them on in the future?”

2. Should I tell people they’re supposed to cut the tack stitching off their suits?

This is low-risk question, but I was hoping you or your readers could help me address a pet peeve of mine. I live in NYC and see a lot of people, both men and women, while I commute and who I work with, who don’t cut off their “X” tacking. I even saw one person reinforce the tacking! I think this may be a nuance of professional polish that has been lost from common knowledge and I just want to help educate people. But how weird is it to go up to random strangers and be like, here let me cut this thread near your butt (kidding)! Do I try to tell people, for the betterment of fashion-kind or continue to mentally be exasperated at their ignorance? What should I say without sounding obnoxious or condescending?

Strangers: Don’t do it. It’s not your place and while some people might appreciate it, it’s going to be boundary-crossing to others.

People you work with: if you have a decent relationship with them and think they’d appreciate the heads-up, you could say, “Oh! You left the tack stitching on your suit — that little X there that’s supposed to come off after you buy it. Do you want me to cut it for you?”

But really, this is probably something you’re better off ignoring unless you’re with a close friend. It’s not really your business or your problem to solve. This isn’t in the same category as alerting someone that their fly is down or their skirt is tucked into the back of their underwear or other things people feel urgency around fixing immediately.

3. Should we say something about a rogue parker?

I work at a small office that has a small parking garage. Parking spots in the garage are assigned based on tenure with the company, so the people who have been here the longest get a spot regardless of their position. If someone leaves the organization, they assign the parking space to the next person in line. It’s kind of a fun thing and people in the office joke/talk about when they are going to get their parking spot.

A few times recently, an employee who is nowhere near the top of the list for a parking space has been parking in the CFO’s spot when they are gone. Some people in the office have noticed it and find it strange and annoying. There is no official rule about that kind of thing, but it seems like a boundary crossed. It also seems too petty to bring up to anyone, including the person doing the parking, so we feel resigned to grumbling. Is this something we should just ignore, or should it be addressed?

When I started to answer this, my initial instinct was “let it go — if the space is free, why not let it be used?” But then I realized that it’s just one person who’s doing this. It is unfair that this is a known system and one person is circumventing it for their own benefit.

The right move here isn’t to try to stop to it completely, but rather to get the rules clarified. If this is allowed — if temporarily vacant spaces can be used on a first-come, first-served basis — that should be announced to everyone, so everyone can benefit from it, rather than just this one person. The system shouldn’t be “everyone follows the same set of rules except for one person with the audacity to ignore them.”

4. My boss promised me ownership in the firm, but it’s not happening

I work for a small firm. My boss promised me ownership in the firm when I was hired eight years ago (unfortunately this was not in writing – lesson learned), but when I ask him about the timeline or any details, he gets defensive and refuses to answer the question, or tells me I’m impatient. I was hired as an analyst, but that somehow morphed into me being responsible for the growth of the firm and bringing in business, which is a completely different skillset. He’s now pushing out the timeline because I haven’t been successful at bringing in business (again, not my forte and I’ve been honest with him about that), but I excel at everything else and feel a bit over my head. How can I approach a negotiation about my future at the company?

It’s actually pretty normal that ownership in the firm would be tied to bringing in business and helping the firm grow. It sounds like he didn’t spell that out originally and should have, but it does sound like you should assume that it’s going to be a prerequisite before the ownership discussion will move forward in any meaningful way.

Aside from that, though, a manager who refuses to discuss any details about this and tells you that you’re impatient for asking (after eight years!) is not a reliable player here. So given that, added to the fact that business development isn’t a strength for you, you might be better off figuring that unless you see very solid evidence from him that this is moving forward, it’s likely not going to happen, and then deciding what you want to do from there.

5. I’m getting a lower raise because I took paternity leave

I am underpaid by at least 20-30%. This isn’t just my opinion, or some salary site cherry-picking; it’s performance review time, and my manager disclosed that that’s what the “compensation tool” he has to use to make compensation decisions says. He agrees, saying he wants to retain me, knows he’d have trouble replacing me, and that I’m a good performer. Likewise, there’s a lot I like about my job, and I’m not ready to pack it in yet and find another job to get that last 20%. But I’d sure like to get it at this one.

During a recent 1-1, he indicated that he would try to close the gap between my salary and my market during this year’s review cycle, but said couldn’t make any promises because, of course, doing so would put him over his budget, which means he’d need to take it up with his boss, etc. I get that. However, when I asked what objections he expected to face, one of the things he mentioned was how many “benefits you’ve used this year.” When I pressed for clarification about what he meant by that, he said, “paternity.”

I have used about three weeks of leave so far this year to care for my newborn. My company has a paid parental leave program, so I’ve been paid for those weeks. But the leave is also considered FMLA. Grey area?

I don’t yet know what kind of raise I’ll be getting; we’re at the beginning of the review period which lasts another few weeks. I don’t want to get anyone in hot water, but I sure don’t want to miss out on thousands of dollars because someone thinks it’s okay to hold my use of FMLA against me. But I’m not sure bringing it up will help anything either; I feel like it would just put everyone on the defensive. If you were me, what, if anything, would you do at this point?

Well, that’s illegal. Employers aren’t allowed to consider FMLA leave when making employment decisions, including things like performance reviews and salary increases. Your boss probably doesn’t realize that. I suppose he could be referring to the paid part of that leave rather than the FMLA part (since FMLA can be unpaid), but it’s not a good spot for your company to be in legally.

I’d go back to him and say this: “I’ve been thinking about your mention that you might get some push-back on a raise for me because I took paternity leave this year. I’m hoping that won’t come up since under federal law, we’re actually not allowed to consider FMLA leave in making salary decisions — but if (decision-maker) doesn’t realize that, could you point it out? It occurred to me that it’s one of those things that people outside of HR might not immediately realize, so I wanted to mention it.” By saying “we’re not allowed” rather than “you’re not allowed,” and by giving them the benefit of the doubt (that they might just not have realized this), you’re less likely to put him on the defensive than with a more adversarial approach.

{ 535 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT

    #3 If the person is familiar enough with the CFOs schedule to know exactly when she’ll be away, I’d say it’s likely the CFO knows the rogue parker has the CFOs blessing. While I get it’s annoying, I’d lean heavily on the side of staying out of it.

    1. Artemesia

      Maybe the CFO offered it to them and someone else sneaking in first might put their foot in it.

    2. Drop Bear

      Not necessarily. In my organisation an announcement is sent via email when a senior person is going to be out of the office so all staff know who has has delegated authority. In addition, a lot of organisations use out of office boards.

      1. Drop Bear

        Also, the LW says it’s a small office and generally everyone knows who is where in a small office- that’s the nature of the beast really.

      2. Toonsesthecat

        In my office if the cfo or other exec is out, often their admin will park in the or the spot, with the execs permission. And if the cfo unexpectedly returns to the office, she knows to call ahead so the admin can move to a different spot.

          1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

            Or maybe someone who works with CFO/might be effected by CFO’s absence. EG – it could be seen as a one-off perk for someone who’s taking on some extra responsibility/covering for/most likely going to be working later due to the CFO being out.

            Just to put it out there – nothing in the letter directly indicates this (or that its an admin), but I think it’s worth mentioning because sometimes these considerations get overlooked when things get to a “but its nooooooot fair” type of place.

        1. MechanicalPencil

          At OldJob, my direct boss had a spot and would let me know when she was out and offered to let me park in her spot. I never would have dared to do so had she not explicitly told me to otherwise for the perception risk.

      3. Nonnynon

        Same here. Or they all share a calendar or have shared viewing rights of the individual calendars.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I would check before saying something. But if the CFO is letting the employee jump the seniority list, it might be helpful for the CFO to know that it’s causing discontent/malcontent.

      I worked at a location with pretty intense seniority rules related to parking spaces, and it was cutthroat (not enough spaces for everyone, significant benefits/drawbacks of certain spaces). People take that stuff extremely seriously when their parking space has a material impact on their feelings about perks, etc.

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney

        Parking Wars can be the equivalent of Coffee Wars in some offices. Ask me about the person who regularly takes up two spaces in our small tight parking lot.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          In my prior lot, that person’s car would get keyed or blocked.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Oh, I know! Folks were caught doing that sort of thing on camera, but it didn’t stop the behavior (although there was a small shift toward blocking someone in over keying their car).

        2. Nancie

          At one prior company, that person was fired. (The company was paying per space for the employee parking, so it was effectively theft. They gave him two warnings.)

          1. Beth Jacobs

            Yeah. My first though was woah – that’s a bit extreme. But thinking about it, what else are you supposed to if you tell them to stop and they don’t?

          2. Salyan

            This makes me… kind of happy. The thought of someone actually being held to account for inconsiderate parking is marvelous.

        3. Anon in case former coworkers are reading

          At a previous job, one of our parking lots had double-length spaces under a canopy. If you were the first one to pull into a space, you were supposed to pull all the way forward so someone could pull in behind you. I know of at least two people who had their canopy parking privileges revoked because they consistently parked back, preventing someone else from parking in that lane, and had to park in the other lot that got the full benefit of afternoon sunlight.

          Lunch in that office frequently featured what we called parking ballet. There was also a loose expectation that if you parked behind someone else and you were heading out for food, it was courteous to ask that person if they wanted to leave at the same time or just send a fast food order along.

      2. Falling Diphthong

        Connie Willis set a short story entirely in the parking committee for a university department. I believe it ends with the protagonist fleeing to go to pilot’s school.

        1. Artemesia

          Connie Willis so completely captures the insanity of the academic world in Bellwether too — over competition for a McArthur. Parking and coffee — LOL

        2. sheworkshardforthemoney

          Today I came to work and…someone was taking up two spaces! We’re an academic off-site department so everyone comes to us to take courses, do study groups etc. We have very limited parking. The person who took up two spaces is on a course for 5 days and s/he parked very close to the building. It means the daily staff is forced to park farther away for the duration of the course. The manager refuses to address the issue, it could be something as simple as noting that is very very inconsiderate to park your car in the closest space for 5 days and to use two spots at the same time!

          1. Falling Diphthong

            Do you have any burly students capable of lifting the car? (In a team of 6 or so.) And then move it into 1 space?

      3. OP

        Same here – we all joke about when we are going to get our spot, but in reality, it’s a big deal that this person is parking out of turn.

      4. Micklak

        I agree that people can have serious feelings about parking perks. When I got promoted at my last job, I cared much less about the title change than I did about the fact that my parking space improved significantly.

        It caused a lot of confusion for the parking attendants who were confused by the guy parking the 25 year old pick up truck next to the teslas and jags. They kept asking for my business card because they thought I was a tradesman coming to do work on something.

        Perceptions about parking can cause strong feelings.

    4. Toonsesthecat

      Me too. It sounds like the spaces are assigned by seniority, but when the owners are working offsite, the rogue Parker is using the spot for that day. This actually sounds efficient, as long as the cfo doesn’t show up and have to park elsewhere. No point in the parking lot being half empty because the assignees are offsite/out of office.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt

        That is the problem with making this something everyone can do – I feel like people would start looking for free spaces or see that someone wasn’t in their seat that day and go take their space, then that person comes back to the office and has to track down the person in their spot.

        On the other hand I feel like all it would take to stop this is for the CFO to come in one day when rouge parker thought she would be gone and find her spot taken.

        1. Not A Morning Person

          This happened to me in one place I worked. Parking was assigned to certain levels of employees and had our names on them. On several occasions I would come back from lunch or an offsite meeting and someone would have taken my space. It was annoying to not be able to count on my parking space, particularly when my role required the occasional offsite meeting or lunch, but it felt “entitled” to complain about it.

      2. Seriously?

        If it is very clear who is not in the office then it is efficient. If it isn’t always clear then it can end up being a parking free for all that makes the old system unreliable. The question is whether this is a general rule that can be applied (Feel free to park in the spots of people who are out. You can find that information at X.) or if it is only workable because there is only one person doing it (in which case it is unfair). A lot of times one person not following the rules can give that person significant benefit without disrupting others but if everyone started to follow suit the system breaks down.

    5. Falling Diphthong

      See, I totally read this as someone’s “Life Hack #43: How to score free parking in prime spots. First, you’ll need to come up with a reason you need to see upper management’s travel schedule…”

      1. birthdaycakeismyspirtanimal

        I worked in an office where the division manager would show up late almost every day. Small lot, no assigned parking. So he would call and have his assistant (who arrived early to open the office) move her car when he came in, so he could always park close to the building.

        1. Toads, Beetles, Bats

          Holy buckets of not cool. I know we have a high bar for worst manager of the year here, but this screams “pithy snapshot of massive dysfunction” to me, and I’d vote for him.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar

              I’m probably going to get to use that phrase in a meeting this afternoon. Thank you, TBB!

          1. birthdaycakeismyspirtanimal

            My Division Manager was promoted, and the company decided to move the Parking Bandit Division Manager over to fill the spot. I was given the choice to (1) stay with my promoted manager; (2) support Parking Bandit; (3) take on both jobs.

            But no matter what I choose, they were going to terminate the Parking Bandit’s assistant as he felt she wasn’t a strong enough assistant for someone of his level. She had worked for him for 6 years, and had been at the company for 20. She was 3 years away from retiring.

            I choose (4) found a new job and got out of Dodge.

        2. boo bot

          … and one day, the assistant moved her car right over his foot?

          Unless he had some legitimate need to park close that mysteriously couldn’t otherwise be met, this just strikes me as one of those really, really petty misuses of small amounts of power.

          1. Emily K

            While it’s definitely petty tyrant behavior, as someone who once worked for a petty tyrant, this actually wouldn’t have bothered me a huge amount because another feature of her regime was that I wasn’t allowed to leave my desk very often or for very long. I might have rather welcomed the opportunity to take an unofficial “break” to go move my car and take my time strolling back to the office, clearing my head in advance of what would sure to be a long list of “emergencies” my boss would greet me with as soon as I returned.

            The same boss once made me lay out and print invitations to her child’s birthday party, which was similarly something clearly an abuse of her power but I didn’t actually mind because it was at least a simple task with clear instructions and it gave me a bit of a break from some of the more terrible parts of my job.

            The stuff I really hated was when she would expect me to solve her personal problems with no clear instructions on how I was to do that – she wanted me to be functioning like an experienced C-suite executive assistant (my official title was Marketing Director & Office Manager; I had no background in EA) who knew how to anticipate all her needs without being asked or directed.

            She once walked into my office and informed me that some mornings there were people smoking cigarettes in the (unstaffed/unpatrolled) parking garage next to our office building even though it was signed No Smoking and asked me to “call the garage owner or whatever you have to do” to get them to stop.

            1. Michaela Westen

              As a person who’s allergic to cigarettes, I would be all over that! It’s only because of therapy that I’m able to be calm with smokers who smoke in our hospital grounds! (talk about disrespectful!!!)

        3. Amber T

          Why are people (who are capable of walking short distances, disabilities not withstanding) so weird about parking spots? I’m that person who will purposely park at the back of Costco or Target so I don’t have to deal with people and cars when trying to escape. I will happily push my cart or carry my bags a little bit of a longer distance if that means I’m not going to accidentally hit someone.

          I was also that person at work for a while though – when I first started, my hours were later (I used to be hourly and started at 10, most people came in 8-9), so if I found a close parking spot, I just took it. We don’t have official parking spots, but we have unofficial official parking spots, so it was explained to me that I was parking in so-and-so’s spot, and that I shouldn’t park there when I come in because they might be coming late. It’s a weird thing, but if that’s an office quirk, then go with the flow.

          1. Lynn Whitehat

            I get it if this is a downtown area where parking is at a premium. Where I work, a free parking spot in the garage is basically a $300 benefit, because that is what a monthly pass at a parking garage would cost. Street parking is basically unobtainable for someone who will be there all day.

          2. Micklak

            Yeah, in downtown LA where you park can have a serious impact on your commute. Between one way streets and walking multiple blocks to satellite lots, it could add 15-20 minutes. Imagine adding that to every offsite meeting.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Mobility, weather, parking premiums when parking is scarce or in high demand, and time. When my space moved from the outside lot to the inside lot, I was thrilled, because it meant my likelihood of falling 800x on ice and twisting my ankle would decrease significantly.

    6. LSP

      When a colleague of mine was going through chemo treatment, our boss let her park in his much closer spot. When I was in my third trimester of my first pregnancy, he did the same for me. There is a possibility that whoever is doing this has special permission. It’s also just as likely that she is using the CFOs absences to her own advantage. I would ask around but keep the tone curious, rather than confrontational. I wouldn’t be surprised if the CFO is just trying to do someone a solid, rather than someone deliberately trying to jump the line.

    7. OP

      Parking question-asker here: No, it’s definitely a sneaky thing. She just pulls in the spot when she notices the CFO’s car is gone. One day last week, the CFO came in late and found her parking spot taken! I had a good laugh at that.

      1. SoSo

        I can see why you’re annoyed! We have a system at my current job where the closest spots to the doors are auctioned off every year as part of a United Way fundraiser… If you currently have a spot that you “won,” you get first dibs in purchasing it for the same price the following year. If not, it goes back up for bidding and anyone can bid. They’re marked with special reserved signs and numbers, so everyone knows. Right now the spots currently go for anywhere from $300-$500 USD… It’s prime real estate. And last year when I had one of the spots, a woman decided she was going to do the same thing as your coworker- she’d come in in the afternoons and take whatever open spot she could find in the reserved area. One day I went out to grab something from staples and when I came back, she was in my spot! I was FURIOUS. I saw her do it to other spots as well, and I took to repeatedly calling security on her until she stopped. It took a few months of pressure, though. I hope you guys can find a solution!

        1. Stay Out Of My Bubble

          We have the same thing where I work, but the spots go for like $800 – $1000. One day an unauthorized car parked there and security had it towed. The crowd watching through the windows was enormous. We all love rogue parkers getting a comeuppance.

          Me, on the other hand, I park as far away as possible and get mad when someone parks next to me. There’s an unspoken agreement among the way-out-there parkers to leave a spot between. My personal bubble is too big and the spots are too small.

          Anyway, idea for OP3, suggest that the CFO give their spot to someone as a form of recognition when she is going to be out. Our head honchos did this where I work too, and the Parking Award was always highly coveted. Solves the problem while also providing positive recognition for people going above and beyond.

        2. OP

          That is even more frustrating than this situation! I’m glad it was resolved for you. I’m getting some ideas from for bring it up, but I still worry it seems petty. It’s helping that almost everyone commenting here also thinks it is not cool.

          1. Wendy

            I wish my work offered such perks such as parking. What OP needs to do to put it in perspective is to catch public transport a few times. Who cares about the rogue parker -at least you all get a park! What do you want next, valet service?

            1. SoSo

              And we should never complain about anything ever again because there are so many starving children in Africa.

              Sorry you don’t have a place to park at your job, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the OP is looking for advice for a workplace issue.

            2. MM

              Did you not realize you were replying directly to OP? Because otherwise this is really rude.

      2. Cass

        Did the CFO do anything about it? I think I might take my cues from how she did or did not respond.

    8. Hadley

      I agree–in any case, I don’t understand the motives of someone who feels the need to make trouble for a coworker simply because he takes the initiative to make use of aan empty parking space. How is he doing anything wrong? If the LW feels so strongly about it, let him get there early and park there himself. What a ridiculous thing to get worked up about.

    1. Artemesia

      The guy should not have promised if he didn’t mean it but generally you don’t earn ‘part owner’ unless you bring in business; that is the primary job of the owner of a business. The OP should be looking for another position; he will never be part owner of this one and will always feel resentful there. Life is too short for that. And because there is no urgency about moving, he can bide his time until he finds something good. (or if he can’t that information will help him make peace with the situation)

    1. LeRainDrop

      #2, if it is someone you know and are comfortable with, I would let them know in the way that Alison suggested. Honestly, when I started having to wear suits for work, I did not know that the X was tack stitching to be removed. I ignorantly thought it was some sort of detail work by design! Anyhow, I really appreciated it when my boss discreetly mentioned it to me as we were on our way to a big client meeting!

      1. LeRainDrop

        I’m also going to confess that I did not understand that pockets were sewn closed only pre-sale and that you’re supposed to remove those threads after you buy. I went days with my pockets sewn shut before one of them started fraying and I was worried my new suit was already unraveling. Oops, nope, I was supposed to open up those pockets!

        1. many bells down

          In women’s pants/jackets half the time the pockets are fake, so just the other day I realized a pair of pants I’d been wearing for a month actually had real back pockets that were tacked shut. When you don’t expect there to BE pockets, you don’t think to untack the pockets!

          1. Willis

            Yes – I just got some pants and almost pulled the stitching out of fake pockets. Glad I noticed before I ripped giant holes in my pants!

          2. Beatrice

            I leave my real back pockets stitched closed. I don’t put things in them, but once they’re open, the lining seems to get rumpled or wrinkled more easily, and it’s not a good look. (I could iron the lining, but I try to avoid ironing whenever possible and I generally buy clothes and manage my laundry with the specific intent of minimizing ironing needs.)

            1. Adele

              Ditto to leaving the back pockets closed–unless the stitching is really obvious. I don’t want anything to make my naturally big and lumpy bum look bigger and lumpier!

              1. many bells down

                Yeah these pants have decent front pockets, and they’re loose-ish slacks so I don’t see any need to make the butt baggier. It was just funny when I realized “wait … these are ALSO pockets?!!?”

            2. chickaletta

              Oooh, I do this too. I think it looks sloppy when the back pockets yawn open so I leave them sewn closed. Regarding the lining issue, I’ve considered cutting down the lining because I don’t like it when they rumple up either (I don’t think I’ve done it yet, but if it’s done in graduation I think the line will be less obvious). I leave the front pockets sewn closed too when they’re the side-angle kind, because in the past they’ve created “wings” on my hips if they’re now sewn down!

          3. MsSolo

            This drives me nuts, because I want pockets, and having to play “sewn shut or fake” and peering at the lining is not my priority when shopping.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              Say what you want about MLMs, but LuLaRoe and Piphany both have skirts/dresses with pockets.

                1. Clorinda

                  And Betabrand. And many if not most of the women’s items on Uniqlo.
                  Cellphones are making pockets more of a necessity, so I think we are entering a golden age of pockets in women’s clothing.

            2. schnauzerfan

              I’m a StitchFix customer and I beg my stylist for pockets every month. Last month she was so excited “Capris with pockets.” Broke my heart to tell her that “no, those aren’t pockets, those are decorative zippers with no space behind them. Not room for even a lighter. Maybe you could jam a dime in there…

              Pockets please!

            3. Artemesia

              I travel a lot and have made it my life’s work to find clothing where I don’t need to carry a purse. I have a trench coat by scottevest.com that has 18 hidden pockets. And several other jackets with hidden secure pockets. Even around town in fall through spring I can manage without a purse between using jeans pockets and hidden pockets in shirts or jackets. In the heat of summer I give up and carry a small cross body bag. It used to bug me when I was working that women’s suits didn’t have the breast pocket inside the lapel that men’s jackets do for a wallet or whatever. Joseph Banks when they made women’s clothes did have jackets that did and I still have one that I love that is threadbare and worn rarely. I was sad when they dropped their womens clothing lines. More pockets! Women demand more pockets!

            4. BF50

              And girls. Finding pockets for my daughter is a hassle.

              I signed my son up for soccer this year. He needs to wear athletic shorts without pockets. I went to target where 0% of the girls clothes have pockets and I could not find a pair of little boys shorts without pockets. Rage!

              Yes, I can find them elsewhere, but come on! My girl wants to carry stuff just as much as my boy does.

              1. AMPG

                The newer STEM-based kids’ clothing lines like Princess Awesome and Svaha feature dresses with pockets, which is great.

          4. Carlie

            I had one pair of dress pants for YEARS before I noticed the pockets were real but basted shut instead of fake!

          5. MusicWithRocksInIt

            Ugh – I have a pair of dress pants with real full pockets but they stitched them shut so tightly I’m afraid I’m gonna rip the pants if I try to pull them out. I get why they do it in the first place – but why do you have to do so many of them?

            1. Aitch Arr

              Buy a seam ripper. It was totally worth it to know I wasn’t going to destroy my pants when pulling out the thread closing the pockets.

          6. Amber T

            I had the opposite problem with one pair… I assumed they were sewn shut, then I just ripped a hole into a fake pocket. Grr… petition for women’s clothes to just have REAL pockets please!

        2. Gen

          No one in my husbands department knows about this. He took all the tack stitching (pockets as well as the X) of his latest suit and he got in trouble for having ‘sloppy’ clothes! Seriously his direct manager is in his 50s and thinks men’s external suit pockets are decorative even though they have lining sewn in.

          1. On Fire

            I’ve heard of image consultants advising leaving pockets sewn shut. When loosed and used, the pocket may eventually sag somewhat, so some consultants say to not use them. (I disagree and *do* use my pockets, fwiw.)

            1. Kathleen_A

              Sewn shut, I can understand – if by that you mean subtle stitching that can’t be detected by passers-by. (I don’t do this, but I can understand it.) But the X-tacking? No. Absolutely not. It’s gotta gooooooo! :-) It doesn’t make you look neat and tidy. It makes it look like you’re planning to wear the suit once and then take it back for a refund.

          2. iglwif

            I had a co-worker years ago who lectured me for un-tacking the pockets of my blazers. She said that her husband knew all about clothing design and that if you undo the tacking, you spoil the look of the garment.

            I laughed in her face (she wasn’t senior to me, fortunately!). I don’t know a lot about sewing, but I know enough to understand that if you mean the pockets to be decorative only, it’s a lot easier to *make fake pockets* than to put in real ones and then baste them shut.

            (Now I have a job that doesn’t require me to wear blazers, which is even better.)

            1. Genny

              I don’t think I would’ve laughed out loud, but I would’ve totally rolled my eyes at that. Does her oh-so-knowledgeable husband know what a basting stitch is and the purpose for it? lol

              1. Artemesia

                Well it is true that using the outside pockets on a suit jacket make the suit line sloppy. Doesn’t stop me from using them but if you want to look sleek and groomed then you don’t use jacket pockets. You don’t see too many of those well polished CEO types with a ball of spring, a pack of gum, a slingshot and 6 quarters in their suit pockets. I have other priorities.

          3. sigh

            I used to work in men’s wear in a suit store. I got chewed out so many times for doing the courtesy of removing sleeve labels and untacking the vents!
            As it stands now, every winter I really secretly want to walk around with a seam ripper cutting open people’s vents.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar

          Sort of topical question regarding pockets: Am I the only woman in the US who wants a suit coat or blazer with an inside pocket, like a man’s jacket? Eddie Bauer used to make women’s suits with inner pockets, maybe still does, but I rarely see them.

          1. Friday

            YES I want this too. So not fair they get these, especially in the age of the Giant Smartphone.

          2. zora

            I have had suit jackets from Halogen (Nordstrom in-house brand) that had the inside pocket, and YES I want the inside pocket, too! They are so useful, I literally squee over the inside pockets in my boyfriend’s suits because I am so jealous.

          3. Anonymosity

            No you’re not; I would LOVE it. I had a coat like that once and it was the best.

            Even better; once I shoved a $20 in there and forgot about it and found it two years later.

          4. interior pockets

            I just found one at J. Crew. Even still, it only has one interior pocket where lots of men’s coats have more. Thats the patriarchy at work I guess haha. Keeping women down by limiting their ability to carry objects. I think they still have them for sale. Its called the Parke Blazer.

          5. Artemesia

            As I said up thread — Joseph Banks used to do women’s clothes with those. I have a tweed jacket I love and fits beautifully and has the magic inner breast pocket –but alas they don’t do women’s clothes anymore. Travel Smith used to do a travel blazer with 4 inside pockets that I also used for work and loved those pockets, but they have trended away from tailored to icky polyester knits and away from hidden pockets. I got a really got jacket — not blazer styled but moderately dressy — with artful hidden pockets which I still wear in travel, but they don’t sell those anymore either. We seem to be going backwards in availability of professional looking women’s wear with secure and useful pockets.

            1. Artemesia

              somehow chunks of this disappeared — remarking about Travelsmith and Magellan both of which used to have professional looking blazers with artful hidden pockets but now have mostly tacky poly knit which packs great but is miserable to wear in any heat at all and rarely has hidden pockets.

            2. Chinookwind

              Question about women’s jackets with inner breast pockets – are they actually over a woman’s breast or slightly lower? Never having seen one, I wonder if someone like me who is larger chested would be able to put anything flat and hard in them or would I end up with my phone pointing outward as it rests on my breast? Are they designed with the female anatomy in mind?

              1. zora

                the inner pocket in the Halogen jackets I mentioned above are not directly over the breast. They are lower, I guess about waist height? They were actually in the perfect place to put my phone or another hard object to have it be out of my way when the jacket was buttoned, but easy to get in and out.

            3. Susana

              Apropos of nothing, my (English second language) partner was talking about buying something from Jos. A Bank – only he called it “Joe’s Bank.” I said what, is it next to Biff’s Hospital?

      2. zora

        I also would be super happy if someone discreetly pointed it out to me. I totally know this, and yet I had one pencil skirt that I just completely forgot to take the tacks out of, and somehow wore it at least 3 times with the X still there. I have no idea how I missed it!

      3. Rosamond Vincy

        I admit that I didn’t know they were supposed to removed for…a while. And when they came out naturally, I thought that I had damaged the article of clothing! Then a friend mentioned to me that her intern didn’t know these were supposed to be removed and I had a real aha moment. Thank goodness I have mostly worn pants to interviews!

      4. A username for this site

        I did not know x-tacking was a thing until I read this thread. Husband and I are both “white collar” professionals, but no one in our fields wears suits these days.

      5. MM

        I was thinking about this when reading the question. Where are people supposed to learn this? For some people, your parents/mentors can tell you while you’re growing up (you know, like when it’s time to go get your first suit or whatever), but not everybody has parents with experience in fields that would require them to wear such clothes and therefore know such things. How are people supposed to find out?! I feel like all fashion blogs should be required to run a PSA once a month or something. Or there should be signs in dressing rooms and at dry cleaners. Something! At least with a lot of other class-specific knowledge that upwardly mobile people wouldn’t necessarily know about, it usually becomes pretty obvious that there is something you don’t know (like when being confronted with many forks), so you have the opportunity to research it and find out for yourself. But with this one, it’s so reasonable to assume that if it comes out of the store like that, that’s how it’s supposed to be.

    2. ReeRee

      Me too! I actually saw a guy during this morning’s commute, extremely trendily dressed but the tack stitching totally ruined the look… timely question!

    3. Discordia Angel Jones

      Yes!!!! +1 million

      It really irritates me too. Pockets not as much but the back of a suit jacket or for women the back of a pencil skirt.

      Literally with a pencil skirt the tack stitching makes it hard to walk so it’s unfathomable to me that people wouldn’t remove it.

      1. SarahTheEntwife

        I didn’t realize you were supposed to remove the stitching until a similar thread of people complaining about it. Most formal skirts give me less freedom of movement than I’d like, so I assumed pencil skirts were just more of the same. If nobody tells you, why would you automatically know you’re supposed to destroy part of the stitching on your clothing?

        1. Collarbone High

          Yes! I just assumed it was one more part of “women’s office clothing is uncomfortable.” My family could only afford second-hand clothes when I was a kid, so I’m forever grateful to the woman who sidled up to me on the DC Metro and quietly told me to cut out the stitching.

          1. Artemesia

            A stranger once pointed out the price tag on my neck as I headed for the interview that led to my longest term job. I would have looked like Minnie Pearl. I was so grateful that I would probably let another woman know about the tack stitching on a vent of a skirt or jacket — it is a judgment call, meddling with strangers attire.

          2. Specialk9

            I love the mental image. She’s Carmen Sandiego, of course, and talking out the side of her mouth.

        2. TheOperaGhost

          Yes! I bought my first pencil skirt last winter, wore it for the first time this spring, and was incredibly annoyed by how hard it was to walk in. Luckily, my mom saw it after only 1 (2?) wears, and informed me that the stitching was supposed to be removed.

        3. zora

          Well you used to go to an actual tailor to buy business clothes, so you would learn things about suit construction and fit. And usually the tailor would take the tacks out for you before you took the item home. Off the rack shopping means a lot of people don’t learn about the differences between casual clothes and business clothes any more.

          1. Ranon

            Heck, when I worked at LOFT we cut them out before putting clothes out on the floor. But maybe that store manager was fussier than some.

      2. Baby Fishmouth

        I had NO IDEA I was supposed to remove the stitching on pencil skirts. It’s not something most people wear as a child/teenager, so it’s not really something people think to tell children when they are teaching them how to dress….

        I was so grateful to an Aunt of mine who informed me that I was supposed to remove the stitching after wearing a pencil skirt to a funeral when I was 20-ish. Of course, I’d already worn the skirt to several job interviews at that point … but at least I knew going forward. My mom had noticed but never thought to tell me.

      3. The Other Dawn

        I never knew the stitching was even there! I only realized a few years ago, but thought it was some sort of detail. Someone finally told me it’s supposed to be removed, so now I know.

      4. samiratou

        It would be nice if they made them bright orange or something that makes it screamingly obvious that they weren’t suppose to be there (obviously if your skirt/suit is bright orange, another color would sub in), but I suppose that’s not super economical.

        I think I’ve always managed to remove the x tacking on vents or skirt slits, but I’ve let many a dress pant pocket go until it starts to unravel then I just worry it open.

      5. SheLooksFamiliar

        When I used to buy dresses with belts, I was surprised when a saleslady told me to be sure and cut off the loops of thread that held the belt in place. I’d never seen anyone wear a belted dress without those floppy threads on either side of her waist. Turns out those loops are only meant to keep the belt with the dress during transit and display at the retailer. Who knew?

        1. NotSymmetrical

          I leave them on because I have an odd shape and the belt will never ever sit straight and look nice without the loops holding it!

          1. many bells down

            Yeah I don’t have a waist to speak of (built like a Pringles can, that’s me) so not having the loops means the belt meanders from my underbust to my hipbones and back again as I move around.

        2. BeckaBeeBoo

          You just blew my mind. I always cut the loops because I hate them, but I just thought I was being rogue. I didn’t realize you were supposed too!

        3. Salamander

          Plus, not everyone’s natural waistline is in exactly the same spot. If you remove the threads, the dress will fit better on most people because you can move the belt to your natural waistline, rather than the waistline chosen by the manufacturer.

          1. Artemesia

            This is how I figured out to remove the loops as they were usually not quite in the right place. Loops that are meant to remain look finished – like those on trench coats. The little thready ones are supposed to be removed.

          1. Chinookwind

            My Eshakti dresses all have those loops when they come with a belt. Now it is making me question my faith in them. Then again, I buy the custom fit so the belts are actually in the right spot, but still I am going to be going home and removing those loops.

        4. It'sNan

          For realsies? Who the heck knew? I usually stay away from belted things. I know they are supposed to make waists look smaller, but all they do, in my opinion, is accentuate the belly underneath, unless you’re super slim.

        5. Not Rebee

          OMG what? I am hugely against leaving the tacks on vents but never knew this. Thanks, you’ve blown my mind! I assumed that was to help keep the belt where it needed to be for the dress (which isn’t always my waist, though they are usually where the bodice meets the skirt portion of the dress… different issue). Thank you!

        6. chi type

          See also: those clear rubber thingys used to keep blouses on the hanger. I always want to tell people to cut those off cause they pop out so easily and just look tacky and uncomfortable.

          1. soon 2be former fed

            Those are the first things to go when a new garment goes in my closet that has them.

          2. Salamander

            I cut those off immediately. One of my cats finds those irresistible and will gnaw them off and try to eat them. :-(

          3. Koala dreams

            How am I then supposed to keep them on a hanger in my own wardrobe?!
            To be honest, I always suspected I were supposed to cut them off, but they are simply too useful for that.

            1. chi_type

              True! Some are also worse than others. Some are cloth and sewn far enough in that they’re not always popping out. Maybe those are even supposed to be left on? It’s the ones that are like clear rubber band and stick to your skin that I hate.

      6. A

        I just talked to our department intern last week about the tack stitching on her pencil skirt. I approached it as “Hey, just wanted to let you know because you probably haven’t had to buy business clothes before…” because she is a college student who hasn’t.

        1. AKchic

          I had informed a girl at my last place by saying “hey, I’m an actor and costumer, and a lot of people don’t actually know this about clothes…”
          It was a nice segue. I didn’t even wear skirts into the office, or dress up. I wore jeans and cardigans. However, she was client-facing and she dressed nicely and there were some adorable skirt/blazer sets she wore… with the tacking still in place.

      1. Jane

        My transit pet peeve was at the beginning of coat season I would see so many men (sometimes women) wearing wool coats with the label loosely sewn on the wrist. Cut that off! Drove me crazy.

        1. Not A Morning Person

          That reminds me of an embarrassing situation. I had received a new blazer as a gift and when I decided to wear it, I just took it out of the bag and put it on. Got to work and had a meeting with a client, and in the meeting I noticed the sewn-on tag on the sleeve. Aargh! I tried to be discreet about tearing it off, then, the pockets were stitched closed so I didn’t have a discreet place to put the torn tag! Aargh! I was so embarrassed! And of course, when I got back into my office where I could take out the stitches, I noticed the vent at the back also still had the x stitch.

        2. Anonymosity

          I always take the tags off my scarves. No idea if you’re supposed to, but it bugs me to have a tag flapping about on my accessory.
          Except for the one on my WB Harry Potter Studio Gryffindor scarf. It stays on for show-off purposes, LOL.

          1. Artemesia

            It is tricky because you can’t properly remove those without damaging the scarf, but I always tie the scarf so they are prominently displayed (and ugly). I usually trim them short with nail scissors after once fraying a scarf trying to remove the tag.

            1. Pebbles

              Ugh. I accidentally destroyed a t-shirt this way because some oddball decided that the perfect place to put the tag was in the underarm part of the sleeve. Hello armpit hole! *sigh*

        3. Fuzz

          Same here! Coats and sometimes suit jackets as well (I always hope they’re not going to an interview). Drives me right up a wall.

          1. Artemesia

            then there is the long strip of scotch tape like stuff with size on it that is sometimes on knits and is easy to overlook grabbing something new and dressing at dawn.

      1. Clare

        When I was walking to one of my first job interviews after college, a woman on the street stopped me and pointed it out. When I got to the office a few blocks later I discovered that she was the hiring manager who I was interviewing with…I did not get that job.

    4. jstarr

      Until recently, I had never bought anything nice enough to have the X on it so this person would be me. There’s a lot of stuff people just assume you know about clothes but when all you’ve had is pre-owned stuff, how the heck am I supposed to know that?

      1. Oogie

        Someone at my work came up behind me and cut mine off. I was very shocked and did not appreciate a random work aquaintance being so close to my bum with scissors (it was a dress). I had no idea you were supposed to take that out, but it wasn’t her business either! I actually preferred the dress more before she did that.

            1. The Cleaner

              OMG I cannot stand when people lurch at me to tuck in a tag. Tell me, and if I need help, I will ask!

      2. Chameleon

        Right? I’ve actually never heard of tack stitching and would never think to cut off part of my clothes. Why would they sell it that way in the first place? There are a lot of reasons, including those related to disadvantaged populations, why someone wouldn’t know about this.

        I would suggest that if the LW (or anyone else) brings it up, make sure you don’t come off like you are berating someone for forgetting to wear underwear, but more like pointing out a weird cultural quirk they may not have noticed.

        1. sam

          just to explain why they do sell it that way – it’s so that the panels for the vents stay lined up/don’t end up a wrinkled/folded mess while the garments are in transit and/or getting tried on by various people. when you’re taking things on/off racks constantly, the likelihood that those “flyaway” parts of clothing will get bent out of shape is much higher.

          I do agree that they should make it much more obvious, or sales clerks should remind people to remove the stitching (or it should be part of the sale process – like removing the security tag).

        2. Beatrice

          The tack stitching helps keep the garment looking crisp and neat until it’s bought and worn by the eventual owner. They keep flappy bits of your suit from flapping open and getting crushed and wrinkled while the suit is being shipped and sold. A ton of people don’t know about it, especially as workplaces trend toward business casual wear.

        3. Ophelia

          Or even just the same way you’d mention a tag – “Oh, whoops, the tacking stitch is still in, do you want to borrow my scissors?”

    5. Orange Lilly

      What I do in a situation where the person is someone who would be amenable to the assistance and where it would be appropriate is to offer assistance in remedying the situation. Do not offer criticism without a proffer of remedy.

      “Did you notice that the department store forgot to remove the basting stitching in your suit/on your skirt for you? I hate that because I always forget when I get home to remove them myself. Of course, I’m sure no one else has noticed. I only did because I often forget myself. My husband/brother/best friend seems to like to leave them in, but I find they always fray on me. Isn’t that frustrating? If you wanted to remove them, I have a pair of nice scissors at my desk.”

      That way, if it’s someone who has never been told that those stitches are to be removed, you are helping them by letting them know and offering your scissors. If they know and don’t care or for some reason want the stitches intact, you weren’t criticizing.

      General note to commentators: If you aren’t raised in a household or culture where people buy these types of cloths, you don’t know. I didn’t know until I was 30. 30! Why? I grew up in an area where no one wore suits or fancy department store clothes. I didn’t know until my husband pointed out that I had worn my skirt all day and didn’t remove the basting X on the back. Cue retroactive embarrassment.

      The caveat to all this is as follows: You should always tell people their fly is down, they have something in their teeth, etc. You should not always tell people they have lint on their bottom or they have a run in their stockings. It depends entirely on the person, your relationship to them, and whether or not they are really going to embarrass themselves. If you don’t have the appropriate relationship and there is no risk of embarrassment, it is not your place to comment on their clothing, hair, etc. Far to often, this type of assistance has been shaded with misogyny, homophobia, racism, and classism. So, always ask yourself why you want to “help.”

      This particular problem is not at all in the league of an unzipped fly or toilet paper trailing from a shoe. There’s really very little risk that the party will be severely embarrassed by the stitches. That type of reaction would be an outlier, IMHO.

      So only intervene if it is someone who you generally have a relationship where this type of assistance would be appropriate. The young lady you are mentoring? Perhaps. Has she ever asked your opinion on her clothing or appearance. Your 80 year old boss? Nope.

      There’s a young attorney in my circle who is a WOC and an immigrant. She often asks myself and other, older female attorneys for advice on norms of dress and appearance of our local bar. Her, I’d tell. I wouldn’t, however, go up to some random woman, irrespective of age, and offer this type of assistance.

        1. Adele

          Tack stitching is often a basting stitch, so you are fine!

          I recently bought a pair of trousers where the pockets are so firmly sewn down that I am debating whether or not to remove the stitching! There are definite pockets there but they are sewn so tightly that I am afraid of damaging the fabric, even with fine scissors or a seam ripper.

            1. sam

              Or nail scissors – they’re usually tiny enough to wedge into the first stitch – once you get that one loose, it’s much easier to get at the rest of them.

    6. sam

      Just chiming in to say that this is also one of my pet peeves, and I always *want* to say something, particularly when I’m stuck behind someone on an escalator.

      I only ever say something to close friends, and then it’s along the lines of “oh, it looks like you forgot to cut the basting stitches off your new skirt/coat/etc.”.

    7. alannaofdoom

      I have seriously (well, okay, not SERIOUSLY-seriously, but fake-seriously-for-the-purposes-of-humor) considered carrying a seam ripper with me and just taking out the tacking stitches of passersby as a service to the citizenry. Just call me The Un-Basting Avenger!

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        I was at a bar one day with some friends and one of the guys had the ‘100% Wool’ tag left on his coat sleeve. I didn’t want to embarrass him so I nudged my husband who quietly pulled out a pocket knife and expertly cut it out.

        The guy, obviously noticing this, said “THANKS! My girlfriend and I could figure out if it was supposed to be there or not, we must have gone back and forth for an hour”

        Of course he ruined the stealth label removal by shouting this out loud, but about 4 other guys learned same lesson that day, so it became a public service.

        1. Live & Learn

          I love this! I want my sartorial public service to be finding a stealth way to spread the word that men’s shirts with buttons to hold the collar points down should not be worn with ties. Ever. They were not designed for ties but a ton of people don’t know that. I only know because I attended a seminar in college on (very detailed) standards of dress for formal professions. One day the CEO of my large company went on national news wearing a tie and button down collar. I was mortified for him, until i realized maybe 2% of my colleagues had ever heard that rule. My husband doesn’t know that rule and I haven’t found a way to break it to him that doesn’t sound snobby.

      2. Specialk9

        I’m glad you know the difference between elaborate mental schemes to correct your pet peeves in imagination, vs actually doing them.

    8. Not Rebee

      Yes, mine too. I hate seeing people wander around like that. Especially when it’s people who are a bit higher up the food chain/older than I am (I’m a late 20something) who I feel should know better. To be fair, I see this on women more than men (and one particular lady in my office is a frequent offender), in which case I suppose it matters even less, since it wouldn’t affect the way the dress or skirt in question drapes the same way it would on a suit jacket.

    9. ch77

      Me too! Drives me nuts. Old Job was full of 20 somethings in their first job post-grad school, and it was 100% suits all the time. I had so many conversations with women about needing to cut the little X, and SO MANY fought me on it… which just seemed odd. Love that it bugs others too

  2. Observer

    #5, WOW!

    Is this just your supervisor, or do you think he’s really reading the chain of command correctly? Because aside from the legal issue, which is real, that’s just a hideous thing to do to someone. Those benefits are part of your compensation package. Penalizing someone for actually USING the benefits that they have been promised just stinks. And doing so without letting people know that there might be a price to pay stinks even more.

    1. Artemesia

      And odds are pretty fair that the manager is initiating this rather than the higher ups. Time to think seriously about making a move; not necessarily moving — but updating the resume and looking at options when you are being underpaid AND the business is planning to hose you.

      1. uranus wars

        I wouldn’t jump to that assumption. This happened with a friend of mine who had a manager push to give the employee a discretionary raise over the standard that year – and the department VPs would not sign off on it because she had been on “vacation” for 3 months earlier that year. The manager and my friend had to go to HR to get the raise done.

      2. Specialk9

        It’s really awesome when people are stupid enough to say, out loud, using words that escape their brains out their actual lips, that they are discriminating illegally based on protected characteristics.

    2. fatherofmine

      I’m the asker of #5 here.

      It’s hard to how much of this was my manager’s idle speculation and vs something he’s actually gotten from chain of command. I do know his superiors have been asking him about what I’ve been up to lately, during periods of time I’ve been on leave, and he’s had to kinda sorta defend me by telling them I’m on leave.

      He might have thought what he was communicating was along the lines of, “we just gave you that shiny paid paternity leave, perhaps you should be grateful for that rather than appear ungrateful by asking for a 20-30% raise right after it” but any way you slice it, it kind of stinks.

        1. Specialk9

          OP, it sounds like some part of you thinks this is sorta kinda understandable?

          It’s not. It’s so not. Its terrible awful behavior, it’s illegal discrimination, and it’s sexist.

          Paternity leave (or non-birthing parent leave*) is so important to families, to bonding with a child, and to supporting a partner in pain and with limited mobility.

          But more broadly, paternity leave is important to women closing the wage and power gap. As long as only those of us with a uterus take parental leave, we’re going to be punished for it. (Exactly like you’re finding, except they didn’t think they needed to hide it verbally because you’re not a woman – it’s the exact same thing.)

          Mentally switch your situation with any woman’s, and let that outrage feed your actions. This is outrageous. Don’t let them screw you, and more generally screw women, this way.

          *Distinguished here from birthing-parent leave only because birth wrecks bodies; adoption has its own challenges and requirements for time and attention that are valid and worthy. But I’m playing the odds, with a guy and only 3 weeks.

      1. Woodswoman

        That is really terrible. Alison’s script is excellent. It gives you the opportunity to point out your company’s illegal behavior in the context of trying to keep them stay out of hot water, without it being personal. You deserve your raise based on merit.

        1. fatherofmine

          Thank you for the vote in favor of Alison’s script, and the basic reminder about deserving to be paid what I’m worth, Woodswoman!

      2. Foreign Octopus

        Hell yeah, it stinks.

        You need to fight this. Not just for you but for the other fathers at your company. If they’re seen discriminating against you it’s going to make other fathers less likely to take up paternity leave so to hell with that shit.

        Push back on this, and push back hard.

        1. Database Developer Dude

          I completely agree. There was a pro baseball player a few years ago that took a few days paternity leave during the middle of the season when his child was born…he got roundly criticized for it. That kind of crap is how this perpetuates.

        2. TootsNYC

          A man at my company took paternity leave, and even years later, it kept coming up. Mostly, it came up because he would point out that he had been dinged hard for it when he took it. I think that was his way of trying to defend it for everyone.

        3. Specialk9

          Not just for other fathers, but for other mothers. When only women take leave to care for children, potential managers discriminate against women. When men take parental leave, consistently, it helps women. Link after.

          1. Plague of frogs

            At the university my friend works at, he was *required* to take paternity leave. They had tried offering optional paternity and maternity leave, but no one was taking it because of fear of impacting their career. So it stopped being optional, and the problem was solved.

            I remember that baseball player that Database Developer Dude mentioned. That caused me so much rage, and this letter brought all that rage back. Everybody says they’re pro-family, but I guess a lot of people just aren’t.

      3. beth

        It does stink, and since the law is actually explicitly on your side on this one, I hope you can successfully push back and get things resolved properly.

        1. Ophelia

          And if you DO decide to start job-hunting, I would DEFINITELY bring up corporate response to paternity leave during any exit interview. If you’re a strong performer, they should know that their backwards approach to family leave affects their ability to retain quality employees.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        This is a huge sack of bullshit OP. I’m really sorry you’re going through this.

      5. Thlayli

        30% of a year is over 15 weeks. Even if it was legal to consider paternity leave when making decisions like this, it still wouldn’t make any sense to refuse you an additional 15weeks pay that their own calculator says you should be getting, just because you got 3 weeks leave! The numbers don’t add up.

        You could point out to your boss that even if it wasn’t completely illegal, the only way this would be reasonable would be the reducing your merit raise by 3 weeks worth of pay, not refusing you one altogether.

        1. fatherofmine

          I’d be shocked (and wishing I’d started my job search like, yesterday) if after all this is said and done I were denied a raise altogether.

          But I like the way you think, about trying to quantify it, so even if it turns out they’re “only” using the paid part of the leave and not FMLA against me, I could push back and say, “Well, that’s terrible, but if you really want to do it, it should only cost me $X. How do you justify the rest?”

          1. A Girl Has No Name

            Im a bit confused by your referring to separate paternity leave and FMLA. In most companies that I’ve worked in, parental leave (either maternity or paternity) run concurrently with FMLA. Essentially, the FMLA part is the 12 weeks where your job (or a similar one) is guaranteed, and they simply choose to pay you for a portion of that time (even though they don’t actually have to according to FMLA).

            Is your company somehow separating them? I’m asking because I’m worried you would be leaving money on the table if you offer to go unpaid for your paternity leave in order to negotiate an appropriate raise. Paid paternity leave is a benefit your company offers. You shouldn’t have to give that up to get paid fair market value for your work/experience.

            1. Cat Herder

              FMLA is not automatic. The employee has to request it. Paternal/maternal leave may or may not be FMLA. FMLA doesn’t *give* leave; rather, it protects you while you are on it. It’s smart to use it when you’re on paternity/maternity leave, generally, but not a requirement. It’s quite possible to have FMLA covering only part of one’s paternity/maternity leave, depending on the length of time, how much time you asked to have covered, etc.
              Because the amount of time under FMLA is limited during each 12 month period, an employee may not ask to have all their leave covered by FMLA at a time when it *could* do so — saving it up for an expected later need for instance. Also, intermittent leave is not covered for birth and care of newborns (=paternity leave in this case) under FMLA, unless the employer allows it. So if OP wants a day here and there for paternity leave, it may not be covered under FMLA.

              Very clear Dept of Labor explanation at: https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/employerguide.pdf

                1. Cat Herder

                  That’s interesting. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve needed to use it. At the time I was instructed that I *had* to request it if I wanted it.

          2. Seriously?

            You might want to start a casual job search while you wait to see what happens. It never hurts to know exactly what your options are and get a head start should you find out that your company is not willing to pay you what you are worth.

      6. Lanon

        It’s also possible that his bonus is dependant on keeping his department/team’s costs low, and paid benefits might play into that cost. So he might have a direct monetary incentive to keep the “total employee cost” as low as possible.

        1. EPLawyer

          If the company can’t afford the benefits — and ding departments for actually using them, the company shouldn’t offer them.

          Here we have a guy getting paid LESS than market rate AND losing out on a raise for using his benefits. This is nickeling and diming employees.

          Also, I have great sympathy for the OP. But now you know how women are treated in general in the workplace. Push back. Not only for the other fathers who want paternity leave, but also all the women.

          1. Lanon

            The benefits are obviously designed to lure people in because the pay sure as hell won’t from what it sounds like. The company doesn’t want anyone to use them (it costs them money). This is like places that offer accrued vacation time that gets forfeited when the year ends and then never approve time off.

          2. Midge

            Yes! Imagine the raise conversation your boss would be having with a woman who used the whole 12 weeks of FMLA!!

          3. Falling Diphthong

            I recall a letter on here about the CEO of a startup, who’d listened when he was told “To attract talent we need to offer generous benefits” and was shocked, shocked to discover that if people use the benefits it costs money. So he was going around trying to talk people out of getting medical care, it’s mind over matter…

            1. zora

              Um, what?? He thought all the benefits were totally free of charge, delivered by the benefit fairy?? Some people…

          4. Specialk9

            I had that thought too. So many men have been shocked when women recently started talking up about our everyday invisible lives. Yes we are always always worried about being raped, yes we are evaluating you too, dude who thinks of himself as harmless. Yes we have elaborate self protective mechanisms and decision trees going at all times. Yes we swallow BS sexist comments (though less than we used to, hopefully, but still) at work. Yes we know we get penalized for being female, but also for not being female enough. Etc

            OP, this is a small taste of what being a woman is like (just without all the guesswork and not being believed).

            Good luck fighting for yourself, if you choose to, in a real way you’re fighting for us too. But we get why you might not choose to. Like really get it.

        2. Bea

          When budgeting you should do so assuming everyone will max their benefits out. He’s bad at budgeting basics if he’s trying to circumvent a budget portion he’s not in control of!

      7. Saskia

        Ugh, this is not okay, and I hope Alison’s script works for you.

        Since nobody else has commented on this yet: ?!?!?! Why does your manager feel like he needs to ‘defend’ you by telling his superiors you are on leave?

        This seems really off to me.

        Is the culture at your workplace one where there’s disapproval and anger from supervisors when people take leave they are entitled to?

        1. Not in US

          In my husband’s company – which is mostly men, it was almost unheard of for anyone to take parental leave or certainly much (more than a couple of weeks – not in US so entitled to combined Mat/Pat leave of at least a year). My husband was one of the first – he took 4 months and three of those months were alone with our son. I do think it had a short-term somewhat negative impact on the impression his management had of him, but it hasn’t affected him long term – he’s been promoted three times since then. If the company isn’t used to this – it takes one or two men to do it and start to change expectations. With the second child, he only took 4 weeks (his choice) but the company made sure he didn’t travel much that first year.

          1. i woke up like this

            My husband took six weeks for the birth of our second child, and his boss acted like my husband grew a second head. He works for the federal government, so he had to use his vast amount of accrued sick time since they don’t offer paid parental leave.

            Not that his employers cared, but with my husband home for six weeks (as opposed to just two for the first), I experienced a way better recovery! Seriously everything was easier with extra support. No postpartum mood disorders this time around! Nursing established quicker and easier! Older kid still received a ton of affection and attention! It was great having him around—parental leave for the non-birthing parent really should be the norm.

            1. Chameleon

              Yes, my husband took five weeks off after our daughter was born and I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if he hadn’t. When I was sobbing on the couch from lack of sleep it was lifesaving to know that I could just wake up my husband and pass her off without having to worry about him having to get up at 6 the next day. Paternity leave is not just a benefit for men.

            2. Specialk9

              My husband had to fight to get the promised paternity leave, and HR/managers/co-workers acted like it was so hard and weird.

              Thank heavens. I almost died and was in the hospital for weeks. I literally couldn’t have without him.

        2. Someone else

          I’m just guessing but let’s say everyone is judged on a metric of X blahs per month (or year), and OP has X-z blahs, because he was working fewer weeks than everyone else because he was on leave. That’s the “defense” I’m thinking was happening. Literally just a reminder that he was on leave so his blahs were a shorter time period than everyone else. I hope the “defense” isn’t more than that, because if it is…then I doubt pointing out the illegality of what the company is doing will get very far since I’d seem they have a very bad culture on this subject.

      8. MLB

        Definitely push back hard on this. Outside of it being illegal, it’s not the way anyone deserves to be treated. You say you like other aspects of your job, and it’s not just about the money, but I would polish off my resume and start casually looking. If they ultimately come back with little money to offer (and no other benefits), this is a sign that they’re not serious about retaining their employees.

      9. samiratou

        If I had to place a guess, I’d say your boss is trying to use your taking of paternity leave as an excuse to deny you the market adjustment they have admitted they owe you but don’t want to pay you.

        Call him on it, as you’re not that stupid, but they may come up with another BS line to avoid paying you what you’re worth.

        Start job hunting, for sure, but you may have to decide whether you’d prefer to keep working there for less vs striking off into the unknown for more. No judgment from me, either way! I could probably be making more than I do if I left here, but I’m comfortable here, I Know Things, and I like my boss & coworkers. The only one in the wrong here is your boss, but you can’t control him, unfortunately.

      10. mayfly

        The same thing happened to me (except I’m a woman). I was told that I have taken “too many” maternity leaves and that’s why I’m underpaid. It’s BS, I’m underpaid because I was naive and misinformed when I negotiated my initial salary. But they need a reason to make it my fault instead of bad faith on part of management, because they’ve had years to rectify it. With others, they’ve been able to point to certain missing credentials or lack of advanced degrees, but they couldn’t do that with me.
        The problem you (and I) now face is that the people who are supposed to be advocating for us and our compensation don’t seem to think that we’re worth advocating for. If your manager straight up tells you that you don’t deserve a raise because you took paternity leave, how hard do you think they’ll push to get you a raise in the future? They will not plead your case because that could cost them some social capital in the company and they won’t see you as worth it :(

      11. Artemesia

        My SIL had more paternity leave than my daughter had maternity leave for both of their children and his businesses were both ones where men took their leave and were expected to do so. I think it is sad that in a country with so few workplace perks, the ones people do have are often faux. Taking these leaves didn’t hurt his promotion and raise opportunities either. I hope as the next generation takes over management roles, this nasty pattern will fade. Bosses today in older organizations are people who were lucky to get one day off when their child was born — my husband had to work the day after both our kids were born; no one questioned it then and paternity leave was not a thing (I didn’t have maternity leave either and had to take unpaid leave)

    3. Marion Ravenwood

      And we wonder why more men don’t take paternity leave (or shared parental leave in the UK). Answer: this type of stuff. (I know taking parental leave has been impacting women’s pay and progression forever too, but if we want to encourage men to take that time out then penalising them for doing so is not the way to go about it.)

    4. AnonForThis

      I had my manager say the exact same thing about maternity leave this year. We know you’re due for a raise, but, it will be hard to get it approved since you’re just coming back from a long maternity leave.
      This script is useful. I actually sent Alison a similar q this year when it happened! Instead of fight it that way I chose to negotiate an alternative schedule but, it still sits poorly to this day.
      And imagine how many bosses do this and just are sharp enough not to verbalize it.

      1. Washi

        Exactly! This kind of thing is really easy to get away with as long as you’re smart enough to make up some other excuse about why the raise/promotion isn’t going to happen…

        Hopefully the fact that the boss did say something to OP, whether or not it’s true, will make them more likely to get the raise, to avoid the appearance of discrimination.

      2. HR Question

        Serious question. There’s someone in my department who took over a year off (I think you can do that in Canada, but it might not all be paid), so if they’re not around for any of the year, can it be justified to give them just the cost of living adjustment, and no merit raise, since they did not do anything to “merit” a raise that year?

        1. Chinookwind

          In Canada, I believe the year of for any type of leave means you have hit pause for the year. There can be no loss from what you had (so a raise based on the year before the leave should still happen), but you shouldn’t expect a gain either as you haven’t added a year’s experience while you were paused. The downside is that you have a year’s less experience than your cohorts but, then again, you are not starting from the bottom like you would if you had changed jobs.

          But, since OP was only gone a short time period, I can’t see it impacting the quality of his work before and after and should be treated like they treat anyone who took a vacation for a few weeks when it comes to merit raises.

    5. BananaPants

      I was informed that I wouldn’t be getting a merit increase one year because I had been out for 10 weeks on FMLA as maternity leave. I work for a company in the top 50 of the Fortune 500, so not some fly-by-night operation. Of course it isn’t documented that way (they’re not dumb!), but it’s not like the rank-and-file are privy to the details on how their merit increase or raise is determined. Most employees don’t have any real recourse after receiving a disappointing raise other than finding a new job.

      Just because employers aren’t supposed to take FMLA use into account in determining salary/compensation doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. I know a number of other women in my field (engineering) working for other large companies who have had the same experience when taking maternity leave.

    6. MsAnon

      Would bonuses fall under “compensation?” My coworker just had her semi-annual bonus pro-rated because she was on maternity leave from April to June. It’s not a bonus based on sales or a certain metric she would have been unable meet after being on leave. The bonus formula is vague (we’re not sure if there is an actual formula) and is supposed to be based on the company’s overall performance, growth, and retention of your clients. Is it legal to limit a bonus because someone was out on FMLA?

      1. Anotherwomanengineer

        Probably… If they pro rate someone because they start in March (and missed 3 months of the bonus year) then they can do the same for maternity leave. Our bonuses are discretionary- but theoretically based on how much you bill/your profit. So if I have less hours because I was on maternity leave I’d expect a smaller Bonus.

        1. Specialk9

          That’s not really the same. They didn’t stop working for the company in that pause, they were on legally protected medical leave.

          1. CMart

            I just commented below that at my company (I’m not sure about the specific terms and technicalities, I’m in finance not HR) when you’re out for maternity leave (aka: FMLA/short term disability) you’re reclassified as not being an active employee in some way.

      2. Artemesia

        I have no idea about the law but it does strike me as ‘fairer’ than not getting a merit raise. The raise is going forward not pay for the past; they are not getting extra pay for the 3 mos they missed but rather better pay because they are good at what they do and the pay is in the future. A bonus is theoretically a cut of the profits generated by your work. A sales person would have a lower commission on maternity leave because she wasn’t selling; a new person might get half the bonus if there half the year; it doesn’t seem outrageous that a person who was out 3 mos for any reason might get a smaller cut of the bonus. It does seem petty though and not designed to promote morale and good feeling toward the company.

      3. Specialk9

        She should talk to an employment lawyer. That sounds like weasel wording to try to get to discriminate illegally.

      4. CMart

        I would assume it’s legal, that’s how it works at my MegaCorp.

        I’m about to take my first maternity leave here and haven’t verified 100% how it works yet, but my understanding is that the weeks I’m on Short Term Disability (and the remaining unpaid FMLA weeks) I’m not considered an employee. I know there’s technical and precise language around this, I’m just not sure what it is, and I know that it impacts my bonus which is calculated much like yours–though our formula is very explicit in the metrics used it’s not necessarily up to individual performance.

      5. NotAnotherManager!

        Our bonuses are heavily calculated on billed hours, so if you’re not here to bill, you’re probably not going to get the same bonus as someone who was, regardless of the reason for it. My bonuses the years I took maternity leave were lower, but I don’t recall my raises being affected (in fact, the year I had one kid, I got an absurd raise because the market jumped and I had an incredibly good year the months I was there). In professional services, if you’re not billing, they’re not making money. We also do fully paid leave for 2-4 weeks for nonbirthing parents and 3-4 months for the party that gave birth.

  3. Observer

    #2, If you were seriously asking about telling *strangers* about the tacking, you really need to rethink your investment in what random strangers wear. I can’t imagine anyone NOT being put off by it.

    1. Artemesia

      Absolutley. But do close colleagues and friends the favor of saying, ‘oh I think you missed one of the tacks when you took the tags off your new suit.’

      1. Observer

        Sure. There is a major difference between what you say to people who you know well and random people on your bus or train.

      2. JamieS

        Friends? Maybe. Colleagues? Unless it’s causing an actual harm (beyond OP’s annoyance) I’d stay away from telling colleagues unless OP has a relatively close relationship with someone and knows for a fact they wouldn’t take issue. It seems like a pretty minor thing, and IMO it is, but clothing is one of those minor things people seem to be the most sensitive about

        1. MLB

          This 100%. This is one of those things you just need to get over, because it’s really not a big deal. I would not be embarrassed if I forgot to take it out, but I would be annoyed if someone I barely knew told me about it. I will say I put on a new pair of jeans and stopped at DD for coffee on the way to work one morning, and a stranger in line let me know that I forgot to take the size sticker off that ran down the leg. Now that I appreciated!

        2. Seriously?

          I think that if you supervise them then it would be ok to point out. If they are your peers, then only if you know that they would want to know. I can’t see correcting your boss.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I suspect I am totally in the minority, here. As someone who has accidentally left the tacking on a new suit jacket, I am so grateful when someone lets me know. It’s not as embarrassing as having your fly down—for me, it’s more like accidentally leaving a price tag visibly on a new piece of clothing.

      But I wouldn’t be put off, just because I find the oversight so embarrassing. I’ve only had one person tell me about it (my boss), but if a stranger noticed, I would probably appreciate a head’s up.

      For all other normal humans, I agree that a person should only mention the tacking if they have a good working/friend relationship with the tacked person. It’s likely going to come off a little overbearing if you say it to strangers.

      1. Willis

        Same. If the person was friendly about it, I’d appreciate the heads up. I think it would be more awkward if the suit-wearer didn’t know that the tacking was supposed to be removed though, cause then it may come off like a random stranger is telling them how they should be wearing their clothes. I probably wouldn’t chance it with a stranger, but would tell a friend or co-worker I know well.

        1. Thlayli

          It seems like the strangers mostly DONT know it’s supposed to be removed though. Which adds another wrinkle – they are unlikely to believe you.

          If a random stranger came up to you on the train and told you you were wearing your clothes wrong, but many other people on the same train are wearing them the same way as you, would you believe them? Or would you assume they were a crazy person?

          1. TootsNYC

            I would think they were likely to be right. And that they -could- be wrong. And I’d google it, or I’d go find someone I knew whose judgment I actually trusted on this.

          2. Thlayli

            Im genuinely surprised at the responses. if a random stranger came up to me on a subway in New York and told me I should cut the threads in my clothes – I would jump straight to “crazy person”. Especially since op says loads of people are wearing them that way now.

            1. Anonymeece

              I feel like this is a salient difference in whether or not it would be appreciated. I would appreciate someone telling me, provided they were friendly about it, but from my understanding of New York, people mostly keep to themselves? (Disclaimer: all my knowledge of New York comes from Buzzfeed stories of subways and TV). So in New York (or other big cities), it may not be appropriate to say anything. In a small town, I’d say probably go for it.

            2. CMart

              I’m a Chicagoan and my understanding is that we’re slightly more open to stranger interaction than your average New Yorker, but I would probably appreciate a heads-up on my train commute to work.

              However, is the person tapping me on the shoulder also wearing a suit? Or are they wearing PJs? I would probably trust a person wearing a suit about suit-related issues.

            3. zora

              I think you might be using hyperbole on purpose, but as a person who lives in a big city, if a stranger came up and said pretty much any random thing to me in public, I would not jump straight to “crazy person” unless what they were saying was actual gibberish. I would listen to them and then analyze the information. If it was something like how I’m wearing my clothes, I would think there was a pretty good chance they knew something I didn’t know. I have talked to strangers a lot about small random things, and they have almost never been a ‘crazy person.’

      2. CaseyAtLarge

        It doesn’t sound like she’d be telling them they forgot to cut the tacking off this particular suit, though. She’s essentially telling them they’ve committed a social faux pas, and it’s likely they’ve been doing it for a while out of ignorance. That’s pretty different from saying “you forgot it this one time.”

        1. Pollygrammer

          Also, depending on the location of the tacking, it’s going to say “I was looking at your butt.”

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Totally. If OP decides to approach strangers, OP needs to maintain a friendly, non-judgmental tone similar to the “you have spinach in your teeth” tone, and not a “you don’t know how to wear your clothes” tone.

      3. Rebecca

        This happened to me yesterday, I wore a new skirt to church and forgot to take the tacking off the back pleat. I noticed when I got home and changed my clothes. No one said anything, and more than likely no one noticed, but I felt embarrassed nonetheless.

      4. Washi

        I agree. If it was a random stranger, I would probably google it first to confirm, and then very happily remove the tacking! I would probably only tell other women though, and it might come across creepily if a man told me to remove the tacking on my pencil skirt, since that is usually in the butt region.

        It’s not so much that I personally hate seeing tacking, it’s that some people WILL judge and a quick word can help someone avoid embarrassment.

      5. MLB

        I think that’s the difference. You would be embarrassed about it and would appreciate someone letting you know. I wouldn’t care, so if someone let me know, my first thought would be “why does this random stranger care about my clothes and what business is it of theirs”. I kind of equate this to someone telling me my outfit doesn’t match, or I shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day.

        On the other hand, if my fly was down, my skirt/dress was tucked into my underwear, I had a giant piece of spinach in my teeth, toilet paper stuck to my shoe, etc. I’d appreciate the heads up.

        1. Chocolate lover

          I would suggest they have too much time on their hands, and need to find more important things on which to focus their attention.

          One of my male coworkers told one of my female colleagues with whom I’m friendly, that I left the tacking on my wool coat. He thought I would take it better from her (true – he’s said many gendered and inappropriate things, I don’t listen to him on anything.) 2 things – I genuinely didn’t know that. And I didn’t care enough to be bothered cutting it.

          1. CMart

            I really dislike this framing of people noticing things, the “they have too much time on their hands.”

            It takes a fraction of a second to notice something amiss like spinach in someone’s teeth or tacking left on a garment. You don’t have to be fondly gazing at people’s mouths or butts for your brain to register “oh look, a thing that is out of place.” And it takes a fraction of a second more to think “I wonder if they’d appreciate a heads-up.”

            Humans tend to be curious creatures and tend to be curious about other humans. It’s not weird, or idle, or preoccupied/obsessive to notice things about other people.

          2. Canarian

            Wow! That’s an oddly self-defeating approach. Being annoyed at someone telling you is understandable. I can’t wrap my mind around continuing to wear the clothing with the tack in it our of pure stubbornness, though.

            1. Plague of frogs

              Chocolate lover said she didn’t care. I’m not sure where you see the stubbornness and self-defeat in that? Seems like a reasonable attitude to me.

      6. KimberlyR

        I wouldn’t mind being told by a stranger as long as the tone of voice and words were friendly (and not meant to make me feel dumb or silly.) I’m 32 years old and have never worn a suit so if I bought one, I would make a similar mistake.

        1. Allison

          Right, too often these comments sounds kinda condescending or judgmental, like you’re explaining common knowledge to a child or something. I know that’s not always the conscious intention, but that’s often how it sounds, so there is some emotional labor involved in sounding friendly.

        2. Specialk9

          It’s not just on a suit, but most nicer skirts or jackets, even a winter coat. It is just a trick to keep clothes on the rack looking nice.

      7. iglwif

        Same.

        I went out for dinner with friends with the tag still on a top I’d just bought, and I was grateful when one friend pointed it out and took it off for me (although also super embarrassed that I’d been out riding the bus with a tag hanging out the back of my top, ::sigh::).

      8. RainbowGrunge

        I’m with you.

        When I started first started in a position where business wear was required, I wore a pencil skirt for several months without realizing I needed to take the the tacking out. I didn’t realize until I was coming out of the bathroom one day and noticed a loose thread. Cut it. Later a coworker came to me and said something like “Thank goodness your finally took that out. I’ve seen you wearing that skirt since you started and it’s been killing me.”

        I wasn’t all that embarrassed, but it was weird that this person was inspecting my clothes so much, noticing something wrong and not saying anything for months until I fixed it…I would’ve appreciated it being pointed out sooner…or if her comments made after I fixed it were just never said…the months of observation are what weirded me out I suppose.

      9. AMPG

        Now, I’m the opposite – I would MUCH rather have a stranger tell me something like that, because it would mean I could correct it before someone I knew saw it. I don’t care if some random person I’m never going to see again sees me walking around with something wrong with my outfit, so better that they tell me before I get to the office and someone whose opinion I respect sees it.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Agreed. Pet peeves kind of mystify me (in fact, pet peeves are… my pet peeve).

      How could anyone possibly care about someone else’s suit tacking? If someone pointed this out to me I’d roll my eyes.

      1. Specialk9

        I think because it’s a social class indicator – like the rituals around drinking wine. I think that’s why so many people are so embarrassed too.

        1. CMart

          I mean, maybe it’s a social class indicator. But removing the tacking also makes the garments move better on your body, and that’s how they’re supposed to be worn.

          It was years before I learned that it was “tacking” and not “something crucial to the structural integrity of my pencil skirts” and it was so freeing walking around in un-tacked clothing. I could actually take full steps, not weird little Barbie tiptoe, cross at the ankle steps. Same with learning that the sewn up pockets in my jackets weren’t a permanent state.

          Of course it depends what the tone and messaging is, but I read “hey, just so you know the tacking thread is still holding the back of your jacket together” to be a gesture of goodwill. It’s improving someone’s experience of their clothing. I’m trying to think of an equivalent, but everything I’m coming up with aren’t easy to spot with the naked eye (the liners in swimsuit bottoms, wadded up paper in the toes of shoes etc…). It’s not “ew, you look like a peasant”, it’s “oh, you could be more comfortable” with the added benefit of “and people won’t think you’re a n00b.”

          1. Canarian

            Yes, co-sign all of this! I guess a tacked vent in a suit jacket doesn’t change the way the clothes wear all that much, but when I first realized I not only should, but could open the tacked down pencil-skirt slits and pockets on half my clothing, my life because much more comfortable. I’d be much more apt to tell a coworker who had a tack left in a skirt just so she could actually walk comfortably.

    4. Allison

      Seriously, worry about yourself! I appreciated my mom telling me to cut it, and I probably would have appreciated my boss or maybe one of my coworkers at my internship about it, but I can’t think of a single time I would have liked to have a stranger on public transit try to correct something about my outfit, even if they were “right.”

      1. AMPG

        I said this above, but I would SO much rather have a stranger who I’m never going to see again correct me before someone whose opinion who matters to me sees it.

    5. Tomato Frog

      I agreed with Alison’s response, but I’m surprised by this one. I’ve been grateful for strangers who give me a heads-up about an easily-fixed matter of my appearance (e.g. something adhering to you, not cutting off a price tag), and never thought of it as being overly invested in my appearance. I actually prefer a stranger telling me on the way to work to a coworker telling me in the middle of the day….

      1. Observer

        YOU are not overly invested in your appearance. The OP (and the people who go nuts about this) are overly invested in OTHER PEOPLE’S appearance.

        With something like tacking, which is a pretty minor faux pas, for most people if a stranger came up to them and informed them that they need to cut it, they’d be wondering why someone is examining their clothes so carefully, why does a random stranger care anyway, and (if they didn’t know about this) how do they know this random stranger is even right.

        1. Allison

          Right, exactly. It’s possible that they really just happened to notice, but I would wonder whether they’d been evaluating my outfit, and in either case, I’d wonder why they thought it was such a big deal that they felt they needed to say something about it. I live in Boston, people generally leave each other alone on public transit.

        2. Tomato Frog

          I understood you perfectly! I never thought of it as *them* being overly invested in my appearance.

          1. Tomato Frog

            And I’m on NYC transit, too. If I have a seat, I’m right in the line of all the big white Xs on people’s jackets and coats. It’s not like it’s hard to see. Again, I’m not disagreeing with Alison’s advice to leave it alone, just the idea that someone would have to be “overly invested” in other’s appearance to notice this or to think it’s worth commenting on. Many people do find it helpful!

        3. Essess

          I don’t know about others, but when you have a man walking in front of you in a dark/black suit and there’s a giant white stitched x in the smack middle of his butt, it’s hard not to notice. It drives me crazy when I see it all around as well because it makes the person look ignorant of how to dress themselves (like regular straight bra straps under a racer-back top). I’m not “examining a stranger’s clothes carefully”. Most tackings I’ve ever seen are in a very contrasting color in order to make it obvious that it’s supposed to be removed.

          1. Chocolate lover

            “Ignorant” seems a bit extreme. I grew up in a family that never wore such clothes and I had no idea you were “supposed” to remove those things. To me, it made no sense that things would be stitched together if they were meant to be removed, it creates more work for the consumer. Why stitch it to begin with?

            To me, people aren’t “ignorant,” they pick and choose which conventions they want to be bothered with.

            1. Specialk9

              Not knowing IS ignorance. It just is.

              Judging someone for their ignorance is unkind, and in this case I think classist.

              I would only think less of someone for the classist judging, not for just not knowing. Some people have other priorities, and classist gate-guarding is a thing.

          2. Observer

            It drives me crazy when I see it all around as well because it makes the person look ignorant of how to dress themselves

            But why on earth do you care so much?!

            Even assuming that you are correct and these people are ignorant, so what?

            1. zora

              Because everyone has those little things that they know and are bothered by! Why do you care so much about the fact that people have pet peeves?? In fact, the very fact that we are all calling them pet peeves is acknowledging that we know it’s a little, unimportant thing, but it bugs us. My dad’s is the lack of the Oxford comma or people using “utilize” instead of “use”, but it’s the same thing and I don’t judge him for being annoyed by bad grammar.

              No one is talking about going around with a bullhorn and yelling at everyone to cut the X’s out of their clothes and threatening them with prison if they don’t. THAT would be caring too much and more than a little crazy to take it so seriously. Essess and the OP are keeping it to themselves, that is not “Caring so much”, so you can hold your outrage.

      2. Clare

        I had a stranger on the street do this to me once (tell me to remove the tacking). It turns out she was not actually a stranger, but the hiring manager who I was on my way to interview with! Needless to say it was an awkward interview (for many reasons, not just because of the tacking- she was a bit odd). So do be careful what you say to strangers, you never know who they might turn out to be!

    6. Look good feel good

      I’m surprised so many people find this ridiculous or are being borderline condescend about wanting to tell strangers while at the same time would appreciate a heads up on other things (fly down, price tag, spinach in teeth). All of those things are also just social conventions of how we dress ourselves, so I don’t see why this is different. I think you can easily say something like, “oh you left the tacking in your skirt” to another woman. Either she’ll know what you mean and address it or she won’t and it won’t matter. If you’re the type of person who would correct a strangers other appearance things, this seems the same. I’d appreciate it.

      1. Cambridge Comma

        I think it’s because at this point in history there may be more people who don’t know what tacking is for than there are people who do. It’s not the same kind of faux pas as a price tag.

      2. Orange Lilly

        The difference is those things are almost universally embarrassing. While I’d appreciate being told, I don’t find leaving tacking in to be an embarrassment.

        1. Artemesia

          I find it as embarrassing as a price tag. Some tacking like that on a pencil skirt or sometimes the vent of a coat is hard to see and just spoils the movement of the clothing, but those big Xs make the person look like a rube just like a price tag hanging off the neck does. I have been that rube and I appreciate a heads up.

      3. LQ

        Yeah, to me this is the same as the sticker that I missed on the shirt I wore on Saturday that had the random quality checker number on it. Woman at the dog park pointed it out and picked it off for me (it was dead center in the middle of my back). Thank you nice dog park lady, and if she’d said the same about tacking I’d be just as glad.

      4. OhGee

        Yeah, I recognize that lots of people don’t know about tailor’s tacks (I understand what they’re for because I sew and I used to work in receiving in a clothing store where occasionally we’d have jackets and coats with tacks in the back vent) and I can’t imagine being condescending or rude to someone when I let them know about it. It ‘bothers’ me because I know it’s not supposed to be there (and the garment generally looks better when the tack is cut off, because the fabric is able to drape more naturally over the body. I’ve even seen these tacks on ‘nicer’ garments from relatively affordable places like H&M (I’m a big thrifter, too, so I understand why somebody who sticks to second hand clothes may never have encountered tailor’s tacks). To me it *is* the same faux pas as a price tag, because it isn’t part of the garment — it’s meant to hold vents, pleats, and the like in place to preserve the garment’s look during shipping to a store. At the same time, most people in my part of the US are not interested in interacting with strangers on public transit unless it’s an emergency, so I don’t bug strangers about it.

    7. Falling Diphthong

      There are several examples upthread of people who were grateful someone on the metro explained to their young self how vent tacking worked. I agree with Alison that it’s a dice roll with strangers–some people will be grateful, some offended, some managers will yell at you for removing it when the sophisticated thing is to leave the tacking there forever. But it’s not universally off-putting–much closer to telling someone they have a tag sticking out.

      1. Observer

        Yes, I see that.

        I stand by my two main points, though. The whole “peeve” and “drives me nuts” bit when it comes to total strangers is just over the top. Think about it – There is always brisk discussion about how much standing people have to express Opinions about thing others do, even when those things actually can have significant effects on them whether directly or not or maybe just potentially have a moral component. The general tendency here is towards “butt out” and “MYOB”. Yet, somehow when it comes to this issue, which has NO moral import and is absolutely NOT going to have any impact on others, somehow it’s reasonable to “go nuts” and inform other people how to dress?

        Also, the chance of totally putting someone off is far greater than someone being grateful. That’s especially true when it’s coming from a place of exasperation.

        An additional point here. The OP is apparently commuting on NYC transit. That’s NOT a place where people become even surface friendly with their fellow commuters, so the context would make it more weird than in other places.

        Lastly, and this is not directed especially to the OP, if you are a guy this becomes several times more fraught. Especially if you’re in an environment like NYC transit.

        1. Orange Lilly

          Well, I am worried we are getting scope creep here. We aren’t talking about total strangers, we are talking about coworkers and colleagues.

          It still may not be appropriate, but it’s not the same as commenting to some stranger on the LIRR. There are things that are appropriate in a work context that are not on commuter rail. I’d tell Bob in accounting he had a stain on his tie if he was going to meat the CEO. I wouldn’t point that out to a rando whose only connection to me was sitting down in the same car on public transport.

          It’s also hugely different if it’s offered as a criticism or if it’s offered as assistance. If you merely make note of it and tell the party you have scissors if they want to take them off, that’s different than a condescending lecture.

          The intractable issue here is really how much this bothers her. I’d hate to go through life being that bothered by other people’s foibles. She needs to both learn when it’s ok to comment to other people and how to reign in her personal tick on this issue.

          If there’s no risk of embarrassment when seen by others (e.g., a fly down or spinach in the teeth), then the utility for the person she is giving this info to isn’t there. It’s all about her.

          1. TootsNYC

            actually, some of us ARE talking about total stranger.

            I wouldn’t make a beeline to mention this to someone down the subway car from me (though I would if their fly were open), but if they were near me at all, I’d probably say, in a confidential, informative tone, “You forgot to cut the tacking stitch on the back or your jacket.” And then walk away.

            1. Artemesia

              I would never tell a total stranger his fly was open. Odds are fair that he planned it that way on the subway. I’d probably not even tell a co-worker unless I thought he was going into a meeting and no guy would be likely to catch it before he did. That seems much more intimate than the vent tacking on a coat, skirt or jacket.

              1. Specialk9

                Lol “why yes, glad you noticed about my fly. Let’s continue this creepy conversation in that poorly lit section of this platform.”

          2. Observer

            Actually, we WERE talking about strangers. Read the letter – I specifically responded to their question about saying something to strangers, not to colleagues.

            The intractable issue here is really how much this bothers her. I’d hate to go through life being that bothered by other people’s foibles. She needs to both learn when it’s ok to comment to other people and how to reign in her personal tick on this issue.

            I totally agree with you on this.

            1. zora

              I feel like you are letting your feelings about this be overblown compared to what this letter is about.

              The OP *is* keeping it to herself, she is not currently telling people, neither casual coworkers or strangers. She is asking if it’s ok to say something, but she’s not insisting she will tell people no matter what anyone else says. The entire concept of a ‘pet peeve’ is that it is a small thing that bugs someone, knowing that it is not actually a huge, significant issue. everyone has pet peeves. One of yours is apparently other people voicing their pet peeves. But I don’t think this letter warrants the kind of indignant anger your comments seem to be showing.

              1. CMart

                Agreed, zora.

                “Dear Alison, I notice a lot of people leave the tacking on their clothes and I often wonder if instead of ignoring it like I always have if it would be doing them a service to bring it up” does not = OP is obsessed with tacking or so incredibly bothered to the point of it being a “tic” to tell people about it.

                People notice things. Any time I purchase a new thing it’s ALL I can see around me (just got a new car? Every Camry on the road catches my eye. Getting engaged? People’s wedding jewelry was the most obvious thing in the world that my eyes kept getting drawn to). My attention is perpetually caught by people wearing disproportionately casual shoes with more formal clothing.

                Having your eyes/brain go “hey look at that” does not a preoccupation make. It’s milliseconds of your day.

    8. Sunflower

      I don’t understand being ‘annoyed’ by someone leaving tacking in their clothing. Unless I was walking or standing behind someone for a long period of time, I doubt I would even notice they forgot to take it out. I don’t really find it to be embarrassing- it’s kind of like leaving a tag on your new shirt where I would just assume you forgot. If someone came up to me and said ‘You left the tack stitching on your suit, it’s supposed to come off’ I’d 100% find it condescending. It’s not the same as saying ‘oh I think you forgot to cut the stitching’

      Also..OP, you say you don’t want to come off as ‘obnoxious or condescending’. When you describe your feelings on the subject as ‘continue to mentally be exasperated at their ignorance’, I’d say it’s going to be really hard for you to not come off that way.

    9. escribo

      I am replying very late, but if OP really wants to be heard on this issue (with friends and colleagues), calling them “basting stitches” rather than “tailor’s tacks” or “tacks” (which are the correct term, yes), will make it clearer to the hearer that these things are not intended to be part of the final product!

  4. neverjaunty

    LW #4, you’re not going to get ownership at this firm. As the subheading says: it’s not happening. Yes, it’s not unusual for a company to make ownership contingent on bringing in business in some cases, but here are things honest companies in that situation don’t do:

    – Promise you ownership when you’re hired and then change the rules for that ownership
    – Refuse to provide you with concrete goals or timelines
    – Play emotional games like calling you ‘impatient’ for trying to ask a very normal question related to your employment

    Your boss hired you with a promise he either never intended to keep, or changed his mind about keeping. That’s the reason he refuses to provide a timeline and gets defensive; he’s certainly not going to tell you that ownership is off the table and risk you leaving.

    1. Willis

      All of this. Also, depending on the size and structure of the business and if the boss is also the owner, I would consider whether you really want to own a firm with someone who you don’t trust.

      I was in a somewhat similar situation for about 8 years, where my boss/the company owner kept making promises like that but never any action. It was a carrot to pull me along while I did most of the work and she made money off it. You’ve put in a lot of time there, are in a different role that you’re less successful at, and your boss is kicking advancement opportunities further down the road. Unless there’s some truly compelling reason to stay, sounds like it’s time to look for something else.

    2. Anonymouse

      If you did all the work, you can always start your own company or start a company with a real partner.

      It is doubtful that your now-boss soon-to-be-rival had you sign a non-compete agreement.

      This career advice courtesy of:
      Moriarty, Blofeld and Soze
      discretely ruling the world for over a century

      1. Chameleon

        Although if business development is neither her forte nor her interest, starting her own company may actually be a hideous beast of a thing. (Signed, someone with less than zero gift in marketing who tried and failed to start a private practice)

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I agree 1000%. Although I think it’s absolutely reasonable and normal to condition ownership on business development (as well as contributing a buy-in or equity), OP’s boss has no plan for actually having OP become a co-owner. Boss is doing several shady things: moving the goal posts, becoming defensive and shutting OP down, refusing to provide any criteria for ownership, and then having the audacity to say 8 years is “impatient.”

      OP, I suspect his business is either unsufficiently healthy, or his cashflow is meager, or he really never intended to bring you on but dangled ownership in front of you during hiring.

      In the future, if you find yourself in a similar situation, be sure to nail out all the terms of the agreement in a written contract. You should know things like the conditions/benchmarks you have to meet, the length of time provided to reach those benchmarks, the amount/share of the business and its market valuation, a clear description of your ownership powers (or lack thereof), whether there’s an equity contribution requirement, etc., etc.

    4. beth

      Agreed, unfortunately. If your boss actually intended for this to happen someday, they would be doing something to move toward that point–telling you where the benchmarks for ‘success’ are, giving you a timeline, helping you develop the needed skills, and/or explaining delays. Instead, they’re putting you off and changing the topic to your emotions when you bring it up. That’s a pretty clear sign that they don’t want to discuss it…which in turn is a good sign that they have no real intention of making it happen.

      1. 4Asker

        Asker of #4 here – thanks AAM and commenters! All very helpful and much appreciated. And Beth – EXACTLY. There are no set goals, benchmarks, timeline, nothing tangible for me to work with. I’ve asked, but that’s when I got the “impatient” comment. Frankly, this works out well for my boss (until he needs a successor). I do feel frustrated that I haven’t been able to grow the business (in my defense, it’s an industrywide phenomenon as the industry changes – and I’ve continued to make suggestions on how we can combat this but as of late have felt more like a squeaky wheel than anything as most of our non-ownership staff is older and closer to retirement and not wanting to change things too much). I’ve received no sales training other than “I believe in you” which is nice but not useful when I’ve spent years spinning my wheels an doing my own research on how to go about this, then not given a budget or any resources when I suggest changes. There are a lot of great things about where I’m at but this solidifies this: I doubt I can do business with him and it’s time to move on. Thanks again everyone!

        1. B

          Even when he does need a successor, you may be unpleasantly surprised that he hands it to someone else for some new perk thay can offer. Get out now, and/or tell them you are leaving if you do not gat something clear in writing.

          1. Artemesia

            THIS. This happens to children of owners all the time who are underpaid for years on the promise of ‘someday this will all be yours’ only to have the business fail or be sold leaving them in the lurch having never been fairly paid. There is no reason that he would choose you as a successor and who knows there may be a nephew or family friend who pops up when the day comes. Start a low key and leisurely search for a place that will pay and treat you well for the expertise you have and give two weeks notice if you find that new position. Hope you do and soon.

      2. Falling Diphthong

        I think the intent could have been vaguely sincere, but it was an underwear stealing gnome plan–time would pass and vague things he couldn’t really describe would happen and then OP would be part-owner. Like romantic partners who tell you they are someday going to want to get a cat with you, but their plan for that is that one day they will wake up and the universe will have revealed to them, in a dream, that the time is here.

        1. Thlayli

          Haha love this. Like guys who think “oh yeah I’ll have a family “some day” ”

          They never seem to realise that the best way to do that is to actually plan for it!

        2. Specialk9

          Is “an underwear stealing gnome plan” a thing? Because I’m seriously intrigued here.

          1. Falling Diphthong

            It’s a South Park reference. A show I’ve never watched, but it’s an observation that resonates. The conspiring lawn ornaments develop the following business plan:
            1) Steal underwear.
            2) ???
            3) Profit!!!!!

            Which is reminiscent of so many real-life schemes, in and out of work.

    5. Thlayli

      This. OP it might be worth one more conversation in which you ask your boss for clear information on when you will get ownership and if there is anything more you need to do to get it.

      Unless you get a clear answer you are happy with within a day or two of this request, assume there is no possibility. You have nothing in writing so it’s very unlikely you would win any sort of case.

      You basically have to choose are you happy to stay without ownership or do you want to leave?

    6. Seriously?

      Yeah. If you do decide to stay and give your boss the benefit of the doubt, ask for the promise in writing complete with exactly what goals you must meet to be given ownership at the firm.

    7. Nita

      Yeah. I’ve seen a similar situation pan out as ten years of promises and actual boss work done without the corresponding salary and title, followed by boss’s unexpected illness, rapid changes in upper management, and the job going to the new boss’s buddy. The person that was “supposed” to get the job was basically hounded out of the company instead.

  5. fatherofmine

    I’m the asker of question five. Thanks so much for the answer, Alison. Following up for you, or the commentariat:

    I like your script and the giving-him-the-benefit-of-the-doubt approach.

    I’m on the fence about it, though, because my worry is that I’ll still get a meager raise, and– having tipped them off to my concern– if I ask, the on-the-record explanation will just be something that won’t get them in trouble: “mumble mumble, business priorities.”

    (Yeah, it’s a red flag about the employer that this is a worry at all, just like it’s a red flag that I’m underpaid in the first place, but again, I’m not quite ready to start planning my exit.)

    What about a slightly harder-edged approach along the lines of what you wrote, but with something like the following added: ” … because if my pay bump doesn’t at least get me close to what you and I seem to agree is my market, now I’m going to have a hard time convincing myself it’s not because of the FMLA thing.”

    That would seem to motivate my manager to do his dardnest to make sure I wasn’t unhappy with my raise this year, at the cost of some tension. But I bet it’d get me the raise I want. I’m sure they’ll do the math on the cost of a suit vs the cost of just figuring out how to pay me my market (like that’s so much to ask).

    Assuming I’m ready to show some teeth, are there angles to this approach I’m not considering, or better scripts for it? How good or bad an idea is this?

    1. Foreign Octopus

      I think this is a good idea for reasons I’ve stated above. It’s 100% not fair that you’re being penalized for taking time off to look after your baby (congratulations by the way). I don’t have any scripts to suggest as I’ve just woken up and am filled with rage that this is happening but before you approach them, brush up on your CV today. As in right now. Hopefully this is your manager flailing about for excuses why not to
      pay you what you’re worth but just in case it’s company wide, you need to be prepared.

      Also, is this a situation where if it does turn out to be related to FMLA one should approach the labor department?

      1. fatherofmine

        Thanks, Foreign Octopus. Seeing how angry this has made you is helpful; I’m quite non-confrontational by nature (which is probably how my compensation has stayed so low in the first place) so even contemplating this kind of thing feels like I’m being underhanded, like I am trying to extort the company out of money. I have to remind myself that 1) what they’re doing is objectively not okay and 2) asking to be paid what I’m worth isn’t “extortion”.

        I like my manager on a personal level, but I need to realize that at the end of the day, at least in this matter, our interests aren’t aligned and never will be. He answers to his management/shareholders. His incentives (whatever they are) surely push him to stay within his budget. He wants to come in under budget, and make a big bonus for his family? I can understand that. But I don’t have to let it happen at my expense.

        1. Detective Rosa Diaz

          I agree, this so so crummy of them! Once I was cast in my first Second City show, and i took a few Fridays off so I could enjoy performance days without commuting 2 hours each way to work. My VP told my manager it was “unprofessional” to use my vacation time for one day off s few weeks in a row. Nitpicking about paltry benefits when you’re underpaid already really stings. I’m sorry OP. Congrats on your new baby!

          1. fatherofmine

            Thanks for the congrats! New baby is super great. (Also, my wife and I are big fans of Brooklyn Nine Nine!)

            1. Not a Blossom

              NINE NINE!

              (Sorry, I can’t help myself.)

              I don’t have any advice that hasn’t been given, but I do hope you stand up for yourself. This treatment is grossly unfair (and just gross).

        2. Holly

          Regarding the interests not being aligned – you’re right, it doesn’t have to happen at your expense. 1) It is supposed to be in management’s interest to retain employees, and there should be managers out there that also care about their employees and want them to take paternity leave 2) the LAW is there for a reason – to prevent employees from getting stiffed when these interests do not align. They are not obeying the law here.

        3. birthdaycakeismyspirtanimal

          Correcting your managers (wrong) assumptions on paternity leave is not any more confrontational that correcting him if he called you by the wrong name, or had your title wrong on your review.

          It is a correction, not a confrontation.
          It is not subjective, it is not a debatable topic. It is simply a wrong assumption that needs to be corrected.

        4. Specialk9

          They’re not the only one angry. I was pushing down the

          FLAMES!
          FLAMES UP MY FACE AND INTO MY HAIRLINE!
          A HUMAN TORCH HEAD OF FLAMES!!!

          because it didn’t seem helpful. But seriously this is enraging.

          Please make sure you send yourself an email, or several, so it’s time stamped, that summarizes the conversations, as close to verbatim as possible. Usually I don’t recommend one do that on the office email, but in this case it might be helpful.

          “On 10 July, Boss McPhee informed me I was underpaid by 20%. On 16 July, Boss McPhee stated that he planned to reduce my promise raise because of my use of paternity leave. His exact phrasing was ‘Xxx’. On 24 July I raised my concern that this was illegal discrimination for federally protected parental leave. He said ‘Xxx’.” (Etc)

    2. Loose Seal

      I almost hate to say this because you should be looking out for you and yours first and foremost so it’d be logical to do what helps you out the best.

      But…

      Frequently, women’s issues don’t get treated seriously unless a man brings them up. And if they are short-changing you because you took paternity leave, then they are more than likely short-changing all the women who took maternity leave. And it might help all of them if you spoke up. As well as helping yourself and all the fathers who’d like to take leave.

      Congrats on the new kiddo!

      1. fatherofmine

        Thanks for the congrats! I have no idea if this is a systemic thing or not, but if it does help out others who use maternity leave, I’m all for it.

              1. Someone else

                Because Annoyed is betting it IS the case, so anyone who agrees this is likely should not take the bet because they’d be betting against it, and thus expecting to lose.

              2. Specialk9

                Because I assume women ARE getting treated that badly, or worse.

                (Wait, am I doing bet taking wrong? They say “I bet women get treated that way or worse”, I don’t say “I’ll take that bet, I think women are rated better” because I agree with them. I’ll admit I don’t gamble so may have it wrong.)

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      OP, I think your script is the second thing you should say. Here’s what I would do (in sequential order):

      – Collect all the data you have about your salary underpayment;
      – Make sure you have dated copies of all your performance evaluations;
      – Start keeping contemporaneous notes of your convos with higher ups (if not contemporaneous, take notes immediately after, with dates and time listed at the top, and do this consistently);
      – Save said information and evals at your house, not at your office;
      – Use Alison’s script;
      – If boss/managers, etc., try to come back with a “business explanation” for not paying you, use your proposed, hardline script.

      The benefit of waiting to escalate is that it gives them a chance to make it right while also triggering your FMLA retaliation protection (again—new claims) for anything they do after you put your manager on notice. Keeping copies of all your employment stuff also helps you if they try to go back and paper your file to justify underpaying you. And depending on your state, there may be additional legal protections re: discrimination based on family status or parenthood.

      What they’re doing is really shitty (excuse my language). I literally gasped when I read the part about penalizing you for using your benefits, like parental leave. And even if that’s not the reason for underpaying you, they sound shady as hell. I hope you’re considering actively job searching, and I’m so sorry you’re going through this during such a vulnerable time in life :(

      1. fatherofmine

        Thanks, Princess Consuela Banana Hammock. How’d you know I’d respond best to an argument laid out as an algorithm? I intend to do basically proceed as you suggest.

        I’m especially glad to hear you say that the subtler phrasing is sufficient to trigger FMLA retaliation protection. That was one of my reasons for thinking to start out more aggressively, but on reflection, if I don’t have to be aggressive and I still get protection, that’s all the better.

        1. neverjaunty

          Also PLEASE take very strongly to heart the advice about documenting. You may already know this, but “papering the file” is a company’s building up a paper trail to justify demoting or firing an employee, and it’s not something you’re likely to hear about until you get blindsided.

          1. fatherofmine

            Thanks. I definitely am taking to heart the documentation advice.

            I have an email exchange between myself and the boss’s boss, dated just a few weeks after I got back from leave. It starts out as a group email where he congratulates my team on a job well done getting a key deliverable done on time. I replied to just him to thank him for the kind words and recognition, and he replied, “Sure. I meant every word I said. In your case it’s even more tricky with the new kid. Thanks again.”

            I take that to mean, “I would be natural and expected if your performance suffered a bit after a new baby, with the time out of the office and the sleep deprivation; but on the contrary, you are still doing a hell of a good job, and I want you to know it.”

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I’m so glad it was helpful, and please let us know what happens!

      2. Artemesia

        And note in the conversation that a merit raise is for money they will pay you in the future for work you do excellently IN THE FUTURE — it is not pay for the period you were on leave but recognizing the quality of your work. There is zero reason a merit raise should relate to any time off in the past; it should only relate to quality of your work since it is paid for future work.

    4. beth

      Personally, I think the beauty of Alison’s phrasing is that it already has teeth–it says “I know my legal rights here, and I’m not afraid to stand up for them.” But it’s subtle about it. It phrases it primarily as a mutual goal (“We *all* want to avoid that, don’t we? We’re on the same side right now”), while leaving the threat (“Because I might sue if you don’t do right by me, and that would be bad for you”) as a secondary layer of implication.

      The downside of a more aggressive statement is that it’s more likely to feel like a threat, rather than a reconcilable point of disagreement. And threats escalate things. For example, maybe you get the raise this year, but your performance reviews are suddenly worse going forward. Or maybe you start getting shit assignments. Or maybe your boss stops listening to your thoughts and concerns and ideas. Or maybe your manager is pissy and it makes going to work every day a high-stress experience. Or maybe you just get pushed out, with a less enthusiastic recommendation than you would otherwise have had. I personally wouldn’t risk it unless the softer option already didn’t work and I was already ready to leave if it went bad.

      1. fatherofmine

        All great points. I’ve come around to the soft-touch-first approach, definitely. Thanks!

    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      You shouldn’t start with that. You can escalate to that if the first approach doesn’t work, but the point of the first approach is to get the message across while maximizing the chances of preserving the relationship, which is in your best interests. If that doesn’t work, then you can get more aggressive — but I wouldn’t start there, because if you can get the outcome you want without potentially messing up the relationship, that’s better for you.

      1. fatherofmine

        Thanks, Alison. Having thought through it some more and gone through the comments (especially Princess Consuela Banana Hammock’s, which brought me over the finish line), I agree– I will start with your script, and go from there. What a game of poker this is.

    6. Lanon

      I’ll be the cynic here and will just say that once you mention that you know it’s illegal, you become dangerous for the company.

      I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if you started getting bad performance reviews and maybe a PIP to set up a legal enviornment to let you go once that happens. People don’t like employees who know and exercise their rights, lawsuits are expensive and they’d rather continue underpaying and underdelivering.

      1. fatherofmine

        I should hope the FMLA retaliation protections would mitigate that. Perhaps I should be more cynical, but I’ll grant that it’s at least a low-probability, high-impact risk.

        The course of action if it were to materialize, though, seems pretty clear: 1) brush up my resume, and 2) call a lawyer. Right?

        1. Lanon

          Might want to decide if that was worth it. A friend of mine had a similar experience (with other FMLA stuff and it was unpaid, but also similar) where they started noticing “performance problems” right after he let on he knew his rights. Within 2 months he was fired for cause and given a bad reference.

          He did end up contacting a lawyer but the lawyer said they played it well enough so he doesn’t really have a case.

          But again, this is the cynic’s view and not representative of all bosses, only of the human landfill type material.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Definitely make sure to track your performance before/after leave and from when you return to when you have the salary and FMLA conversation with your boss. They might paper your file after you flag the FMLA problem, but the better your record-keeping is, the easier it will be for an attorney to make out a case for FMLA retaliation. Badly behaved companies do what they do because they think you won’t catch them or you won’t be able to afford suing them (emotionally, usually, more than financially, as these cases are often taken on contingency). You may never have to bring a lawsuit, but you’ll feel better if you know you’ve got your “receipts.”

          (Once you allege FMLA retaliation, they can argue the defense that they took “adverse action” for non-discriminatory reasons. But then you get the opportunity to show it’s a pretense for unlawful FMLA retaliation, and that’s easier to do if you can demonstrate your performance was strong by your employer’s own standards and standards within your field/profession/industry/position.)

          1. Nox

            This recently occurred with my brother who was eventually dismissed from the same company I work at and was told he was eligible for rehire but when going to collect unemployment he was denied under the grounds of the company claiming he quit.

            As of a few days ago, he won his appeal hearing after sending NY state screen captures of his reviews and inconsistent documentation, my company had no choice but to lay down.

            Naturally I’m sure I’ll be blamed for it since I’m famous for advising people on their rights even when it’s not beneficial to the company.

            1. Specialk9

              I’m curious – do people NOT usually immediately email their private email with every performance review, and every big compliment from a manager or customer? I thought that was routine.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Most people I know do not copy compliments, etc., to their personal email accounts. In my experience, folks only think to do this if: (1) They’re a lawyer, and even then, not often; or (2) they think something fishy is going on, or have seen bad things happen to others, and have been advised to keep those files.

          2. Chameleon

            I’m sorry if this is slightly off topic, but I know that in some states employers have the right to see some, if not all, of their HR files. I would guess that if LW5 hadn’t kept (or wasn’t given) copies of past performance reviews, he could do so now? But what happens if HR refuses? Are there protections against retaliation for asking this?

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              OP should be able to see his entire personnel file, and to request copies of the reviews or other documents. But a number of employers are weird about this (kind of like how so many health providers misunderstand HIPAA and then try to deny patients access to their own medical records).

        3. McWhadden

          Honestly, proving an adverse action was based on protected leave is very difficult. More difficult than the states standard would suggest.

            1. neverjaunty

              It is. That’s why the LW needs to get all his papers in order. Not because he will necessarily have to sue them, but often simply being able to show that they aren’t going to be able to play games is enough to negotiate, say, moving on with a good reference.

        4. Lemon Bars

          Your company is already underpaying you on their own scale, and penalizing you for using your benefits, and this is only what you are personally aware of, I suspect that the ones you are not aware of would make you sick. Your FMLA retaliation protections are already not working or you would be absolutely getting a raise, its not cynical its logical with what you have written. Lannon does have a point lawsuits are expensive and timely and while it would be great to fight for the greater good I think what he is asking is if it is feasible for you and your family to do that, only you know. Either way please make copies and secure them at your home of your previous reviews and emails and notes of excellent work, and documentation of work done on time and up to par before you speak to your management. You have an up hill battle ahead of you, be mindful that your work is not out for your best interest in any way. Good Luck

        5. neverjaunty

          Yes, unfortunately, you do need to be a lot more cynical here – or if not cynical exactly, don’t make choices based on which ones you think will result in the least chance of confrontation.

          Honestly, your company’s behavior seems like just the latest escalation in a long history of treating you poorly. If it really is true that “the budget” is too tight to pay you fairly, then your company’s business model depends on way underpaying you for your labor. And the fact that they are trying to blame YOU for their business choices is a big sign that their story doesn’t check out.

          Even if you aren’t ready to jump just yet you should get your resume updated and, actually, talking quietly to a lawyer is not the worst idea.

        6. Anotherwomanengineer

          Fatherofmine – did you actually fill out FMLS paperwork? At my work the guys just take paternity (it’s just a type of PTO) without filling out the FMLA paperwork since they take less than 12 weeks (they usually only take what is paid). So technically they’re not on FMLA, they’re just using PTO.

      2. birthdaycakeismyspirtanimal

        I think that many of the comments about how this situation can escalate are very speculative, and are jumping the gun.

        There is no reason to believe that your manager is the first line of an evil company trying to stick it to new parents.

        He could simply be wrong. Don’t discount that your manager might be bad at this part of his job. Using Alison’s script to keep things on the logical, calm basis. Worry about escalating when you have reason to escalate. Yes, this could be the tip of an unfair iceberg that you will need to mount a passionate defense for fair treatment. Or it could be just an ice cube that can be melted away with a simple conversation.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yes. It’s possible it could escalate, but not the most likely scenario; the most likely scenario is the manager just lacks knowledge in this area.

        2. neverjaunty

          There’s no reason to believe that the company is trying to stick it to new parents, but there’s an awful lot of evidence that they’re sticking it to the LW.

          A simple, polite conversation is entirely compatible with the LW carefully documenting his achievements and past reviews and so forth. If his company is well-meaning, he’s got all he needs to back up his request for a raise (or, someday, to use in getting a job elsewhere). If it’s not, he won’t be caught flat-footed.

        3. beth

          It’s less that it’s a likely outcome, and more that it would be a pretty nasty outcome if it came to that. Risks are worth taking seriously when they’re either very likely to happen or would be a very serious problem. And the fact that there’s a risk doesn’t mean to never escalate; it just means that it’s worth trying safer options first, if they exist.

    7. Nita

      I find it interesting that he mentioned the 20-30% number at all. Have you been at the company a long time, and is this the first time he tells you that you’re underpaid? I mean, if you are, you were probably also underpaid before you took paternity leave, except no one said anything. I wonder if your supervisor has just realized, but cannot get you a 30% salary raise in one year (because that’s a LOT!) and is using your leave as a very questionable excuse. If you’re planning to stay on for a while despite the pay situation, try negotiating with him about spreading out the raise over several years. He may be able to get buy-in from upper management about that. Or your circumstances may change in a few years, and you may be able to take a different job that’s not underpaying you.

      1. fatherofmine

        Not a bad thought about spreading it out over several years, but then I have to swallow the pill of continuing to be underpaid for several years, albeit perhaps less so.

        Yes, I have been underpaid for many years. How I ended up with a salary so low relative to my market is a long story, but the short version is, I was an early employee at a startup which was recently acquired by a big company. So, there used to be a legitimate reason for my pay to be below market (equity/upside). In the end, the acquisition wasn’t all puppies and rainbows, and the equity I had didn’t turn out to be worth all that much. And the salary stayed on the low side post acquisition.

        My on-the-record start date therefore is many years in the past, but really, my relationship with this company and my current manager is quite young.

        1. Artemesia

          I had a 30% salary adjustment after a merger when my salary was way out of whack compared to the new organization and later hires; I had a boss who was high up in the stack and went to bat for a few of us in that situation. Got 15% the year after that. Didn’t make me rich but at least my salary was not crazy out of line during the succeeding years of 2% COL raises.

  6. Gaia

    Whoa, #5 is so uncool. Punishing you for using a benefit? What the actual EFFF? Are they going to lower your raise because of your use of health insurance? PTO? The office gym? And if they do this to you, you can bet MONEY they are doing it to women.

    So gross.

    1. Gaia

      Also, this reminds me of Old Job who changed the PTO policy a year after I got there.

      Old policy: at start you get X days, each A years of service you get an additional day.
      New policy: at start you get X days, each subsequent year that amount you are awarded is based on the number of hours *WORKED* (read: not paid, worked) the previous year. To get X you had to work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. That meant if you took PTO this year, you’d get less PTO next year.

      But hey, they were big supporters of work/life balance and encouraged us all to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves….

      1. anonymouse

        Oh wow, what a crappy policy.

        At one of my former employers, it was half of the bonus that was tied to hours billed to clients (the other half was tied to any surplus the company made).

        BUT, they based it on the number of hours that you billed above 40 weeks of 40 hours, so you’d have to either take all your PTO and all your sick leave (6 weeks each, but sick leave only with doctor’s notes), or do quite a lot of not billable hours in order to get no bonus at all. I think there also was a cap at 46 weeks of 40 hours, so if you only did billable hours and took no sick leave, you could take all your PTO and still get the maximum bonus.

        My only complaint with that system was that it penalized people, who worked on internal projects. It also would have been really unfair to HR and the secretaries, but I think they had a different bonus scheme.

    2. JamieS

      Yeah, if this really is coming from the higher ups and not just some BS OP’s manager is feeding him, the company is most likely screwing over employees of all shapes, sizes, genders, and parental statuses.

      If it’s just OP’s manager I wouldn’t take that bet because there are still people who view paternity leave as more frivolous than maternity leave and will hold it against a new father. Not to say the majority of people feel this way, I don’t know the statistics, but it was the first thing I thought of when OP said he was essentially punished for using paternity leave.

      1. Konstanze

        Yes, you are probably right. They might think paternity leave is an unecessary luxury (instead of… you know : what you should do when you are a parent).

      2. Harper the Other One

        Yes, when we had our second child my husband became one of the first biological dads to take paternity leave at his organization (previously it had been offered to biological mothers and all adoptive parents, and someone finally made the case that biological dads might need adjustment time too.) There were plenty of people who talked about “all that leave” he got and mentioned that “in their day, fathers just didn’t get leave” in a rather sneering tone.

        Although a number of the (very feisty) older people he served, men and women alike, told him how wonderful they thought it was and how different their own lives would have been if they’d had access to leave.

        1. A Girl Has No Name

          I just don’t get the mentality of some people who begrudge others being treated better once we realize the error of past policies, etc… They are basically saying “I was taken advantage of [or treated poorly, or whatever] in my day so you should be treated the same way now. Let’s not make any progress, and instead just grump about it for all of eternity.”

          1. TootsNYC

            My FIL did this the other day. He immigrated from a Communist country without knowing much English, and he was telling me that someone in his trade union was out to get him because of his immigrant status, and it had a bit of that “I had to go through it so these immigrants today and others being discriminated against, like women, should just stop complaining.”

            I finally said, “But FIL, do you think that SHOULD happen? Is that what we WANT to have happen? Wouldn’t you have wanted someone to speak up and say, ‘Hey, don’t treat him like that’? Or do you think this should still go on?”

            And he did say, “Oh, well, you’re right, it should stop.”

          2. Kj

            Yes. This is a pattern I am super familer with and very resentful of. I work with kids with special needs. The number of adults (including parents of those kids) that tell me they didn’t get any special help and struggled in school AND they think it makes kids ‘weak’ or ‘coddled’ to get extra help is mind-blowing. It is really sad- I had a rough time in school, therefore that is the way school should be is horrible policy. I have a personal stake in this, as I am just young enough to have benefited from IDEA and had parents who got me help for my severe dyslexia- it was hardly an easy or coddling experience, but it allowed me to have a MA and work with kids who are struggling like I once was.

      3. neverjaunty

        This. Back some years ago when Mr. Jaunty worked for a “progressive” software company, he had to fight them for two weeks of leave. One of his co-workers (a father of five) was shocked at the idea that I might expect some help with a new baby and asked him “Who wears the pants in your family?”

        1. Specialk9

          My husband’s coworkers too. They considered work to be a Get Out of Jail free card, after their babies were born.

          Jail of course meaning time with their baby and wife who was in pain.

          (They were men married to women.)

        2. Kj

          Ugh. As a pregnant woman whose husband is getting flack for mutual choices we made, I HATE that phrase. Even my so-called progressive friends tell me not to expect that my husband will change diapers or help. They seem appalled when I mention that I expect my husband to help and so does he. Also cue the outrage when we talk about the kid getting my last name, for various complicated family reasons. You’d think I was the worst wife ever…and we live in one of the most ‘progressive’ cities in the nation and work in fields that are known for being progressive.

          1. neverjaunty

            Oh yes. It’s amazing how hard many “progressive” people will cling to their comfy little gender roles while loudly denying they’d ever do such a thing.

            I guess if you don’t want to cut these people out of your life you could play dumb? “I don’t get it, what does that phrase mean?” “Well, we don’t really think of it as ‘helping’, he’s the baby’s other parent, and it’s such a shame when kids grow up disconnected from a parent, don’t you think?”

          2. Massmatt

            It’s surprising how traditional some people that are otherwise very open-minded can get around issues of family, child rearing, etc. The political becomes more personal and all of a sudden the person who was talking about gender equality is getting upset when a coworker decides not to change her last name at marriage.

          3. Specialk9

            Oh my gosh. Their husbands don’t change diapers?! I didn’t realize that was an option, except for people stuck in really sad relationships.

          4. JamieS

            Me too. It’s just so asinine. The answer is obviously the baby. Walk into any house with a baby and you’ll see in 5 seconds or less who runs the show.

            Not a knock on neverjaunty, I know what she’s getting at, but I also hate when people use the term “help” when talking about a father caring for his child. Maybe others have but I’ve never once heard someone refer to a mom caring for her kid as “helping the dad”. Babysitting your own kids also grinds my gears.

          5. I GOTS TO KNOW!!

            My husband is the primary care giver to our daughter and has been since I went back to work 8 weeks after she was born. He wasn’t working when she was born and got a job working from home 5 months after she was born. He is the one that is home with her all day, changing diapers, making toddler approved food, dealing with princess dresses and puddle splashing, etc. I am the primary bread winner.

            Tell your friends to clutch their pearls, we have a gender role swap!

            My husband gets so angry when someone suggests he is babysitting the kids. He is their parent. It is called parenting.

    3. Mad Baggins

      Yes, I was also appalled (also kind of shocked that the manager was that honest?! I thought usually people were sneakier about discrimination?) and wondered how many women have also been punished for having children, or just being possibly able to have children at some point.

      1. Kate

        The company most likely pushes how lucky the workers are to have such a good job at the company and then is able to pay less and withhold things by promoting the fear of job loss.

  7. Mavis Cruet

    #1 You ask what’s making him think you can’t handle it. I don’t think he’s thinking of you at all – just grabbing all the good stuff for himself. I think you need to have a frank talk and then consider job hunting.

    1. beth

      It’s definitely possible that it’s thoughtless, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a sure sign that job-hunting is needed. I can envision see a case where he sees a project that looks interesting, he’s got enough time to fit it into his workload, so he goes “I want to do that one!” and gets dibs without realizing what his behavior is costing others. It would be bad management–a manager that doesn’t realize they’re supposed to be helping their team members grow is a bad manager–but that happens.

      I’m thinking of some of the managers I knew when I worked at a software company. They got promoted because they were good at their jobs as developers, but many didn’t have any management skills (or a natural instinct for it) and the company didn’t really bother training them on it, so this kind of thing happened sometimes. For those cases, usually all it took was a blunt conversation (“This is what you’re doing, these are the problems it’s causing, this is what we need you to do instead”) to get them correcting course. Plenty of them did just fine once they got that blunt feedback.

      If someone’s already had that talk with this guy and he’s continuing his nonsense, I’m much less sympathetic.

      1. Specialk9

        Agreed. I had someone give me that talk once. I was thinking about my stuff, and didn’t realize the implications for others. I was really thankful they told me.

    2. Blue

      My old boss sounds a lot like OP’s – he was the kind of person who hoarded interesting and critical projects in order to make himself indispensable. To change that dynamic, I took advantage of two things: 1) there weren’t enough hours in the day for him to do everything he’d committed to, and 2) he genuinely did want to be a good supervisor.

      I was very direct with him about my need for additional tasks, and he took it heart. I think he recognized that he would’ve wanted the same thing in my position. I sped things along by volunteering to do smaller projects that he couldn’t really say no to – like, “Oh, I know you have meetings this afternoon, so why don’t I take an initial stab at that.” The combination of explicit expectation-setting and evidence that I was actually super competent was effective, and I ended up with one of the most interesting project portfolios in the entire office because he had a very clear sense of the kinds of things I wanted experience with (due to me being so forthright) and trusted my work. Obviously OP has a better sense of her particular boss, but I think it’s definitely worth a frank conversation about what she needs in her role.

    3. SassyFran

      #1 OP here! Thanks for the comments!

      A more direct discussion will definitely be necessary. I’ve touched on the subject before, but not in the best way, by taking on a small project from his boss. It was within my responsibilities and skills, I had plenty of time for it, but the response I got was “You should be spending your time on other things.” I can see how that might’ve sent the wrong message to him, by going over his head.

      I tend to be a little passive aggressive in my actions, so I’m going to brainstorm effective ways to get this across without putting him on the defensive.

      1. Seriously?

        I think you can be super direct. Tell him that you don’t have enough to do and ask him how he would like you to spend your time. If you work on a project and he says “you should be spending you time on other things” ask him what those things are.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yes, just be super direct. Seriously, OP, this one doesn’t require major brainstorming — just talk to him and tell him what you’d like.

    4. epi

      I agree, this boss sounded to me like someone who just really enjoys the individual contributor work. If he’s taking on things that are new to him and picking them up really quickly, it’s probably at least in part because he finds them interesting.

      It can be a surprising amount of work on the manager’s end to delegate things, too, especially when they know how to do that task and have a lot of ideas about how they want it done. He’s picking the route where he gets to do the fun interesting project work and have it done the way he envisions it, over the route where he instructs and coaches and doesn’t get to do the cool parts.

  8. Confused

    #3 Rogue Parker
    “if temporarily vacant spaces can be used on a first-come, first-served basis ”
    If this is not already the policy I would be hesitant about making it the policy. I can totally see people arriving to find their spaces occupied and “Oh, I thought you were going to be out today/this week.” Meetings get cancelled, vacations end early, and then you have to notify the whole office you’re going to be back, risk having your space occupied, or waste your time on the parking spot tango.

    1. Thlayli

      First come first served in a small parking area would be a nightmare and would only mean non-parking employees would totally clog up the place every morning driving around and then driving out again.

      I have an idea that might work: the name of the person who is next in line for parking is given to everyone who has a parking spot and the people with parking spots are responsible for informing this Next-in-line person when they will be out for the day and next-in-line-person gets to use their space. This is the only fair way I can think of that would actually work.

      1. Washi

        Yeah, if it’s a small office where everyone knows who is out and who is on the list, maybe Next-in-line gets this perk. But if it’s not a reaaally small office, I think this could get burdensome really quickly, with people forgetting to email next-in-line, or forgetting to let them know that their day off was cancelled, plus then someone needs to be in charge of informing the parkers who is next in line and when that changes… In some ways, it is a waste to have an empty space, but if it’s a choice between wasting an empty space and wasting time with lots of parking emails, I could see the business choosing to waste the space!

    2. cncx

      yup, in my office we have prime parking in front of the office for managers that is first come first serve if these managers are out BUT people have to ask the reception, who has an overview on everyone’s calendars before parking and reception decides who was “first” rather than whoever pulls in at 645am.

    3. OP

      Yeah, it wouldn’t work here for exactly the reasons you describe – people come and go a lot for meetings, flex time, etc. Always having a spot is the entire benefit of the parking policy!

      1. govvie

        If making suggestions on how to handle spots during absences, especially if most are held by seniors/supervisors, why not suggest that when people will be out for extended periods of time they can give their spots to others as a thanks/benefit? When I had assigned parking (ahh the days!), I used to do this with my team and it was a big morale hit. Sometimes my vacation it nicely aligned with someone have done a great job on something and sometimes I just pulled a name out of a hat as a way to show that person and the rest of the team my thanks for their hard work. Even those who did not get the spot appreciated that I thought of them. We had actually permits, so it was very easy to see who was “allowed” to park there.

  9. like, whatever

    #1 This is a boss who doesn’t understand his job. Say you’re a team of engineers. Then your job is to do the engineering. The boss’s job is to manage the team. NOT to do engineering. There’s a big difference.
    If Ned wants to do your job, he shouldn’t be a manager.

      1. TheNotoriousMCG

        I think that’s likely considering the line about how the supervisor had been in the role for 15 years and seemed uninterested in upper management.

        Honestly, to me this sounds like someone who is genuinely interested in and enthused about the details and minutiae of their work (the picking up new skills like a sponge thing especially made me think this – that sounds like someone who is excited about regularly learning things) to the detriment of those he supervises. So I think that it is likely a bit intentional that he keeps all the innovative, new work to himself because I think he sounds like a person that likes to be consistently challenged, but I think that he is likely oblivious to the fact that the people he supervises want that challenge as well.

        1. Thlayli

          This is the most likely explanation. He enjoys and wants to do the actul work, but doesn’t care about managing people. Right now his role in the company means he gets to pick all the best work and apparently can handle it himself, so he doesn’t really have any incentive to change.

          Talking to him might work, if you can get him to really see that the rest of the team also wants work.

          Be prepared for the possibility that he just doesn’t care though and wants to continue keeping the best and most of the work to himself. In that case I’d be wary about what to do. Talking to upper management might just alert them to the fact that apparently your team is bigger than it needs to be! Which obv might not end well for the rest of you. Unless you can convince him to voluntarily stop doing this, you might have to resign yourself to the fact that this job will always be like this. So you then have two choices – look for a different job, or find a way to make this one work for you. You could use your significant downtime to pursue other projects that might make you more money, like writing or something.

          1. Penny

            Ned can’t read minds so as Alison suggested talking to him is the best appproach. I’m guilty of doing similar for some things like Ned when I need something done fast. A lot of people expect really full on training with things but in my case I learned by using resources (not people) and learned my job really thoroughly. Lazy people tend to ask me how to do something and when I direct them to the resources and train them, they tend to forget the steps and ask again later. It’s stressful so I’m wondering if maybe Ned has had lots of experiences like that.

            1. Les G

              This seems like a huuuuuge projection when it’s equally likely that Ned is just on a power trip wanting to keep all the good assignments for himself so his team never benefits.

              1. TheNotoriousMCG

                I think that is a projection as well. The tone of OP’s letter doesn’t reflect pier trip, just that Ned is over-involved. I think it more likely that it’s just obliviousness.

                1. SassyFran

                  #1 OP here! I was a little vague about Ned’s motivation because I didn’t want to throw him under the bus. To clarify, his managerial duties are in addition to our teams’ duties–anything we do, he does, though sometimes with less frequency.

                  He has referred to himself as “ambitious” before, but I didn’t want to give too strong of an impression. He does genuinely enjoy the work, and has recognized before that he needs to delegate.

                2. The Other Dawn

                  SassyFran: I’d sit down with him and be very direct. He has to be told that your team doesn’t have enough to do because he’s hoarding all the work. Otherwise, he probably just assumes you guys have other things to do and it’s not an issue. I mentioned below that I was/am him. If someone on my team had told me that they were left with little to do/want to learn more, etc., I’d be grateful to hear that. I’d want to know.

                  My boss hired me as a “working manager” (his term), which means that while my main job is to manage the team and our overall policies, I’m also expected to pitch in and do the same work the rest of the team does when needed. Which I love, because I don’t care for managing people and would rather be “in the weeds” sometimes. Sounds like maybe your boss is in the same position, in that he’s expected to do both, but he’s going overboard.

          2. The Other Dawn

            “He enjoys and wants to do the actul work, but doesn’t care about managing people.”

            I also feel like this is the most likely explanation, because this is me. I manage the people, but I don’t care for it. I’d much rather be doing the work. I’ve worked very hard on delegating more and handing projects out, but I admit it’s still a struggle.

            It could also be that the management piece of his job bores him to tears, as it does me sometimes. He’s probably hoarding projects because he wants something interesting and more challenging to do. Doesn’t excuse it, but seems a likely explanation.

            OP needs to talk to him and tell him everything that Alison says. Although, as someone else said, ask him what she needs to do to get more projects, rather than what does she need to improve.

    1. Lizzy May

      I had a supervisor like this once. Before he was a supervisor, he had the job I was in. He loved it and was good at it and had a great routine. The supervisor position opened up and because he was good at his current job, and because it paid more money, he was offered and took it. But he didn’t want to change his routine and he wanted to keep doing the work he liked to do. It meant a lot of sitting around for me and my coworkers. It also meant my job training mostly fell to my coworker rather than the supervisor. He was good at the job so he was promoted to supervise that job without really considering if he had the skills of interests in supervising. Frustrating for sure, but the best way to deal with it is to be blunt and ask for work.

  10. Konstanze

    OP5
    Well this is really crappy of them. Alison’s script seems great, I hope you get your raise and they stop punishing employees for using benefits.

    I hate the idea that you can “overuse” benefits : that is just awful. I see employees guilty that they use medical leave, or holidays, when it is a right.

  11. Barbara

    5 : Paternity leave is a statutory right. It would be illegal not to take it. You can’t be discriminated for using your statutory leave.
    If you are part an union, contact them. You can also contact ACAS for advice.

    1. MsSolo

      Implication is the LW 5 is not in the UK, so this probably doesn’t apply. Though if he wants to look up some stats about why taking paternity leave is a net benefit for the company, looking at studies done in countries where it’s statutory may help him stand firm against insidious mutterings for his higher ups.

      (I’ve stuck a link in my username, though it’s more about the benefits for the kid and society as a whole. Searching for studies using Norway and Sweden gives you a lot of good data, but the whole ‘social contract’ thing we were talking about last week in the comments means the focus is on society as a whole, not the economic benefits for the employer, and my google fu is proving weak today)

    2. Sled dog mama

      LW specifically mentions FMLA which is an American law and only guarantees unpaid leave in very specific circumstances.

    3. Jennifer Thneed

      Confused: a statutory right means you MUST do it? That sounds more like an obligation to me. (I mean, it’s a good kind of obligation but the terminology is confusing me.)

    4. Massmatt

      It’s illegal not to take paternity leave? In what country? Not in the USA, that’s for sure!

      1. Specialk9

        Some countries found that encouraging paternity leave didn’t work, so they mandated it. And in those countries, most men consider it the only right and proper thing to do, and are shocked that so many countries don’t. Sometimes laws are what it takes to change attitudes.

  12. Mockingjay

    #1: The only thing I would change about Allison’s advice is to not ask what you need to improve to get more projects. Reframe it as “what, specifically, new skills or training do I need to take on these projects?” Ned is going to be resistant to giving up work, so don’t leave any room for him find an excuse not to give it to you. If he says you need to learn X, send him an email within an hour with the course link and dates.

    I’d also look at the overall workload. If you (and your coworkers) are routinely without tasks because Ned has grabbed projects, your area might be over staffed. In which case Ned’s actions are about him protecting his own job and he may never give up anything.

    1. SassyFran

      Yeah, the potential of us being overstaffed worries me. I’m worried about a pattern emerging, where he’s seen with all these accomplishments, we’re seen with fewer, we get demoralized, he figures “the team doesn’t care, so why should I delegate?” And our workload gets less and less substantial. To add some clarification, in our field, there’s never a complete shortage of work–there is an endless flow of menial tasks.

      I don’t think we’re at that point, but maybe Ned does.

  13. Hiring Mgr

    For #3, I’m reminded of a quote by the late Robert F Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are and ask why? I see things as they should be and ask why not?”

    This go-getter needs to be rewarded, not reprimanded..

    1. Beth Jacobs

      Thing is, there could be a million reasons why not – from the perceived unfairness by coworkers to the possibility of the CFO coming back early. And as a junior employee, you might not always be privy to these reasons.

      It would have been one thing if the employee had asked, but to straight up take the spot is presumptuous.

    2. LCL

      No.
      #3 should ask for clarification of the parking policy. People who rush in to take some tiny perceived advantage when the general custom is to not take it are really tiresome. Their kind of action is what causes others in authority to make more written rules.

      1. neverjaunty

        Hiring Mgr’s shtick is to say outrageous things and then grumble when people don’t appreciate their “dry humor”.

        1. LCL

          Thanks for pointing that out, I did know about HM’s schtick. I just had to post because I have heard that exact line of reasoning here, with the speaker appearing dead sincere. Or faking it very well.

        2. Turtle Candle

          I have to say, I’ve been reading and commenting here for years and the longer I’m here, the more I hate this schtick. Saying outrageous things that you (probably) don’t believe because it’s funny to get a rise out of people is almost textbook trolling. (And since the things aren’t really funny themselves, the only possible humor is in the ‘gotcha’ of riling people up.) It strikes me as actively harmful to a commenting culture, for two reasons. One, it encourages people to take each other in bad faith, because nobody wants to get ‘gotcha’ed. Two, it’s especially unwelcoming to newer readers, because they’re the ones likely to be caught out as ‘not in on Hiring Mgr’s joke,’ which is pretty unpleasant. It feels very much like a joke at the expense of other people, but especially at the expense of people who take other commenters in earnest or who are newer or less frequent readers.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yeah, I’ve asked a few times for it to stop or be marked as a joke. I’m not sure why it keeps happening, but at this point I’ll take firmer measures.

            1. Hiring Mgr

              I really enjoy the blog, and contributing, so hopefully you will be merciful and give me another shot.

            2. Clever Anonymous Name

              Given that Hiring Manager seems to regularly forget to add mention of the sarcasm (as they’ve been asked to do), perhaps an easy solution could be to amend their user name to something like “Hiring Manager (beware of sarcasm)”.

            3. Julie Noted

              FWIW I find the policing of HM’s dry humour really tedious and every time someone complains about it I like the blog less.

          2. Hiring Mgr

            Honestly, I thought the ones I should mark as a joke were the ones likely to lead to derailment.. but i am totally fine with marking everything that’s intended as humor as a joke from now on, even if I don’t think it will derail.

            I’m not at all trying to get people riled up or have a “gotcha” sort of joke… I’m not sure what you mean about bad faith, but i apologize to anyone if this has somehow diminished the commentary. I’m a big fan of this site so by no means is that my intention!

            1. Turtle Candle

              What I meant by it is that your post threads that are jokes tend to take the form of you making a bald statement that will get responses (like this one, or the one where you dropped something like “You didn’t think the moon landing was real, did you?” into an unrelated conversation that happened to mention it), but that isn’t really funny in itself because yeah, some people do believe it. So then people engage with you assuming that you’re in earnest, which as far as I can tell you aren’t, and then they get told “oh, he just does that, he’s not being truthful.” The bad faith part isn’t you (I believe that you are not trying to be a problem) but because having been caught out by a “oh, you were engaging earnestly with him? waste of time, he didn’t ever mean it” makes many people feel like they’re being used as dancing monkeys–that their responses of genuine engagement with a not-genuine response was for someone else’s entertainment–and in the long run it results in people refusing to respond with genuine engagement because feeling like a dancing monkey sucks. Doubly so when other people see it happening and have to clue you in on the ‘joke.’ So they’re being trained to assume bad faith (i.e., that they’re safer assuming people don’t mean what they mean than that they do) lest they be embarrassed. It wouldn’t be a problem if your comments were more exaggerated, but as it is, they’re too similar to feelings that people actually feel… so people do engage assuming they are, and then are likely to feel humiliated when someone goes “psst, Hiring Mgr is messing with us.”

              This may sound dramatic, but I’ve seen it destroy communities, which is why I’m saying something. I don’t think you want that, and I believe that you aren’t trying to encourage bad-faith readings of comments, but I think it’s a real concern.

              1. Hiring Mgr

                Fair point.. i hadn’t thought of it from that angle and I see what you mean. In any case I have pledged to do it right!

            2. Someone else

              I think the issue is a lot of your jokes are obvious sarcasm to you. But the sarcasm is not obvious to a ton of other people. So even though it might feel like it ruins it to include /s, this misunderstanding has happened enough that it’s proven itself necessary.

    3. The Vulture

      Hahaha, yeah I have a relevant story of a similar go-gettin’ dude, my creepy boss (the one with the dog who killed his boss’s daughter’s kitten, for anyone who remembers that): He comes out of his boss’s office, to complain to us, the summer interns he’s in charge of, about the subject of his reprimand. Apparently, he had been parking in a spot that had been unoccupied – he knows it isn’t being used because the woman who’s spot it was, was in the hospital with a debilitating, long-term issue, say, cancer – but he didn’t understand, she wasn’t USING it, he wasn’t callous (narrator: he was), it just didn’t make sense to keep that spot open when she wasn’t using it, why shouldn’t he snatch up a parking spot from a sick coworker?

  14. BeenThere

    I so feel you on the X on the back of suit jackets and skirts! I just want to carry scissors and cut them when I am following someone up the Metro escalator! I think some people just don’t know… although I have never seen anyone reinforce it!

    1. Iris Eyes

      I can imagine a band of vigilante untackers lurking in public spaces surreptitiously removing excess stitches. Their enemies would be ignorance and dry cleaners who retack. Anyone who cares to make that into a comic series I’d be happy to view.

  15. Cordoba

    My previous job had a similar tenure-based parking system, where people who had worked there for 25+ years got a spot with their name on it right by the door. Everybody else (plant manager, VP, whatever) parks first-come first-served and has to hoof it if all the close spaces are taken.

    About a year ago we hired a new director who is both personally and professionally awful. One time at a work dinner she went on a long rant about how tenure based parking is unfair to busy and valuable executives, and they should scrap the current system and let directors and higher park near the door instead.

    She solved the problem by just parking in the visitor or handicap spaces by the door in order to save herself the walk.

    I don’t work there anymore, but friends who do tell me that she has antagonized everybody and will likely be fired soon for performance reasons.

    At the same place, it was regarded as normal and OK to use the 25+ year spots when the owner was traveling or on vacation. Typically they would choose one person and give them permission to use the spot. I recommend the LW assume this is what’s happening here and forget about it.

    1. Pollygrammer

      If you’re able-bodied and you take handicapped spot, you are unambiguously a Bad Person.

      1. Jennifer Thneed

        Yup!

        I’ve had some tense conversations with a relative who uses her husband’s handicapped placard even when she’s driving alone. I get it about invisible disabilities, but she ain’t got none of those.

        1. Artemesia

          I have known so many older people who do this sort of thing and feel smug and entitled to misuse the placards.

  16. ANON

    #3, I worked for a company with a parking garage before and some times when someone would be out, they would offer their spot to another person without a spot for the day. Before making an issue of it, I would make sure the culprit doesn’t have permission first.

  17. MissDisplaced

    Re: Raise: Wow, that really sucks that they would even say that to you or consider dinging a raise because you used the benefits you’re given. And 3 weeks isn’t even all that much. Maybe they’re just confused/misreading, but if the company actually holds that attitude about PTO I’d seriously start looking elsewhere.

    1. Frankie

      Yeah, not only is what they’re saying illegal, but…3 weeks is not at all a lot of time for a new baby.

  18. One of the Annes

    I’m with you, PCBH. Early in my career, I didn’t realize you were supposed to remove the tacking and was super grateful when an older female coworker let me know (in a very friendly, kind way).

    1. Environmental Compliance

      I had no idea you were supposed to remove the tacking until I was googling what business professional wear meant in an effort to get outfit ideas and saw a blog mention it. I had been at my new job for about a month at that point, and it was the first (and only) time I’d had to wear that level of business wear for work.

      1. CMart

        The day I learned the tacking could come off was a revelation. Suddenly I was able to walk in my pencil skirts and gesture more broadly in my jackets. ‘Twas wonderful, and I wished someone had told me sooner.

        1. Jennifer Thneed

          I read a wonderful little story once where a woman was in some anonymous women’s room fill with businesswomen and someone was complaining about her useless fake pockets, why do they even bother? The story-teller turned around with some nail scissors and went SNIP SNIP at the woman’s pocket and ta-da! Useful real pocket ftw!

          I believe that is where *I* learned about pockets being tacked shut in pricey clothes. And it makes sense — helps them hang right in the shop. But honestagod pockets are such a good thing. Has anyone else here read Delaney’s memoir The Motion of Light on Water? (I’ll come back and put something in a reply.)

  19. Delta Delta

    Re: parking – seems like a good way to fix this is to put something in writing about parking expectations. I worked somewhere with a similar parking situation. Nobody told the new person about the informally understood hierarchy of parking. She showed up and parked in a reasonable spot one day, but it was *somebody’s* spot. (No signs, no discussion, just a preferred spot based on parking in that spot for a long time) This sent a tsunami-sized ripple through the company, leading to a reprimand for this employee who legitimately didn’t do anything wrong. When it was suggested spots be assigned or set forth in the handbook, the answer was no. She quit shortly thereafter for many reasons, including this.

  20. DCompliance

    #1- I have been there. Seeing a boss slammed with work when you have nothing to do because he or she hoards it all is terrible. It is even worse when they are a clock-watcher (not that there is any indication of that from above). Since you say he is otherwise a great boss, I agree with the advice give and talk to him.

  21. SushiRoll

    On #2, I had a similar thing happen – one of my coworkers had a new winter peacoat. Men’s designer coats of this type, when you buy them at a department store that carries multiple brands, usually has a brand tag sewn on the left sleeve so you can see the brand when you are looking at the coats in the racks without having to dig and find it at the collar. Similar to the X, it’s got just 2 stitches it in and its meant to be taken off, it’s not part of the design, it’s just an outside tag.

    He had left the brand tag on the sleeve. He’d had the coat for weeks and weeks and it was still there. It’s much more obvious than the X so I kind of thought he probably didnt know it wasnt part of the jacket design. We were chatting one day and his jacket was hanging up right near me and I mentioned it and he sort of deflected? I think he thought I was full of it and he never did take it off. The white CALVIN KLEIN label stayed on the sleeve of his black coat all winter. We work in kind of a fancy/snobby office so I only told him to help him but it didnt work out.

    So in short, even though I would always prefer if people helped me, I have moved into the ‘only tell your BFFs’ camp.

    1. $!$!

      I followed a ton of work wear blogs before starting business casual jobs and not one post ever mentioned cutting off those kinds of tags : (

      1. SushiRoll

        I knew that it was supposed to be removed but before I said anything I even googled to be sure I wasnt just being a jerk….if you google coat/jacket/suit jacket tag on sleeve there are a LOT of links. Suit jackets also have them a lot of the time. Some are brand some are the fabric, etc. like 100% cashmere.

        1. Artemesia

          I understand about the tacking being obscure; I didn’t ‘know’ the first time I bought clothing with it either and had to figure it out and did wear a coat a few times with the vent tacked before figuring it out. But a brand label on the sleeve? That just seems like obviously something you would know needed to go. Guess not. Of course people actually buy shirts with giant brand labels like Hilfiger stenciled on them so I suppose they think this is similar.

    2. Arjay

      My husband and his best man nearly had those labels attached at our wedding. Thankfully, one of the lectors saw them before the ceremony and snipped them off. Since I was sequestered, I didn’t have the chance to give them the once-over before we began!

  22. I'm A Little Teapot

    #2 – I once bought 2 jackets that were the same cut/style but different colors. On one of them I removed the tack stitching and then discovered that I really didn’t like how the jacket worked without it. I left the other jacket alone.

    Sometime it’s deliberate. Don’t say anything.

    1. Lady Bug

      Yes, it definitely can be deliberate. I never take the stitching out of pockets in suit pants because they hang funny when I do. Suits, it depends on the jacket. Same with skirts, all of a sudden your office appropriate skirt is showing your panties because of an unnecessarily long slit.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot

        I want my pockets, so I just deal there. But I have gotten rid of skirts or dresses with bad slits. I don’t need those problems!

    2. Canadian Natasha

      Yeah, I find suit jackets tend to wing out oddly if I remove the back stitch because of the way my body curves. So if I have the stitch still in it’s because it is deliberate.

  23. Allison

    #2 One of the reasons commuting via public transit makes me anxious is I’m always worried some lady is going to find fault with what I’m wearing to work – skirt too short, neckline too low, top and bottom don’t look right together, pants don’t flatter my shape, shoes are all wrong, bra line visible, etc. and that they’re going to judge me as a woman based on their opinion of my outfit. I try to be considerate as a commuter, so I hate the idea that my mere appearance is going to irritate some people. I know it’s okay to look, it’s legal to stare, and when you’re bored sometimes sitting there and judging peoples seems like the best way to pass the time, but I really wish more people would bring a book and mind their own business.

    I once read a guideline that you should never point anything out on someone that’ll take them longer than 10 seconds to fix. The number might be off, but the fact is, if it’s not something they can immediately adjust without going to the bathroom, you’re better off leaving it alone. And even then, when someone tells me my lipstick is smudged, I know it’s probably better that I know now so I can fix it, but it still doesn’t make me feel great in the moment, so that’s why I advocate for only doing it when it’s absolutely necessary, like when someone’s skirt is tucked into their underpants, but if it’s something like “you’re wearing this wrong” then I’d rather hear it from someone I know and trust, not some random lady on the train.

    1. Washi

      I like that 10 second rule! And I actually think that telling someone that they left the tacking on falls into that category. But a lot of the things you name, like a skirt being too short, seem like they are in a different category to me. I would only say something to a stranger or coworker about something that seemed like they did inadvertently and wouldn’t notice themselves, which wouldn’t include telling someone if their neckline is low, etc.

      1. Allison

        It depends. If someone told me about my tacking on the train, it’s a 10 second fix but I don’t carry anything in my work bag that could fix the problem in the moment, so it would need to wait until I got to work.

    2. Manya

      I think you’re too worried about what other people think of your appearance. If they don’t like it, eff them! They can look somewhere else.

      1. Specialk9

        I’m fairly sure that if that simple thought were going to be effective, it already would have been.

    3. Jennifer Thneed

      Pretty sure Miss Manners’ rule of thumb was: if they can fix the problem without going home, let them know.

  24. Adele

    Re #2: Ha! A couple of years ago I bought a lovely three-quarter length coat on-line. I was so delighted to wear it that I didn’t notice that I had forgotten to take out the tack stitching on the back vent. As I was entering my office building a woman I didn’t know complimented the coat (raspberry pink boucle!) and tactfully alerted me that I had forgotten to remove the tack stitches. I thanked her and snipped them when I got to my office. I was not in the least insulted. I don’t know how I would have felt, though, if someone walking down the street had said something to me.

    Were the situation reversed, though, I would probably mind my own business. Unless it is something that would cause the person great embarrassment AND is something they can fix (short skirt caught up in knapsack, thus revealing a large portion of your bum, yes; black leggings worn as pants stretched so thin that I can see the little pink flowers on the your underpants from twenty paces, no), I just keep quiet.

  25. Moonlight Elantra

    Question on #5: The same thing happened to me last year. I took the company-approved 12 weeks off, paid, to go on maternity leave. During my performance review, I was informed by HR that I was supposed to get a 2% raise but it was docked to 1.5% since I had been out for 25% of the review cycle, and the HR lady asked like I was a jerk for even questioning them on this. Is this the same deal as the LW above? For the record, I’m pretty well-paid for my position, but raises and bonuses are sparse here.

    1. OldJules

      It should be a communicated policy if they are doing that. Seems like a poor way to retain good people though. And no, it’s an employee’s right to ask questions. That’s why she has a job.

    2. PersephoneUnderground

      Yeah, that’s illegal. You can’t be penalized for taking maternity leave, especially if it is FMLA.

    3. Database Developer Dude

      At that point, I would have dusted off my resume. Seriously. Painting the worker as a problem for using a provided benefit is not indicative of a company that wants to or deserves to keep their good workers.

    4. Artemesia

      They aren’t paying you the raise for that quarter of the year though — the raise is for NEXT year when you will be there 100% so this is bogus. And petty.

  26. The Doctor

    #1…

    The fact that Ned IS stifling the team suggests that he knows that he’s stifling the team. Start the job hunt ASAP.

  27. peachie

    #2: Perhaps this is an unpopular opinion, but I would definitely tell coworkers. I think the key is to frame it like Oh, looks like you forgot to do this, I do that all the time rather than I bet you don’t know you’re supposed to do this so let me Educate you. I had a coworker let me know once and I was so glad–I definitely know you’re supposed to cut the tacking, but I also definitely forget to do it before wearing a new blazer at least 40% of the time.

  28. boop the first

    #3. The thing is, ALL of the parking spaces are “temporarily empty” spaces in the morning hours before anyone shows up at work. By making them free to use during this time, then it becomes just a regular non-reserved parking lot.

    1. Lynn Whitehat

      I used to work in a place with inadequate non-reserved parking. Not served by public transportation, and not a lot of street parking, so it was a real problem. People kept getting up earlier and earlier to get a spot. I remember getting there at 7 AM and not getting a spot.

  29. OldJules

    #5 Male or female, it sounds super sketchy to make pay decision based on FMLA. These are benefits given to you based on the company’s policy. If you get dingned for using benefits, no one will utilize paternity or maternity. I’d push back using performance while at work. But seriously? 3 weeks and he is dinging you on this? Feels like it’s something else and he is using the easiest excuse on the planet.

  30. LurkNoMore

    #3 – We have ‘hybrid/electric vehicle only’ spots in our parking garage. There’s probably 4 people out of 600 that continue to park their gas-guzzlers in those spots. The building doesn’t enforce it, so there are no consequences for these 4 people and it really burns my butt. Especially since one of the four is a former Congressman that is the definition of ‘deplorable’ (can’t wait to run into him and tell him how good he looked on TMZ trying to explain how Borat pulled one a fast one on him).

    1. LCL

      Are the hybrid/electric spaces equipped with power so the owners can charge their vehicles? Because if not, I can see why those 4 people are doing it. A few businesses here got on the ‘save the choice parking for EVs because it’s good for the environment’ bandwagon, and that was annoying.

      1. CMart

        This is probably off-topic, but I’ve never understood why “good parking for eco friendly cars” makes sense. Yeah yeah, I get it, teeny tiny incentive for the general public to get themselves an EV or whatever. But in practice it just makes people driving the less fuel efficient vehicles keep them running longer as they drive further away to find parking.

        I have a hybrid now and take full advantage of this perk, but it was zero percent of the reason I got one.

        1. Specialk9

          Wait there are places that have eco spots, but no charging station?! That’s so weird!

        2. Ranon

          It is/ was a very cheap point (just some signs!) in some green building programs like LEED, and a lot of those programs came up with the point right when hybrids were just starting to be a thing- and then took forever to update their scoring system. EV charging stations cost a lot more money than metal signs and the whole electric car situation has changed dramatically in just a few years.

          Technically rather a lot of the cars on the road meet the baseline for the earlier programs- if there’s a green symbol or a leaf or something that says “eco” on the car it probably meets the standard even if it’s on a giant SUV- at least if the SUV is a pretty new model year.

  31. J.B.

    OP5-I’m sorry this happened to you! I got very occasional snide remarks about maternity leave (particularly irritating the time I took less than the time) but my husband’s company never ever questioned him taking 12 weeks off. Some firms are better than others. I recommend you do look – maybe not until you’re getting more sleep, but you can do better. And if you don’t work out the pay issues in advance make sure they know that was an issue on your way out.

  32. Earthwalker

    #5 The OP’s second comment – that he might be considered ungrateful if he expected a raise after being granted paternity – kind of rang a bell with me. I’ve worked where people are lauded specifically for NOT using their vacation time. I know people who have used flex time provisions very responsibly and are told that employees who don’t are perceived as more hard working and deserving of raises and desirable assignments. With one employer I had come to the conclusion that some of our benefits were intended to impress quality job candidates but were not meant to be used by existing employees. What benefits are like your paycheck – something you have a right to – and what benefits are a special privilege that you must beg for and take care not to overuse? How does a job candidate know which benefits are rights and which are privileges?

    1. Massmatt

      Wow, sounds like a terrible atmosphere. I need vacation time to recharge and studies show taking the time off enhances productivity rather than detracting from it, so it seems very short-sighted also.

      I suppose a candidate needs to talk to as many people as possible including peers while in the interview process, and ask a lot of questions. A hiring manager might give a schpiel about work life balance blah blah blah. But ask a peer when did you take your last vacation, what did you do? If they are talking about a long weekend 6 months ago or can’t remember when they last took time off it’s a big warning.

  33. mcr-red

    #3 – The system shouldn’t be “everyone follows the same set of rules except for one person with the audacity to ignore them.”

    I feel like this happens a lot unfortunately. And can lead to resentment from the other employees. I know I’ve been the one “following the rule” especially when it comes to customers, only to have someone else decide, “Meh, we don’t have to follow that” and then I feel like I’ve been made to look stupid.

    Maybe ask for a clarification about the parking issue with your direct boss?

  34. TootsNYC

    I suppose he could be referring to the paid part of that leave

    But, if the company is going to penalize people for taking that paid leave, then why have it?

    That might be another thing I’d say, in a collegial way: “if the company is going to penalize people for using the benefits that are actually part of the compensation, that’s a very bad look for them. Why have the leave if it will hurt people to take it?”

  35. Security SemiPro

    Its worse than a right, in some ways, its part of compensation that the employee presumably balanced against other offers to pick this job. Saying “you’re over using your benefits” is akin to saying “you cashed all of your paychecks, so we’re not going to give you a raise.” Seriously? Of course I cashed my paychecks! Did you want me to give them back?!?

  36. Molly

    Alison, if employers aren’t allowed to make decisions based on FLMA, then why is it perfectly legal for them to dock merit bonuses? All the women at my company that take maternity leave (unpaid) have their bonuses paid out at 75% of their eligible amount. This is significant when your bonus may make up 20-25% of your annual compensation.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Do they do the same to employees who take leave for non-FMLA reasons? If so, then there’s a way for them to do that legally (although it’s slippery). But if they don’t, that’s illegal.

    2. Someone else

      At places I’ve worked the whole “bonuses are based on hours worked during the bonus period” thing was intended to be a method of assigning the bonus amount for part-time staff or new staff hired on during the period so they’d receive something proportional, and was not intended to be a method of docking people who took leave. But this discussion has made me realize the wording in place is probably problematic, and the formula used is not transparent enough for me to know if they actually have (intentionally or inadvertently) been docking people who take leave. Now I wonder how I can find out.

  37. The Doctor

    #5…

    Your manager clearly knows that counting FMLA against you is illegal, because it’s his job to know. Don’t be afraid to file an official complaint (and start your job search).

    1. Jennifer Thneed

      Why on earth do you think that managers should know HR stuff? I want managers who understand *managing people*, which is a skill of its own.

    2. NotAnotherManager!

      No, my job as a manager is to put the employee in contact with the person who manages the FMLA program and to follow the advice that person give me/my employee to the letter. Beauty of having a robust and well-functioning HR department, I suppose?

  38. AnotherSarah

    When I lived in NYC, I saw so many people with the X stitch still in that I figured it was a trend, like not breaking in a baseball cap and leaving the brim flat!

  39. Kara

    #3- My Dad had an assigned spot, one of the “good spots” in his lot. He was having car problems, and took his car to get serviced, and asked me to drop off my car so he could get home (and I would take public transportation into school). I did so, left my keys on his desk while he was at lunch. The newly hired Admin took it upon herself to get my car towed away because she didn’t recognize the car or me. She was very proud of herself, until later on in the day when my Dad started asking her what exactly happened to the car in his space. It was not a good day for her.

    1. OP

      Whoa, yeah, that’s a little overzealous. I don’t want anyone to get towed/their day ruined – it just annoys me that there is an expectation for this type of think and this one person ignores it.

    2. neverjaunty

      She was overzealous, but why didn’t your dad let anyone know a different car would be in his space?

      Admittedly, I am coming at this from the perspective of having an assigned space taken up by people parking for a sporting or public event in town (so that I had to drive around and find another paid space way far out) and being met with shrug-well-waddayagonnadoaboutit.

      1. Jennifer Thneed

        Maybe Dad did let someone know, and “newly-hired admin” wasn’t in that particular loop.

  40. spek

    Wow! Two of my suits have the pocket sewn shut, but I wear them so infrequently that I just wrote it off to the manufacturer being cheap. I will be opening them tonight! You learn something every day.

    1. Jennifer Thneed

      Well, remember that sometimes they actually *are* fake pockets, with the just pocket flap and nothing else. Or if it’s the other kind of pocket (whose name escapes me) it could be that there’s tacking there, and when you open it you’ll discover that the pocket is all of ONE inch deep. Yes, I’ve had both of these happen. Ratzen-fratzen grrr.

      1. Specialk9

        I bought a pair of capris with contrasting zippers leading to… Nothing, no pocket. I don’t get it. I’d rather just not have zippers, they’re not a decorative feature (except when Dr Saroyan in Bones wears them because that women can dress).

        1. sam

          The only thing I hate more than pants with no pockets is pants with fake pockets. If the whole argument against pockets in women’s pants is that the seam ruins the line of women’s pants, what the heck is the point of putting in the seam and then NOT GIVING ME A DANG POCKET!

  41. Peter the Bubblehead

    #3 – Parking at my work (in a converted mill building with numerous companies located inside) have VERY limited assigned parking. For our company, it is only the top three in management and an ‘Employee of the Quarter’ parking spot.
    Last year, we had a new employee start, and on the first day it is customary for the new employee to not know exactly where to go, especially where parking is concerned. So he took the first open spot he saw with our company name on it – the spot belonging to our top manager.
    Now normally, if said manager arrived at the mill and saw a car parked in his spot, more often than not he would recognize who the vehicle belonged to and simply request that employee to move their vehicle. But on this occasion, it was a pick-up he did not recognize that by coincidence looked very similar to one that had been parked in his spot over the weekend (that he noticed because he had happened to come into the office briefly on Sunday).
    As a result, our new co-worker, on his first day on the job, within the first hour of being there, had his vehicle towed away to an impound lot.
    Needless to say, this incident did not go unmentioned (and mocked) to both our co-worker and out top manager for months to follow.
    (** In the interests of disclosure, our company paid to retrieve new co-worker’s vehicle from impound, since it turned out he had been directed to park in one of our marked spots by our receptionist, and he just happened to choose the wrong marked spot. **)

  42. ArtK

    LW #4: The mistake that both you and your boss made was not setting out the criteria at the beginning. It’s quite likely that “bringing in business” was one of his criteria — that’s likely why you’re in the job you’re in now — but didn’t articulate that. You didn’t ask “what do I need to do to reach that goal?” This all would be even better in writing, but even getting some idea of what’s necessary up front is a good idea.

  43. Susana

    LW 2, I totally agree with Alison’s advice but… I so feel your pain! It drives me NUTS when I see someone otherwise really well-dressed who still has that stitching on a jacket! Actually, jut last week, we had an intern here (who is really good) who had that white-thread X connecting he flaps of her blazer, and I said, oh, let me get this for you. She said -no, it’s supposed to be there. I said (kindly), oh, actually not – you can see it’s deliberately very loosely stitched. It’s to make sure the jacket doesn’t get misshapen at the store. I said the same is true of pockets – and told her about when I was right out of college and had a couple of jackets I thought had fake pockets, until I realized they had been stitched shut to keep the jacket’s shape. She said, oh, OK.

    I know it sounds petty and frivolous, but it irritates me as well. Yes, I know -I need to get over it!

  44. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    regarding OP#2: I had a female boss once that complained about the pockets in women’s suits and dress slacks that were always sewn shut, even though they were constructed like real functioning pockets. She was completely clueless about it. So I explained. The surprised look on her face was priceless.

    1. NotAnotherManager!

      Yes, but the problem with this is that, a lot of times, when you remove that stitching, the clothing no longer lays well. I’ve had to put the pocket stitching back in or reinforce it because the pockets bulged in an unflattering manner once the temporary closure stitching was removed.

  45. Works at Night

    #2 A lot of people have covered why it can be really awkward to let people know about fashion faux pas in the moment. It sucks because on one hand it’s not quite appropriate to let someone know, but on the other hand these little details are what can make someone look like they belong or not. Not knowing how to wear business clothing correctly is something I have struggled with and lack of this sort of cultural knowledge can make it hard for someone to break into a career that they otherwise are well qualified for. So I don’t think it is overly picky to notice this kind of thing and want to help the person out.

    What I would suggest for you and all the other people who notice these things: Get involved with an organization like dress for success that helps people with work wear. You have an eye for clothing and notice these details, this is valuable knowledge and you can truly help by sharing it! There are people who need this kind of feedback (like me). Finding a context where your advice is sought and appreciated will alleviate the problems with boundaries and you might really help someone fit in at their workplace.

  46. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    #5 – if

    – it’s a large company
    – you are a valued commodity within the company
    – they don’t respect you on payday

    It’s likely time to move on, or at least consider it. If you find another position with a fair salary – your management always has ONE MORE SHOT to negotiate with you – should you both mutually choose to do so.

    They may not, in which case you move on to your new situation, and trust me, being able to pay one’s bills is a great stress relief.

    They may present a counter-offer. LISTEN. Don’t let your pride get in the way of a rash decision. Don’t listen or give 100 percent credence to headhunters who say “never accept a counter offer.”

    Most large companies have procedures in place to handle these situations. Off-budget slush funds, where your increase will not be in your manager’s budget. If you’re a long-term employee and good – your manager may go to the wall to get that money for you.

    You never know.

  47. Daniel

    I ended up underpaid for several years due to a redefinition of job titles that resulted in me being assigned a title matching my duties rather than my salary. When a new manager and director saw my salary they made it clear I was underpaid, but were prevented from fixing the issue directly. I got good raises for a couple years, but still lagged behind my peers. Finally I presented it as an issue of respect…I was tired of hearing from various managers that I was underpaid (mangers and directors didn’t last long during this period). I selected a peer that I knew was performing similarly in same role. She was not on our team but my manager agreed she was equivalent. I didn’t know what she made, but I indicated to my manager a month before the performance reviews that I would expect to be paid the same as she was being paid. Rules still prevented that from happening directly, but the director put me in for a performance bonus and my salary was reviewed/increased at 6 month intervals until the difference could be made up within the establish corporate rules.

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