my family business is a mess, I give a really low salary expectation, and more

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

1. My family business is a mess, but my mom won’t listen to me

I work for my family’s business. For a long time, it was a small mom and pop operation and my parents were easily able to manage the administrative and operational aspects on their own. However, in the past three years, our company has grown at a rapid rate. We went from a handful of clients in one state to around 25 clients spread across eight states. Our employee headcount has quadrupled.

The anticipated bumps in the road from such rapid growth are more along the lines of massive potholes. My mother (the CEO) insists that we are able to manage all aspects of the business with six dedicated administrative employees, including me. However, I don’t think you need to be a business consultant to know that six people are not enough to manage nearly 200 employees. As a result, everyone around here wears many hats. Even though I know nothing about HR, health insurance, 401K administration, payroll deductions, and a myriad of other issues, those are all items that I have to manage day to day. I’ve tried to teach myself to the best of my abilities, but I have reached the limits of what I can learn on my own. Our struggles are not only limited to staffing, but processes and procedures. The things we had in place when we were a company of 40 people no longer work for us. No one here has clearly defined job descriptions and there are relatively few procedures in place, so fire drills are an everyday occurrence for us.

To make matters worse, my mother takes a hybrid micromanaging/hands-off approach to the administrative staff. She refuses to give directions beyond a simple sentence of what she wants done (she defines anything beyond that as “hand-holding”), yet she insists on approving every little thing that we do. She invests all of her time in the company’s finances, and I often find myself at an impasse over my own responsibilities.

I’ve given you all of this background because I clearly see the problems within our organization, and I have developed solutions and given recommendations to my mother. The problem is, she does not share my concerns. Every time I highlight a problem, she says that it isn’t a priority, doesn’t have the budget to fix it, will address it later, or even says that I am just creating problems. But from my perspective, I see an overwhelmed and understaffed administration, high employee turnover, and no attempt to fix any of it. Because it is my family’s company, I cannot be dispassionate or simply find a new job. This company is just as much mine and I want it to thrive. How can I institute change within this company when I have no support from my boss?

You probably can’t, just like working at any other business run by a terrible manager who refuses to change things. Because the CEO is your mom, you have more leeway to have a blunt conversation with her about the problems you see — but ultimately if she’s not open to change, you can’t force it (assuming that you and other family members don’t own a controlling stake in the business where you could overrule her). Do other members of the management team agree with you? If so, you can try approaching her as a group to propose putting someone else in charge of managing the day-to-day operations, or you can try proposing that on your own … but if she won’t budge and you don’t have the authority to make her budge, then you don’t really have other options here.

In that case, you’d be better off going elsewhere and working in a context where you’ll actually be able to thrive. This doesn’t sound like that context. (And while there can be benefits to being thrown in the deep end and learning as you go, there are huge disadvantages to that too — especially that you don’t know what you don’t know, and you can end up making serious mistakes. Professionally speaking, you’re better off working in a well managed company and developing your skills there. And who knows, maybe there will be a way for you to bring those skills back to your family company at some point in the future, if it’s being run differently. You might find the “I’m the Boss’s Daughter” episode of the AAM podcast interesting.)

2. I give a very low number when asked for salary expectations

I have been applying for a lot of jobs in an unusual field of work (let’s say llama whispering) and applications keep asking me what I need to be paid. I’m at the point in my life where being paid at all is a real novelty, so I’m trying to figure out what number to put in that will not insult the company and also cause me not to starve to death. My current strategy is looking up “living wage in (location)” and then plugging that in. I’ve also been plugging in slightly higher than whatever minimum wage is. Really I’m just wildly guessing. What’s the magic number? Aren’t they supposed to already know? Can I just say, “As much as you would pay the boys?” I just want to be the best llama whisperer I can be while also not dying. Help!

Don’t do that! Unless this is a field that pays that low, you’re undercutting yourself — and you actually might be getting yourself rejected for these jobs, because a lot of recruiters will take a weirdly low salary request as a sign that you don’t have enough experience for the job or misunderstand what it is.

I know this is a huge pain and it would be nice if employers just told you what they plan to pay, but most of them don’t and you’ve got to do your own research so that you’re able to have a reasonable salary discussion with them. There’s advice here on how to do that.

3. How do my manager and I move past an argument?

Yesterday I had a disagreement with my manager about some changes she was implementing. The actual change wasn’t the main issue, however; it was a straw that broke the camel’s back situation. I’m under pressure, she’s under pressure, and in her words we had a “vigorous” discussion, becoming quite heated at one point. We both talked it out, but we were interrupted by a client and then she had to unexpectedly head off to our satellite office to deal with an emergency situation there.

I don’t like workplace (or any) conflict. I usually avoid it wherever possible. I don’t know how to move on. We’ve only talked via IM since. Normally she would have called at least once to catch up. The IM conversations we’ve had have been light-hearted, I think because neither of us wants to start anything up again.

I find it mentally exhausting dealing with her. She wants my thoughts, but then doesn’t like it when I disagree and give reasons why I don’t think things will work and suggest other ways. If I do think they will work out, I say so. Either way, if she decides it’s the way to go, I will support that decision with our clients even if they are not happy with the change. The thing is, on reflection, a couple of points she raised (but not all) were true – she’s right, she is my manager, and I do question a lot of changes that she is recommending and she finds it exhausting dealing with me.

We didn’t get a chance to finish up and move on, so I don’t know whether to raise it or not. She’s working from home for the next few days, so I won’t see her in person until nearly a week has passed since the conflict. I don’t quite know what to say, or whether to be like Elsa and let it go and let the awkwardness pass, or to say that I’d reflected on the points she raised, and that I realize she’s right in xyz?

If you realized she’s right about some of what she said, tell her that! Any manager in this situation would be relieved and pleased to hear that, and it reflects well on you that you took some time to digest the conversation and are willing to modify your thinking. Say something like, “I wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking about our conversation the other day and I realized that you’re right about X and Y. I’m going to try to do ___ differently in the future and hopefully you’ll see a difference.”

Ideally you’d say that in person — and I don’t think it’s a big deal to wait a few days until that can happen.

4. How do I remind my boss he owes me money?

I travel for work. My boss doesn’t usually come along, but this was a special circumstance where he needed to be there. We decided to hit a baseball game one evening after work and had to buy tickets online. I just happened to find the cheaper/better tickets as we were both searching, so I bought with the understanding he would pay me back. He specifically said he would as it’s obviously not expensable. He left for the week, his flight was a day before mine, and never mentioned it or paid me back. It’s $65, which is a fairly significant amount of money to me. I’m remote so I won’t see him in person again for who knows how long. Should I bring it up? I don’t think it was malicious, I think he just forgot. But it feels awkward to bring it up. Not sure what to do here.

Most likely he did just forget, and he’d probably be mortified if he knew you were stressing over it. It won’t be awkward to remind him — after all, think about if the roles were reversed; I doubt you would think it was weird for someone to remind you, right?

Just be matter-of-fact about it — “hey, can you Venmo me that $65 for the tickets when you have a chance?” That’s it! (If you don’t talk frequently, it’s fine to do this in email or Slack or however you most often communicate.)

5. What are good wellness initiatives?

Our nonprofit has a small budget ($15k) to use for employee wellness initiatives. We’ve already purchased water bottles with our logo for everyone, had a day of on-site chair massages, and bought a few under-desk elliptical and bike machines for people to “check out.” Standing desks or treadmill desks have been rejected due to space constraints. We’ve also considered healthy snacks, providing a yoga class, bringing in a nutritionist, and bringing in an ergonomics consultant. Are there any other things you would suggest?

You named literally everything I would have suggested. I love your list! (I’m assuming they’re all optional and no one is being required to do yoga or talk to the nutritionist.)

I’m throwing this out to commenters to see what other suggestions people might have for you.

{ 489 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Here’s a thread for suggestions for #5 (the wellness question). If possible, let’s corral them all as replies here since I suspect otherwise it might take over the page!

    1. Kc89*


      Healthy snacks and access to free water that tastes good is what will make most employees happy

      Water that tastes good is subjective I guess but we used to have a water filter machine that made cold water that tastes just as good as bottled, then it broke and they bought a different model that makes water that tastes like plastic. It’s a bummer and now most people drink bottled bubbly water that the company provides instead

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Healthy snacks that people will want to eat. Our Healthy Snack Initiative had the old-style hard as a rock granola bars – OK, the modern chewy ones may have gone too far with the chocolate and candy flavors, but there’s got to be a middle – and replaced plain M&Ms with peanuts (“more protein!” Unless you don’t like them, or have serious allergies). There were also plain rice cakes, trail mix (more allergens), another very dense thing that looked like what I used to put on birdfeeders, and one oatmeal cookie that was actually delicious – and stocked in the smallest bin, so you had to move fast to get one.

          1. Not a Blossom*

            What is considered healthy is going to vary by person. Someone who is diabetic, for example, may not want lots of fruit. If possible, an assortment of snacks is best.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Right. For a lot of people, the sugar in both granola bars and fruit isn’t healthy at all.

              1. Allison*

                Not to mention, not everyone likes to snack on sweet things. Personally, while I like the occasional sweet bite, I prefer salty, savory snacks, like seed crackers, nuts, and dried corn and chickpeas with some seasoning for flavor, and it can be frustrating when it seems like most of the healthy snacks out there taste like mini desserts.

                1. SavannahMiranda*

                  Hear hear. Me too. Snacks all too often seem to mean ‘sugar.’ Whether that’s sugar in an apple or sugar in a candy bar. I need protein people. (I really do, I get dizzy and can’t focus if I don’t have protein 3 times a day, it’s not just a culture fad thing.)

                  Beef jerky please. Hard boiled eggs. Nuts that are not predominantly peanuts. Protein bars. Protein shakes.

                  Greens would also be fabulous. Green shakes. Celery sticks. Carrot sticks. Hummus. Heck, even salads if the office culture can be trusted that co-workers won’t stick their dirty paws in the greens. If not, something as simple as celery sticks and hummus would be ah-may-zing.

            2. Fruity fruit*

              Actually, there are studies that show that even unlimited fruit consumption by dietetics is healthy and safe. The only people who need to be picky about the fruit they eat are those with IBS and even they can eat certain fruit.

              Fresh produce is all good produce. Granola bars are marketing

              1. Totally Minnie*

                I’m allergic to several popular fruits. If the only thing being provided is fruit, particularly pre-cut fruit where I can’t tell if the fruit I can eat has come into contact with fruit I can’t have, that means no snacks for me.

              2. nd*

                It’s not the employer’s place to tell a diabetic they can eat unlimited fruit. Even if they can, and the ability to do so is probably very much influenced by other variables, it’s not the employer’s job. Probably the best thing to do is offer a small variety such as vegetables that can be eaten raw and dipped into hummus or guacamole, whole fruit, dry roasted nuts, and seeds. Nuts and seeds, kept in the refrigerator, will last a while.

              3. Michaela Westen*

                I have fructose sensitivity. I can’t eat any fruits or sweet veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, onions…
                I bring my own snacks though. Making my own food is the only way I can eat.

              4. Queen Anon*

                Sugar is sugar. If you’re a diabetic (as I am), your body doesn’t care all that much where the sugar is coming from. It just knows it can’t handle it. Please don’t give medical advice over the Internet, especially something as ill-advised as this.

                1. tusky*

                  @Fruity fruit–that study just looks at correlation between consumption of fruit and incidence of diabetes/diabetes complications, so it doesn’t actually say anything about how bodies metabolize fruit sugars relative to other sugars. Stop giving unsolicited medical advice.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  Fruity fruit, please respect that there’s a huge variation in how people process food, and factors the medical establishment hasn’t discovered yet.
                  People need to determine for themselves what foods work for them and what don’t. Probably some diabetics can eat more fruit than others. They know what they can eat. Please respect that.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There are more comments with links to studies that I’m not releasing from moderation because this is taking us off-topic. Let’s move on!

            1. Fruity fruit*

              True, that’s why it might be a good idea to offer more apples, oranges, bananas and other fruit that doesn’t go bad as fast and less of the more perishable fruit.

          2. michelenyc*

            One of the companies I worked for had fresh fruit delivered every week. It was really nice. We all had a fruit bowl on our desk that we kept fruit in. That is the only thing I miss about that company.

            1. Fruity fruit*

              They’re more like glorified candy bars similar to cereal. They are not very filling at all. Since most people want to lose weight extra calories from bars are not the best.

                1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  Granola is literally oats covered in some kind of syrup, and bars are that with more syrup to hold it together. Some are probably better than most, but I don’t think fruity fruit is incorrect in general- it’s just the nature of what a granola bar is.

                1. Fruity fruit*

                  Ugh? You can safely assume that in the US the combination of high levels of overweight and obesity and a culture that worships thinness most people do want to lose weight. At least the ones that I know.

                2. tusky*

                  Well, no, you can’t safely assume that based on anecdotal evidence alone. There’s a difference between many and most. Anyway, it’s a questionable basis for characterizing the healthiness of a food item. If we’re talking about stocking healthy food in a workplace, it doesn’t make sense to use such a limited definition of healthy.

        1. T3k*

          I don’t know if Nature Box is considered healthy or not (they try to advertise as such) but their snacks are really delicious and come in a huge variety (dried fruit, granolas, cookies, etc.)

          1. Allison*

            Oh yeah, maybe discounted Nature Box or Graze memberships would be a good idea. You’re helping to provide healthy snacks, but you’re letting people choose which healthy snacks work for them.

        2. CM*

          We have a fruit bowl that gets stocked every morning (actually two — one with just bananas, one with apples, pears, oranges, etc.) We also have a few kinds of heavily subsidized healthy snacks — bags of almonds, Kind bars, and a couple of other bars. And different flavors of seltzer. All very popular and they definitely help in nudging me toward healthy eating habits.

        3. TheVet*

          Ounce for ounce, the peanuts would have more calories than the M&Ms even if they have more protein and this is a common trap that people fall into when trying to eat “healthy” in an attempt to avoid junk.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I meant they replaced plain M&Ms with peanut M&Ms. No matter how much protein you stuff in it, it’s still candy.

            Uncoated peanuts, bumping against each other and creating peanut dust, would’ve turned the whole kitchen into an allergen no-go zone.

      2. new in academia*

        When I temped at Red Bull they had a snack closet at reception that employees could pull from at will. There were daily morning deliveries of bananas and either apples or oranges, then there were snack size bags of pretzels and kettle chips. There was also Dentyne gum but they had to ask the receptionist for a piece when they wanted one, I dunno why. Of course there were coolers of Red Bull everywhere that they could pull from at will, as well. There were small kitchenettes scattered throughout the building with filtered water machines (hot and cold) with glasses provided and the fridges were stocked with a few types of canned soda. They also had an amazing employee cafeteria and coffee bar where you could eat very cheaply (especially by LA standards) with really beautiful meals and a great team of chefs. There was always a healthy option (grilled fish, poke bowls) and then standard burgers/veggie burgers made to order and a very nice salad bar. I always loved temping there.

        When I worked in TV we always had craft services of course. On the good shows the crafty person would have a juice bar and healthy fresh made snacks, but we also always appreciated healthy packed options like kind bars or mini hummus packs, etc.

        Most offices in LA where I temped had free snacks and drinks, some even had fresh bagels every morning with a spread of toppings. I miss LA.

        1. Vemasi*

          You probably had to ask for gum because otherwise people would take whole packets and boxes and take them home or hoard them.

          This is true of all free things, but easier to do with gum than with more perishable stuff, or with larger cases of stuff like soda and Red Bull.

      3. Clisby Williams*

        I don’t know what kind of water “tastes good”, since I think of water as tasting like nothing – but I guess if it doesn’t have a bad taste, that’s good. I mean, the water out of my household tap tastes exactly like bottled water, but maybe that’s not true everywhere. I rarely eat snacks during the day, so wouldn’t have any interest in an employer providing them.

        1. Vemasi*

          I was figuring they just meant non-bad-tasting. Like well water, or if they’re in a city where the tap water tastes funny or isn’t safe.

        2. justsomeone*

          That’s definitely not true everywhere. Idaho in particular has very sulfuric flavored water. It’s undrinkable to me. Where I live in Washington has very sweet water right from the tap compared to bottled. The “flavor” is derived from the minerality of the water in the area.

        3. Not Rebee*

          All water does taste like something because it absorbs vitamins and minerals from what it comes into contact with and those have slight tastes. In addition, different cities have different chemical content in their water (you can usually look up what the limits are but they will vary from treatment plant to treatment plant) so you can end up with vastly different tap water. The benefit of bottled water is that it’s all done to the same standard so will taste the same bottle to bottle within the same brand, but brand to brand it will vary (for example, I think Arrowhead water tastes very mineral heavy and kind of has a bright copper flavor to it, while I think Dasani tastes like plastic). If you’ve had water from other places (even from a hotel room tap) you might notice that the water looks or smells slightly different (water from my college campus came out of the tap with a ton of oxygen so it poured very cloudy, but cleared as it settled, for example, while the water at my current apartment smells a little bit like sulphur to me in a way my previous residence didn’t have). Straight water is tasteless, but straight water is not what we get to drink (nor, I think, is it possible to produce).

      1. LarsTheRealGirl*

        Yes! And this doesn’t have to be a big budget item for the company if there isn’t room for it – it can be as simple as negotiating group rates with a close/local gym to make it cheaper for everyone.

        1. caryatis*

          Group rates are a bad idea because not everyone lives in the same place or has the same gym needs (bodybuilding vs Crossfit vs yoga vs swimming might all be in different places). Let people pick their gym and then reimburse/subsidize.

          1. BananaRama*

            agreed, my last company was able to get a group rate for a gym that only a few lived near. It ended up looking like a favoritism thing for the front office folks, since the gym was 3 mins from their office. It was just one of the “us vs them” things that made it look like the CEO’s clique was benfitting.

            My husband’s company had some kind of app where you could check-in at the gym when you were there and it would subsidize based on attendance up to a certain amount. There were a long list of things the app would help track for subsidizing.

          2. Natalie*

            That doesn’t make them a bad idea necessarily – if the company can’t afford to subsidize but can negotiate a group rate, it’s better than nothing.

            Assuming the company offers health insurance, it’s worth checking if the insurance company offers a gym subsidy program. It won’t necessarily be included in the health insurance package, you may have to request and pay a little more (but not the whole cost of the subsidy) for it.

          3. Bureaucrat with a Side of Coffee*

            If there isn’t a budget for reimbursement or subsidies, I think negotiated group rates are an acceptable alternative – not a bad idea. Selecting a gym near work with different classes offered is a good option. It may not work for everyone, but it’s better than nothing.

            1. LarsTheRealGirl*

              This. I think the responses (for this thread as a whole) are starting to get into “sandwiches” territory.

              Not everyone can use the gym. Not everyone can use bikes. Not everyone can eat fruit or get a flu shot. BUT, a lot of people can. And as long as the company does their best to provide a variety, they’re doing a good thing for their employees. And if those options can be free or low-cost to the company – like group rates – then there’s more money to use on more variety.

              1. E.*

                Was thinking exactly that LarsTheRealGirl. Yes maybe 1 person is allergic to nuts, 1 is diabetic, 1 is on this or that diet, 1 can’t exercise before work, 1 prefers CrossFit instead of a gym, 1 already has a gym by their house, etc etc etc. Of course the company should be as inclusive as possible and offer a variety of options if they can. But the fact that not every individual circumstance can be accommodated isn’t a reason to write off something that would benefit most people.

              2. Sarah N*

                Totally agree with you! As an example, my employer does free on-site yoga classes (which I sometimes partake in) and a yearly fun run (which I never partake in because running is the opposite of fun for me), and it’s all good! I know many people who never do either of these things, but do use the subsidized rate for the gym or the free water bottles or the benefits for people who bike to work or the yearly visiting petting zoo (YES I LOVE WORKING ON A COLLEGE CAMPUS). The key is that I never feel pressured to do the stuff I dislike (like the run), and there is a reasonable variety. They are also open to at least listening to ideas from people about what they might like (although sometimes slow to implement). So that’s the main thing I would say to the OP — don’t worry about whether every single option is workable/available to every single person, but rather whether people feel pressured to do stuff they don’t want to (don’t do that!) and be open to feedback about things people might enjoy that you haven’t thought of. Especially if there’s someone who can’t/doesn’t partake of the more popular options (say, because of an allergy or a disability), maybe check with them and see if they have ideas for stuff that would really benefit them, at at least be open to seeing whether you can make it work.

          4. Antilles*

            That’s a fair point, but I think it could still make sense as *one* of the alternatives. “Here’s a group rate on Wakeen’s Fitness OR we also subsidize $X a month”. Usually don’t cost the company much (if anything!), since it also benefits the gym to get a bunch of signups at once…so offering a group rate as one of the options can really stretch the wellness budget.

            1. wellness OP*

              Hi this is the OP. Our office building has a free gym in it for staff AND our benefits plan already provides discounts to three nearby gyms AND you can use our health insurance to get a discount to a gym membership. So that was not something we considered since it was already available.

      2. namelesscommentator*

        For people who want this — check if your health insurance will reimburse you. My otherwise not terrific insurance will pay $400 a year towards a gym membership and the reimbursement process is quite easy. And they hold you accountable to actually going!

        1. Antilles*

          I’d like to highlight this. Even insurances that are normally cheap will often reimburse you for discounts on gym memberships (and/or be more flexible on rates, which is effectively the same thing) because it actually benefits *them* for your company to get healthier.

      3. Elle*

        Definitely this. Our work also subsidized fitbits and set up lunchtime walking groups / fitbit challenges, and it was a smashing success.

        1. Bureaucrat with a Side of Coffee*

          Oh this is a cool idea! I’d love a subsidized class pass option – a little something for everyone.

      4. Lily in NYC*

        My office does this and I am a “textbook example” of it having the result they hope for (as in, people using it). It’s pretty awesome – we can go to any New York Sports Club for $10 a month (which is much lower than normal) and a bunch of really fancy luxury gyms for $40 a month. I would never have gone to any of these gyms without an incentive (for example, I’m taking a class tomorrow at a gym that is normally $349 a month).

      5. Hey Nonnie*

        Yeah, came here to say that. See if you can find a fitness center near your workplace that you can work out a deal with. They may be more willing to work with you on price if it’s going to be basically a group package. Then make an explicit policy that people can 1> go there over lunch (with rare exceptions for work meetings that can’t be scheduled at a different time), and 2> they have flex time so they can spend the time they need there to get in a full work out and shower before coming back to work. When I had a j0b with an in-building fitness center, it took me about an hour and 15 minutes from the time I left my desk until the time I sat back in my chair, in order to be able to walk there, change, work out, shower, change again, and walk back. It was really nice that no one ever got on my back about that “extra” 15 minutes.

    2. leukothea*

      #5: I would really appreciate company reimbursement for part or all of a gym membership, CrossFit membership, yoga classes, etc. Going someplace outside of work is best for me, and it would be so wonderful to have some financial help with the costs.

      1. Solima*

        Husband works for one of the big four healthcare companies. No one uses the onsite gym. The executives don’t want to be seen by the employees in that state. A lot of people don’t want to be seen by their coworkers of boss.

        IT help desk don’t want to be bothered by the constant questions.

        If they gave people discounts of reimbursements, that would be used.

        1. I'd Rather Not Say*

          At our company, it’s free to use the on-site gym, or you can be reimbursed up to a set amount (the same for everyone), if you prefer to use an off site gym, or apply it to a fitness class, etc.

    3. CatCat*

      1. Get a deal with a CSA for farm box produce deliveries on site.

      2. Offer small cash incentives for bike commuting to offset bike commute costs, and offer secure bike parking.

      3. Make space available for employees who want to organize their own wellness activities to use.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I worked at a place once where they were trying to encourage people to bike to work, and there were showers in the staff bathrooms. That made it a lot easier to work out before work or at lunchtime, because we had a place to clean up afterward.

        1. Chinookwind*

          I second access to a shower in the staff bathrooms. One place I worked had many people go for runs or power walks on our lunch hours (which they allowed us to shift so we weren’t all gone at the same time) and had a shower available for us to use. They also had no issues with us eating while we work, which allowed us to have the full hour to work out and change (and cost the company nothing)

      2. alice*

        I LOVE a bike to work programs. The company I work for pays for a portion of your bike for you and has showers at work.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          And secure bike parking is a huge deal. I loved working in a building that provided it, because my bike commute took no longer than public transit, and I’d get in basically twice the workout I would otherwise, without having to carve out an extra time slot to do it. But I wouldn’t have done it if I’d been forced to lock my bike at a public sidewalk bike rack for 8 hours a day, every day. It takes far less than 8 hours to saw through even the best bike locks. Plus rain/weather damages the bike (and its safety) incrementally every time it gets rained on.

          I second (third? forth?) on-site showers. I’ve done the bike commute both ways, and while “wiping down” was do-able, a real shower is much more comfortable.

        2. sarah*

          yes to bike-to-work! if your city has a bike share program, there might be a corporate rate/sponsorship option that you could offer employees. i loved that because i could take the train to work and not worry about having to shower, but still bike home at the end of the day.

      3. Muriel Heslop*

        At my old company our COO was always pushing bike-to-work but we live in a hot city in the south so no one wanted to do it because we would arrive massively sweaty 6-8 months out of the year. We suggested showers but he insisted we didn’t need that – we could just “wipe down.” Uh, no thanks.

      4. KL*

        In the UK a lot of bigger companies have bike to work schemes where you can buy a bike out of your pre-tax salary (ie really the company buys the bikes and then pays you a lower salary for three months or similar). This is a big discount to the employee!

        No idea if other places have the mechanism for this, but one to consider.

      5. CAA*

        I love your ideas and have some experience with two of them.

        CSA deliveries are awesome, but there were more logistics involved than I would have thought. One company I worked for provided a room and the CSA people just piled all the boxes there, small boxes on one side, large on the other. There was a clipboard and you checked off your name when you took yours. The empty boxes were left for the CSA to pick up the next week. We had an employee coordinator to keep the room neat, send out reminder emails to pick up your food, put unclaimed food in the communal kitchen after a certain time, etc. When signing up, you had to make sure to notify the employee coordinator after you registered with the CSA itself.

        That company also had bike lockers for commuters, and an on-site gym with showers. We really needed more lockers, as a lot of people would end up bringing their bikes into the already crowded offices when the lockers were full. I also think the showers made it possible for people who otherwise wouldn’t to bike to work.

      6. Kat Em*

        Even if onsite pickup isn’t an option, a CSA deal is a great idea. My husband’s company has an arrangement where you can pay for your CSA share with pre-tax money. If you earn below a certain amount, the company subsidizes your share. But even for people who don’t make that cut, the tax savings are significant. There’s a pickup point just up the road, or if people live closer to the farm they can get it from there instead.

      7. Cacwgrl*

        Yes to #1, onsite! I used to do a CSA but it was such a pain to have to leave work for pick up, then drag the box back in when it was too hot to leave it in the car while I finished work. I cancelled it completely when I moved to a site where driving out to the pick up was not an option.

      8. Freed Lab Rat*

        I was just looking for a CSA in my area and found out the business across the street from us has a delivery/subsidy deal with one and I’m SO jealous!!

    4. Chaordic One*

      #5 My workplace has its own onsite gym. The thing about it is that many of the people who would probably benefit from it the most don’t use it. They are embarrassed to exercise in front of their coworkers, or to be seen wearing exercise clothing and that is sort of understandable if you’re out-of-shape.

      I really think that if you were to pay for the exercise class of the employee’s choosing offsite would be a better option.

      1. Dan*

        My company’s health insurance reimburses a fixed amount per year for fitness, regardless of where you go. We also have an on-site gym, which does cost a small fee. The nice thing is that after the insurance reimbursement, the net cost of the company gym is $1/week.

        1. Tardigrade*

          In an ideal situation, yes. But I would not want my coworkers seeing me during or post-work out, panting and sweating and wearing large ratty shirts with sweatpants (I don’t do the Lululemon look).

        2. nonymous*

          Not everyone has flexibility to exercise right at the start/end of workday or during lunch. For example, what about people who have to make public transit or childcare connections? And then there’s the whole showering after exercise experience.

          1. Aerin*

            I work a 4×10 schedule, so using the on-site gym would mean either getting up even earlier than I already do, staying even later so I would basically get home and go directly to bed, or driving 20 minutes to get here on my days off. Pass, pass, and pass.

        3. SignalLost*

          It’s weird and hard to explain, but I worked at one place where I didn’t mind being seen in a sports bra and yoga pants (actually pajama pants because I don’t think anyone noticed; they were just black with a drawstring top) because the overall environment was incredibly casual and I had good relationships with my coworkers. Another place I worked I wouldn’t have used that because the overall environment was in the business end of business casual and the coworker situation was not at all warm. Other factors probably contributed, like that I drove to the first place but bussed to the second, but I just would not have been okay with my coworkers at the second place seeing me in exercise gear. It had a lot to do with the psychology of the office. At least one woman was fired for her size (they said it was another reason that literally isn’t possible) while I was there, and there was a lot of hostility to the idea that employees had lives outside of work. Tremendously damaging overall, but not conducive to an exercise culture. Probably best that place offered no health and wellness initiatives – it would have run counter to the expectation of 60+ hour weeks for VERY low pay!

        4. JustaTech*

          Some people find working out with their coworkers really, really awkward.

          There’s nothing quite like doing sit ups and having the head of a lab wander over to say hi while he’s wearing very short running shorts. Don’t make me upskirt you, Dr Lab Guy!

          1. Arjay*

            At “the head of a lab”, I began picturing a dog-friendly workplace with this lab sticking his head someplace it doesn’t belong!

        5. GlitsyGus*

          I worked at one place where there wasn’t a gym in the office, but one in the complex you could use really cheaply. We also had a group of what can only be described as “Mean Girls” that would very openly mock people that didn’t fit their standards. A whole lot of people that might normally have used the gym didn’t because they didn’t want to be criticised for their “weird run” or laughed at in their running clothes.

          Good lord that place was toxic.

    5. Electric sheep*

      Maybe some kind of mental well-being initiative? Eg a class about managing work life balance or stress management or something like that. Things that are designed to be generally supportive and preventative?? (I’m hoping this prompts some more concrete suggestions from others, but I wanted to flag that wellbeing is mental too.)

      1. Emily Spinach*

        Around midterms and finals the University where I work does a big anti-stress initiative which includes yoga and other free fitness classes, workshops on time management and stress management, I think a mediation room somewhere on campus, and an afternoon where they bring puppies for anyone to come pet. This is mainly aimed at students, but all these ideas would transfer to other groups, I’d think.

        1. Anna Canuck*

          My work did a Puppy Yoga class at our last wellness event. We have an ongoing yoga offering, but the puppies were special guests. I’m pretty sure they were free/by donation from a local rescue group.

          1. wellness OP*

            This is the OP. Puppies came up as an idea but our lease with the building prohibits animals (except service animals). So we’ve already been told that it is not an option (nor “bring your dog to work day”).

      2. Elle*

        I think one of the best ways to promote healthy work-life balance is to offer generous PTO. I worked for a tiny startup with otherwise horrible vacation, but there were a few particularly nice (rare) summer days they let us go early on Friday afternoon and it was huge to get that bonus time. They also let us use sick time for doctors visits.

        1. Washi*

          Wait, is using sick time for doctor’s appointments not normal? I thought that’s what it was there for, along with when you need to stay home sick!

          1. SignalLost*

            I’ve never had to use sick time for a doctor’s visit when working professionally/on salary (because hourly work is different). The expectation everywhere I worked was that a routine visit is fine and you make up for it by managing your own workload. Maybe you need to come in early or stay late, maybe you don’t, but an hour and a half out of the office wasn’t expected to be covered with PTO of any flavor.

          2. Anna Canuck*

            Ugh, my employer offers me “unlimited” sick time, but I’m supposed to make up hours that I need off to go to a doctor or dentist appointment. It kills me, because I’d get zero questions about taking a full sick day.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Along the PTO lines, I worked in one place that added an extra free 8 hour PTO day for everyone that was designated as a “wellness day”. It was intended to be used for your annual doctor’s visit, 6 month dental cleaning, etc – but you didn’t have to provide a doctor’s note or anything like that unless you were using it for an unusual circumstance (like tacking the day onto a week long vacation, etc). As long as you asked for the time off up to a certain amount of time in advance (2 weeks maybe?), your boss wasn’t allowed to deny the time off, and you could take the time in up to 2 hour blocks (instead of only full and half days like the rest of the PTO).

          While I am generally a fan of the “all in one bucket” PTO model, I did like the idea of gaining an extra day so you could get your preventative care out of the way without eating into your vacation time.

      3. Bookfish*

        Mental health is so important! I have a friend whose company got them free HeadSpace or Calm memberships. I thought that was a great idea and was kind of jealous.

    6. Former Computer Professional*

      Cooking classes with an emphasis on healthy meals (but not concentrating on calories — remember that some people have eating disorders and this can trigger problems!).

      Organizing group walks (optional, of course), if possible where the business is located.

      Good mental health is as important as physical health:

      Meditation classes.

      Expansion of (or creation of, if it doesn’t exist) an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), a short-term program to help with mental health issues, especially given the high cost of mental health treatment (& how too many insurances offer a limited coverage for it).

      A “quiet room” where people can go sit in peace when they need a break from a stressful day. (No talking allowed!)

      Communal jigsaw puzzles. Dedicate a table to a big jigsaw puzzle. When people need a break they can go work on it for a bit.

      “Game Day Friday” — if the business can do this: Friday afternoons everyone just wants to go home. At 3 or 4 pm, pull out the board games. (I had a job where we did this. Great for morale to know some fun ends the week!)

      [also +1 for the discounted/paid for gym membership idea.]

      1. Hannah*

        I once worked at a school where the faculty room had a table that always had a puzzle going, along with a table with a pile of Legos and some grown-up coloring books. It was a great spot, and a lovely mini stress reliever.

        1. SignalLost*

          I keep Legos at my desk for that reason. :) It really helps to engage your hands while you think about how to solve a complex problem! Any kind of toy you can do something with and don’t really have to think about would work.

      2. Collarbone High*

        Great suggestions – I love the community puzzle idea!
        Calling attention to the first point – a LOT of websites that partner with companies for wellness initiatives have calorie trackers that aggressively encourage users to log every calorie consumed and burned. I know some people find that approach helpful for weight loss and it’s fine to have, but that’s a huge trigger for people recovering from eating disorders, so evaluate carefully.

        I worked for one company that was using their wellness website to run a steps-per-day challenge, which was fun, but once you signed up the app badgered you multiple times a day to log calories and activity. They ended up having to shut it down because so many people confided to HR that it was a problem for them.

        1. justsomeone*

          My company has a community puzzle going in the lunch room at corporate all the time, plus a “no win” game of scrabble. It’s bee great!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I like the idea of discounted gym membership. An old job offered seated massages and I also get discounts for treatments at the local spa.

        We also get a fruit box delivery, but the usual thing occurs with all the nice fruit (Berries) disappearing almost immediately with only horrible Golden Delicious left.

      2. GermanGirl*

        If you bring in animals, please give ample warning so that people who are allergic can do home office or bring their medication on the day that the animals are there.

        1. Gen*

          Also so that people who are phobic of whatever animal can make other arrangements without pressure. Sure maybe people should learn to cope with their fears but mandatory exposure in front of coworkers probably isn’t the best way to achieve that.

        2. Anon Accountant*

          Thank you for the allergy concern respect!!

          And certainly respecting when people are afraid of animals and not pushing the issue.

        1. General Ginger*

          I have a question, did you have to go outside to meet the llamas, or were they brought inside your office?

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      In addition to everyone else’s excellent suggestions, I like when there’s a designated place for contemplative thought (e.g., meditation/yoga). I also really like my free annual flu shot—I know it’s not for everyone, but I really value the perk.

      Other options include: a fruit/veggie CSA, on-site fitness classes (optional), offering reimbursement for off-site fitness classes/memberships, encouraging walking breaks, and subsidizing folks who bike or take public transit to work for X days/week. I like the ergonomics consult, and you may want to rethink standing desks—there are lots of desktop devices that can convert a normal desk into a standing desk.

      I’d also love to hear from folks who have physical disabilities on how to design inclusive wellness initiatives.

      1. WS*

        On the physical disability front: having options and having privacy! And there’s a lot of people who aren’t disabled as such, but will still be uncomfortable having to reveal medical issues to co-workers when things are made mandatory or are only technically voluntary. Someone might not want to take the free fruit because they have FODMAPS issues, someone else might want to walk but not bike because of vertigo, outdoor exercise may be inappropriate for people with temperature sensitivities, seats or desks that are ergonomic for one person may not be for others and so on. There’s someone upthread who mentioned that an on-site gym may not be used by those who don’t want to exercise in front of co-workers, and that’s often the case for people with disabilities as well.

        1. Becky*

          Right now due to all of the Western USA being on fire (only a slight exaggeration…) outdoor exercise is a bad idea for most people in my area. Air quality is currently designated Unhealthy.

      2. CTT*

        Seconding the flu shot suggestion! It’s one of those perks that you don’t realize is great until it’s gone – when I left for grad school, having to find time to get to the student pharmacy for one seemed like such an imposition in comparison to just going to a conference room and being in and out in 5 minutes.

        1. Amber T*

          Yes! It’s so easy to just say “I’ll go when I get the chance” to CVS or Walgreens or where ever offers it, but I never remember, and when I do my local CVS is out, and they try to send me to another one, but then that pharmacy is closed… Our office has done it for the past two years now and it’s been great.

            1. Electric sheep*

              Oh, I just thought of another one – my sister’s office had free skin cancer checks from a dermatologist once, that was really popular. And my office did free hearing checks and they were in massive demand (people worrying about wearing headphones a lot maybe?)

      3. always in email jail*

        I have a condition that qualifies me for disability in the US (but I’m working because I don’t feel “there” yet) but it does not result in a functional need or visible issue. However it does affect diet (I can’t eat a lot of traditionally “healthy” foods), energy/activity level, etc. For me, the most helpful thing is keeping wellness initiatives low-pressure. It’s OK if everything provided isn’t something I can participate in, as long as I don’t feel like I have to explain myself or justify not participating.

        Not sure if this is a “wellness” initiative, but when I worked for an agency that afforded sick leave in a lump and it was “use or lose” every year, we were all a lot better about routine check-ups. When you’re going to lose your sick leave if you don’t lose it, you’re a lot more motivated to get your teeth cleaned, get a skin check to see about that funny mole, get a flu shot, get a physical, etc. As someone with a chronic health issue, I usually tend to hoard leave and not take care of those “maintenance” appointments, but when sick leave was use-or-lose I did a much better job of taking care of those things.

        1. OhNo*

          For the sick days thing: a special bank of time just for medical appointments might be helpful.
          People might get X number of sick days, which can roll over each year, and a separate bank of a few “appointment” days that are use it or lose it.

          I also tend to hoard my actual sick days because I know I’m going to need them at certain points in the year. But not having to dig into that bucket to go to the doctor would go a long ways toward making me actually get routine check-ups.

          1. Elle*

            We have this. 16 “absent with permission” hours for things like doctors appointments, DMV visits, even meeting with financial advisors. It has been a huge plus for me because I’m more willing to drive out of state for better specialists. And going to the DMV on off-peak hours is a huge stress avoidance.

            1. Ben There*

              Love this, not only because it’s a smart way to allow people to take just the time they need (not take 1/2 day because I have a 1/2 hour doctor visit), but also because it avoids creating stress, not just works toward ‘burning it off’ or ‘treating it’.

        2. Amber T*

          Our office has unlimited* sick days, and I find myself using less overall (previous job combined sick/vacation days, and I was gonna use all of them! It was also a toxic job so I had a very f’ it mentality), using them when I really need it, and feeling better overall (the occasional mental health day is fantastic). Flexible scheduling when it comes to medical appointments is also amazing – if you’re stepping out at 3:30 or coming in at 10 because you had a doctors appointment, okay!

          (There was some confusion about the unlimited aspect when I had to go out for surgery… I think it’s limited to a certain amount of consecutive days.)

      4. Chinookwind*

        The free annual flu shot onsite is a great one. Up here, the flu shot is free from the province but the company paid to bring someone in for the day to administer them, which meant one less thing to arrange after hours.

      5. Hummus*

        Is a company given flu shot all that valuable? I just remember how easy it was to get a flu shot at a pharmacy and it’s also free with insurance which I assume all employees have. I think Obamacare made it mandatory for insurance plans to cover preventative medicine with no copay. Of course, it might be more convenient to get it at work but I just can’t see it as that big of a perk.

        Now a company sponsored physical during working hours – that would be great. When I was working in Eastern Europe my company paid for detailed physicals for everyone (including obgyn) once a year. It was pretty sweet

        1. Someone Else*

          I think it’s still valuable. Even though it’s covered by insurance, which most people will have, getting one still requires people Go Somewhere and Get It. Do not underestimate the effect this has. Even if it would be free, lots of people just don’t bother. By having the flu shot clinic onsite, it is very likely to increase the number of people who actually get the shot because all the have to do it go down the hall while they’re already at work. They don’t have to go somewhere after work or on the weekend. It’s just there. From an individual perspective, if you always planned to get one anyway, I hear where you’re coming from. But from the company perspective, or even just the general public health perspective, the difference in number of people vaccinated is likely to be significant. I’m absolutely for company wellness programs that bring vaccinations on site. It’s much more meaningful than free granola bars or the usual stuff I see.

          1. Hummus*

            Hm, I see. I guess my perspective is skewed because I walk by my local CVS basically every day, so to me it just looks like no effort whatsoever. They also give coupons when you get a flu shot there and I don’t want to miss out on those!

    8. Kasey C.*

      We’ve implemented an infused water initiative! At the beginning of each quarter a Wellness committee member is responsible for pickup and prep of different fruit combos (enough for 4 days each week) that are kept in a freezer. Each month, a calendar goes out with everybody assigned a partner & a day that they’re responsible for filling the water dispenser with ice, water & their choice of the frozen fruit. They’re also responsible for cleaning the dispenser at the end of the day. Everybody only does it once a month and it’s a huge hit! Visitors to our office love it, and it’s cut down on the amount of sugary drinks people consume. The dispenser is a study plastic one you can grab at Sam’s or Walmart, and the fruit is pretty easy to prep in individual plastic bags.

      1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        Oh – I totally love this. I’m absolutely recommending this at my company.

        My last company was really good about providing fresh fruit every morning. I bought a water bottle with a diffuser basket within and would grab a different type of fruit everyday to cut up. I drank so much water at that place; it was great!

      2. Serin*

        I’d love that! This may go without saying, but my coffee shop didn’t know it: WASH citrus fruits before you use them for infusions.

    9. Marzipan*

      I’m confused about how standing desks take up any more space than regular desks? The ones in our office don’t; and the people who have them happen to sit in the smallest area of the room where desk-related space issues would definitely present themselves quickly. So, it’s possible they might be doable?

      1. Totally Minnie*

        My office has those flip-top storage cupboards mounted over the desks. My monitor sits under the cupboard, so a standing desk would essentially render my storage space useless when in standing mode. Maybe OP’s office has a similar issue.

        1. hermit crab*

          Yeah, my current workspace has over-desk cabinets that would prevent use of a varidesk. At my previous job, we had motorized adjustable desks that were FABULOUS, oh my goodness. You could even program them to remember your preferred sitting and standing heights. They’re probably too expensive for OP’s current initiative but maybe something to consider for the future.

          1. Amber T*

            Varidesks are also ridiculously heavy and super wide (even the smaller ones) so if you don’t have a large existing desk they might be a pain in the butt. I love mine and I don’t use it nearly as often as I should. Maybe I should stand up…

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I know in my office that if the person with the desk next to mine had a standing desk, they’d basically be looming over me all day, which I would find uncomfortable.

        1. Em too*

          That’s something to consider, but I sit next to a variable desk and it doesn’t bother me at all whether it’s up or down.

        2. Annie Moose*

          I’ve sat next to someone who usually stands for awhile and I got used to it pretty quickly. I won’t lie, it is kind of weird–especially in an open office where there’s no division between your desks–but as long as the person next to you isn’t, like, creepily commenting on what you’re doing down there, it probably would quickly become normal.

      3. Naomi*

        Maybe consider standing desk converters? You put one on top of a normal desk and it raises the computer to standing height.

      4. J.*

        My desk has a little crank on it, and then the top telescopes up to be a standing desk or back down to be a sitting desk. It was a little odd to get used to at first, but it’s great, and it doesn’t take up any more space than a regular desk would.

    10. nnn*

      I would love my workplace’s wellness committee to really dig into where wellness intersects with labour-management relations. Sick leave. Telework. Benefits that meet our actual needs. Create a culture where people can actually take the time and space they need to attend to their health without having to worry about professional consequences.

      Yes, that’s difficult. But the easy stuff I can do myself.

      1. pleaset*

        ” where wellness intersects with labour-management relations. Sick leave. Telework. Benefits that meet our actual needs. Create a culture where people can actually take the time and space they need to attend to their health without having to worry about professional consequences.”


      2. Megabeth*

        Yes! This —> “Create a culture where people can actually take the time and space they need to attend to their health without having to worry about professional consequences.” is a HUGE factor.

    11. Story Nurse*

      #5, have you considered giving people money for wellness things? One of my partners works for a company in the wellness field and the employees get a small monthly allowance that can be spent at any spa, gym, massage place, sports equipment store, etc. The company encourages employees to patronize their customers and business partners but doesn’t require it. The funds go on a separate debit card and are use-it-or-lose-it (meaning that unused funds go back into the company’s wellness budget at the end of the month) to motivate employees to do small regular acts of self-care.

      Allocate 5% or so to administrative overhead and let employees make their own decisions about how to use the rest. Less creative thinking required from you, more individualized self-care for them. :)

      1. Argh!*

        We had to stop doing that because the money was considered income, which made withholding more complicated.

        1. KRM*

          We have a reimbursement for $500 of wellness/fitness a year, and they just tax that–you submit the receipts for what you bought, and they give a very generous definition of what counts (massages, running shoes, gym memberships, yoga classes, etc) to encourage everyone to use it. This is from the company, independent of what the insurance company offers.

          1. MsChandandlerBong*

            If it is a reimbursement, why is it taxed? It sounds like employees are paying for these wellness items/services out of their after-tax income and then being reimbursed. Since the income has already been taxed, wouldn’t taxing the reimbursement result in double taxation?

            1. Natalie*

              Wellness reimbursements don’t qualify as pre-tax fringe benefits, so the additional money you received (the reimbursement) has to be treated as income.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Even if the company is really, truly not able to offer standing desks, it would be great if workstations were adjustable. Most office desks are designed for six foot tall men, and I am a not-very-tall woman. It would be great for my body if I could have a workstation that’s the right height for me.

        1. Tau*

          +1! I’m 5’1″ and let me tell you, I get very, very tired of footstools. My current company has adjustable-height desks and it is fantastic to have everything the right height for me and have my feet actually touch the ground.

          1. MsChandandlerBong*

            That sounds like heaven. I am 4’10”, and I can’t get comfortable anywhere. Either I have to sit all the way back in the chair so that my feet aren’t dangling, or I have to scoot up to put my feet on the floor, which causes the chair to cut off the circulation in my legs. Then I can barely stand up because my legs are asleep.

        2. DouDouPaille*

          As a 6 foot tall woman, I can tell you that office desks are most definitely NOT made for people of my height! I can barely cross my legs under them, the chairs are comically small, and monitors always have to be propped on top of a box to achieve the right height, etc.

          1. BeenThere*

            We have adjustable height monitors, which is really great for when you also have a Vari-desk. I’d think you would also benefit! I hope your employer will look into it for you!

          2. Tardigrade*

            Seconding this. I have never found traditional work desk to accommodate my height and leg length, which is why I use a table with a veridesk on it.

        3. Annie Moose*

          Funny story. At OldJob, one of the middle-to-upper managers was a quite tall man. We were touring what was going to be our new building, which featured such novelties as natural light (SUCH BEAUTIFUL WINDOWS!!!) and sit-to-stand desks. Manager Joe decided to try one of the standing desks out… put it to its highest height… it was still about six inches too short for him.

          They quickly decided to make extensions available to people who needed them!

          (of course you have to wonder if they would have made such a change if it was a non-manager who’d reported the problem… but in the end, anyone who needed the even-higher desks was able to get them, so it worked out)

          But it just goes to show, desks are very much designed for “average” people–presumably “average” men–and even if they’re adjustable (which is great!) there still needs to be some thoughtfulness about people who are outside that “average” range.

        4. J.*

          We had ergonomic consultants come in for the day and do a personal appointment for about half an hour or so with anyone who wanted it. They helped adjust your desk and chair settings and made recommendations. Then if you wanted to take advantage of any of the recommendations, your boss could sign off on ordering you something. Mine was as simple as adjusting the height of the chair I already had and getting a mousepad that had a little gel wrist supporter, which has been helpful.

          1. Chinookwind*

            I would recommend allowing for ergonomic consultations for every new hire as well as on demand. Doing it once and done means there end up being have’s and have not’s after a while as you cycle through employees. It also allows for changing physical needs among your employees. And ensure you do it for everyone, just not office staff. The mailroom person also needs an ergonomically fitted work space

            As well, does your health plan reimbursement for compression socks? Ours does and it ends up being the most used benefit for our floor staff.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            I had an ergonomic evaluation and got a lot of help, but my desk is not adjustable, so having my feet on the floor is not an option. I have a footstool, but it’s not quite the same. Modular furniture that can be raised or lowered would be super.

      2. namelesscommentator*

        This. This. This. Long periods of sitting is increasingly becoming a known morbidity risk. It’s so important to make sure employees aren’t expected to sit all day.

        If height adjustable desks truly aren’t possible (they aren’t in my one-room, cabinetry riddled office) find ways to let your staff move throughout the day — staggered five minute walk breaks every hour, a spot where people can walk during meetings, talk on the phone, etc.

    12. lurker bee*

      1. Be a designated delivery point for CSA boxes and provide a way to keep them cool until the end of the work day.

      2. In addition to the gym membership rebates and such that folks are mentioning, consider including the YWCA or YMCA network. The monthly dues are decent considering the breadth of offerings, but the Ys usually aren’t in healthcare partnership programs and getting the first $20 or $30 a month paid by an employer really could help, especially for lap-swimmers, whose best resource tends to be the Y.

      3. A little unusual, but how about an Amazon gift card or omnibus order for cookbooks that workers choose? Might be fun to set a dollar ceiling per person, have a list go around each department, and distribute the books at the office, like Scholastic book-arrival day back in school. Side benefit: could spur some discussions both during the ordering phase and when the boxes arrive. I was originally going to suggest a lending library but each person going home with a book would be more impactful.

      1. Lynn*

        The Y may not be the best idea if that’s the only option considering the history of ties to Christianity. I realize that they don’t have many, if any, religious based activities anymore, but I’d still offer an option of a location without a religion listed in the title.

        1. SignalLost*

          They’ve changed the name. They are now the YMCA (or YWCA) with no abbreviation. And the YWCA in particular is HUGE on women’s social justice issues. I’m rabidly not a fan of religion in the workplace and I have actively sought employment both places because they do really, truly, important work with no religious connotation.

    13. GermanGirl*

      We have a public pool right around the corner and some companies in our vicinity give out 1 hour passes for employees to use during lunch or after work – afaik it’s 1 pass a week per employee but some people don’t use them and leave them in the break room so others can go more than once a week or collect some and go with their spouses/kids.

      Also, a good bike shed does wonders for people who live somewhat close by (5 miles is about the average bike commute here, but we have people who live 20 miles away and use an electric bike to get to work).
      There are also a couple of lease-a-bike schemes that employers can sign up for in order to provide affordable bikes/e-bikes to their employees.
      Also, have a shower room where people can freshen up after biking to work.

      Look at what sports your employees are already doing and promote that – whether it’s a running group, a badminton team or a dragon boat, the company can pitch in and provide equipment, starting fees at competitions and t-shirts – with the stipulation that the team be open to any employee who is interested. With company teams it’s not about winning anything, it’s about doing the activity/competition together.

      I also consider the free flu shot a perk, because while I could get one through my health insurance, it’s a lot less time and effort to just do it at work.

      1. Emily Spinach*

        Yes if your company could pay the membership or part of it for a bike share in your town, that might be really nice for a lot of employees.

          1. CAA*

            I promise I’m not being snarky here, but I’d really like to know why do they have to provide options for people who can’t/don’t/won’t ride bikes for whatever reason? And what would those options look like?

            Every company I’ve ever worked at has had some benefits that I could not use or did not want. This just sounds like something that falls in that category. I can’t get flu shots or use a public transit subsidy, but I would never suggest that employers stop giving those benefits to my coworkers or give me something else of equal value. Maybe if the entire wellness program was just a bike subsidy some employees would feel left out, but OP already said she’s doing other things too.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              A flu shot is, what, once a year? As opposed to an ongoing benefit. If it’s something that’s going to benefit people more or less daily, potentially for years, yeah, there should be alternatives. I live too far from work to bike and public transport would make my commute 2-3 hours *each way*, so if my employer couldn’t at least give me free parking (or, you know, enough of a raise that I could afford to live closer . . . ) in exchange, yeah, I’d be pretty annoyed.

              1. Natalie*

                I guess you can feel however you want, but expected free parking as part of a wellness initiative just because you think it should be fair seems silly to me. As CAA said, not every benefit is going to be utilized by every employee. Should my employer drop their vision insurance because not everyone needs it?

                Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

                1. SignalLost*

                  My current employer has a seasonal staffing need where they overflow our parking lot. To alleviate that, and because most of my coworkers live south of the building, they rent our local racetrack’s parking lot and shuttle people in. The people who take the shuttle get an extra hour of pay every day. I can’t use the benefit (or I could, but I’m not getting up at three am to drive an extra ten-fifteen miles to get an extra hour of pay). I benefit by being able to park in our building lot easily and arrive/leave at my convenience. Benefits don’t have to be perfectly symmetrical to be worth doing.

              2. CAA*

                Before any corporate or volume discounts, an annual membership in a bike share costs about the same as 3 days of downtown city parking where I live. A flu shot costs about half as much as the bike share membership. These are both part of a “wellness program” with other initiatives as described by the OP.

                If one of my employees complained that she lives too far away to bike to work so she wants 3 days of free parking to compensate for it, that would not go over well. HR would likely point out that the biking does not have to be done to/from the office, free parking does not promote wellness, and no employee uses or needs 100% of the benefits that we offer. It would create some weirdness if the employee persisted in expressing annoyance after having this explained to her.

              3. E.*

                This –> “Every company I’ve ever worked at has had some benefits that I could not use or did not want.”

                My last place of employment offered a bike incentive too (I think you could get a small monthly stipend to cover maintenance or something), and only a handful of people took advantage of it as far as I know. I didn’t bike to work (I lived close enough, but the traffic was awful and I wasn’t comfortable biking those roads) so didn’t get the benefit. But I still support that the company incentivizes something that’s good for the environment and for public health.

            2. Courageous cat*

              Agreed, let’s not feel like we need to cater to every single small exception with every benefit. I just don’t think it’s realistic or necessary.

    14. Nardole*

      My organisation does $200 per year per employee that we can use for anything relating to wellness. In the past I’ve used mine for a new bike, push scooter, helmet, walking shoes etc, but other people have used them for gym membership, running gear, basically anything that could in any way promote health and wellness.

      On a similar note, having somewhere safe to store bikes is a major plus. The reason I bought a push scooter one year is because they took away our bike storage, and the only option was in a not very well lit (important when you do night shift!), no camera location where at least one bike had been stolen in the past, and when you only have a bike for transport, you really don’t want your only means of transport being stolen!

      Thirding the free flu jabs (I work with the public!), and subsidised massages! Plus the organisation encourages us to use our sick leave for mental health days if we need them. AND we have EAP! All of these things are awesome :D

      1. FD*

        Yeah, definitely! I bike to work, and I have to take it in the elevator and to my office because there’s nowhere to park it outside. If I didn’t have enough room, I wouldn’t be able to do that.

    15. FD*

      One place I worked offered a partial reimbursement for a gym membership if you went a certain number of times in a month (IIRC, you could get up to $45 back, which was about half the membership fee for an individual at the fanciest gym in town, though it would pretty much cover membership at some of the cheaper ones). You could choose any gym you liked. You couldn’t get more than the membership fee you paid, but if your membership was cheaper than the limit, I think they’d pay for it all.

    16. BeenThere*

      I don’t understand how standing desks are out because of space constraints. There is an option that you can set on an existing desk and raise it up if you want to stand. Not crazy expensive either. I’d really look at this more. I love being able to stand at my desk!

      1. SignalLost*

        Two of the offices I’ve worked in have had over-desk storage built into the cube walls that would be completely incompatible with a standing desk. Giving employees standing desks would have created much larger problems around where to move the storage to, and we were already crammed into the space at the second office. We should trust OP that “space” doesn’t just mean vertical height and they’ve looked at the option. $15k is not enough to completely re-layout an office.

    17. FD*

      Another one, potentially–if your community has a decent system (and there’s a stop near your office), offer free/discounted subsidized public transport passes? Switching to public transportation usually means walking a bit more which can be a painless way to more exercise for some people.

      1. Argh!*

        Yes! That would be a money saver, and it does indeed make people walk. Since moving to a city without good public transportation I’ve gained 20 lbs.

      2. Natalie*

        Alternatively, since the OP says they don’t have a huge budget – you can let your employees set aside their own pre-tax dollars to buy transit passes. They save on the payroll and income taxes (since commuting costs aren’t normally deductible), you save on your half of the payroll taxes, and you don’t actually spend any money. Your transit authority most likely has a program set up for this already.

    18. Grits McGee*

      If it isn’t already part of an employer-provided insurance plan, reimburse staff for annual physicals, or provide health screenings on site (to the extent that your facilities allow).

    19. Birch*

      OP5, I think the big thing is really having different options, because everyone is focusing on different aspects of health. Also, focusing on things people already have/do (like eating, commuting, exercising, sitting at a desk) rather than introducing new extra things that people might not want or know how to use.
      Things I’d like:
      *subsidized gym/exercise club memberships, spa discounts
      *options for healthy food delivery at work, like a snack CSA or something like NatureBox
      *subsidized public transportation
      *free coffee and tea
      *access to mental health services/occupational health consultations/flu season support
      *ergonomic/health related workspace solutions
      *optional social lunch groups for things like book clubs, walking, knitting group, whatever people have shared interests
      *encouraging a culture of valuing the person’s wellbeing over the work they do–this seems abstract, but it can be little things like sharing tips to avoid burnout, encouraging getting up to clear your head every hour, staying off email when you’re not at work, cultivating hobbies, sharing local seminars for mediation courses, etc. This depends a lot on the field, but I think it can make a huge difference in the working atmosphere! Things as small as a poster on the wall can shift the feeling, e.g. “Get to work: you aren’t being paid to believe in the power of your dreams” vs. “Teamwork: helping each other makes us all stronger.”

      That all being said, workplace cultures differ. Have you tried surveying the employees to see what they want?

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        I love most of this, but agh, not the posters! Personally I find the de-motivators hilarious :p, and just can’t take the rest seriously. Pretty art on the walls or something would be nice though.

        1. SoSo*

          Agreed. Making the space both visually appealing and comfortable does wonders to help your mental state. I also wonder if the OP could incorporate some sort of (voluntary) regular/paid group break? One summer at a previous job, we would take 30-45 minutes every Friday to walk to the ice cream shop a few doors down and grab a snack. It was an easy way to decompress, get some fresh air, and spend a little time with our co-workers. Some people would choose to come just to get a few steps in, and others would stay back if they were uninterested or too busy. Obviously that could be customized to their culture (i.e. group coffee run or some snacks in the break room) but the effect is still the same. I always looked forward to it and it made my attitude a lot better!

        2. Bowl of Oranges*

          I will advocate for a different kind of poster–posters that explain how to do things, like the Heimlich maneuver, properly. My husband’s old workplace has those in the bathroom stalls. Our kid choked on food once and he knew exactly what to do because he had seen and read that poster so many times.

        3. JustaTech*

          There’s a program in my city that my work did for a while where you pay a company to come poster a common area (for us it was a lunch room, but some local restaurants use their waiting area) with posters for local art events (art shows, music events, plays, special exhibits at the museums, local festivals and fairs, that kind of thing). Yes, it’s advertising, but it’s very attractive advertising, and at the end of the month you could ask to keep any poster you liked.
          It really livened up the lunch room.

      2. Lisa Babs*

        I second the surveying idea. Because who wants to waste time and energy on corporate wellness initiatives that employees don’t find engaging or beneficial. Maybe pick the best ideas (or the ideas that fit in your budget) from this thread and then do a survey and see what your employees want.

        A couple ideas I don’t see on this thread (I apologize if I missed them):
        – Create a healthy office cookbook – with employees favorite healthy recipes
        – Incentivize smoking cessation
        – Join a local sports league
        – distribute a list of healthy dining options in 2-mile radius of your office

        1. SignalLost*

          I really think “healthy” is too loaded a term to use, but I like where you’re going overall. “Healthy” often seems to mean low-calorie, low-fat, and sometimes veg*n, and that’s not healthy for everyone. Maybe just even a directory of the restaurants within a reasonable radius, with notes around cost, special options, and average meal times. I was pretty embarrassed when, as a completely green professional, I hosted an impromptu professional meal at a very nice steakhouse … but hadn’t realized one of the guests was vegetarian. He did eat, and he’d been to the city before and knew what to expect, but having that information provided would be helpful for lunch meetings.

        2. Nanani*

          These sound like condescending “Have you tried vegetables and exercise?!” crap to me.

          Subsidizing smoking cessation for those who need it, for example, could be good. “Did you know SMOKING IS BAD AND YOU SHOULD STOP” is not.

    20. Clare*

      The best wellness initiative was when my company reimbursed us for up to $400 of fitness equipment each year. I was able to buy my first bike as an adult. It was great because it was optional and people could buy things they would actually use (although as an avid outdoor runner I was a little annoyed that it didn’t cover running sneakers, but it was free money so really can’t complain too much).

      1. Not a Blossom*

        That is awesome! I am currently pricing treadmills and yikes. I would love that benefit.

    21. Eve*

      At my last two companies there have been weekly salad days. The last company the wellness committee provided them. It was laid out on one of the conference tables. Each item was in its own bowl like a buffet so you didn’t have to worry about preferences. At my current company we all have 1 day in a rotation to provide for but there are only a half dozen of us.

    22. Lynca*

      Vaccinations- My office partners with a local health department to provide vaccinations in the fall. It is covered by insurance and just flat out more convenient than the drugstore. It’s also available for covered family members too.

      It’s not limited to just the flu shot either. If you tell them what vaccination you want prior to the visit, you can get those too.

    23. PB*

      My last office had optional lunch-and-learns about health-related topics. Employees were asked about what topics they’d like covered. They paid to bring in experts to talk about a range of topics, from basics of foam rolling to finding the right running shoes to starting a lifting routine. I found these really valuable, and it was easy to skip anything that didn’t apply or wasn’t interesting to me.

    24. Snow W.*

      Pay the participation fee to sport events – even better group sport events, like relay races. Bonus: team building, employees can train together!

      Flexible lunch time for those who would like to do some sport.

      Offer to pay for a bike, for a healthy ride to work.

    25. Bike shorts*

      Facilities to make life easier for folks who use active transit. Bike pumps, indoor safe bike parking, changing rooms/showers

    26. Financial Wellness*

      One thing I really appreciate about my company’s wellness program is that they don’t limit it to strictly physical wellness. They have monthly “financial wellness” webinars on topics like budgeting, using your HSA and 401k, and how to start investing. Finances can be a huge stressor for a lot of people so these are pretty popular.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        +100 Financial stuff can be pretty stressful and opaque, and HR often can’t tell you how to manage your benefits once you have them (they don’t want to be giving you financial advice that turns out wrong for instance). Basics of how to invest and how to find a financial advisor even- when I first looked into it I was surprised to learn that lots of advisors are on commission to someone and don’t have to advise you in your best interest. Some do, but others like ones a for-profit bank might refer you to, are more like salespeople for certain investments. So including how to find a financial advisor who has to give you advice in your best interest would be an important topic. And more generally, finance stuff has a lot of things involved that aren’t intuitive like this, so it’s a great idea to include!

        1. EllieC*

          Yes! I’m a financial professional and I’ve been invited to several companies to do lunch and learn talks about the basics of personal finance. In my experience, the vast majority of attendees are not well versed (even at sophisticated companies) and are super enthusiastic to learn things like when you might need a financial advisor/how to choose one, differences between a 401K/traditional IRA/Roth IRA, credit card usage, etc. I always get the sweetest thank you notes afterwards about how the discussion answered a lot of questions and calmed their minds. So this is a great mental wellness offering.

          Someone above mentioned having a dermatologist come for skin checks – this is amazing! They could also offer sunscreen samples, etc.

          Another off-beat perk I enjoy is free manicure day sponsored by my shared workspace. The manicurists set up in a conference room for an afternoon every few months and you get an express manicure – i.e. light filing and polish. They only ask that you tip the manicurist as if you’d paid for the service. This obviously doesn’t appeal to everyone in the building, but I really love the mental boost of having fresh polish and not having to spend the time going to the salon for the service.
          They also have people come in with the massage chairs and that’s a great perk too.

    27. Lora*

      *gets on soapbox*

      Unlimited paid sick time. Get a company wide insurance policy that pays for employees paychecks while they are out sick and transitions to short term disability easily.

      Work from home encouraged for people who need to keep their cooties to themselves but would otherwise try to soldier through and infect the whole office.

      People who come to work sick get sent home. Either to work from home or keep their germs to themselves. Prevent the entire office from falling ill because of one person.

      Sick time for contractors too, especially the ones staffing the cafeteria where they can contaminate more people.

      An on site nurse doing the judgment calls if someone is sick or not because managers aren’t good at deciding these things as a rule. You get EXTRA sent home if it’s open offices where germs circulate faster.

      *Gets off soapbox*

      1. Natalie*

        If you can afford it – real parental leave. Meaning, some decent amount of time that’s paid.

      2. AnotherJill*

        Seriously this. All of the chair massages in the world can not keep people from getting sick with coworkers indiscriminately hacking phlegm everywhere.

    28. rubyrose*

      My company has something worked out with our health insurance. If you carry the company health insurance and then sign up for this other program, you are initially given just enough money to purchase a low end Fitbit, or you can apply the money to a higher end one. There is an app that tracks your activity and sleep, via the Fitbit. You can also track your food on the app. You get points for all of these and can redeem those points for things like gift cards for Amazon, Target, Starbucks. Program is totally voluntary. I really like it.

      1. KRM*

        We have the same, and I really like it. It’s a nice incentive for something I do anyway, and takes basically no extra time at all (just have to remember to open the app to make sure my Fitbit data uploads).

      2. BadWolf*

        We have the same. The fitbit points are an oddly good motivator for me, even though it translates to like 10 cents for 10,000 steps a day.

    29. Thosetaxreturnswontfilethemselves*

      Subsidized gym memberships – we get 50% (up to $250) a year towards a gym membership. I love this perk, it allows me to go to a fancy gym I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

    30. Persimmons*

      My company subsidizes the cafeteria salad bar and healthy-option lunch line. Less healthy options are full price.

      I really, really appreciate it, because even the smallest head of lettuce or bag of greens gets mushy before I use it all up. With the subsidized salad bar, I can eat a large variety of veg throughout the week without worrying about wasting lots of produce, and the price per pound is competitive with the grocery store.

        1. Persimmons*

          Cold deli option with low-fat and low-processed meats and cheeses, fresh veg, whole grain breads and wraps. Sides include fresh fruit, steamed veg, and misc. rotating salads like three bean, cucumber vinaigrette, etc. Hot option has baked or steamed chicken or fish, and sides like wild rice, cauliflower mash, etc.

          Full-priced stuff is chicken fingers, fries, pizza, etc.

      1. seahorsesarecute*

        About once a quarter my company’s wellness committee organizes a salad bar potluck; the company buys the proteins and bottles of dressing, everyone else signs up for items to bring, the committee takes care of set up and clean up on salad bar day – this usually turns into two days since there are enough leftovers for the next day.

    31. The Other Dawn*

      If you have an onsite gym and people actually use it, add some equipment to it like medicine balls, exercise balls, a few floor mats, posters on the walls showing how different exercises are done (make sure the posters include beginners’ exercises), stuff like that. Our gym was very bare when I first started using it and it was hard to workout the way I wanted to, but once the company added the above mentioned items, plus some kettlebells and more free weights, I was actually excited (well, sort of…) to go workout.

      Our company has a deal with the local CSA, they bring in chair massages a couple times a year, lunch hour sessions with various health professionals (lunch is provided), health screenings, etc.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        I also would recommend a TV with HDMI/VGA hookups and Chromecast (or similar), or maybe even a dedicated tablet or computer so that people can put on a workout video of their choice.
        If possible, have a separate room with this setup. My onsite gym is great, but my biggest complaint is that I often don’t have room to do HIIT or yoga, and I have to use my phone or laptop to watch videos.

        Also, provide reimbursement for any apps or programs that people use. If my company paid for premium Runkeeper, or premium Cronometer, I’d work there forever.

    32. Angeldrac*

      My workplace did a challenge where we were provided with podometres and competed either as individuals or teams for the most steps in a month – it was fun. We also had a
      Monthly potluck with the emphasis on bringing healthy meals and providing the recipe for everyone to share.

      On a different note, though, what have you got in place for parental leave (for mums AND dads) and accommodations for working parents (child care, lactation breaks and space etc.)? Might be something worth brainstorming with employees to ascertain need sand what provisions could be made.

    33. Blue Anne*

      My workplace lets people set goals with their manager, and then reimburses them associated costs if they meet the goals. For example, I bought a bike, with the goal of putting 1,500 miles on it over the next year. If I do, my workplace is going to reimburse me for buying it.

    34. Elle*

      If standing desks aren’t an option… my work has a chiropractor come in and do ergonomic assessments of our desks once a year. They buy little things like special keyboards or mouse pads, adjustable height monitors, etc if there is a need. And they help us adjust our chairs properly. I find it really valuable.

      Also +1 on reimbursement for out-of-work health activities like gyms.

      1. Elle*

        Oh, and changing out fluorescent lights to daylight bulbs. I recently changed buildings back to fluorescent and I’ve noticed a change in my energy and also an uptick in migraines.

        1. Birch*

          Oh yes, this! And investing in a couple of day lamps if you live somewhere that gets dark in the winter. My last office (in the Great Frozen North parts of the world) had two comfy couches and a day lamp area that was really nice if you had some portable work and needed a little hit of daylight. They help so much with mood and energy in the winter.

    35. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      The best offering from a wellness program that I ever saw was a presentation on psychological resiliency (and managing work place stress). I had never even heard of resiliency before, and walked out of the meeting enlightened to my own extreme lack of resiliency. The other decent program offerings were the 15 minute massage chair, onsite weigh-watcher group meetings, and blood pressure testing.

      Wellness program offerings did not actually improve my well being, though perhaps the massage made me briefly feel good. The others that I mention above did improve my *awareness* of certain health issues or potential issues.

      1. uranus wars*

        I did a resiliency workshop once and it was AMAZING. I still refer to those notes and it was almost 2 years ago. That is a fabulous ideas!

        1. nnn*

          I’m glad to hear there are useful resiliency workshops out there! I did one and it was mindblowingly useless. I hope mine was an outlier!

    36. uranus wars*

      I would say healthy snacks are the way to go or a meditation/rest room if your company is ok with people taking 10 – 30 minutes to recharge during the day. Some other things can get too specific for everyone to be able to enjoy.

      Also, if you chose to bring someone in to talk about what a balanced meal plan looks like I’d start with a Registered Dietitian. Nutritionists can range from someone who paid $50 to do a one-hour online training to someone with a degree. Not that it doesn’t make them qualified, but sometimes they are harder to vett.

      1. Amber T*

        Agreed on the Registered Dietitian!

        I am curious though – I’ve been considering speaking to one on my own, but I’d be leery about one that was employed/contracted by my employer. Has anyone’s company hired a dietitian or nutritionist and had it work out?

        1. uranus wars*

          We have had an RD on staff for 5 years and its worked out pretty well. She some one-hour workshops but also does one-on-one counseling programs for free. She does an 18 week program with bi-weekly, scheduled check ins and also one-off meetings. The 18 week program is limited in capacity. Our employees LOVE it.

          We are over 2500 employees and its enough to keep her busy but not overwhelmed. If we had under 1500 employees I don’t know a full time RD would have enough work in her capacity to keep her busy, we’d likely have to parlay other duties into the position.

          Overall we have a pretty high engagement rate, at first I was worried it was the same people but turns out I was wrong.

          Another bit of positive feedback we’ve received is that our wellness program is actually not run though anyone in our HR department so people feel more comfortable talking with us. Apparently we’ve had employees in the past who think that they were penalized for not taking part of the company wellness program, where our HR has no idea who does or does not participate unless they happen to run into someone at a workshop.

    37. bo bessi*

      We extended our program to include mental and financial wellness as well. Our 401k brokers come in quarterly to give financial seminars – everything from how to put together a budget to financial planning for new parents to creating financial security in retirement. These have been really well attended, and I think people are getting just as much out of them as they are the office bikes we have.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Information/lunch ‘n’ learn sessions on mental wellness from local mental health agencies which includes information on invisible mental illnesses to enlighten coworkers to the difference between being depressed and clinical depression. Helping to break the stigma around mental illness would go a long way to help those who work there who live with this type of illnesses (because there is nothing as frustrating as going to a mental health session and only hearing about ways to reduce stress).

    38. sb*

      If public transit is an option in your area, consider discounted or subsidized passes, because that will get people walking/up and moving and out of their cars. Showers and bike parking for cyclists (and the showers will help run/walk commuters in bad weather).

    39. Quinalla*

      We have a pretty good Wellness Committee at my work and we do the following – all activities are optional which is key:
      -Free fruit every week – usually bananas and apples are the staples plus one or two other in season or on sale fruits
      -Vegetable stand – during the summer/fall a stand set up where folks who grow their own vegetables can bring in any extras they want to share with coworkers
      -Physical activity challenge – do 30 minutes of physical activity a day for at least 5 days (you set what counts for yourself), turn in a little card filled out with what you did that week and get entered for a gift card drawing, runs for 4 weeks usually in the summer
      -Walking challenge – set a personal step goal for yourself and track using a fun map/spreadsheet
      -Lunch & Learns – various presentations on nutrition, exercises, stress, meditation, ergonomics, etc. with free lunch provided. We even include financial and other things in ours as we go by the 8 dimensions of wellness: Social, Emotional, Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical, Environmental, Financial, Occupational – though we do focus more on physical
      -Snack Facts – free healthy snacks with fact sheets on something related to the 8 dimensions of wellness
      -5k walk/runs – we participate as a company in 1 or more of these a year and for those you get half minimum of the participation fee reimbursed
      -Yoga/Exercise classes – we aren’t doing any right now, but do sometimes have free classes in the main office exercise room during the day
      -Oatmeal bar – someone cooks a big pot of oatmeal (several pots for our large main office) and then bring in a bunch of yummy oatmeal toppings and everyone makes their own oatmeal to suit

      -We are thinking for next year of giving folks a certain amount of $$ per year they can spend on wellness activities, but we are still sorting out how we would regulate it, we might start with just reimbursing people for 5Ks, marathons, etc. they do on their own.

      1. Paris Geller*

        I started a new job about 4 months ago and I really appreciate lunch & learns! Sometimes they do brown bag and sometimes they bring in a healthy lunch, but what I enjoy is that the topics cover different aspects of wellness like you mentioned. My last place of employment did those too, but they focused solely on physical wellness. I like the mixture.

    40. Anon Today*

      I used to work for the Y and we would sometimes do staff recess. It was a fun break in the day, and got people who usually skipped breaks to actually take a lunch break. And huge upside: people would come back in such a great mood! Obviously not every workplace is going to have a gym to play dodge ball or Red Rover or whatever, but depending on what your space/campus is like, maybe badminton on the lawn or jump ropes + double dutch in a sectioned off area of the parking lot in the summer. Another workplace set up a Wii in an empty conference room, which was pretty fun for being social while also being impressive at fake bowling

    41. CoveredInBees*

      My husband’s office has a Bevi machine (I promise we get no compensation for recommending them!) and I wish we had one at home. It let’s you choose between flat and sparkling water, add (non-sugary) flavor, and you can choose the intensity of the flavor. You might be able to choose how carbonated as well. Something for everyone to fill their water bottles with. I can attest to the tastiness of the flavors, things like grapefruit, cucumber.raspberry, etc.

      1. Snark*

        I’ve been trying to drink less delicious, delicious beer, so I got a Sodastream and got into making my own bitters and infusions to flavor the soda water with. Best decision ever.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          I misread your comment at first and thought you were trying to drink beer that was less delicious.

          I need more coffee.

    42. BadWolf*

      For awhile, my work had an ergonomics lab. It was in a tiny space, but they bought an assortment of mice, keyoards, risers, foot rests, etc. The plan was that you could come and try something out and even check things out to see if they would work for you.

      Sadly, it was pretty quickly abandoned, but I did find a mouse that I liked and they just let me take it from the “lab” because it wasn’t being maintained any more.

    43. Non-profiteer*

      Quiet rooms where people can nap during breaks, get over a migraine, relax for a few minutes, etc. This is a personal crusade of mine that I have so far not succeeded at – I get short, minor to moderate migraines sometimes. They are not so debilitating that I need to go home – I just need to sit in a dark, quiet room for 30 minutes until the aura goes away and the meds kick in. I’m sure there are other conditions where this type of space would be useful, and would actually keep people at work!

      Also, do employees have enough leave or flexible schedules to be able to pop out to doctor’s appointments? If not, can you apply your budget to, say, a bank of leave hours for that purpose? Giving employees the ability to easily get to and from doctor’s appointments without taking the full day off is good for employer and employee!

      1. always in email jail*

        Yes. I posted about a generous sick leave policy with “lose it or use it” hours above that encouraged us all to get checkups etc., but flexible scheduling can accomplish the same purpose. An environment that allows people to maintain their health by getting checkups, getting their teeth cleaned, etc. can go a long way to promoting wellness.

      2. Elle*

        I definitely agree with a quiet room, although it can be hard to find space. I worked at a place with a little room with a couch off the woman’s bathroom, left over from the days when they wanted the secretaries to have a place to go lay down in the event of ‘female issues’. It was really nice for my migraines but awkward to get caught laying down, presumably slacking off.
        My mom’s work started offering a ‘quiet time’ class at their gym where they turn the lights off. People bring yoga mats and nap, meditate, or practice yoga (there are laminated sheets with yoga flows for self guidance).

    44. Yorick*

      I agree with many of these things, like more or unlimited sick time, but it’s important to remember that OP only has a small budget.

    45. Hiring Mgr*

      Let people come and go as they please as long as they get their work done (obviousy not applicable in every situation). Be far more generous with time off, wfh flexiblity, etc.. Dont’ make it a burden to miss a few hours to go to a dr’s appt or to stress about having to pick up their kids early or whatever.. That kind of thing.

    46. Cat Herder*

      #5. Ask the employees what they would like before spending more money. For instance, the water bottles are a nice gesture, but I’ll bet many of the employees already had their own (I have *so many* inscribed water bottles and coffee tumblers already!) and may have liked that money spent on something else (me, I’d go for more massages! or, some Brita pitchers and filters that could live in the office fridge).

      Also, is your wellness budget going to be continually funded, or is this a “here’s some money, don’t ever ask for anything more ever again” — because you might then consider ways to set up programs/services that can continue with low or no funding in the future.

      1. Your Friendly Commuter*

        “For instance, the water bottles are a nice gesture, but I’ll bet many of the employees already had their own (I have *so many* inscribed water bottles and coffee tumblers already!)”

        YES. Nearly everything my workplace gets me is dropped off at the Goodwill that I pass on the way home. I don’t need more tote bags, water bottles, pens, branded notebooks, highlighters, or jump drives. I would LOVE experiences and flexibility, such as massages, yoga, a nice lunch brought in, flex time, remote days, discounted or free gym memberships and public transportation.

    47. Megabeth*

      There is a factory in north Georgia that has a robust employee wellness program – there is a health clinic on site daily that deals with minor injuries and routine health care. Workers can get all of their immunizations there and not have to take time off to drive to their doctor. They even have a mobile dentist come out once a month for cleanings. The best part? It’s all either free or at extremely reduced price.

      OP, would it be feasible to have health care workers come out to your location to set up something like a flu clinic? The factory I was talking about has their own private health care program, but RiteAid and CVS have programs to support employer-hosted flu clinics. Just the convenience of not having to take time off work to drive off-site for a shot would be a huge benefit, I think.

    48. drpuma*

      “Wellness” isn’t only about the individual employee. I like the approach that employees are “well” when they can focus on their work without exacerbating other worries in their lives. What about a separate PTO bank for family or loved-one emergencies? Or including childcare, paid home caregiving, (or even doggie day care) up to a certain $ amount if you decided to offer a wellness reimbursement program?

    49. Ben There*

      Not clear how many employees we’re talking about, but how about a pedometer or fitbit? If outright purchase is too dear, a partial reimbursement would be nice. Other items (or a subsidy toward) that would be welcome: certificate for mani/pedi (or any spa treatment); balance ball chair; books/videos; classes/workshops.
      While I agree with lots of comments here about subsidizing exercise or fitness classes, it’d also be cool to be able to get help covering a class in painting or floral design or any other topic that might be of interest to the employee. Self-care and mental health includes relaxing and developing interest and social connections too!

    50. Dwight*

      My company covers half of any membership or exercise equipment, up to 700$ / year (so 350$ covered). That includes gym membership, hockey fees, baseball fees, rugby fees, ski season passes, and probably a bunch of other stuff if you can think of it being a membership. I think this is pretty good. I imagine only a few people max it out each year (I’m one of those). It doesn’t include stuff like gym clothing or sports equipment, but you can use it to buy gym equipment like a treadmill or home gym.

    51. Fruity fruit*

      Studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time is deadly even if you exercise. So one way to combat this is to encourage people to take breaks and get up and walk around every 30-60 minutes and always have breaks during long meetings. Only a minute of getting up and taking a few steps might make a giant difference in health! Also, another benefit of fresh fruit – people will need to pee more, thus walking more to go to the bathroom.

      I personally think that this is the best thing an employer could do for the health of their employees – help them be less sedentary on the job.

      1. nd*

        Agree with this! Many companies frown on employees walking around, because they’re not “working” and not being “productive”. Something as simple as encouraging people to get up, stretch, and walk around at least every hour would be very beneficial and not cost the company anything. In fact, it will likely increase productivity and possibly cut down on workplace injuries and thus workers comp claims.

    52. TootsNYC*

      I want my company to set aside a conference room where you can clear the floor and do a workout to a video. Even if they just make it available and then have a coworker organize it. I have no idea about liability risks or even copyright problems (w/ playing a video intended for private use).

      But maybe a trial run of on-site exercises beyond yoga? A sampler, of sorts, to see if anyone is interested.

      My on-site daycare did an “infant massage” class–you could do something similar aimed at parents for kids of all ages.

      And you could do an “intro to massage” thing as well; teach people some simple neck or arm massages they can do to family members (or to one another, to relieve forearm stress from computer work).

    53. Bored IT Guy*

      Do an air quality assessment in your office, and fix any issues that are brought up. Make sure your building maintenance department is regularly changing the filters in your HVAC system.

      (One of my co-workers has been having issues with humidity and mold in the air, brought in a mold test kit and found something growing within 24 hours. Currently, as I type this, I hear the roar of industrial-strength dehumidifiers, which were apparently added over the weekend … there are 2 within 20 feet of me, and about 15 in the building)

    54. nd*

      Haven’t read everything yet, so maybe these are mentioned.

      1. Encourage walking meetings, if possible. Gets people moving instead of sitting.

      2. Somewhat flexible work hours for people who want to work out before work or during the work day. This would be appreciated by anyone, whether they go to a gym or work out or are training for an endurance event and need more time for workouts. In the metro area where I live, because of traffic, it can be really hard to get to work by 8:00 and get in a good workout. For a variety of reasons, working out in the evening doesn’t work.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I’ve been trying to take a certain fitness class at our local community college for years, but they only offer it at 10AM or 2PM, so I can’t go. It would be amazing if my job would let me flex some time a couple days a week so I could exercise and then come back to work.

    55. Victoria, Please*

      I have a VariDesk which converts my regular desk to a sit-stand desk. It takes up no more space than, well, the top of the desk. That might be nice.

    56. Marzipan*

      Ooh! I just remembered this… There’s definitely some research out there that shows people do better when they’re able to personalise their workspaces. So, one easy thing to do would be encouraging this – especially if your company doesn’t currently have as much of a culture of doing this.

    57. Anonymeece*

      We had someone teach meditation or deep breathing/stress-relief tactics that was hugely beneficial. I still use those!

    58. Traveler Kate*

      Fruits every day? Or fruits once a week? We had these at my former workplace and I really liked it :) Other healthy snacks would be great. And free tea! :D

    59. JJ*

      NAPPING PODS. *women swoon* (that’s a quote, I’m not being sexist. Men can swoon over them, too.)

    60. Melissa*

      I am a big fitness lover, and am at the gym most days during the week. If I were an employee and my work was doing a wellness program, all those things you listed were great! One thing I’d look for though personally, is that they’d help pay for a gym membership at certain gyms (can be nearby the office or a chain etc) as that would be something I would absolutely utilize!

    61. Evil HR Person*

      Can I just say that $15k is NOT a small budget, unless you have 15,000 employees… Good gravy! No wonder they’re running out of ideas…

      I say, partner with your broker or health insurance company. Mine gave me some fabulous ideas for spending money we don’t have.

    62. DNDL*

      My local grocery store has a nutritionist on sight whose job it is to go out into the community and do free health programming on various topics. When she came for our staff day to do a nutrition class (healthy work lunches) and yoga class, she also brought people from the grocery’s pharmacy to do free health screenings (blood pressure, glucose, etc).

      Poke around–you might find some great free community resources that can be used.

    63. willow*

      In my company, any time your utilization rate falls below your goal, you start worrying about losing your job. That’s a lot of stress. I would LOVE to have someone actually do away with this constant stressor.

    64. Jennifer Thneed*

      OP, I can absolutely see that a treadmill desk could have a space constraint, but could you please speak to how standing desks can do that? There is probably some straightforward reason that isn’t obvious to us because we aren’t in your physical workspace. (But if it’s just that someone *else* gave you that reason, maybe push back a litle and ask them why? They may have only seen 1 type and assumed that all standing desks are like that.)

    65. Burnett*

      Wellness initiatives are frankly a waste of money. There’s not a whole lot of evidence they do anything most companies think they will. They have a negligible effect on health insurance costs and overall employee wellness, they don’t affect retention in any significant fashion, and worst of all, they can lead in some instances to cliquishness, ostracizing of people who don’t use what’s on offer, and a company culture of bodyshaming and eating disorder triggers.

      You’re better off in all of these instances simply using the money to give everyone a small bonus for the year.

    66. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

      For wellness initiatives I highly recommend including things that help with mental wellness alongside the physical wellness. Yoga is a good option that goes for both, and offering meditation can be great as well. Give staff the option to have an additional 10 minute break with wellness or mindfulness activities like colouring, crosswords etc can be really beneficial for focus. Even 10 minutes to just sit in the sun by a window can be energising!

    67. Sarahhopefully*

      My office has a wellness committee that stocks snacks on each floor. There’s a small box to pay on the honor system and things range from $.50-$1.00. Items include crackers, individual bags of Skinny Pop, hard boiled eggs and yogurt in the fridge, bananas, and protein bars. They also daily make big jugs of fruit infused water that anyone can enjoy.

      My company also helps subsidize Weight Watchers (they pay 50%) and allows a space on-site for weight watchers at work meetings. (The WW people come in and run it so you’re not having a coworker weigh you or anything- but coworkers are there for the discussion portion. ) The meetings are 30 minutes during the day once a week and we don’t have to take PTO to attend.

      They’ve occasionally done reimbursements for fitness trackers (up to a certain dollar amount so you could get a cheaper Fitbit and have it covered 100% or invest in an Apple watch and just got some money toward it.) You had to provide receipts dated within a certain time period. They’ve also done other fitness subsidies for gym memberships or fitness equipment- again up to a certain dollar amount and with a dated receipt.

      Someone comes in and does 15 or 35 minute massages on payday Fridays for $1 a minute. There’s a centralized signup calendar.

      They have yoga either during lunch or at 5:30pm 4-5 days a week, for $5 per class. Obviously you’d need a space big enough for it but having it right there makes it easy for people to go if they’re interested.

      Our company is self-insured so it’s in our/the company’s best interests to keep employees healthy and keep costs low for everyone.

      Also… 6 weeks paid parental leave. Maybe not so obvious of a health perk but goes toward the culture of a place that cares for employees and their families.

    68. Petty Editor*

      Don’t forget about mental wellness too. My job brings in therapy dogs once a month (optional, well-trained, and non-invasive in a part of the building where people have to move through) and it noticeably changed the atmosphere here.

    69. Bethany*

      As well as the above, we also do:

      1. Smoothie mornings! We just had one recently so it’s at the top of my memory.
      2. Subsidy for wearable fitness tech (i.e. fitbit)
      3. Subsidy for gym membership
      4. Totally optional lunchtime runs and fitness classes (think boot camp, not yoga, but each to their own)
      5. Dedicated web portal for people to share health and fitness ideas and to read about relevant information
      6. Step challenges and stair challenges. Again, totally optional
      7. Healthy recipe cookbook with contributions from employees
      8. Skin checks with a doctor – we live in Australia so skin cancer is a massive issue
      9. Flu vaccinations
      10. Free fruit
      11. Standing desks and desk stretch breaks
      12. Access to phone support with mental health experts – confidential and not only work-related
      13. An open culture about mental and physical health needs – no shame about flexible working to accommodate, and great encouragement to work to live, not live to work

      As you can probably tell I really enjoy them all!

    70. buttercup*

      Not sure if anyone called it out yet – but part of being healthy includes NOT offering junk food. My office provides lots of snacks, including fruit as well as candy. We work in a high stress environment…why would anyone do this???!

    71. MaryB*

      Could you bring in someone from the Red Cross to do first aid and CPR classes? They can actually be quite expensive otherwise.

      Similarly, how about a first aid kit starter pack, or other emergency preparedness education? A well stocked company first aid cabinet is a great perk too. Also make sure employees know where to go and what to do in case of emergencies in your workplace.

      I’d love to get hearing test or vision screening at work for free too.

    72. Kate*

      My company has a wellness raffle each quarter. Three winners get to choose their prize from about twenty different gift certificates, some wellness related (classes at a fitness studio), others not (gift certificate to a local mall), each valued at about $100. There are loads of ways to earn entries: attending a Wellness lunch (every two or three months, with a speaker about some topic), submitting an exercise log to HR each quarter, having preventative care (dentist, mammogram, physical, etc.), joining in the occasional 5k with other coworkers, and more that I can’t remember because I’m still quite new. It’s totally opt-in, no-pressure, but pretty motivating to those who want to participate.

    73. Librarian of the North*

      Depending on how many employees you have I would suggest splitting the money into wellness accounts that employees can use to take on their own wellness initiatives. My Husband’s work has a very generous wellness account that allows us to get massages, join gyms, buy camping gear, take fitness classes like yoga, and put our daughter in swimming lessons and gymnastics. They have actually gone the extra mile in allowing the account to cover other non-fitness related lifestyle balancing kind of things like lawn maintenance, housekeeping, alarm systems, and even minor cosmetic procedures like Botox! We love it because it allows us to do things that really contribute positively to our wellness that we wouldn’t do if we had just been given the money as a regular bonus.

    74. Nancy*

      Just don’t do what Whole Foods does. Whole Foods has a standard employee discount for all. Then, as part of their Wellness Initiative, the discount increases on a sliding scale based on following ‘healthy lifestyle choices’, such as exercising, not smoking and a lower BMI. Yes, that’s right, thinner people get a better discount than heavier people.

    75. Tiny Person*

      This is much better than what my company offers! We only have 1 wellness incentive, which was a competition with others in the office. Top winners get GOOD prizes – I think it may have even been several hundred dollars in cash. The competition was weight loss in teams of 2. As a borderline under-weight person, I asked “how can I participate? Is there a way I can sign up to maintain my current weight instead of lose weight?” No, all I could do was partner with someone else who can lose weight. Who would then have to work twice as hard. When I pressed further, I was told that since “most” of the general public’s problem was being overweight, that’s the only thing the company would cater to. Way to de-incentivize the rest of us! By the way, I would consider the majority of people in our office to NOT be in an over-weight category.

    76. CassidyDanielle*

      Get a dietitian, not a nutritionist! Anyone can call themself a nutritionist even if they have no formal training!

      How about introducing the staff to the basics of cognitive behavioural therapy? That’s something that’s really helpful in terms of learning to recognize unhelpful thoughts that cause/increase anxiety.

  2. Sherm*

    #2: In my first job out of college, I made…many…mistakes, and one of them was that during the salary talk, my strategy was to choose a low figure, so that I was guaranteed not to cause a problem, and thinking maybe they would be nice and pay me more than that.

    Never doing that strategy again.

      1. Biscuits*

        My boss is a unicorn. When she asked what I was looking for, I told her “oh, just minimum wage!” and she told me she wouldn’t do me that way, and offered me $x. Granted, it’s in the service industry so we’re probably all getting paid the same by corporates standards and it was a bit of a formality. It makes me feel valued, at least. Shrug.

        1. T3k*

          Somewhat same here but it was a recruiter who iffered more than what I originally asked. Of course I found out a few months later someone with same position and experience was making even more but eh, learning experience for that one (was short term).

        2. alienor*

          The lady who hired me for my college job did the same thing. I’d put minimum wage, which at the time was $4.25 an hour, on my application, and I was SO excited when she said “no, no, starting pay for this position is $6.” It doesn’t sound like much now, but at the time it made a huge difference.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I did that to my cleaning lady–not on the rate, but on the idea of how much do I pay her if she goes for a partial hour. I was the one who said, “let’s do it by the half-hour, and if you go 5 minutes into the next half hour, I pay for it–no rounding off, because that’s way to likely to ding you instead of me.”

          (I like to feel that I’m paying a fair price, because then I feel comfortable demanding good work. And of course, I usually don’t have to “demand” it.)

        4. Jerry*

          My first real job was similar. I didn’t ask for minimum wage as I was had a professional degree and license, but I asked for a little lower than the lower end. My boss okayed the salary immediately, which I kept for three months, after which he called me into his office and told me that my salary was under market, he was changing my salary to 1.3X my ask, that he was disappointed he was the one informing me of this instead of vice-versa, and to never go into salary negotiations unprepared again. He even helped me prep and negotiate for my next job/raise.

      2. Jen RO*

        Our HR department always makes the offers at least a bit over the lowest level of the job level. My friend once applied and asked for minimum wage and HR told her that she should actually ask for 3 times more.

      3. KHB*

        I’m sure it wasn’t just to be nice, but my current employer did something similar to that. I was completely unprepared for the salary negotiation game (all the other jobs I was looking at were at non-US companies that were much more transparent about their salary structures) so when the HR person asked my my salary expectations, I refused to say anything other than “I’m flexible.” Finally she asked me how much I was currently making (as a postdoc) and wrote that number down, while saying “And since you’re switching jobs, I’m sure you’d like to get a little more than that.” The only reason I didn’t contradict her was because she didn’t let me get a word in edgewise at that point. But when they made me an offer, it was for 50% more than the number I gave.

        1. Specialk9*

          I think it’s actually a really good strategy not to give a number! They can be really pushy, but you can say some variation of “I’m really focused on what sounds like an interesting job, but I’d be interested to see what number you think works.”

          At the end of the day, though, do your best to figure out a number. Glassdoor can help, though it tends to lump people together hugely. Niche industries – for which Glassdoor decidedly doesn’t work – often have compensation reports.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The thing about refusing to say anything other than “I’m flexible” is that it makes it hard to then negotiate once they make you an offer. And if you’re not doing your research to find out what that offer should be, then you’re not in a good position to assess how strong an offer it is.

          I get that people don’t like dealing with this, but it’s part of advocating for yourself as a paid worker.

          1. JamieS*

            I think the logic is that candidates are often more concerned with undercutting themselves by naming a number than they are with companies deliberately low balling them if the company names the salary.

            Research is great but that can often be hard to find if you don’t actually know anyone in the industry (new or switching fields) and cold calling (or emailing) random people to talk about salary doesn’t seem like a great strategy to me. Even if they take the time to talk to you, their idea of what the current going rate for a starting salary should be may not be accurate.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I get that. But I see way too many commenters here (not just on this post but on salary posts in general) whose basic stance is “I just refuse to do this or don’t put a lot of energy into it” and they are hurting themselves, often significantly.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                I don’t see anyone mentioning online salary ranges? When I was negotiating an upgrade I found several that show the median and range for a specific position and area.
                Of course these are only ballpark, but it helped!

          2. KHB*

            Yes, of course I know that now. But back then, I’d never been through a salary negotiation before and didn’t even really realize that it was coming. I just sort of assumed that at some point, they would let me know how much the job paid, and that that would be a fair amount that I would be happy with. (I’d just spent five years in grad school on $20K a year – it didn’t take much to make me happy.) So when they asked me how much I thought I should be paid, I was more bewildered than anything else. I certainly wasn’t actively trying to pull of some clever unconventional strategy.

            AAM didn’t exist back then. You’re doing a valuable service for the world when you write about how these processes are supposed to work.

            1. Snark*

              When I got out of grad school, I went to work for a federal agency and more than doubled my income. I still was on a $20k budget and spending mentality, so I just….didn’t spend the increase, really. I ended up with like $25k in savings and bought a car.

              1. KHB*

                Yep. My current (very good) financial situation has a lot to do with the habits I picked up in grad school. I was so used to pinching every penny until it cried for mercy, and I just kept on doing that even after my income more than tripled.

        3. beanie beans*

          I hated this process also and my strategy was 1- Research every company and position on Glassdoor to get any pay ranges I could, even if they were huge, and 2 – Try to put it on them – not just “I’m flexible” but “I’m flexible – do you already have a budgeted range for the position?” The point isn’t always to screw people over, the point is also to make sure early in the process both people are on the same page so you don’t get to the offer and find out you’re flexible, but not THAT flexible. So my strategy was to get them to name a number first rather than just avoid the situation all together.

    1. Not myself today*

      I bring people on at as high a salary as I can coax out of my boss. That’s not as kind as it sounds. In my company it’s much easier to get people a decent starting salary than getting them a pay rise later.

      1. Not myself today*

        But OP2 can’t count on the hiring manager! She needs to figure out roughly the market rate herself, unfortunately.

  3. Maddie*

    I also do not like any ongoing work conflict. I don’t want anything lingering. I’d probably IM boss that I’m sorry discussion got heated and I do agree with ABC. I’d be a bit worried she found dealing with me exhausting so I’d rein it in a bit. Good luck. I don’t like an elephant in the room, so I’d address it.

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah I would IM too. Don’t let that conversation – which BTW is really concerning! – fester and set in her mind. Swoop in with a sincere apology and dedication to do better.

      And OP, this is the time for a huge pivot. You will get fired or leave with a bad reference if you keep on this way.

      Your boss asks for input but the reception to your input is negative. You need to try some things.
      1. Maybe she simply can’t handle negative input. In which case you mostly don’t give it, and when you do you find a way for it to be positive, eg don’t say “it’s a crappy system” instead say “the client really seemed to appreciate X, so I’m wondering if we can do this”)
      2. Maybe you haven’t put on a professional veneer. Read the heck out of this column! Stop talking quite so off the cuff and chattily, talk a bit more like you would at an interview. (And check in with her so she doesn’t think you’re mad or sulking, and so she can correct your ideas – “I took what you said to heart and I’m working on communicating more professionally, and thinking a bit before speaking. I’d love your feedback.”)

      3. It sounds like you don’t know how to give input gracefully and like a subordinate. No need to grovel or shut up entirely, but reframe your job – your manager gets to make the big decisions, you get to advise so she has good data for her decisions, and you get to enact her decisions.

      I’ll tell you, I had to struggle with this too early in my career, because I’m strong-willed and have opinions – but at the end of the day, and this is important, _work is not a test of the purity of ones method_, it’s about giving clients and managers what they need. Which sometimes is flat wrong, and sometimes is right for reasons you don’t know. (Exceptions being for safety, of course.)

      1. SavannahMiranda*


        Especially “work is not a test of the purity of ones method, it’s about giving clients and managers what they need. Which sometimes is flat wrong, and sometimes is right for reasons you don’t know.”

    2. MLB*

      I agree to bring it up, but I disagree on the method. A conversation like that needs to happen in person, outside of the heated discussion when both are calm and discuss what happened rationally. Sincerity and tone don’t come through an IM. I agree with Alison that waiting a few days when manager is in the office isn’t an issue.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        And I respectfully disagree. Some people, myself included, would prefer something in writing so I can reflect on it (rather than being caught off guard with a inperson or phone conversation) and come up with how I want to respond. If it were me in either the manager or the staff position, I would want to begin with a short e-mail and mention following up when the manager is in the office next. Then have a conversation to follow up and mention the specifics that Alison suggests.

    3. Cat Herder*

      OP #3.
      I’ve got no problem with workplace conflict — that is, I prefer to address issues when they are small or new, rather than waiting for them to build up. Talk it out, get it solved, move on. That said, it’s important to understand how the other person likes to discuss such issues — I can be one of those exhausting people, so I work hard not to be.

      Not always successfully– just last Friday at the end of the day my team lead came to me to ask for ideas about a training issue that needed to be addressed right away. I flipped out — it’s an issue that I’ve brought up for many years in my annual evaluation as something I’d like to work on, have been put off for many years, and finally just that week the Big Boss had agreed that it was important and that I should work on a proposal. We worked out a schedule for me to draft it later this year. I was so angry and frustrated!
      First thing this morning, went to my team lead (who is excellent — and I knew she was working on a directive from above when I snapped), apologized for my unprofessional behavior, and sat down to go over an initial draft which I had worked on that morning (came in early to do it).

      Combativeness will not help you move forward in your career. If you know this is your personality, you will have to work consciously not to do it. It’s really really hard, I *know*. But you gotta. And you also need to get over the awkward that comes when you *are* combative, and be willing and able to apologize sincerely and promptly, and with specifics on what you are doing to make it right.

  4. SusanIvanova*

    #2 – I got my first Silicon Valley job before the Internet existed, so I took what I was making in Texas and added a couple of thousand to it. The VP of Engineering had lived out here since the 70s and had absolutely no clue how much housing prices had risen and driven up the COL, so he added a few more thousand to that but still barely enough to live on.

    There were 4 of us in that situation – first or second jobs, all from *much* cheaper places. The CEO found out by accident one day and gave us the max raises she could until we’d caught up.

  5. beth*

    #3: In my experience, workplace conflict should be handled the same way as any other conflict. You take some time and space to calm down, figure out your role in causing the fight, and apologize for that. A really good apology includes a couple parts: 1) acknowledging what you did wrong, 2) showing understanding of why it was wrong, and 3) promising not to do it again (or to work on improving, if it’s not something you can realistically promise to change overnight). Showing that level of thought and good intent generally goes a long way towards repairing a relationship post-conflict.

    I will say…if your manager is actively asking for your thoughts on things and then getting upset when you disagree, she’s doing managing wrong. If she doesn’t want your actual thoughts–including the possibility that you might not agree with her–then she shouldn’t be asking for them.

    1. beth*

      Sorry for the addition, but it just occurred to me that there’s a 4th part to a really good apology. 4) After you apologize and promise to do better, you have to follow through on that promise. If you promise not to do something again and then are back at it a couple days later, it’ll sour the entire apology, and sometimes make the situation worse than if you’d never apologized at all.

      This is probably obvious to a lot of people, but it’s a really crucial step, so I wanted to call it out specifically.

    2. LarsTheRealGirl*

      I could see how the manager actively wants feedback, but still gets frustrated at disagreement, especially if that’s not the type of review she was expecting.

      For example, if she’s constantly asking “hey can you double check/give me your opinion of the sales projections on the proposal?” And getting “I think we should go a totally different way on the proposal”, that’s a reason to get frustrated – especially if that type of negating/questioning happens often.

      1. OP3*

        She asks me to evaluate a proposed change to process, and I’ll say it will work because ABC, or that it wont work because it affects XYZ.

        She’s happy when I say it will work, and why it will work, but not happy when I say it won’t work and why it won’t work.

        I’ve been there for 8 years, she’s been there for 1. Our department lacked leadership for most of that time, so hybrid procedures have evolved for a variety of reasons.

        1. Grits McGee*

          I wonder if it would help to reframe your feedback, and phrase it as “for this to work, we will need to take into account x, y, and z” rather than completely writing it off. Depending on the ratio of how often you’re saying ideas will/won’t work, I can see how a manager might get frustrated by what may come across as general resistance to change (rather than trying to provide context for why a decision was made in the past, which it sounds like is what you’re trying to do).

          1. always in email jail*

            ^This. yes. Try staying solution-focused. If there’s a roadblock, present it, but in a “what should we do about (roadblock)” way not a”it won’t work because (roadblock)”
            For example, with cierta’s example below, you could say “Alphabetical order would certainly make it easier for clients to find books on the shelf, you’re right! However, when clients search for a book on the computer, it is arranged by dewey decimal. How would you like to approach re-cataloguing all of the books?” she’ll either A. say “great point!” and come up with a plan to make it happen or B. say “great point! it’s not worth rearranging them if we have to make all of those changes to accommodate”.

        2. Snark*

          I’d make very sure your reservations with new processes moving forward are substantive (preferably showstoppers) and important. And I’d state them neutrally and once. Even if you’re right, if every hill is a hill you’re dying on, a boss is going to get very done with making a federal case out of every process change.

          I’d also, as Grits mentions, work on wording. “It won’t work” is a frustrating thing to hear. “We should take into account [factors] for this to work, and I suggest maybe [solution]” is a lot easier to work with. Make it a collaboration, not a “I’ve been here for 8 years and I know everything about our processes and you’re new and this idea won’t work.” Because if that’s the vibe, I’d get irritated too.

          1. Midlife Tattoos*

            So much this. I work with a guy who hears every proposal and instantly thinks of reasons why it won’t work. And then says, “The problems with that is…” It’s exhausting and irritating.

            1. Specialk9*

              I have a coworker like this too. Everyone is an idiot, and everything is wrong. It makes me dismiss his actual expertise (or work very hard to talk myself down and remember he does actually have valuable knowledge), and it’s just plain exhausting. I just want to get to X, I don’t want to have to do the freaking emotional roller coaster of annoyance, tact, internal talking-down, cajoling. I can take just plain old problem solving together, but if I could find someone with that guy’s expertise but without the huge emotional labor, I’d go to them instead.

            2. Jennifer Thneed*

              Oh my goodness yes! So often I want to shake people and say “think about ways it WILL work. If you’re saying xyz is a problem, say “It will work if we address xyz” because otherwise all you’re doing is stopping the conversation dead”.

              Brainstorming, for instance. You should never hear “no” or “won’t” in a brainstorming session. If you dislike someone’s idea, ignore it and mention your own. Don’t piss on the bad idea unless it’s time to truly end the brainstorming. Because brainstorming is about coming up with possibilities that can then be addressed or dismissed, but that part comes SECOND. Brainstorming is the writing part and the editing comes *later*.

            3. Someone Else*

              I used to worry I was that person because I often found myself seeing a number of downsides in all under consideration options. Something that (I think) helped me was I started making sure I almost never straight shoot down a proposal, unless it were unsafe or illegal or literally not possible.
              Instead my approach now is:
              Option A will cause B, with downside C.
              Option X will cause Z, with downside Y.

              If B is what’s most important and C is acceptable, then we should go that way. If Z is higher priority, and Y is acceptable, then go that way.

              If asked if I have a preference, I’ll give it, but otherwise I’m just presenting facts and trying to help Management understand knock-on effects they may not have thought of. Still very much keeping it all in terms of dependent on what they’re prioritizing, while acknowledging I’m not usually privy to whether B is more important than Z to the company as a whole.

          2. E. Jennings*

            Think of giving input or feedback to your boss, especially on proposed ideas or changes or projects, like improv. You don’t want to say, no, that won’t work, or no, I don’t want to do that. (If someone says “We’re at a carnival!” and the person next to you says “No, we’re not, we’re on the moon!” the skit falls apart.) You want to say “yes, and” — literally or in spirit.

            “What if we changed our process so that we had a meeting at every stage to check in?” “Yes, that would really help keep everyone on the same page! I think we’d have to decide if the tradeoff of the struggle to organize those meetings and the time they’d take is worth it, though.”

        3. Natalie*

          Yeah, I agree that being more solution focused will probably help. The fact that something affects XYZ doesn’t mean it won’t work, it just means you may also need to make changes to XYZ.

          Look, I’ve worked places that had lacked leadership and led to a lot of ad hoc solutions and unnecessary complexity. I was there when new leadership came in with the mandate to modernize and streamline, and it did feel weird at first. So many of our processes had evolved because we didn’t trust upper management, and it was hard to let go of that and accept that our boss really would take the hit if his boss was being unreasonable. We felt anxious about change, just because it was change and that can be uncomfortable We felt defensive about how dysfunctional things were, so they must have “had to” be that way.

          The ones that could hang stayed, and shaping that kind of change really was an excellent experience. It was a great team I would have happily stayed with if my career track didn’t stop at the first run at that company. The Eyeore employees who thought nothing would ever work were pushed out. If any of that sounds familiar to you, I would strongly recommend working on being more flexible around these changes.

    3. cierta*

      I think Alison’s advice is good, but be careful – if you argued about things 1 to 10, coming back and saying ‘hey, I realised I was wrong about point 6!’ is a difficult thing to do without an undercurrent of simmering ‘but I was totally right about points 1-5 and 7-10’.

      [I think the picking your battles advice is good, as is thinking about tone. If every time your manager does a ‘I want to put these books in alphabetical order, what do you think?’ you do a ‘No, dewy decimal is the only way to arrange books, that will be Wrong!’ that is more exhausting than a ‘shrug, I prefer dewy decimal, but your way should be OK too’.]

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, you have to do basic market research for the locality and industry/role you’re applying for, and integrate that data into your answer. Generally speaking, you do not want to provide an expectation amount that falls below the lower band for people of similar experience, education, etc. As Alison notes, failing to do so can raise flags for many employers.

    Employers who think you’re low-balling yourself are going to be concerned that you don’t understand the roles and expectations for the position. Or, you don’t understand the market for the position, which indicates a level of naïveté that, depending on the position, can be concerning. I’ve had someone come in with a “just above minimum wage” request, and it raised red flags that the person might have miscategorized or misunderstood the job. And if an employer is not concerned, then they’re being a bit exploitative, which is also not great.

    For applicants for whom income is not a concern (e.g., independently wealthy; aggressively frugal, etc.), low-balling the offer can come across as not taking the job seriously. In my experience, folks who did not have to worry about income did better in hiring and team integration when no one knew they were wealthy. Rightly or wrongly, when folks come in with an “I don’t need this job to live” attitude, it can degrade other people’s expectations of the “money doesn’t matter” person’s work ethic, commitment, etc.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      There are web sites that show the median salary for a given position in a given area. I think one is at, there are others too.
      When I was requesting an upgrade I looked at them and it helped. I would google something like “salary for position in my area” to find them.

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, do you often question her decisions because she asks for your reaction/thoughts, or because it’s how you communicate?

    If it’s the latter, it may make sense to reserve your reactions a little more often so that you’re not exhausting one another—sometimes a change is going to happen, and a manager doesn’t want feedback or to have to explain the rationale for the change. And regardless of which dynamic you have, consider asking her for time to reflect on her proposed changes before giving feedback. If you later realize you agree with her, then you may save yourself conflict by giving yourself space to mull it over in your own time (I’m assuming a 1-3 day turnaround, here).

    Without derailaing, it’s also important to place your dynamic in social context.
    The dynamic you’re describing seems to be more common for women who are managers, even if their report is also a woman. You may be exhausting yourselves by inadvertently feeding that dynamic.

    1. Snark*

      Agreed, as usual, on all counts. I’d also be especially careful about giving the impression you’re undermining her on the basis of her relative newness. Yeah, you’ve been there eight years – but, frankly, she is the boss, and you are not, and there are probably reasons for that. It may be that leadership actively wants a newer perspective and wants to formalize and revamp hybrid processes. If you work to give the impression she has your trust and confidence, and that your experience is an asset to her, you can be a value to her – every capo needs a consigliere. If she percieves you to be a stick in the mud saying no to every proposed change and resentful that this n00b is sashaying in trying to change all this stuff she clearly doesn’t understand and you do….well, that’s a less valuable place to put yourself in, even with your experience. Capiche?

      1. Specialk9*

        Good points! I’d add that I someone’s deliberately set my mind to one of being interested and a bit excited about the new direction, and say some of that out loud. Reframing the situation as thinking it’s of course going to with, you just have to figure out how you can help make it work.

    2. pcake*

      It appears the OP gives positive as well as negative comments. From the above comment chain the OP says

      “She asks me to evaluate a proposed change to process, and I’ll say it will work because ABC, or that it wont work because it affects XYZ.

      She’s happy when I say it will work, and why it will work, but not happy when I say it won’t work and why it won’t work.”

  8. Dan*


    I’m having trouble getting to the heart of your question… Is it that you don’t know the market rate for a niche job? I definitely get why that is a challenge. In my line of work, hiring people with transferable skills is common, but people who are truly experts in the niche are worth their weight in gold.

    Or is your issue that you don’t need the money? You said you don’t want to starve, so presumably you aren’t ready to outright retire? If that’s true, then you want to earn market rate because you never know when you will find yourself out of a job unexpectedly, and would starve without money in the bank.

    1. Caledonia*

      See, I take OP 2 as being relatively new to the workforce because when you’ve been doing unpaid work or recently graduated in a field you like, I can see why being paid would be novel.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        That’s my read, too — and also that it’s not the kind of job where you can just google “entry-level sales salary” or whatever and come up with anything.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        I’ve been there. I was barely making $25k in an incredibly toxic job with crappy benefits to grad school and working a minimum wage job while I finished my degree. When I was presented with a figure of $40k and actual bonafide health insurance for my first professional job in my new field, I did no negotiation. You have no idea how much I regretted that.

      3. Dragoning*

        This. Also if they’re in a creative field, something like publishing or gaming or design, they can be like “oh wow someone’s willing to pay for this? Finally?”

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Yeah the thing about it being hyper niche is that the market rate could go either way in terms of pay — or be functionally meaningless if it’s a “cool” job. For certain types of arts jobs, the pay for nearly identical responsibilities can vary by $30,000 or more in the same city depending on the size of the organization and its funding.

      My first salaried position was at a University so their policies prohibited them from wildly underpaying me (once I applied for and got the job I’d already been doing, that is.) That gave me a baseline for pay negotiations moving forward. That was peak ToxicJob, so at least *something* good came out of that.

      When I first took on freelance work, as well, I was collaborating with a friend who was super savvy about client management and set our fees as (appropriately!) expensive so I quickly learned how to ask my worth there, too. Mind you, I’d discount heavily for most of my gigs (because arts/nonprofits), but my quotes and invoices made it it clear that I was providing that discount and what the value of my work was.

      My current DayJob doesn’t have the budget of my former salaried gigs, so I just said, “I can imagine your budget for this is under $X0,000, so I appreciate as close to that as you can get.” They found a lot more money in their budget to meet me halfway between that number and what they had actually hoped to pay. Importantly, I was very clear in my mind at this point what the minimum compensation was that i would take, vs. walking away. They exceeded it by enough that I’m planning to stick around for some time. Funds are still tight but I feel appreciated as an employee and that goes a helluva long way for me.

  9. Pam.*


    Another idea is to just not argue, particularly if something is low stakes. It’s easy to fall into the ‘everything needs discussing’ trap. Perhaps you will find that her ideas are good.

    1. Maddie*

      So agree. Save true argument for things that are shady or illegal. Discussion is fine for everything else. And I always remember who my boss is.

    2. myfemmebot*

      I have a very similar situation with OP and can say that I personally try this tactic often, to avoid discussing the low-stakes things and engage on the things that are of real importance, where I have a particular expertise, etc. Moreover, I don’t believe in manufacturing an opinion when I don’t have one or if any of the options would be fine.

      But then my boss insists that she wants my input, will not leave me alone until I give it, and argues with me over whatever I say. I, too, am really at a loss for what do.

      1. uranus wars*

        THIS! I don’t believe in manufacturing an opinion when I don’t have one or if any of the options would be fine.

        I have really made a conscious effort when someone asks for my opinon/feedback to step back and ask myself 2 questions: Would I do it differently? Would it change too much.

        If the answers are yes and probably not, respectively. Then I agree with/approve their method and move on. I would say my professional relationships have improved drastically as a result.

    3. lapgiraffe*

      I struggled a lot with this early in my career (and still struggle with the impulse). Between two liberal arts degrees that encourage and demanded everything be discussed and all sides argued, and a family that thrives on lively disagreement as a mental exercise, I had to learn that one’s manager or boss does not appreciate constantly being questioned, even if the intent isn’t malicious. While there’s an art to argument, there’s also an art to being a yes man, to learning how to go along to get along, and ultimately learning which battles are worth fighting and how to manage your manager or situation in ways that are more subtle, and more successful, than outright disagreement.

      1. Snark*

        I think calling it a “yes man” dynamic or going along to get along cast that in a negative light, though. Tactically reserving your arguments for critical issues isn’t being a yes man.

  10. Totally Minnie*

    OP 1, I know you said you don’t want to walk away from your family’s company, but think really long and hard about whether you’re willing to spend your every working hour feeling like this until your mom retires. If she never changes her mind about any of this and the company continues to grow and become more complex, can you live with that? Is this going to start having a negative impact on your personal relationship with her someday? Is that a thing you’re willing to risk?

    1. Troutwaxer*

      Family relations aside, is the poorly-run company going to go under? And will you be holding (some part) of the bag? You need to figure out what’s best for you in financial terms too.

    2. IsbenTakesTea*

      These are extremely important questions to ask. You say the company is “just as much mine” as it is your parents’–how so? What amount of control over the company can you leverage to address the issues you describe? If you don’t have any structural recourse to addressing those problems, then the big question remains: What does your life look like if nothing changes?

      For your own mental health, would it be helpful to brainstorm some thresholds/boundaries that would constitute a situation where you’d leave? It could be helpful to use it as leverage to get your mom to address certain problems when you reach a breaking point: “Mom, I can’t be effective here anymore if we don’t resolve X and Y by doing A or B. If we can’t do that, then we need to begin the process of finding someone to replace me.”

      You know your situation best, but in case you ever need the reassurance, it is ethically okay to walk away from a business for whatever reason; you are not morally committed to working for your parents’ business (especially past the point of your own mental health) “because faaaaaaaaaamily” (as Captain Awkward would say).

      It sounds like there’s a successful foundation to work with, and I hope you can help the business get through this hump!

      1. WS*

        +1, it’s often the case that younger generations of the family have an emotional and financial stake in the business without the corresponding power within the organisation.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          They might anticipate having power in the organization in 5 or 10 years, and feel that it’s worth it to stick around. I wonder if LW 1 could leave under the context of temporarily moving to another company to gain valuable experience to take back to the family business, or getting an MBA or something like that. It might not be seen as disloyal, but it would get her out of the situation she’s in and open the position to a real HR manager.

      2. nonymous*

        I have seen family businesses where the ask of younger generations is to put in the time and sacrifice of being an owner and then when the founder is ready to retire they sell, because $$$. That’s fine and dandy, but adult kid is left with a sketchy resume (depending on how poorly the company was run), no job, and usually no retirement savings. In many cases compensation has been structured in a way that is severely dysfunctional from the perspective of power dynamics and autonomy.

        At the smaller scale of personal finance, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen aging parents make all sorts of demands on their adult children in the category of personal and household help, all in the name of a so-called inheritance that gets eaten up by medical expenses. It’s flabbergasting to me how many people are simply unwilling to value the efforts of their family, supposedly in the name of love.

        1. AKchic*

          So much this.

          Many bank on the “but *I* did this for *my* elders” or “but *my mom* did this for *my grandparents*” without actually taking into consideration the changes in society, social norms, the economy, etc.

          Example: My grandmother.
          She was a SAHM. When her father got sick in his old age, they moved him in to her home and she took care of him until he passed.
          Now she is at an age where she needs care. She is very much “traditional gender role” and cannot understand why my mother and I out-earn out husbands and “why they put up with that nonsense”.
          When she started needing care (to the point that social services stepped in because she insisted on my uncle having control of her care even though she only wanted my mother and I to take care of her) she wouldn’t say it, but she and every family member (mostly male) hinted heavily that my mother and I needed to quit our jobs and take care of her 24/7. Not move in with her (we lived within 2 blocks of the family home), but be by our phones at all times and ready to answer whenever she called. Neither of us were physically capable of such a thing, nor could we afford it. She didn’t want to leave her home (understandable), but nobody could afford the care she needed for in-home services. Didn’t matter. She wanted two high-earning, yet physically incapable people to quit their jobs to take care of her because she took care of her father and she expected the same “loyalty”.

          She threw a fit when she had to go to assisted living. Her younger sister berated all of us for “putting her there to rot”. It took a long time to convince my uncle who had the power-making decisions to actually do it, but once he had to start stepping up and provide physical care for her… he realized that none of us could actually provide the care she needed and she was getting worse at home. She’s been doing great in assisted living for the last year.

          1. SavannahMiranda*

            Good for you! Going through something very similar, as my mother did also. She was in a position to put her entire life on hold and come running. I am not. She understands that intellectually. Emotionally, not so much.

            Yes, all too often if falls to the wimmin to do the heavy lifting, sometimes literally, in end of life care. Unless they put their foot down and refuse the blood sacrifice.

            And if it does fall to the men, really it falls to their wives. Unless, as is the case in my family, the DILs want nothing to do with it. Not that I blame them. It’s literally not their mom.

            1. AKchic*

              With my current MIL, both my SIL and I absolutely refuse to have anything to do with her. I’m the only one who has dealt with end-of-life issues before (thanks to my grandfather, and now my grandma’s care); plus some professional and volunteer work and connections within that industry (we’re small, population-wise, in my state).

              My MIL has always been contentious, and she has never done anything to be the slightest bit inviting towards me or my SIL (oh, the stories I could tell…). So, when she started pulling the “I have X” and I started looking into it and realized that no, she really didn’t, and she was using a friend to holistically diagnose her via the internet rather than actually see a doctor, I had to reign her boys in. She finally did start getting help, and she ended up having other issues, but she refuses to get the treatment she really needs because it’s not the diagnosis she *wants* to have and she thinks she should just be on disability (without treatment or complete testing). She wants one of her sons to take her in, and she has alienated her DILs so completely that she’s not allowed in any of our houses and any visits with grandchildren have to be supervised and limited.

        2. SavannahMiranda*

          “all in the name of a so-called inheritance that gets eaten up by medical expenses”

          Ayup, this. I work finance-adjacent and it’s shocking, absolutely shocking, the amount of money an ill and dying parent can blow through in the last 6-9-12 months of life. We’re talking easily a million in healthcare and end-of-life costs. And that’s even when people are trying to be mature and judicious about their decisions.

          People who expect *anything* from parents who are well-to-do on paper are better off planning to have nothing, unless the parent passes suddenly and quietly, with no fanfare or medical interventions. Which obviously is the unicorn of end of life experiences.

          But folks get their lives absolutely bent around the flag pole over immature expectations about $750,000 in assets that are going to be liquidated when the oncologist walks in the room with a frown on their face.

          Our families owe us nothing in terms of money. Really, honestly nothing. Unless they set up trusts years ago, or come from the kind of money to have trusts across generations. If they worked for everything they have, they don’t owe us anything when they go.

    3. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

      LW 1:
      My husband recently left his family’s farm.

      His entire life he had been groomed to take over the dairy farm as the fifth generation owner. The entire family structure revolved around the farm and everyone was expected to sacrifice continuously for the good of the farm.

      The problem was that no one was allowed to deviate from the grand plan. My husband existed to fix any and all problems that occurred and to take the blame for anything that went wrong. Obviously, this created some issues – but not nearly as much as my horrific mistake in developing a life-threatening pregnancy complication that required our son to be born at 26 weeks gestation. My job in the family was to 1) encourage my husband to work 90+ hours a week by taking care of all household issues, 2) breed healthy grandkids and 3) raise said grandkids without expecting much support from my husband. That…all went out the window when Spawn was born.

      My husband behaved like an adult man. He had trained his employees to be able to take over for him in an emergency – and the dairy was fine for the week I was hospitalized in critical condition and my husband stayed with me. He used his years of saved up vacation time to work part-time for 2 months when our son came home on medical equipment and needed 24/7 trained care.

      My inlaws….complained bitterly. We were blamed for everything by two people who never lifted a finger while I was in the hospital and refused to learn how to help out with our son until people in the local community started asking my inlaws why my parents’ cars were at our house and theirs never were. (Unfortunately, it was too little, too late; I couldn’t train my very anxious mother-in-law while getting 5 hours of asleep a night with a medically complex newborn. We asked her to get training while Spawn was in the NICU like we did; she never followed up.)

      So…in two months or so my husband went from planning to spend the rest of his life as a partner in the family farm to selling his partnership back to his parents.

      Getting out is possible. My husband is a different man now who is happily working at HVAC while starting to sell farm insurance. His relationship with his parents is better than it has ever been because he’s just their son now – not the heir apparent of their farm. You may not be there yet; you may not need to leave. But if you do, know it is possible and can be life-changing.

      1. Trek*

        Wow I can’t believe there is someone else out there with a similar story as my brother and his wife. My brother and SIL went through very similar situation with our dad’s business-not a farm-and their daughter was born with rare disease that required months of tests, hospital stays, surgery’s etc. My dad and his wife would treat my brother like he was an owner and not pay him much. Then when there was money he was an employee and was only owed x. SIL lost it on them more than once. They took the accounting from my SIL because they didn’t want them to know how much money the business really had. Best thing that ever happened was my brother leaving their business. They do not have a close relationship but no one has one with my dad, he’s very hard to get deal with, but they are much happier living their own lives.
        Hope everything works out for your family!

        1. AKchic*

          That has always been my experience with family businesses.

          The “family” will always cheat the next generation. Sure, you’re an “owner”. You will own all of the bad. Anything good is automatically the real owners’ gain. Anything negative and it has to get spread around so the real owners don’t have to deal with it all.
          I refuse to work for family businesses after the families I’ve worked for.

      2. MsChandandlerBong*

        That is awful. My husband had similar issues with his father/their family-run business. When my husband was growing up, the only plan anyone had for him was that he would finish school and then go to work for the family widget-making business. He did not want to make widgets for $7 an hour, so he went to college and pursued another path, which caused a lot of family conflict. Thank goodness he did his own thing; his dad has no business sense, so he managed to run the place into the ground with his bad decisions. If he had planned his whole life around the company, we would be in a very bad financial position right now.

        1. JustaTech*

          One thing I super respect about my in-laws is that they saw that their son had no interest (and little aptitude) for the family business and they cheerfully supported him finding his own path. He still works for them, but from out of state as a contractor doing only the thing he likes and none of the stuff he isn’t good at.

          1. Kj*

            Yep. My FIL owns and business, but my husband was not expected to join it. He could have if he wanted to, but he clearly wasn’t interested at a young age. My ILs are great. I have to say, I adore them and so does my husband.

        1. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

          Thank you! We are all doing great.

          My illness was a rare complication of a sudden onset severe preeclampsia that required rapid delivery to save both of our lives. I had an additional rare complication in that delivery didn’t resolve the disturbingly high blood pressures that I had never had before in my life and I turned out to have no response to entire classes of anti-hypertension meds. Once the doctors found one that worked, I was fine.

          Spawn was in the hospital for 4 months which is about normal for a kid born that early. He had some lung damage that required oxygen and a feeding tube at home for 10 months and 4 months respectively, but as he grew his body has fixed all of the major issues which blows my mind. (My husband worked full-time during the time Spawn was in the NICU; he’d put in 10 hours then drive to the hospital and spend 4 with Spawn. He’s an amazing guy.) Right now, Spawn’s a healthy 20 month old (or 16 month old based on his original due date). He wears glasses – ironically not because of retinopathy of prematurity – and is about to start weekly physical therapy because he’s not showing any interest in learning how to walk. Right now, he’s amusing himself by dropping Apple Jacks in a laundry basket of dirty clothes – and I feel like the luckiest woman alive :-)

  11. Troutwaxer*

    OP 1. Your mom says certain things are financially impossible. Is it possible that your company is undercharging for whatever goods and services are your stock in trade?

    1. Fiennes*

      It’s also possible she has very unrealistic profit expectations for a new, rapidly expanding business. Lots of people seriously underestimate how much reinvestment they’ll have to do, or are so thrilled to have cash coming in that they naturally want to keep it, not continue sacrificing for the long term. But OP is wisely considering that long-term situation. The mom just refuses to see it.

    2. Lilo*

      I think this is also one of those “your attempt to save money will cost you money” things. A poorly run HR will cost you in turnover but also potentially in fines or lawsuits when your inexperienced and overworked staff mess up legal issues.

      1. WellRed*

        I had the same thought on the HR stuff. Even if you don’t get sued for mishandling stuff, you can cause serious damage to an employees financial or health wellbeing if you explain the newest health plan wrong. Our HR specializes in that stuff but nearly got me signed onto something with very poor prescription drug coverage compared to other option. Would have cost me thousands plus distress. I caught the mistake, not her.

        1. $!$!*

          I knew someone else would beat me to this comment. I work at an outpatient hospital and I always tell people to look over their insurance ppw because it’s easy to make a huge mistake relying on HR. (And the rules change so frequently with ACA and/or Medicaid state regulations that an employee shouldn’t only rely on HR’s word anyway)

    3. Bea*

      Honestly, they could have expanded too fast and without the correct preparation. Quadrupling your employee force will drain your finances rapidly enough to run into massive cash flow issues.

      Every time I deal with these companies my mind burns.

      It could be they’re not aggressively collecting on their receivables as well. Depending on terms and size of clients they’re dealing with, I’ve seen that take down businesses.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        Your comment on receivables really resonates for some reason. Maybe daughter should look into that particular issue ASAP…

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Ohh yes, I’ve worked for a couple of small companies that refused to pursue receivables and it… did not do them any good. (It especially didn’t help that one of them was run by a conspiracy theorist whose unhinged ranting drove away most of the good clients, so we mostly ended up with lowlives who usually didn’t pay the bills!)

        Refusing to demand that your clients who owe you thousands pay up is not so “nice” when you end up not paying the people who work for you.

    4. The Boss' Kid*

      Hi, I’m OP1.

      We are not undercharging. We are solvent and cash-flow positive. The reason she is so tight with money is because my parents self-finance and never take bank loans to float a project launch. She views it as her skin in the game (which I totally understand, because it is), but when you spend all of your time focused on the financials and not enough time on the product side, you lose sight of why we were able to grow and compete against larger companies in the first place.

      1. Jill*

        I worked for the family business for a time and was so glad to leave. It was run by my dad and uncle who feuded EVERY DAY about the stupidest stuff. I was 25 and a degreed accountant at the time but was referred to as “Kid” by the uncle and got the “awww, look at my cute little girl” look from my dad every time I’d try to talk finances. Dad focused too much on the service end but not on the product. Uncle focused too much on the product but not on the service. They both ignored the money. Using debt to pay daily bills was normal. I told them they needed to quit focusing on their own “lane” and learn to collaborate. Dad told me, GreenDoor we’ve been fighting like this since we were kids. Its not going to stop now. Saw that as the writing on the wall and quit.

        It is SUPER hard to sit back and watch a family buisness spin into the gutter knowing that it’s your own family’s paychecks and retirement funds and reputations on the line. But if the leadership won’t see the light, all you can really do is determine the level of risk you’re willing to accept, focus on your own career, and let the chips fall where they may. My uncle got the remaining shareholders (the other siblings) to oust my dad. He fired the non-family employee who had been there for 20 years and kept the deadbeat family members on. And they still finance it all on debt. It’s been sad to watch….but at least I’m just watching. I’m not affected financially and I’m not responsible.

  12. Jemima Bond*

    What is the rationale behind companies not advertising salary? I would have thought it was the second most obvious thing a potentially applicant would want to know? Like, “What’s the job?”
    “Alpaca physiotherapist”
    “What does it pay?”
    “Thirty grand”
    I mean, considering the point of work is to earn money, the salary is one of the most important things. Why would one expend mental energy considering a post if you have no idea if you could pay the bills from it (or if it is clearly way beyond your abilities as it pays ten times what you earn now)?
    I assume there must be some thought out reason for this though if it is so common? Even if it is, cynically, to get away with paying people as little as possible because your advert doesn’t commit you to anything?
    Fwiw in my world job ads of any type always show a salary or hourly rate. I’d wildly side-eye anyone that didn’t because I’d be wondering what they had to hide and thinking they were trying to low-ball me. Ads without pay would not generate much interest.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I think it hearkens back to the days of aristocratic society, when “money” was a dirty thing to talk about, so “white collar” jobs didn’t have price tags associated with them, just the assumption that the job would pay enough for a man to care for himself and his family… :-/

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      It’s also industry-specific, I think. Ads for positions in my industry rarely list salary and have no shortage of applicants. I can’t speak for why my HR department doesn’t post it, but I do know it’s part of their initial screening call bullet points to ensure that the applicant and position are in the same range – and expectations have been off in both directions. We’ve had candidates (mostly entry-level) thrilled to learn the position pays $15K more than the were expecting and others who are shocked it doesn’t pay $20K more. However, I’m fortunate that our HR aggressively monitors the market and will issue adjustments should we ever fall out of line with it (happened this spring – one segment of the market made a significant jump, everyone in that segment got an adjustment). Their lack of inclusion in the ad isn’t an attempt at lowballing.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        So, in every single screening call the HR person has to bring this issue up? How many minutes does that take, multiplied by how many applicants every year? When they could avoid it all by posting a salary range?

        Someone had a reason for doing it this way. Probably someone who is very HR old-school. I wonder if that person is even still around?

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          We had a nearly full HR turnover several years ago, and the new leadership and team are efficient and generally wonderful to work. Current HR did a big procedures cleanup from the mess left by the last crew, who hadn’t updated much of anything since the late 80s/early 90s and were technophobic and very Theory X management. I trust the current HR head’s judgment a great deal , and if they don’t want to include it for whatever reason, it’s no skin off my nose as a hiring manager as long as I get high-quality candidates who are amenable to the payscale. They don’t phone screen every, single applicant, so I guess they only have to have the conversation with however many candidates it takes to send the few top contenders to the hiring manager.

          I don’t know why it’s not done either at my organization or in our industry as a whole, but I don’t see them on any of our competitors’ job postings either. Feedback on our hiring process, both from candidates directly and on Glassdoor, is very favorable. As long as HR is able to source good candidates, I’m fine to let them handle recruiting however they see fit.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      I think Lily Rowan, Amy Farrah Fowler, and Alison are all right to some extent about why – and TootsNYC is correct that it’s a huge waste of everyone’s time. It’s also a great way to perpetuate gender and racial pay disparities – which is sometimes thoughtlessness on the part of HR and management and sometimes a deliberate way to, as Lily said, pay people as little as possible.

      Massachusetts and California have passed laws prohibiting employers from asking about previous salary. Maybe it’s time for laws requiring salary ranges be posted with job listings?

  13. Loubelou*

    OP3, I’ve been ‘the argumentative employee’ and I’ve also managed one (currently am, actually) so I can see this from both sides.
    Lessons I’ve learned? Number one before anything, pick your battles. Agree or go along with things that you think could be better but aren’t actually a big deal. This will save your energy for the deal-breaker issues, and will mean that your voice really is heard, and your manager doesn’t just react with ‘here we go again’.
    As others have said, do apologise and do follow through on that apology. Show that you’ve reflected and learned, and you will earn her respect.
    At the same time, no need to drag the current issue out. It got heated, but that doesn’t mean it still needs to be discussed. After your apology, let it go, even if your manager doesn’t also apologise.

    1. always in email jail*

      Yes. Pick your battles. Managers are human, and if you argue every.single.thing they will fall into a trap of internal eye rolling and sighing with “and heeeere we go” every time you open your mouth to argue, and won’t be approaching what you have to say with an open mind.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        ^^^^^ Everything always in email jail just said. You have to learn if it’s a hill you want to die on. In my experience, there are not a lot of those.

        I’ve also noticed that when employees who do not often argue DO argue, that people sit up and take more notice.

  14. Maire Smith*

    Fruit and nuts for staff. An ordering system that lets staff get fresh vegetables delivered (at their own cost) three times a week, so they don’t have to go out of their way for groceries. Group fitness options – a lunchtime or before-work jogging coach, lunchtime yoga, cheap gym membership. Vaccinations! Flu, whooping cough, and tetanus. Free tea and herbal teas.

  15. Lynn Marie*

    I’d put hiring excellent and regular ergonomics analysis, training and a budget for equipment at the top of the list, before the gym memberships, bottled water, yoga, healthy snacks etc, etc. Very few companies do ergonomics training right, and most companies do the minimum they can get away with, even in my state where it’s mandated. Poor ergonomics can do more long-term damage than all the other stuff can fix, and even if you yourself have a good understanding and know how to apply the principles (and few do although many think they do) it’s important to have an outside, certified expert do at least a quick analysis and consultation with every person at regular intervals.

  16. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#1, check your own parachute. I don’t mean quit right away (though that is something I think you should think a little longer and harder about before rejecting). I mean look at your finances, save money like a Scrooge, and cut your personal household expenses to the bone. The way your family business is being run, I can see it getting hit with an unexpected tax bill, because of a lack of business planning and financial controls — or simply imploding because of unskilled management.

    Do yourself a huge favor and take a moment to check your own personal financial situation. Make sure that when this happens, you and your household are taken care of. It will give you some peace of mind while you try to get your mom to understand that a family business is a business.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      YES!! Especially to the unexpected tax bill. I deliver that news all the time, and it has the ability to have some very far reaching consequences that take years to bounce back from. It stands to reason that if basic issues aren’t being addressed, the accounting and tax matters may be lacking as well. I would understand if OP stayed, but it’s never bad to have a backup plan in case it all falls apart.

    2. Troutwaxer*

      And not only your own personal financial situation, but your situation vis-a-vis your parent’s company. Are you a part-owner?

    3. The Boss' Kid*

      Hi, I’m OP1.

      The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that if the business implodes, it will not be because of taxes or finances. It is the only thing in this organization that is stable and well-managed. She won’t prioritize hiring an HR Director, but she has a bookkeeper to assist her and she has the CPA in here once a month for audits. My mom runs down outstanding invoices and POs personally. I’m far more worried that we will get hit with an HR lawsuit or will make a critical error on a client project.

      I do own a small stake in the company at the moment, and stand to take it over when my parents decide to retire. I suppose I am fretting now because I see everything that needs to be fixed and don’t want to step into her shoes if I have to lead the organization as it currently exists. And the problems are all fixable. She just needs to accept that they exist and must be addressed.

      1. SavannahMiranda*

        Not an attorney but I work in law. Is there a way to impress upon her the absolutely business-breaking costs of serious HR litigation? Perhaps via articles, industry expertise, newsletters, or other resources?

        I have seen attorneys who are excellent at client education do the careful dance of laying out several different scenarios based on the client’s situation, and the attendant costs, headaches, and insanity of the outcome of each, depending on how they are managed. Client education is a huge part of the practice of law, and it sounds like you have someone who really refuses to be educated.

        This is why corporate compliance is so important. It’s the phrase every employee and every business owner absolutely loathes. Because all too often it means interminable training sessions and costs for high-dollar expertise. But it doesn’t have to mean that. And no one likes paying attorneys or consultants. But the costs of NOT maintaining compliance and best practices can be phenomenally awful. They can break businesses and leave the owners scattered. A well-trained and seasoned HR executive can save the company from itself time and time again.

        I’m sure you’ve already tried the ‘Come to Jesus’ talks with CEO mom. But if not, it might be worth a try. Especially if you can get someone else to do it, like a competent Employment Law attorney during a free or reduced-price consult, so that it’s not coming from you? Good luck!

        1. The Boss' Kid*

          Unfortunately, it is going to take an actual barn fire for her to prioritize these things. Our labor attorneys are on my speed dial. Every time we have an HR issue, we have to bring them in. Our industry is such that general HR and labor guidance is not clear cut for what we do. We all have too much on our plates, and she never prioritizes addressing this part of the business. Something always bumps it down the list. I need her to get to a point where she just accepts that it is time and that it is pointless to keep putting this off.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            “If something were to happen tomorrow that would change your mind, what would that something be?”

            Find out from her what disaster looks like, and then show her that it really could happen AND really can be avoided. And yes, see if you can get an outside professional to deliver the message.

  17. DJ Baby Bok Choy*

    OP1, as right as you are about the disfunction in your company, it’s often just impossible for parents to take advice from their kids. I, and plenty of my peers, have dealt with this dynamic with our parents, with all types workplace, financial, and lifestyle issues.

    It’s like when my 6 year old daughter was telling me to change lanes in the car last week. Maybe she was right. But shut up, pip squeak! I know what I’m doing and you know NOTHING!

  18. LGC*

    LW3, I think you wrote in about the wrong problem – or at least you’re thinking too narrowly, IMO.

    I had to read it again to be sure, but I think the biggest issue is that you find dealing with each other exhausting (or at least you find it to be exhausting to deal with her). From the way it sounds, you push back on her decisions often, and she disregards almost all of your feedback. So…definitely address that with her, because you at least have an opening now (and it sounds like this has been building for a while).

    For your part, I’d suggest choosing your battles more judiciously going forward – I don’t know your job, but I’d suggest asking yourself how much her decision will affect the end product before reacting.

    For HER part: just because someone is “difficult” doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Obviously, she’s not the one writing in to AAM, but she needs to learn how to not immediately shut you down, even if she disagrees. I’m in total agreement, that’s bad management.

    And maybe you might even want to consider whether you can work for her still. I know the usual response to any work related difficulty is “GET ANOTHER JOB LW,” but in this case if you two can’t deal with each other, you can’t work together. I think you might be able to work it out – I know from being both in your position and your manager’s position (I’m a pretty difficult person at times), but if you can’t, that has to be an option.

    Good luck.

    1. always in email jail*

      It may be worth discussing because she may not realize she’s asking for feedback, if that makes sense. I had an employee who was always telling me why the simplest things wouldn’t work, and before I was going to sit her down I realized I was framing things as a question rather than “I need you to do ___”. Example:
      “I was thinking we should make a spreadsheet of teapot suppliers in the area, with their address and contact info, sound good?”. Guess what? I really didn’t care if it sounded good. I needed a spreadsheet of teapot suppliers and did not have time to explain why or why it needed to be in spreadsheet format. BUT I HAD ASKED. I shouldn’t have asked if it “sounded good” if I didn’t want an answer. So I learned to say “When you have a chance I need a spreadsheet of teapot suppliers in the area, with their address and contact information. I need it by tomorrow at 10am if at all possible, can it be done by then?” That way, I could hear feedback related to the deadline instead of the idea, which is what I cared about.

      1. uranus wars*

        This is great advice and makes me think about my own approach to a group I just took over managing communications for.

        When they run something by me before the distribute I to use the phrase “my suggestions for wording are…” ” and then get push back or questions about the change or the changes don’t get made and inaccurate information gets distributed. What I should be saying in these cases are: “what it should say is…”

        It never occurred to me my wording left the changes as optional – thank you for this comment!

      2. LGC*

        That’s a pretty good point, to be honest. My read on that phrasing is that you’re trying to soften the command, but I’m not a direct communicator myself.

        Actually, it might be a mismatch of communication styles as well. If LW3’s manager is less literal than LW3, that can cause issues.

    2. CM*

      I think it’s premature to think about getting another job.

      To me, there are two issues here: the relationship and the substance.

      Relationship: OP#3 and her manager are not communicating well. They are getting frustrated with each other. Manager feels that OP#3 questions too much. OP#3 feels that her manager only wants to hear good news and is unreceptive to hearing about potential problems.

      Substance: Manager is proposing changes that OP#3 has issues with. OP#3 wants to express her concerns.

      I think separating these might help. At your one-on-one, instead of just saying, “You’re right and I’ll do better,” I would say, “I know our last conversation got heated. I acknowledge that I’ve been questioning a lot and I can see why you’re frustrated about that. I’d like to find a way to express my concerns to you in a more constructive way. I don’t want to be negative or argue for the sake of arguing, but I’m also worried that my concerns aren’t being heard and they will affect the project in X and Y ways.” And then see what your manager says — if she gets frustrated again, you can reiterate that she’s right, and maybe drop it because at that point you’ve already expressed your concerns. But if she’s willing to discuss, this might lead to a conversation where you can talk about your communication patterns and reach some conclusion about how you can be able to raise valid questions without arguing and being exhausting.

      I’d also consider how often you are repeating yourself. My rule is to bring something up one time and make sure my boss hears and understands. If I’m not certain he’s hearing me, I may even say something like, “So just to confirm, you understand my concern that we’re going to lose money by doing this.” Then I let it go. It’s his decision. Even if I continue to be worried, the decision has been made and my input has been taken into account. Now it’s no longer my responsibility. (Exception if it’s an ethical, legal, or moral issue.) At this point, if I continue to bring it up, he’s right to think that I’m arguing and being exhausting. There are occasions that I bring something up more than once, but they are rare. I reserve those for things that I have VERY strong feelings about and a lot of evidence that I’m right.

      1. LGC*

        I actually agree entirely that it’s too soon to actually start looking for a new job. And I think they can probably fix this. But if they can’t, then – yeah – it’s something LW3 should consider.

        And you’re absolutely right that they should really be choosing their battles wisely to begin with! I was a bit hesitant to call that out (because I thought I’d get heat for blaming the LW), but I think a large part of why LW3 finds dealing with their boss exhausting is because they’re often disputing her decisions.

  19. Ja'am*

    #1 – Wow, this sounds like my first job, super unorganized, run poorly, bad practices in place, and all with the owners mostly not wanting to change their ways and putting off important fixes to big problems in favor of “We have to satisfy the customers, they’re always right. We’re not satisfying them, that’s why our business isn’t booming!”

    However, it is THAT bad that I don’t think I could imagine it growing to 200 employees.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      You don’t actually have to satisfy all the customers. The owner of a successful company I worked for – in business for many years and sold only after the owner retired – was famous for firing customers who were too difficult.

      1. Ja'am*

        I know! It’s something the owners don’t realize and it’s so frustrating seeing them run their business on a treadmill.

    2. The Boss' Kid*

      Hi, I’m OP1,

      The product side is great. I’m very confident in that end of the business. My concern is for the things that we need to put in place to sustain that excellence. My dad handles that end of the business. He is an expert in that, but is clueless when it comes to everything else. When we were smaller, my dad just took care of the product side and my mom did everything else. As we grew, the operational infrastructure had to grow by default, so the product is still solid. But I know it cannot be sustained if my mom does not get equal support, and she is so convinced that she can go on as is.

      1. Nerdling*

        Can you find some examples of ways other companies without stringent HR and administrative branches have crumbled and point them out to your mom? Having solid consequences thrown in your face can sometimes jumpstart process improvement.

        1. The Boss' Kid*

          Examples and consequences don’t really get through to her. The bottom line is the only metric by which she measures anything. As long as her P & L is healthy, everything else is just a minor issue in her books. I’ve tried explaining it to her from a risk management perspective, but that too is not helping. We have very different philosophies on management. She wants to slap on a band aid and keep going. I want to stop and cure the problem. I think it should also be said that in our industry, slapping on a band aid and continuing to work is seen as ideal and admirable. Stopping or interrupting work defeats the purpose of what we do. That mentality cannot be sustained anymore until she brings in the reinforcements to sustain it.

      2. Ja'am*

        That’s good. In my situation, the products were good enough that people still kept coming back and their business got consistent 4+/5 star reviews. I don’t mean that that’s what they needed to work on/worry about, I mean that that’s ALL the owners seemed to care about/put most of their effort into. Not that it’s not important, but from the inside things were crumbling, and it could have been so much better if they’d focus on different things, not just what the customers can see. The owners were often struggling financially and cut costs and corners so much that what they offered declined in quality at least a few times.

        They did things in ways that they weren’t seeing much growth, and especially not the growth they wanted. I think that’s the difference here. Your company at least has their stuff together enough to make it as far as it has.

  20. 2 Years until Retirement*

    I finally looked it up.
    United States of America only.
    That explains why I had never hear of it, but you keep using it. And as a verb as well.

    1. Venmo me*

      Venmo is owned by PayPal and is a free money transfer service. Xoom is also owned by PayPal and can be used internationally for the same purpose. PayPal has the exact same functionality for money sharing as both other products but they all serve different customer bases. (Venmo has been called the “millennial’s version of PayPal” as most people don’t realize it’s one of PayPal’s services and not a competitor.) You could just as easily say “PayPal me.” They’re all commonly used as verbs. Venmo is pretty ubiquitous at this point – there are something like 23 million users and over 17 billion dollars were transferred last year alone from Venmo user to Venmo user.

      1. Baby Fishmouth*

        But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s an American thing…
        Although there’s services all over the world that do similar stuff. In Canada, everyone uses Interac e-transfer.

        1. J.*

          OK? Many of AAM readers are American, and there’s a 29/30 chance that that $65 baseball ticket was bought in the US.

          Also, if I ask you to hand me a Kleenex, it means the same thing even if your country doesn’t sell Kleenex brand tissues. If OP is not in the United States, they can use whatever the local equivalent of Venmo is.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          Alison is an American blogger who happened to use an American colloquialism in a post. As one does.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      Many things that are services on a website are nouns and verbs both. (And this is legit, because in English, “any noun can be verbed”.)

      I am all the time hearing or seeing people talk about “I’m going to Facebook that” “I Instagrammed the pic” “I Googled the answer to my question”. I’m an old and these things annoy me, but I’m also a native English speaker and these things make total sense to me.

  21. Czhorat*

    #2 – I feel for you because it’s an unfair question; the average entry-level candidate has no idea what they should be paid, so has to give a number with little to back it up. Too high you price yourself out of a job. Too low and you’re likely to not be taken seriously (and even if you do get the job at a low number, you end up underpaid).

    In a job interview it helps to show a measure not self-confidence. You need them to think that you can do the job. Low-balling the salary makes you look desperate and lacking in confidence.

    Good luck, and don’t undersell yourself.

  22. Not Today Satan*

    When I have to enter in a salary requirement (which is rare, because I avoid an applications through complex portals if I can–my response rate through them is super low, but that might just be because they tend to be bigger companies) I enter in the lowest salary I would accept if this job ends up being as great as it could possibly be–they treat me wonderfully during recruitment, the manager seems like we’d get along like gangbusters, they’d give me an office or let me telecommute a few days a week, the hours are 40 a week including a paid lunch, health insurance is cheap, matching 401k right away, etc.

    Which btw is why I hate entering in salary requirements that early in the process, because you usually don’t know the answers to any of those questions.

  23. Not Today Satan*

    LW3–I definitely related to the situation with the manager who asks for your thoughts but then doesn’t like your responses. I’m not sure if this is the dynamic here, but I had a manager who would repeatedly stress how much she valued my opinions, would ask for my opinions, sometimes take them well, and then either a)suddenly go into “I’M THE BOSS AND WE’LL DO WHAT I SAY!” mode or talk behind my back about how difficult I was.

    If I could go back in time, I would have turned into a Yes (wo)Man after the first or second instance of her turning harsh on me. I think that the issue was that she had a self-image of being super collaborative and magnanimous, but in reality she wanted to just do what she wanted to do. Which (if by itself) is annoying but fine, but combined with the touchy feely stuff just gave me whiplash and was an unhealthy dynamic.

    Again, not sure how close to your situation this is, but if it is, I would avoid falling into her “no I really care what you think” traps again.

  24. Persimmons*

    #3 My experience with managers being fed up with employees who push back excessively: in my field, the manager may not realize how significant of a stakeholder the arguer is for that decision. I deal with subject matter experts who are held responsible for their decisions, like PEs who have to put their stamp on technical documents. The manager just wants a decision made so they can get one more thing off their to-do list, but the PE knows that if anything goes wrong, that decision with be traced back to him/her.

    My suggestions to LW #3 is to take stock of your investment in these arguments. If they’re truly worth pushing the issue, communicate clearly why that is. If they aren’t, try to swallow the urge.

  25. HannahBlannaba*

    #5). The Y has a great workplace wellness initiative that focuses on whole person health, including relationships, stress relief, and light exercise. You have a lot of room for creativity with it but they give you everything you need for the backbone of the program. I loved being the Y liaison for my former workplace.

  26. Miss Fisher*

    #2 – I haven’t seen it on here, and haven’t had to use it in a long time, but was told a long time ago to just put competitive in the salary requirement blank. Not sure if this is acceptable now or not.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      Many of the blanks in online applications are programmed to only allow numbers, AND they’re mandatory fields. Ugh.

      1. CAA*

        They usually don’t have a minimum number that they’ll accept. Put in $0 or $1 and it will be clear that you are not stating a salary requirement.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Bing bing bing! Also addresses: nope, sorry, you’re not getting my mailing address when we’ve never met and maybe never meet. You may have my city and my phone number, and that’s it. If your form requires an address, I either put a single . in the field or I fill it in with “123 Main Street”.

          Computers are dumb.

          And I say that with all sincerity! Computers are not smart, they’re just fast. They follow rules laid down by programmers even if those rules are dumb. So I’ll give them what they need in order to continue forward, and if an entry in the salary or address fields is what they need, that’s what I’ll give them.

  27. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#1….while Alison’s advice is certainly good, I get the impression that you are not willing to leave this business or your family. And I imagine there is also the concern that his business is not only your parent’s livelihood for at least another 10 years, but potentially yours for the rest of your life if you play your cards right. To support a staff of 200, I am assuming that there is some pretty decent income being generated and I certainly hope the business is profitable overall.

    I deal with small businesses every day and virtually all of them are closely held (i.e. family or only a few shareholders/partners with longstanding relationships). Some are operated very well, but most are not and my own observations in many circumstances sound like your family business. If you really want to stay, I’d certainly try to get the buy-in of whatever managers the most influential decision maker (mom?) trusts the most. I’d approach it like any other meeting that was not with a family member. Each manager needs to have a detailed list of exactly what problems they’re experiencing and how that impacts their departments work product (i.e. the bottom line) and get her to agree to a timeline to make changes and hold her to that timeline.

    If that fails, I’d do everything possible to get her to at least agree to meet with a business consultant. I’m not well versed in the world of business consultants (hopefully come other commenters are), but I know there are companies that will come in, assess operations, strengths, weaknesses, hiring procedures, HR issues, the whole nine yards, and advise where improvements can be made, how to make them, and what they’ll cost. No doubt these services aren’t cheap, but well worth it in the long run, in my opinion, assuming that you choose a reputable firm. I’ve found that family owned businesses often need a reality check from someone that is not family with whom there is no prior relationship. I have often delivered bad news only for the owner of the company to say “oh, my bookkeeper or CFO has been telling me that for years.” Well, maybe you should have listened before it was the huge problem that it is now.

    Best of luck! Hoping for a positive update in the future.

    1. CM*

      These are great suggestions. I feel like Alison and many of the commenters were too quick to suggest walking away from this family business when OP#1 clearly said she does not want to do that. My initial reaction to the letter was to say you have to put your foot down and say that even though she’s the boss, you insist that this change needs to be made, ideally with support from the other managers. But I really like the idea of an outside consultant. That may go down a lot easier. I don’t think you necessarily need a full-blown assessment of everything you need to do, but an externally generated list of best practices would be helpful. In addition to management consultants, you could also consider talking to a lawyer or accountant, or find a seminar or other educational opportunity (online course, day-long conference, etc.) where you could get expert recommendations for a company of your type and size. You could think about what sources your mother would find the most credible and look for those.

    2. The Boss' Kid*

      Hi, I’m OP1,

      Out of all the comments I have read so far, this is the one that hits closest to home. And I have actually attempted your suggestions. We have an independent advisor who works closely with us on business development. One of his jobs is actually to train and mentor me in executive leadership skills, so I work closely with him too. He gets through to her, but there is still the matter of her prioritizing it. I understand where she is coming from. If a company invites us to bid on a contract, of course our energy is going to be focused on writing a proposal rather than building out an HR department. Where she and I diverge is that she rather put a band aid on a problem and keep going rather than solve the problem once and for all.

      I recently suggested that we bring in a business consultant to help us, and I even provided the names of a few consultants who came highly recommended for our size business. She gave me the “Oh yes, that sounds great.” But when I go to her and say that it’s time to take the plunge and start speaking with them, she will say that there is some other issue pending and she doesn’t have time for it.

      Despite my strong critiques of the company, I really believe in what we are doing and the service that we are providing. We wouldn’t have been able to grow so quickly if we weren’t doing something exceptional. I said in another comment here that we are solvent and cash flow positive. We always have been, and my concerns exist because I want to keep it that way. I have worked for other companies, and I’ve been trying to incorporate their best practices. My mom, unfortunately has been her own boss for 20 years and has been doing things a certain way for 20 years. It worked for so long because we were smaller, and I don’t think she really understands that she can’t protect what she built if she doesn’t fortify it.

      1. SavannahMiranda*

        Your mom is lucky to have you. It sounds like she can’t see that yet, if at all. But she absolutely is. And your dad too.

        The business and it’s employees are lucky to have you.

      2. CM*

        Can you just put it on her calendar, schedule the consultant, and pay for the consultant to come in? If your mom keeps putting you off, it may be worth it to exceed your authority a bit. I’m wondering if you’re deferring to her and presenting proposals when you could be implementing solutions and presenting them to her as something that is already too far down the road for her to say it’s a good idea someday.

        1. The Boss' Kid*

          No one is going to come in without payment or a signed contract, and she controls the purse.

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        Is this you can take on as a project on your own?

        And always remember the so-useful “presumptive close”. That’s where you assume the other person is in agreement with you unless they tell you otherwise. So something like “I’ll do this next week on Thursday unless I hear otherwise from you” counts. And with your mom, instead of asking her opinion, maybe try “I’m going to contact xyz business consultant this week and schedule a consultation” and then let her tell you not to.

        A *lot* of people will respond to requests with “no” by default (I learned this about myself when our teenaged niece lived with us), but won’t object to something if informed it will happen. Maybe your mom really doesn’t have any bandwidth left for long-term planning (or time for meetings) but won’t mind you meeting with the consultant on your own?

        (And here’s a thing: if you meet with the consultant on your own, you’ll both learn how much you already know about the business. Maybe you’re an expert; maybe you have a big gap in your knowledge. If you’re the owner, you really should have some knowledge about every area in the business and this can help you see where to start learning.)

  28. Bea*

    #1 There’s a huge issue that your mom won’t see the problems and won’t seemingly listen to your pleas.

    I’m blessed. My parents readily listen and take my advice. They’re open to it and think I’m a valuable resource. However in family businesses I’ve been deeply entrenched in, I hear a lot of “my kid doesn’t know the first thing about this business blah blah blah.” It’s unsettling especially when you’re working full time there.

    You need a consultant to deal with those procedure issues. You are treading a dangerous line on no dedicated HR at that size. You’re in the territory that all labor laws apply and procedure will save your butts in the long run.

    Do you know anything about the finances?!? It sounds like you may have growing pains and money may be an issue. What role do they want you to play? This sounds like you’ll possibly want the business one day but it’s not realistic if they’re keeping the books away from you. You have to have full hands on every thing to make requests and stand firm. You may be growing one direction and bleeding money the other. Look at Tesla. They’re worth billions and no cash.

    1. The Boss' Kid*

      Hi, I’m OP1,

      It’s funny, but my mom asked me to leave the job I had with another company because she said she needed an advisor. This isn’t reflected in my comments to Allison, but all of the responsibilities that I listed were not even the reason I was brought into the company. My primary job has nothing to do with any of those things. Those are all things that were dropped on my desk.

      You’re also correct in saying that we need outside help. The industry that we serve is unique, and the HR problems that we encounter are never covered by the guidance that DOL has on their website.My mom is the first one to get angry when the problems arise. I just can’t seem to convince her that it is better to cure the ailment, so to speak, than it is to put a band aid on the problem. Part of the reason it is difficult is because we are actually highly profitable and cash flow positive. As long as her P & L looks the way she wants it to, she doesn’t see a problem.

      1. Bea*

        Then you may need to let her be set in her ways. If it’s not do to affordability and she’s just too cheap to put the right structure in place, a lawsuit is the only thing that will speak to her.

        I have found seminars and classes related to HR should assist you in cobbling something together. Work on being consistent and as well documented as possible.

        I’ve dealt with this mindset before and unless she retires and leaves, she won’t change. It’s not just your mom, tens if not hundreds of thousands business owners do this. It’s why we professionals exist but we have to be hired AND TRUSTED!! first.

        1. KL*

          Yes, unfortunately I think the only way to get someone this stubborn to see the potential for fire is when things actually start catching on fire. A lot of people generally aren’t going to change until forced to :(

  29. Sue Wilson*

    #1: You say your mother deals with the financial stuff, right? Then she may need more concreteness than you might be giving her, because by her numbers, she might be seeing a healthy profitable thriving business, and then here her daughter comes saying that so many things are wrong and proposing solutions that cost a lot.

    So You see high turnover? How much exactly is that costing the business?
    What does an HR mistake v. HR training cost?
    How much time does being a distant micromanager waste?
    Are there any businesses your mother admires? How do they handle these issues? Are there any businesses your mother thinks are going to fail? If your company shares some dysfunction, point that out.

    Secondly, does your mother intend to turn this business over to you at any point? If so, point out that it would behoove both of you for you to start learning your mother’s business plan now. You really might not have the information necessary to understand your mother’s cost concerns.

    1. uranus wars*

      I agree with this 100%. Whether the mom is seeing healthy profits she may also be seeing a huge uptick in expenses and a very slim profit margin that sometimes comes with such rapid growth.

      Regardless of what it is, the more specific and concrete you can be with the things you want to implement and the cost associated with what you are doing now vs. what a new system would cost.

      I also wonder if the OPs mom might be open to training or other development for her staff instead of hiring someone new. For example, could OP take some HR specific courses or enroll in some specific coursework that would bring her up to date on benefits administration or HR law?

  30. MCR*

    I think Allison’s advice for OP #1 was good, but there could be one more possibility about what’s going on. Allison seemed to assume that the OP would have MORE influence because they are related to the CEO, but it could be the case that OP actually has LESS influence because their mom still sees them more as a child than an employee. If that’s the case, I think taking the group approach and appointing one of the other admins (preferably the one who is most senior/experienced) to be the spokesperson could be more effective than Allison suggested it would be.

    Another option that could be good in the long term is for OP to quit but offer to lead the search to replace themselves, and then interview candidates with an eye towards someone with experience in getting HR/admin programs in place at disorganized organizations. That way, hopefully the OP can quit but feel that they are ultimately doing what is best for their family business.

    1. buttercup*

      I’m thinking this, too. If the OP’s relationship with their mom is anything like mine with my mom/dad….they wouldn’t take me seriously and just tell me to shut up (although it sounds like they hired the OP for their expertise?)

      1. The Boss' Kid*

        Yes, I was brought in after working elsewhere in the industry. I was a convenient hire because I know the industry and I know the company. Not mentioned in my initial post, but I was not brought in to do any of the jobs that I listed. My actual job and title pertain to the product end of the company. Those are all additional responsibilities that landed on my desk.

  31. Queen of Cans and Jars*

    OP 1 – Speaking as someone who works for a small, family-owned business whose husband also works for a small, family-owned business (same family, different business), PLEASE go get some outside work experience! The family who is running the business I work for has little to know “real-world” work experience, and the rest of us suffer for it. It sounds like you should leave for your own sanity, but if you leave and come back later, your family’s business will be WORLDS better for it!

    1. The Boss' Kid*

      Hi, I’m OP1,

      I actually came into the business after working for other companies, and both my parents worked elsewhere before founding the company. My mom actually used to be an executive at a much larger company, but that was in the 1990s. The problem we have is about not scaling to meet growth.

  32. KAZ2Y5*

    OP#2, please realize that you are not only hurting yourself by being willing to accept too low a salary, you are also hurting the person who will follow you. If a company finds out they can get someone for minimum wage when the pay should be much higher, they will not only keep your wage low but the person who replaces you will be screwed too. While a good company won’t do this (to you or others) a bad company will.

  33. Lisa Babs*

    OP#1 – You say you want the business to thrive. But would it thrive more with replacing you with a dedicated HR person (with experience) and you finding another job and then coming back later with more honed skills? I cannot answer that question for you. But you may want to look at both you and the business and decide what would be best for both of you with the current situation.

    1. The Boss' Kid*

      Hi, I’m OP1,

      Believe it or not, HR and benefits were not even the reason I was asked to leave my job at another company to come in. My actual responsibilities and job title revolve around our product end. HR and all the other things I listed were responsibilities that were simply delegated to me. Leaving to get more experience wouldn’t be productive for me because I already have expertise in the service that we provide. The bottom line is that we need to bring in someone with expertise and my mom and I have very different philosophies about management. I rather stop and cure the ailment. She prefers to put a band aid on the wound and keep running.

      1. Lamb*

        So your job is not HR, HR has just been tacked on to what you and other main office folks are doing?
        What if you get a figure on how many hours a week you are working on HR instead of on your area of expertise? Because that’s what your mom brought you in to do, and presumably how you can contribute to the business best, so having you spend time on HR is not getting the company it’s money’s worth from you.

        If you add up how much time a week you and the other main office staff are spending on HR, maybe it’s a full time job’s worth. If it is, go to your mom with that and say “we have enough HR work to add an HR Specialist” and justify it with all those hours you are recapturing for people to do what they are actually good at.
        And if currently it’s not, maybe there are some HR-related things that could be included with the job, other things that keep getting bumped down your mom’s priority list that you can say “look- there’s 28 hours a week of general HR, which is going to keep growing as we grow (and as people are retained and start qualifying for and using more long term-type benefits*), plus the person we hire to do that can organize those on-site trainings we were talking about doing/write an employee handbook/set up an official grievance process/whatever would help with the high turnover”.

        If she is willing but “doesn’t have time to find someone”, there are recruiting firms that can find someone for you (yes for a price; she’s spending money in place of spending time), or maybe handling that is your last HR task that gets all the other HR tasks off your plate.

        *example: the rising number of employees who qualify for FMLA; say at 20 employees there would be 2 instances of FMLA in an average year, at 200 that’s 20 instances, with several different states’ regulations

        1. The Boss' Kid*

          I have done the breakdown for her and have tried outside recruiting. A layer of our problem that I did not mention in my initial comment, but plays a big factor in how we operate is the industry we work in. We provide a service in a regulated industry and we specifically cater to a certain type of client. This puts even more rules and regulations on us. In my experience, when we bring someone in from a recruiter, they look good on paper, but ultimately never work out because they don’t understand our niche. The problems that we get in HR are never problems that have best practices that you can just consult. They are situations where one law conflicts with another law. You have to be a very creative and strategic thinker to resolve those problems. We’ve had a revolving door of HR Specialists that the recruiter has sent, and we just don’t have time to train them each time just to have to let them go when they don’t work out. Getting the right person in the office always requires a deep dive for us.

  34. drpuma*

    OP1, you say your mom is the CEO. I’m guessing not, but do you guys have a COO? It sounds like many of these problems should fall under the purview of this person. If you do not have at least a COO and CFO and your mom is totally unwilling to share executive leadership, that is a HUGE red flag no matter how much you love your mom and want the business to succeed.

    1. The Boss' Kid*

      Hi, I’m OP1,

      My dad is the COO. My mom performs both CEO and CFO responsibilities. For the nature of the work that we do, Operations is a product-side division. I don’t think the problem is her not wanting to share responsibilities as much as it is very different philosophies on management. I rather stop and cure the ailment. She prefers to put a band aid on the wound and keep running.

        1. The Boss' Kid*

          He shares my frustrations about how things are managed, but ultimately he has about just as much pull as I do. The other problem is perspective. He is fantastic at what he does, but understands nothing about the other side of the business. He is also stuck in an outmoded mentality and I’ve had to spend time undoing some of his errors also. He doesn’t, for example understand why he can’t just fire someone without jumping through hoops.

  35. Candy*

    OP1 – why not hire a business consultant to take a look and make some recommendations. It can be easier for some people to hear these kinds of things from an outside party instead of their child.

  36. latte*

    Re: Salary. I had a job interview where they asked my range. I’ve worked at this company before so I am well aware of the range for the this job’s “level”. Unfortunately the range is 60,000 – 110,000. (All of the ranges at this company are either 40k or 50k) So how do I narrow that down? I don’t think they really want me to answer 60-110k…

    1. Knittr*

      Are you at the bottom, top, or middle in terms of experience and/or education required for the position? Can you use that to help narrow it? Do you require extensive training (lower it) or have special skills others would not that would be an asset (raise it)? Is this a higher, same, or lower level position as your previous one with this company?

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      I once used this phrase successfully: “I am very happy with the midpoint of the range”.

  37. bopper*

    Also tell your boss that once they decide on which way to go, you will support them…but could they put in a check point/way of measuring results to make sure that their decision is really working out.

  38. LilyP*

    #2 — I just wanted to add something specifically in response to your “as much as you would pay the boys” comment. One reason young men tend to make more money than young women is that they’ve often been more heavily socialized to see their knowledge/contributions as important and valuable and worth attention and money, so they’re more likely to ask or negotiate for a higher salary (obvs not the only reason, but one part of the whole pattern). Never forget that you are bringing valuable contributions to a company, even if you enjoy your work or are in a really niche or “passion-based” field AND even if you’re not that experienced. An idea to internalize: “This company is trying to hire a llama whisperer with X amount of expertise because they *need* someone to whisper to some llamas so that their business can make money. I would be filling an important role for them and contributing to their making a profit. I deserve to be fairly compensated for that (important and valuable) contribution.” Good luck out there!

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