I have a spider phobia and my boss has a spider, can I ask to give my raise to my coworkers instead, and more

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

1. I have a spider phobia — and my new boss has a giant spider model in her office

I recently started a new job where they were also searching for a new manager. So far I’ve been dealing with the assistant manager, Emily, and it’s been great.

The place I work requires a certain level of security, and one of the security checks at the end of the night is opening all the blinds. The other day, I noticed during the check that one of my senior coworkers, Carolina, had her blinds closed in her office. When I went in, I was terrified to discover that Carolina has a giant spider (probably model but can’t be sure) encased in glass on her desk, roughly the size of a cellphone.

I have severe arachnophobia, not to the point of needing medical accommodations, but even dealing with something I know is a fake spider terrifies me to the point I start to shake. So this spider is not something I want to deal with.

She and I have very separate jobs (she has her own office and I currently float before customer service wickets) so I thought I would just avoid her office and the problem will be solved. And then yesterday it was announced that Carolina will be taking over as manager. It sounds like I will mostly deal with Emily when it comes to my training and the more day to day stuff, but I’m not fooling myself into believing that I will never enter into the manager’s office. I’m new, so I don’t want to rock the boat and tell her to get rid of it, but what do I do?

You’re not going to tell her to get rid of it. You’re just going to explain that you have a severe spider phobia that will make it difficult for you to go in her office. She can decide from there if she wants to get rid of it or if she’d rather hold all her meetings with you somewhere else. (But if she’s a decent manager who doesn’t want to terrify you, she’ll move it.)

It sounds like you have stronger rapport and a greater comfort level with Emily right now, so you could raise this with her first. Say something like, “Could I ask your advice on something? I have a severe spider phobia, and I just saw the other day that Carolina has a model of a spider on her desk. My phobia affects me to the point that it would be difficult for me to meet with her in there and I likely wouldn’t be able to concentrate if I did. Is that something you think I could explain to her?”

Emily will likely tell you yes — but you’re starting with her because she might tell you something especially reassuring, like that Carolina is incredibly nice/would move it in an instant if she knew this/just had it out as a joke when you saw it but doesn’t normally keep it there/would absolutely want to know and not have you suffer in silence/etc. Hell, Emily might even offer to explain it to Carolina for you (I would if I were her). So start with her.

2. Can I decline my raise and ask that it go to my coworkers instead?

I work in HR for a national health care provider. They are very profitable, but only at the top level. We were granted several million dollars from a new federal program, but nobody saw that money, nor was it reinvested in the company. It just went to the two top levels of management. Now my dilemma: I’m very blessed and just received my annual 2% raise. I didn’t even see the impact on my check.

What I would like to do is pass on my token/pacifier raise and give it to those workers who provide bedside services and carry medical equipment to our patients. They are paid in many cases bare minimum wages, yet they are delivering needed medical care to very ill patients.

I’m tried of hearing how the executives went on a week’s cruise to strategize or the next party that’s held while the troopers of this company provide the bedside services to patients at a minimum wages. They clean the solid waste, bathe them, insert the tubes, clean the boils and wounds. Can I give back my raise and have it go to them instead?

That’s very kind of you, but unfortunately you can’t tell your employer what to pay other people, even if it’s coming out of money that you’re declining. Their salary structure might be incredibly messed up, but they set it because they believe it’s the right one for their business model, and they’re not going to alter it just because you ask them to. (Plus, practically speaking, what if you leave in six months? Do they then revoke the extra money that was coming from “your” salary and going toward other people?)

But you can certainly advocate for higher wages in your industry and in your company, and you might decide that’s something that you want to organize around with your coworkers.

3. How do I tell my coworkers to leave me out of it when they confront our director about his schedule?

I’m in a weird situation at work. The overall umbrella that I’m under contains several different, seemingly unrelated, departments and I’m a one-person department. My boss (the director) is new-ish to the job, and he and his husband have recently taken in two foster children with the plan to adopt them early next year. The kids are young and go to daycare and preschool. Since the kids came into his life, he’s been taking a lot of “working from home” days. The problem is, he either doesn’t tell us or only tells one person and the rest of us are left in the dark. When he’s working from home, he’s mostly reachable, but sometimes he’s doing things like making soup for the kids. He’s also been adjusting his hours to be with the kids after school (he’ll be working 9-2 for the next 10 weeks and then MAYBE will be in 9-4 for the rest of the year).

Here’s the dilemma: everyone else in the department is furious about this and wants to confront him about his working from home, hours, etc. I don’t care what his hours are or when he’s in or not. I’m in such an odd situation where I’m the only one in my department and don’t really have a direct supervisors. I really don’t want my name brought into the whole “we have a problem with your schedule” issue. To me, it’s none of my business what his hours are or when he’s here. As long as I’m able to get the things signed off on (like PTO days or purchase orders), I could never see him and be fine with it. How do I tell my fellow department employees that I don’t want my name included in the “We’re mad that you’re working from home so much” talk that they want to give?

“I support you in talking to Bob if this is affecting you, but it hasn’t actually been a problem for me and it’s not something that I’m concerned about personally. So if you do talk him about it, I’d just ask that you be careful not to imply that I’m part of the group that’s concerned.”

For what it’s worth, it’s true that people really shouldn’t “work from home” while also caring for small children on a regular basis. (That’s why most companies require people who work remotely to have child care.) But “fury” is an odd response if they haven’t tried having a basic conversation with him yet about how his new schedule and new habits are impacting them. If you have good rapport with your coworkers and any desire to get involved, you could suggest that before they “confront him” (eeek), they should try just telling him that his inaccessibility is causing problems and asking him to come up with a better system for letting people know his availability.

4. The subject line of this email was “moral coindary”

I work for a nonprofit and we do all sorts of fundraising events. At our last event yesterday, I counted the cash and noted a funny looking 50c coin. I looked it up today and it happens to be a limited edition — not worth much (usually between $1-10, although I can see people trying to sell it for $100). I know for a fact that our finance department will just bank it as is, we don’t have time to check on weird coins and just bank all money direct. Would it be okay to replace it with my own normal 50c just because I quite like to collect coins and it’s a fun one?

Nope, not without clearing it with your employer first. They might be absolutely fine with it, but you really, really, really don’t want to mess around with money without their okay. You risk it looking like you did something shady otherwise. If they’d be fine with it, then it’ll be easy to ask and get permission … and if you do that and get told no, then it’ll be really good that you asked first.

5. Is it showing off to send my manager a cool project I did that she doesn’t know about?

I have what I think is a good problem! I work in a medically-ish type company that has several clinics all across the country. As a result, I work completely on my own with a receptionist. I haven’t even met my new manager in person yet, even though she seems super awesome through email. I really like working like this, as someone in my field really needs a lot of professional freedom and discretion.

About 1.5 years ago, I worked a marketing event with my company (completely outside my job description, they wanted someone there with my background to answer questions), and I rocked it. I am really good at talking to prospective clients, and the event went really well.

A woman from the marketing department noticed this, and recently contacted me asking me to write a help guide for our website for users of our products. Of course I said yes, this being a really cool opportunity for someone who is just shy of three years into my career. I wrote the piece, and I am really proud of my work! It is something I never prepared for in school, and it is so different than my day-to-day work that it was a cool project to take on and a way for me to continue making a name for myself within the industry.

I didn’t tell anyone besides a few close friends about the project just in case it fell through. As a result, my new manager and colleagues don’t know that I wrote this article. I want to send them a direct link to the article, but I worry that this will come off as being a suck-up or a show-off. I really want to “brag” about my work, but I really don’t want to put anyone off. What is your advice here?

You can totally do this! If I were your manager, I’d appreciate you letting me know about this.

Just send a short email that says something like, “I wanted to let you know that Jane asked me to write a help guide for our website, and she recently published what I created for her. It’s here if you’d like to take a look: (LINK).”

{ 467 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, you sound very well-intentioned and thoughtful. As Alison notes, if you give money back to your employer, you can’t really dictate how they use it. I’m also a little wary that trying to have it redistributed will not make the systems-level change you seek. The best you can do is advocate for pay equity, put political capital and will into that advocacy campaign, and try to flip other senior managers who recognize that income inequality undermines morale and retention. If your employer has shareholders (and if you’re one of them or a proxy), you could raise executive compensation and the gap between your lowest and highest paid workers in that forum.

    Right now you’re in a unique position because part of HR’s role is talent management and retention. So try to put together a business case, and if you feel comfortable/safe doing so, be the squeakiest squeaky wheel.

    1. Greg NY

      I’d argue that you can suggest how to use it, even though they’re under no obligation to follow the suggestion (just as they’re under no obligation to give the raise in the first place). In a workplace, a manager (one who really acts as a facilitator and not a “boss”) is sometimes likened to a coach in sports, while those managed by them are the players. Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots, takes a lower salary to make the team around him better. And very much like the sports team owner (Robert Kraft in this case) being rich, the executives are doing a lot better than the LW’s coworkers who are working at minimum wage.

      Frankly, while the LW’s desires are admirable, it shouldn’t even come to that. What the executives are doing, fully aware of how little others in their organization are making, is pretty galling. And this is a pretty concrete reason why wages have been stagnant since the 1970s. In the sports parlance I’m using, it’s time for the owner to spend more money on his team. It’s a real-world problem that my favorite team, the New York Mets, has had for many years.

      1. wherewolf

        I’m afraid the greedy higher-ups would take OP’s rejection of the raise as “guess lowly employees don’t need that extra money” and ignore OP’s charitable intent.

      2. MK

        I don’t think this analogy works particularly well. For one, the star player of a sports team taking less money so that the team can get more quality players probably has to do with the fact that he directly benefits from a stronger team: they have more chances at winning games, which is good for his carreer. Also, the issue isn’t how rich the owner is, but how the profits of the company are allocated. If the higher-ups in the OP’s company were taking cruises with their own money (inherited wealth, lottery wins), that wouldn’t be the problem; what is a problem is them not allocating part of the company’s profits to reward all employees.

        1. Antilles

          The analogy also misses the NFL-specific quirks that don’t exist in typical industries. When Brady decides to pass on a raise, Kraft is more or less required to give that money to his peers – both due to the CBA salary floor AND due to public pressure since every player’s salary is known. If Kraft wanted to just pocket the money, it would come out very quickly and Brady would never give him a discount again.
          Whereas if OP decided to give back the money, there’s absolutely no reason that the executives couldn’t just pocket the money and not blink once.
          Also as a side note, Brady can afford to do this because his wife actually makes more money annually than almost any NFL player – various estimates put her well north of $30+ mil a year, when only Aaron Rodgers has a salary over $30 million. Good for him that he does it, but let’s not act like
          *It’s complicated, but the essence of it is that you’re required to spend at least 89% of the salary cap over a four-year period – so if the salary cap was $100 million every single year, over that four year period you’d need to spend at least 0.89*(100)*4 = $356 million. And if you spend less than that, you owe the players’ association a check for the difference, so there’s no incentive to be below the floor.

          1. Lawgurl06

            Brady also gets a large amount of money in endorsements like most star NFL players, so taking less on their salary doesn’t usually mean they are taking in less money overall. Often the players who are willing to do that have mega contracts with Pepsi, insurance companies, etc. that are more than off-setting any loss they are taking on salary.

      3. Liane

        And, as Alison pointed out, what happens when OP leaves? Do the beneficiaries lose the extra pay?

      4. JanMA

        “…granted several million dollars from a new federal program, but nobody saw that money, nor was it reinvested in the company. It just went to the two top levels of management.” Private companies can take federal grants and use them solely for executive salaries? And we wonder why the health care system in this country is so screwed up!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yup. This happened during the bank bailout ten years ago—several banks that had engaged in problematic behavior then paid bonuses to their executives, because apparently destroying the economy is great performance.*

          * I’m being sarcastic, but the “rationale” was that they’d contractually committed to pay out bonuses, so they had to do so even when it made no political sense.

          1. Autumnheart

            Yeah, they claimed they needed to pay exorbitant salaries in order to “retain talent”. It’s like, your “talent” just crashed the entire US economy. Maybe you should not be looking to retain those people.

          2. Gazebo Slayer

            It’s absolutely mindblowingly unjust, short-sighted, and also just stupid that so many high-dollar employment contracts don’t have any sort of clause stipulating that people don’t get bonuses, severance, etc. if they’ve committed serious misconduct. (See also: Les Moonves.) You’d think companies would want to claw those back from people who trash their corporate reputation and cost them money.

    2. Daisy

      Say OP earns $200k, the raise is $4000. Is one of the lowest-paid workers suddenly going to earn $4000 a year more than their colleagues in the same job? Or are 40 of them going to be earning $100 more a year? At which point it’s not going to be any more noticeable than it was in OP’s paycheque. It’s a nice idea, but not thought through. Employees shouldn’t be making pay equity their own responsibility, they should be forcing the organisation to take responsibility.

      1. DJ Roomba

        Yes! This was exactly my thought! A lot of companies got tax breaks this year and many of them passed some of those savings on to their employees (usually in the form of a bonus). Which – when we’re talking about well into the millions of dollars – ends up being a small but nice amount for employees. But if she passed her couple thousand dollar raise on to minimum wage workers, they may end up with a couple of dollars or even just cents (depending on the raise and the number of employees) in their pay check.

        Honestly, if I were busting my butt to make minimum wage and my company said “here you go! we’re going to give you a raise this year! Instead of $8.25 an hour, we’re generously giving you $8.26 and hour!” I’d be PISSED. So again, more harm than good could potentially be done.

        1. Someone Else

          On the other hand, back when I was making $8 an hour, when I got a raise to $8.25, it was a big deal to me at the time. With wages that low, everything mattered. If the scenario is she was thinking that her $4000 raise might be split into $500 raises for 8 top performers on the teams she was referring to, I don’t think that’s such an absurd idea. I mean, it’s extremely unlikely the company would actually DO it for all the reasons Alison outlined, but it’s not silly that she thought the amount could be split and useful to a certain number of people. Of course, the more people she was thinking of splitting it between, the less helpful it is.

    3. Bunny

      As a journalist, I’m…intrigued that a taxpayer grant is being funneled into raises, and not being used for public benefit. One option is to drop a dime to your favorite local reporter.

      1. Antilles

        That sentence jumped out at me too, but I’m wondering how exactly OP knows that the money was funneled into raises. There are a *lot* of ways for businesses to spend money on real needs but in a way that an average employee doesn’t even realize are going on.
        Here’s one specific example which is particularly relevant to a health-care industry in 2018: Information security. If they decided to do major back-end upgrades to their server and security, it could easily run into six figures or more…but the normal end user would not know they did this and (hopefully) shouldn’t even notice anything impacting their work flow.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It’s actually pretty common, although deeply problematic. Here’s a NYT article about banks engaging in the same kind of conduct that OP’s describing.

      3. Barbara Lander

        Interesting idea. If there is an investigative journalist who might be interested in how this money was spent, perhaps versus what it was intended to do, that could be one way to shame them into raising wages. Or you could get Bernie Sanders involved.

    4. Trout 'Waver

      I’d also like to point out that a 2% raise is actually a pay cut when inflation is at 2.1%, unless it’s in addition to a cost of living adjustment.

    5. schnauzerfan

      Once upon a time… I worked at a public library with about 30 staff members. I was the newest more junior person on staff. The director, Alice, a sweet wonderful person had been at the library for about 30 years and had been director for 25 years or so. She was a single lady, born to one of the old wealthy families in town. She and her sister shared the home they’d been born in, and both had trust funds etc. No real need for money from their work. So Alice had been declining raises for years and offering the money back to the library budget. A nice thing to do, except that by the time I got there the asst. director made almost what Alice did, and the head of reference made almost what the asst. did and all of the librarians were bunched right there with them and NO ONE could have a raise because they’d make more than the director who was making what she’d mad 20+ years ago. The budget hadn’t grown as much as it should have grown organically and so there we were. As you might imagine staff started leaving for higher pay elsewhere and things got really bad. Then, when Alice retired the city had the devil of a time finding someone to take her place and the optics of hiring some new person at 40% more than the beloved long time librarian were terrible, even though the new director was still under paid compared to her peers. So yeah. Don’t refuse raises just because you don’t need the money. Advocate for the front line people certainly but…

      1. ket

        This is a really important story.
        I’m very sympathetic to the OP. Accepting less, though, probably just means less for everyone. We want the front-line workers demanding more, not accepting less.
        The news the past week/month/year has really gotten me thinking about power, money, and my own relationship to it all. When confronted with a raise or a promotion I often said in the past to myself, oh, I don’t really need that. But then who ends up with all the money and all the power? How will they use that money and power?
        It’s actually much harder to figure out how to use your money and position for the good of others than to say oh, take my $7000 raise and redistribute it.

      2. Michaela Westen

        Maybe instead of refusing raises, take them and donate them to charity.
        Or in OP2’s case, save the money in case you want to change jobs in the near future?

    6. GreenDoor

      I don’t believe this would have any impact at all. For persepctive, I’m at $85,000 so a 2% raise is only $1700 a year. Depending on how many employees OP is looking to “boost” this wouldn’t even be anyting meaningful once it’s divvyed up.

      Also, for perspective, my $40,000 a year assistant got a 1% raise – just enough to bump her up to the next tax bracket (more money taken out of her check for taxes) and just enough to increase the amount she had to pay towards her student loans each month. OP, you don’t want your help to actually hurt. I’d stick to advocating better salaries/benefits rather than suggesting a redistribution. And I’m with you – it’s shameful that folks in this line of work are paid so low!

      1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

        The tax percentage increase only applies to the money within that tax bracket, though.

        Making the numbers up: income $25,000-40,000 pays 15% tax and income $40,001-60,000 pays 20%. Her 1% raise puts her income at $40,400. She will only pay 20% tax on that $400. The rest of her pay is still taxed at 15%.

        The situation was still shitty, definitely! But that’s a really common misconception.

  2. Greg NY

    #3: This LW is right to not get involved in the situation since it doesn’t affect their job and they really doesn’t answer to anyone (although I’d be miffed at someone working from home when a kid is present unless my schedule couldn’t afford me the same flexibility). But I also totally understand why the others are confronting him (I’d still do it nicely rather than with fury). This director is setting an appalling example. Unless you want to allow those that report to you the same ability to watch their kids and work at home, you shouldn’t be doing it. And watching a kid has to cut your efficiency by at least a third. Does he not complain when others are on the Internet or chatting during the day?

    I sure hope that none of the LW’s coworkers are parents that struggle with childcare, because this is hypocritical conduct on the part of this director.

    1. valentine

      Direct reports confronting their manager, the director, about something that’s none of their business (the details of his unavailability) is worse the interns who were fired for demanding casual dress. From the title, I thought Sansa and Arya were going to tell their supervisor to stop doing the school run, unless Arya can keep her schedule (and office-turned-kindergarten, I guess), because it’s that level of astounding as far as judgment. OP #3: I wouldn’t trust these people. I’d get ahead of the message and tell the boss I’m not part of the forthcoming fracas.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

        Actually, direct reports confronting their manager about their opaque availability is something that is their business. The “doing the school run/making soup for this kids/finding another episode of Peppa Pig/whatever” isn’t any of their business, but they can, and should – politely – express concerns that their manager doesn’t always let them know his availability, beyond a grapevine approach.
        Should the manager be WFH to provide care for an elderly relative, or because they developed a heavy cold, or any reason other than childcare, the optics would still be the same – he should be letting his direct reports know, as soon as reasonable, that he is at home and contactable by phone/email, or incommunicado between X and Y – the reasons shouldn’t matter.

        1. Czhorat

          I wonder how much is legitimate difficulty, how much is envy over a flexible schedule, and how much is a misplaced “puritan work ethic” assumption that hardships should be endured for their own sake.

          If the director is usually available, then he’s usually available and it shouldn’t be too serious an issue — certainly not one which merits “fury”.

          I think OP is right to stay out of it if the situation isn’t causing them any issues.

          1. Triplestep

            I suspect that most of it is envy over what looks like a lightened schedule and increased flexibility. In reality, they do not know how many hours a day he is working (he may be logging back on after his husband gets home) but many of us would like to be at home making soup while working. They are framing it as his not being accessible because they know that’s likely to get a better response than “it’s not fair!”

            At any rate, the LW is smart to stay out of it.

            1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

              Oh I agree that there is probably more than a little element of envy there. I’m just looking at it through the lens of someone who once legitimately couldn’t get hold of my line management because they decided to work from home with altered hours, but the single person they told disappeared to an offsite meeting before passing on the message. That one occasion nearly led to a customer complaint because it took so long to finally get hold of said line management. Perhaps I am naive, but I tend to lean towards “if this is affecting my ability to work, I’m going to make a fuss about it, but if it’s just “not fair”, well life isn’t fair sweetie, get over yourself” (this my internal monologue).

              If LW can’t completely remove themselves, perhaps they can invite introspection in the potential complainants. If they still genuinely feel like they have a grievance (like I did – no jealousy involved at all), then LW can support from a distance and anonymously if they feel it necessary.

              1. Seriously?

                If they are parents they could be upset that he is taking a flexible schedule while not approving it for them. If he is allowed to work from home and others are not then I could understand the “fury”, especially if it does cause issues for them.

                1. JustMyOpinion

                  This really depends. His position may allow for it and their position may not. I have flexibility (which also means I work weekends), but I need my staff to be there from 8-5. Due to the sensitivity of the information, they cannot work from home.

            2. MCMonkeyBean

              Yeah, my manager works from home with her kid and is frequently leaving in the middle of the day for him for field trips or church events, but I also know that she does a lot of stuff so I assume she has worked out with her boss that this is okay and she makes up the time at night when her son is sleeping.

          2. serenity

            Exactly this. There’s no indication in the letter that boss being out of the office is impeding work functions. The level of anger OP indicates in the staff makes it sound much more likely that there’s a strong level of resentment/hostility towards the work-from-home situation. Which, absent a workplace cause-and-effect, is none of their business.

            1. The Other Dawn

              Since the coworkers are “furious” and want to “confront” him, that’s my guess as well. If the fact that they never know when he’ll be around is an issue because it causes work to be delayed or is otherwise affecting their work, then that’s how they should approach it.

              1. Matilda Jefferies

                Agreed, and I’m curious about the soup example as well. How long does it really take to make soup, and how much is it actually impacting his availability? Are the coworkers expecting an instant response every time they try to contact him? If so, that’s likely not reasonable – and wouldn’t be reasonable if he were in the office either, as he likely has meetings and phone calls and needs to use the washroom and so on.

                I mean, I suppose if he’s doing all the chopping and grating and whatnot (I don’t know what’s involved in making soup!), and then standing over the stove all day while it simmers, that might be a problem. But if all that’s happened is that he has stepped away from his desk for a few minutes to make lunch for the kids, that’s a pretty small interruption in an ordinary work day.

                There may well be real problems with his availability. But “soup” is such an odd (and specific!) thing to make an issue of, that it makes me wonder about the real scope of what’s going on here.

              2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

                I only picked up on the “he either doesn’t tell us or only tells one person and the rest of us are left in the dark.” part of the comment. While the next comment says he is “mostly reachable”, I can’t help but feel that if he actually told ALL his direct reports “I’m working from home and will be unavailable between 2 and 3pm” it would mitigate things.

                Another part of me, especially after reading these comments, makes me wonder if he’s rubbing his staffs’ collective noses in his benefits, or if that’s how they are interpreting it? Unless he’s taken a leaf out of OP#2’s C-suite book, I’m struggling to see how ‘fury’ could ever be a reasonable response. Because (taking parenting out of it – although I feel this is possibly the crux of the matter) if I felt ‘fury’ that my boss got, for example, a company car and I didn’t – I’d want to reexamine my expectations of responsibilities and benefits packages for different seniority levels. I read this that he was the director – which is usually pretty high up the ladder, coming with perks not available to the plebs.

                1. Someone Else

                  I’m probably projecting, but even without the letter explicitly saying “this is affecting their work” I have zero doubts that it’s affecting the work of the people who are upset. I used to work for a manager who had a child with a serious life threatening condition, but it wasn’t always a life or death situation, but it was the kind of thing where one minute the child would be fine and two minutes later would need to be rushed to the hospital. So at least once a month, but oftentimes once a week, that manager would either need to drop everything and leave in the middle of the day, no matter what was going on, or would call in at 3am and say “just got back from the ER, not coming to the office to day”. On a human level, I absolutely understood. The kid is more important than work. Absolutely. But it was still incredibly difficult to work that way, never knowing if the manager would be in, or when, or if they’d leave abruptly. And that manager did a TON of work. Would regularly come in the evenings, or weekends and get stuff done. But to a certain extent that didn’t matter, because during the day, my day would be constantly interrupted by a stream of people looking for manager (regardless of whether leadership had been told manager was OOO), or by people wanting certain things done that I could not do without manager, or that I could not do at all, manager had to. And then there was also all the work that I could do in manager’s absence, but which otherwise would not have been my work to do. It was constant chaos. Unless I’d built in a really large buffer to my workload, guessing for when I’d need to be two people, it was impossible to plan around. It really built up my stress.
                  So, while it’s great for OP that this situation isn’t affecting her personally, I find it entirely plausible there need not be “envy” from the staff who are affected and who are very upset. The unknown-factor alone of whether this guy is in or reachable ornot can be very stressful during the workday.

            2. Genny

              Technically, all we know is that the situation isn’t affecting OP’s work. We have no idea how it’s affecting anyone else’s work. It could be OP has a pretty independent job, but other people’s work relies more on the boss.

              If OP isn’t experiencing any work issues from this situation, she definitely doesn’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) join the mob, but that’s a far cry from saying the mob isn’t angry over legitimate issues.

          3. aebhel

            Yeah, it’s not clear from this how much of the issue is that it’s actually impacting their work (in which case they should confront him) and how much is something else.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        Oh dear god no do not throw your coworkers under the bus before they even approach the boss. That’s going to make you look like a huge drama monger and make you a pariah among your colleagues.

        Alison frequently advises people to raise issues as a group. I would say “confronting” the boss is not the way to do this, but if there are legitimate concerns about his availability/priorities, they are well within their rights to address this.

      3. Temperance

        It’s absolutely their business that their boss is unavailable because he’s parenting instead of working. It is not worse than those interns who cited an amputee wearing sneakers as proof that they, too, should get to wear sneakers, ffs.

        I also absolutely disagree that LW should tattle on her colleagues. She should stay out of it.

        1. serenity

          The OP said the boss is “reachable” which is pretty far removed from “unavailable”. Right?

          And you are misstating the facts of the intern letter (said employee was not an amputee).

          1. Falling Diphthong

            The worker who was allowed to disobey the dress code was a former soldier who lost her leg and was therefore given permission to wear whatever kind of shoes she could walk in.

            Don’t want to derail, do want to correctly present that letter. (Link in name.) The interns didn’t know that she had lost a leg.

          2. Temperance

            No, I am not. The employee in question who occasionally wore sneakers lost her leg, and the interns were unaware and cited the fact that she wore sneakers as proof that they should, too.

        2. BookWorm

          LW #3 here. I don’t want to “tattle” on my co workers, I just don’t want to be included in the group “we don’t like what you’re doing” talk. Director has not impeded my job in any way by working from home and I don’t want it implied that this situation has.

          1. Temperance

            Which is totally valid. I was responding to the point that you should let the manager know his team is going to confront him.

      4. Roscoe

        I actually think its very fair. I think you are getting hung up on the word “confront”. But if it really is impacting their work on a daily basis because the manager isn’t available, that is their business. I’ve only confronted bosses a handful of times, but it was always about how our (as in the whole team) workload or pay was being affect by their decisions.

      5. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

        I honestly still cannot understand why interns petitioning for more casual dress is seen as such a heinous and unforgivable offense that it is worth firing people over. Talk about overreacting! If some stick in the mud business with archaic dress code ideas REALLY can’t see fit to loosen up the dress code to allow their employees to be more comfortable, then a simple “NO, sorry, not doing that, please get back to work” and maaaaaaayyyyyyybbe a verbal…not even warning or reprimanded, as that’s still an overreaction to a completely innocuous and harmless act on the part of the interns…but an explanation as to why the dress code is such as it is and won’t be changing (that is, AFTER the higher ups have really looked closely into the issue to see if they *really* need to have such a strict and unforgiving dress code? They *really* can’t loosen it up even a LITTLE?)
        I think that firing them was a completely BS, over the top, excessively dramatic action…but what do I know, I’m only a human being who is completely aware that a person’s appearance has exactly ZERO to do with their work ethic or job performance and therefore didn’t ever give AF what my empires ever dressed like as long as their work was good.

        1. Staphylococcus anonymous

          +1 my forgetful friend, but you must remember the mantra, “MiLlEnIaLs are always wrong.”

    2. Em too

      I don’t think he is watching the kids while working – they’re in daycare and preschool and he stops work at 2pm to pick them up. LW says he’s sometimes busy doing housework, not childcare.

      1. TZ

        Yeah, nor do we know that his partner isn’t also home, perhaps as a primary care-giver, unless we missed it? All we know is he works from home with high availability and brief unavailability (just like one would be in the office?) and his family is going through a transition. Presumably this had been okay’d by someone up the hierarchy. Everything about this is weird.

        1. Czhorat

          Agreed. “Making soup for the kids” isn’t an hours-long commitment. If he were in the office, it’s possible that he’d be in a meeting, on a phone call, or otherwise not immediately available. Reach him by phone or stroll into his office shouldn’t be that big a difference.

          1. EPLawyer

            HOw long is he actually unavailable? Are these people “furious” because it took 5 extra minutes to return their email? If so that is ridiculous. He could have been in the bathroom. Or on the phone with someone else at work. Same amount of delay. But because it’s “making soup for kids” people are all up in arms that he is not really working while home. Boss should stop giving the real reason and just go on with responding in a reasonable time as he would if he were in the office.

            Unless of course, his delays are causing problems for time sensitive stuff. Then he needs to realize that and plan his day better. He also HAS to find a better method of communicating when he is home so people know there might be a delay in response. A shared calendar at the very least.

          2. BookWorm

            LW #3 here. Director works from home when the kids are sick, and since they are in daycare/preschool that seems to be quite frequently. I think that’s the big issue with my co-workers.

            1. Falling Diphthong

              It’s normal to get sick a lot the first time you are around lots of other people. Whether daycare, kindergarten, or college for the home schooled. Alternatively, you can have at least two older siblings bringing home all the local crowded-venue viruses, and get the same immunological workout without having to leave home.

              Are lower level employees allowed to work from home when their kids are sick? While it doesn’t directly affect your understandable goal of staying out of it, their approach should vary based on:
              a) Rule for a new situation, since other workers don’t have kids or not small ones who get sick a lot.
              b) Rule that only applies to management, because only when it affected management did management recognize it as a problem. And then their solution only applied to themselves.

              1. MusicWithRocksInIt

                This. If the lower level employees can’t work from home when their kids are sick it’s understandable that people are upset. It can be so maddening to watch managers set up double standards like that.

                1. copier queen

                  Not sure about this. If lower level employees have public-facing duties, like helping customers, answering phone calls, working with equipment only available at the office, etc., it makes sense that they could not reasonably do that work from home (if their kid was sick).

            2. Guacamole Bob

              I wonder if this is a misunderstanding. If he’s actually caring for young children when he’s “working from home,” then he should probably be using at least some PTO during those times. Do you and your colleagues know that he isn’t?

              But he’s a manager, and as you say young children get sick a lot, so I also understand that he’s logging on from home to deal with work stuff periodically throughout the day – kids nap, and sick kids watch tv, etc. He’s trying to keep up with his work responsibilities as best he can and not just call out sick and be unreachable whenever one of his kids is sick. Managers especially can be in a position where spending 20 minutes answering emails can keep things moving for those in the office, so he does that as much as he can.

              When my kids were home sick a lot in those early years I’d often take 4-5 hours of PTO when I was home for the full day, because I did a couple of hours of work here and there. Or I’d split the day with my spouse and work earlier or later than normal, and take 2ish hours of leave. I wasn’t a manager, but I was in a new job and didn’t have a lot of sick time banked.

              If your office is stingy with PTO and you know he isn’t using it, or if he’s denied others this kind of flexibility in the past, then I get where the anger is coming from. But this seems like really normal behavior from a manager who’s a parent of young kids in an office with reasonable flexibility.

              1. CMart

                At my own organization we have “unlimited sick days”, essentially for exactly this type of situation. It means we’re more productive than we would be if we had to use a vacation day to go to a doctor’s appointment, or stay home with sick kids.

                So we can pop in and out of the office for appointments and just cite “sick time” and everyone shrugs. Or we can work from home with limited productivity if the kids can’t go to daycare, but at least there’s some work happening rather than simply disappearing for the day. It’s fantastic. As we speak, I’m WFH waiting to go into labor instead of burning through my vacation days while symptoms come and go, ha.

                But this is flexibility afforded to everyone–I’m the lowest level of salaried employee we have. I’d be pretty bitter if my Director was able to do what I’m doing but I was not.

                1. Starbuck

                  Huh. that sounds like kind of drag- like it’s setting up the expectation that you’re going to be working or reachable while staying home sick. If you have unlimited sick time, why would you need to “burn through” vacation days while staying home waiting to go into labor? Are the sick days not paid?

                2. CMart

                  @ Starbuck

                  I’m a week away from my due date, so I could go into labor now, or 14 days from now! The way our policy works is that yes, sick days are paid but if you are out sick for more than 5 days in a row it gets kicked over to Short Term Disability.

                  So by continuing to work from home, especially since I can be fully productive while having the security of being able to drop what I’m doing and jet off to the hospital with my bags packed, or not be too thrown by false alarms, I’m not taking the chance of “calling in sick” prematurely.

                  Of course it’s also intended for taking fully restful, unplugged sick days here and there! But it’s also nice to not be so rigid that I would have to make a judgement call about coming into the office at a time like this.

          3. OfOtherWorlds

            Actually, it can be, if you’re making the soup from scratch. Though a big part of the process is waiting for things to boil down, and you can do other things while also watching the pot.

            And now I’m nostalgic my Dad’s made-from-scratch chicken and turkey soups.

          4. Temperance

            It’s very different than if the boss was on the phone, or in a meeting, though. He’s not merely unavailable for brief periods of time, he’s doing childcare while working. He’s going to be distracted and not functioning at full capacity.

            1. JustMyOpinion

              Actually to his direct reports….this doesn’t matter. He’s either available or unavailable. If he is frequently unavailable (which frankly it doesn’t sound like), then they need a schedule with more clarity from him. He certainly wouldn’t tell them if he was in the office that he’ll be on the phone with Chad Smith re: Teapots from 11:30 to 12. He can be clearer without being detailed.

        2. Temperance

          We actually don’t know that he has “high availability and brief unavailability”. It sounds like he’s frequently unavailable when needed, which is incredibly frustrating.

          1. Myrin

            I mean, OP says “he’s mostly reachable”. That’s certainly not the most quantifiable statement in the world, but still sounds more like “sometimes unavailable” than “frequently unavailable”.
            (Although of course even a “sometimes unavailable” can be frustrating if it’s always exactly when you need the person, especially combined with his not telling anyone/only one person about his absences in the first place.)

            1. Temperance

              She also states that she doesn’t really need to contact him, and that he doesn’t bother to tell people when he’s home instead of working.

              It’s not really impacting her whatsoever, so while I know we generally take LWs at their word, it’s also incredibly likely that his reports who need him aren’t able to get in touch.

              1. BookWorm

                LW #3 here. Yes, that is their complaint. I don’t need to be in touch with him as frequently as his other direct reports, so I don’t want to be included in the “We don’t like you working from home” talk.

                1. Liet-Kinda (nee Snark)

                  If they frame it like that, it’s going to blow up on them. “We need to know better what your work schedule is and have a better way of getting in touch when you’re not at work” is a reasonable request. “We don’t like you working from home” is going to be insanely confrontational and if I were him I’d get intensely pissed at their presumption.

            2. aebhel

              It may be a factor in OP’s specific job, though: if it’s not impacting her directly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not impacting anyone directly, although it still makes sense that she wouldn’t want to be involved in the complaint.

            1. Temperance

              Sure, but being unavailable because you’re parenting while working is NOT part of being a supervisor.

              1. serenity

                Fine, but that’s something that boss’s manager should be in the loop on and should intervene if need be. The situation as presented in the letter (direct reports who are furious and are on the verge of “confronting” their manager) is not the way to address this.

      2. Lioness

        If he’s making soup for the children while working from home, there’s a pretty good chance the kids are there with him.

        1. Airy

          Or he’s preparing meals that can be frozen or chilled and reheated when needed during a time when the kids are not home and so he can just concentrate on cooking efficiently (eg get the stock started, answer some work emails at the kitchen table while it simmers, not need to help anyone build a Lego frog or get them to stop teasing their sibling at the same time). Getting together a stockpile of meals like that so when the children are at home he and his husband can get their dinner ready quickly and easily and thus have more free time to talk to the children, play with them, generally build up trust and a family bond, would make sense. Honestly, I think the main thing he needs to do is just to let the office know promptly when he’ll be out and how to reach him (or who to go to instead of him) during that time – that’s all the staff should ask for, and in a calm, “this has become a problem so let’s find a solution” tone rather than a furious “you have wronged us with your feckless child-fostering soup-making ways” tone.

          1. Temperance

            He also shouldn’t be doing meal prep when working, if that’s what you’re suggesting.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale

              No, he shouldn’t. But I think this type of thing warrants a conversation (“Since you’ve started fostering the kids, we’ve been unsure about your schedule, can you help us figure out a system so we know your availability,” etc.) rather than an ambush. I also think the director should have taken full-on leave, especially at first, but that’s neither here nor there, especially since it sounds like the guy hasn’t been with the company for very long. Fostering can be a life explosion, especially since it’s rare to have significant time to prepare for the kids to arrive. I’m not shocked that the director is finding work and life hard to juggle. Which is not to say that it’s fair to his reports, just that I’m pretty sympathetic.

              I’m torn. I think the OP should stay out of it on one hand, but on the other, if someone came to me and said they were planning to have a group confrontation about this, I’d raise some objections.

            2. Em too

              Agreed, but he may be counting that as his lunch break rather than work time.

              Sounds like he’s not helping anyone by giving so much detail. If there’s genuinely an issue with response times, even when people try email/phone, they need to focus on that but I can’t tell whether there is. Or do they just want him to be working full time and find it a pain that he isn’t?

            3. serenity

              ??

              If the boss being out-of-office is a work issue, then that would be a legitimate concern to raise. If that’s not the case, and if as the OP said he is in fact reachable, then this isn’t a legitimate grievance for his direct reports. It certainly isn’t their place to dictate what the boss can and cannot do when he is working from home.

            4. Joielle

              What? He’s allowed to take breaks when working from home, who cares if he’s using them to make coffee or do laundry or cook? The issue of what he’s doing with his breaks at home is completely irrelevant. All the employees should care about is whether he is available within a reasonable amount of time (i.e. similar to what it would be when he’s in the office) when they need him.

              1. Isabel Kunkle

                This. If you’re taking five minutes every hour or so to stir the soup/swap clothes to the dryer/etc, I’m not seeing how it’s different from taking the same five minutes to make coffee in the breakroom or tell the person at the next desk about your weekend plans. In fact, I think it’s better in many ways, because the duration and time are considerably more predictable.

            5. Yorick

              No, he probably shouldn’t be, but his reports aren’t the ones who should be monitoring that.

    3. Guacamole Bob

      Aren’t new foster parents eligible for leave under FMLA? With the shortened hours, the boss may be taking parental leave in an unusual format (and trying to keep things afloat at work without having had the chance to plan for a replacement or a full leave). But even if he’s not, it sounds like he’s gotten slammed into the deep end of the working parent juggling act. Plus, as all of us in the US have witnessed in the news these last few months, toddlers and preschoolers are old enough that suddenly finding themselves in a new living situation is traumatic, even if it’s in their long-term best interest, so these kids are likely high needs at the moment. I feel for this guy who is probably doing his best on all fronts in a really tough transition.

      If his new schedule or availability is actually causing work problems, I agree that his employees need to speak up. And if he’s been less than family-friendly as a boss in the past, then I get the anger. But if these coworkers just want to speak up out of a sense of righteous indignation because one day he mentioned that he was throwing some stuff in the crock pot while he was on a conference call, then they really need to chill. It sounds like he’s worked something out with his own management and that management is trying to support him as best they can, and his employees need to respect that.

      1. BookWorm

        LW #3 here. He took 7 weeks of FLMA leave this summer when the kids first came to live with him.

        1. anon4now

          Ugh, doesn’t he have a husband? I would think co-parenting with a partner could help him make him more available.
          I wouldn’t get involved TBH. And while it may not be an issue where you live, gay men getting married and adopting children can still be somewhat of a prickly subject, esp in the south ( and no one wants to be accused of homophobia or scold a clingy first-time parent).
          I would just tell your coworkers you don’t want to be involved with this. It doesn’t impact your work (yet?) so it really isn’t a issue for you.

          1. Guacamole Bob

            We don’t know that he isn’t splitting the sick time with his husband. When my twins were 1-2 years old, there were stretches where they were each out for a couple of days a month with a variety of illnesses. If one gets hand, foot, and mouth disease and is out for 3 days, and then the other gets it, you need a parent home for a week. They got a lot of things sequentially and it sucked. Plus most child care centers have a rule that kids have to be fever-free for 24 hours before they can come back, so that tacks on a day to almost any minor illness – my kids ran fevers with the slightest sniffle.

            1. anon4now

              “They got a lot of things sequentially and it sucked”
              Like a big promotion to Director, only to start spending most time at home with 2 foster kids they’re attempting to adopt? Your situation I’m assuming involved you trying to have kids, not suddenly fostering 2 kids and then trying to adopt them quickly (gay couples get the advantage of creating their own timeline for this: it could happen in 2 months or 10 years) on the heels of a big promotion.
              And while children should come first (I guess? I don’t have any), it shouldn’t come at the expense of unavailability when you’re a now a Director. Fortunately, his unavailability doesn’t really affect the OP’s job, and I’m not sure how his constant absence affects the rest of the workforce.

              1. Guacamole Bob

                Wow. Yes, my situation was that we were able to time when we had our children, but lots and lots of people don’t have a lot of control over when they have children. Foster care and adoption timelines are long and unpredictable. Conceiving the old fashioned way can be unpredictable and many couples struggle with infertility. Couples who aren’t relying on one partner’s ability to get pregnant may have other reasons for wanting children at the age of 32 instead of 42 or 52.

                Promotions and kids and major life events are not entirely within anyone’s control. They may have started the process to be approved as foster parents well before the promotion and had it take longer than expected, or not expected things to move so quickly, or not expected the promotion at all but it was too good a career move to turn down. Life doesn’t move along a neat and orderly path where we all get to pick exactly how each piece moves so things line up conveniently.

                “It could happen in 2 months or 10 years” pretty much describes the process of adopting a child, based on people I know who adopted – you just don’t know how the process will go or what will be required for the specific children who end up in your care. The attitude that OP’s boss is kind of irresponsible for having these major life changes line up this way is really troubling and judgmental.

                1. anon4now

                  The crux of your argument is a big “What if?” so I’m not really sure how to respond. Some people have control over it, some don’t, as with anything and everything in our lives.
                  “Promotions and kids and major life events are not entirely within anyone’s control” This isn’t true in this scenario. The OP’s boss taking in foster children is a choice he had control over (I mean, right?). The timing of it (coinciding with his promotion) is not specified so I don’t know if the promotion influenced the decision to foster children or not.
                  “The attitude that OP’s boss is kind of irresponsible for having these major life changes line up this way is really troubling and judgmental.”
                  Deciding to stay at home with children when you have a job that requires time you’re not willing to give is irresponsible. Whether that’s actually happening or not, I don’t know. But your “wow” response and insistence that I’m judging uncontrollable situations is what’s really troubling to me.

                2. Staphylococcus anonymous

                  “Deciding to stay at home with children when you have a job that requires time you’re not willing to give is irresponsible.”

                  Late Stage Capitalism, everybody.

              2. Chameleon

                If you think adoption means you get to choose when the child comes, you are woefully uninformed. When you do pregnancy, you at least have a roughly 9-month prep period, unlike my friend who adopted her daughter. She was on the waiting list for two years until she was called one day and told “hey, get to the hospital, because you are getting a newborn today!”

                1. biobotb

                  @anon4now, I think Chameleon is responding to “gay couples get the advantage of creating their own timeline for this.”

                  Which, as Chameleon notes, isn’t really true of adoption. You don’t get to choose when the baby comes. Being on a wait list for adoption is not unlike being a heterosexual couple trying to get pregnant in that you don’t really know when it’s going to “happen”. One of the differences is that when it “happens” for adoption, you’re handed a baby, not a pregnancy.

              3. ket

                Your reply really doesn’t make sense. Guacamole Bob is referring to getting illnesses sequentially; I’m not sure if your comment about getting a promotion sequentially is sarcasm or a misunderstanding of GBob’s statement.

                In addition, pregnancy (once started) is super-predictable compared to adoption. Again, I don’t understand if you’re confused or being sarcastic about the “advantage of creating their own timeline”. The friends I’ve had in the adoption process have all been waiting longer than my entire pregnancy and kid’s childhood; my kid is in toddler daycare now and came at more or less 9 months of gestation as expected. The friends adopting, on the other hand, have either not been matched, or have been matched & unmatched (“she’s coming in August! wait no never mind you’ll never see her again!”), or have been matched, finished the remodel on the house, and then been unmatched (“they’ll be here in time for school to start make sure the rooms are ready! wait no never mind!”) . They’ve cancelled all their vacations for a year just in case that weekend is the weekend that the kids will come. No kids yet, despite 4 years for some of them. I, by contrast, went to Italy when 4 months pregnant because I was super sure I would not have a baby that week.

                1. anon4now

                  I’m trying to understand how Guacamole Bob’s personal story to the OP’s story (his young twins’ illnesses that were out of his control are NOT the same thing as making a choice to foster children and assuming any subsequent illness for said foster children).
                  I never said adoption was predictable, only a choice you willingly make. This isn’t always the case when a woman becomes pregnant. Also miscarriages, birth defects, twins, triplets, preemies, stillborns etc, do not make pregnancy this predictable 9 month period of joy.

                2. Guacamole Bob

                  @anon4now, my comment was directed at your question about why the husband couldn’t do more of the child care when the kids were sick so that OP’s boss could be more available. And I hoped that my experience would illustrate that you can’t know that he isn’t doing so in this circumstance, because when you have multiple young children starting in a new care environment, they can get sick a *lot*, and be out for several days at a time each time they do get sick.

                  I chose to start a family and had to deal with balancing the typical frequent illnesses of my young children with my work responsibilities. OP’s boss is doing the same thing, after starting a family in a different way. I don’t really understand why you see these things as so different.

                  You seem to be saying that adoptive and foster parents should be cut less slack than biological parents because the pregnancy could have been accidental? That seems… odd to me, but I’m having trouble interpreting your second paragraph any other way. FWIW, I’m a woman married to a woman, so everyone knew (or assumed) that I’d been very intentional about getting pregnant. Does that mean my coworkers should have been more frustrated by the time I took off to care for my sick kids?

          2. Liet-Kinda (nee Snark)

            “Ugh, doesn’t he have a husband? I would think co-parenting with a partner could help him make him more available.”

            This is not a particularly warranted assumption.

            1. anon4now

              Having 2 parents raise children may make them a little more available individually, rather than a single parent raising children, which may make the single parent less available?
              Which part of this assumption is unwarranted exactly?

              1. Liet-Kinda (nee Snark)

                Because, just riffing here, maybe the husband takes mornings before school. Maybe the husband’s job requires a lot of overtime, or his physical presence to provide coverage. Maybe the LW’s boss has a particularly strong rapport with a troubled foster kid and needs to be there as much as possible. Maybe a thousand things. There’s so much there you don’t know about the husband’s availability and their internal household business that you can’t possibly assume anything about whether the husband makes him more available or not.

                1. Nita

                  That’s very true. Although, it’s not really uncommon that when one parent does that – takes on the lion’s share of things that make them look flaky at work – they do look flaky at work, and their career suffers the consequences.

                2. BookWorm

                  LW #3 here. Director is the primary parent in this situation. Husband is finishing grad school and his job is not as flexible, so he’s less available than Director.

            2. Dragoning

              I agree. And I think it’s pretty awful to demand that someone…well, not parent their own kids because they have someone else to do it, in theory.

              1. anon4now

                “Co-parenting” refers to sharing time with the children not having “someone else to do it”. Nor do I demand anyone to do anything. Good grief!

    4. Lisa B

      If they’ve “recently” taken them in, couldn’t the director be doing some type of approved work hour reduction through FMLA? My company approves FMLA for parental leave either due to birth of new baby OR adoption. I’m not really understanding all the frustration here so I’m sure I’m missing something. I get being perturbed at not being able to get ahold of your boss, but THAT seems to be the more issue.

    5. Zennish

      The employees don’t get to decide the director’s schedule, or evaluate his efficiency. It’s not hypocritical, it’s hierarchy. Some days I leave early, or come in late. Some days I’m responding to email or running reports from home at midnight. Neither is the business of my direct reports, or their direct reports.

      I’d stay out of it, and assume that the director’s boss/board/whatever is providing appropriate oversight. Even if they aren’t, that still doesn’t somehow deputize the staff to handle it.

      1. biobotb

        If your reports can’t reach you when necessary, or your being away from the office is interfering with their ability to get their work done, your schedule *is* their business. No, they can’t dictate your schedule to you, but they do have the right to point out that they can’t reach you and your choices are impeding their work.

        1. aebhel

          This. And assuming that the workplace isn’t totally dysfunctional, it makes sense to talk to him about it directly rather than going to the board of directors (who may very well not be providing appropriate oversight).

          It doesn’t sound like OP’s coworkers are handling the issue well, but ‘never point out to your boss that their availability or lack thereof is impacting your ability to get work done’ is not a great idea in a functional workplace.

        2. Gazebo Slayer

          +1000000

          If you’re the one making the big bucks you can be damn sure your work schedule is their business.

        3. Zennish

          True…being out of contact is a separate issue, and does need to be addressed with him. It just seemed to me there was too much emphasis on being outraged over his schedule, which really isn’t theirs to oversee.

    6. Gazebo Slayer

      Yes, and ugh. I am not enthusiastic about WFH arrangements for managers and other higher-paid folks if their lower-paid colleagues don’t get similar perks, especially if the higher-ups are caring for kids or otherwise multitasking while they WFH. An unpopular opinion here at AAM, to be sure, but I find it galling and excessively unequal and unfair to give the perks to the people who are being paid more. Especially if it interferes with their direct reports consulting them when needed. Surely if you’re making six figures you can be bothered to actually show up to the office like the receptionist who’s paid a fifth of your salary does.

      (I once had a boss who was rarely at her desk, almost never answered emails or phone calls, and gave me a bunch of outdated, self-contradictory documentation; she then blamed me for not intuiting exactly how I was to do all my work. I, a temp, ended up getting my assignment ended early because of her refusal to do her job. When managers are inaccessible, their reports end up suffering the consequences.)

    1. Alldogsarepuppies

      At first I was really confused why she told us the email subject line (I googled the phrase because I had no clue what she meant) but I’m so glad she did.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It took me a few attempts to hear the pun, but once I did, it made me so happy.

    3. valentine

      OP #4: I’d tell finance, in case they want to sell it to add to the funds and use the story in future fundraising. (You’ve already done the checking.) I would in no way end up with any part of the funds. The story may be misremembered/-reported as “that time OP took [monetary value increasing over time]/made change from the funds”. Just no.

      1. Rat in the Sugar

        Personally I doubt that the finance department will want to sell it; I’m already wrinkling my nose just thinking about procedures and approvals and taxes, and I don’t think it’s likely they would want to deal with that over just $10. My company is a federal contractor, and it would probably cost more than $10 in just the time it took for someone to look up any regulations that might apply.

        Of course, even if they don’t care about trying to get the money, they may still say no to OP because they don’t want to deal with procedures/approvals for swapping it any more than they want to deal with all that for selling it.

        Or the person you ask might say “sure” and swap it on the spot, who knows! You might have better luck asking someone with more seniority/ experience in the finance department. I know that as a nervous young clerk I would likely have refused just because it was an unusual request and made me nervous, but if you asked me today I’d just flip the coin over to you.

        1. Seriously?

          Yep. Ask and see what they say. I would suspect that they would be ok so long as you replaced it with equal value. The records usually have the total value, not the specific types of coins collected.

          1. Justme, The OG

            I see you have never had to do a vault count where you count every bill and coin that is there. We don’t unwrap the coins but we do unwrap the stacks of bills. Sometimes the specific coins are counted, but it does not matter if the fifty cents is a Kennedy half dollar or ten dimes.

            1. Seriously?

              It defiantly might matter depending on the job, but usually 50 cents is 50 cents. That is why is is best not to assume it won’t matter and simply ask.

          2. Lisa B

            I’m an auditor, and I would definitely care if the records show five twenties but the vault actually has an actual $100 bill. That tells me somebody is swapping money around and now all my fraud alarm bells are going off.

    4. BookishMiss

      It really made me so happy. Great start to the morning =)

      Having worked in banking, I’ve been in a similar situation. Run it by management to be safe.

      1. Loose Seal

        Me too. We used to have people looking for all sorts of coins or bills. Not necessarily ones that were worth more than face value either, like when a teller was putting together a coin collection of coins minted in her some-to-be 18-year-old’s birth year. We used to have to get a witness to just watch us trade out the coin we wanted for a same coin (type and face value) from our purse/pocket.

        Even if we happened to get in a very rare bill, like a $500 bill, we had to count it as it’s face value. An employee could buy it from their drawer for face value, using the witness method, just like they could buy a 1982 penny (which is worth 1 cent to collectors, as far as I know).

        In other words, trading out was no big deal. Trading out without a witness was a very, very big deal. You’d be fired over it.

        1. LJay

          Yup. When I worked in a cash room, this is how we did it as well. Needed a witness to ensure you weren’t just plain stealing or doing unequal trades, but other than that it was not a big deal at all.

          I used to have a nice collection of silver coins, silver certificates, and some other odd ball stuff that came through.

    5. Doug Judy

      Between “Moral coindery” and “We Crumb From the Land Down Under” muffin stand on The Good Place, it’s been a very satisfying pun week.

    6. why not

      It’s possible that the coin was contributed by mistake. I think it should be put aside for a while in case the contributor realizes their error and wants to get it back.

      1. SignalLost

        Same one yesterday asking why Marvel doesn’t put ads on the Hulk, since he’s just a big Banner.

  3. KR

    #2.. is there some sort of employee assistance fund you could donate to, or a PTO bank you can donate time to? Since you’re in HR, can you find out what charities your company’s EAP usually refers people to and donate the raise to that cause?

    1. Greg NY

      The problem with donating to a charity is that it won’t help the LW’s coworkers, and while a PTO bank might make some difference, the problem for the coworkers may be more monetary (they need more actual dollars rather than more time off for the same pay) or the LW may be doing OK financially but have little PTO themselves.

      1. Ender

        I would assume that 2% of a single persons salary spread across the many frontline employees wouldn’t help the employees much either. It sounds like a big company (multiple directors, millions in grants) so there must be a lot of frontline employees.

        OP have you actually calculated how much your raise would come to per person if it was spread across all the frontline employees? It might come out a lot less than you think, especially after Tax.

        1. valentine

          OP#2: Rejecting the raise (or any money you earned, especially the highest amount) or just plain telling your employer you don’t need a raise could be a setback for you. Your colleagues probably want their own money, not yours, in part because it isn’t sustainable and doing this, even if it worked, or if you were to outright give them your money, might cost you future raises. See if they want you involved in seeking higher wages and, if so, organize with them.

      2. KR

        It’s definitely not a perfect solution, but an option. If the letter writer doesn’t have PTO to spare or doesn’t feel like it’s an effective way to help their coworkers, I suppose they won’t do it.

  4. anon today and tomorrow

    #1: I completely sympathize with you, OP! I have an extreme phobia of snakes to the point that if I turn a page in a magazine or book and see a picture of one, my heart jumps and I become terrified. I instinctively cover my eyes and ears and curl into a ball when one comes onto a TV program / movie. I won’t even go into a building if I know a snake is there because I’m terrified it’ll get loose and I’ll come into contact with it.

    It’s bad. I really, really understand how this impacts you in the workplace because for a few years I worked in textbook publishing and had to request to be removed from biology/zoology/and other books that had pictures of snakes because it made me a nervous wreck. I’m lucky that I had an understanding manager (not so lucky that I had a jerk of a coworker who thought it’d be “a fun prank” to get a rubber snake and place it in my cube. My reaction still embarrasses me, but to this day I refuse to tell people I have an extreme phobia because I’m worried someone else will try to use it against me).

    Good luck, and I hope it works out for you!

    1. Anonymous for this comment

      This may be outside the confines of what this comment section is about, but I just wanted to drop a line about exposure and response prevention therapy. I thought my phobias and other issues were “just there” or just something I would always have to avoid, but this type of intervention really changed my life! Not living in fear of irrational things anymore = huge quality of life increase for me. I thought of this when I read Letter #1 and your comment. I hope this is helpful and not prying

      1. anon today and tomorrow

        I know you mean well, but I’ve had people mention this before and it’s not really helpful. I was pressured into trying it and it just made my phobia worse than before.

        At the end of the day, it’s extreme when it occurs, but I don’t live a day to day life where I encounter snakes enough and I’m perfectly content just avoiding TV channels / magazines that feature them or fast forwarding through shows or movies when they’re on screen.

        I’m glad exposure therapy works for some people, but it’s not for everyone.

        1. Anonymous for this

          Yeah, I mean if it doesn’t interfere with your life on a regular basis then that works out! There is a difference between just exposure therapy ( often from a general therapist) and specifically exposure and response prevention therapy. My phobias were not possible to avoid in day to day life so it was time for a change

        2. Anonymous for this comment

          My phobias were frequently occurring things that I couldn’t avoid day to day, so I needed to make a change ASAP. But I’m glad you can find a way around yours and it doesn’t get in your way! There is a significant difference between just “exposure therapy” and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

        3. Jo

          I have a severe spider phobia too and although I’ve not tried it I’m sceptical that exposure therapy would work for me, I think it might just make it worse. I’ve considered hypnotherapy, which at least wouldn’t involve exposure to spiders (I hope) but it would need someone pretty good to sort out my phobia, as I don’t even like looking at the word spider, never mind pictures or models of them!

          1. Nopenopenope

            Yes, even the thought of being exposed frightens me. I feel like the first step would be being exposed to the idea of exposure therapy.

            1. Airy

              I think that’s how it goes – the idea is to build up your confidence gradually and let you get used to exposure by degrees, in a controlled way where you have the support of your therapist and can stop when you need to. It’s not to expose you to the subject of the phobia suddenly or by surprise or in a situation where you can’t get away from it, because all of those are likely to intensify and further ingrain the panic response. Having a series of controlled experiences in which you learn that although you may be stressed, nothing terrible actually happens, and you can feel you are taking control of the situation rather than being ambushed by it, gradually weakens the panic response. No one should be rushed or pressured into it.

            2. Heynonniemouse

              That is, in fact, exactly how exposure therapy programs work. There’s a lot of prep work and teaching of techniques to manage the anxiety that happens before any exposure. No reputable program would force participants to do something, because that’s completely counterproductive.

          2. Anonymous for this comment

            If done correctly by the therapist, it’s not supposed to make it worse because of the response prevention step in the process. You’re rating your level of discomfort through each exposure, and you’re meant to be in a kind of a sweet spot to make sure you’re challenging yourself while not being too overwhelmed. Then you gradually increase as tolerated. For these reasons I would recommend going to somebody who specializes and has training in this and not just your regular therapist, as they could accidentally be too heavy handed. Of course would depend on where you live as to whether you would have a ton of your people in your area who are trained on this, though. Not everyone might want to try it, but if a phobia is seriously getting in the way of one’s life it’s nice to have it as an option!

            1. Sunglow28

              I had a needle phobia so severe I punched my husband on the face in panic when I had to get emergency bloodwork for suspected appendicitis. CBTd a nd a panic and phobia group helped immensely. I had to start by sitting in a waiting room, progressing to watching others, touching a needle, sitting in the chair, and finally getting blood work.

              I regret waiting so long to get help for my phobia. I was too afraid to get pregnant until I dealt with this (a good choice; I got gestational diabetes and I am not sure that I could have dealt with it before treatment) but it delayed childbearing to the point where I am old now and having to IVF for a second pregnancy. That’s right… My needle phobia earned me… A whole ton of needles. Sigh.

              All that said, my life is freer with CBT help and my regret is waiting so long.

              1. Nopenopenope

                You’ve inspired me to get help for my needlephobia. It would suck if all it got me was more needles down the line.

              2. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

                I am not phobic, just totally squicked, but that’s from having a chronic illness & getting SO MANY IVs & blood draws even when I was a little kid. Not that it’s stopped, but I do get a lot less because treatments for my medical issues have improved a GREAT deal since I was a kid in the 70s.
                Some people think that’s hysterically funny because I have all sorts of tattoos & piercings, but one is on the surface, and the other is internal SQUICK. The difference to me is HUGE.

          3. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

            I’ve had a significant spider phobia my entire life, and still do, (earlier this year, my husband saw a spider on the bed, and I almost pushed him into the blasting space heater in my panic trying to get away…I was saved by the cat, who ate it) but I have owned tarantulas and done other exposure to lessen it because I don’t want to be controlled by an irrational fear of what are actually beautiful and extremely beneficial critters.
            I’ve done this with other phobias as well, on my own (didn’t have money or insurance for therapists at the time) and while it hasn’t made them go away, it has made them more manageable.
            YMMV, as always! Just wanted the jump in and say that sometimes, even without the help of professionals, exposure can really help.
            And all my empathy & sympathy to everyone else out there with irrational fears. They friggin SUCK.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        This is really not helpful. You’re assuming that someone has access to adequate and affordable health care and can seek out this type of treatment.

        1. EOA

          Isn’t this comment a little like “not everyone can eat sandwiches”? Yes, it is an unfortunate fact of life that not everyone has health insurance but many people do and yet aren’t aware that there are effective treatments for phobia.

          Saying that a comment isn’t “helpful” because not everyone has access to insurance is, IMO, unhelpful in and of itself.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago

            It’s also not appropriate to offer medical advice to strangers on the internet. Nor do we have any way of knowing what someone might have tried in the past. It’s completely outside the scope of this blog.

            1. Almond Butter

              Your really reaching here all around. This is not really medical advice its hey I have an issue like yours and this worked for me. No one is determining via web md of what could be wrong the OP. The OP has revealed she has a severe phobia spiders the commenter isn’t diagnosing her just offering up what worked for her as a potential option.

              1. Falling Diphthong

                Yeah, this is like the textbook example of when it’s okay to carefully offer medical advice–both you and the person writing have the same condition. (Or symptoms.) Rather than their officemate does this, or you once read an article.

            2. Purple wombat

              I’m pretty sure Alison has said in the past that’s it’s all right to share medical steps you have taken that worked for you.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Yes — it’s fine with me if people want to say “this is what worked for me.” What I ask people to avoid is “it sounds like you have condition X” or “you need treatment Y.”

            3. EOA

              Others have already responded, but I will just say that as someone who has dealt with and continues to deal with phobias, I don’t see a poster saying, “hey, this is something that worked for me in dealing with my phobias” as “medical advice.”

              Furthermore, the idea that no one can offer any advice because we don’t know what someone has tried in the past basically precludes offering ANY kind of advice. Are you saying that people can only make suggestions if they have a complete history of a poster?

              In any case, the original poster was able pretty well to handle the conversation, without telling the second poster that the very suggestion of their advice is offensive. Such an attitude is going to preclude an individual offering any advice unless it meets a truly unreasonable standard.

        2. Liet-Kinda (nee Snark)

          And if that is not an option for her, I think she can determine that and disregard as appropriate. She doesn’t need you scolding anon today on her behalf, and your response is sort of preemptively aggressive in a way that is itself not actually helpful to the OP.

          The suggestion, however, could be helpful, and the possibility that it might not be does not make it automatically less so.

        3. Yorick

          Well, everybody should know about treatments that are available, and then they can decide for themselves that they can’t afford them or whatever.

        4. Roscoe

          Oh come on now. I get being conscious of differences, but this is getting a bit much. That’s like saying “have you tried walking around to wake up in the middle of the day” then saying “that is ableist”. Like, sure, not everyone has insurance. But the mere suggestion of something that may help isn’t problematic on its own.

        5. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

          I did my own phobia exposure to lower my reactions because I don’t like being controlled by irrational fears. No therapist necessary, I didn’t have the money or insurance for one either.
          I don’t think there is anything wrong with someone mentioning that there IS an available treatment for those who have a specific issue and may not know it exists. They are not diagnosing, or giving medical advice, or demanding people Do This Thing, they are letting them know there is a genuine and effective option that works for many people. I see ZERO harm in that.

      3. Sunflower

        Fellow arachnophobe here. Exposure therapy is definitely not for everyone but it did help me a bit. To be clear, I’m not “cured”– I won’t be kissing spiders or getting one as a pet any time soon. But it got me to the point that I can deal with a tiny spider in my house without panicking, and that’s enough for me.

        All the sympathies for the LW, I hope your boss can at least do you the kindness of putting Legs away or draping something over the cube when you’ve got meetings.

        1. OP #1

          Actually the spider is encased in a rectangular piece of glass (and is definitely fake as it doesn’t have eight eyes or the mouth pincers, the thing that scares me most about spiders) and she moved into her office yesterday. She’s decided that she’s going to put it in her window, so I might just ask her to close the blinds or put it in her desk during meetings. But I’ll talk to Emily first to get a feel for how Carolina deals with that sort of thing.

          1. anonforthis

            She’s putting it in her window??

            Am I the only one who thinks this is kind of a weird, aggressive thing to do? Being squicked out by spiders is pretty common – even people without spider phobias probably don’t like them or want to be surprised by a giant one. Being grossed out by bugs, spiders, and snakes is common enough that I would think that someone who is insisted on displaying lifelike ones in their office is being deliberately off-putting (unless you work in a zoo or etymologist’s office or whatever).

            We have two neighbors who have large pet snakes and they sometimes go to our local 7-11 with the snakes draped around their shoulders. I don’t mind snakes and actually like to pat them and watch them breathing, but enough people are grossed out by snakes – and these are BIG snakes – that I find their decision to tote the snakes around to the corner store to be deliberately provocative.

            I’m a big true crime fan, but I’m not going to put crime scene photos up in my office because most people would find them disturbing. I feel like this is kind of the same thing.

            1. Indigo a la mode

              I don’t think “aggressive” is fair. It’s okay to like what you like, even if it’s unconventional. Lots of people have those bugs encased in amber or ceremonial knives or whatever – things that could be uncomfortable for some but are just fascinating to others. (Fellow true crime fan!) Casually displaying something of interest to you isn’t harmful, so long as you’re understanding if someone tells you that is *is* harming them. I sympathize with the OP, but phobias are by definition irrational and Carolina isn’t doing anything wrong. I bet she’ll be totally reasonable and accommodating when told about the OP’s plight.

              Taking large snakes into a public store seems like wholly a different thing – and I very much like snakes.

              1. CommanderBanana

                I like a lot of unconventional things – my entire house is decorated in a skull-and-bones motif with a lot of unsettling pictures. I’m talking specifically about things that a LOT of people have phobias about: snakes and spiders. I like them both, I think they’re cute, but I still wouldn’t have them in my office because I know that more people than don’t find them unsettling and/or terrifying.

                1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

                  Would you feel the same about someone who regularly wore spider or snake jewelry, or printed clothing (before you say it wouldnt be work appropriate or it would be costumey or ‘goth’, I own a beautiful 1940s rayon dress with a floral, spiderweb, and spider print, that is perfectly conservative and appropriate for all but the most formal workplaces. That type of print was VERY popular, and normal, at one time; jewelry too)? Or had visible tattoos of spiders and snakes? Would you consider THAT to be aggressive or deliberately provocative, because some people have phobias of same? I am arachnophobic, and I have to say that I still completely disagree with you, because people like what they like, and nobody is required to alter their interests or lifestyles just because SOME people don’t like it or are yes, even phobic.
                  Should a person who loves birds & takes their parrot or cockatoo out in public with them stop doing so because there are a lot of bird phobic people in the world? Lots of people are actually afraid of dogs, too, but I doubt you’d feel that those who walk their dogs or take them to dog friendly parks & establishments are being aggressive or deliberately provacative to those with fears. How about those who love rats and take their pet rats everywhere?
                  I’m a little extra miffed by this because I’m a very unconventional person, and always have been, and cannot COUNT the number of people who just blatantly assume I am purposely so just to be aggressive, make a statement, or be deliberately provocative, when actually it’s, no, this is just the person I am, I’d be this way if I lived on the moon or in the middle of the Sahara with no people around whatsoever, why can’t you just leave me alone and let me live my life like everyone else. People aren’t taking their snakes in public or displaying spider models “at” you or anyone else, and it really bothers me that you are suggesting or assuming otherwise.

            2. Michaela Westen

              Some people really like spiders. I once met a woman who had a spider tattooed on her neck. I asked why and she said she has always loved spiders.
              The snakes probably enjoy the outing… the owners want the snakes to be happy…

              1. LJay

                Honestly, as a snake owner, the snakes are probably neutral at best about the outing.

                Hanging out outside in the grass and sun they probably like.

                Going into the 711 specifically mine would not have cared about or would have stressed them out if there were a lot of people moving around them. (I mean he would like to climb all on the shelves and hook himself to an end-cap, but that’s because he’s a pain in the butt and none of that would be allowed so no fun for him.)

            3. smoke tree

              If it’s an exterior window (which is what I’m imagining here), unless she’s on the ground floor, it’s probably not going to be recognizable to anyone. It’s possible she’s being provocative, but I’d say equally or more possible that she’s just clueless. I like spiders, snakes, scorpions, bees and other animals that many people are afraid of, and I can see myself putting up related decor just because I like it. But I’ve known enough people with phobias that I wouldn’t do it unless it were really stylized, and even then, I’d be prepared to take it down.

          2. TardyTardis

            Oh, dear, that’s not good (I mean, having someone show me a tarantula in a plastic box in order to gross me out was bad enough, but he won’t do *that* again). It does seem a bit off to put one in a window.

        2. Michaela Westen

          Yes, a spider phobia could interfere a lot with life because they’re so common. I lived on the first floor over a basement, spiders in my apt. were common. Now I live over a garage and they’re not unusual. It must be demoralizing to come across a small harmless spider and have such a strong reaction. I don’t mind them myself, especially since they eat harmful bugs like mosquitoes! :)

      4. OP #1

        With all due respect.

        no no no No No No NO NO NO!

        I once went to a traveling exhibit of Harry Potter costumes and prop and got stuck next to the prop of the giant spider for about ten minutes and almost broke down crying on the floor from a panic attack.

        Heck, I used to exit out of threads on this website when the commenter (Thursday’s Child?) would appear because their picture was a spider.

        1. Just Another Attorney

          I love HP but I hate that they are prevalent in the series. I recently went to a HP themed night hosted by a local venue. They had this “secret” room for adults only which, from what I saw, included some cool things. But I didn’t stay long because as soon as I noticed those things being used as decorations in the corners or the ceilings, I literally had a panic attacked, ran out (nearly knocking others over), and almost hyperventilated. WHY JK?! WHY DID YOU HAVE TO INCLUDE THEM!?!

        2. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish

          Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. I would not have been able to handle that, so I am extremely impressed that you made it without an actual panic attack.

        3. CommanderBanana

          She’s putting it in her window??

          Am I the only one who thinks this is kind of a weird, aggressive thing to do? Being squicked out by spiders is pretty common – even people without spider phobias probably don’t like them or want to be surprised by a giant one. Being grossed out by bugs, spiders, and snakes is common enough that I would think that someone who is insisted on displaying lifelike ones in their office is being deliberately off-putting (unless you work in a zoo or etymologist’s office or whatever).

          We have two neighbors who have large pet snakes and they sometimes go to our local 7-11 with the snakes draped around their shoulders. I don’t mind snakes and actually like to pat them and watch them breathing, but enough people are grossed out by snakes – and these are BIG snakes – that I find their decision to tote the snakes around to the corner store to be deliberately provocative.

          I’m a big true crime fan, but I’m not going to put crime scene photos up in my office because most people would find them disturbing. I feel like this is kind of the same thing.

        4. ThursdaysGeek

          Oh, that was me. I commented below in this thread too. And yes, that is why I took off my gravatar – someone asked.

          1. Nopenopenope

            Thank you again for doing that. I used to skim past your posts because I was afraid of the spider :( Now I can enjoy your posts!

          2. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

            Wow…I am highly arachnophobic, panic attacks and all, even my stress dreams/nightmares all involve tons of huge spiders, and I still CAN NOT EVEN that anyone had the nerve to ask you that. If something like that bothers me, I just grit my teeth and DEAL, because I HATE being controlled by irrational fears, and I would also NEVER expect anyone else to manage my phobia for me.
            You are extraordinarily nice to have given in to them, and I am truly sorry that anyone felt they had the right to ask you this at all.

    2. Ralkana

      I am sort of dealing with the same problem right now. I am fairly arachnophobic (I can’t even really deal well with images of spiders, even cartoony ones), and my coworkers have decorated the front of the office with fake webs complete with fake inhabitants. I am only okay because i don’t work in that part of the office, so I don’t see them very often . If I did work up there, I would have to ask if we could take them down.

      When I mentioned that, one of my coworkers said, laughing, “we’re gonna find a really ugly one, and we’re gonna put it on — ”

      I immediately cut her off and said, with no trace of a smile, “I am warning you right now, I will not find that funny in the slightest. Don’t.”

      My severity must have gotten through to her, because she instantly stopped smiling and said, “we won’t.”

      I would not be okay with something like what the OP described. Just thinking of it makes me shudder. Good luck, OP, I hope you can figure out a way to work around it.

      1. anon today and tomorrow

        I generally find that people who don’t have phobias don’t always understand that fear and phobias are really different. But to be honest, I just don’t really understand why people find it funny to scare someone on purpose.

        If you say you’re scared of spiders, why tease someone about scaring them with spiders? I remember when I was about 6 and America’s Funniest Home Videos was popular, there was a segment of people wrapping up snakes as presents and having people open them and laughing when they became scared or chasing them around with the snake. I refused to open presents by myself for a year after that, which is when I think my parents realized I had a phobia and wasn’t just scared of snakes.

        Glad your coworker realized you were serious!

        1. Julia

          Some people also think it’s funny to feed someone food they can’t or don’t want to eat (be it because of allergies, self-imposed dietary restrictions (there’s always someone on every veg*n site who claims he’ll sneak us all bacon) or because they simply hate it). In middle school, I mentioned licorice making me sick, and some classmates literally held me and force-fed me some. And there are nurses who still make fun of needle-phobic patients, even though they must have seen thousands who faint or panic.
          Empathy is a skill not everyone acquires in their life.

        2. CommanderBanana

          Yup. Phobias completely hijack your brain and go right to the amygdala. I describe mine as a sort of glitch in my brain wiring that connects my fear center to something that isn’t really dangerous.

          I have a pretty severe bug phobia. Weirdly, spiders don’t trip it – just certain types of insects.

          1. AsItIs

            Quite. The brain doesn’t understand it’s “only a photo”, or “only a fake/rubber thing”. Our brains are still back when we were in trees.

        3. Vicky Austin

          So what is the difference between fear and phobia? I know there is a difference between arachnophobia and thinking spiders are gross; but I thought fear and phobia meant the same thing.
          (Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that phobia and thinking things are gross are different. I worked for 16 years with a woman who was rodent-phobic. I thought she merely thought rats were gross, so I jokingly said things to her like, “Seen any rats lately?” It got to the point that she refused to talk to me except when it was absolutely necessary, and she didn’t even say goodbye to me on the last day.)

        4. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

          I’m arachnophobic, to the point that a small spider can give me a huge panic attack. When I was little, even a fake spider could leave me screaming and crying on the ground. I have other phobias too, just as bad. Yet not once would it have EVER occurred to me that I had ANY right to control what someone ELSE wanted to use as holiday or regular decor, because I know that my fears are MINE to manage, not anyone else’s. It is *my* responsibility to learn to deal with it, or absent *myself* from the situation, and I have ZERO standing to ask others to change anything about their decor, interests, or lifestyles just to cater to my IRRATIONAL needs. And this view has served me well, as repeated exposure has desensitized me to the worst of it- I have even forced myself to handle a tarantula at one of those places that lets you hold lizards, snakes, and so on in educational shows, to prove that it was harmless & irrational. I don’t necessarily recommend everyone do that, but at least get enough of a grip on your issues that you don’t feel that you need the world to completely cater to your every whim so you NEVER have to be faced with even a hint of what it is that scares you.

        5. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

          I think it’s funny to scare people on purpose- when I know those people are totally OK with being scared on purpose.
          That’s why I used to do seasonal work at a local amusement park that has held huge Halloween scare events for the last several decades, and why my brother and I used to build our own haunted attractions in our parents driveway and yard, from grade school- college (and back in those days we had to build almost all our props ourselves.)
          I might add here that my love of horror & Halloween means that one of my oldest & deepest interests is also chock full of more than one thing I have actual phobias of, which was difficult at times, but also one of the ways my phobias became more manageable. I couldn’t enjoy what I loved without being CONSTANTLY exposed to the things that frightened me beyond all rational levels. And I refused to give up what I loved, because I was BEYOND stubborn, and no crying/screaming fit or panic attack or meltdown was going to stop me from enjoying Halloween, dang it!

      2. Nopenopenope

        There is a special place in hell for people who see that someone is really scared of something, and then try to scare them with it.

        I swear, if anyone did anything with spiders at work, I would run screaming out of the building and never return. Not just because of the spider, but because of the horrible horrible 80’s-movie-villain-level jerks who I could no longer feel safe around.

      3. EPLawyer

        I do not find people like this amusing AT ALL. You don’t like something — okay we are going to stick what you don’t like in your face. Isn’t that HILARIOUS??? Well no, it’s not. It is at a minimum rude and disrespectful.

        But then again I am no fan of pranks. Mostly for this reason.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney

          I’ve learned to tolerate spiders, one lives in my bathroom right now. But this sounds like harassment, pure and simple.

        2. Autumnheart

          IMO a prank should be harmless. If someone is forcing a person to eat the thing that makes them sick, or to put their subject of phobia nearby, that isn’t harmless at all. That’s a lot different from, say, covering someone’s desktop in post-its or turning their nameplate upside down.

          1. smoke tree

            Yeah, a coworker pulled the harmless version of this one on me once–she covered my desk with bananas because she knows I don’t like them. I’m not allergic or anything, just don’t like the taste, so it was just a goofy prank. I got my revenge by giving all of her bananas away.

      4. OP #1

        Actually at my last job at a retail store, I was in a team leader position and a child left behind a toy spider on a display. I freaked out, walked away, and told one of my team members to get rid of the toy. She and one other girl decided to keep hiding the spider toy around where I would find it, even though I kept telling them that even knowing it was a toy, it freaked me out so much. After the third time of finding the spider I told them to stop it or I would talk to the store manager (who knew how terrified I am about spiders) about it, and even escalate it to the district manager if I had to.

        The spider mysteriously disappeared after that.

        Also, I have a friend whose family decorates the front of their house and their living room every year for Halloween with spiders. Every year she has a Halloween party, and I’m banned from the living room and have to enter her house from the back way (thanks for her instructions) so I don’t see the spiders.

        …Oh god, what if my new job puts up spider decorations for Halloween? They do Christmas decorations and one for a certain local tradition. This is a possibility.

        1. CM

          So maybe now is a good time to talk to your manager (either Emily or Carolina) about your phobia, and it’s probably a good idea to explain the physical impact it has on you and the difference between a phobia and being scared of something. You could mention the spider in Carolina’s office and also say you hope there won’t be spider decorations at Halloween.

    3. sheworkshardforthemoney

      If I had a co-worker who deliberately pranked me with something I have a phobia about, my reaction would not be pretty. I’ve learned to tolerate snakes because they live here but there are limits. Your co-worker was an thoughtless idiot, I hope they were reprimanded.

    4. PhyllisB

      I can relate, Anon. I have the same reaction to mice. One time one of my kids had some kind of fuzzy thing (don’t remember what it was) and threw it on the floor in front of me and said, “Look out!! It’s a mouse!!!” Well, I totally went to pieces. They felt terrible because even though they knew I don’t like mice, they didn’t realize I had a phobia about them. I knew fainted the other day when on FB I we scrolling down and there was an entry with a picture of a mouse on it. (Also a reason I won’t have cats. They love to bring you “little gifts” and I would have a heart attack!!)

      1. Red Reader

        In 20+ years of living with indoor cats, over a dozen of them in that timeframe, I’ve never had one bring me anything. Outdoor cats, sure, but if an indoor-only cat is bringing you mice, then you have mice in the house whether you have the cat or not. *shrug*

        1. A CAD Monkey

          I’ve had indoor only cats bring me a “gift” of a live roach. My dogs, on the other hand, were the ones to bring mice they killed into the house.

        2. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

          We get enormous gross waterbugs in the house in the summer (they come up from the shower drain & under the sink) so THAT’s what our cats end up catching. But they don’t bring them to us, they just eat them. We occasionally find parts they forgot or maybe a puked up one every now and then.

      2. MP

        Not to be a cat pusher, but you could get an indoor-only cat. That way they wouldn’t bring you presents. I have read that the smell of a cat in a house is enough to keep mice away, so that is the benefit for you. I don’t like bugs, and my current cat likes to eat them! It’s nice that if I get a spider, fly, small roach, stink-bug, centipede, whatever – he will either chase it away or eat it if he catches it. He LOVES bugs, they are his playthings. I feel a bit safer with him in the house since he takes care of the bugs, and I also don’t have to worry about vermin (never had any, ever, with a cat). But of course, some cats I’m sure would be useless ;-)

        1. curly sue

          For Phyllis’s sake, I have to disagree. I have indoor-only cats, and have still found mice gifts. We don’t have mice in the house, but our neighbour did a massive renovation and must have disturbed a nest, because that week we found presents. One was in my shoe. I’m not phobic, but I was deeply unimpressed. (I mean, go little hunter go, but leave my shoes alone!)

        2. AMPG

          I live in a very old house, and our mice must not have any sense of smell, then, because we have mice pretty regularly. The cat kills any that get into the living areas, but we know they’re often in the walls and attic (we keep traps out at all times).

      3. CommanderBanana

        Aah! When I was a toddler I became obsessed with those fake toy mice for cats and my mom bought me a package at a pet store. Grandma was vacuuming (without her glasses) and saw it and flipped out and “beat” it to “death” with the vacuum cleaner hose.

    5. The S-word

      If my family read your letter they would say “that’s mom”. I have a horrible phobia to snakes. My wife does reconiscence when we go to a place like a wildlife museum or aquarium. I find street fairs especially hardly lately since people think their live snake is s piece of jewelry.

      I have also had the fake snake joke done to me do I feel your embarrassment.

    6. Just Another Attorney

      Fellow phobia here — I can’t even bring myself to say (or type) the “s” word. In my house, we refer to those eight legged freaks as “unmentionables”. And this is my least favorite time of year because EVERYONE wants to decorate with them. A corner lot in my neighborhood just put up no less than twenty of them as Halloween decoration including four GIANT inflatables that are at lest the size of a small compact car. I am now taking a longer route each day in order to avoid the house. If someone had something like that in their office window I don’t know what I would do beyond just needing to work from home or something if they wouldn’t remove it. Best of luck OP#1.

      1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish

        Some friends of mine do a very elaborate Halloween party every year. Last time, their entire bathroom was a “s-word” den, complete with a humongous one in the tub. I peed in the woods for the rest of the evening. Yes, I see the irony in going to where real spiders live rather than face a giant fake one, but at least I couldn’t see them in the dark.

        1. Just Another Attorney

          If I’d had walked into a bathroom and seen that, well, let’s just say that someone would have had to take me to the ER for the type of panic attack that would have ensued. I cannot for the life of me understand why people won’t just decorate with pumpkins and scarecrows. Much less triggering to those of us with severe phobias.

          1. Michaela Westen

            I don’t have any phobias, but don’t get me started on Halloween decorations. Around here they seem to be an excuse to scare and harass with “toys” that jump out and make loud noises. Like life isn’t stressful enough. :(
            I would love fun Halloween décor with pretty colors and smiling ghosts and pumpkins, etc…

            1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

              But…that’s what makes Halloween fun! I actually love being scared like that, to the point that if I go to a haunted maze or amusement park and DON’T end up with my heart in my throat, on the verge of a panic attack, multiple times during my excursion than I become EXTREMELY disappointed.

              1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

                Also, in my world, Halloween decorations with pretty colors, smiling ghosts, etc is just regular, everyday, 24/7/365 business as usual around here. X-D

          2. Emily

            Speaking as someone without any phobias (and who likes spiders and some other spooky/scary/Halloweeny things), I would probably decorate with spiders and other spooky things without realizing they caused a problem for people! I didn’t realize until reading the comments on this post that so many people are severely arachnophobic.

            That said, I don’t think it’s a big deal for people to decorate their own space in the ways they like as long as it’s relatively opt-in.

          3. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

            Because pumpkins and scarecrows aren’t scary? And the most fun part of Halloween is the scary stuff? To me, without anything scary, it’s just plain old boring “Fall”.

      2. Nopenopenope

        I set my phone to autocorrect it to “land crab.” Now I can ask my friends when we’re going to see “Land Crab-Man: Homecoming”!

        1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

          That is hysterical!
          When I was a kid, I’d see pics of the “s-word” crab in the Guinness Book of World Records and I thought they were the most horrifying thing in the entire world, even more horrifying than actual arachnids. And they still totally freak me out!
          Think I’ll go google some pics X-D

    7. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish

      I can definitely relate. I’m not as bad as I used to be (living alone in a house in the woods and having to deal with spiders myself has helped) but they still scare the bejeezus out of me. I don’t like little ones or fake ones or pictures of them. And yes, I know they eat bugs and stuff, and if they want to do that where I can’t see them fine. Come in my house or on my porch or in my garage and you’re toast.

      My seventh grade science teacher thought it would be fun to let a couple of writing spiders hang around in the classroom. One of them built its web right next to my desk and I spent the rest of the semester in abject terror. NOT COOL.

      1. emmelemm

        What’s a “writing” spider? The only writing spider I know is Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web. :)

        1. KTB

          It’s a nickname for a yellow garden spider. They build distinctive webs that resemble zigzags, hence the “writing.”

      2. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

        I’m also arachnophobic, but I won’t kill a spider unless it is venomous, because of pets/elderly child sized sister/my own dubious health issues. I may be in the middle of a serious panic attack, but I will still rescue them and take them outside, if possible; if not, I go into another room and ignore them until they have crawled away.
        I once made my husband stop in the middle of sexy times to catch a spider that was one the ceiling over the bed because that one, I could NOT ignore, LOL!

    8. samiratou

      I’m a bit of an arachnophobe, too, and a big model of a spider on the desk would make me avoid her office, too. Unless you’re in a biology or entomology field, I’m a little surprised about the big-spider-as-decor thing, particularly at the manager level, as a lot of people don’t like/fear spiders and LW can’t be the only one who would be…put off by the giant spider.

    9. Anon next Tuesday

      This is exactly my scenario but with sharks. Glad to know I’m not a total weirdo! I don’t even want to google the phobia to figure out treatment because I’m afraid a picture of a shark will pop. I had to leave the room during freshman biology when we watched a movie about sharks. My teacher thought I was full of it.

      1. Qosanchia

        Slight derailment, but the term is either Galeophobia or Selachophobia. I don’t know if that information helps you at all, but there it is. Good instinct on not seeking it out, the first hit on Google features a particularly ominous image.

    10. ThursdaysGeek

      And this is why I took off my gravatar. It was a picture of my sweet pet, but the picture bothered others here, and I don’t need to do that. “Fun pranks’ were what I did when I was 10, and becoming an adult meant that I didn’t cause others harm if I could avoid it.

      1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

        I don’t see that as a prank, I see that as people asking you to manage their phobia for them. And I’m saying that as a person with several very serious phobias.

    11. Vicky Austin

      My aunt also has a phobia of snakes that is so severe she can’t look at a photo of one. When she was in high school and was taking biology, she came home on the first day of classes, handed her textbook to my mom, and asked her cover up every picture of a snake with an index card.

  5. Ehhhh

    #3 may be using FMLA, which allows leave for the placement of foster children. If his absence is impacting people’s true ability to function in their roles without delegation, fine. But if they just don’t like it or think it is unfair, they should remember that these kids may need a parent at home even more than a baby who hasn’t experienced significant trauma and loss as kids in foster care invariably have. I’m glad this family is able to be together and establish trust and normalcy for their kids.

    1. Amelia

      When I took FMLA, my email was temporarily suspended and I was prohibited from doing any work until I returned. My company said it was an important compliance issue.

      1. Ender

        Correct it is an FMLA violation to work while on FMLA.

        He could be using it for the reduced hours but not for working from home.

        1. BookWorm

          LW #3 here. He took 7 weeks of FMLA this summer when the kids first came to live with them. I honestly can’t say if it’s truly impacting his other direct reports or not, but as it’s not affecting mine I don’t want to be included.

    2. Not Australian

      We have a saying in the UK “Can’t do right for doing wrong”, i.e. when you’re doing the right thing by one person/group of people it often inadvertently affects someone else in the other direction. I certainly applaud this manager for wanting to prioritise his child, but he may not be aware of how the consequences are playing out in his workplace.

      1. Guacamole Bob

        That’s the thing that stood out in the letter to me – OP makes it sounds like the consequences are pretty minor and, assuming he’s a reasonable person, could be solved by a “hey boss, could you shoot us all an email when you decide to work at home last minute” or “it’s been tricky to get your signoff on the llama feeding protocols before the dinner deadline. Can we find a way to handle that better while you’re working from home?” But instead, OP’s coworkers seem ready to break out the pitchforks.

        It makes me think there’s something deeper here about flexibility and family-friendly policies in this workplace (and who has access to them), or that the boss is a difficult person and likely to react badly to perceived criticism, or something. Or maybe these coworkers are kind of terrible people.

        If the boss had adopted these kids 3 years ago and this had been the story all along, I could understand the resentment. But it sounds like this is still pretty new, so they should really cut him some slack.

        1. BookWorm

          LW #3 here. Director is very easy to work with, at least from my perspective. Director seems to have rubbed one of his direct reports the wrong way and now this direct report is the one spearheading the whole thing. Our previous director was a tyrant and I think people had it in their heads that new director would be the perfect person with no issues and would make up for previous director. This is Director’s first time as a manager, so it’s a learning curve for all of us. And I agree, he’s new to being a parent, and some of his direct reports should just relax a little.

          1. Guacamole Bob

            The former terrible boss makes this make a little more sense – people can kind of lose perspective on how a normal office functions when they’ve had a tyrannical boss. So they should be going to the boss with a normal request to have him be a little clearer on his whereabouts. But due to past interactions where that approach would have been disastrous they’re turning it into a whole big confrontation.

          2. CM

            I wonder if you could mention to Director that this mutiny is brewing? You could say something like, “Hey, I wanted to give you a heads up that I’ve been hearing frustration about people not always knowing where you are or being able to reach you. I haven’t noticed any impact on my work, but I wanted to let you know in case you want to address it with the department.” I guess in practice, unless you’re friendly with him, this would be an awkward conversation since you’re one of his reports — it just seems like something where he’s not handling it well but has good intentions, his reports are upset due to past experiences, and the situation seems likely to escalate when it could be resolved with a calm conversation.

          3. Roscoe

            So, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, telling them to relax based on a life choice he made isn’t really fair either. Like, I don’t begrudge people having or adopting children. But your choice shouldn’t have a negative impact on my daily work. If it does, yes, I’m probably going to have some issues with that. Because I’m likely not getting compensated for this additional difficulty. I’m not clear exactly how much it is or isn’t impacting these people. They could have very valid complaints, or they could just be making a bigger deal than its worth. Just because it isn’t impacting YOU, doesn’t mean they don’t have legit gripes. And if they are legit, telling them to relax because he is a new parent isn’t very helpful. Again, it was HIS choice, they shouldn’t suffer for it.

            1. JustMyOpinion

              I agree…but only if it’s truly impacting their work. It sounds like it’s 5% impact to work with 95% just being mad that he has a “perceived” schedule that they envy. Sometimes people want the flexibility but don’t understand that can mean their Director is working late nights (kids in bed) or weekends.

              1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup

                Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, but there is a small chance that these one/two/few people have issues that come up with greater urgency with their work than others.* If this is the case, it’s not a “this manager and his kids” problem, it’s “we need a better way to handle this sort of issue,” problem, though.

                *Not relevant to the convo, but my last work had a policy of “never hang up on callers, it is against the contract with our clients” policy that got bandied about on Reddit or 4chan or something, and we had a wave of late-night obscene callers every couple of months. Only a manager could hang up on a caller unless there was more than 30 seconds of silence, and there was only one manager on shift for the entire company between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m., so if they were on another call or out for a smoke, well, I once had a gentleman of impressive stamina masturbate and use abusive language for more than ten minutes with a rather-threatening-sounding adult film turned all the way up in the background, wasting my time and the client’s money. I mention this because there was a manager who thought this should not be a problem, and implied that this was a hysterical female problem, since none of the _men_ on that shift seemed to have this problem. (Funny, that.) Eventually, we just started hanging up, because we realized no-one was enforcing this rule in this case… which they frankly shouldn’t have.

          4. Elaine

            Thanks for this information. I was mentally speculating on whether this was a situation where one or two people got everyone else all stirred up, or there were lots of other issues and this was just the last straw. Because the actual problem of not knowing where/when to contact him is easily solved. It sounds like option #1 is what is happening. I’d stay out of it, too! I don’t see how anything good can come out of it for you.

    3. JerryLarryTerryGarry

      My thought too! Probably not FMLA, but the equivalent if he’s looking at limited time for the rest of the year. It’s a transition, address any time issues, easier than losing the director, right?

    4. FTW

      It may be that he is taking advantage part time of company paid parental leave. It may be that he has a part time working agreement with the company.

      The team should discuss the impact on their output, and leave their personal opinion of his work ethic (that they have no visibility into) out of the conversation.

  6. Caramel & Cheddar

    Re: #2 — I actually had a boss do this very thing for me once! It was very kind of her and incredibly appreciated. Our department had an overall envelope for raises, the allocation of which was decided by my grandboss, so it was easy for my boss to talk to her to get her raise amount re-allocated to me. It’s probably rare that this kind of thing can work out, but occasionally it does!

  7. What are wickets?

    Could someone please clarify what “customer service wickets” are? I’ve never heard this term before, and googling it didn’t help. Thanks!

    1. Julia

      According to Wikipedia, wickets are Java web application frameworks (whatever that means), but I thought maybe they meant widgets?

    2. in the file room

      A wicket is the little window or booth where you might encounter a bank teller or post office clerk. They’ve gone little out of fashion nowadays with the trend towards open space, but some places still have them!

      1. Brett

        That really makes me wonder if the teller wicket is named after the cricket wicket, or vice versa. Or if the team names came up independently.

    3. OP #1

      Essentially it’s a desk station we help customers at. I’m a bank teller, and we call them “wickets” where I work.

      Also, I don’t float before them, I float “between” them and made a typo I only realize now. Basically we don’t have enough desks for me it have my own yet, so I use whoever isn’t in that day.

  8. Anon and on and on

    #4: if you’re willing and able to spend the extra $10 towards your hobby, a particularly classy thing to do might be to offer to pay the reasonable collector’s price rather than doing a straight swap so that you get the coin you want and your nonprofit employer gets the added donation value they’d otherwise miss out on.

    If you do take this approach, I’d recommend bringing a copy of whatever source you’re using to come up with that price- I have no idea if it exists but I’m picturing some coin collecting equivalent of Kelly Blue Book here- so that you can explain and show you’re offering a fair value. And so nobody googles that one massively overpriced eBay listing and gets grand ideas about the coin being a priceless treasure worth auctioning off.

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      Yeah – at our office we came across a battle of britain 50p piece. Checked on ebay – so many listings at £100+ … some with reserve price of over £500…

      … and none of them had sold.

      The ones that had sold were for 50p. Maybe £1. With free postage and packing.

      So with ebay – check what people actually pay rather than what someone wants :D

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Seconding to be sure “actually pay” is the standard. Occasionally I look for a book on Amazon and it’s out of print (or not!) but sellers are offering used copies for hundreds of dollars. That doesn’t mean the well-used Foxtrot comic collections on my shelf are worth hundreds of dollars each.

    2. LarsTheRealGirl

      Coming from finance, you will get a hard no on this. I would have no way to account for that extra income to the company without making it A Thing*. Your $10 “payment” would create an hour+ of work for me.

      *If it’s a non-profit it could go in as a donation. But even that wouldn’t be appropriate since someone is paying for an actual item.

      1. Bea

        It depends entirely on the company. I can easily add an extra 9.50 in donation to a fundraiser. It’s not an hour of work, WTF.

        1. LarsTheRealGirl

          Uh…. the WTF seems unnecessary.

          Depending on how your non-profit is normally funded, it can be an issue. It’s great that it’s not for you, but you don’t have to be that dismissive about it.

          1. Bea

            It’s a huge WTF to say it’s a hard no from a department you aren’t within. Given my vast experience it’s never been hard. So stop giving a “hard no” that only refers to your experience and abilities.

            It’s not hard for all of us. Deal with it.

            1. LarsTheRealGirl

              Wow, rude much? It’s a department I AM within. So, from MY experience (which is how all of us comment on the site, from our own experience), it would be a hard no at almost every place I’ve worked.

              My experience doesn’t encompass all possibilities, but neither does yours.

              Step off your high horse.

            2. Courageous cat

              Good lord. The internet is for sharing personal experiences. There’s nothing here to be aggressive about.

          2. Rat in the Sugar

            Yeah, at my company I would be surprised if it was only one hour to do something like this–we’re a for-profit federal contractor subject to strict audits, and trying to figure out not just how to account for the income but also what documentation to keep would be a headache. How do I prove the actual value–is there a standard method of pricing collectible coins? Do I have to get price comparisons like I do for travel costs?

            With so many different types of accounting systems out there, I can see this being no big deal or being an absurd headache.

      2. Phoenix Programmer

        It could easily be a donation. It doesn’t have to be a giant complex thing. Take the doation. Swap the $.50 coin for another $.50 coin and call it a day. Making it a huge deal and trying to route it through umpteen layers of approval is why people swap out currency like this on the spot. The addage of better to ask forgiveness then seek approval.

        Personally I don’t see the problem with seapoing out the coin. It’s no different then swapping out $2 bills. An oddity some people like to collect vs being a truly worthwhile item.

        1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

          In all the places that I’ve worked that handled actual cash, swapping out unusual or (ESPECIALLY) non- US currency was NBD at all…except for ONE place, which made a HUGE deal about it and considered it a fireable offense (even over a nickel or a PENNY.)
          Not coincidentally, this (corporate retail) business was one of the WORST, most disorganized, poorly run places I have ever had the misfortune to work (I ended up getting so fed up I left them hanging on NYE with a no show/no call and only ever went back to pick up my paycheck (BELIEVE ME, it was warranted, and I gave zero fooks because it was supposed to be part time seasonal to supplement my self employment income at Xmas time.) They went out of business not long afterwards.

  9. Lioness

    #4
    I get you, I really do. I love collecting older/funny bills and coins. I have a quarter from 1891 that my dad gave me. And I love the different fonts on older bills, but you really do need to ask.
    When I was working as a cashier, someone paid with an older bill with a different font, I had a the more current bill in my pocket, and I really wish I could just replaced it, but I didn’t. I did put it in the bottom of the pile instead of the top hoping we wouldn’t have given out all the change and had to resupply. And when we closed and my manager was counting out the drawer, I asked if the bill was still there if I could switch it. She did say yes, but it wasn’t there anymore. And as sad I was not to have it, I still wouldn’t have switched it when I got it. It was too much risk for something that while is exciting wasn’t worth my job. But definitely ask. They might say yes or might say no, but it’s not something to risk replacing it on your own without permission.

    1. I was a happy coin collector at a grocery store

      The manager letting us coin collectors “buy” half dollars and other assorted coins (I have a 100 year old wheat penny thanks to her!) was the one good thing about workimg at a grocery store. She was happy because there weren’t slots for $2 bills, or half or full dollar coins, in the thing she had to sort money into at the end of the night, and she could count on us to willingly trade currency that would fit for currency that would not fit. The best was the day when someone paid at a self checkout machine with ten $1 coins, the machine locked down her control interface because it didn’t recognize that, and I got to trade her bills for all of them in the name of MAKE THIS GO AWAY.

      1. Daphne

        My main job is customer service at a grocery store and find almost all my duties fall under MAKE THIS GO AWAY.

        We’ve been explicitly told by managers not to swap coins because they view it as stealing – the customer is losing out on the ‘rare’ coins who are entitled to it just as much as anyone else.

        1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

          The one place I worked at (corporate retail) that considered currency trading “stealing”, considered it as employee theft from the COMPANY, even if it was for a completely worthless wheat penny, a contemporary state quarter worth exactly twenty five cents, or even foreign currency (almost always Canadian, sometimes Mexican) that had accidentally ended up in the register that we were SUPPOSED to weed out from the drawer.

          They considered it a fireable offense, and it was something mentioned in EACH ONE of the associate training videos, of which every single one was about internal employee theft as it was (GIANT RED FLAG.)

          Other than actually questionable places like telemarketing, this was the WORST place I have ever worked for, the most poorly run, worst management AND staff, just a fustercluck all the way around. And they were already headed into the ground when I worked there, they were completely out of business just a few months later. I worked there maybe a MONTH before I got fed up and walked out on my position (I did not not the job or a reference and nobody working there could have given me one that would be taken seriously anyway, that’s how bad it was.)
          I can’t help but connect their rigid ‘no penny swapping! That’s stealing!’ attitude and their seeming insistence that all employees are thieves so we need to show them 5 training videos threatening them not to steal, with the absolutely abysmal management from top to bottom, and the complete failure of this branch of their retail business, which should by all rights have thrived in the market they were trying to corner.

    2. ThursdaysGeek

      Decades ago, I worked for a shoe repair, and opened a roll of nickels and found they were all from the 40s and 50s. I had good rapport with my boss and told him I was buying that roll, and using the other roll he had instead. Old nickels are worth about 5 cents each, so there wasn’t any value except that I collected them. And I don’t recall that he balanced the till, just counted at the end of the day.

      Even then, I did let the boss know before I made the change.

    3. Peter the Bubblehead

      Working at McD’s, we would occasionally be paid with odd money ($2 bills, Silver Certificates, etc.), and if the cashier wanted to collect it and had the equivalent cash on hand, it was simply swapped. Management didn’t care, as long as the drawers and the computer receipts matched at the end of the shift.

      If a company (or non-profit or whatever) is actually keeping count on the number of each individual coins used in each transaction, there’s something wrong with that organization! That’s ‘Big Brother’ to the Nth Degree.

      1. Genny

        As a former McD’s manager, yep. I didn’t care if someone wanted to swap it out; it was all going to bank that afternoon anyways. A couple times a cashier accidentally accepted foreign currency and sometimes I was able to get a coin collector to give me the correct U.S. coin in exchange for the foreign coin (excluding CAD, mostly because I really didn’t care if I found a couple Canadian pennies). It worked out nicely for everyone.

    4. Courageous cat

      This is wild to me. I get the overarching idea of not messing with money but when it comes down to different fonts on the same dollar, I can’t imagine there being much of a moral gray area or making any actual difference.

  10. The Katie

    OP1 reminded me of the laboratory manager at my last internship, who had adopted one of the office spiders as a pet.
    And I’m assuming OP4 is in Australia.

        1. Frank Doyle

          Sorry, but what do you mean “as it’s sterling?” Do you mean that it’s 50p instead of 50c?

          1. Akcipitrokulo

            Yes – sterling is another way of saying currency in UK. Comes from originally 1 pound cash = 1 pound in weight of sterling silver. (Doesn’t any more ;) )

            So £1 sterling means £1 specifically in UK currency.

            1. Adereterial

              The correct term is ‘pound sterling’. Sterling on it’s own is unusual – it’s mostly just referred to as ‘pound(s)’.

        1. I was a happy coin collector at a grocery store

          Which is why when customers pay with fifty cent coins, cashiers who collect coins go OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO and fight over who gets to trade the manager two quarters for them

          1. Dragoning

            Maybe where you work, but I’ve been a cashier multiple places and the only reaction I’ve ever seen to 50c coins is “ugh why”

            1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup

              I had a kid look sternly at me and tell me they didn’t accept Canadian money. It’s the only time I can recall asking to talk to a manager— not because I was angry, but because that was what I had and I needed to get back from lunch, pronto!

              1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

                Every place I’ve ever worked in the US has not accepted Canadian money, and policy was to refuse it, even if it was small change. It’s no mystery, as it’s not legal tender in the US, and if we ended up with any in the drawer, it had to be weeded out anyway, as it could not go into our deposit, and many customers would complain if they received Canadian coins as change.
                I’m not sure why you would think it was ok to use Canadian money anywhere but Canada?

          2. Free Meerkats

            They’d love me. I regularly get rolls of dollar and 50-cent coins and bundles of $2 bills for when I pay cash. And yes, I once got the cops called on me for trying to pay with $2 bills. When the cop got there, he just looked at the cashier like she had two heads and pretty much said, “This is why you called me?”

            I recently got a padding press and padding compound for a costume, I think I’m going to do a Woz and start padding the bills together so I can peel them off a pad. Though he has his pads perforated; it’s quite the process, purchasing uncut sheets from Treasury and having a shop pad and perf them. I’d just do a glued pad.

            And if you want to freak the superstitious gamblers, buy in with $50 bills.

            1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

              My sister in law and I got the cops called on us for trying to pay with a totally normal denomination bill, a $20 if I recall correctly, that was from the 1950s, and therefore the paper didn’t react properly to the counterfeit pen. Her mom had given it to her to contribute to my nieces birthday party supplies, and neither one of use had any idea how or why she’d had a bill stashed away that was over 40 years old.
              The cashier at the store was too dumb to understand that the money was too old for the pen to work on, so we had to wait there, getting stink eye from all the subsequent people in line for being “criminals”, and even had to argue with the cops before they’d let us leave with our money (I’d already just paid for everything myself, and there was no way in HELL I was going to leave without getting that money back.)
              I ended up going to the gas station and putting it in the automated machine so I could fill my tank, so we wouldn’t have to deal with that same issue anywhere else, but I was SO annoyed!

        1. BeeJiddy

          (Hopefully this isn’t too off-topic!)

          We have 50 cent pieces in NZ but I’m struggling to think of a special edition that would currently be in circulation. We have commemorative coins but they don’t typically make it into general circulation, especially since cash as a method of payment isn’t popular here.

    1. hermit crab

      Yes, at first I was worried that the manager was keeping a pet spider in their office! I love all manner of creepy crawlies but an office tarantula is probably not the best idea (both for the office and the tarantula).

      1. The Katie

        It was one of the daddy longlegs that you can find everywhere here. It had a corner of it’s own and a sign saying do not get rid of my web.

      1. whingedrinking

        I’ve met a surprising number of Aussies who say they were hesitant to come to Canada because of bears, wolves, etc. And not out in the woods – in, like, Montreal. Lively debates have ensued over whether small poisonous animals are worse than big ones with teeth and claws. I still think I win on the grounds that while they are indeed scary, no one has ever had to check their shoes to make sure a cougar wasn’t hiding in them, or been bitten on the butt by a grizzly lurking in an outhouse.

        1. smoke tree

          I’m not sure what the actual statistics say, but psychologically, it probably just depends on what you’re used to. I’m Canadian, and have lived in rural areas and in some of the most cougar- and wolf-rich areas in the country, and have still only seen a bear once, and I’ve never seen a wolf or cougar. I’ve met Canadians who are terrified of bears and some who think of them kind of like squirrels. I maintain that my fear of the box jellyfish is the most legitimate, though.

        2. Liz

          Bears are terrifying! They’re tall and they can stand on their hind legs, and I understand they will steal your picnics and have strong feelings about forest fires!

          /Australian who does not care for spiders, but rarely sees them (thank goodness)

  11. Zip Silver

    #4 – you know what that coin is worth? $0.50

    Back in my retail days I collected quite a few interesting coins by trading cash out of my wallet for them. Mostly wheat pennies, but I did come across a silver quarter that I still have. I don’t see a problem here if you’ve got an interest in collecting coins and swap that coin out for the same face value.

    1. MK

      If coins like that one are being sold (actually sold, not offered for sale) for more than it’s face value, then that’s the value. And the OP’s employer might well see a problem if they found out she swapped the coin without saying anything; the optics alone are very problematic: she would have taken a value of 10$ out of the cash and put in o.50$. Sure, she might never be found out, but that’s not the same as it not being a problem.

      That being said, I don’t think the OP has an obligation to disclose their search to their employer, considering the very low value of the coin and since their org would have just used it for its face value. They should just say that they found an unusual coin and would like to substitute and keep it.

    2. Seriously?

      That works if you have blanket permission from your manager ahead of time. It is usually not a good idea to mess with the money without permission even if it shouldn’t make a difference.

    3. Sparklehorse

      Me too. I was usually exchanging US pennies in my pocket for the odd Canadian penny that would come through, so I was actually making the company whole as US money was worth more than Canadian. I did manage to score a 1907 dime once, though. So strange to see a dime without FDR on it.

      1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

        In the places I have worked, we were not allowed to put Canadian coins in the deposit and had to take them out anyway. If we didn’t swap them, it would have been considered the drawer/deposit coming up short, because we weren’t supposed to accept them in the first place, but sometimes someone didn’t notice, or they had accidentally ended up in a roll of change.

  12. Jo

    OP1, that would give me the creeps too as I also have a severe spider phobia. I think it’s a good idea to speak to Emily to see if she can speak to Carolina on your behalf to find a solution. Hope you can work something out.

  13. WS

    LW1 I had a screensaver of assorted beautiful National Geographic photos on my computer. Unfortunately, one day my arachnophobic co-worker was talking to me just as a close-up of a spider came onto the screen and she screamed and dropped her coffee. I was very apologetic and changed my screensavers to landscapes instead (and cleaned up the mess)! Unless you know your boss is a mean person, there’s no reason to think she won’t be amenable to either moving the model spider or having meetings in a different room.

  14. annon1234

    Re: #3 100% agree with the LW to stay out of it when it does not effect their job and I personally think there needs to be more of a shift in how we look at productivity in regards to actual presence in an office in general. Don’t change you’re course of action but a bit of context maybe around your coworkers outrage…. it can be incredibly frustrating and even “fury” inducing to ask for a little bit of flexibility to be given blanket no’s across the org only to see management abusing that perk. I’m not talking about differences because of job requirements or because of performance. There are absolutely reasons why some ppl can work from home and others can’t (even with the same job). I get that. But it rubs employees the wrong way when their reasonable requests are always told no for “reasons” and then you see management getting way more leeway and perks and it effects your ability to do your job.

    Real world example that’s happened recently (apologize for the rant in advance): You ask to work from home one day a month and get a quick NO with an explanation – if you get to do it everyone will want to and that’s not feasible. Other high performers are told the same along with regular choruses of “how will we be able to KNOW if you’re really working the WHOLE day?” Maybe reasonable, I think not but OK, can live with that. Then you have that manager “working from home” every day for 3 months after her (6 month) mat leave. Unsurprisingly, not really working and everyone else has to pick up the slack. AAAAAnd she gets an award for “modeling work life balance”. Sure she clearly values work/life balance! Only if it’s for her! But her direct reports? No – can’t make it work sorry too hard. Unsurprisingly, some good people from that team left shortly after/during this time.

    I want to support working mothers. 9 month Mat leave should be standard – other countries do this. I would 100% support this all day! But this is not the way to do that.

      1. Myrin

        Yeah, I didn’t either, and it didn’t seem to me like that’s the issue because if it were, it would be so vital a point that OP almost certainly would’ve mentioned it.

        In fact, the only things that OP does mention several times are “his working from home” (along with being “mostly”, but not always, reachable) and his “hours”, so I’m inclined to believe that that, along with the fact that he either tells no one or only one person about his teleworking days, is the core of the issue, not that the other workers also want that kind of flexibility but aren’t getting it.

        1. BookWorm

          LW #3 here. Two of Director’s direct reports have adult children, I’m childless, and the last has no children yet. Director’s job is mainly to go to meetings, where as everyone else’s job is mostly customer focused. From what I can tell, he can call in to most of his meetings, so working from home in that sense is not a big deal for his position. We can all see his calendar which tells us what campus he’s supposed to be at, but if he doesn’t update it to “working from home” and if he only lets one person know he won’t be in, it can get frustrating for the other direct reports. Since I’m kind of an outlier, I don’t pay as much attention to where he is or where he’s supposed to be.

          1. Falling Diphthong

            This context helps.

            If you can say “I’m not affected by this, so you can’t rope me in as an example” then might it work to further suggest to one of the non-spearheaders “I think you need to focus on his not updating the calendar and how that makes your job harder”?

          2. Birch

            It sounds like the problem is just lack of communication about his schedule, since it’s unpredictable. Hasn’t anyone thought to ask him to just try to keep his calendar updated?

          3. Nita

            What about flexibility for other reasons? If one of your coworkers needs to be home to, let’s say, wait for the plumber or because they have a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, are they allowed? Also, is there a company culture of telecommuting being OK, or is Director the only one doing it? Just trying to get a feel for whether there’s any good reason for the team to be “furious” when there seems to be very little actual impact to the work.

            1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

              I seriously don’t understand why people feel that someone at the director level should not be allowed any perks or benefits that lower level people don’t also get. Isn’t that one of the good parts of HAVING a job at director level?

    1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to people if management roles come with perks that the rank and file don’t get. Isn’t that part of the draw of getting promoted? Not just the increased salary, but to get the perks that go along with the extra responsibility/increased hours/more intense work etc etc that getting a promotion entails?

      My husband works a Union job and has had issues with one or two very new employees being bent out of shape that they don’t have exactly all the same everything that people with YEARS of seniority have EARNED- higher hourly wage (they are already paid MUCH higher than industry standard even to start), more vacation time, priority in choosing vacation days, and all the other things the Union has worked VERY hard to provide (and pooh-pooh the astonishingly EXCELLENT health insurance the Union negotiated for & refuses to let the company take away or reduce, because they haven’t had a serious need for it yet.)

      I see no reason why management or other senior people should not be able to receive perks & bonuses commensurate to their position & responsibilities, and to decry that just sounds like ‘sour grapes’ to me.

      And if people are mad because there is something that only management gets that everyone else SHOULD rightly get? That’s not an issue with the members of management who take advantage of those perks & benefits, it’s an issue with the people who MAKE THOSE POLICIES, and these employees should be directing their ire at THEM, not people who are doing something they are 100% allowed (and in the company’s eyes, earned the right) to do.

  15. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

    OP1 – I sympathise and empathise. I have moderate arachnophobia (used to be much worse, but I’ve had some CBT to deal with it, and a model would no longer bother me – if it were real… hey, I’m making progress but it’s slow) and was once trapped in the office bathroom by a spider the size of a silver dollar. Unfortunately my grandboss was a prankster with a collection of exotic pets and would delight in seeing me freaked out by the smallest of critters that appear every autumn. As it was, my boss (whom I don’t always see eye to eye with – see previous posts on this very forum) was the one to gently explain how my outright terror was affecting my day to day work.
    Could I request an update from you OP1? You have my full support, and I’d love to know that you are able to progress your career without having to avoid significant areas of the office.

    1. OP #1

      Sure, I’ll try to update if something happens (this might just end with me asking Carolina to put it out of sight when we have meetings.)

  16. Scarlet

    #1, I’m arachnophobic too (although that’s been getting better over time), so you have all my sympathy… If your boss isn’t a jerk, I don’t see why she wouldn’t put it away. Honestly, I think a lot of non-arachnophobic people would be creeped out by a giant spider. They’re almost-universally considered disgusting.

  17. TZ

    Man, this post is making me question my ethical core! I would consider myself a highly ethical person if asked, and have had many roles of trust (high-level IT, direct support roles of vulnerable people) and it literally would never have occurred to me to ask if I could swap out a single coin for another coin of the same face value. It would have never pinged my radar this would be something anyone expected me to do. I would have just done it. Huh.

    I can think of lots of folks doing this when promotional coins have been recently released, like the US state coins years ago. Absolutely when I was bartending in uni, we would swap out $2 bills, $1 coins, and other ‘novelties’.

    Although maybe this is different because there’s no increased market value, just sentimental value? Or maybe it’s just a type-of-jobs ethics. I’m sure there’s things I’d never do as a former sys admin that wouldn’t ping the ethics of a non-IT person? I’ve never had a job with substantial money-handling responsibilities. Or maybe my ethical radar is just really off!

    1. Czhorat

      Morally it isn’t anything wrong; no tangible harm is done to the employer or anybody else involved with the transaction. That said, positions involved with handling of money always require a clear separation between your funds and others’ funds. Using the days’ receipts as your personal change jar blurs this line and, as Alison said, opens the door to act harmful chicanery.

    2. Overeducated

      Yeah, I think this may depend on the position. In the small nonprofits where I’ve worked tills as a collateral duty I would probably swap, it was pretty casual and the key was having the money match at end of day. In the bank where I was a teller I would NEVER, bank tellers just don’t ever go into their drawers for any unnecessary reasons.

      1. Lizzy May

        When I was a bank teller we’d do the occasional swap but everything was done over the counter. So if I wanted a glow in the dark toonie, I’d get my own toonie, get in line and have one of the other tellers swap me out. That way, there was never a question of what I took out of my own drawer and the swap had a witness and was on the camera. Just doing a swap on your own opened you up to accusations of other things and there’s no reason to do that when it can be easily avoided.

    3. Me

      One office/accounting/sometimes supervisor at my old grocery job would call someone over and take the more common coin out of his pocket and trade it for the rare one, telling us exactly what he was doing so there was a witness.

      At my mom’s current retail job at a much smaller store they’ve done that was well. Someone painted a state quarter so she brought that home.

    4. Rusty Shackelford

      I wouldn’t find it unethical either. I’ve done it. With a witness, of course, or even asking another cashier to do it for me. It never occurred to me to ask if it was appropriate to do it in the first place, since I knew, without a doubt, that the cash would be deposited for its face value alone, so any added value would be lost anyway.

      1. Seriously?

        I think the key is having a witness or preferably another cashier doing the transaction. Just swapping them can have bad optics and open you up to liability if there isn’t the correct amount in the till for some reason.

    5. Moonlight Elantra

      Same here My husband is a bank branch manager and he’s never thought twice about swapping out cool coins that customers deposit (or letting his employees do it). It’s how we were the proud owner of a $500 bill for a while there. It’s surprising to me that other people would think twice about it, but you learn something new every day!

    6. MCMonkeyBean

      I think it would morally be fine for someone to just switch it (unless they planned to turn around and sell it for more money), but it’s just better to ask because you don’t know whether the company will care or not. Better to make sure to avoid even the appearance of anything that might cause questions when it comes to dealing with money!

    7. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      I’m with you for normal cash register type situations. The only thing that would make me pause in the OP’s case is that this was a donation for a non-profit.

      It’s a thing for people to donate rare coins to charities intending for them to be sold and the profit going to the charity. It doesn’t necessarily sound like this is the case in the OP’s letter as it was a unique vintage of a coin in circulation which would indicate the donor didn’t realize there was anything special about it. But I guess they could have known and intended to donate the higher value.

      I think in the case of the OP it’s best to err on the side of caution, find someone in charge and ask if they can ‘buy’ the coin for face value or some other agreed on value.

    8. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t think it’s an ethical issue at all. 50c is 50c. The issue is that you don’t want to mess around with your employer’s money without permission, and it can look bad if you get caught doing that.

      1. Courageous cat

        I think that ties into itself, though – sort of like the ethics of whether or not to mess around with your employer’s money without permission. And I think that gets blurry when it comes down to something as specifically innocuous as this.

    9. Cheryl Blossom

      When I worked at a tiny nonprofit museum, my boss’s husband collected $2 bills. I worked the cash register, so whenever I received a $2 bill I would let her know and she would swap it out with money from her own wallet. But it was also super casual; most people were volunteers and cameras weren’t installed until the last year I was there, and I counted money by myself at the end of every shift. I couldn’t see this flying at an institution with stricter financial controls.

    10. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I’ve only had one money handling job where this would have been an issue in any way at all, and that place, corporate retail though it was, was run like an absolute sh!tshow, all of their associate training videos boiled down to “we know all employees steal, and you better not steal from us- OR ELSE”
      I mean, one video made a HUGE deal about pointing out that when a young associate swapped out an Indian head nickel from the drawer with a regular nickel of her own (they even mentioned she was an amateur coin collector), not only did they FIRE her, but they called the police, had her arrested, and PRESSED CHARGES FOR THEFT.
      Did I mention this was a place where the majority of people working there were late teens/early 20s? They did that to an innocent young woman and gave her a criminal record over NOTHING. Literally NO CRIME COMMITTED WHATSOEVER.
      I honestly should have just walked out right then & there, I don’t know what I was thinking. Those videos raised all my hackles, and it was a part time job I didn’t need…and I did end up walking out, and leaving them hanging, because that place was so poorly run, and my manager treated my nicest & hardest working coworker like absolute dirt because he didn’t kiss her butt.
      And that chain went out of business shortly thereafter.
      At no other place I’ve ever worked hAs this been an issue, and was actually encouraged because we couldn’t put any weird or foreign coins in the deposit, and not replacing them with our own meant either the deposit or register was short. And in anyplace that wasn’t an independently run business, this would get us dinged, and NO manager (including myself, when I was one) wanted us getting in trouble for something as stupid as repeatedly being 1 or 5 or 25 cents short multiple times a month, or even week sometimes.

  18. Rebecca

    #2 – this caught my eye “We were granted several million dollars from a new federal program, but nobody saw that money, nor was it reinvested in the company. It just went to the two top levels of management.” Taxpayer dollars were allocated to the company from a federal program grant, and it just went directly into the paychecks of top management instead of directly affecting patient care, and those who care for the patients were given nothing while upper management goes on cruises? Maybe it’s the grumpy taxpayer in me, or the part of me who is tired of watching those who do the most for us, home health care aids, nursing home workers, etc. being paid the least, I don’t know, I just don’t think that’s how federal programs for healthcare are supposed to work.

    That being said, OP, I applaud you for wanting to help the employees doing the direct patient care. I hope that you can advocate for better wages for them all around. I don’t know how many employees you have, but even if several was $3 Million, and you have 1000 employees, that could equate to a $3K bonus per employee. I suspect that could make a big difference to a lot of them.

      1. Artemesia

        This and it happens in other businesses as well. ALL the cream goes to the very top and the people who do the work get little. I know of a case where someone was offered a huge bonus if profits were above X as he was working on a project that had a huge payoff. He did the project; it had the huge payoff; profits were slated to be way above X; the board hired a new CEO and the new guy was given a ginormous signing bonus that ate up all the profits above X and the guy who made the money happen and was promised the bonus was stiffed because ‘profits didn’t exceed X.’

    1. Overeducated

      Honestly that made me wonder if LW knows how grants work. That’s the kind of thing that would hopefully show up in a single audit, which I think is required for organizations getting grants of that size, so if it is happening it will not go unnoticed for long.

      1. Rebecca

        Good point. When I did auditing for my local municipality, that was something we checked when we got a grant: grant money awarded for X project, was the grant money spent? Where is the backup that it was spent correctly? We received grants for improving our river recreation areas, and we had backup to show every penny was spent on doing just that. It didn’t go to bumping up salaries.

      2. Princess of Pure Reason

        That was my thought too. Not that grant money of all kinds can’t be misappropriated/misused/wasted, but at that level the accounting and auditing will catch up with them if that’s what is indeed happening. If #2’s organization is a US 501(c)3 non-profit, it’s a matter of public record and financial information can be found. Also, the granting agencies may have information available. I work for a giant healthcare system and see lots of federally grant funded activity, and there are many, many strings attached. I’m a bit skeptical that those grants are going directly to exec pockets. Though I completely agree about poor compensation for those doing some of the toughest and most unforgiving jobs, and bloated exec salaries and poor transparency at the top levels.

        1. Lily Rowan

          I can imagine there being a lot of fungible money in the healthcare system, so maybe the actual grant dollars went to whatever it was supposed to do, but that just freed up other dollars which were then used for the raises.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Probably. If you were going to spend $X on a specific campaign anyway, and you got a grant of $X that paid for the campaign, that leaves with $X free to spend on raises for the bigwigs instead. Not doing the project that won you the grant in the first place would require some “creative” accounting.

          2. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

            But then why not give those raises to the lowest paid workers rather than the already wealthy ones that don’t need it?

    2. Michaela Westen

      OP2 could do some research and find out how often their company is or should be audited by the govt. My hospital is audited by Medicare twice a year, I think.
      Then watch for the audit… and if it doesn’t happen or doesn’t catch the wrongdoing, maybe blow the whistle or raise awareness in some way. If it was me I’d be livid and ready to go to war. Situations like these are exactly what’s ruining our country and the greedy elites need to be stopped!
      So OP2, consider how much you can safely do and at what risks, such as losing your job, while you’re waiting for the audit. Rooting for you and everyone like you! :)

  19. NYWeasel

    RE OP#1: I totally understand the difference between phobias and fears, so this isn’t directed towards the OP. I think Alison’s advice is great in this case.

    For other people who are just regular terrified of spiders, I wanted to share my experience. I am someone who is petrified by spiders (thanks evil siblings!). I’m not at the same level as OP, but I’m bad enough that people would laugh at me for my over-the-top fearful reactions. In one of those twists-of-fate, I ended up falling in love with a spider enthusiast.

    He has spent years trying to educate people about how spiders are super beneficial because they remove mosquitoes and other pests, and how very few spiders actually are venomous. Tarantulas have a terrible reputation but very few of them are actually dangerous to humans, and surprisingly, we are incredibly dangerous to them. Those scenes where people brush spiders off of themselves in movies? They likely kill a good portion of the spiders because tarantulas actually can’t withstand drops of any kind—they are very fragile.

    I’m still terrified of spiders and get shaky, etc, if I come across one. But I’ve come to also appreciate what they do. When I see one now, I keep that in mind, and I try to keep myself calm and use a cup and a postcard to move them out of my house. I will NEVER feel comfortable enough to hold one (trust me, my husband has owned tarantulas, and even though I had lots of opportunities to see that they moved slowly and weren’t aggressive, I couldn’t get past my terror to handle it), but I can allow them their own spaces out in the world to go do their spider things. If you are terrified (to normal fear levels) of spiders, I just want to point out that learning more about them can help you figure out a way to share the world with them enough to still benefit from all the good stuff they do.

    1. ellen

      Spiders and I have a deal. I mean, they have never signed off on it, but still, it’s working well for me.
      If I see a spider inside what I consider my personal domain (on the surface of my body, inside my apartment or car) that sucker is dead. If it is outside of that – on a rosebush, or hanging around outside my apartment under the security light – it’s safe. There’s a line, don’t cross it.
      A spider that did cross the line (RIP) actually helped me come to marry my husband, who came home to a soap-suds, dripping wet naked hysterical woman in the kitchen, pointing a finger and screaming incoherently to kill it. Without a smirk, a smile, NOTHING, he went, killed the spider that could have eaten manhattan (It wasn’t ten feet across, I’m sure, but he had to be close) and returned to let me know it was ok now. He has never, ever brought this up in conversation with anyone, and has never teased me about it once. I brag about him, and it, about once every few months or so.

      1. SpellingBee

        Ha! I have the same deal going at my house. I’ve progressed to the point where I can admire the big elaborate (and really quite beautiful) webs that the orb weavers make in my garden, and even look at the spiders themselves to appreciate their lovely markings, but only at a “safe” distance, and only outside.

      2. pugsnbourbon

        That’s my deal with spiders, too.
        The garage is contested territory. I’m dreading cooler temps and the inevitable invasion.

      3. LizB

        Spiders and I have the same deal. I like to pretend I’m helping nature select for spiders who don’t want to live in my space (although I know evolution doesn’t really happen on that tiny a scale).

        1. Silicon Valley Girl

          Maybe the Great Spider Consortium did sign on? Bec. I think a lot of us have this deal, & the problem is that stray individual spiders sometimes go rogue or maybe they just didn’t get the memo.

    2. OP #1

      I agree with so much of this. I know that in the long run spiders probably won’t hurt me, but they terrify me to no end. For me, it’s mostly the mouth pincers and the eight eyes that creep me out. Objectively I don’t hate tarantulas, but if there’s a real live one near me… I ain’t being near it for long.

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney

        Our nation’s capital has a huge spider sculpture outside one of the downtown museums. Do not google it, trust me it’s very, very big. Several people have said they can no longer visit the museum because of the spider.

    3. ThursdaysGeek

      I was never afraid of them, but mostly ignored them or killed them. Then my spouse gave me a tarantula for a Valentine’s Day gift. I wasn’t sure what to do with it at first, or even how to respond to him. Now I like a lot of spiders. Spiders in the house still get removed (often by lethal methods), unless they are jumping spiders, who I expect to help out by eating other spiders before I see them.

      1. Dragoning

        Jumping spiders are the kind that scare me. Normal ones, okay, I know where you are, and can avoid you.

        The jumping ones…jump.

    4. Double A

      This is adorable and I like your husband.

      My spider deal extends to corners in my house, because I would like spiders to eat little fruit flies etc. that we have inside. Honestly the spiders contribute more to the household than my cats (although they also occasionally will eat a bug).

    5. Nopenopenope

      Honestly this to me is a more compelling love story than “can this teenage girl love a vampire” or “can this teenage girl love a furry monster not unlike a large dog.” If my love interest was a spider enthusiast that would be our downfall and I am amazed and inspired by you.

      I understand that they are good for the environment but honestly the thought of their legs moving is already giving me cold shivers… So I’m going continue running away at the sight of them and let your S.O. do the good work unimpeded.

    6. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I was taught by my patron saint of all living creatures mother that spiders are good and should never be killed, there are ways to safely take them outside so they can happily live their helpful spider lives killing unwanted pests. I am HIGHLY arachnophobic (though I can distinctly remember being in kindergarten & reading a book all about spiders & thinking they were fascinating & beautiful , and I’m not exactly sure when or why the phobia kicked in) but if I see a house spider I can easily reach, I grit my teeth, swallow my panic, and take the poor thing outside, because it sure doesn’t deserve to die just because I have an irrational fear. And we get some WHOPPING big house spiders here where I live (SoCal) that are actually part of the wolf spider family.
      And I’m sure some people are thinking “you can’t possibly REALLY be arachnophobic if you can catch a giant house spider and take it outside!” and I can assure you, that just WRITING about it & thinking about the last couple giant spiders I saw & seeing the damn emoji pop up every time I write “spider” has my heart racing & nerves jangling & hands shaking because I am still VERY phobic and I’m probably going to need to take a damn an Ativan before I’m done responding in this thread.
      I USED to be the screaming, crying, helpless on the floor in the face of a spider person, but I HATE being controlled by irrational fears, and am also very, VERY stubborn. I have all my life absolutely LOVED Halloween, horror, monsters, haunted houses and all the rest, which not only incorporates spiders but a couple of other VERY specific, severe, and really unusual phobias I’ve had as long as I can remember. And rather than avoid the frightening thing I loved, I IMMERSED myself in it, spiders, severed limbs, poked out eyes, and all- and my phobias weren’t *cured*, but they became manageable. I will still scream bloody freaking murder if I think I am going to suddenly & accidentally touch a real spider (and since I scream like a muppet, this is actually pretty hilarious), or have a panic attack sometimes, but I can now control my phobias without having them control ME.
      And I just CAN NOT EVEN at the idea that I would or should EVER expect someone *else* to manage my phobias by changing anything about themselves, their lives, their interests, their clothes, their pets, their decor, their avatar or anything else. My fears are mine to manage and MINE ALONE. If I cannot hang it’s up to ME to figure out a way to deal with it, and not expect everyone around me to cater to my IRRATIONAL fears about a totally ordinary and overwhelmingly abundant creature that is a normal everyday part of nature.

  20. Delta Delta

    #3 – For me, it’s less that Boss is working from home, and it’s less that sometimes Boss can’t answer a phone call because he’s warming up a can of soup for his foster children. It’s 100% the fact he doesn’t think he needs to tell anyone about his schedule. It is incredibly frustrating to work for someone like this, especially if the Boss/employee relationship is one where Boss has day-to-day hands-on managing duties. Imagine being an employee and needing Boss to do or approve X or Y, and you can’t actually do anything because Boss isn’t there and you didn’t have notice of this.

    It seems like the employees could nominate one person to push back and kindly say, “hey Boss, we’ve noticed you’re working from home a lot. It would help the team a lot if we knew what the schedule for this is so that we can structure our work” or something kind and appropriate. Boss’s life is upside down right now, with taking in children (and let’s not overlook the possible issues the kids have), and he may not realize his erratic schedule is having a ripple effect.

    As for OP3, she can gently suggest the pitchfork-wielding crowd keep her out of it, but also suggest someone talk to him sooner than later before this turns into A Bigger Thing.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      And it’s such a simple thing to fix. Have his staff asked him to notify them when he’ll be out of the office, and he refused? Or has that first step been skipped, and if so, why?

  21. Madeleine Matilda

    OP3 – I think OP 3 is right to want to stay out of this situation with his/her manager. It makes no sense to me that the other employees are furious about the manager’s new schedule unless it is impacting them in ways that it isn’t impacting the OP. The only issue seems to be that the manager could better communicate when he is working from home and what his hours are, but that could be a simple request from the employees to email everyone he manages with his schedule instead of just one person.

    1. Temperance

      It sounds to me like he’s frequently deciding to stay home at the last minute, and that his reports aren’t aware of this, and he’s a roadblock to their work.

      1. Madeleine Matilda

        I couldn’t tell from the letter if the boss was a roadblock to the work or not. The OP doesn’t seem to be having that problem, but perhaps other employees are which is leading the the frustration. I think at a minimum the OP’s manager needs to let all of his employees know where he is and when he is available.

        1. BookWorm

          LW #3 here. I can’t speak for the other direct reports as to whether his not being on campus is a roadblock to their jobs. I know one of the complaints is other people will ask where Director is and the other direct reports get frustrated saying “I don’t know.” I don’t get that question as I don’t think many people realize he’s also my director.

          1. Madeleine Matilda

            Hi LW#3 – it seems like not knowing where he is would be such an easy problem to solve. Why don’t your co-workers just don’t ask the boss to let them know where he will be each day? You said in another comment that he was easy to work with so it seems like he would react well to a reasonable request.

          2. JustMyOpinion

            It seems for some that is enough to complain. Whether they need him or not, if they don’t know where he is, then they get upset. If he’s not reachable and impacting their work, I get it. If it’s schedule envy, then I’m at a lost. They don’t know the full story and their position may not allow what he is able to do. Fury is far from being warranted…yet.

    2. Mary

      I am extremely wondering how much of the “fury” is just straight-up homophobia, and they’re finding a spurious work-related reason to express their anger about Those Gays being allowed to get married and adopt.

      1. No Name Yet

        Yeah, I had the same thought. Especially since OP mentioned elsewhere that the fury seems to be primarily generated by one person. I’m not sure it would change the advice, though, unless there was specific evidence of homophobia and the workplace/government has policies against that.

      2. Nita

        Yeah. I mean, there is definitely a problem if the director is not keeping people informed of his whereabouts, and I’m trying to think the best of the coworkers, but… I don’t know. The words OP is using just seem to indicate a level of anger that’s out of proportion to the situation.

      3. Holly

        I think that’s an unkind interpretation of the letter, without a clear basis for it. The complaints sound like *many* prior letters where a director is unavailable and/or seems to not really be working from home.

      4. Mad Baggins

        I suppose it’s possible but I’d be surprised if that is how things turned out. OP’s impression seems to be pretty solid that the issue is the director’s availability.

        1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

          Not even all homophobic people are overtly aware of their homophobia, and this person may not even realize this is where their anger stems from. Lord knows that as a woman, and a highly unconventional one at that, I’ve gotten plenty of seemingly out of proportion reactions about minor things that ended up being misdirected anger due to buried or internal misogyny, especially in a “woman who does not know her place” type of way. I’ve even experienced misplaced homophobia from people who make the assumption that unconventional woman = gay, or even that tall unconventional woman = man in drag or trans woman! (No shade on ANYONE LGBTQIA! but it confuses the hell out of me because I…don’t actually look masculine in any way? And hate assumptions that appearance = sexual orientation!)
          So with an over the top, furious reaction + a single ringleader that the director “rubbed the wrong way” (by…being gay?) + non LGBTQIA people not always being readily aware of homophobia around them, well I wouldn’t say it’s proof but it does raise red flags in my mind and I sure wouldn’t rule it out.

  22. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

    OP#2: I’ve heard of an vice level person doing that, but she did so ONLY for her assistant–there was a significant raise when she was promoted to vice-whatever, and she declined the raise in favor of getting the new title, keeping her assistant with her, and giving the raise to the assistant. This was a larger NFP organization, which really wanted to retain her, and so they agreed to that during her promotion negotiations.

  23. LGC

    So, to add my voice to the chorus: LW2, the solution to the pay inequality isn’t to pay you less. It’s that the employees doing the work should be paid more.

    (You didn’t name your sector, but if it’s what I think it is – home nursing or health aides – holy cats you’re right they don’t get paid enough! (Especially the HHAs.) I’d definitely get involved in any advocacy efforts to the best of your ability.)

  24. CupcakeCounter

    Fostering and fostering-to-adopt situations are slightly different than the standard “we have small children at home”. The fostering and adoption agency can drop by at any time (within reason) and depending on the ages of the children there might be some adjustment issues at the beginning and face time is the best way to handle those issues. Many companies now have parental leave that allow a similar length of time to bond and acclimate to the new situation but that usually doesn’t go into effect until the actual adoption goes through (which in this situation could be too late). Ideally the boss would have taken a week or two PTO at the beginning to help the adjustment process (and maybe he did and we don’t know) and then at least had a nanny or some additional help while working from home so he is still there when he is really needed but can concentrate a bit better.

    Remind your coworkers that he is in a significant adjustment time with his family and if this is stemming from jealousy over a schedule rather than simply needing him around more to get stuff done they need to sit down and shut up. I’d also maybe give the boss a heads up saying that you have heard some rumblings of discontent and try to pinpoint one or two things that you (and the mob) see as an issue. Lack of communication of when he will be WFH is probably #1.

    As an aside, I’m an adoptee and grew up with foster siblings. My parents tried very hard to adopt a brother and sister we had for a couple of years and it was extremely difficult and heart breaking for all of us. I was around 7 and I remember the inspections, the interviews, the running around to this appointment and that meeting with lawyers or child advocacy agents. My mom did end up quitting her job during that period because it simply didn’t work out to not have her there 100% of the time and 2 of the 3 of us were in school all day (the boy was in half-day kindergarten). Granted this was also in the 80’s when WFH wasn’t a thing because almost no one had a computer.

    1. Delta Delta

      All this. There can sometimes be a very weird expectation by some foster agencies (governmental, often) that foster parents can’t also work because that takes them away from the children. I do some work with foster children, and have encountered a situation – and I am not making this up – where an agency determined a prospective foster parent was unfit because she was a pediatrician and had a regular medical practice, and would have to rely on child care for daytime care of the child she wanted to adopt.

    2. BookWorm

      LW #3 here. Director took 7 weeks of FLMA leave this summer when the kids first came to live with him. The kids are getting ill frequently (as they would being in daycare/preschool) and I understand that last minute decisions to stay home have to be made. I think, but am not positive, that Director has a more flexible schedule than his husband so he is the primary care giver. I’ve considered saying something to him but I wasn’t sure if it was my place, hence my question to Allison.

      1. iglwif

        I think if I were you (or your furious co-workers) I would focus on changing just one thing about what Director is doing: the fact that he’s not telling people when he will and won’t be in.

        That part is a) the most relevant to everyone else’s work, b) what’s most likely to cause problems (at least, that’s how it sounds to me), and c) the easiest for him to fix, because he literally doesn’t have to do anything differently except ping people in some agreed-upon way.

  25. Smarty Boots

    Time to call a journalist about this gross use of public funds. As a taxpayer I’d sure like to know that federal funds are being shunted to the well-off directors. Even if it’s legal, it’s a bad look.

    1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

      Even if like some people mentioned might be the case- the funds were used properly, but freed up other funds from the budget, and THOSE funds went to salary increases for well off directors instead of to salary increases for the lowest paid workers, or more improvements to the actual work they do, it’s STILL a bad, bad look.

  26. drpuma

    OP2, if you’re in the U.S. it’s entirely possible that the front line employees aren’t even fellow employees of your company, but rather employed by or independent contractors of a different company hired by your org. Even if you could somehow redirect your raise, it would likely end up in the pocket of one of that company’s senior managers. Maybe you could advocate to either bring these folks in-house or transition to a different 3rd-party contractor that offers better pay and benefits.

  27. E

    #4 – Just ask. I used to work in the school library during high school for one class, and when kids would pay fines with coins like Susan B Anthony coins, I’d ask if I could swap them for ordinary coins of the same value so that I could collect the more special coins.

  28. nnn

    #1: A script I’ve found useful in similar situations is “Would you mind moving it to a part of your office where I don’t see it?”

    That way you’re not questioning their right to have the horrible thing in their office, just to shift it over a bit.

    (My experience has been that some people viscerally push back if they think you’re suggesting they don’t have the right to have the horrible thing, but when I’ve phrased it as asking for a small adjustment they’ve cheerfully gotten rid of it.)

    So in the particular case of LW 1, she might ask Emily the best way to approach Carolina to moving the thing to a place where people other than Carolina don’t see it.

    1. Falling Diphthong

      I actually assume someone will know about it and thus the question–will it look weird when I swap this out? (It is not unusual for a charity to have tight controls on the pile of donated cash, never leaving anyone alone with the pile. “How much is donated as untraceable cash?” is a routine question asked by those auditing charities, and if the answer is below the expected percentage then they get interested in the path taken by the cash before it becomes accounted for.)

      And if OP is observed making the exchange, or just talks about it as an interesting story of how they found the coin, then someone might take the optimistic $100 sale offer as the going rate for the piece. Pass it through a game of telephone a few times and it was a rare coin that someone spotted and, rather than call anyone’s attention to the incredible windfall, pocketed the coin and the profit.

      If they can swap it out with no one the wiser, then the fact that it’s worth more than the face value (unlike, say, a wheat penny or Georgia quarter) does make it a mild moral quandary. Like anything that falls under “it’s okay to do this, but you can never talk about it because someone might get the wrong idea about your pure intentions and the low stakes and make a stink.”

  29. Alldogsarepuppies

    Back in the day when state quarters were new and rarer, would the answer be the same re: swapping. Like if you really needed that New Hampshire coin to complete your spread and the value was still the same.

    1. Falling Diphthong

      Paraphrasing from upthread, if you have access to the money collected then there are often very strict rules about doing anything with it. (Think “I’ll just grab $10 until I can hit a cash machine, then pay it back.”) Or saying “It looks like I’m messing with the box of donated cash, but trust me it’s in a totally okay way!”

      1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

        Well, YES, borrowing from the register or donated funds is absolutely not ok! (I did actually have a boss that allowed borrowing $5 or $10 in an emergency for lunch, but part of this was because I was often alone & no cash machines nearby- pre the ability to pay with ATM cards everywhere, and partly because we were good friends)
        Swapping out 2 coins of equal face value is an entirely different matter.

  30. Dr. Pepper

    #1- I don’t have any suggestions but I have a story of my own. Once I had a menial monkey job as the lowest member on a very small team (me, the boss, and one other coworker), and the boss LOVED Halloween. It was his favorite holiday and he got SUPER into it. He volunteered at the local community fundraiser haunted house, which was a super big deal in that town and it was a very elaborate and scary affair. One October, I come in to work and his office is completely plastered in severed body parts. Rubber and plastic replicas, of course, but very realistically painted and quite literally everywhere. I about quit on the spot and ran out the door. Apparently he had been in late that night adding “artistic” touches to his collection in preparation for installation in the haunted house and his wife wouldn’t allow him to do it at home. He was extremely proud of his work and showed it off to anyone who walked in the door.

    I would love to say I did something besides turn green and rush past his office whenever I had to go there, but I did not. We were such a small and locationally isolated department and I was the junior member and really young at the time so I didn’t think I had much recourse. My field tends toward the male dominated good ole boys bro club so as a woman I was extra anxious not to be perceived as “whiny” or “wimpy” or “hysterical”. I really hated October while I worked there.

    1. Liet-Kinda (nee Snark)

      “My wife won’t let me do it at home! I should TOTALLY do it at work, then,” said no reasonable person, ever.

      1. Dr. Pepper

        I have A LOT of stories about this particular boss. He was a……. character. Interestingly, he was a great boss when it came to the actual job, like providing plenty of training, being very approachable, taking employee concerns and suggestions seriously, advocating for his employees with the higher ups, etc. But damn, he did some weird shit.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          I like these examples, because so often in real life people’s odd weirdnesses are NOT a window into every facet of their lives. Like, they can be open to change and novelty in a lot of ways but not lunch, where the only acceptable answer is turkey and swiss on rye with mustard and pickles.

        2. The Dread Pirate Buttercup

          “I have A LOT of stories about this particular boss.” Shocked. I’m shocked.

    2. KC without the sunshine band

      I know this wasn’t the focus of this post, but I do think the question of how the boss will perceive your phobia needs some thought. If she has no phobias, she truly may start to view you as whiny wimpy or hysterical. Right or wrong, her perception of you will have bearing on your future there.

    3. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I’ve had a phobia of mutilation & losing body parts so severe that it used to give me panic attacks to even look at an amputee.

      I also love Halloween & always have. And I’m too stubborn to let a ‘mere’ PHOBIA or screaming crying panic attack ruin my enjoyment of something I love that much, dang it!

      I still have a phobia, but amputees no longer freak me out, and I can be around fake mutilated/amputated parts, even extremely realistic ones…but I won’t watch things like Saw or other torture pron …I still have my limits! X-D

  31. Kayla

    To our arachnophobic OP #1: Would it be an option to politely ask your boss to move the glass-enclosed model off her desk and into a drawer or put a napkin/scarf/book/other covering over it during the times that you’ll hold meetings in her office? It might not be feasible if you’re just dropping in to ask a quick question but if you know that you’ll be having your annual review or another pre-scheduled, longer meeting, “cell-phone” sized should be pretty easy to relocate temporarily.

    1. OP #1

      Actually, she moved into her new office yesterday and it’s not on her desk anymore… it’s in her window. In a spot that is extremely easy to spot directly in the eye line of one of the stations I will have to work at on some days.

      So… uh, that’ll be fun to find an accommodation.

      1. McWhadden

        Oh, no! I’m so sorry. Did you find out if it’s real or fake? Not that that matters for your phobia I’m just curious.

      2. LizB

        I really, really hope it won’t actually be hard to find an accommodation. I can’t imagine being so attached to a decorative knick-knack that I absolutely have to have it in ONE. SPECIFIC. SPOT. I think if you just speak to Carolina (or Emily) and let them know you have a legit phobia and need to not see the object, it seriously should not be a problem for Carolina to adjust.

  32. Lina

    I’m a HHA and I make minimum wage doing full care on disabled individuals. I go into houses where people have nothing and I’m never given any more information than just a name and an address. I call social services regularly due to finding elderly people in horrific states. I love this job, but I’m in school to get out of this field. There’s no growth and no respect for the people who do this work. We don’t get any paid time off, health insurance, or raises. The whole field needs to change and people who do these jobs need to be respected.

    1. Matilda Jefferies

      I know this isn’t why you posted, but I want to say thank you for the work you do. It’s so important, and you absolutely should be paid more for it. The world needs more people like you!

  33. JS

    OP#2 – Alison advice is sound. A better option however, if they are your direct reports, would be to give them each on the side maybe once a quarter or year an AMEX gift card loaded with funds. This is what my Account Executive would give her sales team since coordinators and planners did not get commission.

    1. Interviewer

      OP 2, please do not pay employees on the side. It may seem like a nice thing to do, but it can cause confusion, especially if the funds are coming from someone in HR who does not supervise people in patient care. In the US, either way, that’s still taxable income that should be reported, since it’s coming from someone at the company for their performance at work.

      OP, you are best served putting your efforts into lobbying management for overall change. You can make a business case to upper management for increasing wages in order to reduce turnover, attract top talent and boost morale. Increasing wages for those staff would be long-term, manageable and sustainable change – not personally giving gift cards on the side.

      1. JS

        I did not realize they were in different departments. It will seem odd then if they have no connection or interaction to be receiving money out of the blue.

        I disagree though that they need to report it as taxable income because OP isn’t employing them. The money OP gives them is already being taxed as it is coming from their income. The money would be a gift unless this is over $14k a year the giver, in this case OP, does not have to file. You aren’t making payments on behalf of your company by giving your coworkers money, thats a ridiculous notion unless OP is directly involved in payroll and will be “cooking books” so to speak to transfer the bonuses to the coworkers.

        If lobbying management were an effective idea that OP thought would be plausible then they wouldn’t have written in. Upper management clearly doesn’t care about the bottom of the barrel workers if they are throwing parties, going on trips and giving themselves raises without increasing salary across the board.

        1. Natalie

          It’s not necessarily that simple. Whether it’s taxable depends on the OP’s position in the company, essentially whether or not they could be representative of the company. Any cash gift from the employee that is made with any business purpose in mind is income. The fact that it’s been taxed already is inconsequential – if it was determined to be income, that would mean the LW may not have taken a deduction they were entitled to, but it doesn’t change the issue for the employees.

          1. JS

            All employees are considered representatives of their company (which is why many people in non-public facing positions have been fired for twitter usage). I think OP would run into issues especially being in HR and not their direct supervisor if they were giving out bonuses on the side based on performance. But if they just personally wanted to do something nice for the department that wouldn’t be considered income, especially since they wouldn’t be giving cash they would be giving a gift card.

          2. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

            That is ridiculous if true, but I know the government also thinks people who hold garage sales should report that as income, or have business licenses if they hold them regularly (which is something many low income people in my part my state used to do.) All of which I consider *ludicrous*, a garage sale is not a business, and the government doesn’t have any right to regard what people make selling their or other peoples discards as “taxable income”, they should instead encourage it as TAX FREE income so people re-use and recycle and keep more consumer items out of landfills! I sure hope they don’t consider the money I make recycling our aluminum & plastic once or twice a year (aka TRASH) because I’ve never reported that and NEVER will. Do they SERIOUSLY have to consider ever $1 that ever casually changes hands between people as TAXABLE? Especially with rules like the garage sale thing that only ends up hurting the poor!

  34. copier queen

    OP3, something else for your co-workers to think about — since the children recently joined your boss and his husband’s family, your boss *may* have actually qualified for paternity leave or FMLA. In that case, he would have been unavailable for possibly months.
    Many kids coming from foster care into a new family would actually benefit from their foster parent(s) taking a big chunk of time from work and devoting that time to the kids’ care. Maybe your co-workers should reframe the situation and realize they are lucky that he is making as much time as he is for work, by enrolling the kids in daycare/preschool and balancing his duties as a dad and boss.
    He sounds like a great guy, in my opinion.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      Maybe your co-workers should reframe the situation and realize they are lucky that he is making as much time as he is for work, by enrolling the kids in daycare/preschool and balancing his duties as a dad and boss.

      Ooooh, no. When someone is “on the clock,” you’re not supposed to consider yourself lucky that they’re occasionally available. Disappearing and being unavailable – IF this is what he’s doing – is not “balancing his duties.” It’s leaving people in the lurch. And framing this as him being awesome because he’s making time for work while he’s supposed to be working is one of those parent-only privileges that drives people crazy.

      The OP has already commented that the boss used FMLA earlier. That time is over. If he’s working from home, he needs to (a) let his staff know, and (b) actually be available while he’s working from home. If he needs time away from work to be with his young children, he needs to take time away from work to be with his young children. You cannot do both simultaneously.

      1. copier queen

        I missed that he had already taken FMLA. It seems like this all could be easily solved if he shared his Outlook calendar with his staff (or one or two point people), and marked “work at home” days as such. Just because he’s at home, I don’t think the expectation should be that he will immediately respond to calls, emails, IMs, etc. My boss doesn’t do that when she is actually IN the office, much less working from home.

        He happens to be a parent but this is not a parent-only privilege. One of my supervisors, Tamika, is in a situation very similar to OP3’s boss. Tamika’s mom lives with her and has dementia. Tamika has full-time caregivers but sometimes has to stay home with her mom, if a caregiver is sick, or if her mom is having a particularly bad day. Tamika is sometimes too busy to mark her calendar “work from home,” and sometimes it may take a few hours to get a call back from her, but we roll with it….because Tamika is a great supervisor and because we know this situation is not going to be forever. And – because we know she is literally doing the best she can.

        OP3 said her boss mostly tells one person when he is working from home. He probably assumes by telling that person, he/she will tell the rest of the employees on an as-needed basis. Also, she said he is “mostly reachable,” so that makes me think when they call, he typically responds quickly.
        I am willing to bet the co-workers are 5% inconvenienced, and 95% jealous/envious.

      2. Genny

        I’m sure this wasn’t copier queen’s intention, but that kind of framing also mirrors the dynamic where men get congratulated for being so attentive to their children and women get looked down on for not being able to make it all work without dropping any balls.

  35. Rex

    OP #3: is it possible that the big boss was incredibly unsupportive of family flexibility for his employees prior to his having kids himself? That would explain the fury of your coworkers. And point to a way to push this is a positive direction — encouraging the employees to use this opportunity to push for better family-friendly policies across the board.

    1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I’m just going to say that if a company has unfair policies, where only management/higher ups benefit from perks that it would make sense for all or most employees to have, it is completely irrational to be “furious” at the managers/higher ups who are actually using the perks they have been given and not those who are responsible for the unfair policies in the first place.
      To put it in a different situation, if this was a place where only management/directors were given enough hours to qualify for sick time, & health insurance, or allowed to WFH, per company policy, would it make sense for the employees to be “furious” at the manager who has a chronic or sudden acute illness and is using their sick time, insurance, & WFH as it was given to them, so they could manage that illness? Even if it made them difficult to reach sometimes?
      Or should they be furious at the people/department that was in charge of making these unfair policies?

  36. iglwif

    OP#5, when I was a manager I absolutely 100% wanted to hear about stuff like that! Definitely send along a link to your manager as Alison suggests :D

    1. BlueTOOsday

      As a manager, I would also want to hear about it. The only thing I would want to add, is that in my industry, it would have been better if you had told your manager that you were asked to do this in advance, so he or she would know how you’ve been spending your time. Or to give you guidance on how this additional project should fit into your regular work.

      1. OP#5

        OP #5 – I actually took on that project on my own time! I was really into it, and for that very reason I wrote it while I was at home (with a good and proper internet connection lol)

        + She only started being my manager very shortly after the project was finished, before it went live :)

        1. Lisa

          Letting your boss and/or coworkers know about a work accomplishment is a very normal and appropriate thing to do. You’re not “bragging” or “showing off” unless you frame it in that manner. If you use wording similar to what Alison provided – mildly enthusiastic and matter of fact – it would be really weird if anyone thought that was sucking up. It could even appear as strange to NOT share that info, almost as if you were sneaking off and doing it in secret.

          But to that point – you really do need to check with your boss before doing a significant work project outside your job description. Unless you work for a non-profit, there is no “on your own time” in the workplace. If you are non-exempt, your employer is legally required to pay you for all work you performed, whether or not it’s part of your regular job, whether or not your boss authorized it. And even if you are salaried and exempt, there are other reasons a manager wants to have a say in what their employee works on. Maybe your manager is trying to get more headcount by saying her staff is overloaded, maybe there have been previous boundary violations between your department and the other one, maybe there are weird political undercurrents about Who Does What Around Here.

          In some cultures, this only applies to work product and not to extra-curricular activities like joining the holiday party committee or leading a book club, but that varies by industry, company and manager, so you still want to be sure.

  37. Lucille2

    #3 – After reading the letter, I can’t determine what the problem is that employees are confronting the boss about other than lack of communication. There doesn’t need to be some organized confrontation unless previous attempts have been ignored, but it doesn’t sound like this is the case.

    I haven’t worked in the same state, or at one time country, as my immediate boss in over 6 years. It has never been a problem. I can always reach my boss within reason, and there has always been a path of communication for emergencies. I see this scenario as being similar. Is this the kind of job where the boss needs to be physically present for things to run? If the answer were yes, then working from home should never have been an option. I’m willing to bet there is a level of resentment from the other working parents, and they intend to hold him accountable to the standards they’ve been held to. On the other hand, the boss’s situation may be the catalyst for change needed to increase flexibility for employees caring for family members.

    The boss should be aware of the frustration & issues his schedule is causing, but organizing an angry mob isn’t a solution.

    1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

      Yep, I said it early- be angry at the people RESPONSIBLE for unfair policies, not the people getting the benefits who are using them exactly as intended.

  38. Lucille2

    #5 – Definitely share this with your boss. We all need to do a certain level of self-promotion from time to time. I would also recommend giving your boss a heads up on side projects you’ve been asked to do before doing it. Whether or not you need to ask permission first is up to you knowing what is appropriate in your situation and your boss’s preferences. But if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on a side project, your boss should at least have a heads up. It helps to let them know what your passions and interests are, so they can send projects that interest you in your direction, and it helps them understand what kind of workload you can realistically handle.

    And there may be things about the project you need to be aware of. For example, I work with a marketing team who will come to me asking for resources from my team to put together a case study to share with our customers. If I feel my team is too swamped right now, the answer will be no until resources are available. It never fails that marketing will go directly to one of my direct reports with the same request. I would hate for my team to agree to do that project without letting me know first. As their boss, I don’t always know if they’re agreeing to it because they have time and it’s interesting to them, or if they feel pressured to do it unless we have a conversation first.

  39. Liz

    #4 – Huh! When I was younger and worked in an often-slow retail job, I would sometimes go through the coins and swap out all my change for the oldest coins in the drawer. Not because they were worth anything extra (they weren’t), just because it amused me to have only super-old change. It never crossed my mind that my boss might care about it. I can certainly see how it might be different with a rare/valuable coin though.

    1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

      But what is corporate going to do with rare or valuable coins? And why should a RICH and faceless non human entity be more entitled to their resale value than the underpaid worker who discovered it in the drawer?
      I used to work for the Salvation Army, and my manager was a super awesome, honest & ethical woman (and one of the best people/managers I’ve ever worked for), and if either we or a customer had found money or something valuable that was forgotten in a pocket or purse or whatever, and thought the org should take it, she would have disagreed & told them/us “keep it”. She knew the .org wasn’t any more entitled to accidentally donated found money (which couldn’t be traced, it wasn’t exorbitant amounts) than the person who found it was.
      When she, personally, came across cash, she stowed it in the office for the times when our donated early computerized registers went haywire (OFTEN) and ended up showing a bizarre discrepancy between the printed accounting and the actual register count. When we could scan a .65 cent piece of glassware and have the price show up on the register screen as anything between the tens of thousands of dollars to the millions or even billions, you really never know WHAT is going to go wrong when you run that tape at the end of the night. Sometimes it would be over or under by ludicrous amounts, and she had no interest in getting her employees in all sorts of trouble because our equipment was constantly malfunctioning, which reasoning she knew would fall on deaf ears. They were too cheap to actually BUY new, properly working registers for the stores, and didn’t want to hear it…denial, denial.

  40. Free Meerkats

    First, OP #1 needs to do what she needs to do to work there. With an office located in the middle of a wetland next to a wastewater treatment pond, spiders are normal around here. I just went out to see what the current population around the entrance is, I stopped counting at 15 – speck to an inch or so legspread. We have detente here, they eat the mosquitoes and gnats, and we leave them alone.

    I also have one I’ve named Boris that lives in the work truck. Usually in the stand-up work body, but occasionally in the cab. Of course, it’s a new spider every year or two, but it’s still Boris. And the unnamed one that lives in my window.

    After reading this thread, I think we may need to add a question to the next hiring round, though it’s obvious on the facility tour.

  41. Cucumberzucchini

    OP4 – When I was a bank teller sometimes we’d get rolls of quarters or individual quarters that were actually silver rather than what they’re made of now. If we came across these, we’d buy the roll of quarters out of our till by swapping it for a regular roll of quarters with another teller and then get “change” for the value of that roll, I think it was $20. Once someone had like three rolls of them appear. It’s easy to tell because there’s no line on the side of the quarter: https://www.wired.com/2014/03/can-find-1964-silver-quarters/

    It’s totally not a big deal, just swap the coin out. It’s not like it’s worth millions of dollars, it’s worth $10. You earned it with the funny subject line. This is way too much effort to put into a $10 coin. I consider myself an extremely ethical person, I do things that are morally correct that are not to my benefit all the time because they’re the right things to do. This coin thing is harmless and not worth worrying about. You’re just going to bring attention to something unnecessarily by pointing it out and potentially make extra work for finance. I highly doubt anybody are your company would care.

  42. the cake is a pie

    #1 – I hope this isn’t derailing but I’m genuinely curious–why would opening all the blinds be part of a security check?

    1. Loose Seal

      So that when people go through the building first thing in the morning to check for intruders, they can see into each office. It’s a pretty common security measure in banks and other places that could conceivably have someone break in and lie in wait for someone to get there that they could hold hostage and force to let them in the vault.

      1. the cake is a pie

        A belated thank you for this! I was picturing blinds on exterior windows, but never thought about interior ones. This makes total sense.

  43. Elizabeth W.

    #4–OP, most employers would not care about this, but Alison is right; you really do have to ask first. If anyone saw you doing it, it would look really weird.

    I used to work for a food service company that ran cafeterias in manufacturing plants in my hometown. Often, employees of those plants would be older men who had been saving change for years and years. They would grab a handful out of whatever container they kept it in without even looking at it, nor did they care. When we closed out the cash drawers at the end of a shift, my boss would look for wheat pennies. I ended up with quite a few myself, plus a Mercury dime, several buffalo nickels, silver quarters, and even some steel pennies. My drawer was often off on first count because of my stupid dyscalculia, but she knew about that and she knew I wouldn’t take anything.

    If your employer is fine with it and they trust you, it will probably be okay. But definitely ask. If the total ends up being wrong for any reason, that could come back to bite you if they found out you were switching money and they didn’t know it.

  44. BostonDreamLie

    Please dont angry mob the guy that just took in two foster kids and is trying to create a loving, stable home for them. He is probably super overwhelmed already. He RECENTLY started foster them with hopes of adoption. He is trying to get to know them and more importantly letting them get to know him and creating a life for them. It’s pretty understandable that his schedule is off, trying to make arrangements for them. Maybe your cowrokers can talk to him about setting more concrete times for him to be available. But dont all go in their wielding torches, asking him to prioritize work over uprooted vulnerable kids that are at difficult crossroads.

    1. JS

      Yeah I am thinking there HAS to be more to this story because otherwise I dont see why coworkers arent coming to this conclusion.

    2. Loose Seal

      I hope that it isn’t because someone at work thinks that a same-sex couple shouldn’t be adopting children. If you get the impression it is, OP, perhaps you should give a heads-up to HR.

  45. Gumby

    OP 2: Your raise divided by however many frontline workers there are won’t go far. But! There might be a way you can make a small difference to a few of them. Though you say the raise isn’t noticeable to you, there has to be some measurable difference. The extra $100/month might not affect your lifestyle much but that same $100 could be tucked into a thank you note and sent to a different randomly selected minimum-wage employee each month. This is all assuming there is interoffice mail or some other completely legal/ethical way to get contact info for said employees. How fun would that be?

  46. 2015Royals

    Did anyone else crack up at #1 saying “I don’t want to make her get rid of it”? Sometimes people just take themselves too seriously.

    1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I have said this multiple times in the thread- *I* have phobias, real, actual phobias, and it would never have occurred to me at any point in my life to ask OTHER people to manage them by changing anything about their person, decor, clothing, hobbies, pets, etc, not anything. MY phobia, MY responsibility to manage. Period, full stop, end of story. Especially being arachnophobic because good lord how common are spiders??? I see them in my house probably once a week (not counting the daddy long legs!) And since I haven’t lived in a spider free bubble, I can manage my phobias much better now.
      I also HATE being controlled by irrational fears, so there’s that- I’ve FORCED myself to do things like hold tarantulas and such, or look at spider pictures, just for that reason. Panic attacks and all…I’m just stubborn like that!

  47. LawBee

    A 2% raise that doesn’t even show up in your paycheck doesn’t seem “very blessed” to me.

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