should I tell my mom she’s unprofessional, wearing a “please interrupt me” badge, and more

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

1. Should I tell my mom she’s unprofessional?

I’m wondering if/how I should tell my mom that her unprofessional attitude is unacceptable and hindering her career. She is a financial analyst for a very large corporation. She tends to be sort of bitter in general, but I’m getting the sense that she must be a nightmare to have as a direct report. When the position for manager in her department opened, she applied and didn’t get an interview. She was shocked; they ended up going with an internal hire from a different department.

Fast forward to now, and she’s so miserable she’s tanking her own career. She’s told me she openly challenges her boss on almost everything, declines every company event (including team lunches out, holiday parties, etc.), and makes snarky comments to her coworkers and boss’s boss about her boss’s failings. She keeps applying for internal positions and not getting interviews, or not hearing back back after the first round, and acts like she has no idea why. I’ve tried to tell her she needs to be more of a team player or have an honest and respectful conversation with her boss, and she just brushes it off. It’s starting to get really frustrating to listen to her negative stories when the cause of the problem is so obvious. What else can I tell her?

I don’t know that you can solve this. It sounds like you’ve tried to give her advice and she hasn’t been receptive, so I don’t think there’s a magical combination of words you can try that will get through to her. That said, if you want to give it a go, you could try one very serious “I am worried about you” conversation where you sit her down (don’t do it as a casual thing; you want it to have more import) and say something like, “I am really worried about you. I know that you are frustrated that you can’t get promoted at work, but at the same time you tell me you’re acting in ways that would tank your professional reputation everywhere I’ve worked. I’m worried that you’re putting yourself in a position where you could actually get fired at some point, and where you’re definitely not going to be able to meet the goals you have for yourself. It sounds to me like you’ve somehow gotten yourself into a really negative mindset at work, and it’s showing to your colleagues. I hate that that’s happening, and I wanted to point it out because I know it can be hard to see that kind of thing when you’re right in the middle of it.”

Will that carry any weight with her? Who knows. She may dismiss you because you’re her kid, or because you’re not there to see what’s happening, or because she just doesn’t think you know what you’re talking about, or because she just isn’t open to hearing it. But if you want to give it a shot, that’s probably your best chance.

If it doesn’t work, then after that you might prefer to redirect any conversations about work to another topic so that this isn’t driving you crazy. (Or every time she tells you a story about her behavior at work, you could try saying, “That sounds like it’s going to get you fired at some point.” Optional add-on: “Please don’t tell me this kind of thing; it’s too stressful to hear.”)

2. Wearing a “please interrupt me” badge at the front desk

Recently there has been a discussion at my workplace about requiring front desk staff to wear “Please Interrupt Me” badges. We’re a heavily public-facing organization and 99% of our work involves good customer service skills. We have received a few negative reviews here or there about staff being distracted while at the front desk, but this solution makes my skin crawl.

First, our job already has policies requiring staff to be aware of any person who looks like they might need assistance. I am very careful to not appear busy and am usually first to notice anyone approaching the counter. I feel like this system will allow the people who already ignore those policies to continue being distracted and take for granted that anyone who really needs them will “interrupt.” Second, I’m a petite woman who looks younger than my age. People already feel entitled to interrupt me regardless of what I am doing or who I am already helping. I would really rather not wear a bright red badge that further encourages that behavior when I already strive to do well at my job. My supervisor has already firmly declared her support, and I have only worked here for a year, so I do not feel comfortable bringing up my concerns with her. Any thoughts?

It’s an awfully roundabout solution. If the problem is that people are distracted when they’re supposed to be accessible and helping visitors, their managers need to address that and hold them accountable for whatever standard of service they expect to see. Outsourcing that part of a manager’s job to a badge isn’t likely to be terribly effective, and it’s odd that your manager is so comfortable doing it. Plus, reasonably polite people are likely to feel rude about being ordered to interrupt someone.

That said, if you’re not comfortable bringing up your concerns and no one else is pushing back, there’s not a lot that can be done here. But having only been there a year is not such a short time that you don’t have standing to say something.

3. I’m required to sit through marketing pitches to buy insurance I don’t want

I work in a small company (less than 30 employees) that does various partnerships and pairings with insurance companies. As part of that, my company allows insurance agents to visit us and, basically, try to sell us their insurance (I get health through my job, but it’s usually something like car, home, etc.). Whenever this happens, an agent comes and asks to meet with each of us personally to pitch to us. Technically, this is supposed to be voluntary and we are allowed to not meet if we don’t want to. However, my boss makes us do it. We had a car insurance agent here recently, and I declined the meeting as we are supposedly allowed to do (I already have car insurance through another company). But my boss told me to go and meet with them anyway. She said I didn’t have to buy anything, but I did have to meet with them.

The next 20 minutes were spent with the agent asking me what insurance I have, and then telling me why it was sub-par and that I need to switch over to their company. I politely declined everything they said.

I absolutely hate being “marketed to” this way, I can’t help but think this is a colossal waste of time. I could be doing my job, and the agent could be talking to someone who actually has an interest in their insurance. I just…don’t understand why I’m required to attend a sales meeting, especially if I have zero interest. Is this normal, and it is something I can push back on?

No, that’s bizarre. It’s not at all uncommon for companies to let insurance agents come in and talk to people who are interested, but it’s not at all normal to require you to attend, especially for something like car insurance (as opposed to company-provided health insurance). I’m wondering if your company has negotiated discounted rates as long as they provide at least X number of people to hear the pitch, or something like that.

If you have decent rapport with your boss, I’d just ask her. You could say, “I hate wasting their time when I know that I’m not going to buy, and I’d rather be at my desk working. Is there an arrangement with these companies that requires us to send them a certain number of people to listen to their pitch or something like that?”

If you really want to push back on it, you could say, “I’m not comfortable being marketed to when I’m at work, so I’m going to sit this one out” and see what happens. But if your boss is pushy enough about it, it may be that it’s not worth the political capital you’d need to spend.

4. Our vacation time differs greatly depending on what state we live in

I work remotely for an otherwise great company that has employees all across the nation and the world. Their PTO is generous, and I never get pushback on any time I want off. The issue is that some employees work in states that do not allow “use it or lose it” so they get to carry over their PTO without limit. This means if they want to save it up for next year to take a two-week vacation and still have time left over for plenty of other days off, they can. In my case, my state doesn’t have that law and it is up to the employer. I get that.

But because I work in a state where it is not mandated that I get to carry over PTO, I have to use it or lose it by the end of the year. The employees who live in another state, doing the exact same job I do, get to take their vacations whenever. That means the vacation I want to take next year will be short a week of PTO because I don’t get to carry over my time. I can never take a vacation in January or February because I have no time accrued by then.

Isn’t this discriminatory or at least unfair? It seems to me that if other employees can carry over their time, the company should allow me to do so as well, even if not mandated by state law.

It’s not discriminatory in the legal sense, no. Federal discrimination law only covers discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age (40 and up), or disability. What your company is doing is perfectly legal.

But I can see why it grates! They’re providing significantly different benefits to employees based on where they live — and doing it with vacation time, which is probably the part of compensation that people care about most after salary. Ideally, they should either let everyone carry over vacation time to the next year, regardless of state, or they should cap how much vacation time people can accrue (which wouldn’t entirely solve the disparity but it would lessen it). You might consider getting together with a group of your coworkers and pushing for a policy change.

5. How do I get out of Boss’s Day?

Boss’s Day is coming up next week. How can I get out of contributing to a gift for my manager? I’ve had a lot of unexpected expenses lately and just can’t afford the usual $20 toward a gift card, not to mention the whole gifting up thing. It’s a small office and my fellow admins will notice if I don’t put something in the envelope. We don’t collect for gifts for the people we support, just the office manager. A couple of my coworkers are slavishly devoted to this person and will cause a stink if I don’t contribute. I actually like my manager and think she does a great job, but I’m broke.

There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Sorry, I can’t afford to contribute this year” or “It’s not in my budget this year.” You could even add, “For what it’s worth, I think (office manager) would be really uncomfortable if she realized people were being pressured to participate. Let’s make this strictly opt-in if we’re going to do it at all — but really, I think a card signed by all of us would be a better way to go.”

Or you could send them this, with a note saying, “I adore (office manager), but there’s actually a move against Boss’s Day for the reasons discussed in this article. How about instead we just do a card this year?”

{ 329 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    Ugh, OP#2, I hate those badges, and I find them kind of infantilizing (I don’t know why, but they make me chafe). If managers are concerned that people are being distracted, it would be more helpful for them to do roleplay training than to force you to wear a badge.

    I’m also curious whether the negative feedback is legitimate. It could certainly be true that people at the front desk appear distracted, or this could be a few people with axes to grind. Is everyone distracted? Is it only a few people? Is it at particular times of the day? Does it negatively affect a significant percentage of those who try to access the front desk? It just seems like there need to be more data points before choosing slapping a badge on people as the primary intervention.

    1. Ginger ale for all

      They had these badges and signs at a recent librarian convention that I attended. I got a few but I found that I don’t need them since I greet patrons on their way in to the library. Our reference/circulation desk is right by the entrance and people stop after we say hello with their inquiries. I don’t take any projects to the desk with me and just make patron support my project when I am manning the desk so there is rarely anything to interrupt.

      1. wherewolf

        I don’t even think the badges will be that effective. Some people will interrupt regardless, even when the person is on the phone or helping another patron. Some people won’t interrupt no matter what, if the front desk person is looking down and typing. I’m the latter, I don’t suddenly decide to ask the waitress what the specials are if she has a badge on her apron that says “Ask me about the specials.” And when I see a badge like that, it makes me think the staff needs to be encouraged to do their job (talk about the specials/look attentive) and they’re farming that out to the customer.

        I think the most effective method is not a sign that no one will read, but training staff to greet each customer verbally and with eye contact and a smile. Much more likely to make patrons feel taken care of than being ignored by someone wearing a badge that says “I’m not ignoring you.”

        1. SarahKay

          Agreed. My local post office has a bell at the counter for customers to ring to summon service if no-one’s there. And I feel guilty even ringing the bell, despite the fact that I know that due to the layout, the staff can’t see me and won’t know I’m there otherwise.
          Pretty sure I would still be reluctant to interrupt someone typing or otherwise working, regardless of a ‘Please Interrupt Me’ badge.

        2. Falling Diphthong

          It makes me think the staff needs to be encouraged to do their job and they’re farming that out to the customer.

          This is a really good point, along with Alison’s about hoping a sticker will take over managing for you. To me, as a customer, it just looks like minimal customer service tasks like talking to customers are too onerous for your staff, and you’re counting on me to whip them into shape. I’m already tired at the idea of interfacing with your org, and I haven’t actually spoken to anyone yet.

        3. bonkerballs

          That is so true. When I worked a front desk with high foot traffic, I greeted each customer as they came and if I was in the middle of something or with another customer, I’d say “Hi, I’ll be with you in one moment.” If you wear one of those badges, all that’s going to happen is that aggressive customers are going to interrupt you inappropriately. Either their going to interrupt you when you’re in the middle of helping someone else and get mad that you’re not helping them right away even though they followed the instructions to help you. Or you’re going to get those obnoxious people who think they’re being fun by interrupting you every two seconds and then pointing to your badge saying they’re supposed to do it like it’s all a big joke.

          Also, OP, a year is hardly too short a time for you to have opinions and speak up about things. By a year, you’re a well established employee at any organization.

          1. Lena Duffin

            In my last job we had to say I’ll be with you shortly, and I swear most people just started talking anyway. It was so frustrating, and meant I was more likely to make mistakes with my task than waiting a minute. One colleague would say that the SECOND someone walked up, before anyone else – who was free – to help them. Those badges are my idea of hell

      2. FuzzFrogs

        Yes, #2 put me in mind of similar complaints that are made at my library. Actually BEING open is so much more effective than simply indicating that you’re available–we’re a business that caters to wallflowers, we need to come to them. This is…a complicated issue at my branch (short version: programmers have too many desk hours in a day to get their work done entirely off-desk). But signs, buttons, etc. just don’t seem like an actual fix for a problem that is either down to an individual’s perception, or a staff member’s training.

      3. LibManager

        My first thought was “this sounds like something a bad library manager would do to the circulation desk staff!” I manage staff who work a library desk (as do my boss and I when needed). We encourage “welcoming behaviors” such as looking up and greeting people when they walk in. But our desk is on the opposite side of the room from the entrance, so it’s easier for desk staff to not notice when someone walks in, especially if they just go straight up the stairs.

        Some of our staff do other projects at the desk when it’s slow, but it’s never required of them. It’s up to them if they want to keep busy while waiting for people to come to the desk. I just make sure they know that customer service is their priority. We usually get very positive comments about our service, so I guess it’s working.

        I’d never make them wear a badge like that! It’s like a dunce cap or something; I think it would be humiliating to the employee and would make the patrons/customers uncomfortable.

        1. Beaded Librarian

          Interesting that your staff aren’t required to keep busy at the desk. At my library we have an ongoing problem with two staff members basically looking like they are staring off into space when they are not actively helping a patron and we’ve had complaints from multiple patrons about that, as the staff don’t seem interested in being there or actually being productive to them. We don’t have problems with people being ignored at the front desk line of sight is good if you are working on the computer while waiting and cutting projects are easy to put down.
          Our welcome/reference desk is a bit more awkward, we do have signs up to let people know we are there to help partly because it’s out in the middle of the area and so be default our back is to part of the room. Most of us do a periodic visual sweep of the area to see if someone needs help but we can’t see everything. And since our computer is potentially viewable by patrons it would look really bad to be randomly surfing the Internet. We do but keep it job related and at thank point it makes sense to ensure we’re keeping track in some way.
          Incidentally my purple hair seems to make people very comfortable approaching me although I have some kids apologizing for ‘bothering’ me they never apologize more than once though because I make it clear that my most important job at the desk is to help them. Everything else is gravy.

          1. An anonymous librarian

            Honestly, it’s kind of a no-win situation. I’ve worked in libraries where you’re allowed to work on other projects at the front desk, and customers complain that you always look too busy to help. But I’ve also worked in libraries where staff weren’t allowed to do other work at the desk, which made the customers complain that we seemed bored and lazy. (Spoiler alert: we were, in fact, bored. When 20 minutes go by between customer questions and you’re not allowed to do anything in the in between time, it’s boring.)

            1. Beaded Librarian

              Thankfully we’ve never had complaints about ignoring people when staff has simple busy work. The staff is all very good at at least saying hi to anyone who comes to the front desk for any reason to drop off books, grab a flyer, etc if it’s not something that they need actually help on. We have several regular computer users who are not eligible for a library card so we frequently have passes waiting for them when we see them come in. People coming in the doors occasionally get missed because staffare currently helping someone else.

      4. Drago Cucina

        We’ve put the signs on a couple our reference desks, but I (as the director) wouldn’t require someone to wear the badge. We have a couple and I’ve had someone who wanted to wear it. The signs have helped when the person staffing the desk is doing something that take second placed to public assistance.

        I will say staff staring into space, shopping, etc., where the public can see it grates on my nerves. People don’t know we just finished a school field trip. For those who don’t have an active project I encourage them to check out an eBook or database article and read it on the computer. They can easily “set it aside” and are improving their collection/reader reference knowledge.

    2. valentine

      For #1, the people who complained may not even have approached the desk. When I worked CS, people apologized for interrupting me reading this blog, but popped up nonstop if I was handling material or, most reliably, appearing out of nowhere when I had taken a bite of food, so that I had to talk with my mouth full.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

        Ideally I’d have a “Do not disturb” badge, but since I’ve tried having a sign (on bright pink paper, or writ large in big red font) that was completely ignored – I was on a conference call, the headset should have been a big clue, never mind the fact I was *talking* when they interrupted me (multiple people ‘they’), I’m not at all hopeful that any kind of written signage/badge/or even tannoy announcement will overcome 1) people’s basic nature – they’re either the kind of person to interrupt or they’re not; and/or 2) basic staff training. These badges are a stupid idea, it must be worth at least mentioning your reservations.

    3. chi type

      I get so annoyed with the “sorry to interrupt” thing. I mean, I get it, I get it, you’re trying to be polite but I’m being paid to sit here in public under a big sign that says INFORMATION just ask your damn question already! Haha, then again maybe I just need a vacation.

      1. SageMercurius

        ‘Can I ask you a question?’

        You just did.

        (only did that with people I knew – never with new users)

        1. Jack Russell Terrier

          What the managers should be teaching these people is to keep an eye out and either to drop what they’re doing or to say to the member of the public ‘I’ll be right with you’.

          If I am a member of the public the person is busy and doesn’t acknowledge me, I tend to say ‘when you have a moment’ in case they haven’t seem I’m there. I don’t know what the person is doing – on the computer or whatever – and don’t need them the stop in the middle of something important that will take a short time to finish. That might be what least some of the ‘can I ask a question’ or ‘sorry to interrupt’ is meant to do, but it’s poorly phrased.

        2. Lady H

          I think both the response from chi type and SageMercurius is unnecessarily adversarial to folks who are just trying to be polite. Unless you have the world’s most welcoming face, it’s not easy to approach someone to get help. Even at an information desk. It often seems like I walk up to folks and they look completely uninterested and down right put out and striking up a conversation is just plain awkward in the best of times. Have some compassion!

          1. chi type

            I mean it was pretty obvious they were both jokes borne of years busting ass in customer service. If you have zero frustrations in your job then good on you!
            It is a very difficult and extremely underrated (and underpaid) skill so it’s not surprising you run across a lot of people that do it badly. I’m pretty good at it myself (according to my supervisor) and it’s weird that you’re so bent out of shape over what’s going on in my head while I’m doing it.

            1. Seacalliope

              It’s difficult to start conversations and as someone who also works customer service, I think it’s unnecessary to be rude about common openers, even if it is mentally or far away from customer support situations themselves. There are plenty of other customer habits that I mentally scorn, but “Can I ask a question?” is so basic to be unnoticeable.

    4. MassMatt

      I am curious whether the staff is “appearing distracted” or being asked to multitask in a role that makes this difficult. Are they being told to stay busy, and given lots of administrative work to do, and is their performance judged based on these tasks? It sounds like the management may have expectations that part of their job is not about direct customer interaction yet also demanding that it is via these badges. I think it’s a terrible idea, badges are not management.

      1. Michelle

        This was my thought, too. Our front line staff have a list of tasks the manager comes up with each day for staff to work on when not helping customers (such as pricing items, making labels, etc.). The manager says it’s ok if all the tasks do not get done as long as the customers are tended to, but sometimes she will get snippy if all those things are not completed. One guy (who is no longer here) pushed back on her attitude one day and said “Do you want me to take care of customers or take care of your list? Some days I can do both, but when we have a busy day like today, I can’t”. She stomped off and gave him the silent treatment for days. Yes, you read that right, a manager gave her employee the silent treatment for days.

        (She’s a sub-par manager all around. If she’s in a bad mood or having a bad day, her staff are going to have a bad day. She got her position through her mother-in-law so she’s not going anywhere.)

        1. Sparklehorse

          Yep, this is a common retail problem. You cut down the payroll hours so that you have one cashier, one manager and one other employee on the clock. The cashier has to stay at the register, the manager is in the office doing manager things and the other employee is racing around like a crazy person trying to help customers and also complete all the sidework. Then the manager gets pissed when that one employee doesn’t get all the sidework completed.

          1. Turquoisecow

            And management doesn’t want to pay people to do nothing, so they try to tell the cashiers to do something else when there are no customers but oh! Now there are customers and the cashier has to stop what they’re doing and run back. When I worked in a grocery store, we almost never had enough cashiers, so things our front end department was responsible for – like putting away returns or cleaning – were often done by the supervisor on duty because the cashiers had to tend to customers. And half the time the supervisor had to help with that as well, so they weren’t free to check prices or give change.

            1. Kelly L.

              So much this!

              *stocks shelf, turning back for a fraction of a second*
              “Kelly, there’s a customer! Why aren’t you waiting on them!!!!”
              *goes to wait on customer*
              *50 more customers show up right on their heels*
              “Kelly! Why aren’t the eye drops stocked yet?”
              Because my Time-Turner is in the shop.

        2. Xarcady

          I was thinking this as well.

          At one job, the receptionist was giving a big chunk of accounting work to do. Work that takes focus and is very detail-oriented. Work that does not combine well with answering the phones, greeting everyone who walks through the front door, and handling all sorts of mailing/shipping/printing/copying requests from other employees. The owners ended up taking her off the reception desk two afternoons a week so she could do the accounting work, and making other staff rotate through on the reception desk. Which to me made no sense.

          When I was supervising student workers at a university library circulation desk, other staff kept commenting about how the students would just sit there and do homework when there were no patrons checking out books. Many other departments claimed they had tons of work that my students could do. But when I asked everyone for suggestions, many of the tasks simply didn’t work well at the desk. They required too many supplies, so there was no room on the desk for patrons to put their books down. Or they required nit-picky attention to detail that needed uninterrupted stretches of time. Or they didn’t work well with one student working on the project on and off for an hour, then handing it over to another student when their shift ended–too many people working on one project would cause variances that Tech Services did not want.

          We ended up with two tasks–stapling copies of reserve materials into folders and putting barcode stickers on book pockets–that would work well at the circ desk. All the other things we tried simply generated too many complaints about the quality of the work, or the students couldn’t get them done in the time allotted. (Yes, we were willing to help, but bringing in 300 books to get stamped, book-pocketed and security-stickered in two hours, when the students needed to be trained on all three steps–just not going to happen.)

          At a reception desk, other tasks should not be too time-sensitive. They should be easy to move aside if space is needed. They should not suffer if the project has to be stopped and started repeatedly throughout the day. And it is surprising how few tasks really meet these requirements.

          Sometimes, “They’re just sitting there doing nothing!” is the price you pay to have phone calls, deliveries, and visitors handled quickly and efficiently.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Sometimes, “They’re just sitting there doing nothing!” is the price you pay to have phone calls, deliveries, and visitors handled quickly and efficiently.

            Yep. Sometimes “be available immediately” is an actual job task, and if “be available” means sitting at your desk not doing anything, then that’s what it means.

      2. No one you know

        Yes, that was my first thought, too. A reception position is often seen as a person who is “not busy” and can take on lots extra tasks. Sometimes this is easily interruptable stuff like stuffing envelopes or ordering supplies but often it is something that really should be handled by someone who has some privacy like payroll, HR stuff, accounts payable, etc that both customers and employees feel inappropriate interrupting.

      3. nonymous

        If the issue is justifying incomplete sidework, I’d suggest having a log to track the receptionist contacts. Could be as simple as time, description of help provided and duration of contact. Not only will this allow reception staff to justify busyness, some patterns might emerge, like if a lot of people are asking for directions to the office next door and the building needs better signage.

      4. all the candycorn

        I also had a feeling that they may be understaffed. I’ve worked places where they demand crazy-fast response times from their desk staff, but will only staff half as many as are needed at a particular time, and then blame the staff person for “not paying attention” to people as they process a complex transaction.

    5. Dr. Pepper

      I think it’s because on the surface it seems like such a simple solution but once you dig even the tiniest bit, you find that it’s not a solution to anything at all. Some people are interrupters and don’t need any encouragement. Others won’t interrupt even if there’s a flashing neon sign inviting us to do so. Why is the staff distracted? Are they bad at their jobs or have they been given other tasks that take away from their customer service duties? How is a badge supposed to change either of those things? Some people will think that the staff need reminding of their job, while others may think poorly of such a gimmick. I know I do when I go into a place and the employees are obviously forced to wear pieces of flair that they would rather not.

    6. Yojo

      If it’s such a customer-service oriented workplace–and the badges are truly unavoidable–how about wearing one for a little while and then fibbing to management: “a couple of our visitors have mentioned how weird they find the badges, or suggested that it comes across as a shortcut to actually paying attention.”

    7. Turquoisecow

      Unless the badge is HUGE, I might not even notice it. I have pretty bad distance vision, and I also don’t have an eye for detail with regard to a person’s appearance. Half the time I don’t notice if someone has a name tag – or I do but I don’t know what it says – so I probably wouldn’t notice a badge like this, especially if the person was at a desk with her head down, working on something.

    8. boo bot

      I think they feel infantilizing because they basically say, “Disrespect Me!”

      I realize the intent is, “Helping you is my first priority, so I’m happy to drop anything else!” but with some specific exceptions, interrupting someone is recognized as a disrespectful behavior – it’s why people are hesitant to do it.

      So, asking someone, especially a female, young-looking someone who may be frequently interrupted in a way that is actually disrespectful, to wear a badge that cheerfully requests “Interrupt Me” is messed up.

      I would feel incredibly resentful of that, as badges go I’d put it way below something like, “Ask Me, I’m Here to Help,” and only slightly above, “Grab My Butt, I’m Here to Please.” (Okay, more than slightly, but still.)

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, is your boss receiving kickbacks from the insurance companies? (I’m mostly kidding.) In what world does it make business sense for you to use time when you’re on the clock for non-job-related tasks? This seems like a massive waste of your time and your employer’s resources, unless the employer is getting some kind of benefit/compensation related to how many employees they can entice to attend marketing presentations (and sign up for insurance). It just seems coercive and non-sensical, especially if it’s supposed to be non-mandatory.

    1. Greg NY

      My first thought reading that letter was “it’s more important to listen to sales pitches than to get done work for the organization”. That’s insane!

    2. CastIrony

      I’d listen to all these pitches for OP#2 if I could if I could have that as a job! Then we’d both win! :)

    3. sacados

      I mean, the letter said they do “partnerships” and stuff, so I wonder if these insurance companies are in a sense clients–or potential clients– of OP’s organization?
      If that is the relationship, I can see how OP’s company might think that offering up their employees as potential sales targets would give them a boost or make them look better in the eyes of these clients.
      It’s exploitative and inefficient, but it is a potential explanation.

      1. Life is good

        I once worked for a bank that started an insurance division. Because the agent was having a hard time getting business, our branch manager required that everyone bring in the declaration page from our car and home policies so the agent could give us a quote. I was so annoyed to feel like I had no choice in divulging my personal business just so this guy could improve his numbers. I did it grudgingly, but the quote came back much higher and I was off the hook. I was young and just didn’t want to make waves. This sort of stuff is not fair to force on the captive audience of your employees.

        1. AnnaBananna

          Yep, we were encouraged to do the same thing when our company acquired an insurance arm and brokerage firm. I think the company thought that the employees would be a great networking resource for new business later on down the line if they had signed up (and assuming we were happy with the product, bien sur).

          It’s not a totally out of line business practice. It’s just damn annoying.

    4. chi type

      This sounds like my worst nightmare. I will actively avoid stores that have too many people trying to sell me something. If I’m browsing at a booth or something, someone asking me what I’m looking for will often prompt me to move right along. Being forced to sit there and endure it…shudder.

    5. LQ

      I wonder if the boss is getting pressure to get 100% participation from the group. Maybe not a full on kickback but pressure.

      That said I’d go and not have whatever they were trying to insure. I actually don’t have a car so the thought of sitting there listening to someone tell me about car insurance makes me laugh. So if they then tried to say how about insurance for your TV. Don’t have one. House? Don’t have one? Apartment! Don’t have one.

      I may be a horrible person, but I’ve always been this way, when I was little an insurance person called and asked about windows and I said we didn’t have any.

      1. Psyche

        I would be temped to walk in and say that there is 0% chance that I will buy a policy but I am required to sit through the presentation so I will. Any questions about current policy would be met with “I’m not comfortable disclosing that.”

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          I’d do it. “I don’t really want to waste your time, so I’ll tell you upfront that I’m not interested in switching my insurance. “

      2. Solidus Pilcrow

        Back in the days before the do not call list and the long distance carrier wars (remember MCI?), I finally got fed up with the incessant calls and said I didn’t have a phone… Got them thinking and confused.

        I think I told the New York Times that I couldn’t read when they kept calling to sell subscriptions.

        1. Miri

          I remember my uncle telling a story years ago. It was a random afternoon and he was unoccupied, and he got a telemarketing call about life insurance. He decided to have fun with the person.

          TM: do you have any family?
          Uncle: Yes.
          TM: What’s going to happen to them when you die?
          Uncle: I don’t know. I’ll be dead.
          TM: But don’t you care about them?
          Uncle: Yes, and that’s why I help take care of them.
          TM: But you won’t be able to do that when you die.
          Uncle: But then I won’t care, because I’ll be dead.

          And around and around. The telemarketers are often not allowed to be the first to hang up, and my uncle was bored and was having fun with the telemarketer and his script. I don’t remember how the story ended, but my guess is eventually my uncle got bored with the game and got off the phone.

      3. boo bot

        Life? Don’t have one!

        “I was little an insurance person called and asked about windows and I said we didn’t have any.”

        You were a little hero, is what.

    6. MassMatt

      Came here to say this, and not kidding. Insurance agents often pay significant amounts in order to get time to do presentations, meetings, etc. If they are not subsidiaries/partner organizations (and partnerships can be very murky) then they are probably paying SOMEONE for this kind of access, whether it’s your boss or your company; it definitely isn’t YOU. That the boss is making these meetings mandatory (prioritizing them over your actual work?!) leads me to believe he personally is getting some kind of benefit, or her performance is being measured by how many employees are meeting/signing up for insurance.

      IMO going to the boss with this concern is akin to going to Claude Raine’s character to complain about gambling in Casablanca.

      I would ask around among your colleagues and find out what is going on, whether this is a recent thing or a new thing, and who or what is behind it.

    7. schnauzerfan

      Oh how I wish my Uncle worked for OP#3’s company. He’s the kind that invites missionaries and watchtower folks to come in while he tells them about his church… He also dabbled in several different MLM products for a while. He’d be telling the insurance agent all about Amway and Shackly(sp) and probably manage to sign them up to his team too.

    8. Hannah

      My guess is that in order to be able to offer the coverage at all (for those that want it), they have to have minimum participation in the sales pitch part. Most of those types of voluntary benefits organizations require minimums (for purchase or, less stringently, participation).

  3. Greg NY

    #4: The number of companies with lousy vacation policies is amazingly high. Yours isn’t even bad, if the PTO is truly generous. (Be careful, though, with thinking it’s generous when it’s really not. Do you have at least 4 weeks? Anything less is NOT generous.)

    It’s discriminatory, although not in the legal sense. But it is quite common for PTO accrual policies to be different in California than they are elsewhere. In California, accrual can stop after a certain point, but accrued PTO can’t be lost. The very same company often treats California employees differently rather than applying the California standard to everyone. BTW, I don’t think your colleagues in other states can carry it over without limit, most likely what’s happening is similar to what I just described about California. If, however, there is truly no limit, that would be even more maddening.

    It’s tough to push back here because your organization is so large. The larger the organization, the more rigid and centralized decision making is. But it would be worth a shot to contact the corporate HR office. The only way anything gets changed is if someone makes a complaint or questions a policy, and this isn’t one that is going to come back and bite you (the worst you will get is that they are unwilling to change it).

    I would do this, however: talk to your manager about making arrangements for taking unpaid time off so you can take a vacation of your desired length and/or one in January and February. If you have a good manager, they will be sympathetic and will work with you toward that goal. Also remember, you have the same amount of PTO as those in other states, so you will come out even if you are able to work this out.

    1. valentine

      #4: If you’re assuming about the need for accrual, ask if you can have a negative balance or switch to having the year’s allotment available for booking straightaway.

      1. Ruth (UK)

        Yeah I was interested to read they can’t ever book holiday in Jan or Feb due to not accruing enough yet. That seems odd to me and also like it will cause problems of everyone trying to take holiday more at the same times as each other and causing classes as no one will be a me to use any longer stretches earlier in the year so anyone wanting a laegeer chunk in one go will all end up asking for the same time off later in the year.

        Here it’s common to receive your leave for the year in one go at the start of the year. If you end up leaving the job having taken a bigger proportion then you’ve accrued that year it’s normally paid back (often through a deduction from your final paycheck… Which is often enough as a month notice is the standard here). You’re also paid out any you didn’t take.

        1. Ruth (UK)

          Ugh apologies first typoes caused by a small phone screen. One section in particular came out possibly hard to understand and should say, “… causing clashes as no one will be able to use any longer stretches …”

          Further down I also meant portion not proportion.

        2. londonedit

          I’m also struggling to figure out how this accruing leave situation actually works…it seems bizarre to me that you can never take time off in January or February because you have to wait to accrue the time. Like Ruth, in my experience I’ve always been allocated my holiday allowance at the beginning of the year (in some companies it runs from 1 January to 31 December; others do it from 1 April to 31 March in line with the accounting/tax year) and – with my manager’s approval – it’s mine to do as I want with. Companies do often have rules about things like not taking more than two weeks’ holiday in one go without special approval, or sometimes not taking holiday during a particularly critical time, or needing to save X number of days’ holiday to cover the office shutdown between Christmas and New Year, but apart from that, you’re given your 20 days or 25 days at the beginning of the holiday year and no one minds how you use them.

          1. Madeleine Matilda

            I work for a government agency. We accrue a certain number of hours of leave each pay period (the amount depends on how many years of service you have). Unlike OP, we can carry over up to 240 hours per year so if you plan ahead you could take a vacation in the beginning of the year.

            1. BF50

              That’s the thing, though. On systems where you accrue per paycheck, you should be able to carry over hours. On use it or lose it systems, you should get the entire amount up front, pro-rated for new hires. They have conflicting policies that will leave them short staffed in December.

              I have worked under use it or lose it PTO systems and on January first, people were booking their entire year’s vacation allowance. Even then, we were still short staffed in December because everyone saved one week for sick days, and then if they were not sick, took all that time off in December. Great for those departments who had extra work coming up to our fiscal year end. /sarcasm

              At least we had a somewhat generous PTO allotment. I got 5 weeks when I left, but that did also include sick days.

              1. GlitsyGus

                I hate when employers lump sick time and vacation time together and try to pull the “Look at our super generous PTO package!! No, dude, it’s 10 sick day and three weeks PTO. That’s just average, especially for an employee that has stuck around for a while.

                It’s fine to lump them together, in fact overall I prefer it, but don’t try to spin it into something it’s not.

          2. AcademiaNut

            I’ve worked in places with accrual – we started with zero days, and earned one per month. However, it rolled over, with a limit on how much you could save (this was in California). So for the first half year or so, you didn’t have much vacation, but after that you could save it and use it as needed. My current job refills at the start of each year and doesn’t roll over, but the first year is really stingy.

            The only weird thing at my job is that my husband and I work for the same institution, but under different job classifications, so his leave rolls over, mine does not, his refills in August and mine at the end of the year. Also the government passed legislation last for my class of worker requiring pay-out at the end of the year, but did not give my (government) employer the budget to do so, so I’m required to use all my vacation.

              1. Jadelyn

                Eh…one day per month is 12 days per year, which is over 2 weeks, and 2 weeks/yr is pretty standard in my experience (at least until you’ve had time to build some seniority and reach the higher levels of PTO accrual; my org does 2 wks to start, 3 wks after 2 yrs of service, and 4 wks after 6 yrs of service), so a day per month doesn’t read as particularly stingy to me.

                But that’s assuming we’re talking vacation and not a combined sick/vacation PTO bucket, because if that’s the case, then 1 day/mo is terrible.

          3. Bagpuss

            I’m in the UK, and it’s something that often varies in that you may have a situation in the first year of your employment where you have to accrue the time before you can take it, but in subsequent years you just have x days for the year and if you take them all early on and then leave before you have accrued them, your final pay is adjusted. I think here it’s only legal for an employer to make you accrue leave before taking it in their first year, after that, you can use it from the start of your ‘holiday year’ (which can be defined in your terms of employment, or if not,m defaults to starting on the day you start work)

            If you have a system where is is allowed / the policy long term, does everyone’s year start in January?

            I think that everywhere I’ve worked, the holiday year was the same for everyone, and you just got pro-rata allowance if you joined, or left, part way through a year, but I think some places have a year which runs from when the employee started, so if you join the company in October, it would be October and November each year that you couldn’t take leave because you hadn’t built it up yet, but for someone who started their job in January, it would be those months – which I guess would allow an employer to both have a rule that you have to accrue the leave first, and to avoid having everyone wanting to use it up at the same point in the year. Although I imagine that it makes life more difficult for whoever has to keep track of it!

            1. londonedit

              The pro-rata thing is how it works where I am – I started after January, so I’ve been given a pro-rata number of days’ holiday for this year. I’m not sure what would happen if someone joined the company in, say, November, and didn’t have the three days’ holiday pro-rata that they’d need to cover the Christmas break – I presume that would be something that they would work out in the terms of their employment. Perhaps they would take them as unpaid leave, or more likely I think the company would honour those days anyway as a one-off, as it would be fairly exceptional circumstances.

              1. WellRed

                At my company it restarts on the anniversary of hire date and they give us the time (4 weeks). None of this accrual silliness.

        3. Pebbles

          I used to have the “get-all-vacation-allotment-upfront” which was also tied in to a use-it-or-lose-it policy. Since we switched to accrual this year I realized how much nicer the upfront system was because I could then plan out the whole year without having to do any complicated math.

          With the accrual switch, the start of this year was horrible as the use-it-or-lose-it old policy meant that we would start January 1 with no vacation time whatsoever, and since they announced the switch less than 2 months prior to doing it, many people (including me) had already booked their January vacations. I’m in the Midwest, so of course I’m going to go somewhere warm in January. Thankfully everyone’s manager was understanding and we were allowed to have a negative balance. But it wasn’t until end of May before I was back on the positive side of zero.

          We are now allowed to carry over up to a week of vacation to the next year, and we are technically allowed (though not encouraged) to go negative up to a week. So all that to say, the OP’s company’s policy sucks if they aren’t allowed to carry over any vacation AND they aren’t allowed to go negative. OP, your company should make at least one of those options available to its employees.

        4. Elvis Needs Boats

          I have found that companies don’t always realize the consequences of their PTO policies. I had a client not long ago that had a “use it or lose it” policy, combined with a pay period-by-pay period accrual, which meant that the employees started every year at 0, as the OP infers. I pointed out to them how odd and unworkable that was and it made them go back to their execs to revise. (They were in the process of changing their policies, if I recall correctly, but I was the first to point out the oddity.)

          My company has a similar issue with California vs. every other state, but alleviates it by allowing one week of PTO to carry over in the non-California states. And I think the non-California states get their PTO as a lump at the beginning of the year as well. Those of us in CA have an ongoing accrual.

    2. wherewolf

      Even if leave doesn’t roll over, I think OP would be fully justified in arguing that they should “accrue” all their leave at the beginning of the year so they can take paid leave in January and February. This business practice is going to leave you with a lot of people taking time off in November and December which could cause coverage problems–something you might want to bring up as you push for change.

    3. Mt

      Carrying over vacation is a big negative on a company. The company now has a big unpredictabile staffing. Second since vacation is paid out at the current pay, someone who carry overs vacation days to when they are at a higher rate of pay, the company now has to budget for the increased vacation pay costs. Also some companies want to encourage vacation usage since it allows the workers a break and hopefully come back refreshed

      1. Hallowflame

        At most companies, using PTO/vacation time is still subject to manager approval. Next year I’ll have 6 weeks of PTO available, but I still have to get my manager’s OK before I schedule any of that time off, and I already know he won’t approve certain days or weeks because of workflow.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        As much as I dislike my employer’s “use it or lose it” policy, this makes sense. My dad was a manager (and a workaholic who habitually cut his vacations short and came back to work before they were over) and his workplace had the carryover policy. He worked there his whole life until he quit at age 58 to emigrate to the US. By the time he quit, he had six months accrued vacation. But a bit of carryover would be so nice. Also, like someone else said above, having carryover would prevent a situation when a person HAS to take time off during the company’s busiest season, because otherwise they’ll lose it. Hopefully there is a middle ground?

        1. MCMonkeyBean

          I feel like my company has a pretty good middle ground, at least for me personally. We can roll over up to 10 days. The only time I came close to using all my vacation time was the year I got married. I do often find myself being like “oh, I need to take X days off in December in order to not lose anything!” but that actually works out perfectly because December is slow for us. I’m trying to plan better for that now, and I actually sat down earlier this year and looked at a calendar and when I planned to take actual vacations, then figured out how many other days I needed to use and scheduled a bunch of random Fridays off.

        2. Greg NY

          “Use it or lose it” is a major negative. Some organizations frown on unpaid time off, in those organizations, how are you supposed to ever take a long vacation if you can’t carry over any vacation until the following year? I get the accounting aspect of it, but in that case, either allow carryover with a cap or don’t take a stance against unpaid time off.

        3. laughingrachel

          I like the way my employer does PTO. I work at a tech start up so we have unlimited PTO. I’ve heard it’s starting to become more popular? Our PTO is approved at our managers’ discretion, and they’ve told us the guideline is 10%, so like ~25 days and ideally that would include sick time and vacation. But it just allows your manager to make the decisions based on workflow and their own judgement in case someone goes a little over, or uses most of their vacation and then gets sick (but we have a pretty generous WFH policy too if you’re contagious, but not too sick to work).

          Also I’ve only worked here a couple months and this is my first “real” job after school so having practically 5 weeks of vacation is almost unheard of among my friends in their jobs, so I’m very happy with it. I could see that maybe with a bad manager, it might not be the best, but I really like mine and he’s good about modelling a good work-life balance by taking vacations and spending time with family.

          1. InfoSec SemiPro

            I work at a company with the same policy – and it has pros and cons. If you have good management who understand that for longevity their staff need to take vacation, it works really well. Managers can give vacation to people who are burned out, ask people to take additional time out if they are sick and generally have more tools to manage their staff’s productivity and support it.

            For managers who don’t get this, it can really damage their teams. I know we’ve had cases where really high levels of the company have had to step in when a manager was using their discretion to only give vacation time every other year. “The policy says its at my discretion! They took a trip last year! This year it is Bob’s turn!” It means that expectations and management and tracking have to be really clear and good. I dislike how uneven it makes the company – yeah, I can take a half day to handle health stuff and my group is fine with it, but colleagues in a nearby team with seemingly similar roles get much less.

            For the size of my company, I think a clearer policy would be better. It still needs to be adequate and managed compassionately, being able to say “its really slow and nice outside, so we’re closing the department” or not utterly screwing Jewish staff when the holiday calendar aligns poorly is part of good management for long term retention of productive staff.

        4. GlitsyGus

          The reason I am happy I have carry over is because I have been in situations where, due to resourcing or whatever, I am unable to use all my PTO in one year. I shouldn’t have to forfeit my days off because the company doesn’t want to hire enough people, that is essentially asking me to work harder and then take money away from me for the privilege.

          In my current job we had just under a year where we were super short staffed and I didn’t take PTO until we filled the necessary vacancies, so I ended up with a three week surplus. It was tough in the moment, but after it was over it was nice to be able to use the days in the next year to make up for it.

      3. Psyche

        Putting a cap on how much can roll over would mitigate the problem of unpredictable staffing. Also, many companies do not pay out vacation days at all. I think many people would feel better about a “use it or have the days paid out” policy than “use it or lose it”.

        1. Mt

          Use it or pay out really adds to uncertain budgets. Ive done a payout and its a big unexpected addition to the budget. Esp when the payout happens in December.

      4. Natalie

        There are other ways to address these potential negatives besides disallowing any carryover. Plenty of companies obviously manage without use it or lose it policies.

      5. Kes

        What my company does (although we also get all our vacation at the start of the year) is allow us to roll up to 1 week (out of 4) over into the first quarter of the next year. If you haven’t used it by the end of the quarter, they pay it out then. I can understand the company not wanting to allow unlimited accrual, but not being able to take any vacation ever in January or February seems silly.

      6. Jadelyn

        I fail to see how carrying over PTO creates any more unpredictability than frontloading, or accrual, once it hits a point in the year where everyone has had time to accrue. PTO in general is going to create unpredictable staffing (except it honestly doesn’t – if you look at the data on a long-term basis it’s pretty predictable in general when people will be taking most of their PTO), and unless the company allows workers to just say “yo I’m gonna take next week off, see ya!” without needing approval from their manager, the management still retains enough discretion over approving or denying PTO requests to keep sufficient staffing levels when they need them.

        And a company can encourage vacation usage without use-it-or-lose-it policies – my org has a policy in the handbook requiring any EE with fiduciary responsibility to take a minimum of 5 consecutive days of vacation once a year. So all of these issues are things that can be solved in other ways than instituting a use-it-or-lose-it policy.

    4. ThatGirl

      What I don’t get is why the OP can’t borrow against time expected to accrue – I have taken Jan/Feb/March vacations before, and while I didn’t always have enough time accrued, it’s been understood that yes, your PTO balance will go negative but you’ll “repay” that as the year goes on. The only potential problem would be if you got let go and needed to actually repay it, but that’s rarely a problem.

      1. bonkerballs

        I’ve never worked for a company that would allow that for exactly the reason you just gave. If they let you borrow three days of vacation, there’s no guarantee you’re going to keep working long enough to accrue back those three days of vacation.

        1. iglwif

          But then can’t they just take those 3 days off your last paycheque?

          ExCompany had vacation math that I didn’t entirely understand, but that was what they did: You started the fiscal year with all your vacation days available, and if you left before you’d used them all, those days were added to your last paycheque, or if you used more than you’d accrued, they were taken off your last paycheque.

          So, say you were in your first couple of years and thus only got 12 vacation days, and you took 10 days off in June (FY started May 1) and left the company in August, they’d take 7 days off your last cheque; and if, like me, you stuck around a long time and still had unused vacation days from the current FY when you left (I was up to … 24 days? 23 days?), you’d get a lump sum equivalent to those unused days on your last cheque.

          Maybe there’s some factor I’m not thinking of that would prevent this?

          1. Jadelyn

            Laws vary in the US from state to state on what employers are legally allowed to withhold from an employee’s final check. In California, you can’t just withhold advanced PTO from someone’s final check. The employee needs to repay you, they do owe you that money, but you can’t withhold it, and if the employee refuses to pay it back then the company is stuck going to court to try to recoup the loss, or more likely just writing it off since it probably wouldn’t be worth the expense and effort of going to court just for a few days’ worth of vacation pay.

        2. VAkid

          Yeah, my company has always done that. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal – and how many people actually leave during the year? They just have to make sure they deduct that amount from what you are owed when you leave.
          Otherwise, that would be terrible!

          1. VAkid

            ETA: I meant we always can take non accrued PTO. Otherwise you are really limiting people’s ability to have proper vacation time.

    5. ThursdaysGeek

      I once worked for a company that only allowed 40 hours to roll over, it was accruing, and I think they also preferred you didn’t go into the hole. I wanted to go to NZ, and February was the ideal time. I would not have 40 more hours accrued that soon. So I asked if they could make a one time exception, allowing me to roll over more than 40 hours just one time, so I could take this vacation. Since they knew it wasn’t so I could accrue a large vacation balance – I was going to use it very quickly, they allowed that.

      So yes, ask. Have definite plans that you want to make (but don’t buy any tickets!), so they know you won’t be just saving the time. They probably aren’t thinking about vacations that time of year, and aren’t deliberately excluding them.

    6. GlitsyGus

      Yep, I’m in CA and my main office is in a state that is use it or lose it. Our different offices have different PTO policies. I’ve been in several offices where this is the case. It makes me really familiar with my state’s labor laws since I’ve had to explain to every manager I’ve had exactly when and how I log PTO since they don’t know how it works here.

      I would say this, if you bring it up with HR that it isn’t fair, and the result that occurs is that they lower the PTO cap in the rollover states, you will really not be very popular. We had someone try that in a company I worked for and the CA office essentially staged a revolt.

      As the others said, I would suggest talking to your manager or HR about using the planned PTO in the beginning of the year if that’s what you want to do. They may not let you use your whole allotment for the year, but almost every company I’ve worked for has allowed some flexibility in that.

  4. BRR

    #3 If your company has to provide a certain number of meetings I wonder if you could just walk into the sales meeting and say “thanks but I’m not interested. I’m sorry to have to waste your time like this.” And this is probabaly just my insomnia talking but I’m kind of wondering what would happen if you brought work into the sales meeting and worked while the sales person talked at you and just keep saying “sorry but I have to get this done.”

    1. grey

      I was thinking malicious compliance. Show up as ordered but when they start pressing me about what I have; if its not work related (i.e. health or disability insurance) I’d fire back with “That is personal information and I do not wish to disclose that information.” Rinse/Repeat

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney

        Go to the meeting, set your phone alarm for 20 minutes, say “Please begin” and close your eyes.

    2. Bagpuss

      I would do this. Go in, say to the agent, “I just wanted to let you know that I am not interested in buying insurance,my boss has told me that I had to come in to see you, but I am busy, and I don’t want to waste your time either, so lets keep this as short as possible”
      And I would also be replying to questions about current arrangements with something such as “As I said, I’m not in the market for any new or different products, so I’d prefer not to disclose any personal information” or “As I said, I’m happy with my current products, and I’, not interested in discussing them”

      And have something urgent you need to do, 15 minutes after the start of the meting, and have a reminder set to ring / beep at you so you have get-out. Depending on how aggressive the salesperson is, they might be happy for you to go as soon as you’ve made clear that you won’t be buying, but the ‘other urgent appointment’ gives you a way out if they are more aggressive.

      1. Psyche

        Yep. Be polite but upfront about the fact that you are not interested. Refuse to disclose personal information. Since they aren’t even supposed to be required to go to the pitch it is unlikely that the boss could do much to penalize them for politely declining to buy.

    3. Marthooh

      Listen with one ear while simultaneously crocheting a tea cozy to give your boss for Boss’s Day.

      1. Gotta be anon

        My crocheting talent is too valuable to waste on a boss who forces me to listen to unwanted insurance pitches.

    4. Aphrodite

      You could always stroll in, greet the person, and answer their “how are you?” question with this, preferably without taking a new breath: I’m fine…Well, except for this IBS…It’s really annoying…Have you ever had it…I am sure it won’t be a problem today…as long as I go to the bathroom every ten minutes…Of course it takes me several minutes to wash my hands very well…but you don’t mind if I get up every ten minutes…I’ll be back in seven minutes…and we can continue…well, go ahead …

      But I can be mean.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#4, I’m sorry that your employer hasn’t come up with ways to equalize benefits across states. You’re right that in terms of morale, etc., it would probably feel fairer to have a standard policy regardless of your state of residence. But as Alison notes, this is not discriminatory in the legal sense, even if it’s “discriminatory” in the dictionary sense (it’s providing different benefits to different employees on the basis of their residence).

    If you and your coworkers can come up with a business argument for why leave should be standardized, it could be helpful if you decide to come together as a group and lobby your employer. In my experience, employers fall back on the idea that benefits like rollover PTO are too expensive to provide in states where it’s not required. But I think there are reasonable business-related arguments for why that cost is justified. It’s going to be harder to convince managers to make a change if the primary argument is that it isn’t fair.

    1. Drop Bear

      This isn’t a ‘knock the US’ comment because there are issues with our employment laws too of course, but I do find it hard to understand why you don’t have nation wide laws covering things like benefits – from an employer as well as an employee perspective it would seem to be an advantage.

      1. wherewolf

        I think it would at least make things simpler for the company to have one way of doing things, if it’s not the case that each location has Galapagos syndrome and has their own way of doing everything. That could be a business reason to present in favor of changing it.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Most employment and labor laws (at the federal level) in the United States are structured around what an employer is not allowed to do, instead of describing affirmative rights (with the exception of healthcare and Social Security). As a result, some states fill in gaps with affirmative labor and employment provisions.

        But in the absence of federal action, we end up with a patchwork system of laws, which can be costly for employers that operate in multiple states. We essentially end up with 52+ systems of law.

          1. SarahKay

            Any time I find it strange that all the US states have different laws I remind myself that Europe is about the same size, but all the different countries in Europe (and even in the EC) have their own laws too. Yes, Europe mandates some minimums, but different countries can – and do – vary wildly in how much, or if at all, they go over those minimums.

            1. BF50

              Exactly. I think Europeans sometimes forget how big the US is. A better equivalency is to compare the US to the EU instead of to individual countries in Europe.

              Colorado has a population of about 5.6 million vs Norway, which as about 5.3 million. Spain has a population of about 46 million vs California at about 40 million.

              1. iglwif

                And Canada, whose total population is smaller than California’s, nevertheless still has multiple different provincial/territorial employment law regimes. *Should* that be the case? Maybe not, but it is.

      3. Lora

        Some US states have economies larger than entire European countries (think Silicon Valley); think of it more like a 50+ member EU, but far more conservative on average. We share a common currency, but even common languages have their own regional dialects to the point that it can be difficult for a Mainer to understand someone from Mississippi.

        Every once in a while individual states talk about secession, too. There are frequent promises/threats of a Texit.

        1. all the candycorn

          Texas, California, and wee tiny Vermont seem to enjoy threatening to secede into their own countries on a regular basis.

          1. Jadelyn

            Since California is extra-special, we even threaten to secede into multiple countries from time to time!

            I’ve never heard of Vermont threatening to secede though. Why…?

      4. Psyche

        It has to do with how our country was formed. When the government was designed, the states were far less unified than they were now. In fact, the first try at forming a national government failed because they didn’t give the federal government enough power. The country is more unified now than it was in the 1800s, but changing the level at which things are regulated is a long process and would involve the states giving up more autonomy which many oppose out of principle and fear of setting a precedent that they don’t want.

      5. Holly

        On the other hand, any federal law on benefits is going to be way more conservative than what might be offered in a more liberal state… so sometimes it’s a good thing depending on where you live.

      6. GlitsyGus

        It is annoying, but since I live in a very Pro-labor state I really, really do not want more federal regulation, since I know most of it would end up being anti-union, anti-labor and pro ‘right to work’ (which is a major misnomer).

  6. Temperance

    LW2: I would push back on that. Those buttons aren’t going to magically make your coworkers do their job better. It will just give ammo to the annoying customers who can’t wait their turn, because now they can interrupt.

    1. Drop Bear

      I agree – this is something even a new(ish) employee could use to push to back a little I think. Perhaps the LW could point out it might lead to some customers thinking it means that they can interrupt even when the employee is already dealing with another customer, using a ‘I’m concerned that…’, type script, rather than a, ‘This idea suck because…’ one.

    2. Trout 'Waver

      That was my first thought as well. Allowing boorish customers to interrupt other customers is poor customer service, and the badge is just going to encourage the boorish ones while not impacting the polite ones. I’d argue that no polite person thinks anyone would wear a “please interrupt me” badge of their own volition.

  7. Staff Christmas Party

    #2: My first reaction would be that those badges will encourage customers to interrupt you while you’re already with a customer. They don’t say “Please interrupt me if I look like I’m doing company work” or “Please interrupt me if I’m on the computer”.
    To a rude, entitled person, they’re going to say “Please interrupt me when I’m on the phone with a customer” or “Please interrupt me while I’m serving a customer here at the desk”.

      1. CatMintCat

        This reminds me of the time my daughter, working in a pharmacy, came home with a badge she was expected to wear that said “Ask me why I’m cheap”. That idea didn’t even last 24 hours – I don’t know how it got past management.

        “Interrupt me” is just giving licence to everybody and his dog to be rude and inconsiderate of everyone.

        1. Anon for this

          I worked for a company/corporation which decided to get the uniform printed with the logo (company initials) just below the shoulder area. It said ‘HI’ which after someone in a shop seemed to find amusing by keep saying ‘hi’ but I found creepy – I used to drape my hair which was pretty long at the time over that shoulder so it covered it. Now, I’d probably get permission from my manager to just not wear the blouse.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood

            Yes, businesses can make some truly bizarre decisions about logo wear. Worst one I’ve heard of recently… Someone who is not on this board as far as I know works for a firm that just got a new partner. So they got new shirts with the 3 partner initisls initials: F.M.L.
            I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t known the person sharing her own photo.

    1. Polymer Phil

      I tend to take things way too literally, and I think my younger self would have interrupted a person helping another customer because the badge said to do it.

      1. Kiwilib

        This – years ago in very small library, if desk was unstaffed we had a sign “please ring bell if desk is unattended” – so some people did, irregardless of whether they wanted help!

    2. Lucille2

      My mind immediately went there too. And there’s a reason I’m not in customer service anymore, but I would’ve immediately went against Alison’s advice on this one and pushed back hard. OP, this is not good advice. There was a time when I honestly wondered why I never received raises or promotions in my retail customer service job. I mean, I was really good with the customers. But I was a terrible employee to manage. I realize that now.

      I wouldn’t have worn that badge, or would take it off the first time a customer felt entitled to interrupt while helping another customer. The reasons this is a bad idea will become obvious fairly quickly. I’d be surprised if this thing lasts more than a week.

    3. An anonymous librarian

      I can confirm that an entitled person does not need encouragement to interrupt while you’re already helping a customer. One memorable occurrence of this was when I was at the reference desk helping a fifth grader find books for his assignment and a man marched up and demanded that I come and help him right now. I gestured toward my young customer and told him I was in the middle of helping someone, but I’d be happy to help him as soon as I was finished. He went into a “don’t you know how busy and important I am” rant, and said that his problem was much more important than a kid’s homework.

      No “interrupt me!” badge needed.

  8. Greg NY

    #1: The most you can do is talk to your mom. If she won’t see reason, that’s on her.

    But I do have to wonder why you think all the things you named are so unprofessional. I think the best employees are ones that constantly challenge their manager when they feel there is a better way to do things. The key is respectfully articulating your points and realizing that you need to do things their way if they insist on it after the conversation. Only in dysfunctional organizations are “yes men” and “yes women” looked at in a positive way. Also, you don’t need to go to company events, although they can help improve your visibility when you’re angling for a promotion. To be sure, some of the things you named definitely work against your mom, such as bitterness and making snarky comments behind one’s back (that’s the worst of them, IMO). If your mom is made aware of all your concerns, then she’s an adult and she can sink or swim on her own. This is the same advice that is commonly given to one’s children.

    1. Ginger ale for all

      I follow Dave Ramsey and he often says that people rarely take advice from someone they used to diaper their butts. I think your mom may not be able to see you as a professional with good advice to give. Maybe you can ask her to find a mentor in her company to go to for advice instead.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Based on OP’s letter, I suspect their mother is not challenging her managers in a respectful or thoughtful manner. It sounds like OP’s mom’s bitterness is clouding her judgment so that she’s not picking her fights strategically, and even if the disagreement is valid, she’s failing to raise the issue in an appropriate manner.

      All that said, I’m with Alison. I don’t think it helps OP to tell their mom that mom’s behavior is unprofessional. I think framing this as concern/worry is the way to go. And if OP’s mom is dedicated to staying unhappy, then the best OP can do is try to disconnect and avoid entertaining mom’s rants.

      My mom used to work at a job she loved until leadership changed (about 12 years in), at which point it became a super toxic and bullying workplace. I essentially followed Alison’s script because I was truly concerned about her stress levels, her wellbeing, her relationship with my dad, and her overall happiness—all of which were suffering because she felt bullied and isolated and powerless. Helping my mom understand that her small efforts at rebellion/revenge were undermining her short-term goals (survive a toxic workplace) and her long term goals (leave the toxic workplace) helped her reframe and identify better solutions for dealing with work. Ideally, OP’s mom will be receptive in a similar way.

      1. LD

        I’m the OP– thanks for this comment and for all the comments in general. It’s definitely a frustrating cycle. Her new manager came from a different department that didn’t have tons of overlap with hers, so he had a lot to learn. Instead of easing his transition and acclimating him to the new environment and workload, she basically made it as difficult as possible out of resentment. So now, not only is he still not great at his job, but she looks even worse for it, and her job still sucks because he can’t do his. I’ve tried to push her to apply elsewhere, she really has nothing to lose at this point. Taking constructive criticism has never been her strong suit, but framing it as a worried about happiness issue might take better with her. Thank you all for your insight!

        1. Amber T

          I honestly feel like I could have written a very similar letter about my dad. I tried giving him advice, I tried getting him to see things from coworkers/managers/underlings perspectives (because, really, can *everyone* you work with really be an idiot? EVERY ONE OF THEM?), heck I even tried pointing him to AAM (in a “hey I recently found this work related blog that’s awesome… has funny stories and lots of great insight to the work place!” kind of way). All I got was that he has X amount of years in the work force, been working since before I was born, he will always know more than me, etc. So now if he starts on about work, I go “that sucks, Dad” or “that sounds difficult” and change the subject. Sounds mean, but he’s been complaining about work my entire life with no effort to change anything about himself.

        2. nonymous

          If it’s been a while since your mom job hunted, is there someone you can put her in touch with for coaching? They can help her frame an answer to “why are you leaving oldjob?” that can give her the distance she needs. Hopefully they will also have a shocked/horrified reaction regarding the poor behavior that hits home for your mom.

        3. Kelly L.

          I think there’s at least a slight possibility that some of her stories are more esprit d’escalier than things that actually happened–i.e., she’s getting angry at work, thinking of snarky comebacks later, and then imagining that she really did lay into her boss or whoever. She may have just gritted her teeth and nodded in real life. It depends on whether she has a history of this, I suppose.

    3. Olive

      “I think the best employees are ones that constantly challenge their manager when they feel there is a better way to do things.”

      That’s what you got to after reading about someone who makes snarky comments to and about their boss?

      1. Greg NY

        My read was that those comments were about her boss but made to her boss’s boss and to her coworkers, not directly to her boss. And I did say those snarky comments were the worst part of it.

        1. MK

          There is a huge difference between being willing to challenge your boss when appropriate (a.k.a. not be a yes-person) and openly challenge your boss on almost everything, as the OP’s mother admits to doing. Even is the boss is totally incompetent, this is not a good tactic; but it sounds a lot more like this employee is venting her frustration by being as contary as possible than that she is advocating for what she thinks right. Also, constantly being snarky about your boss behind their back is not a good look either. Many people will think less of you for it, especially if it’s unmerited, and it will probably make it back to him eventually.

          And most people don’t isolate elements of behavior; they form a picture on general behavior. Someone who gets on well with their boss and doesn’t trashtalk them behind their back, but doesn’t like socialising with coworkers? Fine, who cares. Someone who gets on with their boss and is friendly with their team, but has a snarky personality? They probably can get away with it. Someone who challenges their boss to their face but not trashtalk them behind their back and is close with the team? Depends on what you mean by “challenge”, but they have much better chance of not getting fired than the office grump.

    4. valentine

      #1: I’d try one last “The phone call is coming from inside the house, Mom,” then resign as her audience because I can’t be stuck in a relentlessly negative space.

      1. Quackeen

        Yeah, I had a similar issue with my mom years ago when it became abundantly clear from her work stories that she was kind of an awful manager. (“So, I told them all to DO IT BECAUSE I SAID SO and that TRAINED MONKEYS COULD DO THEIR JOBS and they still didn’t listen to me!”) After a few comments about how I don’t think I would respond well to that type of management, I gave up. She racked up a few complaints against her, I think maybe even got asked to resign, and has found her niche in a position that doesn’t involve managing others. None of that because of my wise counsel. :)

        1. Guacamole Bob

          With my mother it was her annoyance over really minor matters of office politics that she would blow totally out of proportion. She was the longstanding office manager at a doctor’s office, and she was very effective and kept things afloat but was difficult to work with in her own way. She would spend time complaining about the rest of the admin staff (who turned over a lot) about things that she was not responsible for managing or fixing and that didn’t seem like that big a deal to me – whether they took personal calls during the day, whether they were allowed to eat snacks at their desks, whether they did some task differently than the way she thought was most efficient, whether they didn’t re-stock items that they used up as promptly as she would have.

          In my own career when I’ve been really upset at that kind of petty detail it’s because I’ve been unhappy with the big picture of my job, and I didn’t have a lot of patience for listening to years of this kind of stuff. I tried to nudge her to let it go, but without much effect.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt

          It is always amazing when you are listening to someone complain about their job and you begin to realize that the person complaining is totally the problem. If you can’t get along with anybody then the problem is probably you. Then you can’t do anything about it, because if you point it out then they will just lash out at you and family reunions will be so much more unpleasant.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            I used to hear stories about a family member’s awful workplaces and think how sad it was that she couldn’t find a good job with decent coworkers. After a few years I had an “oh, wait, YOU are the common denominator” moment. And like you said, I’ve never said anything about it. It would accomplish nothing other than painting me as “mean.”

          2. Det. Charles Boyle

            It’s depressing that all these terrible managers are in management. How do they not see that they are causing their own (and everyone else’s) misery at work?!?

          3. MassMatt

            Same experience here with a coworker who was constantly dissatisfied no matter where she went. After a while I realized it was just part of who she was.

            Even better example to me was someone i knew who would move (not just to a new apartment, I mean move as in across the country) every 18 months or so. Always a list of complaints about why Seattle, Portland, Boston, Vermont, San Francisco, Hawaii (!) were so awful and I can’t wait to get out of here. He died a couple years ago, probably never finding that magical perfect place where he would be happy. No matter where you go, there you are.

    5. Annoyed Anon

      Are there rules against trolling? Because while any one of Greg’s comments wouldn’t set off my radar, his ability on every post to take a contraction spin, presumably to get a reaction, seems likely to be (clever) trolling.

      But maybe I’m ironically optimistic in thinking he’s a troll and not just a contrarian and troublesome individual.

      1. Greg NY

        I’m not a troll, and there is a forum I post on that is heavily moderated against trolling. I don’t do anything to incite a reaction. Also note that I defend every comment I make even while admitting I was wrong if find out something I say is untrue, trolls would just let their comments lie once they get the reaction they’re looking for. I say things with the best of intentions and maybe I just see things a bit differently than the majority of you. I’ve found that this is a tough crowd here, I have gotten more criticism in about 1 1 /2 months here than I’ve gotten in 9 years on that other forum.

        1. anna banana

          You’re getting criticized a lot because you opine with great confidence and are often flat out wrong. You should read up on mansplaining.

          You mentioned in a comment earlier this week that you’re in what sounded like a junior level job with limited scope. It sounded to me like you don’t have the perspective to be able to comment accurately on all of the issues you discuss here.

          1. Greg NY

            I will openly admit that my perspective may be somewhat limited on some issues, and I never pretend to be a know-it-all or know what goes on elsewhere, but I can speak to my own experiences in the workplaces I’ve been in. Except for very seasoned professionals with a lot of work experience (who are middle aged or older), I don’t think any of us can speak for the way it is everywhere, we can only speak for our own experiences. And even those who are very seasoned may know the way it is in a lot of places, but they still don’t know how it is everywhere.

          2. Super dee duper anon

            I hate the pile on stuff that goes on here so I feel not great contributing, but I will say that I was just thinking the other day that if anyone wanted an example of mansplaining I would tell them to look at Greg NY’s comments (as a whole). I’m not saying he’s intentionally doing it, but as a whole that is exactly how your comments come across.

            To Greg specifically – it’s cool that you want to contribute to this comments sections, and I do value a differing perspective sometimes. But when you make long winded comments, on virtually every single question, that typically just rephrases Alison’s actual advice – a.) It does not add to the conversation in anyway and b.) Comes across as if you just like to hear yourself speak (see your written words?), rather than actually having something worthwhile to add to the conversation (bc no one has something worthwhile to add to every single letter).

            Like maybe stop and think before posting… Has this already been said? AND Am I actually in a position to have any sort of particularly relevant knowledge/experience that makes my comment valueable to others. I’m sure you do for some stuff, but it’s impossible to have it for every single topic that you’ve commented on.

            1. YeahI'mAnonToo

              I think there are a lot of long-term posters here who are well-regarded and who just post “What Allison said is super great!!” so I don’t think taking Greg to task for not adding something original to the conversation really hold up. I also get irritated by the mansplaining, but I really think this one point is off.

              1. Super dee duper anon

                I’d say the difference there is they’re not regurgitating Alison’s answer as if it’s their own, they’re acknowledging that Alison gave the answer and are voicing their agreement. To your point – it doesn’t add anything new to the discussion, but it’s way less grating than a dude coming in and just repeating a woman’s content like it adds something new to the discussion.

                Also certain regulars are allowed to say whatever they please, so… *Shrug*

        2. Lance

          ‘I defend every comment I make’

          Just going to chime in real quick and say, I’m not sure this is necessarily a good thing. Sometimes it’s good to just step back and admit you’re wrong (if indeed you believe so after seeing opposing opinions) without defending what you said; I say as well, seeing that your defenses have often incited more reactions.

          That’s all I really have to say on this matter, and I won’t derail any further.

      2. Ambivalent

        This is an ad hominim attack that I don’t think it is fair. Allison, I think “Annoyed Anon” breaks commenting rule “Be kind to letter-writers and fellow commenters”. I know Allison doesn’t agree with Greg often, but she does not ban him, for a good reason.

        While I do not necessarily agree with Greg, he clearly thinks about the problem before commenting, and I do not see any sign of trolling. Diversity of opinion is important – otherwise we’d have a blog that is just an echo-chamber – what is the use of that? Frankly, are all the comments just saying “I agree with Allison” that useful? I mean, I usually agree with Allison, so I don’t post.

        Isn’t an alternative view more valuable? I think it is often helpful to the LW to know that there are plenty of people who see things a different way – because that might just be the way their boss or colleagues are thinking.

        1. Jules the 3rd

          Hey Greg – I’ve pretty much stopped commenting here, and only rarely read the comments anymore. The blowback and ‘worst possible interpretation’ isn’t worth it.

          1. President Porpoise

            I’ve changed my handle no less than four times over the years, without announcement, because of that. At one point there was particular regular commenter chasing me around to nitpick me, and it was irritating.

            I don’t always agree with Greg, but I also don’t always agree with the popular regulars. In fact, I often vehemently disagree, but don’t want to deal with the outrage storm. Lay off of Greg and others for posting unpopular opinions, unless they don’t follow the rules or are actively harmful – in which case, be respectful and remember he’s a person too.

        2. wherewolf

          I vehemently disagreed with Greg last time and I also think that he clearly thinks a problem through and is not trolling. On the one hand, I think it’s important to sit out a thread if (1) you have no helpful opinion/advice on the topic (2) Alison has already said everything you would say or (3) you know your experience/opinion is an outlier or outside of norms in a way that is unhelpful to OP (ex. I think it’s OK to microwave fish but I know Americans think it’s weird, so I’m not going to bring it up).

          On the other hand, people I wholeheartedly agree with do these things all the time. I think it is incredibly unkind to ban Greg from posting his opinions if we’re not also going to ban others (and I think some people are very quick to judge opinions from masculine handles, whether the posters themselves are male or not).

      3. Annoyed Anon Also

        Agreed.

        It would be great if the comments section here locked out an IP address after, let’s say, 5 comments. It’s OK to sit some posts out, you guys! You don’t have to comment incessantly on everything.

        1. Agreed

          This! If we’re going to tally up people’s responses and call them out on it, there are some better-liked posters who are going to be on the Please Don’t Post as Much list as well.

          1. Annoyed Anon Also

            Yup. Greg is just the latest, but honestly, some other commenters are wayyyyyyy too prolific.

    6. hbc

      It is never professional to “constantly challenge.”

      1) If you have a collaborative manager, when they float an idea, you aren’t “challenging” them by giving your opinion before the final decision is made. They want it, even if you hardly ever get your way.

      2) If you have a dictatorial/Top-Down manager, you are very rarely going to win, and you need to save your objections for things that really matter.

      2a) If you’re in an environment where terrible, objection-needing decisions are being made all the time, you need to get out or resign yourself to the fact that they will continue. If arguing worked, the place would be better by now.

      1. Aveline

        “It is never professional to “constantly challenge.”

        AMEN to that.

        I’d go even further: It is never ok to “constantly challenge” in any context. Online, in the home, in the workplace.

        Some people think being the devil’s advocate means they are smarter or hipper or somehow [insert adjective or choice] more than other people. It doesn’t. It means they are rude and either vain or insecure.

        The devil does not need advocates, but the world could use more kindness.

        I’d also say that anyone who is a constant challenger/devil’s advocate is fundamentally, deeply unhappy.

        I think that Mom’s bitterness at work is a symptom. What’s the cause?

        As a daughter, she may not have much traction in telling her mother how to behave at work. She does have more purchase if she evinces concern about her mother’s overall happiness and quality of life.

        I don’t want to get into fanfiction here, but I do have to wonder if there’s not a history of Mom getting passed over in life or in having bad things happen to her, so she’s become so bitter and defensive as a survival tactic. And where is LW’s father in all this? My Spidey senses are tingling on that regard….something seems off in Mom’s life beyond just work.

        Or maybe she’s just bitter. My MIL was born bitter and has never, every been happy and only intermittently joyous. She doesn’t even smile at her grandkids. Some people are just miserable by disposition.

        The reason I’m bringing this up is that it does matter if the workplace is the only place where Mom is bitter and defensive or if she’s bitter and defensive in her entire life. The scope of the problem and how LW approaches it are very different if it is indeed only in the workplace or if her mom has gotten into a bitterness as a survival tactic/siege mentality. The former can be solved by coaching. The later requires professional help. The former might be helped by daughter being candid. The later might be hurt by daughter being harsh.

        I have known several middle-aged women who really got screwed over in life that became bitter as a self-defense mechanism. It took a lot of hard consequences for them to see how self-defeating it was. Just because life is cruel or a situation is unfair and hostility may be warranted does not mean that hostility will get one to an improved situation.

        Also, sometimes there is no justice. Only more harmful and less harmful choices among bad choices.

        1. Elfie

          I think that labelling all devil’s advocate-type people as fundamentally, deeply unhappy is quite offensive. I often fulfill that role (in my job, I’m paid to – my team has to try and anticipate potential problems with software projects so that we can mitigate them). In my home life, I’ll often play devil’s advocate if something about the way forward doesn’t sit right with me – I don’t do it to be hip or cool (I’m most decidedly not either of those!), but to try and consider all possible viewpoints. That said, I don’t do it all the time, and only in specific circumstances like I described above. OP’s mom doesn’t sound like a devil’s advocate – she sounds like she’s being ornery just for the sake of it.

          1. Aveline

            I didn’t label all of it problematic. Just those who do it all the time.

            If that’s not clear, now it is.

            I don’t see how we are disagreeing here.

            1. Aveline

              Hence the use of the word CONSTANT challenger/devil’s advocate. Not someone who does it when appropriate.

            1. Elfie

              Trout ‘Waver, were you being serious here? I tend to have a very bad read on sarcasm in the written form especially, as I’m an extremely literal person. If you were being serious, can you tell me how I’m being a devil’s advocate in this post? I was disagreeing, sure, but I was disagreeing from the point of actually believing in what I was saying (which for playing devil’s advocate, don’t you have to argue just for the sake of it?). I’d really like to know just for my own sake, as I know my dad plays devil’s advocate just for the sake of it, and that is SO annoying, and I don’t want to be that annoying person!

          2. MCMonkeyBean

            What you’re describing doesn’t really sound like “playing devil’s advocate” to me.

          3. Ender Wiggin

            I play devil’s advocate a lot, I enjoy thinking about things from all sides. I don’t think I’m a fundamentally unhappy person.

            Maybe I am though… (playing devil’s advocate with myself there haha)

            1. Isabel Kunkle

              I think as long as you’re not doing it *to* other people, unless asked and/or that’s your job, that’s fine. The reason nobody likes, say, the guys who show up on social media or interrupt conversations at parties to play DA/Commander Contrarian/JAQ Off Circlejerk/etc. is that they assume that everyone else showed up for Debate Camp rather than a relaxing social event or a chance to vent to their friends, and that everyone either likes or should like that kind of interaction.*

              Basically, it’s like flirting/insulting banter/etc: you need to read the room really well, and if you don’t know that the other people involved like that sort of thing, it’s way better not to do it. But if you do, then by all means.

              *I don’t know whether or not those guys are particularly unhappy, per se, and frankly I kind of hope they are, because I hate them.

        2. Czhorat

          Two themes that run through this blog are standing and capital.

          Are you in a position in which your feedback on an issue is appropriate?

          What will it cost for you to give potentially negative feedback? Is this the hill on which you choose to die?

          If you challenge everything you’re spending all of your capital, leaving little for the issues which might truly matter. Also, as one who was passed over for a promotion, the optics are very bad in being overly critical of the one who did get the job you wanted.

          1. Close Bracket

            Are you in a position in which your feedback on an issue is appropriate?

            What will it cost for you to give potentially negative feedback? Is this the hill on which you choose to die?

            That’s a nice summary which I had not come to on my own. Thanks for that.

        3. Lucille2

          “I have known several middle-aged women who really got screwed over in life that became bitter as a self-defense mechanism. ”

          This describes my MIL perfectly. In all fairness, life has been pretty unkind to her in the last decade, but she has become difficult to be around as a result. Life has been pretty unkind to my own mother, but she has not gone down the bitterness spiral. One thing that makes me so proud of my mom is how she was able to find the confidence to leave a longterm, low paying, dead-end job for a much better company and position. This done at a late stage in her career (post 50). I hope OP’s mom can do the same, but I suspect her attitude is in the way.

    7. Czhorat

      While being a “yes man (or woman) is bad, questioning every decision your boss makes is not a good look either. It makes you very tiring to work with and creates an emotional load on your boss, their boss, and the team. A stream of negativity is one component of an unpleasant, toxic workplace.

      It’s especially worrisome if the constant complaints are aimed at someone whose job it is know that you wanted. That makes you look – at best – vindictive.

      1. Aveline

        In law school, a wizened and revered old professor (one who has a test laid down by the US Supreme Court that is named after him since he argued it) said “People who never argue or always argue are engaging in opposite actions for the same reason. They either don’t have opinions of their own or they don’t have the conviction to stand behind those that are worthy of ownership.”

        Knowing when to argue and when to keep one’s mouth shut is a skill that most adults learn to master. If LW’s mother is constantly challenging/argumentative, there is something wrong.

    8. Mynona

      OP1. You described your mom as generally bitter, which suggests this is an exaggerated version of her normal personality. I went through almost this exact situation with my mom, and I couldn’t prevent the eventual job loss, but it really made a difference when I stopped giving her job advice and expressed concern about her unhappiness. I helped her see she needed to move to a new company that would “appreciate” her experience. She still didn’t job hunt (argh), but when she was laid off she wasn’t as totally devastated as she might have been. She’s been at her new job about 6 years now and the pattern is starting again. Selfishly, I felt a lot less stressed when I realized this cycle will repeat until she retires and I can only mitigate the severity. Good luck OP. It really sucks to have to adult for your parents.

    9. Bagpuss

      I don’t think that t is correct that “I think the best employees are ones that constantly challenge their manager when they feel there is a better way to do things.”
      I think that good employers are open to being challenged, and that good employees are those who do feel able to make suggestions and challenge others when appropriate, but I think the circumstances where it will be appropriate to be constantly challenging your boss are extremely low. I think there is a huge range between ‘yes men’ at one extreme and ‘constantly challenging’ at the other, and that the best employees won’t be at either extreme.

    10. Trout 'Waver

      Decisions aren’t made arbitrarily or in a vacuum. Challenging something is a move of last resort, not first resort. Provide feedback at the right time in the right way. There are many ways to influence things without challenging them. Try those ways first.

      Also, pick your battles. If you’re constantly challenging things then you’re not making best use of your political and social capital.

      Finally, part of working a team is understanding your role and trusting your teammates to make the correct decisions. More often than not, if someone at work made a decision you don’t agree with, they did it because they have information or context that you lack. So be circumspect when you do challenge things.

    11. The Other Dawn

      “I think the best employees are ones that constantly challenge their manager when they feel there is a better way to do things.”

      I agree that some of the best employees challenge their manager/employer when they feel there might be a better way; however, *constantly* challenging is not good. Employees need to pick their battles; not every hill is one on which to die. If an employee is constantly challenging me, there will come a time, fairly quickly, when I just don’t pay attention to it anymore. It’s exhausting for me and it becomes “if everything is an emergency, nothing is an emergency.”

    12. Minocho

      Yes, LW #1’s mom and my dad sound similar. My dad is constantly complaining and unhappy, has a very difficult time understanding how to frame things in a way that the changes he desires might be considered by his manager, and he is unwilling to consider job searching for a better position because he’s so scared of age discrimination it’s not even worth him trying to look.

      I’ve tried to talk to him about it. My mother and brothers have broached the subject with him. I don’t know why, but it appears he’s just decided to be miserable through retirement. ::shrug:: There’s a point at which I just have to accept it and move on.

    13. NotAnotherManager!

      “Challenging” implies an adversarial position, and you do not want to be in an adversarial position with your boss on a regular basis. My boss and I have very different perspectives, and we work together collaboratively to try to pull the best from her ideas and the best from mine into something better than either. Rarely, even if I’m thinking it, do I directly oppose what she’s telling me; rather, I tag onto her idea with a solution or a proposed tweak that addresses a concern and build from there. And, since I do it rarely, when I do have to stridently disagree on something, I have more credibility. Because I’m not constantly challenging her, when I do, she pays more attention when I do.

      Almost my entire job is to get people to approach certain processes and projects from a different perspective. I joke – though there is a lot of truth to it – that my job is to tell people they’re doing it wrong and try to get them to work smarter. With human beings, the way to get them to do that is not to challenge, it’s to find out what their goals and pain points are and work from those. The better way is a byproduct.

      1. Lucille2

        Challenging doesn’t have to be adversarial if done appropriately. If a process is causing more disruption than good for customers, then challenging that process is the right thing to do. Of course, one has to be armed with the reasoning behind the challenge, like examples or data why the process causes more harm than good. And offering up an alternative solution is always helpful.

        You’re lucky to have a manager who expects these kinds of back-and-forth discussions. Not all managers have this style. Sometimes, in order to help an organization move forward, challenging the status quo is the only way.

        1. NotAnotherManager!

          I think we’re just defining challenging differently. I have no problem going to a boss and saying, “I’ve gotten five complaints this week, mostly from Arya, about how the llama shearing is currently being handled. I talked to Wakeen and Sansa, and they had some great ideas about how we could shear the llamas more efficiently. Could we try this with Arya’s next llama and see if X or Y works better for her?” I don’t see that as challenging, I see it as providing a specific solution/suggestion that could make her department run better and have a better reputation. If I go to her and say, “No one likes the way we’re shearing the llamas, and we’re not going to do it that way anymore.”, that’s challenging and basically dumping a problem in her lap. I would not personally describe a solution-focused suggestion for improvement as challenging my manager. It’s a way I work with her.

          My current manager is indeed a gem, but I have not always worked for her. I’ve worked for the opposite of her, and that sucked a great deal. Universally, I find that suggestions targeting specific results or improvements are always better received than, “Process Y is convoluted and stupid. You should fix it.” even if Process Y is hideously convoluted and stupid and in dire need of fixing.

    14. Lucille2

      I completely agree with this. It’s also possible that Mom is being much more casual as she’s venting to a family member who is not part of her workplace. A healthy workplace should allow people to challenge the way things are done. But some people don’t seem to understand the difference between professionally challenging leadership in an appropriate way and coming off as complaining. She may believe she’s doing the former and actually doing the latter. Or she’s been shut down so many times that her frustration is starting to show. Most people would just stop challenging at that point and start looking elsewhere.

      I’ve also learned that in order to get the promotion you want, you should start working on developing the skills needed for that job in your current position. If she’s interested in getting promoted into a leadership role, just being good at her current job is not likely to be enough. And snarking behind her boss’ back is going to work against her almost every time.

  9. Maya Elena

    OP4: my company does accrual with use it or lose it.
    There has to be the ability to borrow ahead, or youd always be losing out youe last few hours of accrual on thr year’s laat pay period. In my company, you can borrow up to one week, as long as there are enough pay periods in the year left to “pay it back”. It may be that your company has a similar policy, enabling you to take at least some PTO in February.

  10. CBE

    Gah, those badges are stupid!
    I worked at a reception desk at a job 20 years ago. I was *not* the receptionist, I had a full plate of work to do, but they seated me at the reception desk because it was available and it “looked bad” to have it empty.
    And I got talked to about looking distracted and not greeting people when they came in.
    UUUUUGGGGGHHHHH.
    Given that experience, I have to wonder if these staff members who are not supposed to “appear distracted” are assigned work to do that…distracts them!

  11. Quickbeam

    #5….I loathe Bosses Day. I refuse to participate. I’m most senior in my job category. We have a few people who go all in for this stuff but after the first year they stopped asking me. I found I had to be very clear in my refusal. Anything less than “I am not interested, count me out” led to further pleadings for cash infusion.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

      Much like the “meal trains” from last week, Boss’s Day is another one I’ve had to google to get full context. From the (brief) Wiki read, I’d say a card is ok, but anything above that is gross and patronising and outdated. $20 on a gift card? Or is that *towards* a gift card, which is even more gross. Your boss should already be compensated for the “hard work and dedication they put in” (quote from Wiki).
      Ugh – working practises across the world are weird.

      1. PurpleMonster

        I don’t know that Boss’s Day is a weird working practice as such, because that would imply it’s some kind of norm in workplace culture. It sounds more just something dreamed up by a marketing department somewhere to convince those with brown nosing tendencies to Buy More Stuff.

        1. Yojo

          It’s actually even worse: it was a daughter who created a Boss’s Day because she wanted him to be appreciated more by her colleagues. Barf.

    2. No Mas Pantalones

      I hate Bosses Day too. Every day is Bosses Day.

      Of course, I’m an admin and I also hate Admin Day. There’s no Financial Analyst Day, or Customer Service Rep Day, or any other number of job titles. It’s patronizing to me to have everyone go “Oh, Admin Day, we’re celebrating you!” Don’t celebrate me. I know I’m good at what I do. If you want to show appreciation, don’t be an asswipe to your admin. If you REALLY want to show appreciation, put it into my paycheck.

    3. AdminX2

      GROAN seriously! Here’s hoping I can get away with things being so busy and the boss being out of the office that no one mentions it this year.

    4. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

      At my previous, dysfunctional job (sick system) we had to contribute to the owner’s Christmas and BIRTHDAY gifts. It was a tiny office and most of the employees made $10-12/hr. The office bully made it clear it was not optional when I tried to push back. The owner absolutely loved it and saw it as a way of us showing appreciation that he paid us (we were encouraged to thank him for our paychecks and he would complain endlessly about paying taxes on bonuses). I ended up paying out more for the owner’s events than I ever got from him for similar events.
      Sometimes pushing back will just make your life completely miserable.

      1. Been there, seen that, the T-Shirt doesn't fit

        OP #5 here. We also get asked to contribute to a Christmas gift. Our manager then gives us gift cards, so it usually evens out, but the whole thing is annoying! I’m not opposed to doing cards or bringing in a treat (because cookies!) but I don’t like the money part.

        1. MLB

          This is a time when “I don’t want to participate” is a completely appropriate response. I work in a very small office. My boss and my co-worker always buy me Christmas gifts, and I never buy them anything. If I’ve made cookies and the timing is right (meaning we’ll all be in the office at the same time) I will bring them some to share, but I don’t worry about it. If I had the money, I would buy all the gifts, but I have a budget. They don’t care, because they don’t buy me the gifts expecting something in return.

          I get that saying no can have negative consequences in some offices, but sometimes you just need to say it for your own sake.

    5. NotAnotherManager!

      I am a boss and loathe Bosses’ Day. I would die of embarrassment if my employees felt obligated to give me cards or gifts. I firmly subscribe to Alison’s gifts-only-flow-down philosophy. Thankfully, my organization does not “celebrate” it – I’ve never received nor been expected to give Bosses’ Day gifts.

      1. Elizabeth

        You’re very lucky. :/

        I’m an admin, and I’m required to cough up 20 bucks to contribute towards a gift for the boss, and we are also making breakfast (as in, the admin either have to cook or buy something) for our executives on Bosses’ Day. Double ugh.

    6. NotMyRealName

      We take our boss to lunch. We pay for ourselves and split his lunch among us, so we have a nice time and and the amount is pretty trivial.

      1. AdminX2

        In addition to all the OTHER reasons notes on why gifting up to a boss is a bad idea to support, the amount to go out to lunch is NOT always trivial to people. You just don’t know.

  12. grey

    #4 – At my last job HR indicated that the reason we couldn’t roll-over a lot of our vacation (I think it was 3 days) is because it presented a tax liability to the company – I guess they had to pay taxes on it? I’ve never researched it, but if that was being truthfully presented, then I could see why they didn’t make the decision company wide and only where they had to by law. Still isn’t fair. I liked another person’s comment that maybe they’d allow negative accrual.

    1. Bea

      This is for companies that pay your vacation time out at termination. If it’s use it or lose it, no balance is recorded as a liability at year end since it has no worth until “spent”.

      1. Natalie

        That doesn’t cause additional income taxes, though – a company that pays accrued vacation balances at termination can happily deduct them in the year accrued, knowing that they’re definitely meeting the requirements for deducting an accrued liability. They won’t get a tax deduction in the year paid, because they already took it. Whomever told grey that it’s a tax liability is just wrong.

      2. grey

        Yep, they did do that. So when I got laid off; I ended up with an extra week in my check because I still had a week left. They also gave you all of your vacation time starting Jan 1st.

    2. Natalie

      They were either extremely confused or snowing you, in case you were curious. Vacation pay is a business expense just like salary, so it’s a deduction from income. There is a weird situation where a business could have to reverse a deduction because the vacation was never taken, but that’s not paying *extra*, it’s just the normal amount of taxes since you can’t deduct an expense you never incurred.

      1. Observer

        OR Grey misunderstood. Keeping vacation on the books most definitely does present a liability for the company – just not a *tax* liability.

        1. grey

          I distinctly remember them talking about taxes, but its possible. I, of course, don’t have access to those old emails anymore.

    3. VictorianCowgirl

      When you realize vacation time, it is considered wages, so they would be obligated for regular payroll taxes. That being said, I don’t understand their point unless they were worried everyone would take it all at once? Can’t imagine. They were probably just using that explanation as a brush-off.

  13. Villanelle

    OP2: instead of the badges saying that why not have badges with “Can I help you?” Or “How can I help you today?” Or similar wording instead? It sounds much more positive for starters!

  14. Zaphod Beeblebrox

    OP2 – it’s a colossal waste of everybody’s time, but if your company wants you to spend your work time listening to pitches for stuff that you aren’t going to buy, hey, it’s their dime.

    1. Rebecca

      :) exactly. That’s how I feel about useless conference call meetings we have with one of our VP’s – he always has some new idea about something or another that has 3 letter acronyms, is always “so excited about” whatever…and we sit there for 30-45 minutes, endure the PowerPoint presentation, and **poof** we never hear about it again. I just chalk it up to well, hey, I got paid to sit there and figure through a Sudoku puzzle, so…

    2. Bea

      I typically agree when it’s annoying meetings and wasteful conferences but the difference here is they are sticking you in a room with high pressure sales vampires. It’s exhausting to say “no” and get picked at even when it’s paid time.

      1. tangerineRose

        That’s my feeling too, If my company wants me to waste their time and it’s no big deal, OK, it’s their time, but spending a lot of time with salespeople who are trying to get me to buy something just sounds painful.

    1. Lance

      Why, though? I’d much, much rather push back on this entirely arbitrary and disrespectful practice than suck it up and feed into it. Sure, there’s a chance you could get some better quotes, but it’s still needlessly eating into the work schedule (and, worst of all, being presented as ‘optional’ pitches when they’re clearly not).

      1. Yojo

        Yeah, the most I’d negotiate it would be “Can you give it to me for free? Zero dollars? No? Okay, then I’m going to sit here playing tetris on my phone until I’m allowed to leave.”

        1. AdminX2

          Hahahaha you sound exactly like my partner on that, and he would totally do that in such a situation as well.

  15. Horsing Around

    For #4 I don’t actually see anything wrong with what the company is doing here. This seems no different to me than having different salary packages by state based on cost of living differences, or even just to be competitive with other local employers.

    1. Julia

      If you need to earn more because the office is in an expensive location, that’s one thing, but surely PTO has nothing to do with where one works?

      1. Natalie

        But lots of laws are different by state. If I have offices in California, should I apply their daily OT rules to everyone who would otherwise get overtime based on total hours a week? That would absolutely be a nice thing to do, but I don’t think it’s ludicrous if an employer decides not too.

    2. NotAnotherManager!

      It creates a morale problem if Bob gets to carry over his three weeks of vacation and Jim does not and effectively changes the compensation package. Shit happens and you can’t always take your leave during a given calendar year – big projects, people leave/go on leave, and not all of that can be covered by hiring temps, especially in specialized industries. Why does Bob still get his two weeks in January after the rush is over and Jane’s back from maternity leave while Jim has to start from zero. It’s one of those times where being technically compliant may not be the best practice.

      It’s also not comparable to COL differences. There is objective data that says that the cost of housing in DC is five times the cost of housing Smaller City that can justify pay differences to allow people of similar positions to maintain similar lifestyles in disparate places. There is no reason that someone who lives in State A needs more PTO flexibility than someone who lives in State B to provide equal compensation. It creates an inequity not justified by geography.

    3. iglwif

      Here’s what I think would make this demoralizing for me personally: this policy makes it very, very clear that the company will only ever provide the bare legally required minimum for its employees.

      It wouldn’t *hurt the company* appreciably to extend the more generous state’s legal requirement to employees in other states–in fact, it might *help* them by improving morale and retention–but they haven’t done it, and the message that sends, IMO, is that they can’t be bothered and don’t care.

  16. sheworkshardforthemoney

    #2 As a consumer/client I find those badges obnoxious and condescending. A person in a customer facing position with a bright button pinned on their clothes looks unprofessional to me. I don’t need to be directed to ask someone who is doing their job to do their job.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean

      Came here to say this. As a client of customer of such a place, this would turn me off to no end. There’s a coffee place near me that shouts, “HI!” as soon as you walk in the door and I know it is supposed to be nice but I hate hate hate it. It is so contrived.

      I also recall going into a Best Buy where the boss decided the best way to ensure that his employees were delivering good customer service was by standing on top of a giant portable stair and watching everyone from high atop the middle of the store. It was so uncomfortable to be there and I asked him to crawl down so I could say it to him.

      Customers simply pick up on these fake attempts at providing service. Don’t do it!

      1. Isabel Kunkle

        It’s not even contrived for me–I don’t care about the honest feelings of people I barely know, they don’t care about mine, social niceties are fine–but I’m an introvert and I hate the instant attention. It’s worse in retail, because then I absolutely feel pressured to buy stuff, even if I’m just browsing, but even in libraries or whatnot…eeeegh. Just, you be over there, I’ll be over here, I’ll interact when I need to.

        1. Kelly L.

          Yes! Especially when I’m specifically hanging back because I don’t know what I’m going to order yet. Like, if I go into a fast food place, and I’m still deciding, I’ll stand back behind the queue so I’m out of the way. But then they shout a greeting at me anyway. I’ve worked those jobs, so I know they have to and it’s not their fault, but management isn’t understanding that I’m trying to send a social cue that I don’t intend to engage yet.

        2. Jen

          I avoid entering small stores unless there’s a high chance I’m going to buy something or there are several other shoppers in the store too, because I find it so awkward to have an employee’s attention so focused on me.

  17. LGC

    LW1: Is your mom the friend from Letter 2 on Monday? Because it sounds really similar, and my advice would be similar in both

  18. JSPA

    OP#2,
    Badges are inexpensive and 100% reversible.

    I share your suspicion that they won’t be helpful. But I see no reason not to try them. Especially as the main reason for them may be something like, your boss proving that she pays attention to public feedback and responds quickly (which she may be getting pushed on).

    If I were I your shoes and made a request, it would focus on checking back within a useful time frame whether the complaints had dropped. And don’t make that time frame too short. It’s quite possible that the issue came to people’s attention due to one of those lovely statistical clusters that just happened because that’s how statistics work and that if you pick an identical period of time for comparison, the number of complaints will appear to have dropped, even if the badges do diddly. (Because yes, the average # of complaints will be lower than the maximum #. Tho if your boss is a Smart Cookie this is what she may be counting on, to make her cheap, easy initiative look effective. It’s “easy bullet point for PR & promotion 101.”)

    Alternatively you could ask for some other metric to be added. Especially one that would track whether particularly clueless customers interrupt you not only when you’re doing paperwork but when you’re working with another customer. If you can document that phone customer contacts or even in-person customer contacts are being frequently interrupted by other customers that might be the push back needed to discontinue the program. (Boss can spin it for double “responsiveness” points.)

    Frankly I’d rather wear that badge than sit through, say, a weekend re-training session.

    1. Erin W

      I agree. I’ve worked customer service jobs with such a badge and without one, and I don’t think the interruption scale was tipped more or less in either direction with the badge. I did not feel that the message was rude, or condescending, and I never heard from any customers that they felt that way, either.

  19. Carlie

    The one logical reason I could think of for sitting through sales presentations is if the boss thinks that it would help to learn more about how the insurance company “looks” from the client end to better provide whatever product/service the OP does for them. But even then, individual meetings is time-wasting madness. A group presentation would serve the same function, using one person as the sample buyer and having everyone watch the pitch.

  20. ssssssssssssssssssssssss

    I worked for a firm that gave everyone three weeks vacation to start. We also had a Christmas shutdown that varied in length based on when Christmas/boxing day/new year’s was but that time had to be taken in vacation time, overtime or taken unpaid. Our younger staff felt annoyed as their three weeks was really more like two when they had little other option to take up to a week’s vacation during Christmas.

    Now, the employer would often give a free paid day during the Christmas shutdown…to the people in one province and two free paid days to the staff in another province. Why was that? Because province A has an extra stat holiday that province B didn’t have.

    This annoyed me as that stat holiday schedule that differed between provinces, I had no control over but the staff in Province B felt that strongly about it.

    When the entire firm was bought out by a company in Province C, all that went out the window…

  21. Mrs. B

    LW#2. We went through a period where we were “encouraged” to wear buttons that read “ASK ME!” because of this same concern. Many on staff found it slightly demoralizing as it gave a vibe more like TGI Fridays server (no offence meant) than a “professional”. For me, I had that Smiths song stuck in my head all the time. It was one of those things that sounded good in committee, but made no real impact. Some people are always going to feel like they’re “bothering” you, others will butt in with a “quick question” regardless of the situation. As much as Admin wanted us to be ever alert to anyone who may need assistance, they also didn’t want us to not be working, lest the taxpayer perceive us as dead weight, or not getting their money’s worth. The best you can do is try to acknowledge everyone who arrives, peppered with the occasional “Let me know if I can help you with anything!” and assurances that you are “totally not bothering me! “

    1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager

      I had to wear an ASK ME! pin when I worked at the on-campus fine arts departments during my college years (we often had multiple small events going on like one act plays, music recitals, etc. and we kept a house manager on site to juggle everyone). We didn’t have a uniform or name badges or anything else to designate who was staff vs. an attendee, and someone up the chain of command thought that the ASK ME! pin would be more effective than some other visual cue to show that we were ready to provide service in a friendly way. I got hit on a fair amount by dudes who were “only doing what the pin says to do!” by making really personal inquiries and I got a lot of people who thought they were funny by constantly asking “What are we supposed to ask about?”

  22. Detective Amy Santiago

    LW#1 – buy your mom Alison’s book for Christmas (or her birthday if that comes between now and Christmas).

    1. LJ

      I’m the OP–amazingly this did not even occur to me even though I read this website everyday!! I’m definitely getting her that for Christmas now. Thank you!!

      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        You’re welcome! I bought it for my future SIL when she graduated from college and I’ve also gifted the digital version to three friends who are job searching. One just got an offer and said she used some of the questions from the book in her interview so it might help your mom recognize her unprofessional tendencies.

  23. Interrupt Me

    I have always worked in front desk kind of customer service and the problem is most often with upper management. They always want you to simultaneously be aware of customers coming toward you and to always be busy. Even if the task is as simple as alphbetizing something you are going to look distracted. And quite honestly staff that has nothing to do but wait for customers look bored and usually fall into chatting with each other.
    If I was forced to wear one tags I would conveniently loose it everyday.

    1. C Average

      This. I came here to say exactly this. If customer service is the most important part of your job and you’re having difficulty doing it well because you’re saddled with a thousand tasks to do in your so-called down time between customers, it’s a workload/workflow problem and should be addressed as such.

      Want me to notice and greet every customer promptly? Make sure I have the supplies I need at hand, not in a back room or out of the customers’ line of sight. Make sure there is signage to clarify how queuing works at my desk or counter so that it’s obvious when I am with a customer. Make sure any tasks I have are easily set aside; if there’s stuff that’s time-sensitive or requires deep concentration, consider hiring a different person to do that work primarily out of the customers’ view.

      If employees are just goofing off and talking amongst themselves, yeah, that’s a problem that necessitates some coaching. But if they’re having trouble balancing their customer-related responsibilities with their non-customer-related work, a button isn’t going to fix that.

    2. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

      I had that problem when I worked as a cashier for Toys R Us. We were supposed to be instantly available for someone to check out, but we also had to hunt for batteries, soda, ice cream and trinkets to restock the displays around the register. You’d get in trouble if you were trying to haul in a case of soda while someone was waiting, but you also weren’t allowed to stand there and wait for customers.

      1. Trout 'Waver

        This kinda bugs me. I find it way easier to approach customer service/cashiers/etc. folk that are lightly chatting between themselves than are actively working. The former come across as both easily interruptible and more friendly and upbeat. Especially if their body language is open rather than closed.

        1. Trout 'Waver

          To clarify, BWCUMI, I meant the policy you were describing and not your own attitude and post.

        2. Mrs. B

          I’m glad there’s at least someone out there who feels this way. The #1 complaint we get in libraryland is annoyance that staff talks to each other, inferring that we must be overstaffed, or too focused on our conversations to help them, when as you say interrupting someone in light banter shouldn’t be seen as obtrusive, and we know why we’re here.

  24. CupcakeCounter

    #1 Maybe she needs a bit of a shock to realize how she is coming across. Use Alison’s script first but if that doesn’t work, the next time she complains simply tell her “Of course they aren’t going to promote someone who is a total asshole to her coworkers and supervisors” and walk away.
    I have actually had a conversation somewhat like this with my mother. She wasn’t an asshole just very naive/unobservant and not real into office politics. She was organizing some things that needed to get done but should have been her boss’ job to either do or delegate but mom didn’t give her the chance before she did everything. Mom got a lot of kudos from the higher ups and coworkers and boss was pissed and mom couldn’t figure out why. Hinting doesn’t work with her so I had to be blunt- she figured it out and had a talk with boss and things are less chilly but there are still snarky comments made by boss about it.

    1. Jennifer

      My parents were both kind of nightmare employees before they retired to be honest. They were both extremely disrespectful of anyone younger than they were – and as they were in their late 60s at this point, that was a lot of people. My dad would refer to one of the female managers as “That chickie” in conversations to us and he kept talking about how young she was and how she had no experience. We ran into her out in public and the woman had to be in her mid-30s. I was like “Dad, she’s in her mid-30s! She’s old enough to have 15 years of professional work experience! She’s not new!” – not that being rude to a 25 year old would be acceptable but the way he was talking about her, I was picturing someone who was fresh out of college.

      My mom was the same way at her job. She had two newer bosses and they were in their 30s as well and she constantly talked about how they didn’t understand what they were doing and they didn’t understand the school and the students and she fought them on anything or complained about them constantly. It even went on for a year after retirement. She’d talk to former co-workers and then call me and be like “You wouldn’t believe what those idiots in charge did now!”

      It drove me crazy. I tried to say something but honestly retirement was the only thing that cured it.

    2. NotAnotherManager!

      I think some people are just not wired for office politics. I’m not, by nature, and it’s taken years and several kind bosses to help me hone my professionalism. Honestly, it’s probably been the hardest part of being a class migrant – learning this as an adult and not being raised by people who already knew the rules. It took me a long time to realize that delivery and capital were often just as important as the actual work and ideas.

      My spouse simply refuses to play the office politics game. They’re very good at their job and are fully cognizant of the fact that they’d be an awful manager. Being the highest performing person on the team also buys slack with the manager when they get hung up on something small. But they’re capped in how high they will go and really do need to work with a particular type of manager who prioritizes what they’re best at.

  25. CupcakeCounter

    #4
    Talk to HR to get a better idea of how you can take a earlier vacation. Many places allow you to go negative early in the year if planned far enough in advance. My company used to have that policy and when going negative you would sign a document saying that if you left before your PTO bank was above zero you would repay the company for the difference.
    We now have an accrual with carryover policy and have 2 sister companies and a parent company that were all on different policies. They just consolidated the policy and rolled out a universal policy to all companies. We now all accrue the same amount based on years of service, can carry over up to 80 hours of PTO (2 companies had use it or lose it, 1 had unlimited carryover, and at mine you could carry over up to a year’s worth of accrual), and taking days unpaid or going negative is limited to very specific circumstances. This came about because the companies with carryover were having a hard time getting work done towards the end of the year because their counterparts at the use it or lose it companies were all taking PTO. There were also some organizational changes that highlighted the issues with the different policies (mostly consolidation of IT to corporate and people moving between companies). If you have an all-hands meeting where higher-ups actually listen bring this up. Don’t ask for unlimited carryover because that is a liability to the company they have to keep on their balance sheet, but ask about carrying over a week so you can take those early vacations.

  26. DCGirl

    OP#2, those badges would drive me nuts. In college I worked at a bank that rolled out a new advertising slogan of “We’ll show you how good a bank can be.” Then they gave the tellers, who were all women, saucer-sized buttons that read, “Let me show you how good I can be,” and were totally astounded when we rebelled against wearing them.

  27. Grey

    #2: Maybe you could point out how those badges will be viewed by customers. “Please interrupt me” could be interpreted as “I’m too busy for you”.

  28. blink14

    OP#4, the university I work at also has a varying PTO policy, depending on the state you are in. We have a satellite campus in CA, and CA has a state law where earned time rolls over, not to exceed 2x what you earn in a year.

    On the main campus and at the other satellite locations, vacation time earned in one fiscal year has to be used by the end of the next fiscal year. This was in place long before the CA campus opened, but it could be a good compromise for your situation. Maybe as AAM suggests, it would be worth gathering a group of people to see if this is something your company might allow you to do (or carry over X amount of days between calendar years, etc).

    Our holiday schedule varies depending on the campus, due to state holidays or holidays that are more widely observed in a particular region, but every campus gets the same amount of paid holidays, which includes a choose your own floating holiday for 2 of the satellite campuses.

  29. nnn

    My first thought about #2 is that some people would interpret this as they should interrupt when OP is helping another client.

    You could bring that up if you don’t have the social capital to bring up that the badges in general are a problem. “Are we sure people won’t take this as a invitation to interrupt when we’re helping other clients?”

  30. Capt. Dunkirk

    RE: Insurance sales pitch

    My company did something similar a couple times a few years ago. I didn’t think too much of it at the time – still being fairly new to office culture and not knowing any better- but looking back I realized how sketchy it all was.

    First, the pitch meetings happened just about a week after we had gone through our open enrollment for health insurance with a new provider. This new provider was the one doing the pitch meetings, so we all just thought it was some extension of our enrollment process.
    But once you got in the meeting it was pretty obvious it was a sales pitch because all they talked about was “employment” insurance for if you got fired or so sick or injured that we couldn’t return to work and still needed a paycheck. Not wanting to rock the boat I was friendly about it I politely declined their add-ons, but I do remember being rather put off when the sales representative directly asked me how many months worth of personal savings I had built up; that’s definitely too personal of a question for someone I just met to be asking!

    When it came time to do it again the next year, I had realized how sketchy the practice was and I wanted to just tell them I didn’t even want to go to the pitch at all, but that’s where their sneakiness came into play. They didn’t contact you via email or phone (or through your manager) to tell you when it was your turn to go to the pitch. Instead they would have each person from one pitch go find the next person to tell them it’s their turn. So, for example, they would start by having a pitch with Arya, then after it was over they would say, “Arya, can you go find Sansa and tell her to come see me? Thanks!”. Then when Sansa’s pitch was over, “Sansa, can you go find Bran and tell him to come see me? Thanks!” on and on ad nauseam until they’d gone through every employee.

    That meant that you were kind of blindsided by the pitch meeting when a coworker would come up to tell you that you’re expected to go right then and there – and that you couldn’t really say no because telling your coworker that you don’t want to go isn’t going to accomplish much. So you still had to drop what you were doing and go to the conference room to talk to them (to say no).

    But at least this time when I went, I just walked in and said, “Hello. I’m not interested in buying any additional insurance.” and walked out.

    The company didn’t do them again anymore after that year.

    1. Mockingjay

      My company handles pitches for supplemental insurance in a really professional manner. They announce a 2-day window that the salespersons will be here, reserve a conference room, and post sign-up or availability times. If you want to hear the pitch, it’s up to you to go.

      I went this past year to compare policies we have through my spouse with what they offered. No hard sell; the rep told me that what we already had was very solid, and only recommended some low-cost, extra disability insurance for me.

    2. MassMatt

      This is textbook sleazy insurance sales behavior, unfortunately there are lots of places that practice it. Some even insinuate that they ARE there as part of your open enrollment period and “you have to sign up for this”. It’s unconscionable but it happens, and sometimes a gatekeeper/decision maker allows it because they are hoodwinked, other times because they were given some kind of incentive. Dinners, sports tickets, wine and dined, etc.

  31. Anon For Always

    #1 – You can try Allison’s suggestion, but don’t be surprised if it’s not effective. When someone is mired in bitterness, they often can’t see how their own interactions are contributing to the situation. Everything is always someone else’s fault. So in her mind it doesn’t matter what she does, everyone is out to get her. It’s a horrible vicious cycle that is very difficult to break. I hope you are successful when you talk to your mom, but I would encourage you not to be disappointed if you are not successful.

    1. Dr. Pepper

      Agreed. You cannot force anyone to change their mind or their behavior. The most you can do is offer a choice, i.e. knock it off or be fired, or knock it off or I will refuse to speak to you, etc. Be sincere and also be prepared for your words to fall on deaf ears. It’s so hard watching someone close to you struggle. It’s agony watching them mess up and make things worse for themselves. I wish you every success, I sincerely hope your mother just needs a wake up call to pull herself out of the cycle of bitterness in which she’s apparently mired.

      Please remember that this is not your job to fix. If she does get fired, it’s not your fault for not finding the right words. Perhaps there are no right words. You care, so give it your best shot, but if that fails, remember that *you* have not failed.

  32. Bagpuss

    #5 – I think you have to decide how much you are comfortable pushing back.
    I think it is totally reasonable and justifiable to say “I’m afraid it’s not in my budget. I’m happy to sign a card, though” (and if you like, show them the link Alison suggested)
    If you feel that the fall out is going to make that impractical for you, then maybe consider going with “$20 is way out of my budget. I can chip in a couple of dollars, or maybe we should consider just getting a card rather than a big gift”

    If they pressure you, stick to “I’m not able to put in more than a couple of $$

  33. Bea

    I’m skeeved out at auto and home insurance being peddled at work. The only place we allow to come in is supplemental insurance. That’s only because the only way you can buy short term disability insurance is to do so through an employer. I’ve never allowed them to pester employees. We have an open enrollment period, if anyone is interested, I call the rep to come in. The end.

    I’ve had bosses who hate insurance agents though and would never force it down our throats. What a nightmare! I would just tell them no thanks and excuse myself.

    1. AdminX2

      We are a super big place, so we have discounts on every insurance, every appliance, even every apartment complex within a 10 mile radius. A lot of places around you can just walk in say “Hey do you have an X Company discount and they will drop 5-15% straight away. I like the perks. But they aren’t PUSHED, it’s totally an opt in.

  34. Iris Eyes

    OP#4 Or say that you have already taken care of what you plan to do.

    Why is there such a heavy trend toward group efforts? I could share the card I got for my manager (it just happened to be perfect and catch my eye.) Its the most I know she wants so I wouldn’t co-sign on something more than that.

  35. Argh!

    Re: #2

    You’ll get over it. This is not a hill to die on. There are more important things in most workplaces, and if this really is the most important grievance you have, you’re very lucky to work there.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

      There’s been a bit of pushback before about the phrase “lucky to work there” as it’s often used to justify truly horrid treatment. I think the OP can be justifiably irritated about one thing without losing a sense of proportion about other things in their job.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Hey, no, don’t do that here. People write in looking for help and advice on a whole range of issues, some dire and some less so, and it’s rude and totally counter to the point of this site to just tell them they should be lucky to have their job. (If you want to explain why you don’t think this is a big deal, that’s fine — that’s constructive.)

  36. Yet even another Alison

    My thoughts on OP #1. First, I have been there – you are so negative you get in your own way. Once you are there (and you have let all know as apparently she has) you are not going to be inpactful at your job. My suggestion for her is to find another company to work for and get some counseling to help her channel her anger. No matter how much progress she makes in counseling, remaining at her current company will most likely not help her get ahead. She most likely has branded herself – and it is very easy to do. But, not throwing stones here at the mother – there could be lots of things that have happened to her at the company that will make her negative. For example, as a woman, one huge anger situation I had is running circles around men in ability and still making 30 K less for the same job – I got angry as hell, and I left the company – this was after I brought the issue up as needing a change in pay band. After much lip service by the company, nothing happened and they tried to counter me several times. I was really mad – I mean so mad that I had to get in my car and yell – but I managed to control it in the office. It is so hard. One thing that might also help is distinguishing between things that happen in the office that are personal and things that are not – it is harder to get mad if you feel you are not being personally attacked (at least it is for me). Because I managed to maintain my professional composure – while being around co-workers – only one person in my office knew how angry I was – I left on a very good note. I chalk it up to being a professional – but it is so hard. I had to get counseling in anger management to be able to handle certain situations in a professional setting.

    1. CM

      +1

      I would also recommend that she look for a job somewhere else. For WHATEVER reason, it sounds like the well’s poisoned where she works right now. So, instead of trying to have a conversation about why the OP thinks it’s her mom’s fault, I would maybe recommend saying something like, “It sounds like you don’t like it there very much; have you thought about applying somewhere else?”

      If the problem is just hearing the same complaint over an over, it’s also okay for the OP to say that it bums her out to keep talking about it (or whatever) and ask to change the topic.

  37. OP #3

    Hi all, I wrote the 3rd question, and I wanted to add some more details.

    So, yes, I did find out that our company is being offered a group discount if a certain number of people sign up for this insurance. That kind of pisses me off because I feel like I’m being exploited, but what can you do?

    I have had this happen once before where I was required to sit through an insurance pitch. I thought it was a one-and-done thing, but since it popped up again, I decided to get Alison’s input.

    A lot of people said I should walk in and announce that I had no intention of buying but was required to be there. I really, really wanted to do that, but I was afraid of my boss’s reaction if she found out I said that. My boss, in short, is basically a toddler trapped in a woman’s body. That could be a whole other letter to Alison in itself, but suffice to say she can’t be reasoned with.

    I am also one of those people that avoids stores when I know there’s going to be salespeople mowing over to me like a fresh new weed, so I do hate having to do this. The only thing I know to do is attend the meetings, if I must, and keep politely declining.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      So, yes, I did find out that our company is being offered a group discount if a certain number of people sign up for this insurance.

      Does this discount benefit *you*, or the company? If it’s in your interest, it seems like that would be a selling point.

  38. Beancounter in Texas

    OP #1 – I read a parenting tip when needing to have an important talk with your child (and I’m sure the principal could apply to any serious conversation needed with anyone) is to take it out of your normal environment. Go to a cafe you occasionally visit and talk it over there, because getting someone out of their home environment helps them to focus on what you’re saying. It also keeps them from just slipping straight into their old thinking when the conversation ends because “Oh, the laundry is ready to be folded and put away now.” There’s a buffer of time between their home space and The Conversation.

    Also, the tip said that in a real life example, the parent referenced the conversation as The Starbucks Talk whenever she needed t0 remind her child of their agreement. This may not apply, since you’re not the parent. Good luck.

  39. VAkid

    OP #4: It annoys me when companies don’t let people take PTO ahead of the time accrued. I never pay attention to how much I’ve accrued, I just know I get X number of days per year. I understand the accounting liability here but we’ve always done it that way at my company and it’s totally fine. Also, if you can’t roll over, you can’t save time for the end of the year incase you get sick those last couple of days, or you lose them.

    1. miss_chevious

      I was shocked when I found out companies handle PTO that way — doesn’t it mean that most employees will be taking vacation at the same time or at the end of the year when it’s all accrued so they don’t use it? It seems nuts! Fortunately, my employer allows PTO regardless of accrual, and just recoups if there is a deficit in the event that the employee leaves or is terminated (and pays out if there is unused accrual). That seems like a much easier way to do it and allows for employees to take PTO during slow periods regardless of when they fall in the year.

    2. Mediamaven

      I’ve employed multiple people who I went ahead and granted large sums of PTO up front for a big trip or a wedding or what not. Then they quit very soon and it was costly to me. So, it’s not really annoying that employers have to have policies in place.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        Would there be a legal issue with ‘charging’ people for taking vacation they hadn’t earned when they leave?

        I don’t remember if it’s been stated that way or I just assumed, but I have always believed if I am running a negative PTO balance and I quit a job, that money will be taken out of my final pay.

        1. Natalie

          On a federal level, the Department of Labor considers it akin to a payroll advance and would allow you deduct unearned vacation from someone’s final wages. One potential wrinkle with exempt employees is that you can only deduct for full day absences, so if you had somehow let an employee accumulate a bunch of partial day absences, it’s less riskier to just eat the loss. And obviously some state laws may differ.

        2. bonkerballs

          That’s assuming their last pay check will cover the amount of vacation. If you’ve borrowed a week’s worth of vacation, but quit very suddenly 2 days into a pay period, where is that extra three days going to come from?

  40. Four lights

    OP #2: Depending on how the person is positioned at the desk, will the pin even be readable? I know my hair would cover mine.

  41. Narise

    OP 1 My mother has never supervised or lead a team in any job she has held. She’s now worked for the the same company for 16+ years but again never supervised. She is constantly complaining about how her former team is managed. She reports to the same manager but does an entirely different job without peers. I always thought this was just her complaining outside of the office. Finally one day she told me that they have said to her ‘That’s none of your business Jane’ in response to her pointing out problems with how they manage. I paused and asked her if they were saying that to her and she said yes. I had to explain that as a manager if I’m having that conversation with someone they are focused on things that are not their job. This will absolutely lead to termination long term. I’ve also cut her off a few times with ‘You are so negative.’ Both of these helped in the moment and caught her attention. Not sure yet on long term impact.

  42. Adlib

    Ugh, Boss’s Day. I cringe when I see retailers that actually have a section for that (cards, but still).

  43. workingforaliving

    RE: voluntary insurance–there may be some thinking that everyone needs to have the same information in order to be equitable–that there isn’t some sense that certain benefits are offered to some employees but not others. We resolved this issue with an “opt out” acknowledgement–the employee signs something that says they know information is available about certain voluntary benefits but they are not interested.

    LW #4” this is a strange sounding explanation from your company to me. States generally set minimum requirements, and companies can exceed those requirements if they want. I believe that your company could allow you to rollover your PTO if they wanted to. They would just need to have a policy stating that. It sounds to me like they are using the other’s states law as a convenient excuse to limit their benefits liability to you and your colleagues in your state.

  44. Kathy

    The letter complaining about different vacation carry-over policies annoys me. If I was someone who had the benefit that allows vacation rollover and suddenly had it curtailed due to complaining by employees who live in another state, I would be ticked off. I don’t think the companies should be run by what the lowest common denominator is. What if your state, that did not allow rollover, paid more per hour? Would you be willing to take a pay cut because someone in another state made less? That’s the sort of trade off it feels like.

    1. Xarcady

      This is an issue for my company right now. They’ve merged with another company and the vacation polices are turning out to be one of the biggest problems.

      One company allows you to carry over unused vacation days, up to a point. The other company pays you out at the end of the year for any unused days. I think resolving this is the biggest issue right now–neither side wants to move to the other side’s method.

      One company has more paid holidays than the other. One company has more vacation days than the other. One has a PTO bank and the other has separate vacation and sick days.

      It’s going to be interesting to see how it all works out.

    2. Natalie

      I don’t think that’s a possibility in this scenario, though. Companies can’t apply another state’s laws if those laws are less favorable to the employee, only if they are more favorable. So the only possible outcomes are everything meets local minimums, or provide all employees with whatever the most generous state minimum is.

  45. From the High Tower on the Hill

    For #2, honestly if I was a customer I would assume that the button was being sarcastic… One of my former coworker’s had a sign on her desk that said “please, let me stop everything that I am doing to work on your problem”

  46. Adminmania

    Ugh, I hate bosses’ day. At my smallish office of 30+, we’re asked to pitch in for all 5 of the bosses (two owners, three supervisors). I like them all for the most part, but I’m low on the totem pole and saving for some really expensive medical procedures. In the past, when I’m not able to contribute, I actually take half a day off when they present the gifts because I just feel so weird about the whole thing.

  47. Jam Today

    My cognitive abilities have diminished significantly in my new job and after a year of wondering what was wrong with me, up to considering getting a Neurology consult because I was worrying I had early-onset dementia (which runs in my family, I realized that its due almost entirely to constant interruption and context-switching. If someone made me wear a button telling people to interrupt me more I would probably walk off the job.

    1. Kelly L.

      Oh wow, is that a thing? I may have just understood something about myself. Thank you, and I’m sorry you’re going through that.

      1. Jam Today

        I mean, I guess its a thing? I don’t know, I’m guessing. I need a lot of “ideation time” when working on projects, so constant context-switching is not good for me.

  48. Could be Anyone

    #2: I’m wondering if this is in a different context than say, an office reception area?
    I just can’t imagine anything but a person walking in, approaching the desk, and being greeted/assisted by the receptionist. UNLESS the receptionist is on the phone or already helping another customer, in which case it would be ridiculous to interrupt. I can’t think of a situation where I wouldn’t think those buttons were weird.

  49. AKchic

    LW 1: I work with my mother. Some days, it’s okay. Mostly though, it has given me an insight into my mother’s work habits and solidified just why I don’t like my mother as a person or a coworker.

    My mother too has personality flaws that she exhibits and cannot seem to understand why she is not better positioned. Any explanations by me are not taken seriously. Not just because I am her daughter, but also because I am a woman. If a man (or my sons) told her? She would take it to heart and listen and change her behavior. However, none of the men we work with will tell her to change because what she does benefits them because she is subservient. She bakes them cupcakes and mothers them and acts like a cutesy ditz and generally brings the 50’s secretary pool back to our office with her attitudes.
    Any attempt at explaining this to her as been met with “you don’t know what you’re talking about”. Sure. We have over two decades in age difference and job experience, but we’re at the same point career-wise. She’s been to college, I have not. I’ve worked in HR, she has not.
    She still has very subservient, religious traditional attitudes in life. We don’t get along well. If it weren’t for the money, I wouldn’t be here at this place. Instead, I suck it up and count myself lucky that this job affords me great pay, top-tier medical benefits, and I don’t have to talk to people most days, which allows me to interact with people outside of work – which is what I would rather do.

  50. Bertha

    OP #3, this seems particularly ridiculous. What about someone like me who doesn’t even own a car?? Would I still have to sit through a sales pitch? And what if I lived with my parents (thank goodness I do not) and didn’t need renters/home insurance? Just kinda goofy.

  51. Don't call me Suze

    #4 – I feel your pain. I work for a global company, based in CA. My peers in EU have loads of time off in comparison to their US peers. And I feel like our PTO plan is generous by US standards. And I have twice taken the full 12 week (unpaid!) maternity leave allowed while my CA peers take a full 6 months. My boss, based in CA, suggested I take the full 6 months when I told him my plans. He wasn’t trying to be unkind, he honestly didn’t realize my options were significantly different than the moms in CA.

    I mean, there really isn’t always a simple solution for the company when they have locations in various states and countries. It kind of sucks, but you may enjoy some other trade-offs like lower cost of living, shorter commute, lower taxes, than your peers who seem to have cushier PTO plans.

  52. MoreLikeAsworstos

    #2 – what about a bell on the counter? I never hesitate to hit one of those when there’s no one at the front desk. It’s even kind of fun! I could see some people finding it condescending, but I think it’s efficient.

    1. MoreLikeAsworstos

      You could also have a green and red type indicator. Even if it’s green all the type for each front desk person, the fact that the red option exists is a visual queue that you’re each available and interruptable with an “Ahem.”

  53. Aisling

    OP #2, I’m guessing you work in a library. This is an actual issue in libraries, because for whatever reason a patron’s first question is usually “Are you busy? I don’t want to disturb you.” This is always directed to staff sitting at the customer service desk, waiting for patrons to help. I know some libraries that have used buttons like this to help patrons get over their first hurdle to customer service. Sometimes patrons chuckle when they saw it, but I don’t know if it was ever really effective. Customer service is usually the best way to combat this: friendly, professional staff who actually want to help!

  54. mmppgh

    Re: LW1. Try encouraging your mom to take advantage of career counseling for advice on why she is having trouble advancing. There are often nonprofit organizations that offer this for free. Sometimes an outside party can get through when family cannot. I also kniw I should not diagnose but traditional counseling may be beneficial too. I have a family member with a lot of negativity around work and it is extremely unhealthy and draining. Yes, work can be frustrating but one also needs to be able to better cope with challenges without lashing out. You could approach it as, “I know You are frustrated and unhappy. It is hard for me to see you hurting and I can’t help. Would you consider counseling?”

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