am I a party pooper, can I ask a company to speed up its hiring process, and more

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

1. Am I a party pooper or is this weird?

My company of about 200 employees has a new C-level head of one of our departments. I’m in a different department that works closely with his. Since he started a few months ago, every other week or so he treats his department to something. Sometimes it’s a pizza lunch for everyone, but other times it’s way beyond that; he buys concert tickets for anyone who wants to go to a show with him, takes his whole department out for karaoke and paying for rounds of drinks for everyone, etc. For better or worse, we’re a very laid back company, so the drinking and concerts isn’t unusual for employees to do with one another.

However, his department is 50+ people and he pays for all of these things out of pocket, with no endorsement or reimbursement from our company. He only invites employees within his department. To me, it feels like a perk or benefit being given to a certain set of employees and excluding others. And even if I was in his department, I don’t think I would feel comfortable with him buying me concert tickets out of pocket. The whole thing just seems like he’s trying to buy his employees’ favor. Others in my (much smaller department) view it as a nice way to raise his team’s morale, and that because of the age difference (he’s in his mid-50’s, and the rest of our company averages late 20’s/early 30’s), he’s just trying to seem “cool” in an ultimately harmless way.

Is this something that I’m right to feel weird about? Or is this normal, and I’m overreacting and being a party pooper?

Nah, it’s a little weird. It would be one thing if this were a small team and he were doing it only occasionally — but every other week with a group of 50+ is a huge amount of people and a high frequency. And because he’s paying for it himself, it’s going to seem to at least some people that he’s trying to buy his employees’ favor, as it does to you — and raises the question of why just being a good manager doesn’t feel like enough to him. It’s also going to make some people resentful at what may seem like frequent social demands on them; no matter how laid-back he is about people attending, some people are going to wonder if it’ll look bad if they never participate. (Although I don’t think the part about him only offering it to his employees is a big deal; it’s pretty normal for managers to only do stuff for their teams.)

I know it might seem curmudgeonly to criticize someone who’s trying to do nice things for his team. And his intentions are probably very kind! But managers have to think about the broader ramifications of what they’re doing.

That doesn’t mean this is outrageous or unacceptable or anything like that. And hell, some people might love it. But you’re not wrong to feel a little weird about it.

2. My office has a mandatory employee-spouse dinner — but I’m separated

I’m an attorney in a small office. Every year, the partners plan a dinner for lawyers and their spouses (everyone is married), and attendance is absolutely expected. It’s usually planned months in advance so that everyone, including spouses, can clear their schedule to make it. I just got the email with possible dates in January.

Alison, my husband has been staying elsewhere while we work through stuff in our marriage. I’m keeping it quiet — I’m pretty private anyway — and I DEFINITELY don’t want to discuss my separation at the office while things are still so unsettled. How do I respond?!?

Explain that your husband had a last-minute work emergency or family emergency that he needed to attend to and is sorry to miss it. You’re allowed to create polite cover stories in situations like this, where people aren’t entitled to know the real situation. (And frankly, “He has some urgent family stuff going on that he needed to deal with” is true.)

3. Can I ask a company to speed up its hiring process?

I applied for a job at a small company (15 people) during the end of September. I had a first interview two weeks later, but the second interview took a month to schedule. I’m a remote candidate, but will be in town during the first week of December, so they want to schedule an third interview then. They’ve just gotten back to me asking me to potentially also be available for additional interviews in January. At this point, I would have been in process for four months. They have already told me that they don’t want anyone to start until January. I’m fine with this, but my current contract ends in November, so I do want some certainty about what’s going to happen rather than not knowing through the holidays. How much can I push back and ask them to make a decision in December?

You can’t, really. They get to hire on whatever timeline works for them. That said, if you have constraints of your own that would impact your ability to accept a later offer, you can certainly mention that — but that would be stuff like “I have an offer from another company, but you’d be my first choice. Is there any way of expediting our conversations so that I’m able to give them an answer by December 15?” You can’t do that, though, if your reason is just “I don’t want the uncertainty over the holidays.” (And you definitely shouldn’t bluff and make up any external constraints, because they may say, “We understand, and since we can’t move that quickly, you should take the other offer.”)

The best thing you can do here is to assume that you’re not getting an offer from them and proceed accordingly — which presumably means continuing an active search. (That doesn’t mean that you won’t ultimately get an offer from them, just that you can’t count on it and it’s dangerous to plan as if you can.) It does suck to not know, but that’s the nature of job searching, and you can’t insist that they move faster just to make it less stressful for you.

4. Should I say something about my overly chatty employee possibly bothering a coworker?

I supervise a group of part-time workers doing what amounts to unskilled menial labor. One of the workers, Kent, is an older gentleman who has been doing this job for decades. He is known to be very chatty and a bit of a character. Everyone kind of groans internally when they see him coming because they know they’re in for a 15-minute diatribe on the weather and what kind of wardrobe it calls for.

Another of the workers, Aaliyah, is a (30-something?) woman who is no shrinking violet. They work the same shift all week. Lately it hasn’t been very busy, so there is downtime and Kent seems to spend a lot of it following Aaliyah around, chatting at her. On the one hand, I’m sure this is very annoying, but on the other, she is a full grown woman who knows how to take care of herself and all of the work is getting done. Is this something I should intervene in? I don’t get the impression that his talk is inappropriate, just constant. If anything, this woman is more of a bad-ass than I am so I don’t think she needs me stepping in for her, but maybe the work context changes things?

Yeah, the work context changes things. You see someone you supervise following someone around chatting at her, in what looks like an annoying way. Even if Aaliyah is perfectly able to handle this herself, it’s worth checking in with her and saying something like, “I’ve noticed that Kent is spending a lot of time chatting with you recently. Are you fine with that, or would you like me to talk to him about giving you some space?” Who knows, it’s possible that Aaliyah will tell you that she doesn’t mind Kent. But it’s also possible that she’d like him to stop but doesn’t want to make him feel bad or come across as rude herself or thinks his decades of work there mean people are supposed to defer to him, and that she would be grateful for you to step in. (Even bad-asses suffer from that problem on occasion.)

There’s also the question of whether you want Kent doing this, even if Aaliyah doesn’t mind. Is it worth talking to Kent about giving people more space in general? I can’t say without more context, but if you’ve got an employee who’s regularly annoying people, you do have standing to ask them to rein it in. (Within reason, of course. To some extent, we’re all going to need to work with people with odd quirks, annoying personalities, etc., and we shouldn’t demand that people sanitize themselves to the point of perfect uniformity. But if he’s routinely annoying or distracting people, that’s something you can and should bring up.)

{ 253 comments… read them below }

  1. Avasarala*

    OP5, I actually just had a coworker ask me if another chatty coworker was bothering me. They weren’t, so I’ll admit my first reaction was, “What, we’re not allowed to talk to people here?” but I appreciated having someone watch my back, and knowing I had an observant ally in case the situation changed or escalated. I think Aaliyah will appreciate you looking out for her!

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Op 5 it might be worth asking Kent to cut back how much time he spends chatting. I’m not saying prohibit talking but just ask him to cutdown. while the work is getting done and Aaliyah may not mind if kent chats with her someone in the future might. If you wait till someone actually complains or has a problem with it, that would make it easy for Kent to identify the person who complained. “nobody cared how much I talked until Nancy Drew showed up, she must have complained.”

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, Alison’s answer was interesting to me – if “everyone groans” when they see Kent coming, it does seem like his chatter is annoying/distracting to a good number of people. I would have thought that she’d come down a little more on the side of talking to Kent about his chatting in general. I guess it does depend on whether he’s ignoring cues that people are done talking to him, which is information we don’t have from the letter, and maybe the “following around” part is making me think he’s more irritating than he actually is. (Because I would hate it if someone followed me around to chat.)

        1. GhostWriter*

          For #4:

          I was wondering if Aaliyah is annoyed with Kent chatting at her, so she was trying to escape by moving to another area, but he follows her and won’t pick up any social cues that she doesn’t want to be chatted at.

          My shoulders went up reading the letter. Everyone “groans” when they see him and he chats “at” people and he picked one spectific person to follow around (who happens to be a younger woman). It makes me wonder if there’s more details that would indicate he’s more creepy than annoying.

          1. Myrin*

            I mean, OP even says that she doesn’t “get the impression that his talk is inappropriate, just constant”. Can you say a bit more about why you’re reading the parts you quote in your second paragraph as more creepy than annoying? Because they had the exact opposite effect on me – I know a few of the types people roll their eyes about and groan when they see them and who never stop talking at people, so to me, that’s basically all the hallmarks met for an incessantly chatty, harmless, but extremely annoying person.

            1. epi*

              The following is a big part of what makes this behavior potentially creepy. So does constantly talking to one particular person. The OP says that Kent and Aaliyah work together throughout the week, but not that they are the only ones working (at a minimum, the OP is there too). Yet instead of bouncing around talking at everyone for a bit, Kent follows Aaliyah when she tries to leave the area.

              I was stalked by someone in my office who did similar stuff. Much like Kent, there was nothing obviously sexual about the attention and this person was excessively chatty with many people, but especially focused on me. Many people will feel they can’t tell a coworker to back off as clearly as they would like, and they are limited in their ability to leave a bad situation because they have to stay in the workplace. Many women feel additional pressure to tolerate behavior like Kent’s. While each conversation is no big deal, it’s the pattern that is a problem and can create an uncomfortable, even frightening environment when someone feels they are the focus of intense unwanted attention and can’t say no.

              Not everyone who behaves like Kent is scary or malicious, but following people and not respecting when they are done interacting with you is unacceptable social behavior that shows lack of respect for others’ boundaries and consent. It can be uncomfortable on its own and when it is tolerated it gives cover to truly bad people. In my situation, several people around us assumed we were friends because HE was always around ME.

              1. LJay*

                It may be that Aaliyah is just more satisfying for him to chat to/at than the others.

                If she makes listening noises at him when others don’t or engages in conversation with him while other people give short answers or shrug him off, or if everyone else has said, “gee I don’t have time to talk right now, I’m swamped” and she hasn’t, it might be he is following her because she is the last person he perceives receptive to conversation he has left.

                I do know what you mean about the n0n-overtly sexual, but uncomfortable levels of attention though. That’s certainly a possibility, too, and I’ve experienced it as well. It’s uncomfortable when they just hone in on you. And it can feel like they’re expecting something in return for them pretending to be interested in you as a human being as well, like “Okay, we talked about our pets. Aren’t you ready to be my girlfriend and jump into bed with me now?” Ick. And it’s difficult to do anything about because they aren’t doing anything offensive so if you try to reject them they say they were just being friendly, and it feels weird to go to someone and say, “Kent is talking to me too much and I feel uncomfortable about it,” because other people often don’t see the problem.

                1. epi*

                  I agree.

                  The person I mentioned in my comment is overly chatty to lots of people, just not to the point of stalking or harassment AFAIK with anyone but me. The thing is, they are *always* women. I think we are just less threatening to talk to if someone is insecure, or their social behavior is getting them rejected a lot. We’re less likely to do that even if we don’t like what is happening, either.

            2. GhostWriter*

              I didn’t say it was more creepy than annoying, I said I was wondering if there were more details that would make the behavior more creepy than annoying (details that the OP doesn’t know about or maybe didn’t mention).

              Kent is either oblivious to or purposefully ignoring obvious social cues that people don’t want to listen to him chat, so something seems off about him. And he’s focusing most of his attention (and actually following around) one person (a younger woman). OP says they don’t get the impression that his talk is inappropriate, but she can’t know for sure unless she’s following him around all day, and even then people usually avoid saying inappropriate things in front of their supervisor. What if he’s doing something like following Aaliyah to her car? What the OP wrote about him doesn’t scream “creepy,” but it sets off warning bells for me that it could escalate or there might be more to it.

              For reference, I’ve been targeted by creepy guys and sexually harassed at work. It’s always been older guys that people found “friendly” or “chatty.” The sudden and constant attention started out annoying and weird and escalated from there.

              1. epi*

                This is a really good point that I wish I had included in my earlier comment as well.

                Not only is the OP probably seeing just a fraction of their interactions (and probably not hearing every conversation they see), they are only seeing the behavior that Kent thinks is fine to do in front of one’s boss. And even that is striking the OP as maybe being too frequent and focused on one person.

                Your last paragraph is my experience exactly.

                1. GhostWriter*

                  *Fist bump of solidarity* for dealing with creeps.

                  I hate how my bad experiences make me more alert/suspicious to any behavior that seems off because it feels like I’m being crazy and overly sensitive to things that could turn out to be harmless. At the same time I hope it’ll come in handy for immediately recognizing and avoiding future creeps.

          2. OP #5*

            Just to clarify- the job is basically walking around the floor, stocking things. So Kent gets his all done and then follows Aaliyah around while she does hers. Since they are both out there on the floor all day I think she is mostly a target of opportunity but I admit I can’t rule out “n0n-overtly sexual, but uncomfortable levels of attention though.” mentioned by LJay above…

            1. tangerineRose*

              Since she’s stocking things, Aaliyah probably doesn’t have the great built-in excuse that I’ve used with over-chatterers, that I need to get back to work. She can probably work and listen at the same time.

              I’m glad you’re going to ask her about this, because she might be frustrated by this but not know how to deal with it in this case.

            2. GhostWriter*

              I wasn’t imagining a stocking shelves scenarios at all, so the following makes more sense now, but could still be annoying (or creepy).

              If Aaliyah does say it’s bothering her, could you give Kent more work to do for when he finishes his shelving? When I had a menial labor job I had two main tasks, and then a list of 3 or 4 lower priority tasks that involved cleaning and prepping, and if I had absolutely nothing to do I was supposed to ask coworkers if they needed help.

      2. epi*

        I would do both.

        One way to look at this is, the OP’s eyes aren’t on Kent and Aaliyah every minute of the day– they see only a sample of the interactions between these two. And yet what the OP is seeing is contact and following so frequent, they are worried about whether a normally assertive person can deal with it in her own. That’s a lot! And unless the OP is only seeing them at unusually show and chatty times, there is probably more.

        It seems like the OP has observed enough of Kent’s behavior to be able to give him general feedback, without saying anything that would single Aaliyah out. They should take advantage of that because it may be harder to do later if she does complain, the behavior sounds like it annoys a lot of people anyway, and the OP’s intervention could prevent further problems. If Kent is just harmless and annoying, it’s also better for him to be coached on this before he really crosses a line with someone.

      3. Genny*

        How realistic is that though if the work is pretty tedious menial labor (in my head, I’m picturing this as a pretty repetitive job that you don’t necessarily have to be 100% focused on at all times)? It might work if people are allowed to listen to music/podcasts, but if you can’t, then how else are people supposed to pass the time while doing their work?

        1. OP #5*

          Yeah it’s possible that she enjoys the company while doing something boring! (They’re not supposed to wear earbuds on the floor so it def can get boring!)
          I think I just have to ask her.

    2. Allison*

      Right, because if that person had been bothering you, you’d want someone on your side, rather than try to tell someone and have them go “what, people aren’t allowed to talk to you here?”

    3. BadWolf*

      I had an officemate that many people weren’t overly fond off but I didn’t mind him. People would actually say things like, “I’m sorry” or similar. I could understand why he annoyed some people, but it wasn’t a problem for me to work around (not that I’m some amazing person, he just didn’t push my buttons like he could other people).

      It was nice to know that if I had problems with him, others would not have been surprised and I would have had support to do something about it.

    4. OP #5*

      Hi guys, I’m late getting here (can’t believe my question got picked!) but here is some added detail. Kent has been talked to about his chattiness a few times over the years (I’m new to supervising but not the department) and it has gotten better from the days that everyone did all the internal groaning. Maybe it’s time for a refresher though…
      It’s hard to describe Kent’s affect. He is never inappropriate but that doesn’t make him 100% non-creepy either. Haha. It may just be that he is somewhat childlike in an almost fake and off-putting way. I’m trying not to be harsh. I do think he may have a developmental disability and means well but yeah there’s something a little off…
      Anyway I think I will ask Aaliyah if it’s bothering her and go from there.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        I speak with a lot of elderly and retired people in my job, and sometimes I’ll get a call that is resolved in a couple of minutes, then the person will repeat the question and I’ll go through the information again. (The isn’t unusual for any of my contacts of any age because the information can be detailed and technical, not a quick “click-of-a-mouse” answer.) But then the person will continue to draw out the conversation asking the same thing over again when it’s pretty clear they’ve got it. I think some of my older callers are lonely and while their questions are legitimate, they treat the call as a social interaction instead of a business transaction. I’m wondering if Kent might treat the job the same way?

  2. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

    Regarding letter 2…are mandatory employee-spouse dinners common in the law field? I would hope that the other attendees would not give any side-eye to a hypothetical unmarried future hire and definitely not to someone whose spouse could not attend for a family emergency (which I think you should say). If anyone did take issue with either of those things it reflects more poorly on them than it does on you/your marriage. Also, I’m sorry you’re dealing with that OP2, and wish you the best of luck through this time.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It varies by the size of the law firm. It’s not common for larger firms (or large local offices for a bigger firm). But for some smaller firms, or firms with a conservative culture, there are certain mandatory spouse-inclusive events you’re expected to attend. From my corner of the world, it’s not the norm.

      1. TechWorker*

        Tbh even partner-invited events where not everyone is in a relationship can be tricky during/after a break up. I had *so many* colleagues go ‘so couldn’t make it this time?’ which is just really not what you want to hear. And that was when I’d been at the company a year and said ex had been at maybe 3 socials…? I can imagine you’d get well meaning colleagues being even more insensitive if they’d met your partner every social for a number of years.

        1. TechWorker*

          Turns out angle brackets get eaten, the above should read ‘so couldn’t (ex’s name) make it this time?’

          1. ElspethGC*

            See, I read that as “SO couldn’t make it this time?” as in significant other. Still worked!

            Also, that sucks. Definitely the last thing you want if you’re having to go to mandatory fun after a breakup.

          2. General Ginger*

            I just read it as Significant Other couldn’t make it this time, so that works fine. But blech, that’s crappy.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            The comments use some HTML, which is why angle brackets get eaten. You can always use the following (with no spaces) to create angle brackets:
            & lt;
            & gt;


      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, my spouse works at a small firm and spouses are invited to a number of functions (parties when people make partner, retirement parties, the holiday party). It’s not required to go to every single one of them, especially when you have young kids or another ready excuse for why it’s inconvenient for the spouse to attend, but I think it would be seen as unfriendly and a little weird if I never attended any of them – like our family isn’t invested in my spouse building a career at the firm. It’s the kind of place people stay for their whole careers, and it’s nice to put faces to the names my spouse talks about all the time (and I assume vice versa from their perspective). I know enough of her colleagues and their families at this point that it’s a perfectly pleasant way to spend an evening.

        1. BatmansRobyn*

          My partner works at a small firm and I’m often (but not always) invited to their dinners and events. I, personally, enjoy going and seeing his coworkers. Nothing is ever mandatory, though, and it’s not weird if a single person doesn’t bring a date.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Can confirm that this happens in law firms. The last time it happened to me, I handled it pretty much exactly as Allison advises. My spouse and I weren’t separated, but he didn’t want to go and there was no good reason at all for me to “force” him to. The excuse I gave was that he had to deal with a family illness emergency in his hometown, a small town that happened to be 40 miles away from dinner. I said something along the lines of, “I’m really sorry [*], Mr. Glomarization sends his regrets but he had a family emergency in [small town]. His aunt fell ill suddenly this morning.” Nobody wants details about a family illness, so the moment of awkwardness passed quickly and soon we were on to other topics of conversation.

      The only trick is to remember at the end of the dinner, when everyone is departing, what excuse you gave so that if someone says “I hope [excuse you gave] resolves soon,” you don’t look at them like you don’t know what they’re talking about.

      [*] I wasn’t sorry, of course; this was “sorry” in the social lubricant sense.

    3. Delta Delta*

      Lawyer here, married to a lawyer. The best thing that ever happened to us professionally is when we each left workplaces that had awkward holiday dinners that “required” spouse attendance.

      1. AKchic*

        Yes to this!
        I’m not a lawyer (nor have I ever played one on tv), but I’ve worked in places where the dreaded “holiday party where spouses (and sometimes children/grandchildren) are invited”. It all depended on how successful the year was for the company, but most of the time it was employee and partner only. Once in a while they would extend it to children (and grandchildren, depending on the company, especially if family-owned and the owner wanted to show off a new grandchild).
        I saw it a lot in the family-owned mechanic/repair-type businesses. Not so much in the bigger office jobs.

        I’ll admit, I was never big on staff parties. Especially when they were mandatory (my last job).

        1. TardyTardis*

          One time, my husband couldn’t make it to the company Christmas dinner, but I was allowed a plus one of whoever, so I brought my son, who is schizophrenic on meds, but talks a *lot*, so I was worried about how well he would mix, but things turned out better than I thought–at least no one was upset at me the next day (though some of them have heard about some of the challenges).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      My husband and I had a running joke about mandatory dinners/events. “Oh are you going to pay my spouse for their time spent at this event?”
      You would think that lawyers would be the first people to understand that the spouse is not under their employ therefore has no obligation to attend.

    5. Temperance*

      This is not a thing at the large firm where I work. We’re pretty laid back, and I’ve brought lawyer friends as my plus one to many events.

    6. LQ*

      This oddly makes me understand what an attorney coworker said recently about how nice it is around here at holiday time. (We have no parties, no obligations outside working hours, certainly no one is expected to have or bring a spouse anywhere.) He came from a work culture that would have had several mandatory employee spouse dinners. (We may not pay as well, but we don’t force your spouse to socialize….I don’t think that’s going to catch on in the hiring literature.)

    7. LawyersChild*

      I have a parent who is a lawyer at a small firm, and though they aren’t this formal, I could see how these would occur…. IF my other parent didn’t despise them! The firm has only around five people in it, so I think there’s a lot more closeness than the usual workplace, but they don’t do anything like the OP.

    8. lawyer*

      I work in biglaw (my firm is one of the largest in the US). No spouse-mandatory events, but bias against unmarried people does surface in a variety of ways. For example, taking clients and their spouses to dinner is common, and a partner might not invite an associate to attend that dinner if the associate is unmarried (i.e., doesn’t have a matching spouse to bring). That means the unmarried associate misses out on spending time building a client relationship. Another example: my firm hosts summer recruiting parties, which senior firm leadership attend. Unmarried people are never asked to host those parties. Hosting them isn’t fun, but it’s an obligation that you want to take on because it’s helpful to the firm and thus good for your reputation internally; unmarried people miss out on that as well.

      1. wendelenn*

        I’m curious–if there are any people with same-sex spouses, do things happen similarly as with heterosexual couples?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          In my experience, yes, but I’m thinking of firms in blue parts of California, Connecticut and NYC. :)

          Re: the bias against unmarried folks, that seems to be pretty common across the board, with more significant bias against unmarried women. (But the gender thing is common across all of law, because apparently we are a socially backwards field of dinosaurs.)

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Interesting, because there’s no specific reason, as far as I know, that unmarried people couldn’t do these activities as well as married ones.
        It sounds like a holdover from the good old boy days when a man didn’t just have to have a wife – she had to be the right kind of wife, or he wouldn’t get promoted.

    9. LawBee*

      Not any more or less common than in any other profession, I would think. Definitely not in mine, which is about the same size as LW.

      1. CdnAcct*

        I do think it’s more common in law; I used to think my field (accounting) was the most conservative, until I heard about things like this from my lawyer friends.

    10. Holly*

      I work in government where there really isn’t events in the same way as private firms. But I have plenty of colleagues who work in private firms that often have events where if you have a plus 1 it’s expected to bring them, because it’s as much of a social event as it is professional. I’ve never heard of an event where it is *mandatory* to bring your plus 1 – it’s pretty common for a plus 1 to not come if there’s a real reason (working the night shift, out of town, came down with a bad cold). It would be strange to not bring your plus 1 when there’s no reason behind it though, if that makes sense.

    11. Whale of a Time*

      In my experience as a woman:
      Big law expects you to be married/have a spouse to bring. I never received an explicit “you must bring spouse it’s mandatory” like op, but your opportunities and reputation would take a great beating if you remained single. However! Try not to get pregnant because that can also greatly ruin your chances. Yes, at law firms in the USA. If you’re a man though, for sure have those kids.

      The other area I’ve worked in is a manfucturing company. Women who wanted to move up the ladder absolutely had to be married with children. Without children would only get you so far. I know that’s not the norm in manufacturing, so sometimes it depends on how bizarrely conservative the particular company is. With one woman, they all but outright told her that she wouldn’t be receiving a promotion that could only go to her until her ‘engaged’ status changed to ‘married’. The minute she tied the knot, oh look suddenly eligible.

  3. Mm*

    It sounds like OP needs a solution to work to deflect the dates proposed. I don’t think it would be fair to let them plan for him to be there and then have OP claim family emergency at the last minute. I would either respond “x dates work for me, but my husband wont be available” or if you really don’t want to invite questions you could say “my husband’s work schedule has been unpredictable lately so plan for it to be just me”

    I agree you are allowed to fudge the truth in these cases.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      For a reasonable host I would think this would work. But it doesn’t sound like the OP’s employer is a reasonable host. If a vague response of “my husband won’t be able to make it” will result in pressure for the OP to make their spouse reschedule their life, or a lot of questions to the OP, or requests for a list of dates that would work, then I think RSVPing yes and having the husband contract a sudden stomach virus the day of the dinner is perfectly fine.

      If you’re dealing with someone that won’t take no for an answer, and you’re not in a position where you can tell them to shove off and leave you alone, then lying to protect yourself is a reasonable response (and the simpler the lie the better). In this case, I think eating the cost of a dinner is an acceptable consequence for the employer that has mandatory events for their employees spouses.

      1. Mark Roth*

        It seems that “No” simply isn’t an answer here. So, “I’m sorry, but…” becomes the only way to decline.

      2. Isben Takes Tea*

        I agree. This isn’t a social event–this is (at least from someone outside the field) an unreasonable demand: making an employee responsible for a non-employee attending a company event. I think the OP is completely within polite and ethical bounds to protect herself by not saying anything ahead of time and making an acceptable excuse at the event.

        1. :-)*

          In this case I also would pretend that my SO will be there and on the day itself I’ll use a white lie to excuse the SO for not being there.

          It’s nice that they invite spouses, but when it becomes manditory = no longer nice.

      3. Willis*

        Yeah, I agree with this. If she makes excuses beforehand, they’re just going to try to accommodate spouse’s schedule or urge that he reschedule. Something coming up the day or week of the event is a better plan, and I think the OP has enough to deal with without worrying about the cost of a meal. (Also, depending on how it’s set up, it may not even impact the cost.)

        1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

          And if a law firm can’t absorb the cost of paying for an extra plate, OP has way bigger problems to deal with.

      4. Nita*

        Yep. They’ve put OP in a painful situation where they have to reveal something very personal, for no good reason. They can deal with one last-minute cancellation. It’s really not a big deal, even a “big” event can have cancellations, illnesses and other stuff happen. It does seem like claiming a family emergency is the most fail-proof way to get out of having to explain anything, and no one plans emergencies in advance.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Agreed. It’s a little nerve-wracking but I would wait until the last minute and announce, “Aww, gee, spouse had an emergency, spouse won’t be here. It’s too bad.” While I am not in favor of lying, I am even less in favor of being badgered over something this irrelevant. The higher ups created a pressure point unnecessarily. It serves no purpose.

        2. designbot*

          Also this may be a long shot, but planning for a last-minute decline leaves open the possibility that they might reconcile by then. Just to be clear I’m not saying that because I have any problems with divorce/separation, just keeping in mind that it’s a trial separation while they try to work some things through, and one possible outcome of that is eventually getting back together.

      5. Lovey*

        Plus, the LW at this point doesn’t actually *know* that her spouse won’t be able to make it. January is a long way away, perhaps they will get back together. Maybe that is overly optimistic, but she does say he is staying someplace else while they “work some stuff out,” not “divorce papers have been filed.” So RSVPing for him at this point. Really, it’s the smart thing to do because what if they do end up getting back together and she’s already told her firm he’s not coming? Awkward. Way more awkward than saying “Family emergency” at the last minute.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I agree. There are a number of ways things could unfold in this amount of time, and I think it’s totally fine for the OP to do what causes her the least amount of stress, especially in what is probably a pretty stressful time.

          Plus, it’s just dinner, it’s not like they need to buy the spouse a flight or something. The cost of a last minute cancellation is minimal and could happen regardless (the OP could reconcile and then there could still be a family emergency! Stuff happens!)

    2. JamieS*

      Usually I’d agree but Iget the impression that if she tries to deflect the date and tells her firm in advance her husband won’t make it then they may try to change the date so he can.

      1. TechWorker*

        Maybe her husband could have a planned work trip that’s going to be ‘a couple of weeks in the new year, but the dates haven’t been pinned down yet’ and then a couple weeks after the dinner is set in stone ‘oh yeah sorry it does clash after all’.

        That would obviously raise eyebrows if a colleague is likely to bump into him on the street though, in which case the ‘last minute family emergency’ really seems the safest option!

    3. Marthooh*

      “I don’t think it would be fair to let them plan for him to be there and then have OP claim family emergency at the last minute.”

      This would be true for a social occasion, but OP shouldn’t worry about her gracious hosts in this case. They’re not paying Mr. OP to be there and it’s not fair for them to require his attendance.

      1. Holly*

        It’s actually very likely that they are paying for everyone since it’s a law firm and it’s a firm dinner.

        1. Marthooh*

          They are not paying him for his time, is the point. If it were a social occasion, OP could say no to it.

    4. Blue Eagle*

      You don’t know what is going to happen by that time, so I agree with Alison’s advice which is to reply for both of you – then at the last minute show up by yourself with an excuse for your spouse.

      My sister has been wanting to get out of family events so she is a master at doing this – saying she will come, then at the last minute, she, her spouse or her children have some issue why they can’t come. I finally get what she is doing – if she didn’t agree to participate, then the family would be continually contacting her trying to get her to agree, by just agreeing, she escapes all of that contact then just does what she wants anyway.

      Well, it has been cathartic for me to write this down. Hope it is in some way helpful for you.

  4. It’s all good*

    OP1 I totally get it! When I was one of five managers within a department there was one (very nice) manager who bought a gift (basket) for each of her team members for every holiday, and just “because”. Donuts, pizza, candy, flowers you name it. We each managed 10 employees. I treated my team too but not every week. I could not afford it. It created a lot of resentment among the other 30 employees, they felt they were missing out. The director was her BFF so we didn’t think a talk with her would go over well. Guess who got Employee of the Year?

    1. Perse's Mom*

      Not only is it likely building resentment in some of the people who don’t get all the fun stuff at OP’s company, it’s likely to create resentment in the people who are currently getting gifts if/when they start tapering off.

      Don’t really need to argue whether or not those reactions are reasonable, chances are high every commenter here knows someone (or several someones) who has or would react this way in similar circumstances.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        I can see the spectrum of reactions, and only some of them are positive. If I were on that manager’s team, I’d honestly feel weird and awkward receiving so many treats from him and I’d be the one wondering if it would look bad for me to refuse them. A few pizza lunches aren’t a big deal, but concert tickets and generous happy hours all the time? Great in theory, but to me would quickly become an obligation instead of a treat. Then of course there’s the people who will feel left out, the people who think the manager is buying goodwill (I’d think that too), and the people who will be childishly resentful when the gifts taper off because I can’t imagine that he will be able or want to spend so much money so frequently forever.

        1. Washi*

          I would also feel weird about my boss spending a lot of his own money on treats. It adds a personal dynamic that doesn’t exist when it’s departmental money specifically set aside for team building.

          OP, I would just say to observe this with curiosity. It’s unusual behavior, and I don’t think it will reflect on you and the perks you can offer with most reasonable people. Some people might transfer over but I think most decent workers want their boss to be their boss and not their fun uncle.

        2. Flinty*

          Yes, somehow especially with food people get used to it and feel entitled to it so quickly! If/when this guy decides he can’t afford all this anymore it will be a lot more “where’s my pizza???” and less “well, it’s cool that we got free pizza for a couple months!”

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I tried to imagine myself in the employees’ position, and my mind immediately went to “trying to buy favors”. I’d feel awkward in that way. What if I have to disagree with this manager about something at work? it is awkward to argue with someone who’s been showering you with goodies and concert tickets.

        4. Michaela Westen*

          Also, I already have a social life. I have to make my own food because of allergies. I cook and do errands during the week and socialize on the weekends.
          Even if I wanted to otherwise, I wouldn’t have time for all these work-related social events. I am *not* giving up seeing my friends for this, which is what I’d have to do!

    2. Myrin*

      And I would have the exact opposite reaction as one of those other 30 employees – I’d find that weirdly brown-nose-y of the manager and I’d have to fight hard to not unfairly view her as a person who needs to buy others’ favour – which isn’t really an outcome you’d want, either.

    3. Jenny*

      This kind of stuff is so hard. My department is pretty lackluster as far as celebrating. They do nothing for birthdays or anything else. If you have a baby while you’re in my department, no one will throw you a shower or do a gift drive at all. And I confess that I’m mostly OK without the mandatory parties, I do wish they’d circulate a card or something. When I got my masters I was going through the program at the same time as a woman in another department. They all got her cards and balloons when she graduated. I got nothing. It kind of sucks.

    4. admin amber*

      I have been in this situation with the company doing many events each month. I harbored a lot of resentment of the expectation to attend, not being able to spend my lunch as I choose, and missing out on evening family time.

      An event here and there is fine and can be fun but I am guessing more of that department is snickering behind that manager’s back and groaning no matter how great the event is.

  5. Mark Roth*

    I just can’t get over the vibes I’m feeling about mandating that spouses attend something. I can almost guarantee that the mere suggestion that I’d have to go would result in 100% I’d have an emergency conference that night. Or a medical emergency involving possible contagious side effects of neuro-rectal impaction

    1. On Fire*

      +1. I know expectations vary from one field/region/employer to another, but if my husband were “mandated” to attend something for my job… he would probably go to prevent any negative repercussions on me, but I can also see stomach bugs happening a lot.

      If OP does go the route of claiming a last-minute conflict for spouse, should OP alert spouse to the situation? Otherwise, what happens if one of the partners runs into spouse at the grocery a couple of days later and inquired about his family’s well-being? “I was sorry you missed the dinner; I hope your relative is okay?” Then what happens?

      1. Observer*

        Sure – alert Spouse. But only shortly before the event unless they are the type of person who needs LOTS of time to prepare of any given thing.

    2. Tardigrade*

      “mandatory employee-spouse dinner”

      As someone upthread said, where’s the spouse compensation for this?

      1. Bunny Girl*

        I am so glad my boyfriend is even less social than me somehow. His work has a holiday party but he never goes. Our work does something for the holidays but it’s for mostly employees and during work hours, and that’s the only reason I’m going.

    3. Boo Hoo*

      Right, I have zero desire to attend any of my husbands work functions. Also to note he is a programmer and I so love him but grow bored with 2 minutes of him explaining what he did that day. I can’t even make a webpage on one of those webpage builders, although otherwise am fairly computer savvy, so this just bores me to tears. I cannot even imagine a whole evening discussing this stuff.

    4. The Cleaner*

      I know, my blood pressure was rising just thinking about it!

      I also wonder what would happen if (hypothetically) the spouse’s workplace had a spouse mandatory event on the same night. Do people ever say “I’m sorry I can’t attend, because we’re attending Spouse’s Job’s Annual Dinner.” I guess that’s why I bristle so much about these events, they seem like holdovers from the days when the husband had a job, and the wife’s “job” was to support the husband’s career, as opposed to the possibility that the spouse might also have a career or other life interests (or might just really value sitting on the couch with a good book).

  6. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

    I know what a party pooper is, but my mind still went to the “I’m the office pooper” letter and what it would mean to be THAT kind of party pooper…

    1. Mark Roth*

      I did not think of that.

      But I did think the letter was going to be about a much less pressing issue like everyone blaming an OP for ruining their fun because she just happens to not want to go to happy hour.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Just my opinion but it’s been my observation that repetitive work takes a lot of mental focus. It takes mental discipline to do the same thing over and over 40 hours a week and not go on automatic pilot or have your brain fall asleep. You can always tell when a person’s head is not in their work because that is when the mistakes start happening. Unfortunately, we devalue this type of work effort in our society but not many people can actually do it day after day, year after year. It’s a different kind of strength that we don’t think about ordinarily: it takes strength to do repetition, ask anyone trying to stay on a diet or follow a budget or other life activities. Repetition of any sort is not easy.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        While I think the phrase is fine, I do agree that society doesn’t value this type of work even though it’s often essential and not actually easy to keep doing day after day. But that’s not surprising because what do we value and reward with money? Education, ambition, improvement, striving, drive, innovation, etc etc. Menial labor is the opposite of that. It does not require much education or even for the doer to be all that bright. There’s only so many ways you can sweep a floor (or whatever), so innovation and improvement aren’t really in the picture either. Menial work is paid the worst, so ambitious people don’t want it or don’t stay long.

      2. Observer*

        There are some kinds of jobs where that’s true, and others where that’s not true, at least for some people. This has nothing to do with how valuable those jobs are.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      Agreed. Having worked unskilled menial labor jobs, which I call “monkey work”, I think the phrase is fine. Perhaps not ideal, but descriptive. Basically it means that the work requires little training and little intelligence to complete properly, and very often anyone in such a position does not make decisions of any kind, they simply do their set tasks. It does not mean the employee doing the work is unintelligent and has no skills, just that the job does not require using them.

      And yes, this leaves a lot of room for chatting and general BSing around. At one warehouse type job, I found myself analyzing the wardrobe choices of a particular coworker because he literally only wore clothes that were green or blue and my mind could only handle so much floor sweeping before it found something else to focus on.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m with you and NYWeasel–it gives context that “Kent, I need to concentrate on this right now” isn’t going to fly as an excuse.

      And I hate nitpicking word choice–derailing because someone described the problem accurately but not juuuuuust right.

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        Although we had that one earlier in the year who was marrying someone who’s employer wanted her to give up her career entirely……..

        (I will never tire of reading that thread!!)

          1. Christmas Carol*

            Link is stuck in moderation, but go to the May 18-19 Open Thread, and search for the comment thread started by “RZ”

              1. Kay*

                I didn’t understand that satire. When someone replied as through the Duchess of Sussex had written the post, they were told off and no one defended them. I don’t understand why it was weird or wrong to post as though one was replying to the Duchess but not weird for someone to post as her. I thought the entire thing was completely bizarre and didn’t like how that poster was treated. It definitely wasn’t lovely.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  ? Most people replied as if it were written by her; that was the point of the post. I didn’t see anyone telling her off for that (I just skimmed it again).

                2. NerdyKris*

                  It wouldn’t have been weird to play along in a nice way. The person you’re referring to responded with a reply that was kind of nasty, directed at a fictional version of Merkle. It came off as a little angry and therefore weird.

                  They weren’t “told off”, though. The only replies were two that pointed out the real Meghan Merkle isn’t actually saying those things, and therefore the response was a little weird.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Ugh. It’s like posting “Help my office is full of bees!!!” without noting that it’s an apiary and so bees are not actually a surprising feature of the job–are even expected.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                Well I would argue that an apiary would need to have an actual office to process honey orders, purchase new equipment, make phone calls, payroll etc… If the actual office office is full of bees I imagine it would make it hard to work in there. You can’t properly create TPS reports if you are covered in bees, or if you have to wear a bee keeper suit to avoid being stung while in the office.

  7. Mommy MD*

    I wouldn’t be bothered by what’s happening in another department. I never am because it’s really not my business. But that’s me. They can eat catered lunch and drink from gold goblets daily. It’s not my concern.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I tend to agree. I am thinking about how much is this costing this guy? It’s not sustainable. He is going to eventually figure out that he has spent a barrel of money just trying to get people to do the jobs they are ALREADY being paid to do.
      Additionally, when he stops doing this I would expect the complaining to start. “Oh this used to be a fun place to work” and so on.
      I like what Alison said about the guy not believing in his own ability to manage people. Just be a good and fair boss.

      OP, his plan will crash and burn. I’d settle back in my chair and just watch. I’d count myself lucky as not getting used to this being my norm, so I will not miss it once it’s gone.

      1. Boo Hoo*

        My thought was how does she know he isn’t being reimbursed. Unless she does the financials she wouldn’t know and he very likely could be.

          1. Deidre in finance*

            I work in finance admin and we have many members of staff who tell their team they’ve paid for a lunch from their own pocket… Then claim it on expenses. I wouldn’t take his word for it.

    2. Czhorat*

      The perception of equitable treatment is important. That’s one reason income equality is so corrosive to a society; it creates the perception of tiers of opportunity, of power, of justice.

      The generous department is income inequality writ small; one group of being told that they are valued and special in ways which are not mirrored across other departments. This is, in opinion, poisonous to long-term morale.

      Recently I mentioned a boss who I thought was my best ever. When asked why, my first answer it that he sent the message that he cared about all of us, and we were all equally important members of a team.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I think people need to spend less time worrying about what they don’t have/get instead focus on what they do have.

        Especially in the OP’s case when they say they don’t want any of these perks.

        I guess I don’t subscribe to the aim for the lowest common denominator so everyone feels equal philosophy.

        1. Czhorat*

          It’s a somewhat well-established fact that our happiness and mood IS effected by the apparent discrepancies in how we are treated as opposed to others. This is not a purely human trait; research with monkeys has shown that a an otherwise acceptable reward will be rejected and cause anger if others in the group are getting better rewards.

          You can want people to pay attention to only their rewards all you wish to and, perhaps in a better world, they would. Nevertheless, the fact is that perceived disparate treatment will be noticed and will almost certainly harm morale.

          Is this the worst workplace sin we’ve seen here on AAM? Not by a long shot. This manager isn’t close to a “worst boss of the year” nomination, but they ARE wrong in what they’re doing and are almost cetainly harming the company.

          1. Susie Q*

            Honestly, that’s life. There will always be someone richer, smarter, prettier, faster, etc. It’s unhealthy to focus on those discrepancies in life because those discrepancies will always exist. It’s a foolish pipe dream to believe that they won’t.

            1. Czhorat*

              Knowing that it’s a basic fact of how human minds work (so basic that our cousins in the primate family share it) can help us build systems which work better by taking humans’ natural desire for fairness into account.

              That aside, it’s also the right thing to strive for equitable treatment.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yes, indeed, that’s why I don’t care if my male coworkers doing the same work make much more money than I do. There will always be someone somewhere with more money than me, so why should I care.

              Czhorat isn’t advocating for the government and establishing a new utopia where we all have exactly the same amount of everything. He’s pointing out that it’s human nature for people to notice and have unpleasant feelings because of it. Not everyone will care, sure. But some people will, and it’s better for the company if people don’t start feeling like they don’t get perks that others in similar jobs do, because it can breed dissatisfaction and affect morale.

              1. Leslie knope*

                Uh, wait. Men getting paid more than women is actually a problem and shouldn’t be brushed off because inequality is exists.

            3. rogue axolotl*

              But the question the LW is asking isn’t about her being bothered that another team is getting stuff that she isn’t. I think she’s just asking about whether this guy’s gift-giving is really appropriate or not, and one factor to take into consideration is that if he’s being really conspicuously generous, it is possible that other people at the company will be bothered by it. Personally I’m with the LW that it would be more uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of all these out-of-pocket expenses.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*


            At my old job, my department had five people, and my supervisor took the five of us to lunch almost every week. I hated it. It meant I couldn’t work through lunch to get work done, so I often had to stay late that day. He spent the whole lunch telling long-winded, annoying stories and being rude to the waitstaff. There was a small list of restaurants he was willing to go to, and none of them were places we were that fond of. But people in other departments got jealous about it anyway because their supervisors rarely treated them to lunch. Before my supervisor started, supervisors generally took their departments out a few times a year, and everyone was fine with that. But after he started taking us out all the time, people became dissatisfied with what they thought we had. After he left, the feeling of resentment persisted, and some people continued to feel like the company and their supervisors didn’t care about employees.

          3. Artemesia*

            Even monkeys get highly POed if they get a piece of cucumber and the monkey next to them a lovely piece of banana. This is bred into our DNA.

          4. Life is good*

            Yes, I have to agree. At my old job, the owner was based in our office. There were 7 other offices in the area. He treated the employees in our office to extravagant extras all the time. I truly think he did it to buy our friendship. People in the 7 other office grumbled all the time about it. Unfortunately, it backfired, because no one really liked the guy. Even the people who he gave stuff to didn’t like him very much.

        2. Roscoe*

          AMEN. Say it again.
          Stop worrying that the grass is greener and start watering your own grass.
          In a big company, or often even a not so big company, different departments can have different rules. I’m in sales. We have a much more generous (as in can do it) WFH policy than other departments. Which makes sense. I may have to get up early or do a sales demo late. I can do anything from my cell phone whereas a IT person can’t. But you know what else, my check is not guaranteed. So if I have a bad month, well it sucks. Someone in marketing has a bad month, its unfortunate, but they make the same money.

          I never get why some people think EVERYTHING has to be equal at all times.

          1. Oranges*

            So… I’m gonna guess you’re okay with working for 3% commission when Bob gets 10%? Cool!

            It’s not that everything has to be “equal” its the equal rewards for equal work. We are fundamentally wired to care about that so we can discipline members of our group that are hogging the resources. Sadly this has broken down a bit with our larger social groups and agriculture. Murgle.

        3. Oranges*

          Yep. Humans/non-hierarchical social creatures like when the same amount of “work” gets the same amount of “reward”. This is due to it being a fairly fundamental necessity for our social structure.

          Money is (originally) a way of saying how many people you’ve helped/how much you’ve helped them. Example: Alice helped Byron by making them a pair of shoes. Byron doesn’t need help from Alice since she makes arrows and he uses a sword. Alice gives Byron a piece of paper saying that he is owed help. Money isn’t a thing. It’s a promise of help.

          However we’ve kinda… morphed it away from that. It’s now a sign of status and a means to get more promises of help. Blah.

    3. Tardigrade*

      I do think it’s best if OP ignores it, but I understand the concern over disparity. I think since OP says she wouldn’t feel comfortable with him buying concert tickets, she could try considering herself lucky this isn’t happening to her. A “let’s hang out at a concert together” kind of manager seems like the same one who might cross other personal time boundaries. Nuh thanks!

      1. Nita*

        Totally agreed. The different perks aren’t the weird part to me – sometimes we have that in different departments for fairly good reasons. For example, a department that tends to work much longer hours might get lunch delivered regularly. It’s the part where he’s paying for this out of pocket that’s seriously odd, and it would be awkward to be the recipient of that (or to have to figure out how to politely refuse).

    4. Kathleen_A*

      I agree. There are inequalities that matter (pay, vacation days, etc.), but concert tickets are not among the things that would matter to me.

      Pizza might, though! :-)

      But seriously, I would consider this overkill, and while I might yearn after some of that pizza, I would under most circumstances be glad I wasn’t expected to attend all those happy hours and things.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        I guess I would like some more context as to why this particular executive is going above and beyond. I do disagree that the plan isn’t sustainable since for all we know, the executive could be independently wealthy and…he is a C-suite executive so there is a decent chance he is well compensated monetarily.

        I guess I’d like to know if the department this person took over had a history of turnover or the last boss had a history of turning people against each other or there were complaints the manager was inaccessible. Perhaps the team he manages is a very social one that enjoys hanging out as a team outside of hours. There could be a litany of factors at play here. I’m trying to give this boss the benefit of the doubt as while his efforts are a little misguided he’s doing what he thinks is best to try and show that his employees are valued.

        I had a similar situation at a previous job where there was another department that got a lot of above and beyond perks. They also were far and away the highest revenue driving team in the organization and helped the whole organization get a nice year end bonus so they were worth their weight in gold as far as we were concerned.

    5. anon today and tomorrow*

      Yes, agreed. I’d be annoyed if this was happening on different teams within the same department, but since OP is in a different department than the other manager, I don’t think it’s worth worrying about too much.

      Different departments have different cultures. I’ve worked at places where other departments go out for events all the time and yeah, every once in awhile it sucks when I realized my department never did that, but I also knew that if I really wanted to go to those events, I could switch departments. The annoyance and FOMO didn’t last that long.

      If the other department was getting actual job perks like more vacation time, then I’d be annoyed. But perks like tickets or pizza happening for one department and not another is just part of work culture in my experience.

    6. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      I think this is a bit of a harsh reaction to the OP for what sounds like a legitimately weird thing happening around her. I think Czhorat is right that this potentially a long-term morale problem if nothing else, and could have adverse affects for the company down the line even if other departments do keep their head down and don’t care what happens. If he does manage to sustain this, what happens when he leaves and his team is accustomed to this? Also, I might be overreacting, but remember last week’s letter about the woman who gave a child $20? This is the kind of thing predators do (Not saying this guy is, obviously) so that nobody believes their victims/to create a sense that their victims owe them- it’s right out of the Gift of Fear.

      Either way, the advice to the OP is probably the same, but she’s not wrong for thinking it’s weird.

  8. The Doctor*


    How does ANY employer have any kind of claim over an employee’s SPOUSE’s time? What if the employee is single? What if the spouse is WORKING?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you join a firm with that kind of culture, that’s what you’re signing up for. You have to decide if you’re up for that and not (and so does your spouse).

    2. JamieS*

      I mean I think it’s pretty obvious that if your employer has a dinner spouses are typically expected to attend and youre single that they’ll force you into an arranged marriage. Either that or they’ll invite you to bring a plus 1 or otherwise assume you wouldn’t bring a nonexistent spouse.

      I don’t think this is that big of a deal. If OP had said a weekly or monthly dinner then yes that’s overboard in most cases. However a dinner once a year that spouses are generally expected to attend isn’t that outrageous as long as there’s no consequence (beyond being asked why they’re not there) if your spouse doesn’t attend.

    3. Dave*

      I believe the OP says everyone and spouse are “expected” to go. My read on it was that “everyone does go, so it is assumed everyone goes” but who know’s if that means it’s formally required? And the part about spouses clearing their schedules spoke more to the company giving a lot of head way to make sure spouses can accommodate the date, but again, not explicitly requiring so.

  9. Asenath*

    I wouldn’t worry about what happened in another department. It does sound odd to me, but that’s because where I work , a box of chocolates to share among the office staff or maybe some cookies or a bottle of wine or a gift certificate for employees a manager works with particularly closely is more common. And that happens once a year, just before we essentially shut down for Christmas. And I’d actively avoid going to concerts or bars on my own time, even if my boss were paying. Still, in the end, it’s the business of those in the other department.

  10. Susie Q*

    OP #1: Perks aren’t guaranteed to everyone across most companies. The HQ of my company is across the country. There the company has worked out a bunch of deals with local retailers that I don’t have the advantage of using. If I choose not to have kids, I don’t get to use the maternity leave plan. I also don’t get to fly business class and get a luxury rental car.

    Life isn’t fair.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I try to tell myself, to “travel light”. This means carry no expectations about anything. Something nice comes my way, I should remember to enjoy it. If we chose to notice people “doing better than us” we will ALWAYS be able to find those people..

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        There is a lovely fantasy series by Anne Bishop. The Worlds of Ephemera where one of the parting phrases you say is “Travel Lightly”. In that world it’s because how you feel may cause you to travel into a different place than you intended.

      2. ThankYouRoman*

        This is a nicer way to say it. My go to is “lower your expectations.”

        I grew up bottom of the middle class and clawed my way up inch by inch from the trailer park. We only survived pretty well because my parents are frugal and live within their laborer salary means.

        I buy my crew treats that I can afford. When I’m on an execs salary, I’ll up it for sure. That’s just who I am. If someone was all “boo hoo unfair” I would smile politely and keep doing whatever I want. It’s not about fair. Not every one is under the same leadership, it’s just life. I’m not punishing others because of the “some for the whole class!” grade school mentality is still stuck inside them.

      3. MattKnifeNinja*

        I’ve really work on the travel light concept, especially since becoming Buddhist.

        I was always the angry dog with the bone, and mad other dogs had bigger or better bones. Me being angry kept me from enjoying my bone, and it did nothing to the other dogs.

        I still get fired up over blatant injustices, but Biff getting Cedar Pointe tickets or an evening watching the Nutcracker doesn’t fire me up anymore. That sh*t’s exhausting.

        At the end of the day, I have a hard enough time handling me, let alone worrying about stuff that isn’t my concern.

      4. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        That’s beautiful, I love it! Thanks so much for sharing this, it’s a great shorthand for that concept and just thinking the phrase makes me feel lighter.

      1. Observer*

        Treating your direct reports as well as you can is in no way acting unfairly. On the other hand, one could argue that depriving someone of something that does no one else any harm because not everyone can have it, is unfair.

        Insisting the people can only have things that EVERYONE can have is also a good way to make everyone miserable.

      2. Susie Q*

        Striving for perfect fairness always leads to disappointment. We will never all be 100% equal. There will always be someone richer, smarter, prettier, with a better job, etc. Focusing on those things will only make you miserable.

        Comparison is the thief of joy.

        1. pleaset*

          I like how you added “perfect” to say “perfect fairness” and then shoot that concept down.


          “100% equal”

          Yeah, that will never happen. So clear now that Czhorat is calling for a pipe dream of 100% equal perfectly fair fairness. Which will never happen. That’s life.

      3. Doe-Eyed*

        It’s quite an interesting dichotomy that when the question of other perks comes up (ie, working from home, flexible hours) the go-to advice is that it’s perfectly fine to reward people who are high performers or that for some departments it makes more sense to allow that flexibility and that’s just part of being an adult. I don’t see how this is fundamentally different. If that dept’s manager has a bunch of people constantly destroying the numbers they’re supposed to get or producing well or just being awesome, how is this any different than allowing them other office perks?

        1. Elsajeni*

          But the letter doesn’t mention any performance or function difference between that department and any other. I think that’s the main thing — if you can justify the difference in perks based on the nature of the job (no flexible hours for coverage-based jobs) or something the employee is doing or could do differently (you have to meet X productivity target to work from home), that’s one thing, but if it’s seemingly arbitrary or based on the whims of your respective managers, then it’s a potential issue.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’m with you on this. I honestly don’t understand the OP’s perspective on this. I don’t want any of the things the other department is getting, but I don’t want them to have it?

      I guess my advice to the OP is to let it go.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I thought the OP was asking more as an intellectual exercise, and not because OP was all that terribly upset.

        1. OP1*

          Yeah, I was mostly just inquiring as to whether this was, in fact, odd, or if my interpretation is off. I’m not losing sleep over this or actively trying to bring this to an end, and I’m sorry if my language seemed to suggest otherwise. I figured Alison’s the expert, so she’d be able to provide a gut check here.

    3. MattKnifeNinja*

      I worked for someone who had money. No immediate family who they felt like leaving the inheritance with.

      The boss spent money like above. Anyone on our floor who wanted to go would go, if you didn’t fine! There wasn’t any forced *you must go to the symphony * vibe.

      I’m the most cynical person on the planet. Usually, I’m what’s the angle, what’s the real deal behind all this.

      There was none with this boss. Boss said life is short and hard, and enjoyed entertaining the staff. It was the boss’s money. The boss enjoyed seeing people enjoy themselves.

      The working drones on the other floor were pissed because instead of an event ticket, they got a boot to the head. As a PP said, life ain’t fair. Not your circus, not your monkeys. Consider yourself lucky, that you don’t have to worry about it.

      I learned not every good deed has an ulterior motive behind it from that boss. It’s rare, but does happen.

    4. Lucille2*

      Living in a small city that has a lot of large corporation satellite offices, I have grown very accustomed to the HQ-centric company perk offerings. It was envy-inducing at first, but I’ve grown to ignore the emails and appreciate the full picture. I do get to enjoy a low cost of living, free parking, and a smaller more casual workplace – something my HQ cohorts in general don’t have. Keep an eye on the big picture. The small perks are just that, not the thing that makes the job great.

  11. JulieCanCan*

    OP2 I’m so sorry you’re going through what you’re going through. I’ve been there, only my husband actually worked for my company in an IT freelance role so everyone I worked with knew him well and considered him “part of the family.” Ugh – it sucked.

    I completely understand keeping it to yourself for now. I absolutely hated the thought of having to tell people and dreaded seeing their reactions after hearing about it. I didn’t want my associates feeling sorry for me and the idea of everyone talking about my pending divorce amongst themselves (which of course happens – that’s just how people are) made me nauseous. But pulling the bandaid off and getting it over with was SUCH A RELIEF!!

    You obviously need to wait to do it at the right time – you should be comfortable and OK with the whole thing. But truly, getting it over with and telling the people I needed to tell at work was such a relief. I had worried and stressed about it so much that I built it up to be a thing it didn’t need to become – this monster that hovered over me and would fill my mind every minute.

    Regardless of when you do it, try to remember that it’s something SO MANY people go through and you’re not alone. I had the added “benefit” of being in a company where at least 7 divorces had occurred since I started; I saw 7 of my associates go through the same thing before it got to me. They joked that I was just joining the club.

    Good luck, it does get easier. I promise.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      My story is the story for the week until the next story comes along. Likewise for you, OP, they will talk until they find a better, newer, more upsetting thing to talk about and then they will forget your story instantly. That is how gossip chains work, they thrive on the newest story.
      If you really look at it, OP, you may figure out that it is a certain few who really gossip. The rest of your cohorts give the hard eye roll to the gossipers. I remember one of the worst gossips I ever worked with. People actually went to the trouble to avoid conversation with her, she was off the charts. (She bragged about being the biggest and best gossip.) So this type of thing is happening, too, it’s not just about people gossiping.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Yes! I was concerned about the gossiping and people feeling sorry for me, meanwhile everyone I worked with had their own personal drama going on and within a few days it was back to normal.

        If there’s a chance OP and her husband will stay together then there’s no need to mention anything to anyone – that’s an entirely different situation. I’d just use Alison’s advice and leave it at that.

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think this is helpful. Especially since the OP apparently is not sure just how this is all going to work out. The OP writes ” my husband has been staying elsewhere while we work through stuff in our marriage. “ Which means that they may stay together ultimately – or they might not. It’s too soon to tell.

      As bad as it is for people to know about something definitive like a divorce, it’s REALLY rough to have everyone watching the whole thing play out.

      1. Lia*

        Going to completely disagree with you here — I have been through a divorce where I kept all marriage issues to myself at work (where I tend to be fairly private anyways) and tbh, I greatly regret that. Then, when I DID show up solo to couple events, I had to explain that no, Ex and I had split up and THEN deal with all of that.

        I wish I had just said “Ex and I are in the process of divorce” and then let it go. A week later, they will be talking about someone else.

        1. Cassandra*

          My soon-to-be-ex-spouse and I are presently in the process of an uncontested divorce after a fairly lengthy marriage. I definitely see both sides here, and I don’t think there’s a disclosure decision that’s unquestionably right for everyone. I appreciate both Observer and Lia for laying out potential consequences on both sides.

          I silently removed my wedding and engagement rings once the decision to divorce was final, and that communicated what was going on to several of my colleagues, who had the tact not to bring it up until I did. I explicitly informed a couple more colleagues whom I don’t often see.

          OP, I wish you the best, and wish I could lessen the awkward of your present situation. I think Alison’s advice is fine; I would only add that if you decide you want to draw the event manager aside and explain what’s going on, that would likely be hard on you, but it’s also a legitimate decision.

          (I’m also feeling incredibly glad I don’t work in an obligatory-plus-one culture. STB-ex and I almost never went to my work events together. This cuts my own present awkward to near zero, which I deeply appreciate!)

        2. TootsNYC*

          but I think that if you have any hope things might work out, you don’t necessarily want everyone else to be forming (and expressing) judgments, etc.

        3. Observer*

          That’s a valid point of view but not one anyone should be pushing on the OP.

          More importantly is what TootsNY said. She doesn’t know yet that they are getting divorced.

          1. Delphine*

            No one is pushing OP to do anything. JulieCanCan shared her experiences and has stated numerous times in her reply that the OP should do what she’s comfortable with when she’s comfortable with it.

      2. JulieCanCan*

        I thought I made it clear that of course OP needs to do what’s right for her. I would never try to change her mind or convince her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. But I was trying to give a perspective that she could consider from someone who went through a similar situation. I’m sure she will do what feels right; there is no “correct” action when it comes to something so personal.

        I too felt how she described in her letter, and once I told people at work about my situation it was like a 2,000 lb weight was lifted from my shoulders. I had obsessed about it and it was one of those things I’d wake up and immediately think about, and during the day if I wasn’t going non-stop it would instantly fill my mind. Every single minute of free time, it’s what was in my head. So finally getting it off my chest, as much as I dreaded it, was more liberating than I ever imagined it could be.

        Observer, you might have had a different perspective when you went through your divorce and needed to eventually tell your coworkers about it. And that’s completely normal – not everyone goes through the process in a similar fashion. But as a woman who has gone through something similar to what OP described, I thought she might like to read what others have experienced, especially when it brought such incredible relief.

  12. Anon for this one comment*

    LW 1: It’s work, not the second grade. Fairness when it comes to this sort of thing doesn’t apply. Also, no one expects you to fork out all your own money to treat your own employees. You’re good!

    I feel like I already read about Kent and Aaliyah this week.

  13. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #1 – I’d be really annoyed if I was another high level exec in this company that new colleague was creating an expectation that my team would be disappointed if I didn’t meet. How long as this been going on? Are there any extenuating factors like him replacing someone beloved? I definitely don’t think you’re wrong to feel weird about it.

    #2 – Your letter is giving me The Firm vibes. I agree with the last minute family emergency excuse though.

    #3 – Have they given you any insight into why this process is taking so long? Is it typical in your field? There is a fine line between being thorough and being incompetent so this could potentially be a yellow flag.

    #4 – Based on your name choices, I can’t help but wonder if there is a racial aspect to this that is making you feel like you need to step in. I’m not sure if I agree with Alison’s advice. I think a lot of it depends on if you are getting any sense that Aaliyah is actually annoyed or uncomfortable with the chatter. I tend to be of the mind that grown adults can manage themselves and if they have an interpersonal conflict, it’s on them to address it. And since it’s obvious there is no power differential between them, I’d probably leave it alone.

    1. Parenthetically*

      I almost think “ongoing but now-urgent family emergency” is better because it comes with the baked-in excuse of “Oh gosh, it’s been taking up so much of our emotional bandwidth over the last few months that I’d really rather not talk about it this evening! Let’s actually talk about anything else.”

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A young (ish) female can definitely feel a power differential between herself and an older man. I remember starting a new job at 30…I felt that with some people even though I was a college educated professional with experience the older men didn’t have.
      It could be stronger than that if she’s an immigrant and/or a minority. Especially in the current political environment.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I didn’t think of that angle. My concern was somehow implying that she wasn’t capable of taking care of herself and needed someone to rescue her. It could be tricky either way, I guess.

        1. Nita*

          I think Alison’s point that Aaliyah may be holding back her annoyance because he’s so much older may be valid. I worked with a guy in his late 60s, maybe older, early in my career. He wasn’t a coworker, but we shared a trailer so there wasn’t much opportunity to walk away. He kept making some really inappropriate comments – racist, but not against a protected class so maybe that’s why no one felt they “had” to intervene. I didn’t feel I could argue back, because how do you argue with someone who holds completely irrational views, but it made me really angry. If I hadn’t felt that it’s inappropriate for a young strong college grad to have a fight with someone thisclose to elderly, this would have ended with a fight (and probably, me getting fired). Would have really appreciated if someone closer to this guy’s age had shut it down at some point.

              1. Nita*

                OK, maybe I mis-spoke. It was directed against a specific ethnic group (which is not a race, I think?), and since it’s not one of the groups considered more at risk, I don’t think trying to push back by going to his boss would have gotten any traction. Maybe I could have gone to my HR and asked to get transferred somewhere, but it felt like big thing for me to get assigned to this work site in the first place. I was really, really new and before this assignment, had spent several weeks in the office, reading training materials and freaking out about whether I’ll ever get any actual work, or someone will realize they hired me by mistake and there’s no work for me :)

    3. OP #4*

      Yes, there are racial dynamics to this. Aaliyah and I are probably basically the same age (late 30s – early 40s) and (at least in my head) it could seem condescending if I (random white lady) swoop in to “save” her from Kent. She is a steely woman who has no doubt had to deal with street harassment, etc. in her life. But, as I said in the letter, I think the context changes things and that I don’t have to make it a big dramatic thing, just ask if that bothers her next time I see it.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Yeah, you could always try a low-key “Hey, let me know if dealing with Kent’s chit chat ever gets to be too much. I know he likes to talk!” and if she’s interested she knows she can turn to you for help.

        Who knows, she might likes Kent and his chatty ways. I like talking with older folks – I feel like they often have a lot to teach us and as a society we (in the states) tend to treat them like sh*t, especially when they’re in the lower socioeconomic levels. I used to live on a block where there were 2 “retirement homes” where the residents would be sitting outside all day. It was so obvious that they were aching for social interaction and basic human contact – I tried to stop and chat when I could. The elderly and veterans – I could go on a 5-hour rant about the atrocious way they’re treated, when they deserve respect and thanks. I’m generalizing and I know this isn’t the case across the board, but it’s very very common. Sorry, tangent over!

        All of this being said, Kent might be bugging the living daylights out of your coworker, which would not be good. Ugh – I feel so sorry for the elderly sometimes, especially when you can tell they need that interaction desperately. OP I hope things turn out fine for everyone.

  14. Neptune*

    OP5: You should check in with her for sure, but it may be that she genuinely doesn’t mind his conversation. You describe the job as unskilled, menial and with a lot of downtime; when I’ve had similar roles in the past sometimes pretty much anything is welcome as a distraction, even if you would never choose to spend your time that way otherwise – long digressions about the weather included. I agree you should ask her about it, but if you’re wondering why she hasn’t raised it that could be one explanation.

    1. OP #5*

      Definite possibility! They aren’t supposed to wear earbuds on the floor so it can definitely get tedious.

  15. RP*

    #3 – I would follow Alison’s advice for now. Make your own plans as if nothing is changing in your life. This happened to me. I interviewed for a job in October with an anticipated timeline of before Thanksgiving start. A week before Thanksgiving I had not heard anything besides “you are still being considered but we have not reached a decision” even after polite checks ins. I eventually made December/January holiday plans based on my current job who closes the office for a week and pays staff for that time. The other job got back to me and wanted me to start before Christmas and I had to explain I made other plans since the original timeline had passed and asked if they would either reimburse my paid time i would lose or allow me to start after the holiday. I ended up starting in January. If you are their first choice – they will make exceptions to make things work for the best and smoothest start.

    1. Boo Hoo*

      Also to note, even if they say they have a deadline they intent to stick to, that all goes out the window during the holidays. Applying for a job during the holidays is a crap shot as it is so I’d be happy they are even doing any hiring. Also, LW seems to be pretty sure they are getting this job and intends to base their actions on this. LW needs to take any interviews assuming they have no idea if they are or not and continue on with life and continuing to apply to other jobs. Every other day there are letters from people here about how “sure” they were that they had a great interview and would get the job then another candidate beat them out.

  16. K.A.*

    For #4: If people are walking away from him and he has to follow them around to talk to them, then yeah he’s annoying them.

  17. Smarty Boots*

    OP #1, I’m wondering why you care? It’s not your department, you say you wouldn’t like to participate even if it were your department — why does it matter to you?

    Is it a bit weird? Yeah, but not scary or inappropriate weird. It’s a lot of money, but it’s his money and that’s how he likes to spend it. You don’t know how his employees feel about it, you don’t know if they feel ok about not participating if they choose not to (with 50+ employees, I’m guessing that it’s probably pretty easy to be not-noticed if one doesn’t turn up).

    Possibly he’s unable to get raises or other benefits for them? For me, parties or tickets wouldn’t make up for that, but it would signal that my boss wanted to indicate that his employees were valued. YMMV, but I’d just not spend a lot of energy thinking about this. (Well, actually I personally might spend some time figuring out how to get transferred to the department with free lunches, but I’m kinda cheap that way!)

    1. Guy Incognito*

      A lot of these were my thoughts too, especially with the fact that OP1 wouldn’t participate if this were happening, but I’m a little more concerned with the low-key ageism in the letter. It was either ageism, or an attempt to make this look worse by pointing out he’s old. Not cool, and kind of hurtful. Work is going to bring together a lot of people of different backgrounds and ages. You’ll have to work with everyone, and interact with everyone. Yes, there are boundaries, but even you admit that no one is put off by this, it’s not mandatory, and there’s nothing skeevy going on. So ages don’t really mean anything other than calling attention to something you want us to see in order to make things look worse than they probably are.

      As for “offering up perks that others don’t get” That’ happens all the time. In my company dress codes are set by individual department’s, I’d love to throw on a hoodie and jeans instead of button up and slacks for doing the same work, but my department head wants my department to put on nicer clothes than the other. Sometimes it happens. You roll with it and look at the perks you do get. (My supervisor is a looser with the idea of “close to five” on Fridays. As in, sometimes 2 is close enough to 5 if we worked hard all week. T-Shirt and Hoodie people are there until 4:59, regardless.)

      If you want other perks, you might want to talk your own supervisor.

      1. Myrin*

        I think your first paragraph is a bit uncharitable towards OP – one half-sentence about the company’s demographic makeup and how it could possibly be one cause for the executive’s behaviour (“and that because of the age difference (he’s in his mid-50’s, and the rest of our company averages late 20’s/early 30’s), he’s just trying to seem “cool”“) doesn’t equal an ageist OP. And apart from that, this isn’t even OP’s opinion – it’s what others in her department are saying!

        1. OP1*

          Yep, was just sharing others’ interpretations of the situation — not my own opinion. I didn’t intend to come off as ageist.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Yeah, if you read the full sentence, this is other people’s opinions.

          To clarify:

          Others in my (much smaller department) view it as a nice way to raise his team’s morale, and that because of the age difference (he’s in his mid-50’s, and the rest of our company averages late 20’s/early 30’s), he’s just trying to seem “cool” in an ultimately harmless way.>/blockquote>

      2. Où est la bibliothèque*

        If it’s a motivation that could very plausibly exist, positing it isn’t ageist.

        He wants to connect to (factually) younger coworkers, he may be taking their youth into consideration and planning events that he thinks they might like.

    2. ThankYouRoman*


      Also “a lot of money” is super subjective.

      This is an executive. Not middle management or a shift lead.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Ha! I once needed to buy my day-care son a banana bcs he needed the “binding” properties. I had no bills, and I gingerly asked the daycare worker to loan me $5 so I could buy a banana at the fruit cart on the corner.

          he looked at me funny, but cheerfully loaned it to me.

          A banana is 25¢. I sheepishly brought him his $5bill back, bcs I did have several quarters.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I thought this was much more of an academic question that it was about anything the OP is personally all “het up” about.

      I mean, if the OP reads here regularly, they might easily think, “Oh, this would be interesting to discuss!”

  18. Observer*

    #1 This is weird, but it’s none of your business. As for the fact that he does this for his department, so? What makes you think that all employees must be treated in the exact same way by all managers?

    You need to leave go of this.

    1. TootsNYC*

      wait–every question someone brings here has to be something that they personally are upset about?

      They can’t just ask questions about things that are academically interesting, or mildly annoying?

      1. Observer*

        The language that the OP uses sounds to be like more that them finding this mildly annoying. If I’m reading too much into it, then the OP is not going to have a problem following my advice :)

    2. Delphine*

      Seems OP has written in to find out if her feeling that it’s odd is valid. She wants to know if she’s judging a situation accurately or not. “None of your business,” is a bit harsh and unhelpful.

      1. TootsNYC*

        when you get right down to it, none of the stuff we read about is any of OUR business, right? And yet we talk about it!

  19. Rainbow Roses*

    #1 I’m another one who think it’s over the top and brown nosing, but it’s none of your business as long as he’s not breaking any company policy. It’s not your department. If his employees have concerns, it’s up to them to address it to him or to HR.

    I understand it may be difficult to watch when you’re not getting the perks but that’s life.

    As for those who think the employees may feel forced because he’s the boss, well, that’s just guessing. We don’t know these people and their feelings. The OP also says he buys concert ticket only for those who want to go with him, so he probably ask and some may say “count me in” and some may not.

    1. JulieCanCan*

      I know personally back when I was in my 20’s, if I had a boss like the one OP describes I would have been PSYCHED. I mean, I don’t know if I would have appreciated it as much back then since the younger employees might be in their first jobs, but knowing what I know now, this guy sounds like a fun boss because this NEVER HAPPENS! At least not that I’m aware of.

      I could see feeling awkward if you were at the same level at the company and had reports looking to you for similar extras, but I think it’s great that someone who probably makes good money is spending it on people that he knows don’t make a lot. It’s nice, and rare. A little overboard, sure, but we rarely hear of a person being so generous and over-the-top – it’s good to know this happens. And I’m pretty sure his employees aren’t too upset with it.

  20. boop the first*

    1. I can’t help but wonder if this generous boss has a spouse? Imagine how stressful it would be to have so little control over the household finances while the accounts hemorrhage money every week! My stepdad would do a very small version of this (giving expensive gifts – sometimes already belonging to a family member – to anyone he needs to charm), which is why my mum works two full time jobs now at retirement age.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      That’s a big leap. (although from your comments I can understand your thought process here). Nothing indicates that there is any hardship from anyone as a result of the perks.

    2. Observer*

      You’re doing a LOT of projecting here.

      There is nothing here to indicate that this is someone who is over-spending and taking money that is not his (ie stealing) to fund this. And, that’s aside from the issue of whether he has a spouse or not.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Your stepdad gave away things belonging to other people?

      I remember when my niece did that. She gave her friends comic books that belonged to her mom’s adult friends. She was 8. Her mother stopped it. SHE WAS EIGHT.

  21. strawberries and raspberries*

    Re: #1, I would probably assume that the boss doesn’t have any friends. Not about to make that my problem!

  22. Naomi*

    #1: It is a bit weird that he’s spending so much of his own money on social events with his employees (and I wonder how sustainable it is). I suspect this is really about him and some kind of insecurity he’s feeling; he has a need to feel generous/ popular/ like he’s the “cool boss” that he fills by showering his employees with treats. But I don’t think it’s really something you have to worry about.

  23. Roscoe*

    #1 I do think the frequency of it makes it a little weird. However, I also think you are being a party pooper. The fact that you think its a problem that he only treats his department seems a bit entitled in my opinion. Every job I’ve worked in, different departments did different things, and it was never an issue. Hell, i’d argue that its good, because very often different department attracts different type of people who want to do different things. My last job I was in sales, we went and did karoke. If you would’ve suggested that to our support department they would have died. For me its one of those things where it doesn’t REALLY affect you, so I’m not sure why you care.

  24. AnotherKate*

    Re: #1, if I were on that manager’s team I think I’d start wondering why they were overpaying him so much. (Yes, I realize he may have money that has nothing to do with the job, but the optics get a little tricky, to the point where if I were offering him the advice, I’d tell him to cool it just a bit). I don’t think the OP can really do anything about it, but I can totally understand their feelings.

  25. OP1*

    OP1 here! Thank you to Alison and everyone else for your responses. I definitely needed that gut check that this isn’t some egregious thing that I should be concerned about. My company puts a big emphasis on all teams being “equal,” not dividing ourselves by department, etc., but I realize that that’s not really applicable here. I think what makes me feel weird about it is that it seems like he’s trying to buy his employees’ favor, as others have mentioned, but you’re right, that’s really not my problem.

    Thank you for (mostly kindly/gently) reminding me that life isn’t fair, and not my circus, not my monkeys. Appreciate y’all!

    1. Tardigrade*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if most of these perks start tapering off eventually. I know it feels unfair, but if you are treated well and feel valued by your own manager, then try to focus on that (and the fact that you aren’t spending personal time with your boss).

    2. Rainbow Roses*

      Yes, being equal by the company does not mean it’s all equal within each department. For example, if a “lowly” employee brings in goodies everyday for her department, it doesn’t mean she has to bring treats for the whole building so everyone is “equal.”

      The fact that this is the boss makes it feel different but I’m sure every boss does different things for their own department that they don’t do for others. This guy and his department is just in-your-face about it.

  26. Alexa*

    At a previous job I sat next to our older bookkeeper who told stories all day long. He was in his 60s, and I was in my 20s. And he just loved to tell stories. The other women we worked with couldn’t stand it and would tell him to pipe down, but I (who was the only one in close proximity to him all day) never minded.

    He kind of reminded me of my dad and the other story-tellers in my life. It didn’t get in the way of my work, and I would tune him out or tell him to be quiet when necessary. There is a chance that your worker doesn’t mind at all. Though, I think Allison’s advice to ask her is great.

    1. LJay*

      This is kind of what I was thinking as well.

      I like to talk, and I like to listen to other people.

      I need to get work done so I’m not going to sit or stand around waiting for someone to finish talking when I have work to do. That makes me impatient. But if they want to follow me around while I do my work and talk to me, I probably wouldn’t mind.

  27. Van Wilder*

    #3 – Since you’d have to relocate for this job, could you use the excuse that you need to renew your lease? “My lease is up at the end of January and I will have to let my landlord know if I’m renewing by the end of December.” Or something. Might not get them to change their timeline but maybe it will, or maybe at least they’ll become aware of how slow they’re moving.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Not a great tactic. In 30+ years I’ve never had a candidate who couldn’t break a lease because they were relocating for a new job. Most landlords/leasing agents just need an offer letter and maybe a month notice. Some will keep part/all of the security deposit in lieu of last month’s rent.

      OP#3, you really can’t change the timeline, and the only answer you can ‘hurry up’ is a No Thanks. You’re not describing a terribly long process – it’s actually pretty typical.

      My advice to job seekers is simple: After you apply, meet with, or talk to an employer, behave as if you didn’t get the job. Follow up appropriately, but assume you do not have the job. No matter how enthusiastic they are about you, keep looking. Make no plans or decisions until you get a job offer. I have my fingers crossed for you, hope you get the role you want!

      1. TootsNYC*

        also, if the lease is about to be up, and a job is in the offing, there’s always the possibility of asking for month-to-month; some localities require landlords to offer it after a set time period, and even a landlord who prefers set time periods might be OK w/ a month-to-month for a short period, followed by signing a longer least.

        and many states require landlords to allow you to break a lease if your employment changes by X number of miles.

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        When I was renting and relocating a lot for work, I would ask potential landlords to add a relocation clause to my lease. Usually it was something to the tune of “if leasee moves more than 50 for work lease can be terminated with 30 days notice” or something like that.

        I did this several times and never had a problem with breaking a lease. A lot of landlords are very accommodating and understanding about this.

      3. Tehmorp*

        Yes. This seems just as likely to elicit a, “Sorry to hear you won’t be able to continue with the process on our timeline, best of luck in the future,” reply as any other means of getting them to hurry up would. Then you have either screwed yourself out of a possible job, or you have to back-pedal and look like you were lying in an attempt to strong-arm them into hurrying.

        1. Van Wilder*

          Disagree. I’m not suggesting an ultimatum. But I don’t think they would pull her from their candidate pool just for asking.

          I hear what everyone is saying about different lease options but I still think it couldn’t hurt to ask if there are no other options. With the caveats that of course she understands if nothing can be done blah blah blah.

    2. Anon for this*

      I had a candidate use this reason before to try to speed things along where relo was involved. The timeline is not based on a hiring manager’s whims – there are likely a lot of factors that dictate the start date. Since the job starts in Jan, it could be an approval in 2019 budget, but not approved for 2018. It might be part of hiring in a group so training can be consolidated, or a company policy for new hire orientation requirements, or project-based.

      In a nutshell, a candidate’s personal situation is not the hiring manager’s problem to solve. That’s a decision the candidate would have to weigh in accepting a new job – is the cost of breaking my lease worth it for this opportunity?

  28. workingforaliving*

    oh my goodness why is a company with 15 employees doing 4 interviews? Unless there is a board of Directors involved or you are maybe taking the CEO job that seems like a lot.

  29. paralegal beagle*

    OP#1, as far as intentions go, my husband had a boss who spent like that: meals, events, tuition for anyone going back to school. His team was much smaller (10-20 people depending on time of year) but he thought nothing of paying for employees’ families to travel with the employees, occasionally internationally. He grew up dirt poor (think the criminal family on the show Ozark; he once said his trailer was similar), was now incredibly wealthy and wanted to share it with everyone. Super nice guy and never used the gifts as leverage. Still made my husband feel weird and he was the guy’s “right hand”.

    For the second letter, that sounds like a straight up nightmare. What about someone who works collegiate athletics and finds out right before the dinner that they’re headed to a bowl game? There is no time off, unless you maybe puncture an organ (even then…). Or in retail or medicine or just something where you work so much that you don’t even see your own family. I can’t believe anyone still thinks mandatory events are okay.

  30. Hiring Mgr*

    On #3, I’m not sure if you got this job if you would be relocating, or if just the interview is at HQ or something but you would still be working remotely? If it’s that you’re relocating, I think you have a little more standing to ask more directly about their timeline, given that you would be moving and all that goes with it. Of course it might not make a difference in how fast they move, but I think it’s fair to discuss.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If they’re not ready to make a decision, they’re not going to become more ready to make a decision because she wants to be prepared to move. It’ll also come across as if she’s counting on getting the job, before they’re ready to decide they want to hire her.

  31. Fake Eleanor*

    You’re not a party pooper for feeling the way you do.
    You’d be a party pooper if you tried to get them to stop, though.

  32. WillyNilly*

    Re #1
    Twice in my career I have been under the management of stingy, mean spirited, micromanagers, and worked alongside colleagues with generous managers. I left both those jobs and never looked back.

    I could have dealt with the managers if I felt there was some, any, sort of comradeship among the lower level employees. But instead there was just some pity towards me while others got constant perks just because of luck of the draw on a manager.

    He might be paying out of pocket, but these are clearly work perks because he doing this for employees, and its not cool when perks are so unevenly distributed.

    1. Observer*

      You mean that the other managers should have treated their reports the way your managers treated you?

      Instead of looking to pull everyone down work to lift everyone up or -as you did- find another job. Yes, easier said than done, but a MUCH healthier and more beneficial to EVERYONE.

      1. Rainbow Roses*

        Exactly. Even if the other managers didn’t give out generous perks, you’d still be miserable because of how your managers treated you. It’s not about gifts. The other managers would still be nice without giving out gifts.

  33. Lucille2*

    #3 – Having been a hiring manager on a slow hiring timeline, I always appreciate a candidate’s honesty about their interest in the role and how the timeline affects that. You CAN tell the hiring mgr or recruiter than you have a contract ending and their timeline puts you out of income-earning status for longer than you’d like. While you’re interested in the job, and if available in Jan, you will continue through the process, you are currently also exploring other options. If you are a top candidate, the hiring manager may be able to make things happen to hire you more quickly if it’s within their control to do so. Slow timelines like this run the risk of losing good candidates, and good hiring managers will generally try to fulfill the role quickly when they find the right candidate.

    1. designbot*

      Agreed. I think it’d be perfectly reasonable to say, “At this time I’m available on these dates. I do want to be up front with you though that my contract ends in November and I’m looking pretty aggressively to minimize the gap after that.” You can even acknowledge that this may not impact their ability to make a decision, but wanted them to know where you’re coming from and that if something firm came through in the meantime you’d need to take it.

  34. Been There, Done That*

    LW 4: PLEASE step up and do something about Kent! Too often employers let motor-mouth employees just talk and talk and talk while others are trying to work and seem to think the more quiet employees will “rub off” on the chatterboxes. Or they think the quieter employees “ought” to be able to tune it out. I’ve been in that situation more than once and, depending on what work you’re trying to do, it can be distracting, annoying, or downright nerve-wracking.

    Aliyah might be a “bad ass” but she’s at work and might feel uncomfortable/like it’s not her place to speak to Kent’s workplace behavior, especially if he’s a long-term employee. And it’s not just Aliyah’s issue if everyone’s reaction to Kent’s presence is dread.

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